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At the Fair

This afternoon, after the kids woke from their naps, we headed to the county fair. It was the perfect weather – sunny and just slightly warm. My parents never took me to fairs as a kid, but I do remember a carnival that came to town every once in a great while. I remember how thrilling it was to see the rides, hear the music and excitement all around. And the food! I love fair food – funnel cakes, cotton candy, caramel apples… I love it all.

Things have not changed much since I was a kid. I saw they still had the classics like a ferris wheel, a carousel, Tilt-a-whirl and the Scrambler, among the newer thrills. And now that I have kids of my own, I feel like I have an added excuse to go on rides and have a good time. It was sweet how often Chloe wanted to hold my hand, and I was pleasantly surprised at how brave she was. In just a couple years Leo will be old enough to join her. I imagine it only gets better.

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David and I reached out 8th anniversary yesterday. This is the card I gave him. The simple letterpress design with the sweet little heart over Portland sums up a lot of how I feel. While pieces of my heart may be elsewhere, it’s this spot on the map where my true love lies… along with our home, our kids, our lives. I think we both hope to stay here for a long time. Together.

So thankful that we have found each other.

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Red moon

I took this photo last Saturday night, but forgot to post it. The moon was so red that night due to the wildfires burning burning in the region, including the 130-acre Mother Lode fire and the 4,500-acre Dollar Lake Fire burning on Mount Hood’s U.S. Forest Service land. It was incredible.



It’s August! Wow! I need to really start soaking up the summer, because I know it will be gone all too soon. Check out this lovely week we’re in for:

While we Portlanders complain about the grey and rainy winters, it is the perfect summers that we live for (thankfully, not the scorching heat waves allotted to the rest of the nation). Everything is so sunny and green and beautiful out right now. Despite it’s early neglect, our garden is exploding. David’s mom did a bunch of weeding (among the many other tasks she accomplished) while she was here, and we are eating lots of fresh green beans, spinach and rainbow chard, and picked our first red tomato!

I’m happy to say that life is beginning to take on a pace that I am finally beginning to keep up with. For one thing, Leo is starting to have a recognizable schedule. I’m beginning to understand his needs, although sometimes still there is no telling and I have to try everything I can think of. Also, we finally finished the hall bathroom (aka Chloe’s Bathroom). I LOVE how it turned out, even more so than our master bathroom. Interestingly, too, we spent way less on the hall bath than the master bath, yet it still turned out better. I hope to share photos of it soon!


Le Pigeon

Last night, David and I enjoyed an amazing anniversary dinner (only a month late) at Le Pigeon as a treat from David’s parents. Le Pigeon is probably the tiniest restaurant I know, and we had an excellent view of the food preparation from the bar seating that surrounded the kitchen area (the photo above was our same view from where we were sitting).

Since I like to try new things, I was happy to actually order pigeon for the first time (pan fried, with fois gras, grapes, and riesling). The meat was surprisingly dark and flavorful, just a little bit gamey, the breast better than the legs in my opinion. The pigeon starter was followed by a rich and tasty veal paprikash with gnocchi for me and prosciutto wrapped pork for David. For dessert David chose the creme brulee paired with chocolate shortbread cookie and espresso pot de creme (OMG!), and I ordered the creme fraiche panna cotta with blueberries and candied orange peel. While very beautiful and fresh, the panna cotta was too delicately flavored after my rich entree. David gallantly helped me out with it and I finished off his dreamy pot de creme. Such good food in every bite, and really neat to see the attention paid to each dish by the chefs. I hope we’ll get to eat here again.


Doing the Unthinkable

This past weekend included the hottest day of the year in Portland. As a little treat after getting groceries, we stopped by our local Burgerville, an almost-but-not-quite fast-food restaurant that specializes in fresh, local and sustainable food. David chose a fresh blackberry Shake and I got my signature half hot fudge, half caramel sundae.

I don’t know what it is, but Burgerville’s ice cream is seriously delicious. So buttery and creamy. And their in-season strawberry shortcake? OMG. But what really shocked me about this visit was our receipt. I almost couldn’t believe my eyes. Printed on the receipt was the nutritional break down for each item, including the calories. What!? That’s unthinkable! Aren’t they afraid it will hurt business once people are faced with that kind of information? Apparently not. I even asked an employee if she thought it was hurting sales and she responded that people seem to really appreciate it. And I’ll admit, I think it’s pretty cool myself. It just seems so unheard of and progressive. Then I got to thinking – would this information stop me from placing an order (or alter my choice knowing that I could save myself 90 calories if I skipped the caramel)? Nah. Nor would I choose the less caloric frozen yogurt as suggested on the bottom of the receipt. But its a great option for those who are trying to make healthful and informed decisions.

I’d be curious what others think about this.

Loading..Oops, I thought this was the kind of survey that lets you see on going results, but it isn’t. Not sure where to get one of those, but here are the results as of Fri. Aug 20 at 1pm PST:

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Baby's Bottom Dollar Sale

My neighbor, Colleen, emailed me about the local Baby’s Bottom Dollar Sale and we went to check it out this morning. It was held at the Tigard Maison Armory and the space was full of new and used baby items – clothing, toys, maternity, accessories, equipment, furniture, etc. You can choose to sell your stuff or just go buy things like we did. I feel like I totally scored on everything I bought – like a Kangaroo Korner Adjustable Fleece Pouch Sling for $10 (original price $62!), a pair of red leather PediPeds for $5 (originally $32!) and a pair of pink baby girl Converse shoes for $3 (originally $20!). If you live in the Portland area it is worth checking out through Sunday, June 14th.


Winter's Farmers Market

Naturally occuring white, brown and pale green farm-fresh eggs

Alex, Marcy, David and I went to check out the Hillsdale Farmers Market yesterday, only 20 minutes away. It runs all year, and twice a month in winter. Despite the weather, there was a good selection of in-season produce and other local goods. We picked up a colorful assortment of organic free-range eggs, leeks, rainbow chard, pear cider, and a bag of nettles. Yep, stinging nettles, with their nasty little thorns. We’ve never tried them, but apparently they are super nutritious. The stinging property goes away with boiling (so I’m told). There is great little video on how to harvest them properly, and I think I’ll try this recipe for nettle pesto.

In other weirdness, David pointed out a robin sitting on the side-view mirror of the car yesterday. She would hop down onto the driver’s side window sill and flap her wings, as if trying to get at something inside. David went out to investigate, and found nothing in the car (we rarely use it so it’s pretty clean). He also taped an X over the spot, hoping to distort the reflection, if that what was making her crazy.

The crazy robin, and the taped X to distort the reflection

Poop trails: Driver’s side door

Poop trails: Passenger’s side door

This morning, we found out the bird was still there. Hopping around, and leaving the biggest poop trails on BOTH of the front doors. So weird! So we went out and moved both the cars into the driveway. Which did the trick, and the Robin is gone. But the question remains, what in the heck was she trying to accomplish?



Sweet pink plum blossoms from our neigbor’s tree

Last night we went and saw Cirque du Soliel’s Corteo with our friends Alex and Marcy. I don’t know how Portland ended up on the North American tour, but I am so glad because it was AWESOME. One of the best traveling shows since Allegria. If you have an opportunity to buy tickets – DO IT! You’ll be glad you did.

In other news, spring is really beginning to show her face around here. Our yard has multiple spots of color and blooms – bright pink primroses, purple hyacinths, mixed anemones, pale pink daphne, and even our rhubarb has burst upon the scene. Yesterday we even picked up several pots of primula to fill near the front steps and two gardenias (for where, I have no idea). The thing I can’t figure out is why my spinach seeds haven’t sprouted in the garden yet. Am I just being impatient? Maybe something has eaten them or the seeds were no longer viable? I guess only time will tell.


The most AMAZING buttermilk chocolate cake EVER

buttermilk chocolate cake

Okay, I am not kidding here, but I just made the most AMAZING buttermilk chocolate cake EVER! And truly, it was not hard at all. I originally saw the recipe in Marcy’s copy of February’s Portland Monthly magazine, and thought I should write it down, but I forgot. Then, while David was waiting that extra hour for me to finish with my dentist appointment, he came across it again and thoughtfully asked the receptionist to photocopy it for me. (Such a sweetheart!)

Since we were having a friend over for dinner, I thought I’d use that as an excuse to try out this new recipe. And it was… magic! Moist, rich, chocolaty, not too sweet and with just the right amount of depth and complexity. And did I mention beautiful? Gorgeously dark with a semi-matte, creamy ganache frosting. I’m never going to buy chocolate container frosting ever again. Now I know the secret – and so do you!

Chocolate Buttermilk Layer Cake

Once you pour the hot coffee into the batter, don’t be alarmed by its thinness.
“It’s definitely the thinnest cake batter I’ve ever worked with,” [Portland Baker
Melissa] McKinney says. As for the frosting, there’s no need to use fancy chocolate,
she says. “I just use semi-sweet chocolate chips and it comes out perfect.”

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 tbsp + 1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (sifted)*
1 1/3 cups canola oil
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups freshly brewed, extra-strong hot coffee*
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
24 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9-inch cake pans with nonstick spray, and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

2. Place flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder in a large mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, mix on low to combine. Keeping the mixer on low , add oil, buttermilk, then eggs one at a time. Add hot coffee in a thin stream, pouring down the side of the bowl. Add vanilla and mix until batter is smooth. Divide into pans and back until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs, about 30-35 minutes. Let cool in pans for at least 20 minutes.

3. To make the chocolate ganache frosting, create a double boiler by filling a saucepan with 2 inches of water and bringing it to a boil. Place chocolate chips and cream in a stainless steel mixing bowl (I used glass) and set on top of simmering water, Allow mixture to melt–do not stir right away, When chocolate has melted, stir it with a whisk. Allow to cool at room temperature.

4. Remove cakes from pans. Place one layer of cake on a serving plate. Trim the top with a serrated knife to make it even (although I didn’t find this necessary). Place a scoop of ganache in the middle and smooth it out to the edges using a palette knife or spatula. Trim the top off the other layer and place the untrimmed side down on the top of the frosted layer, pressing gently. Spoon more ganache on the top and smooth it around the sides, adding more ganache as needed to cover. If you need to apply a second coat of ganache, put the cake in the refridgerator for no more than 15 minutes to set before adding a second coat (although I found myself with a surplus of frosting). Makes a single 9-inch layer cake.

My notes: For the cocoa powder I used Droste cocoa from Holland, which is like gold around here, but I really wanted to make it extra special. I also didn’t bother to sift it. For the chocolate frosting I used Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips. And instead of the extra strong coffee, I pulled four extra long shots of espresso, enough to make the full 1 1/2 cups.

Postscript: In response to a comment below, I thought I’d add this paragraph from the article for those interested:

So what gives this recipe such staying power? It’s the oil, says McKinney. “Oil makes a moister cake, and allows it to last a week, whereas a layer cake made with butter becomes dry the next day.”  Plus, the hot coffee elevates the cocoa’s depth and complexity. The cake is versatile as well: The batter can be stored in the fridge for several days; stout can be used in place of coffee, it can even be made vegan (McKinney suggests using egg replacement and vanilla soy milk.) And the layers can be filled with whipped cream and fresh berries instead of ganache.

*Update* See this post on halving the recipe, with updated shape and photos!


Similar Posts You Might Like:

*UPDATE* to AMAZING Buttermilk Chocolate Cake

5 Impressive Cake Frosting Techniques + Tutorials



Neighborhood Coyotes

barkley on hike

Barkley on a hike at Stub Stewart State Park

As I sit down to work at my computer, I hear a fire truck siren going off in the distance, followed by a clear, harmonious howl. David and I turn to each other and smile because we know the howl is coming from Barkley, who is outside at the moment. I’ve only seen him do this a handful of times, but it is simply adorable to watch and it doesn’t last long. I barely get a glimpse of him through the window (never long enough for me to get my camera, argh!). It’s heartening to see a shelter dog who used to be so shy and quiet, feel free to express himself like that.

This reminds me of that coyote I saw on my street last week. A pretty strange occurrence since I don’t live all that far from the city. And no, I wasn’t just seeing things, and no, it wasn’t just a dog on the loose. I know it was a coyote. I’ve seen the signs by our neighborhood lake, and I’ve heard about them from a neighbor, but I never in a million years expected to see one myself. I was just driving home one evening and turned onto our block to find it right in the street. It took one quick look at the car and then trotted away, out of sight. Wow! It was really cool.

Here are some interesting articles from the Audubon Society of Portland on Living with Urban Coyotes and a story from a neighboring community website.

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A Modern Gingerbread House

modern gingerbread house

This is the coolest gingerbread house, ever! Hard to believe that no one has thought of it before (at least that I’ve ever seen). I came across it here while perusing Redenvelope.com“Every bit as edible as the original, this isn’t your grandma’s gingerbread house. We gave the classic holiday treat a mid-century makeover, complete with garage and rock garden. A unique gift and sure-fire conversation piece, it comes assembled and ready to enjoy.”

It’s a little spendy at $78 (for an extra $10 you can add personalization, like in the photo above) and it makes me a little sad that you can’t assemble it yourself. Isn’t that the fun part? Seeing this makes me think about trying to re-create one of my favorite modern houses, maybe Michelle Kaufmann’s Sunset Breezehouse or maybe an iconic Portland-area Rummer home, complete with melted hard candy glass windows (see recipe here). Wouldn’t that be so awesome?!

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Cirque du Soliel's "Corteo"


Yay! We just purchased tickets to see Cirque du Soliel’s Corteo when it comes to Portland in March 2008. It sucks to have to buy tickets so far in advance, but they sell out so quickly! I’ve been lucky to see several Cirque du Soliel performances in my life including Allegria, Quidam, Varekai, Dralion, Mystere, and my absolute favorite show of all time, “O,” which I saw last year at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. The acting, colors, props, costumes, music, stunts… all of it is mind blowing! They create this whole other world, and transport you for a couple hours into an alternate reality of beauty, action and sound. It’s magical – truly the best show on earth.

I can hardly wait!


Drawing on other people's creativity

“Treehouses” limited edition cards (photo and design from Kirin & Co)

I was thinking today that I should feature other people’s designs more often, especially the ones that really strike me as particularly beautiful, creative, cool or otherwise inspiring. Since I can’t afford to buy anything right now (see this post if you’re wondering why), I thought it would be like “window shopping” using my monitor… or maybe it would be more like curating my own imagined shop? Plus, I’m really hoping to motivate myself to begin at least one of the projects that have been sitting in the back of my mind.

One of my very recent favorite finds is the letterpressed card shown above, a collaboration between Lara Cameron, an Australian designer, and Lynn Russel of Satsuma Press, based right here in Portland. There are a set of three designs: treehouses (above), japanese tree, and birch. According to Lara’s Etsy shop, each card is letterpress printed with a vandercook sp-15 on crane’s 100% cotton lettra paper with hand mixed inks. However, if you live in the US you’d save on postage by purchasing from Lynn’s shop. I love the single use of color, the mixture of thin lines and solid shapes, and especially the little details.

“Japanese Tree” limited edition letterpressed cards (photo and design from Kirin & Co)

“Birch” limited edition letterpressed cards (photo and design from Kirin & Co)

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Helvetica, the film

Helvetica Film

David and I saw a screening of the documentary film Helvetica at the Hollywood Theatre this weekend, complete with a Q&A afterwards with director Gary Hustwit. Pretty darn good. I would recommend it to all type and graphic designers. Even though I’ve attended lectures by design greats like Stefan Sagmiester and David Carson in the past, to see other legends like Massimo Vignelli, Herman Zapf, Michael Bierut and Neville Brody speak on film was pretty interesting.

When we first arrived at the ticket table before the movie to have our hands stamped, we were offered a choice of a white “I love helvetica” button (David) or a black “I hate helvetica” button (me). After the film, I found that I actually didn’t hate it after all. My dislike stemmed from its overuse, not of the typeface itself. I wonder if it’s going to have a revival now (not that it needs one).

A list of upcoming screenings can be found here. Plus you can submit your own opinion at Veer’s (a sponsor of the movie) Helvetica love/hate contest.

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At the Portland Art Museum

I met my friend Heather for breakfast yesterday morning, after not seeing her for what felt like ages. She’s been volunteering at the Portland Art Museum at the current Rembrandt exhibition, and offered me a free pass for the day. I almost declined, due to a very late night the day before, but in the end I was happy I didn’t.

The Rembrandt exhibition itself was good. Since I didn’t want to stay too long I just listened to the audio tour during the more important pieces, or whenever I was particularly interested. I would say that, thanks to my art school background, I appreciate Rembrandt for the master he was, but I would likely never buy one of his paintings (assuming I could ever afford one).


Damien Hirst, “Superstition”

Outside of the Rembrandt exhibition, I was lucky to encounter another special exhibition a day early called Camouflage, “an exhibition of eight paintings that explores artists’ use of pattern in the post-World War II era.” The piece that really struck me was a massive new work by Damien Hirst called The Kingdom of the Father (2007), on display for the very first time. The museum’s website says this work is “part of Hirst’s ongoing butterfly series, incorporating thousands of naturally-shed butterfly wings to pattern and color a matrix inspired by the structure of Gothic stained-glass windows.” This was quite a stunner, not only in size, but in vivid colors. At first, I didn’t realize they were real until I went back for another, closer look, and saw the countless wings embedded in what looks like thick, shiny black paint (notated on the description as lacquer). I’d be pretty interested in finding out a little more about that “harvesting” process. I hate that I couldn’t take my own photos, especially since I can’t find an image of it anywhere on the internet. The one above for Superstition is similar, and although there is a sense of perspective here, you can’t see the amazing detail naturally inherent in each iridescent wing.


Darren Waterston, “Inside”

I almost missed the new modern and contemporary art wing and I am so glad that I thought to ask on my way out. Modern art is definitely more my taste. One of my favorite works was by Darren Waterston called In-Between which I also can’t find an image of online. At the time, I had the whole floor to myself so I probably could have gotten away with a discreet photo, but oh well. Posted above is another work of his that I really like from his website called Inside (2004, oil on wood, 36″ x 36″). After a little more research I found that the artist has an upcoming exhibition at the Ronna and Eric Hoffman Gallery of Contemporary Art at Lewis & Clark College, beginning September 6, which I hope to attend.

A decent interview with Damien Hirst can be found here at artinfo.com.

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Basic Beeswax Collage

beeswax collage

Last night I took a 3-hour class called Basic Beeswax Collage with Portland artist Linda Womack. It was held at Collage on NE Alberta, where I had previously taken an encaustic painting workshop.

This was a fun class, and Linda was great at explaining and demonstrating each technique step-by-step. Basically, instead of using glue, we used melted beeswax to embed layers of paper and other matter like feathers, dried organic material and fabrics. We also used mediums like crayons, oil pastels and encaustic paints to add color and tools like screens and stencils for texture. All the materials were provided, but several students brought their own.

The most important step when using wax is to be sure that each layer or added element becomes “fused” with the layer below. This means either melting the paper into the wax with a quilting or tacking iron, or heating the wax with a heat gun.

Working with tangible materials was a treat for me, very different from designing on a computer. The melted beeswax emits a warm, sweet smell and it is much harder to control. Despite my best efforts, the wax often seemed to have a mind of its own, but it some ways it’s fairly forgiving. Because of the built up layers, you can often scrape away mistakes. Even better is to just go with the flow – literally. For my piece, I cut out one colored butterfly and several black-&-white photocopied butterflies, two sheets of thin material for the background and drew the flowers with oil pastels. Not too bad for my first collage, but I’m already looking forward to my next opportunity.

This and other classes at Collage can be found at DIYlounge.com.

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Such Good Times

Dear Alan & Sandy,

It was so great having you here for the past few days. I’m glad that we could share with you a little part of our lives here in Portland – from berry picking, to Mt. St. Helen’s, to exploring the markets, to dinner and games with friends – all such good times.

You both are truly an inspiration to us. We are so grateful for your unfailing support and generosity,  your insightful wisdom and your unconditional love. And thank you so much for being the best in-laws anyone could ever ask for.

With all my heart,

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