Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mr. and Mrs. Claus

As you've noticed, I'm taking this week off of blogging. So much to get done, so little time. But I didn't want to leave you completely hanging, so I want to share some big news. Like HUGE news. I found out this Christmas that my Dad is SANTA! Which in turn makes my mom Mrs. Claus. Talk about mind-blowing. Hope your Christmas was equally as exciting!

Friday, December 23, 2011

We have a winner.

Despite my lack of Christmas card sending, I am always stoked to see what's waiting for me in my mailbox this time of year. Travel photos, wedding photos, puppy photos or silly photos - I like it all. This year I'd have to say that Suz, Rob, Gene, Michelle and Jasmine take the cake. Talk about awkward family photo! I think I'm in love. (Michelle, the eye blink brings it to the next level!)

P.S. Josh, Brian and Judy, you were an extremely close second. I just couldn't resist Suze's Farrah flip!

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Do you have any vivid memories from your childhood? I definitely do. And one of them involves catching my Aunt Jeanie, Aunt Barbie and Aunt Nancy all giggling as they poured themselves a glass of glögg (spiced wine) on Christmas day at my Grandma and Grandpa Pete's home. I remember being so curious about this mysterious drink they hated, but liked at the same time. I asked my Dad if I could try a sip of his and he obliged, eagerly awaiting a face of disgust - and that's exactly what he got. Ewww! I thought they were all crazy. (However, when I was finally of-age, I gave it another try and actually really liked it!)

Fast forward 20+ years. On our third date, Joe made me Swedish pancakes, some sort of Scandinavian soup and glögg. Not your typical way into a girl's heart, but it worked for yours truly. I remember watching him do his thing in the kitchen and thinking, "yep, the Aunties and Grandma Pete would approve."

This year when we made a batch, it brought back both memories and made me smile. Now that's a reason to cheers. Or as the Swedes say, skål!

(P.S. Joe's recipe involves port, cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, almond slices, raisins, orange peel and maybe something else I'm missing. But here's a basic recipe.)

Ho ho ho!

Friends, I tried. I had every intent to send Christmas cards this year; I really did. I looked on Etsy quite early, browsing for options that would strike my fancy. Joe and I took a Christmas photo in case we wanted to go the photo card route. I even made a list of people I wanted to send one to! That's where it got tricky. Ten quickly became 20, which grew to 50+! Where does one cut it off? I can't bring myself to cut off my cousin's step-brother's girlfriend (ok, kidding, but really, the family is giant). Then when you take into account ordering that many cards, postage and getting everyone's addresses together, I was overwhelmed. Maybe I should put this on my New Year's resolution list: send Christmas cards in 2012.

So in place of snail mail (which I know is like 10x better!), I had a little tacky editing session with our photo. So from our home(s) to yours, Happy Holidays! We love you.

P.S. Do you like the return of the seasonal Petes Speaks?!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lianna's Shindig

I'm late to report the festivities of Whidbey Island a few weekends ago. So my brief rundown:

You know it's a party when...
  • You're celebrating someone who is getting married. (Yay Lianna!)
  • Your party involves wine tasting at a barn on Whidbey Island.
  • There are photo opps' a plenty.
  • You make Christmas ornaments.
  • Your evening involves limbo with a boa and other rather girlish games.
  • There are 20+ ladies filled into one cabin - dancing (or watching the incredible dancers) the night away.
Lianna, only 31 days until you marry the love of your life. Can't wait!

(Mads and Steph recap the bachelorette weekend too!)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Look what the world searched for in 2011. Quite a year, that's for sure.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Winter Walks

We picked up some coffee and took a nice stroll around Green Lake this weekend. I love winter walks - crisp air, fewer crowds, beautiful scenery - but they are so hard to come by. I can't bring myself to take many walks in the dark (too many mice and creepers lurking in the shadows!), so I can only really make them happen on the weekends during the winter. But we are only a couple days away from The Darkest Day of the Year, so in time, I'll be making more laps around the lake. (Partially because we signed up for this baby again. Better lace up my running shoes!)

During our stroll, I was taking photos with my Instagram app. I still haven't decided which filter I like best - Earlybird, Lomo-fi, Valencia? If you have it, what are your favorites?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Jury was Unanimous

Seven words: Pumpkin gnocchi with brown butter and sage.

I rest my case.

Ingredients (I doubled this recipe strategically for leftovers)
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 3/4 cups flour - plus more for your work surface
2 tablespoons butter
2-3 tablespoons of shredded sage leaves
2-3 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt

Set a large pot of water to boil. Combine pumpkin, egg, nutmeg and salt. Add in the flour, a bit at a time, stirring to combine. Continue adding flour until the dough is firm enough to handle (it will still be slightly sticky).

Take about a quarter of the dough and roll into one long rope, about one inch thick. Cut rope into one inch pieces. Repeat with remaining dough. Drop pieces of dough into boiling water. Cook until they rise to the surface (about five minutes).

Meanwhile, melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add sage and stir frequently until butter browns. (Browning butter is a science.) Drain gnocchi on paper towel and add to brown butter. Toss to combine. Serve with parmesan cheese.

This is my "Look at me! I'm making gnocchi" face.

I froze the gnocchi for a few minutes to ensure they didn't fall apart on me. Worked wonders! (That's a Maddie trick!)

P.S. Crossing something off my 30 before Thirty list!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


I happen to think these owl plates are pretty cute. Wouldn't you agree?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Nutcracker

Jenna and Audrey certainly shined on the stage! I had a perma-smile during the entire performance. They were breathtaking and so incredibly graceful (and tear-jerking for my Grandma!). I already can't wait for next year!
We also got to watch the adorable Katierie and Taryn, our close family friends. They love their Miss Koby. And Miss Koby loves them :)

Monday, December 12, 2011

My Personal Assistant

For those of you who don't know the biggest news of 2011, I upgraded my phone. [Insert gasps, followed by hoots and hollers.] After nearly six years of dedication to my tried and true Razr, I landed in the world of the iPhone. The 4s to be clear. It has since changed my life. No more printing out directions, no more anxiety when I leave my work computer for more than an hour, and no more boring waiting room experiences.

But most importantly, I now have a personal assistant, Siri. She can text or email for me, find answers to trivial facts and keep me entertained for hours. She has quite a sense of humor (check out how funny Siri is). I asked her the age old woodchuck question and she even knew the answer.

Siri, I'm excited for our budding friendship. I look forward to all of your support and sometimes snarky responses!

Friday, December 9, 2011

It's beginning to smell a lot like Christmas.

After some delay, Joe and I finally got our tree last night. We put it up, then life (i.e. hungry bellies) got in the way so we didn't decorate it right away. Next, Big Bang Theory got in the way, then Sleepy McSleepersons got in the way. So my tree still stands in the corner of my living room, naked as a jaybird. The hot cocoa-drinking (with marshmallows!), Christmas music-listening, and decorating tradition has been postponed until tomorrow morning. But this morning when I walked into my living room, it was the most intoxicating smell ever. If I could bottle it up and name it "Christmas in a jar," I'd make millions.

Have a festive holiday weekend, friends!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cookie Dough Dip

For Tom's birthday, I attempted to make this cookie dough dip that I had bookmarked for months. It's actually considered a "healthy dessert", yet mine may have been on the less healthy side because I kept adding sugar to improve the taste. In the end, I couldn't even tell you how much sugar I added, but it's a helluva lot more than what the recipe called for.

Overall, it was... good. I chose Nilla wafers as the dippers and I think they brought the dip to the next level. (Never underestimate the power of a dipper.) I can't decide if I didn't like it as much because I knew the base was GARBANZO BEANS or if it really wasn't cookie dough flavored enough? At any rate, people did eat most of it, so it must have been decent, right? Though after time, I think people got skeptical since the small remainder of the "cookie dough" was sitting out for hours. And then started to sweat - almond butter oil? My verdict: If you want something sweet and healthy, give it a try. If you want something sweet and don't care about the calories, have some ice cream :)

Cookie Dough Dip (I doubled this recipe)

1.5 cups chickpeas (1 can, drained)
1/8 tsp plus 1/16 tsp salt
Tiny bit over 1/8 tsp baking soda
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup almond butter
Up to 1/4 cup nondairy milk (Start with 1 T, and add more as needed)
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup chocolate chips
2 to 3 T oats

Add all ingredients (except for chocolate chips) to a blender or food processor, and blend until very smooth. Then mix in the chocolate chips.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I covet

After testing out my uber-cheap crossbody bag for a couple months, I've realized that I really like this style, but it's much too small. Yet my other bag feels like a suitcase! So I'm on a quest to find a medium-sized crossbody bag. Call me picky, but I'm finding this to be a much harder quest than expected. I keep coming back to this Marc by Marc Jacobs bag, but I'm not ready to take the leap with such a hefty price tag. Do you have any ideas of where I can find the perfect bag?

Monday, December 5, 2011

How do weekends fly by?

This weekend zoomed by, but it was a blast - the Nutcracker and a fun bachelorette party in the boonies. Greenbank, WA to be exact. (Though, I admit, not any more boonie-like than my own childhood home) The party may have involved some wine tasting in this very barn. Fun, huh?

Once I'm caught up with everything I left behind for the weekend, I'll share the whole scoop on the weekend. Happy Monday!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Break a leg, ladies.

You know how parents always say, "they grow up so quickly!" Well, even as a cousin, I wholeheartedly agree. My adorable, sweet, little cousins who I used to babysit - Audrey and Jenna - are growing into beautiful women. Tonight, I'm going to watch them in the Skagit Valley Academy of Dance's Nutcracker performance. As two of the leads, Clara and the Snow Queen, I have no doubt they will dazzle the crowd.

Even though I turned my pointe shoes in for dance team pom poms (after nearly 10 years of ballet!), I still have a soft spot in my heart for the grace and beauty of ballet. Especially when it involves people you love! Good luck and break a leg, Audrey and Jenna!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Soup it up.

It's definitely soup season again. The moment I step outside into a dark and dreary evening, I immediately crave soup. Chicken noodle soup, taco soup, curried soup, you name it! I'll eat it. So I've been scouring my cookbooks for a healthy, but hearty soup to make on these increasingly gray days. I found a winner with the Italian White Bean, Pancetta, and Tortellini Soup from Giada's Everyday Pasta cookbook. Soooo, so good. And actually quite easy! Give it a try, people. As Nike would say, just do it.

3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 lb. pancetta, chopped
3 shallots, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped (we added two!)
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 (15 oz) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 bunch of Swiss chard, chopped
8 c. chicken broth
4 c. water
1/2 lb. fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
Salt and pepper
(Erika's addition: Red pepper flakes! I add them to almost everything for a nice kick.)

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta, shallots, and carrot and cook until the vegetables are soft and the pancetta is crisp, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic, beans, chicken broth and water and bring up to a boil over high heat. Toss in the Swiss chard and let it wilt, about 3 minutes. (It will look like A LOT of chard, but don't worry, it shrinks.)

Add the tortellini and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the tortellini are tender (about 4 minutes for fresh, 8 minutes for frozen). Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.

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