Confessions of a Traveler

Dear Emerald City,

You’re a gorgeous city. You are green and urban and chic and hip and everything I could ever ask for in a city. You know that when C and I had to choose a place to honeymoon, we chose an urban staycation in the lap of your luxury; stayed in Belltown, dinner at SkyCity, toured the Sound, the whole nine-yards.  But even so, I have to confess something:

I cheated on you.

I cheated on you with Hawaii.

I’ve never been one of those girls who yearned for the tropics to work on her tan. To be honest, “tan” is a bit of a dirty word to those of us who need extra Vitamin D more than melanin. Pale is Pretty after all, Seattle. That’s what you taught me. Even so, when you are offered an opportunity to spend a week basking away in the Hawaiian sun with some of your awesome family, you just dont say no. You just buy a Costco-sized multipack of sunscreen and reapply every 2 hours religiously.

So I left you in the rain, dear city. I took a plane to the island of Hawaii, a place that alternately looks like a lush rainforest, a dry brush cattle ranch, and the lava-flow encrusted surface of the moon. And beaches. Gorgeous beaches that frankly do not compare to the wind swept Washington coast.

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This is not Ocean Shores

And I gotta say, it was an incredible week. I mean, where else in the world can you see a gorgeous black sand beach covered in sunbathing seaturtles?

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They’re just chillin’

Even more so, where can you find a gorgeous black sand beach with sunbathing turtles and then turn around and see a gorgeous fresh water lagoon covered in lilypads and banyan trees?

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Unexpected: everything in this photo

It might be good to note, dear city, that the black sand didn’t really love us back. Somehow, tiny pieces of lava rock are like the pumice stone that would end you to your feet. Getting shiny baby-skinned feet wasn’t really part of the plan, nor was stepping on rusty metal outcroppings, but sometimes you just have to roll with the punches.

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Enjoy our hilariously pained expressions.

Turns out that Hawaii grows lovely caffeinated crops of our local drink of choice. Visiting a shade-grown coffee farm in Kona is a bit of a Holy Pilgrimage for a barista. So is impressing the crap out of the coffee tour guide with your coffee knowledge and passion.

So score one for you, Seattle. You don’t grow coffee, but you sure as hell drink it with the kind of religious fervor that even coffee-growing locals can be impressed by.

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STILL – this is coffee growing on a tree!

Speaking of plant life – I know we have incredibly large trees here in your native forests. The Pacific Northwest has some of the most incredible old-growth forests a girl could ask for. But you know what you don’t have? Banyan trees. These trees are so big that C and I approached one in the city of Hilo in completely silence because it felt like we might disturb the tree if we didn’t. And in hushed whispers, we noted that the two clumps of trunks about 20 feet away from each other were indeed starting to grow together in the sky, branches intersecting branches until each tree, though separate in structure, seemed to become one giant entity.

The marriage analogy was not lost on us.

Absolutely nothing will give scale to the enormity of this experience, but this comes close:

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The Deku Tree IRL

Of course, you do share an ocean with the Hawaiian Islands, dear city. And in these waters there were wonders to behold. Honestly, seeing an angelfish right in your face while snorkeling is a bit disconcerting. You find yourself thinking “Shouldn’t you be in a dentist’s office somewhere?” But after the initial shock wears off – the crystal clear water, the schools of fish right beneath you, and doing it right beside those who you care about – it’s pretty incredible to explore the reefs in Hawaii. (Sorry, mom, I know these pictures will freak you out).

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Underwater cameras are pretty cool

Now, Seattle. you definitely take the cake as far as dormant volcanoes go. We all know that if you wanted to blow up a four state area with the powerfully majestic Mt Rainier, you sure as hell would do it (please don’t). All I’m saying is that the slow ooze of Kilauea was pretty cool. Especially at night. Especially after the crust caved into the caldera, creating a bright fiery lake of lava that light up the whole sky.

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C looks cool in a ring of fire

You know what’s not cool, though? Belching out tons of very very toxic sulphur dioxide. We don’t need any of that. Hawaii can go ahead and keep allllll of that.

It seems that there’s no end of the wild adventures you can have in Hawaii, but you know the best pastimes are sometimes? Just hanging out with the people you came there to be with. Cracking open local craft beer.Trying out a Lava Flow frozen cocktail down at the resort. Buying fresh local ingredients at the Waimea Farmer’s Market and then figuring out what to do with all the amazing stuff the bought (The answer was Hawaiian bruschetta with local bread, grilled street corn, and macadamia nut crusted chicken. That’s a post for another day.) Searching for just the right Koa wood item to send home to mom and dad. Waking up before seven am to enjoy local Kona coffee on the beach. Laying in a hammock and watching the sun set through the palm trees.

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These are some awesome people

We’re back now, Seattle. You welcomed us back with a sunrise that rivaled anything we saw on the islands. We slept off the red eye and woke to a beautiful (if not slightly bluer than I remembered) sunny day. The first thing we did was walk to Old Ballard and treat ourselves to craft cocktails and pork dips at the local gastropub, because you know what? Hawaii has nothing on you in the food department, Seattle. You keep doing that delicious, affordable food thing.

My vacation in pealing off slowly and painfully, like the sunburn I (almost) avoided. What’s left is this:

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It’s always good to come home to you, Seattle.

Always Love,

(Slightly-less Pale) Bonnie

Homemade Chicken Stock : Your cure for the Bleak Midwinter

Just in case you were wondering, there’s a reason my beautiful city, my Emerald City, has another nickname – Rain City. You’ve seen it in every movie/TV show/music video set in Seattle: dour Seattlites stuck under looming black umbrellas, huddling from the torrential downpour gushing forth from Pacific Skies all to a morose Death Cab for Cutie soundtrack.

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Typical.

The truth is a bit different. Our northern latitude means that the winter solstice typically results in about six hours of gloomy sunlight a day from about the time you settle into work to the time you leave the office for the day. And, while the “cats and dogs” style raining certainly happens (it delayed the 49s v Seahawks playoff game, for crying out loud) it’s much more typical to have a grey, wet, drizzly fog all day that extends into a full week, punctuated by flood inducing downpours that cause even the most stalwart Northface-sporting, coffee-swilling Seattlite to reach for the umbrella.

Basically winter in the Northwest is a lot like this, but mostly without the snow.

But hey, WE WON THE SUPERBOWL. And this is how we celebrate:

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Woah, 12th Man.

There’s absolutely no way to grasp the scale of this event. There were over 750,000 people there – that’s like the ENTIRE population of Seattle showed up – and in addition every person that fits into CenturyLink Field TWICE OVER.

So I think I’ll be telling my kids about that.

That win was definitely that high point of a tough post-Christmas blues winter. Most of my afternoons were spent nursing a sinus infection and half-heartedly listening to The Smiths, waiting for a sunbreak and popping Vitamin D like candy. And, really, nothing pairs better with headcolds, general malaise, and ennui like homemade chicken soup.

Like really homemade. I am all for time saving measures. I have a Costco sized jar of Better than Bullion in my fridge (which is, indeed, better than bouillon). However, nothing really competes with the flavor of  nutrient-rich, low-sodium chicken stock. It is also easy, if time-consuming. Make sure you have time to let your stock simmer for at least 2 hours to get all of the flavor out of your ingredients.

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PRETTY

The best part of making stock is that it is not an exact science. It’s like kitchen finger-painting. You literally cannot screw this up.

Fair warning – you arte gonna need some chicken bones. The more bones, the more stock you can make. I collect all my gruesome chicken pieces in a bag in the freezer: chicken backs from breaking down whole chickens, fully formed carcasses from store-bought rotisserie chickens, wing tips from making my famous oven fried party wings (forthcoming post, I promise), bones from chicken pieces. Freeze it in a Ziploc bag and, once it’s full, throw it in the stock pot!

Emeralds and Ampersands Homemade Chicken Stock

Discarded chicken bones (any kind will do)
Two onions, chopped
3-5 Carrots, scrubbed and chopped
3-5 Celery, chopped
Bunch parsley, or herbs of choice
Water
Salt
Pepper

Toss chicken pieces in a large stock pot. Add vegetables. Chop herbs roughly and add to pot. Cover with enough water to cover all ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, partially cover. Occasionally, skim scummy residue from the top of the water. Allow to simmer for several hour, or until chicken has imparted flavor and golden color to the stock. Season with salt and pepper as desired, keeping in mind that low sodium broths are easiest to control while cooking. Remove from heat, cool.

Strain out bones and vegetables, discard. Vegetables will become very mushy. Run through fine sieve and add back to stock, if desired.

Add stock to soups, sauces, braising liquids, curries, risottos, polentas, or a myriad of other uses.

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Golden elixer

My favorite way to store stock with also be your favorite: frozen into ½ cup portions. Once you’ve strained out the bones, let it boil down a little. I like mine super concentrated. Now grab your muffin tin.  Line the cups with cupcake liners. Do this. If you don’t, you will get to pry frozen chicken goodness out of tins for a long time.

I may have learned this the hard way.

Anyway, spray the liners with some cooking spray. Now ladle the cooled chicken stock into each tin. Any time a recipe calls for a cup of stock or broth, I will through in a little frozen puck with a ½ cup of water. Instant richness!

You can make it through the winter now, blogland. All you needed was a little chicken soup.

A Norwegian Tradition – Hidden From the Internet until Now

Happy New Years, friends! It’s been an interesting year here in Emeralds and Ampersands land, what with the beginning of the blog, a new found love of soccer, and much hands-on creating that we like to do here. Hell, I even met Macklemore at the day job. Seems I have a charmed life, or, as someone told me recently, I must actually “have my shit together.” Who knew? 

Interestingly enough, it turns out that my family have taken a bit of an interest in my creative endeavours. Sister A of the Great Fudge Debacle of 2001 took some time on Christmas day to describe another family tradition – one steeped in separated eggs, cardamom, and the occasional grease fire. 

So without further ado -my  first guest post!

Krumkake – A journey

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Rolled Perfection

When I first moved out of my parents’ home, I made sure a recipe box was one of my first acquisitions. I spent way too much time copying over many of my favorite recipes from home until my hand cramped. The truth is, I didn’t use it much, except for maybe a couple specific recipes. As I look through it now, I wonder, “why he hell do I have this?” I’m pretty sure I have carpal tunnel, so why would I waste all that time to meticulously copy a recipe onto an index card?”

Whatever, that is not what this is about. This is a story about a lost recipe.

These days, I use Pinterest for recipes. I was pretty late to the bandwagon in general, but it is super handy, and I can keep everything organized with cute little pictures, and I can usually figure out what’s for dinner while searching on my phone shortly before I get home. Because I store recipes this way, I have little to no use for the recipe box in the top of my cabinet, except for TWO recipes – both of which I needed today. One is for lefse, which was not hard to miss because it is oversized and doesn’t fit just right, and it is laminated (which is a great idea, if you’ve ever made lefse).

(Editor’s note: AKA Bonnie here: Lefse is another one of those Norwegian specialties that my family and Ballardites agree are worth the EXTREME effort for. Think a very thin potato tortilla grilled on and extremely hot griddle and you’ll have the idea. That and so much flour you’ll look like a Golden Girl for the next few days.)

The other one is for krumkake (pronounced “crum-kaka”). It is a Norwegian cookie that I had promised to make and bring in to work the next day. I NEEDED it. I remembered almost exactly how to make it in my head, the ingredients, the steps, but that doesn’t cut it. I’m not the first person to say this, but cooking is an art, and baking is a science. I couldn’t wing this one.

So, I picked up my phone and searched “krumkake”.I got some hits, but they weren’t the recipes I was looking for. They were either plus or minus a few ingredients or the process was what I considered “lazy” i.e.: throw all ingredients into a bowl and mix.

Let’s get something clear right now – krumkake is no easy feat. It’s labor-intensive and totally worth it. As Bonnie says – “if you aren’t using every bowl in your house, you aren’t doing it right”. So, knowing a little about how Google works, I modified my search. I’m pretty sure that by the time I was done, I was searching “krumkake cream beat egg whites cardamom cornstarch”. NOTHING. The internet was wrong? How could this be?

The only people I could ask for the recipe were B and my mom, and they were both not at home. Then I remembered – I’ve been missing my copy of the recipe for a long time. I’ve done this before. Then I remembered my mom emailed me the recipe a couple years ago (the last time I realized it was lost). I searched my email and THERE IT WAS.

A Christmas Miracle!

This is sort of a family recipe, sort of not. My family is Norwegian, but my Grandma didn’t really make the traditional stuff. My mom learned her stuff from my great-grandma, but that isn’t where this recipe comes from. It comes from an old family friend – Mrs. T, who was a Lutheran pastor’s wife and pretty much rocked it when it came to Norwegian baking. My mom has been making this same recipe forever; it’s pretty popular at bake sales and cookie exchanges. If you live in Seattle, you probably don’t have to ask many people before you find a Norwegian and their mom/sister/grandmother/great-grandmother, etc. used to make krumkake around Christmas. It’s just what you do. Make sure to celebrate “Hug A Norwegian Day” with those people as well (It is November 22nd).

Did I mention you are going to need a special iron to make these? Oh yeah. I have a pretty snazzy electric one that can apparently be purchased at Bed Bath and Beyond, or you can go the super archaic route and get a cast-iron one that goes on the stove – but I used to have one and it is super messy (hence the grease fires.)

The right way to make krumkake:

If you don’t have a Kitchenaid Mixer, I hope you are an Olympic lifter, because you are going to need forearms of steel for the type of mixing necessary to do this right. (You can also rock a hand mixer if  the cooking gods have not granted your Kitchenaid wishes.)

1 c. sugar
½ c. melted butter
1 t. vanilla
3 eggs, separated
1½ c. flour
½ c. whipping cream, whipped stiff
1 t. cardamom
2 T. corn starch

First, beat the egg whites stiff. Just put the egg whites in the bow (very clean)l with the whisk attachment and crank that baby on high. It should look like a foam party in your bowl by the time you are done.Transfer the egg whites to another bowl (See where this is going? Gather a ton of extra small to medium bowls).

Wash your mixing bowl , and then do the same thing to the heavy cream – whip the crap out of it until it is thick. Remove it to still another bowl. Wash main bowl again. Beat egg yolks (you can use the plain mixing attachment at this point) and then add sugar, melted butter, and vanilla and mix well.

In still another bowl, mix together the flour, corn starch, and cardamom. Add the whipped cream and the egg whites to the sugar mixture and mix. Add in the flour mixture and mix. Make sure to scrape the sides and (especially) the bottom of the bowl. If the egg whites and whipped cream are not mixed in pretty well, there can be separation at the bottom of the bowl and it ruins the last few krumkake. (The egg white sort of burns off, leaving holes and a brittle texture.)

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Golden Brown Goodness

So anyways, bake on a preheated krumkake iron. Even Teflon-coated irons need some oil starting out, but then you can just coat them every 10 or so. Non-coated ones need to be regularly oiled to prevent sticking.

Krumkake can be left flat or rolled into cone shapes on the wooden mandrel that comes with the iron. Keeping them flat means they are easier to store, eat and transport, but if you roll them, it has to be done immediately (but then you could add an optional filling [kind of like a cannoli]). Personally, I think they go great to eat with coffee. (Personally, I think they are great to eat with anything. And booze. Always that.)

<3/ A

Pumpkin Buttered Rum – Just Like Mom’s Pumpkin Pie (but with Booze)

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Christmas at Chez Emeralds and Ampersands

Tis the season for warm drinks. Tis the season for spices and mulling. Tis the season for presents and shopping and family and parties and maybe just a little bit of stress and drama.

So tis the season for booze. Duh.

It might just be my family, but ever since the kids reached adulthood, boozy traditions have flourished into some of my favorite parts of the holiday. Nothing like light inebriation to smooth over any little interpersonal bumps.  There’s nothing like a hot mug of mulled wine or peppermint schnapps hot chocolate while you bunker down with “It’s a Wonderful Life.” My oldest sister makes sure we’re all ready to go with Blueberry Teas or Irish Coffee before we break into the gift exchange.

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These are cuddle drinks

C’s family has perfected this into a beer tasting – we each bring a few microbrews we’ve never had before, line them up light to dark and full on taste those suckers. We write tasting notes and everything. The microbrews get a bit crazy. I’ve had a bacon maple bar beer. It was weird.

Somehow the combination of booze, family, and evergreen has become integral to holiday festivities. When I found some online mixology recipes for holiday cocktails, I was more that excited to try some variation on hot buttered rum. If you’ve never tried it, hot buttered rum is pretty much what it sounds like – sugared butter melted into rum and hot water, traditionally served with a whole cinnamon stick. A pumpkin-y twist on the classic adds just the right touch of fun to the old standard: Pumpkin Buttered Rum!

The key ingredient here is a bit of a challenge to find. It’s is definitely a specialty item. I’ve sometimes seen jars of it pulled out into an end-cap holiday display around Thanksgiving. If you get lucky, go ahead and grab it. However, take it from someone who has helplessly wandered the aisles of QFC for half an hour or so – the easiest thing to do is head to Trader Joes. TJ’s faithfully stocks the product all year, so all you have to do is walk in, avoid all the delicious TJ’s snacks and chocolate-covered miscellany and grab the butter. No substitutions – you’ll need it to hit the right pumpkin note.

Top with whipped cream and don’t count any calories – it’s the holidays after all.

Pumpkin Butter Glory

Pumpkin Buttered Rum
(adapted from The Kitchn)

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup pumpkin butter
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch kosher salt
Dark rum
Hot water
Whipped cream
Cinnamon (to garnish)

Cream together butter and sugar. Stir in pumpkin butter until combined. Add spices and salt, mix until creamy. This mixture will make a few drinks, so put it in an airtight container and pop it in the fridge. It should stay fresh for 1-2 weeks. (Can you say “make in advance?”)

When you’re ready to make drinks, set some water on to boil. Add a couple tablespoons to the bottom of a mug – you can add more or less to taste. Add 2 oz. of dark rum of your choice. Fill cup with hot water and stir to combine. Top with whipped cream. Garnish with a dash more cinnamon or a whole cinnamon stick

That’s all there is to it! All that’s left now is the roaring fireplace.

Happy Christmas, blogland!

Candy Land: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Thermometer

I love to make candy.

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Why yes, I did make the toffee.

This love stems from a couple of things, but I’ll have to admit that the main reason is plain ol’ ego massage. It is easier in my opinion than baking, but much, much more impressive. I invite you to test this theory out. You’ll be fair drowning in compliments, you candy-wizard, you.

But first! The obligatory tie-in:

When I was a kid, my oldest sister and I were staying together for the night by ourselves. I honestly can’t remember why, but she was 16 and cool, while I was 11 and desperately seeking approval. Turns out this time around she was willing to deign to my request, because my cool teenage sister drove me to  Blockbuster (so dated) to rent Happy Gilmore. Naturally, we decided to make fudge. We scoured my mom’s recipes until we found the one that seemed the easiest.

This was our first mistake. While making candy isn’t’t actually hard, the recipe should be complicated enough to make you cringe at first glance. Which leads me to my first rule:

When making candy, always follow the recipe exactly.

Candy making is a science- it’s all about creating crystal structures.

It's complicated, okay?

It’s complicated, okay?

If the recipe says use a clean bowl, use a clean bowl. If the recipe says do not stir, do not stir. If you have a  itchy creative trigger finger, try adding flavorings or spices to the candy, swap out packaging, use different nuts, etc. Just leave the directions alone.

Now, my sister and I learned to have our mise en place from our mother, who is a very organized lady. We quickly rounded up our powdered sugar, cocoa powder and the like and got cracking. We dumped everything in a bowl and got to the next step of the recipe – “MW for 2 min.” MW? Eleven year old me was mystified. My sister didn’didn’t fare better. Google wasn’t really a thing, nor texting mom to get an answer, so we went with our gut. “’Mix Well’?” I ventured. So we beat the crap out of it for two minutes in my mom’s Kitchenaid mixer.

See, we had never made candy before, so we didn’t know that MW stood for “microwave.” I would not really recommend making candy in the microwave because it’s too hard to control the temperature. Even so, if my sister and I had microwaved our concoction it would have at least had some semblance of fudge. What we ended up making resembled a dense chocolate frosting. Not horrible, but not fudge.

This brings me to my second rule:

Buy a good thermometer.

Martha knows all.

Martha knows all.

As I mentioned before, candy is more about science than cooking. Using a thermometer is easier and much more idiot-proof that using the old “soft ball” and “hard crack” methods.

I use a Martha Stewart-brand digital probe. It is nice because I can set it to alarm when it reaches the appropriate temperature. Buy any candy thermometer that makes you happy, but I would not recommend trying any of my candy recipes without an actuate thermometer. Not unless you are an absolute master of candy testing.

If you follow those two rules, the whole world of candy awaits you! Don’t worry, Blogland, I will walk you through your first go:

This is the goal.

This is the goal.

Emeralds and Ampersands’ Old Fashioned Fudge

2 cups white sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
1 cup milk
4 Tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla extract, or substitute desired flavor

Grease an 8×8 pan with butter or shortening. Fudge tastes better when it is in your mouth and not stuck to the pan =]

Combine sugar, cocoa powder and milk in a medium saucepan. Ere on the larger size, as this mixture will expand as it cooks. Stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil stirring constantly. Once mixture comes to a medium boil, reduce heat to simmer, remove the spoon and add the thermometer. DO NOT STIR. Let that bad boy bubble away until it reaches 238 degrees F (the soft ball stage).  This will take some time, so be patient.
Remove from heat and allow to cool to 110 degrees F.

As mixture cools, wet a pastry brush or paper towel with water and wipe out any residual sugar crystals hanging out on the side of the sauce pan. These little crystals can fall into your finished fudge and create that grainy texture sometimes found in homemade fudge.

Once mixture has cooled, add butter and vanilla. Using a clean spoon (because we don’t want any stray sugar crystal sneaking in), beat mixture until butter is well integrated and fudge has lost its sheen. Give it what-for, because under-beating results in runny fudge, which is not delicious (as a sidenote, don’t give yourself a beating blister like I did, because it is both painful and embarassing. Double ouch).  Legend has it that this is where you would put nuts if you wanted to, but I’m not into nutty fudge.

Fudge in all it glory

Fudge in all it glory

Pour it into your greased pan and cool. Cut into squares with a sharp knife. You can now wrap them individually in plastic wrap or waxed paper to keep them fresh – or just eat it all. I don’t judge.

I know that sounds scary but in actuality it’s really just a lot of standing around. Scout’s honor.

If you’ve mastered fudge, give toffee a try. It’s just a simple and there’s no beating. When I made it I substituted hazelnuts for almonds because hazelnuts are God’s gift to the world. When the pecans on the counter were crying out to become chocolate turtles, I used this caramel recipe. I like this one in particular because the blogger gives you a lot of customization ideas.

Not a grainy piece in site

Alright, friends, it’s just in time for Christmas! Who’ll be giving out homemade candy this year?

Ampersands in the Emerald City: First Edition

Hello, blogland! Let me update you on the last month of my life:

– Opened my Etsy shop! Please come visit, browse through my items, follow my shop, take a gander at my treasuries!
– Created both bridal shower and bachelorette extravaganzas
– Finished my first ever bridal gown and saw it worn to perfection
– Netflixed binged “Say Yes to the Dress” so hard that I had to take the lateral move over to “Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta”
– Watched my Seattle Sounders go into the playoffs and proceed to the Western Conference Semi-Finals! (We see you Portland, and we are coming to take you down)
– Became the proud owner of a lovely new case of bronchitis. It’s reallllllly cute.

All that happened. It was a lot. I didn’t cook very much, and when I did, it just wasn’t pretty.

However, C and I recently brainstormed ideas for the ol ‘E&A blog, and I think we came up with a winner.

Here’s the premise – once weekly, alongside my regularly scheduled lifestyle content, I present a “quickfix”-style article. These posts will outline an “Emerald” – a Seattle jewel, a place I love, something fun and local – and an “Ampersand” – a fun and frivolous activity that a person could do anywhere. I will pair them together like a sommelier pairs a fine wine with a meal. It’s gonna be classy, guys.

It may be worth mentioning that I do not run a sponsored blog. None of my recommendations are coming from the  brand, organization, or businesses (at least not yet, and I will tell you if they do).

So here it comes:

Read “Nylon” Magazine…

Okay, it’s only the quintessential fashion and style mag for the hipster elite. If you could overdose on quirky chic, Nylon would be the catalyst.

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If anybody could pull off orange bangs, everyone would have them

Hayley Williams is God’s gift to the urban street fashion movement, and Good Lord, does her interview make for an entertaining read. 

I read quite a few of my roommate’s Nylon mags back in college. Every page was an adventure in fashion, art, design, and culture told in a quirky, youthful way. Perfect for reading closely or flipping through casually.

Which leads me to my next point:

… In Rudy’s Barbershop.

Rudy’s is the King of the hipster hair world. Located in ultra-trendy cities like Seattle, Portland, and New York, Rudy’s has created a culture of no nonsense walk-in appointments. You walk in and get your hair cut by a guy with tattoos that uses the F-Word a lot. It’s pretty great.

They cut heads

They cut heads

Rudy’s specializes in men’s cuts, though they are happy to do kids and ladies as well.. This is not a frilly salon with paraffin wax dips and two-week deep appointment books. It’s an anything goes environment, and it’s pretty darn liberating.

It surprises a lot of people that I go to Rudys to have my own hair done. I LOVE my colorist, which is pretty important when you’re in for the three-hour bleach and tone long haul (platinum is pain, friends).  She is a chatty paleo enthusiast with a septum piercing who was tired of the  upscale princesses she encountered at typical hair salons. It’s reasonably priced and a damn good finished product.

So sit back with a Nylon mag under the hairdryer, and  read why grunge is the new look for fall.

It’s gonna look great on you.

Once Upon a Book

Optional Soundtrack to this post:

This is a story about a girl. And a book.

Once upon a time was a little girl who read a lot of books. She read a lot about scientists and villains, heroes, pirates, princesses. She read about adventure and friendship. She learned to like books very much.

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I’m waiting for my Hogwarts acceptance letter annnnnny day now

As she grew up, she began to like books even more, reading everything she could get her hands on. She read about love, beauty, sadness, and war. She learned about hope and betrayal and racism and hate and violence. She learned that books can illuminate our flaws to show us how to be better. She learned to love books very much indeed.

As a young lady, she found out that sometimes there is hate and violence and sadness wrapped up in a package that looks a lot like love. When she opened the package, she found out that the world is sometimes very ugly.  She became very sad, but she hid it behind a smile and a laugh.

When she went off to school, she found a book that really made her laugh, full of silly slang and dirty innuendos. She laughed and he saw her. She showed him the book and he laughed too. They met because she had a book.

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Puppy Love

They spent all their time together, years together. He showed her a package all wrapped up that looked like love, but on the inside, it was just as beautiful as the outside. They talked about war and hate and violence and shared the sadness together, because the smile didn’t need to hide the pain anymore.

And once, he gave her a gift. Her favorite book. He gave it to her and as she leafed through, she saw that he had taken her favorite book and turned it into a beautiful love letter. “Marry me. I love you.” She looked up with tears in her eyes and saw him on one knee with a ring in his hand. And she was his.

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Best moment of my life

He wore a flower made of books when she walked down the aisle to him.

She turned the whole world into a book for the two of them to share.

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And the world was dark and cold, but it was warm when they cuddled under the blankets.

And read a book.

It’s been two years since we’ve said our vows, but 6 years since I showed you that book. I can’t wait to keep writing this storybook with you. Happy Anniversary, C. 

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Let’s never stop being awesome, okay?