Let's Not Forget - Sometimes I Cook, Too

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Because A Kitchen Box, multiple celebratory happy hours and a homemade Moscow Mule kit just weren't enough, another of Raz's birthday presents involved me kicking him out of the kitchen, putting on my apron and getting straight up WIFENEY.

As you well know by now, I typically leave it to Raz to master our meals, but about once a month I decide I need to remind him I can throw down, too, so I give him the remote and send him to the couch. He usually comes around sniffing once or twice, making sorry little excuses ("I just wanted to recycle this Corona bottle, geeze!") before getting a saucy spatula-raised stare-down and, consequently, the hint. But for this meal, I let him loose on my Pinterest boards and made him exactly two recipes of his choosing. 

Herewith, Raz's birthday picks, made self-satisfactorily by me.

Dijon Chicken Linguine with Crimini Mushrooms and Toasted Almonds
Serves 4

Ingredients
  • 350 gram package fresh linguine, cooked
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup sliced crimini mushrooms (you can also use button or chanterelle mushrooms)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • 1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
Directions
  • Heat olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium-low heat
  • Add chicken breasts and garlic, season with salt and pepper and continue to fry the chicken until completely cooked
  • Remove chicken from pan and hold in a warm oven.
  • Add 4 oz white wine to the pan (have an extra sip for yourself)
  • Simmer until volume is reduced by half. Then add, 2 cups whipping cream, 3 Tbsp Dijon mustard, salt and pepper to season
  • Simmer until sauce thickens enough to coat a metal spoon. Return Chicken to the sauce, add the mushrooms and simmer for an additional 2 minutes
  • Serve over cooked linguine
  • Sprinkle with toasted slivered almonds
Image and recipe courtesy of Rock Recipes

Crusty Parmesan-Herb Zucchini Bites
Serves 4

Ingredients
  • 4 medium, fresh zucchini, sliced in half
  • 1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh rosemary and thyme, minced
  • Smidge of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Directions
  • Pre-heat oven to 350°F
  • Lightly brush both sizes of the zucchini with olive oil and place on a foil-lined baking sheet
  • Mix cheese and herbs together in a small bowl and sprinkle over the zucchini, along with salt and pepper to taste
  • Bake 15 minutes and place under the broiler for the last 3-5 minutes until cheese is crispy and browned

Image and recipe courtesy of According to Elle
Follow our recipes on Pinterest.


Tunics and Turning Twenty

Thursday, April 24, 2014

In LA there exists a magical place called the LA Fashion District, and for my twentieth birthday, my mom took me there.

Each year my mom takes me on an adventure for my birthday month. After talking to a few friends who had been there, she plotted to take me to the Fashion District for several months before my big 2-0. It's scary thinking about how long ago that feels now. A lifetime, really.

The District, right downtown LA, at the time was open only to industry insiders, and to laypeople like us one weekend a month. Restrictions have loosened since we went, which is great, so it's now open to all of us all of the time. Only certain showrooms are kept exclusively for industry peeps.

The gist of this place is it's one big over-stimulation. Think of the people who sell "designer" bags on the street and put them into their own 100-block radius with makeshift storefronts and you'll have the LA Fashion District. But the difference! The difference is unlike the street corner guys, the people here are selling the real thing - the caveat is this: Nothing has a brand tag yet (wholesale! Just like Costco, only with super cool clothes that aren't in stores yet!), so it's much more affordable to us. And you don't have to worry about looking at the label and wondering Is this a cool brand? Everyone is on the same playing field. Merchandisers come in and buy big lots of product and add their tags. Everything you get is pre-market and at major savings.

The tunic I'm wearing is a great example of different merchandisers coming in and getting the same product. (To caveat, not every brand does this. For some, though, wholesale is a great way to get bulk and resell at a higher rate). I am completely obsessed with it. The fabric is nice and thick and I love the happy little polka dots peppered on it. And, trust me, I am not a polka dot person. The best part is I got it at the Rack for $59.97 a week ago. It's in other stores, too, with a different brand tag and selling for about $150.00.

Does this polka dotty little tunic make me feel like a shopping genius? It does, indeed. Because hunting down a deal is part of my DNA, and will always give me a little adrenaline rush only wide-eyed treasure sourcing can. So, dig a little for a deal, or spend $100 more for convenience? I'll always opt for the former. (That's $100 more toward a new duvet to add to the rotation OR toward a flight to breathe in the mountain air that is Utah. Just sayin.')

Also, to answer the question I've often had myself - tunic: Pants or no? I often belt them with tights or leggings most months of the year and then go bare-legged in balmier climes. In this case, I kept it really simple and imagined myself at my upcoming bachelorette weekend in Scottsdale (!!!!!!!) throwing this over a swimsuit for some casual tacos and skinny margs - a girl's gotta make sacrifices to be wedding bodied.

Do I look like I'm about to go flea marketing in Melrose or what? So LC.
Major fab moment in the one covered corner where we were shooting. You can see my bag didn't survive the pouring rain, but my fabitude did.
So, so thrilled to be comfy and casual in my tunic, and obvi can't get over the pockets.
And if you ever get a chance to shop the LA Fashion District, I highly recommend going at least once. 

Tunic: Nordstrom Rack
Sunglasses: Tom Ford via Nordstrom 
Bag: Nordstrom (on clearance a few years ago)
Lips: NARS Satin Lip Pencil in Luxembourg
Necklace and bracelet: Gifted from Brittanie
Photos: April from Ribbon and Lace Photography  

Watching Raz Cook: Smoky Rock Shrimp with Avocado Mousse

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

For Raz's birthday, I wanted to get him something different - something he didn't ask for and wouldn't necessarily expect.

So I did a little research and I got him the best gift ever - A Kitchen Box. I'll do a full write up on them eventually (in the meantime, to see everything they've sent us, follow @strongwhit on Instagram). They are AMAZING. I'd like to say I single-handedly forced them to create an Instagram account by tweeting my aggressive fandom, but I'm probably not the only one. They really are that cool.

Aside from all the goodness they send in each box, AKB included two recipes in Raz's first. The following is one (came on a letterpress recipe card - I'm telling you, so legit), and it was crazy bomb. We ate it off of the chef-status tasting spoons they sent, too. Made us feel very Chopped.

Smoky Rock Shrimp with Avocado Mousse
Yields 25

Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 pounds rock shrimp (we used Costco seafood roadshow prawns)
  • 2 tsp pimenton (smoked Spanish Paprika)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt 
  • 3 large cloves garlic, grated using a Microplane zester
  • 3 Tsbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided (plus a little extra for drizzle)
  • 1 cup dry sherry
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 large or 1 small avocado, pitted and peeled
  • 2 Tbsp heavy cream, milk or water (we used half and half)
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • Shaved or thinly sliced black radish (we used red onion)
  • Shaved or thinly sliced jalapeno
  • Nigella seeds (provided in our A Kitchen Box)
  • Maldon sea salt (provided in our A Kitchen Box)
Directions, by Sarah Ashley Schlear
  1. Combine shrimp, pimenton, salt, garlic and one Tbsp olive oil in bowl. Cover and refrigerate.
  2. Meanwhile, combine sherry and shallot in small saucepan over medium heat. Boil until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 15-20 minutes. Strain and set aside.
  3. Combine avocado, heavy cream, lemon juice and salt in high-speed blender. Puree until smooth. Add more liquid as needed if mousse is too thick.
  4. Remove shrimp from refrigerator. Heat large skillet over medium-high heat. Add butter and remaining olive oil to pan and give it a swirl. Add shrimp, cook for one minute. Stir in reduced sherry until shrimp are coated and cooked through. Remove from heat and transfer shrimp to bowl.
  5. To plate, spoon approximately one heaping teaspoon of avocado mousse onto serving spoon. Top with rock shrimp. Decoratively place radish and jalapeno slices in avocado mousse around rock shrimp.
  6. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with nigella seed and sea salt to taste.  
  7. Taste a finished spoonful for yourself to check the flavor balance. Adjust jalapeno and seasoning as needed. 
They look almost as delicious as they actually were - which is fantastically delicious. I can't look at this picture very long because it just makes me drool in my mouth. 
A Kitchen Box is seriously where it's at. We won't be looking back. 

The Night Raz and I Were Heisenberg

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

It's not often you get to use a Breaking Bad metaphor to describe your wedding, so I'm about to take FULL advantage. You may know that I haven't had as much fun planning this thing as I had hoped. My wedding planner has been a NIGHTMARE, Carol and I have sparred with our respective mom/bridezilla moments, vendor herding gave me a two-week eye twitch (seriously) and my repressed perfectionism complex has flared into many straight up anal retentive meltdowns.

Money flying everywhere. Questions in my face. Not enough time! I'm easily overwhelmed as it is. A wedding is a whole other level of whelmed. "I know you can be underwhelmed and you can be overwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?" "I think you can in Europe." Name the movie!

When Us Weekly asked Miranda Kerr if giving birth was beautiful, unlike all the celebs before and after her, she said, "No, it was awful. I felt like I was being ripped in half and that I was going to die." Melodramz aside, that's often how I've felt. It's been a big test for me, one that often leaves me angry, tantrumming, drinking and/or twitching. Poor Raz.

But all of that has brought us to this moment. The CRAFTS. Maybe I'm a masochist, but I must hold the reigns, even when it comes to the wedding papers. I couldn't resign myself to ordering something pre-made. I had to conceptualize it. I had to own it. I had to be able to say, "Thanks! We designed it ourselves." So, I hired my cousin Donald, a graphic designer, to help us with the save the dates and invites. I've always wanted a reason to have a wax seal, so once we finalized all the invitation suite elements with Donald, I had my wax seal stamp ready to go. We got this one, but I also like this and this.

I put down some newspaper and got our wax all ready to get melty and smooshed.
How cute is this heart-shaped wax? I ordered 100 of these little gold hearts from the same guy who did the stamp. I also ordered sticks of wax to compare (the chunks from the sticks were thicker so they melted more slowly, which can go either way on the good vs. bad spectrum when you're stamping). Obviously, I prefer the hearts because they're just.so.cute. 
Once it was time to get turnt up, we used an old Ikea teaspoon and a BBQ lighter. Probably not the best decision because the metal wasn't exactly hugely heat resistant, but sometimes you gotta get scrappy. Next time, I'll order this. We kept thinking we'd set off the smoke alarm, but thankfully that didn't happen. And no one called the cops on us for looking like a couple of meth heads. 
As Raz melted wax, I sat with the stamp ready. Kinda like I do with my spoon while I wait for him to hand over the ice cream. You can read more about how I feel about ice cream here
Check out the finished product! I love little details like this and was so excited to FINALLY be done with invites. The post office was full of a bunch of assholes who didn't appreciate it nearly as much as I did, but I hear the invites are getting delivered just fine, so the angry post office people can go kick rocks. 
Pretty invitations all in a row. Prima has been in HEAVEN with all these presents and projects going on. Yes, that is a cat toy suction cupped to the fireplace behind her. 
So there they are - my pretty little invitation victory seals. They make me happier than they probably should, but I'm so glad my laser focus on tiny little details worked out. Most people probably won't notice them, but they prove I can quite literally put my stamp on something special and send it off to our guests with a whole lot of creative love.

Plus, Raz and I got to feel like real like Heisenbergs without the potential felony charges. There's always that. 

Sweating for the Wedding at Seattle's First City Sweat Lodge

Monday, April 14, 2014

You may know this, but my friends and I are really into Bravo. On one of our fave Housewives spinoffs, Vanderpump Rules, we watched Stassi try one of those new wellness trends LA always seems to get - sweat boxing. Basically, this infrared sauna treatment involves sitting under an X-Ray blanket for an hour and sweating out those three extra pounds we all always want to lose. And I have more than that I want to get gone before the wedding.

"I really want to lose three pounds." -Regina
"OMG, what are you talking about?" -Karen
"You're so skinny!" -Gretchen

It's also supposed to detoxify, release toxins, help with insomnia, quell stress, and so on. Plus, Dr. Oz and Oprah are into it, so obviously I am, too. Oprah and Lisa are my queens.

A few weeks ago, I was sitting at work, exchanging wedding dramz with my friend Kat via Skype. We complained about how we couldn't stick to a wedding diet, but we weren't too concerned with getting totally bodied for our big days. These boys know what they're getting, amirite? Anyway, a few days later, she texted me saying, "There's a Groupon for a new sweat lodge place in Seattle! We should get it!" Without hesitation, I searched for it in my app and purchased the set of three sweats (super dangerous they have that one-click purchasing, btw) because:

  1. Any attempt at easy weight loss (aside from pills and actual crash diets) is fine by me
  2. Groupon makes it semi-justifiable
  3. It would get me closer to my beloved Housewives - like if I ever ran into them at Sur, we would have one more thing to talk about
Little did I know how amazing it would be. Just yesterday, Kat and I drove over to Madison Park and had our first sweat. We walked into the cutest little shop that just opened about a month and a half ago, aptly named City Sweats.


If you love the bar sign, they have it at Target right now. Those big bottles of water are given to each customer to have while they indulge in their service.

After filling out our "intake" forms, we were brought back to our shared room. It was kind of like a couple's massage, only on these really nice hospital beds with personal TVs and no touching. We each had a pretty basket to store all our big things and a cute little knitted accessory holder. 
The cute little knit accessory holder thingy. I put my water and cell in the bottom pockets. Took the remote and headphones out while I watched all my wedding videos.

I stored my stuff while Kat got wrapped up. When it was my turn, I settled into my little infrared cocoon, grabbed the remote out of its knit pocket and quickly figured out my personal Roku. As true couples do, Kat and I started on the same video so we could watch together.  
They give you socks to wear if you didn't bring any, which I didn't. Here I am ready to be wrapped!
Watching one of about half a dozen Moetic wedding videos on the Roku from my sweat bed. 
I don't sweat that easily, but about halfway in, I sure was hot. You're supposed to be fully clothed while you sweat, so my long pants and sleeves definitely accelerated the process. By the time our 45 minutes were up and we were both pretty misty from watching several wedding videos, Kat and I were VERY ready to be unwrapped and get our AMAZINGLY FREEZING LAVENDER-INFUSED WASHCLOTHS. That was definitely the most exciting part. The washcloths. It was like coming in from throwing snowballs at my cousins when we were little and washing my hands under the warm water at my grandma's kitchen sink. Lingering while every nerve ending fired. Like that. Only the opposite.

After sitting with our washcloths on our faces for a few minutes, we went to a room where you sit and have a cup of tea before leaving. Before heading out, we got a cold little bowl of blueberries from the front desk hostess. They were plump and juicy - the perfect ending to an almost spa day.

And, you know, I haven't weighed myself or anything, but I do feel lighter. I do feel detoxed and rejuvenated. We have two sweats to go and were told you sweat more readily every time, so I'll have to see if that's the case for me. Regardless, only cozy, hot goodness can come out of this. I'll definitely be back after our Groupon. Maybe even get a membership.

Check out more info and services on the City Sweats website.
Also, look for special deals and discounts on their Facebook page.

Did you do anything crazy to prepare for your wedding? Any secrets to share? I have 74 days to go and some major hotness to achieve. 

My Perfectly (Prettier Than) Pinterest Seattle Bridal Shower

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

When Raz and I got engaged, I told my mom I didn't want a bridal shower. I love the idea of women getting together to celebrate each other, but I don't like feeling like I'm asking for extra presents. I know, totally out of character for me, but a birthday month is one thing. A year engagement and asking a lot of people who have full lives beyond mine is a whole other.

Anyway, I lost. Carol (MOB) and CWoo (HBIC) got together and made me have a shower. I let CWoo loose and what she and my bridesmaids/man created was beyond anything I could have imagined. They filled Zach's (bridesman's) condo with beauty and love, and a few of my pledge sisters traveled from far away to celebrate with me.

It was a weekend of sanity for me. To be with my BFFs in such a gold, pink and collaborative environment felt like my world was coming full circle. Three of them moved into my apartment. I felt like I was home again. Even Prima got in on the girl time, turning her motor on every time CWoo picked her up, squeezed her and scratched her neck.

Not to get too "Live. Laugh. Love." on you all, but I really do feel so grateful for the relationships I have. I've forced a lot of people to be my friends throughout my life (only child over here!) and this is a life moment where I get to watch it pay off. I went from being i-n-d-e-p-e-n-d-e-n-t for 18 years to having 80 built in siblings in the sorority. I chose the ones I wanted to keep forever and I check in with them constantly. I attack my childhood best friends from both Washington and Idaho on all fronts (emoji, social media, parents) if I don't hear back from them in a timely manner. Not that I was thinking about them throwing me parties when I was making them hang out with me, but, hey, there are spoils in love. The snaps from the shower they threw are just a few.

First stop on the weekend - Matt's in the Market.
Pretty food setup at Zach's condo. He designed the florals. My pledge sister Kelly made most of the absolutely fantastic spread. I kept looking at the grapes and saying how prettily they were draped. Art right there.
The spread from another angle. This photo is courtesy of Kelly and the salad on the end is the Hayden Lake Country Club's signature. Kelly made us champagne brunches in college, so this was a full circle moment.
Some of Zach's amazing flower handiwork. Photo courtesy of Kelly.
Pretty little details. They made sure to add a lot of gold for me!
Champagne with gold-sugared rims. I was obsessed.
Special labels made by my bridesmaid and pledge sister, Nagle. She's a graphic designer! #score
All fulled up on rose :) - eyeing the quiches and sal.
GOT A STRAW SO I DIDN'T HAVE TO RUIN THE GOLD GLITTER RIM. OMG + PASTRIES.
Perfect little white on white with gold wrapper cupcakes courtesy of Cupcake Royale.
Red velv cake pops with vanilla frosting and gold sprinks courtesy of an SF DG alum. CWoo brought them on the plane with her from SF. The middle seat was open, so they got to spread out. Pretty neat. That's love, right? 
THE TOWEL CAKE CWOO MADE ME. GREEN ACCESSORIES FOR MY KITCHEN. SO EXCITING.
HBIC and me. Zach wouldn't let us wear shoes inside, but I came prepared. #bridalcozysocks
One Whit, two moms. Can you guess which one birthed me? 
Platonic life partner, floral designer and bridesman, Zachary.
My DGs! Lindsey in the green flew all the way from Nebraska to play with us. 
Outtake trying to make the DG sign. Am I sneezing or angry? Angry sneezing? TBC. I do what I want.
What I woke up to the morning after. CWoo was in the bed next to me. Prima is her mother's daughter and said "I don't care that all your BFFs are here. It's 5:47 a.m. and I AM HUNGRY." 
Sunset on Sunday after all the weekend activities. My mom calls these sun breaks "God Shots." I call them my dad shining down, saying hi, letting me know that he sees me and he's with us through it all (even though he wouldn't have been invited to girl time). I just have to stare at it and wave right back. 
For all of you almost or unmarried girls out there, I hope you make people love you who force you to have a bridal shower. Above job, hobbies, Twitter, shopping, wine, alone time, etc., they are it for me. I hope you find a man worth choosing every day, friends who will travel from far and away to fall asleep on your couches watching Netflix with your tiny devil of a pussy cat and who torture you with secrets until the big party reveal.

I couldn't be gladder.  

Brand Next Door: Little Free Library

Thursday, April 3, 2014

I come from a family of librarians. My grandma, mom and uncle all spent many years with the Dewey Decimal System and teaching me about books. I remember sitting at our dining room table reading my first book with my grandma - Norma Jean Jumping Bean - at four years old, and never going back. After that first book, I read everything - and, much to my parents' chagrin, out loud.

Reading is a part of me. My grandma allows us all a lot of leeway, but she would never let us have a TV at our lake cabin. We play games, we talk, we read and we get off the grid completely. I can't tell you how many books I've read on our dock. Page after page and story after story.

I've been having a major internal struggle for the past few years, though. It's two-fold: Teaching standardized tests trained me to read differently. Yes, I majored in English, but they don't teach you grammar skills in school anymore. Not at the level I learned them after graduating. It's been about four years since I taught the SAT, but I still have a hard time escaping into books. I used to finish any book I started, based mostly on principle. Now, if I find myself correcting grammar or judging syntax, I can't concentrate on the story. I've become very hipster about it. Some of that mass appeal stuff I won't even open. 50 Shades of Grey is a great example. Not saying it's bad, just that it's not for me. I had a hard time reading the Twilight series, but since I'd already started, I finished it all. And I judged the weird flowery language the whole time.

Also, social media. My attention span operates in 140 characters or fewer. I find myself scrolling apps instead of diving into my books. I need to be better. I need to pay devoted, long-term attention.

That's where Little Free Library comes in. I had set a few books aside that I wanted to donate to the Little Free Libraries around our neighborhood. On one of our recent walks, Raz and I hit THREE of them. I donated to the first and really wanted to bring a new book home to read, but didn't find anything I wanted until the last stop.

Donating Water for Elephants. Pretty good read, mediocre movie.
Our first stop. The sidewalk here was made of a strange bouncy rubber material I was really feeling.
Second stop. Raz and I had to pull up a map of the Libraries on his phone, but we found it! 
Grocery store status collection here, though.
The last stop, and my favorite. I love seeing Libraries dedicated to someone special.
That side door holds the guest book.
Library love notes.
New read! I'll let you know how I like it (haven't seen the movie).

I'd love to know what you're reading - always looking to add to my collection. 

Spring in Queen Anne

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

There was about a week and a half span when the sun was out every day and Raz and I were able to take long, pretty walks around our neighborhood. I love seeing things in bloom, although I don't have much recollection of ever being excited about spring. I mean, it's fine, but summer and fall are my jams. I live for my birthday month and Indian summers. Halloween costumes. The pop-up school supplies aisles EVERYWHERE. My heart just started palpitating. I can't even.

Spring always meant rain in my world. Lots and lots of rain. And wind. And sun, but Carol still yelling at me as I ran out the door in the morning to grab a jacket. It's the time of year that comes shortly after daylight saving's where we're all looking at that weird orb in the sky at 4:30 p.m. all bleary eyed like "Don't you have somewhere else to be?" Especially in Seattle, man. We don't really do sun. We go on vacation to find it and expect it when we're away, but not at home. We like our grey flat light and moody drizz.

Nevertheless, I'm into this spring. It feels like a real reset for me. Tulips are bubbling up out of little mud patches. Prima got her first tour of the balcony and now has a desperate sense of freedom. This God-forsaken wedding is starting to be more fun (Parties! Friends! Invitations! CRAFTS.).

And, also, color saturation. Lots of it.

I've always been obsessed with ivy. Grandma and Papa have it climbing their house. It's amaze.
The family that Car2Gos together stays together. Or just lives in Seattle. Whatevs.
Monkey bird bath. How? Why? Beautiful. 
Blooms and blue skies. This pic was a given.
We're smiling at each other here.
My dad called these "Slaabs." I still think that every time I see one and chuckle to myself. 
There were so many middle-aged men waxing their vintage sports cars this day. It was pretty ridiculous amazing.
Raz's favorite sign ever. At least they broke up the phrase with a picture of an over-zealous Tin Tin on a weird skateboard-Razor scooter. "Slow Children at Play," everyone! I love grammar funnies. 

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