Heart on a String: A sweetly simple sign of love

It’s funny the way that holiday decorations can instantly bring me to a happy place. In December, the stress of holiday traveling melts away when I see my childhood stocking (made by my mother years ago) hung over the fireplace. In college, I remember the sense of connection and solace when my friends and I would do silly things like paint Easter eggs together or decorate our dorm rooms with hand-print turkeys. It made being away from home a little easier.

Vase of Pussy Willows

Seeing this vase makes me feel like I’m home.

This is how I feel every February when I go up to my grandma’s house for my birthday and see a familiar white vase on the table, full of pussy willows and dangling red heart candies. I feel like a kid again, like I’ve come home from camp or a weekend slumber party.

Logically, it doesn’t make much sense because growing up I was never at my grandparents’ house this time of year — I was always in school. Instead they would fly to Alaska (on alternate years) to visit my brother and me for our birthdays. I was oblivious to the whole pussy willow/candy heart tradition until I was living in Portland and began spending my birthday weekends with them in Tacoma. Yet, there’s still a nostalgic feeling attached to those little gummy hearts.

Maybe it’s because the story connected to the vase and its enticing sweets is so familiar. Every year I hear about my uncle, who in his younger days used to pull all the hearts off their strings, leaving behind the empty circles of thread as evidence. My grandma loves to tell me this story and honestly, every year I enjoy hearing her recount the memory. It makes me feel connected knowing that traditions (along with having a sweet tooth) remain a constant in my family.

Continue reading

Beer-Braised Beef: Helping to keep you warm this winter

Stout Braised Beef StewEven though it’s December, it’s still been fairly temperate in Portland. There was one day when I woke up to see a light dusting of snow, but for the most part it’s been a mellow winter. Which is pretty perfect as far as I’m concerned. As someone who bikes to work year-round, I am loving that when I go outside it still looks like autumn.

And while I haven’t been feeling the intense desire to hibernate, I still have had the usual cold-weather culinary urges — stews, soups and crockpots, oh my! I’m sure you all know the feeling, these are the things that get us through until spring. It seems so comforting to have a pot on the stove filled with chili or split pea soup.

So when I picked up a small chuck roast at the store, my first thought was beef stew. I usually make a pretty traditional version — mire poix, tomatoes and lots of woody herbs. However, I was feeling a little frisky and decided to try something different. Which is where this recipe for stout-braised beef comes in.

Now first let me assure you that I know cooking with alcohol is nothing innovative. I’ve been a dedicated believer in the power of beef and beer for quite some time. Perhaps it was the horseradish garnish that made this recipe so intriguing.

Which leads me on a slight tangent…As a kid, I thought horseradish sauce was the most disgusting thing ever. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the taste — I never got that far — it must have simply been the name. But my stepdad (a longtime horseradish lover) swore that some day I would discover its amazing and spicy deliciousness on my own. And, crazily enough, I did. I’m not certain of when it happened, but if you give me roast beef, my first instinct is to look for the “horsey sauce,” the hotter, the better.

Continue reading

Candy Corn in the Wild

Image

My husband brought me home a pumpkin last weekend. It’s too early in the season for carving (even though I really wanted to roast some seeds!), so I decided to paint it instead. Taken straight from Pinterest, I present to you my crafty results.

I pretty much love it! It was super easy and it looks great in the front yard with my succulents keeping it company.