Saturday, April 27, 2013

This is so sweet it might give you a cavity.

Our family is getting a new baby soon in the gorgeous form of a niece for Greg and I and a sweet cousin for G+P. We are over the moon. New babies are magical. Procreation is one of life's most common and amazing events. 

In the past year or so, the girls have become much more interested in helping to select the gifts we choose to give for any occasion. It can be a comical and entertaining conversation/debate ("Well... now... I'm not so certain that Daddy would love that beautiful wall calendar of adorable kittens" and "I know, Daddy does love colorful socks but I don't think those ones with tiny rainbows all over them will fit him."). As you can imagine with two little girls, a particularly fun gift-giving occasion to discuss and shop for is a baby shower. In this case, it didn't take us long to come up with a terrific idea. Let me introduce you to our "Signature Jones Family Baby Gift." (It's not very practical--but we think it's kind of special--which is sometimes more important.)
It may not appear to be all that "amazing" so let me show you why we think it's so special.
G - 2005
P - 2007
G + P - 2013
Cheers to welcoming little EJP who is due to join us very soon now. We can't wait to meet you and we hope that your new lovies bring you comfort and joy for many years to come!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Things I Love Thursday // 4.25.13

  • Zoës Kitchen. We didn't have these on the West coast--and all y'all out there are missing out! It's quick, fresh, tasty Mediterranean food.  I'm currently addicted to their Chicken Kabobs ("no rice, sub hummus"). I crave this dish and try to get it in my belly at least once/week. I wish you could taste it! I hear their other menu items (tomato bisque, steak stack sandwich, and tabouli salad, in particular) are great too--but I'm too stuck on Chicken Kabobs to give anything else a chance.
  • Watching the girls play Little League. I had no idea what a time commitment I was volunteering for--but it has been so worth it! 
  • Singing and dancing in the car with the girls on the way to school. I am certain they will grow out of their appreciation of this silly time together very soon and I am milking it for all it's worth while I still can!
  • HBO's Game of Thrones this season (Season 3). In particular, the character Daenerys Targaryen played by Emilia Clarke. Dude. She is badass. It's getting really good... !
  • Being the "Mystery Reader" in Geneva's class. It is such a simple and sweet idea. Her teacher invites parents to sign up to read a book of their choice to the students. She has a Mystery Reader every Tuesday. The kids know that someone is coming to read to them but who it will be is always a surprise. First graders are GREAT. They were all so enthusiastic and sweet. 
  • Spending time with the Klemash family last weekend! Again, I cannot believe that my first cousin and his sweet family just relocated from California to North Carolina. They are less than a 30-minute drive from us. Here's a highlight from our BBQ. Piper reading a book Jake on the kitchen floor. Precious.

  • Weekends that go like this: Family BBQ Friday night , Saturday afternoon family bike ride to the girls' baseball game, later afternoon family bike ride to Reid's Market for dinner provisions, followed by our first Vermont Vixens  ↓ of the year, and then wrapping up a sunny Sunday with a little trip to IKEA, lunch at Zoës Kitchen, and the best episode of Game of Thrones in a long time. {insert sigh of contentment}

  • Knowing my husband will have an incredible time with some of his best friends this weekend in San Diego as they celebrate their 40th birthdays.  Go Giants!
  • Planning our Oregon Summer Trip. :)
  • The online store, Furbish. I must have been living under a rock to have missed this little gem. They have some really fantastic items in their shop ranging from jewelry to kitchen towels and including original art, rugs, and scarves thrown in the mix. The prices are very reasonable. One of the fabulous items I couldn't live without is little treasure that I scooped up for $12. Seriously.
  • Welcoming our great friend, Dave, over for dinner last night! Dave is in Charlotte attending a conference for work and were delighted he could take some time to head over to the house and hang out with us. 
  • The fact that my eye is healing nicely. Good grief.

(Image 2 via HBO // Image 5 via  Furbish )

Monday, April 22, 2013

Brilliant Brunch | Eggs Benedict Casserole

I have always been a fan of breakfast foods. I happen to have an entire pin board dedicated to brunch recipes. One of my absolute indulgences is ordering Eggs Benedict when we go out to breakfast or brunch--especially when we are at a particularly good restaurant and I can be confident that the dish will be done well. The elements of the dish offer a little bit of everything that enjoy in a bite: texture (toasted muffin), creaminess (poached eggs, hollandaise sauce), salty bits (canadian bacon), and bright flavor (that fresh hint of lemon in a good hollandaise). I understand though, that poached eggs are not for everyone. And turning out plates of eggs benedict for a brunch you might be hosting can be tricky and labor-intensive. I have found a terrific alternative!

Eggs Benedict Casserole from A Taste of Home.
What you need:
3/4 pound Canadian bacon, chopped
6 English muffins, split and cut into 1-inch pieces
8 eggs
2 cups 2% milk
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
For the sauce:
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup butter, melted
What to do:
Place half of the bacon in a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish; top with English muffins and remaining bacon. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, milk and onion powder; pour over the top. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
(I took this in the morning, after I sprinkled on the paprika.)
Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Sprinkle with paprika. Cover and bake at 375° for 35 minutes. Uncover; bake 10-15 minutes longer or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

In a double boiler or metal bowl over simmering water, constantly whisk the egg yolks, cream, lemon juice and mustard until mixture reaches 160° or is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (I use the spoon method). Be careful to not let it thicken too much. Reduce heat to low. Slowly drizzle in warm melted butter, whisking constantly. Serve immediately with casserole. 
Don't let the "double boiler" step intimidate you--it's really simple and you'll feel like a badass when you've conquered it for the first time (or maybe that's just me?). The hardest part is remembering to assemble the casserole the night before.

The best parts of the traditional Benedict hold up with this recipe. The edges of the muffin poking up get nice and crispy-toasted, there's lovely bacon in every bite, the eggs remain creamy in their delicate firmness (did that sound slightly dirty to you too?), and the hollandaise has a balanced bite to it with the lemon juice and Dijon.  If you're hosting a gathering for Mother's Day, this might be a great addition to your menu! Enjoy!

Friday, April 19, 2013

My physiological response to all this beauty is disgusting.

It is so beautiful here. This photo is taken on Queens Road West, less than a block from where we live. I am amazed, daily at the magnificence of the oaks lining the streets in our neighborhood. It is picturesque, to say the least. As for us allergy sufferers, it is almost too bad we can't live in pictures.
With this beauty comes a price. As I sit at the computer typing this, it is literally raining pollen, dogwood petals, and oak flowers out my window. I'm told the pollen counts around here are among the highest in the country, making it one of the worst places for allergies. When "pollen season" arrives, you don't need to be "from here" to know what's happening. A thick, greenish-yellow sheen begins to coat everything. It is messy and annoying.
Every surface outdoors is coated and we all hope for a spring shower to wash some of the mess away. However, that's just the first phase (as far as I can tell). Because now in addition to everything being hazy-yellow, the entire world yard is covered with oak flowers. This is a shot of the driveway this afternoon. The gardener came yesterday evening and had these all blown away.
Now I'm getting to the fun part. Here's a picture of me from Wednesday. {insert hilarious pirate joke} With the help of pollen and my AWFUL allergies, what started as a small eye irritation a few weeks ago, turned into a grotesque chalazion earlier this week (that's something similar to a stye but far more disgusting). I won't even make a link here--but if you'd like to be visually disturbed, I encourage you to google image "chalazion." (Don't say I didn't warn you.) Chalazions have to be removed by an opthamologist. It's a "minor" in-office procedure but it does include a scalpel and it is highly unpleasant. Though, not as unpleasant as say... having a disgusting growth on your eyelid. 
The patch is gone now and all that remains is an awesome shiner which should last only a few days.  That is plenty of time for you to get in your tasteless jokes at my husband's expense. Poor Greg, I think he was more uncomfortable at the girls' school function last night than I was. Cheers to Spring in all her glory, Mateys! 

(Image 1 via Sun-Times)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Things I Love Thursday // 4.18.13

  • Trader Joe's Bolognese Ravioli. Wow. Quick, easy, delicious.
  • Weather that goes hand-in-hand with my favorite "cube-o-wine" (because we all know: I'm way too class for a box!).
  • This lovely granola that goes beautifully atop my honey-laced greek yogurt in the morning.

  • Watching Geneva perform at her First Grade Music Concert this evening at school. The show was just right: sweet, short, easy, and full of enthusiasm. It was particularly heart-warming to see her and Piper interact with all their new friends as we walked through the hallways.
  • Having a generous sister-in-law who works for Barnes and Noble. :) Auntie Jessica just sent us a big box of new "reads" and we are all very excited.

  • My new Juice Beauty "CC Cream." I've never been one for a cream foundation. Within the last few years I have become a fan of tinted moisturizers. The best thing about Juice Beauty's CC cream is that is offers a chemically-free SP F 30 in addition to the mineral-tinted coverage. It's hydrating and toning. (It blends best when your face is damp.)
  • Thanks to my girlfriend, Gretchen, I am devoted to my Intellectual Devotional. This is an amazing bedside text (and makes a perfect gift). There are five different editions. I have (and love) the General Edition which covers the following topics, in one-page synopses, for each day of the week: History, Literature, Philosophy, Mathematics & Science, Religion, Visual Arts, and Music. 

  • Settling-in to the house. I can't even remember the last time I walked the wrong way to get to the study! :)
  • Spring sprouting up in the yard. It's so much fun to live in a new place and discover what the previous occupants planted. If I were a better gardener, I would probably have some idea of what I might expect--but I am NOT. The greatest part of my "black thumb" is that I'm totally surprised by everything that blooms in the yard! (Because this is "Thing I Love," I will refrain from delving into the pollen issues I've been experiencing and save that drama for another post!)

  • Learning my way around the neighborhood--which is actually Charlotte! We are so close to Uptown (that's what they call Downtown around here) that I am in and around the city enough to navigate my way without the iPhone's or the car's help from time-to-time. This is very exciting. I spent five years just outside of Portland and wouldn't dream of driving into downtown without my route pre-planned. (To be fair, in Portland, one wrong turn can put you on a bridge to the other side of the Willamette in a heartbeat; whereas one wrong turn in Charlotte just means you have to circle the block!)
  • Welcoming my cousin Brad, his wife Erinn, and their beautiful boy, Jake, to our new hometown!  In an unexpected and fortuitous coincidence, Brad and his family have relocated to the Charlotte area from California (this week!). I cannot believe how the stars align sometimes and that we have family here with us! Life is good.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Recipe Review | Roasted Cauliflower + Chickpeas with Mustard + Parsley

The following recipe is from Gwyneth Paltrow's new cookbook,  It's All Good. You may or may not be aware that I have a somewhat serious addiction to cookbooks and cooking magazines. I love them. This book is particularly gorgeous--filled with beautifully styled "food porn" (aka, amazing pictures of food) and fresh, "candid-feeling" photos of Mrs. Martin both with and without her children, cooking, relaxing, eating, and generally looking fabulous and healthy. 

Roasted Cauliflower + Chickpeas with Mustard + Parsley
What you need:
A 14-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed, drained, and dried in a kitchen towel
1 head of cauliflower, outer leaves removed and discarded, cut into bite-sized florets
Extra virgin olive oil
Coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon seeded mustard
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley 
What to do:
Preheat the oven to 400F and set the rack in the middle.

Toss the chickpeas and cauliflower together in a large roasting pan with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and a big pinch of salt. Roast, stirring now and then, until everything is dark brown and the cauliflower is quite soft, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together the mustards, vinegar and 1/4 cup of olive oil with a big pinch of salt and a few healthy grinds of black pepper. While the chickpeas and cauliflower are still warm, toss them with the mustard dressing and the parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Delicious as a satisfying side dish, I would also enjoy this for lunch with a slice of crusty French bread (and maybe a glass of white wine). 
Piper declared it a winner by summarizing this way, "Some people might look at this and think that it will not taste very good. But it really does taste very good, Mom." My guess is that by "some people" she meant other 6 year-olds--because I thought it looked beautiful and tasty!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Happiness is...

"The world was hers for the reading."
Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Friday, April 12, 2013

First with the waxing and now this.

After nearly 30 years on the spectrum between "being aware" to "actually caring" what my hair looks like, I'm still trying to coax it into behaving the way I think it should. I don't think that's too unreasonable. Unfortunately, trying to transform my locks into the vision I have for them Takes. So. Freaking. Long. The critical part of the process is blow-drying. What really doesn't help is that I loathe blow-drying my hair. It's sticky-hot and time-consuming. However, I continue doing it because I have this dream that with the "right" combination of  cleverly-marketed products, the perfect round brush, and way more patience than I actually possess, I might someday achieve a mane like this one: 
And trickier still is that I not only want to achieve it that one magical time--I desire to be able to execute this long, healthy look repeatedly. AND within a reasonable amount of time because getting it wet and washing away all of that hard work is necessary and constant. {sigh} Now get this: I live in The South these days. With that comes humidity (a LOT of it). With humidity comes BIG problems with my tresses. BIG, as in: frizzy, fluffy, dry, unmanageable, everlasting-ponytail, BIG. Having spent a short amount of time in places where there is a lot of humidity (Florida, Cancun, Costa Rica) I can tell you with certainty that even after spending an obscene amount of time "fixing" my hair, it ends up looking like this:
Which brings me (finally) to the point: Is it worth the astronomical price to find a new salon in Charlotte (an overwhelming task in itself) in order to get a professional Brazilian Blowout? 
The Brazilian Blowout, while offering incredibly smooth locks, substantially shorter drying time, conditioning benefits to the hair shafts {giggling} follicles, retirement of the flat iron, and the greatly-increased possibility of achieving "The Mane," does not come without controversy. Aside from the price (between $150-$600, depending on the length and thickness of hair) BBs have been under scrutiny regarding the labeling of their products as "formaldehyde-free" when in fact, during the application process, traces of formaldehyde can be detected. It can be said that the scientific community is in agreement that stylists and salon owners who are exposed daily to these fumes increase their risk for health-realted problems including headaches, dizziness, rashes, etc. Whether this is any more deleterious to your health than say, teaching biology to 8th graders in the 80s, is unclear. Certainly, for the salon client who has this treatment performed 2-3 times/year, the health hazard is minimal. Which brings us full-circle: Do I invest in the Blow Job or not? Thoughts?

(Image 1 via Natasha.Elena // Image 2 via The Bedouin // Image 3 via BeautyInfoZone)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Things I Love Thursday // 4.11.13

Here is a collection of some of the things I have been loving lately. Enjoy!
  • Makeup tutorials by Tanya Burr on her fabulous YouTube channel. I've been watching and trying to replicate some of these techniques and "looks" for over a year now--sometimes with great success, even. The tutorials are step-by-step and so easy to follow. It's fun to play with makeup every now and then for special events and watching these help me remember to mix it up sometimes and get out of my daily ruts.
  • Honey-sweetened Greek yogurt with granola for breakfast.
  • This picture that I snapped of Linda and Piper during our recent trip to Asheville, North Carolina. It is beyond sweet and I love that Linda is rocking her beautiful, natural head. Cheers to beating cancer!
  •  My crock pot. (There is a HIGH probability that my husband is rolling his eyes as he reads this bit.) Thanks to a detailed "nudge" from my friend, Gretchen, I have begun prepping and freezing some delicious meals in advance. I've done this on three different occasions resulting in about 15 meals. It is so easy to grab one and get is started mid-morning for a tasty, homemade meal come dinnertime. I look forward to sharing some of the most successful dishes with you soon.
  • When the girls decide to dress similarly to one another. It's a very sweet and simple demonstration of the friendship that is growing between them.
  • Our screened patio off the back of the house. It's a nice place to spend a weekend morning or any evening. From what I hear, I'm really going to appreciate it when those disgusting BIG southern bugs make their appearance.
  •  Fresh-cut flowers. It's funny, despite the fact that a lot of the house is still in an awkward shamble (missing critical furniture elements, showcasing cardboard boxes, surfaces sprinkled with items that haven't found their new "home" yet) when I put a vase of fresh flowers on the countertop, dresser, or side table, I feel much more content in the space. I highly recommend picking up two or three of those $3-$4 "growers bunches" at the grocery store and getting creative with jars and vases. Happy Spring!
  • Soft boiled eggs
  • This lantern from a neighborhood store. I covet it. I actually visit it. It would look amazing in my dining room; It really would.
  •  Tip-toeing back into fitness. I'm nowhere near my "Oregon routine" when it comes to weekly visits to the gym (Oh, how I miss Group Kick!) but I have made an appearance or two at our neighborhood gym and it has felt really good--and then really bad (in that awesome sore way that we all love).
  • Reading before bed. 
  • Having only one television in the house that is nowhere near where 90% of our "living" is done.
  • Being within "riding distance" to the nearest grocery store.
  • Rocking chairs on the front porch.
  • Homemade bubbles.
  • Routinely joining the girls at school to have lunch together at their classroom tables among their new friends.
  • Having warm enough weather in early April to allow for some fun with the garden hose before dinner.
  • Writing again.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Queen City | Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte is named after Princess Charlotte, Queen of Consort to George III of England, and therefore nicknamed, "The Queen City." It is also the place we currently call, "home." The Company made an offer and we couldn't refuse. 

It was very hard to leave our friends and the community we have grown to love in West Linn, Oregon. However, we realized that one of the best things about our time in the Pacific Northwest was landing there five years ago and starting "from scratch" in a town where we had new friends to make, places to explore, and a climate to learn. Well, here we are again. I think that the anticipation of this new adventure helped to overshadow the difficulty of saying goodbye to the friends we love. Now we've been here almost two months. It doesn't quite feel like HOME yet, but it is feeling less difficult to imagine this being our home now.

The girls are making a place for themselves in their new school while maintaining a connection to their Oregon lives through letters and emails with friends on the west coast. I am amazed by their courage and resilience, proud of their kindness and curiosity, and delighted by the bond between them that seems to have increased tenfold since we arrived here in February. 

Greg is tackling the job and getting to know his new team. It has not been without challenges. I am grateful that he is the kind of person who is able to leave work at work and focus on family when he is home. Our weekends are full of mini-explorations: new restaurants, bike rides, and afternoons at the park. On the weekends, we are also finding lots of time to settle into the house. We enjoy utilizing the screened porch for coffee in the morning and drinks in the evening. 

I stay busy unpacking boxes (so many boxes!), learning to live in this beautiful, funky, old house and trying to create a home where everyone can enjoy a soft landing at the end of the day. Greg's mom, Linda, has been here with us for most of our time so far. Linda has been a great help in getting rooms organized and motivating me to tackle the next project. I look forward to sharing some of what we've been up to on the blog really soon.

(Image 1 via Keller Williams // Image 2 via Patrick Schneider // Image 3 via Patrick Schneider)