Sunday, May 30, 2010

Favorite Things: Day 23

Favorite Things: Day 23 Summer

I first met Summer in the beginning of Summer 1998. I had only lived in Seattle for a year and we met at the graduation party Dana Jill threw for Jared. Within minutes of meeting (along with our other friend Freya, who I also met for the first time that day), we were fast friends. In fact, the 3 of us spent the rest of the weekend together talking art, poetry, faith, spirituality, and of course, boys. Or rather, the boys were in hot pursuit of my 2 new gorgeous friends. I quickly got used to being the "chopped liver" friend. A year later, Summer brought her new beau Colin and her brother Ryan over to the house where I lived to watch "So I Married an Axe Murder", and thus began my relationship with my husband.

Our friendship went through a rough transitional period when we both got married...I think it was tricky figuring out how to go from friends to sisters-n-law. My pregnancy and birth of Sam quickly erased any hurt feelings or misunderstandings as Summer was determined to be the most loving and present auntie ever, a role she relished and has never ceased to fill despite the 2,000 physical miles between us. She drove up from Eugene, OR as soon as she heard I went into labor and slept on a hospital couch until Sam was born.

Later, when Ryan and I were going through a very tough year (that's putting it mildly), she was my constant confidante, my encourager, my listener, never telling me what to do, never judging me, but helping me to process through everything and when I chose to reconcile with Ryan, she once again drove up from Eugene and lived with us until 6 weeks after the birth of Oliver, helping out in every way imaginable so that I could have a healthy recovery. Night after night, she watched Conan O'Brien on our couch and cuddled baby O so that Ryan and I could get some much needed sleep. To this day there is a very special bond between "Olba-bear" (as Sam used to call him) and Mimi (the name the boys call her).

Honestly, the fact that both Summer and Ryan are in my life are evidence that God loves me in a tangible way that I don't think I ever quite got before I knew them. How many women marry a guy and land a best friend as a sister-n-law in the process? Maybe more than I know, but I count myself blessed beyond measure to have Summer as my sister-friend.
Now she's a Mama to two extraordinary girls, my nieces, and we share an ever deepening bond as we journey through parenthood together. Despite the fact that her brother is my husband, we're able to have honest and candid conversations about marriage and what it means to be a wife and I'm constantly inspired to love Ryan better through watching the example she sets with Colin.

She's an incredibly talented photographer who feels too weird about self-promoting to actually make a go of it commercially and a girl whose fashion sense is always fun and boundary pushing.

You'd be hard pressed to find a more loyal, hard-working, dedicated, honest-to-a-fault, fun, creative, flawed-but-determinedly-working-it-out person who I can call literally any time, day or night and know she'll pick up the phone and have something wise and funny to say. She's a one in a million gem.

I love you Summer.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Favorite Things: Day 22

Favorite Things: Day 22 Fun Kitchen Gadgets
If I had to list them in order of importance prior to yesterday, it would go:
1). Microzester
2). Cherry pitter
3). French pastry rolling pin (wood)
4). Terra cotta whole garlic baker

But there's a new sheriff in town, a rookie who completely upset the natural order of things and took top place in the affections of the Baughn family. Who is this upstart gadget? A line of 4 Star Wars cookie cutters from Williams-Sonoma. Received an email from the latter advertising the former (aren't "latter" and "former" just brilliant words? They just make life and communicating so much easier) and since Ryan was literally next door, I capitulated and purchased. It wasn't really a fair fight. I didn't tell the boys but surprised Sam with buckwheat pancakes in the shape of Yoda and Darth Vader the next morning at breakfast (I just couldn't wait the 3 weeks until his birthday which was the intended gifting date) and he was ecstatic.

I then tried them out on his sandwich I packed for his lunch.

Jasper thought they were a hoot.
Oliver tried his hand at decorating with the royal icing and did a phenomenal job (although Bobba Fett, below, is mostly my handi-work).

What will they think of next? (they being the retailers and they do have the same thing as pancake molds but I figured the cutters could do double duty and they work out pretty well).

Unfavorite Things: 2 Weeks of Being Unwell

Hi all-
I want to apologize for not keeping up with the favorite things project. I have been running on empty for what seems like forever but has in actuality only been 2 weeks. It started with a horrible sore throat that lasted for days, turned into cough and severe headache and just when I thought I was getting better, I got beat up in a street fight. Well, not really. But that's how badly my body ached for several days. Alongside stomach issues and massive fatigue (bed by 8:30pm with a 2 hour nap in the afternoons), I'm not ashamed to admit that I called Summer to cry on her shoulder long distance a time or two. I really really want to indulge in more whining about the state of my house, the massive piles of laundry that have built up, the guilty feelings of not being able to do much more for Ryan or the kids then just get by, much less feeling like a crummy friend for barely (0r not at all) checking in lately...everyone please forgive me and know there was a reason why.

With all that said, the older boys have been shopped out for an overnight and I'm hoping to spend some time catching up on this project, which I've enjoyed immensely. And then I'll kick my feet up with a cup o' tea and catch up on all your lovely postings as well.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Favorite Things: Day 21

Favorite Things: Day 21 Parties!
I love any excuse to have a party. I love preparing for it (I'm kind of a last minute planner even when I know months in advance that one is coming up), love cooking and baking for it, and especially love when everyone shows up at the door, smiling and excited to spend an "occasion" together. One year, my friend Hansi brought her Sam & Remy over for a Valentine's Day party.

Sam asked for a pirate party a few years back. Grandpa hand painted flags and I bought bandana material at Jo-Ann's so each kid could be was a stretch for Esther & Indy who are just too darn cute, but they tried.

I don't claim to be the most creative when it comes to party ideas, I mainly focus on the food and making sure everyone can make it but I've heard tales of Jenn over at Precarious and her legendary parties for her girls and often wished I had her kind of ideas and execution. I suppose in the end, though, no matter what your budget or your style, just getting together with friends and family is about all the excuse you need to have a party!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Favorite Things: Day 20

Little Dorrit

Favorite Things: Day 20 BBC, Master Piece Theater & Andrew Davies, bless his soul. For bringing all the wonderful classics to life in adaptation after glorious adaptation. Impeccable acting, writing, set and costume design is like candy to this girl who grew up wishing she'd been born a century or two earlier (to blue blood parents on a country estate in Derbyshire, of course), so much so that she set up a wash stand in her bedroom and brushed her teeth and washed her face there instead of the bathroom with all the modern amenities just outside her door. Nerd.

North & South
Yup. Officially in love with Richard Armitage, Daniela Denby-Ashe and the writing of Elizabeth Gaskell (who was a close friend of Charlotte Bronte and a well-known author herself in her day, now experiencing a revival of interest in her novels thanks to productions such as this) after watching this 4 part mini. And seriously, I'm going through with season 7 of MI:5 (or Spooks as it's known across the pond) just to continue watching Richard Armitage take on the world.
Bleak House

Ryan and I found this production of Bleak House (with the lovely Gillian Anderson in a role that rivals her turn in House of Mirth) absolutely riveting. "Shake me up, Jenny!" is now a favorite catch-phrase in our house, especially loved by Felix who has absolutely no clue what it means.

Pride and Prejudice
And of course, everyone's favorite. I nearly came to blows with a few friends in a debate over the best adaptation of Pride & Prejudice but I still defy ANYONE to find a better adaptation of Jane Austen's novel then this 1991 version. It just doesn't get any better than the chemistry between Jennifer Ehle's Elizabeth Bennett and Colin Firth's Mr. Darcy. There are so many memorable scenes but one of my favorites is between these two when Elizabeth receives news of silly Lydia's scandal. Even after 50 sittings it's still swoon-worthy and no one can convince me that Keira Knightley did better. Jennifer Ehle brings an intelligence and maturity to Elizabeth that I found sorely lacking in the latter's performance, and as well as Matthew McFadyn did as Darcy, he's no Colin Firth. Sorry. I'm pretty firm on this one.

As a frequent viewer of period dramas, I'm amazed at how often Andrew Davies' name pops up as the screenplay writer. Well done and thank you from a legion of devoted fans such as myself.

Favorite Things: Day 19

Favorite Things: Day 19 Poetry
This was dictated to me by Oliver and describes a drive to Dan & Beth's old house.

Favorite Things: Day 19

Favorite Things: Day 18

Favorite Things: Day 18 Wood

Favorite Things: Day 17

Favorite Things: Day 17 I've said it before and I'm sure I'll bore you to death by saying it again, but I love it when my boys bake.

Favorite Things: Day 16

Favorite Things: Day 16 Thrift Stores where you can find things that you need/want for a fraction of the price at a retail store if you have patience and are willing to use secondhand items.
I hadn't been to a thrift store in a while so I was super pleased to waltz into the small Stoughton St. Vinny's and find this ice cream maker for a paltry sum. Ryan said it is just like Bakka's. I liked that the old box it came in said it was made in Virginia, near where I grew up. We both liked the $4 price tag. We brought it home and promptly made buttermilk ice cream. It was yum.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Favorite Things: Day 15

Favorite Things: Day 15 Spontaneous Family Time
We do a rotating date night with two other couples that has been temporarily suspended until expected babies are born...thus, we found ourselves a few Thursday nights ago with no food in the house and some money in the budget for eating out. Sam yelled "Old Fashioned!" and away we went. After eating, we ran across the street to the Capitol lawn and had a raucous game of tag that wore us all out. It was one of those unusually warm early spring days and we had such an enjoyable time hanging out that no one wanted the evening to end. As we were getting into our car, a distinguished looking gentleman with graying hair was approaching his nice Volvo parked in front of us, and Oliver queried matter of factly "is that George Washington?" that sent us all in an uproar of laughter...a wonderful end to a lovely night.

Favorite Things: Day 14

Favorite Things: Day 14 Compost

Why is there a potato chip bag in my compost bin, you ask? Well, Sunchips has come out with the first biodegradable/compostable chip bag, giving me another excuse to indulge in buying a bag of Harvest Cheddar every now and again for the childish glee I get in throwing the empty bag in my compost instead of my trash.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Favorite Things: Day 13

Favorite Things: Day 13 Exercise

I have been remarkably undisciplined with exercise lately, even for me. And that's saying a lot because I can be very undisciplined. But since the coming of spring and warmer weather, it's been easier to find the motivation. Despite how great I always feel after a run or bike ride, I've never enjoyed exercising by myself and yet the better sleep, the better posture and overall health should get my butt out the door. Lately, I've found that even better then exercising is doing a physical activity outside with my husband and kids without the pressure of times and distances. Yesterday morning was light on work for Ryan so we tumbled the youngest 3 into the burley and bike carrier and rode to the coffee shop.
This morning was the annual Syttende Mai race in Stoughton and the boys and I ran the 2 mile Lil Mai race. Oliver and I got side stitches after the first mile but O was a champion and finished in fine style. Here is Sam above (wearing Norwegian colors) who took off like a jackrabbit when the gun sounded and finished a good 10 minutes before Oliver and I. It was so cool to watch Oliver go from tired and feeling like he couldn't finish to sprinting towards the finish line as crowds on either side cheered him on. He got a huge smile on his face when the race official announced "way to go Oliver!" as he crossed the finish and got his race t-shirt. Ryan met us with coffee and donuts and we sat on the curb and cheered the finishers of all the other races before heading home. It was a great experience and I look forward to the whole family running together next year.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Favorite Things: Day 13

Favorite Things: Day 13 Getting & Receiving Gifts (from people I know and love...sometimes you have to make that distinction)

My friend Hansi has a special knack for picking out gifts for me that are so meaningful because they are always unique, usually handmade either by herself or from etsy, and are things that I love love love but would probably not spend the money on for myself. Take the necklace above. Hansi got it from White Owl on etsy (who was just showcased June's Lucky magazine) and whenever I wear it, I get tons of compliments. White Owl uses reclaimed vintage lace to make this one of a kind necklaces and earrings and Hansi knows that I collect vintage lace and linen so this gift was especially meaningful.

oh, and you can tell from this photo how infrequently my house gets cleaned from the spots on the mirror. nice.

Favorite Things: Day 12

Favorite Things: Day 12 Happy Little "Coincidences"
I can't even be sure where I picked up this little mug, but I think it was a garage sale here in Wisconsin, shortly after we moved here. At some point, the poor little handle broke off but Ryan liked the design so much that he absconded it to use as a catch all on his bedside shelf. Imagine my surprise when my friend Jen, on her very first Favorite Things post, had the photograph below of a beloved mug and saucer she uses for tea. I love this happy little coincidence. Jen and I haven't seen each other in person for at least 9 years (oh my gosh, that needs to be remedied a.s.a.p. and should in about a month) and yet here we are, living 2,000 miles apart but drawn to the same aesthetics, sometimes down to the detail. When I saw her post, I got a little teary eyed and was reminded that despite the years and the distance, we have a connection as evidenced by her saucer and my mug. In subsequent days since her post, I've had an entire story line taking shape in my head of these two pieces, separated by circumstances and happenstance, only to eventually find each other, somewhere in the middle, sharing a cup of tea.
I miss you Jen.

p.s. the photo behind the mug is of Mimi, holding a very fat Baby Oliver, and me holding almost 3 year old Sam...this photographer spotted us in, ahem, taco bell, and asked if he could take our of the shots of Mimi and Oliver later turned up on a Yahoo homepage ad!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sherando Lake Camping - Virginia Is For Lovers

Sherando Lake Camping - Virginia Is For Lovers

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Favorite Things: Day 11

Favorite Things: Day 11...what goes around comes back around.

If you live long enough, you will see certain fashion looks come right back into vogue. Laura Ingalls Wilder might have been quite startled had she lived to see Jessica McClintock begin selling sun bonnets and prairie dresses through her Gunne Sax line in the 70's only to have Marc Jacobs reinterpret the look again in the early 2000's. It's like fashion karma. What goes around comes back around, and if you kept the stuff you had back then, you'll suddenly find yourself right in with the trend, which may actually be more of a curse than a blessing if being trendy isn't really your thing.

Take Frye boots, for example. They are ubiquitous now but when I bought mine 9 years ago, I had to take a deep breath before pulling them on and heading out the door. Why? I often was on the receiving end of jokes and comments such as "you going to a rodeo later?" You might say I was a fashion martyr. But I believed in Fryes and no one's jeering was going to sway me from pairing them with skirts and dresses. For one thing, I felt pretty tough and invincible in them, but if I'm honest, the selling point was Meg Ryan.

Oh how the mighty have fallen.

But there was a time, and I'm not ashamed to admit it, that Ms. Ryan was my fashion inspiration. There was her short, messy blonde hair, brown boots and sassy walk in French Kiss, leather pants and leopard print dress with even messier hair in Addicted to Love, oxford men's shoes with pleated school girl skirts in You've Got Mail, then came her fall from grace (but elevation in fashion coolness) with the movie Proof Of Life with Russell Crowe. Although many fans, such as myself, equate this rough period in Meg's personal life as the point at which she toppled off the throne as America's sweetheart and therefore the downfall of her career, there is one awesome thing that came out of that movie- the possibility of pairing motorcycle boots with skirts and dresses and pulling it off as if it's a combo that always was. As soon as I saw the movie, I hopped online and ordered myself some Frye harness boots, and every time I took some heat for wearing them in the REI-as-high-fasion city of Seattle, I bore it because I knew deep down inside it was a look that was me.

I know many would argue against the merits of fashion, that it's shallow and leads to vanity. I think that there is much in the industry to decry, but I think there is something wonderful and creative and fun in pulling together an outfit that either tells a story or says something about who the wearer is, and when you are comfortable first in your own skin and then in your second skin (your clothes), you can go about your day with a confidence and ease that is palpable. It doesn't really matter what anyone else thinks as long as you like it and are comfortable in whatever you are wearing.

The point of all this rambling is to say that this little grouping of my favorites, my standbys, have been with me for 8 years or longer and prove, in my mind at least, the theory of quality over quanity, although some would argue the quanity is there as well. See the sweet white and cream patent oxfords? I remember wearing those to Elizabeth & Brian Garcia's beautiful wedding, pre-Ryan and pre-kids...they are totally in right now and people are shocked when I tell them how old they are (14 years old). My beloved blundstone boots have a very special place in my heart as they accompanied me to the hospital with each of my children's births (except Sam's)- they were the only things I could pull on to the swollen feet at the end of my 200 lb. body!

My black men's oxfords are in need of new soles and a lovin' spoonful of polish but they are one of my favorite things to pair with rolled boyfriend jeans or opaque black tights and a dress (thank you Meg in When Harry Met Sally). I think those are my oldest pair of shoes besides the bordeaux colored suede desert boots I bought in Budapest when I was 15- I recently dusted them off and started wearing them again. J. Crew is selling a similar pair for $158 right now.

My frye boots also make me think of my father-in-law Terry, who wore his as he escorted his new bride to their VW bus after their wedding in 1973. There is a photo of them sitting in the bus, with that wonderful newlywed glow, but if you look carefully in the lower left hand corner, you'll see Terry's Frye harness boots (just like mine!) peeking out from under his cords. Though my father-in-law is a somewhat quiet man by nature and it's difficult at times to discern his likes and dislikes, I feel a connection to him by the fact that we both love those boots. I think he lost the originals but now has a new pair that he wears all the time (as does my SIL Autumn).

As I'm writing, the realization is hitting me that this post could come off as rather self-righteous and arrogant, which isn't my intent at all. My point is that the beautiful combination of A). knowing your style (with a few mishaps here and there...we all get tripped up by trends from time to time) with B). investing in companies that make clothes and shoes that will LAST (if a company like Levi's or Frye started in the 1800's and is still around making the same product today, it seems obvious that the craftsmanship and design elements are all lining up) = less money and time spent in the long run wondering what you're going to wear every day. And that, you might say, is priceless.

*also, I'm sorry I didn't underline the movies but I can't figure out how to do that on blogger...can anyone help me?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Favorite Things: Day 10

Favorite Things: Day 10 Fashion basics from long-standing companies with impeccable streamlined design and craftsmanship.
A few years back, J. Crew was a washed up and predictable catalog company losing its grip on the loyal following it had garnered from its inception in 1981. Then along came Jenna Lyons, who gave the brand a massive booster shot in its creative arm and began resuscitating the company by infusing her own quirky aesthetic to the clothes and styling. "Jenna's Picks" became a highly anticipated feature of the catalogs and website, and entire blogs are devoted to her practiced look of high high heels, rolled up jeans, long boyfriend cardigan over a tee and layers upon layers of chains and costume jewelry.

Her second move was to begin collaborating with various other companies that have a long history of quality products, getting them to specially design pieces for J. Crew, selling them as collector's items. This appeals to shoppers such as myself who love investing in pieces that you will own for a long time a). because the quality of the pieces withstands the test of wear and tear and b). the design and function is so great that the item is always "in".
One of the first of these collaborations that I remember were pretty floral blouses using Liberty of London fabrics. Now, in additions to more Liberty items offered, J. Crew is partnered with old faithfuls such as Jack Purcell (who makes these fabric dyed Converse just for Crewcuts),

Belstaff (a company founded in 1924 and known for its hardworking jackets, duffel bags, and shoes, and especially coveted by motorcycle enthusiasts for its waxed coated jackets & boots that keeps the rain away).

Can't make it to France this year? Then console yourself with a St. James Breton stripe tee, specially made for J. Crew. This is the same tee that Picasso wore and painted in and it's been around since 1850...mainly because of its ridiculously soft yet durable cotton and strong stitching- it's an icon of the French look, an old fashion standby. I. Want. This. Shirt. In a men's size small so Ryan and I can share it.

I was impressed to see the Parisian based Bensimon, purveyor of impossibly cute and comfortable kids shoes is retailing exclusively through J. Crew. I heartily wish these came in my size.
I know the price tag on these items is pretty hefty, but think about this...I've had my J.Crew oxfords and boots for 12 years now and despite needing a good polish, they are as good as new. Considering I wear them all the time, I'd say I got my money's worth, wouldn't you?

This leads me to...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Favorite Things: Day 9

I know you're not supposed to have favorites, and I don't. Not really. But I have to say that the stage Jasper is at is one of my favorites developmentally. He's (somewhat tragically) left that true baby stage and is well on his way to being a full-blown toddling boy. He can stand on his own, but is still more interested in crawling. He loves rumpusing at night with us and in fact, if you ask him if he wants to rumpus, his eyes light up, he stands up and catapults himself fearlessly atop the nearest prostrate person on the floor. He is adored by all in this household and the boys recently said to me "oh Mama, we wish we could make Jasper stay like this always...he's just so cute!"

When we put music on, he immediately begins to boogie-woogie in his seat or wherever he is. It's the funniest thing and I wish I knew how to post video here because it'd be a special treat to watch in a few years when this age will be a distant and somewhat hazy memory.

Jasper still is quite a chill little baby, with a dimpled smile that would melt the hardest of hearts. I know it's quite the best thing to wake up to...this darling little boy standing up in his crib, looking expectantly over the bars with a huge grin on his face, ready to start the day!

Favorite Things: Day 8

Breakfast. The most important meal of the day. Definitely one of the most fun meals to make. We love variations on the old standbys like pancakes, we love eggs benedict, but lately, I've been waking up with a hankering for this lovely dish from Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights. Baked eggs with onions and swiss chard. Here's what you do...caramelize about 1/2 cup red onion. Meanwhile, chop 1 cup swiss chard. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a ramekin or shallow baking dish. Mix together onion and swiss chard and place in baking dish. Carefully crack one or two farm fresh eggs over the top and pop in the oven for 10-12 minutes. When egg is baked thoroughly, crumble chevre over the top and place under the broil for 2 minutes or until goat cheese is beautifully melty. Crack some pepper on top and voila! Gorgeous and healthy breakfast.