Tea Time!

When I worked in Dublin I used to love the tradition of "tea break" at the office in the morning or afternoon. Those who could pull away from their work would all gather up over a pot of hot tea for 10-15 minutes and just chat and relax. Did you know that Ireland drinks more tea per capita than any other country in the world? Irish black tea with milk is one of my favorite things ever, so addicting.

Now that I'm back in the States I still love to drink tea all day long at work. It's a tasty,  low/no calorie way to keep hydrated and warm in these awful winter months. My friend Mia recently gifted me with a wonderful Teavana teapot contraption that is too fun not to share! I've been walking around the office showing it to everyone and giving out taste tests of the fabulous tea it whips up. The loose-leaf tea brews in the top and then when you set it on a mug the tea is filtered through the bottom into the cup. I love it.

My friend Brittany also loves to drink tea all day at work, so much so that she has a tea mug warmer on her desk! Check out her cute cat mug too.

PS. Seattle folks, I think they just opened a Teavana store in U-Village, might be worth checking out if you're a tea lover!

One Year Ago...

...I was in Kenya, shooting for Construction for Change with Jason. I love this photo, taken on my iPhone by one of the kids at Cura Orphanage with Jason in the background.  Cura partnered with Construction for Change to build a secondary school,  because not only did the orphans not have a place to continue their education, but none of the other kids in the village did either.  You can read more about the project here.

When we were there, this was an open field. Now, a secondary school exists to provide education to all of the kids in Cura Village for years to come. 

I'm so honored to be a part of Construction for Change, both volunteering in Seattle as a co-director of partnership development and as a photographer, getting to travel to meet and document the people and communities benefiting by the projects abroad. 

Jason and I will be traveling to the Solomon Islands to shoot for Construction for Change in early March. Look forward to more amazing photos and a really touching story about how that project came to be. 

Souvenir Alternative: Cookbook Collection

My "cooking kick" this month has encouraged me to leaf through a lot of my old cookbooks and gather some fun recipes. When we were living abroad one of the things that I started "collecting" was cookbooks from other countries. During our time in South Africa and Ireland I had the chance to eat some amazing home cooked meals and wanted to be able to capture some of the local recipes and recreate them at home. Now I'm hooked! Pictured above are a Seattle cookbook from Tom Douglas gifted to us from Patrick's grandmother, a wonderful South African cookbook full of stories, history and recipes, and one of my favorite cookbooks that I picked up from my very favorite store/restaurant in Dublin, Avoca.

What do you collect when you travel?

Wedding Wednesday: Sole Notes

Here is an easy tradition to make a bride's wedding shoes even more special...

Bridesmaids write notes, wishes and prayers for the bride on the bottom of her weddings shoes.

This is the sort of idea that would be so sweet and thoughtful for a bridesmaid to offer up. All you have to do is bring a pen!

I'm not sure where this idea comes from.
I've only seen this done a few times. Google didn't have an answer as to where the tradition originated, but I did find some other variations:

-Groom surprises bride with  sweet love note on the soles of her shoes. Not sure what to write? How about lyrics to your first dance song, part of your vows just a simple heartfelt note of how excited you are to spend the rest of your lives together. 

-Bride writes notes of thanks on her bridesmaids shoes. This would be great way to personalize the gift if you're buying your bridesmaids their shoes.

What do you think? Is this the sort of thing you and your friends would appreciate? 

Three Favorites In My Makeup Bag

About a year ago I ordered the Sephora Super Stars set which was jammed full of their bestsellers and editor's picks. It was a great way to branch out of my normal routine and try some new stuff. Three of the products in the box are now some of my all time favorites in my makeup bag, check them out if you are in need of a great eye liner, lip gloss and blush!

Stila All-Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner

Nars "Orgasm" Blush

Buxom Big and Healthy Lip Polish in "Dolly"

Watch This: Monica & David

I've been on a documentary kick lately and just watched this lovely, award winning film on Netflix. 

Monica & David is a love story. It follows two young adults with Down Syndrome through their wedding and first year of marriage.

It's one of the best things I've watched in a long time. I definitely recommend you check it out. 

Best of Etsy: Valentine's Day Gifts!

Etsy is a treasure trove of wonderful Valentine's gifts for anyone in your life. Everything below is handmade and so creative. Hard to believe February is almost here!

Tree of Life Valentine's Coasters

You Melt My Butter Letterpress Card

DIY Valentine Set - "I've got my eye on you"

Hand-made Heart Pottery

Monogrammed Burlap Pillow

Rose Heart Bath Balls

Hand-stitched Felted Heart Garland 

14K Gold Stacking Rings (so pretty!)

Monday Motivation

Great advice, courtesy of an intersection in Sodo...

Friday Roundup

So this photo pretty much sums up the week in Seattle. This is a COLOR photo Jason took while we were enjoying happy hour with a friend at The Edgewater yesterday. Even one of my favorite bars, with such an amazing view, is a bit depressing this time of year. Seriously, that's how gloomy Seattle is these days.

So here are some things to brighten your day from around the web.

If you need to smile, check out these sweater wearing Shetland ponies. Might be the best thing I've seen all week.

This iPhone app helps you organize your closet and plan outfits.

 I'm in the market for a new yoga mat.

Advice from Tina Fey: Say Yes

Rainbow Sprinkle Blondies

After a conversation (via text) this week, in which a friend and I promised each other we would never grow old, I was happy to stumble upon this.

The Postal Service is back! Touring! Two new songs!

A movie secretly filmed in the happiest place on earth.

Alternate titles for Dr. Seuss books.

Dawson's Creek + J. Crew. Who else remembers getting this in the mail in 1998?

Also, Teresa sent me this video this morning. It's amazing.

Image of Elliot Bay from The Edgewater via @jkoephoto's instagram

A Poem For Friday

We discovered this great poem a couple of weeks ago on the wall in the women's restroom at Cafe Flora while having lunch with some girlfriends. Enjoy.


When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple. 

Seattle Spotlight: Valentine's Day in the Rainy City

Do you already have plans for Valentine's Day? I have yet to make a reservation but I've been doing some research and asking around what's hot in Seattle right now. Check out our guide to V-day in Seattle below!

Down some local oysters! They are supposed to be an aphrodisiac right? ;) Seattle has some amazing spots to wash down the briny treats with excellent cocktails. Check out this new list of top oyster happy hours, Patrick and I are partial to the Walrus and the Carpenter.

Get active together. Run or walk the Valentine's Day Dash 5K at Greenlake with your man or with a group of friends. At the end of the race there is a "Lovers Lounge" beer garden and your bib number states if you are "single" or "taken"! 

Catch an Oscar nominated film in luxury.  21+ film lovers will enjoy catching a flick at the Big Picture Theater, where they only show one movie at a time but you can order cocktails to be delivered throughout the show, enjoy the country's first Tempur-Pedic seats, and indulge in Champagne Cheddar Popcorn.

Live entertainment in Pike Place Market: Catch a trapeze or cabaret and burlesque show over dinner at The Pink Door in Pike Place.

Enjoy beautiful NW art with gourmet dinner. Check out the new Chihuly Glasshouse filled with hand-blown glass art from famed NW artist Dale Chihuly, then enjoy a romantic four-course dinner at Collections Cafe a midst Chihuly's collection. Dinner will cost a cool $275 per couple but is accompanied by a live jazz band and includes a bottle of wine, admission to the galleries and garden, and complementary valet.

Lap in urban luxury in downtown Seattle: Spend the night downtown at the modern and luxurious W Hotel Seattle after partaking in a five-course meal at their own Trace restaurant. Dinner includes a lobster maltagliati pasta with an authentic beet red velvet cake to top off the night. Dinner is $65 per person, $90 with wine pairings.

Skip town and enjoy your inner foodie: Head just 30 minutes north of the city to Woodinville for some wine tasting and a foodie's delight with dinner at the Barking Frog. Chef Bobby Moore, is even serving up a special "Aphrodisiac Menu" in honor of the holiday! For an extra bonus spend the night onsite at the romantic Willows Lodge.  Dinner is $69 per person, add $30 for wine pairing.

Or stay in...if braving V-day crowds and peak restaurant prices aren't your thing then pick up some Deathcake cupcakes from Cupcake Royale and settle in for a romantic evening at home.

(images: oysters, Pink Door, Deathcake)

Soup of the Week: Carrot Soup

8 servings
from Alice Waters, The Art of Simple Cooking
Melt in a heavy-bottomed pot:

4 tbl (1/2 stick) butter

2 onions,s liced
1 thyme sprig

Cook over medium-low heat until tender, about 10 minutes. Add:

2.5 lbs carrots, peeled and sliced (about 6 cups)
Season with salt

Cook for 5 minutes. cooking the carrots with the onions for a while builds flavor. Add:

6 cups broth
Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer until the carrots are tender, about 30 minutes. When done, season with salt to taste, and puree if desired.

Bargain Hunting: What Month to Buy

My mom is always on the look out for a great deal and recently sent me this great calendar of how to get the best prices on specific products month-by-month. It's just too good not to share. Happy bargain hunting in 2013!

January: Holiday decor and wrapping paper, Linens, Toys, Treadmills and ellipticals, Vacation packages

February: Furniture, Homes and condos, Lobsters and steaks

March: Chocolate, Luggage, Outdoor gear and winter clothing

April: Cookware, Home-improvement supplies, Tires and auto parts 

May: Air conditioners, Camping and outdoor gear, Summer clothes, Mattresses, Gym memberships 

June: Caribbean cruises, Lingerie, Laptops, Tools and hardware 

July: Sandals and swimsuits, Furniture, Picnic supplies 

August: Outdoor grills, Kid clothing and school supplies

September: iPhones and iPods, 2013 cars, Airfare, Bikes, Summer apparel

October: Grills, Patio furniture, Winter coats 

November: Gadgets, electronics, and small household appliances, Winter clothing 

December: Toys, Large appliances

(Image of Audrey Hepburn shopping with her pet deer Pippin by Bob Willoughby)

Wedding Wednesday: Flats

What sort of shoes will you wear with your wedding dress?

Have you considered flats?

I know, I know, flats sound so boring.  But there are cute ones out there! And think of all of the other benefits...

You'll probably be spending most of your wedding day on your feet- from photos  and the ceremony to mingling with guests and dancing- and that's a long time to be standing in heels, especially ones that most people won't be able to see from under your dress.

If you're getting married outside, will you spend a lot of your day walking on sand, rocks or grass?

Even if you go with a pair of sky high heels, I'd consider getting something comfortable to slip into later in the night. Here are some great options I've found. 
Just because you're going with flats, it doesn't mean you can't splurge on a special pair of shoes.  how about sparkly Jimmy Choo sandals featured in the photo above.  I keep hearing good things about Tieks. These cute and comfy ballet flats would be great all day or a good option to whip out after you get tired of your heals at the reception. Also, I love these Louboutins below. Very classic.

There's a ton of more budget friendly options too. Like these Steve Madden sandals or these sparkly ballet flats or something blue, both from etsy.

OR,  make a more casual statement. We've seen brides in Sseko SandalsToms or even cowboy boots!


Have you signed a petition on Change.org before? 

This current petition for Victoria Secret to make "survivor bras" for breast cancer survivors to feel beautiful, caught my eye today and lead me down a rabbit hole of reading other petitions on the site and victories that have been achieved. 

At the risk of sounding cliché, I just wanted to take a moment to focus on good in the world and look at positive changes that have come from the simple, grassroots action, of people signing online petitions. We all have a voice and while one person may not be heard, even a few other people joining in and pointing out injustice can get things done.

This petition got Verizon to change it's polices to help domestic violence victims cancel contracts without incurring large fees, helping them to hide from their abusers. 

This petition for justice for Treyvon Martin got over 2 million signatures and international attention. 

Cooking is for boys too with this victory for a gender neutral Easy Bake Oven

One girl started  a campaign that changed the "Bully" movie rating to PG-13 so target audience can see it. 

For more success stories, check out this great article from Nick Kristof on Change.org. 

And check out change.org for all sorts of great causes that are currently seeking signatures, like the"survivor bra" this one asking Wal-Mart to stop selling assault weapons or this petition, asking Crayola to start a marker recycling program. 

PS. Featured above, I love this positive play on words necklace from Charming Initials on Etsy. 

Gel Nails -- What Do You Think?

Have you tried the gel (shellac) nails yet? I absolutely love them because they last so long (2-3) weeks and are hard as rocks the moment you leave the salon. They achieve this through a type of acrylic nail polish that hardens under UV lights. They are a bit pricey but so worth it if you want extended nail color.
So far I've stuck with mostly neutral colors (except bright red over the holidays!) but I'm tempted to try bright white or something dark and dramatic for winter. My sister told me that it's best to go with short, rounded nails with more vibrant or daring shades.

PS. Never try to pick off the gel nail polish, I lost half my nail doing this! They need serious acetone to come free.

(Anne HathawayNatasha Bedingfield)

Childhood Characters all Grown Up

Did you ever read The Face on the Milk Carton? I remember reading it in 4th grade and then wondering if maybe I too was kidnapped like the main character. I had a very active imagination.

The author, Caroline B Cooney just released a 5th (and final) book in her Janie Johnson series called Janie Face to Face . I just stumbled upon this article, talking about Cooney's process in getting there, how readers for years had asked what happened to the character when she grew up.

I know a few other authors of series I loved growing up have done the same thing, writing books that take place years later, letting their readers catch up with the characters in college and beyond.

Sisterhood Everlasting catches up with the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants characters as they are about to turn 30.

Sweet Valley Confidential takes place 10 years later.

My favorite series growing up were The American Girl books and the Baby Sitters Club. I'd love to see how Molly turned out, all grown up, living in the 1960's.

Unfortunately author Ann M. Martin chose to write a prequel, not a sequel to the Baby Sitters Club books, but here's someone else's take on where they are now.

What childhood characters would you like to read about all grown up?

Monday Motivation

(print available on Etsy)

Friday Roundup

Friday is here! Any big plans for the weekend?

We're headed to see The Book of Mormon at the Paramount! I bought the tickets last MARCH so needless to to say I'm pretty excited about it. Have you seen it?

Here are a few links to kick off a great weekend:

Have you bought this album yet? So good. And the video was shot in the Langa township of Cape Town where Jenny and I studied abroad eight years ago.

Love how this family displays their photos.

Real life Homeward Bound story.

How to get the best glamour shot. LOL

This looks delicious. And more easy family dinners.

Fascinating idea.

Cute and practical.

I'm liking this new etiquette column: first up, how to be a gracious host.

You can get married at Downton Abbey! (if you can afford it)

Very cool photo project.

Secret passageways!

Shows to add to your Netflix queue (Brody is English?!?)

15 recipes to eat your winter greens.


Soup of the Week: Leeky Soup

If this is a soup recipe, where are the pictures of the soup? Good question. I find leeks to be quite pretty. The soup, well it looked kinda similar to this one. So pretty leeks it is! 

I came across of this healthy recipe for Creamy Leek Soup from the New York Times. Instead of cream, the recipe uses basmati rice to thicken it and it's all blended into a nice creamy consistency after it's cooked. Good stuff. 

I happened to have brown rice on hand so I threw that in instead of basmati, and in doing so, had to cook the soup about 10 minutes longer. 

Creamy Leek Soup
adapted from The New York Times

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 large leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
7 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
1/2 cup rice
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Pinch of cayenne (optional)

1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy soup pot and add the leeks and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until leeks are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for about a minute, until the garlic smells fragrant. Add the stock or water, the rice, bay leaf and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes. Taste and adjust salt. Remove the bay leaf and discard.
2. Purée the soup with an immersion blender or a food mill, or in batches in a blender, taking care to remove the lid or take out the center insert and to cover with a towel to avoid hot splashes. Return to the pot, heat through, and add pepper to taste and a pinch of cayenne if desired. Serve hot or cold. If you wish you can thin out with milk, plain yogurt or a combination of milk and crème fraîche. Garnish with chopped chives or croutons.

Customer Reviews

If you want a laugh today, I suggest checking out these products on Amazon and scrolling down to the review section.

The Banana Slicer that saved one user's marriage.

How to Avoid Huge Ships: One reviewer says, "After reading... I haven't been hit by anything bigger than a diesel bus."

The Mountain Three Wolf Moon Short Sleeve Tee: "Since wearing the shirt, I can now control stop lights with my mind."

An Ode to Milk in the form of a very long poem.

Finally, this book is for real! Knitting With Dog Hair: Better A Sweater From A Dog You Know and Love Than From A Sheep You'll Never Meet Some of the reviews are serious and some (I hope) are not.

And now you're understanding why I picked that photo...


Cat Communication 101

Stop reading now if you don't like cats. :)

Soooo...I was surfing the internet over the weekend trying to figure out why Rafa keeps meowing at me and I came across some fabulous information about interpreting your cat's verbal and non-verbal communications! I had no idea that there were specific ways tell your cat you love him, get him to stop scratching your furniture or interpret his meows.

Here were my favorite bits of information, lots more info here and here

1. Cats don't meow to communicate with other cats, they started meowing as a means to "speak" with the humans in their lives. Short meows usually mean something like Hello! or Happy to see you! whereas long drawn out meows are more likely something along the lines of YOU FORGOT TO FEED ME!

2. Cats communicate a lot with their eyes. They are spooked by people staring at them, hence the fact they are usually drawn to the person least interested in them in the room (ie non-"cat people"). Also, it is a sign of trust for them to close their eyes in your presence. My favorite tidbit is that when your cat blinks slowly at you it is his way of saying "I love you" or blowing kisses! Blink slowly back to show him you love him too.

3. Purring is often seen as a sign of contentment, but it can also mean that the cat is in pain, ill or afraid and seeking comfort. 

4. Unlike dogs, cats are not necessarily asking you to rub their bellies when they stretch out on the floor and expose their stomachs. For some cats this is just their way of relaxing or trying to get you to play and they may "attack" when rubbed on the belly. 

5. Licking and digging their claws into you repeatedly are signs of love and affection. You are a part of their family now. 

6. If you want your cat to stop doing something don't use force or many words. Simply say in a firm voice "NO" or "DOWN" and remove him from the situation. Don't use his name or pet him as this will confuse him and he won't understand what you are asking. Cats don't relate violence to doing something wrong so never hit or throw your cat. 

Local Flavors: Butternut Squash and Kale Gnocchi

I know it's only the third week in January, but I'm feeling pretty good about how my new year resolution is going so far! Now that a box of local produce arrives on my doorstep every Thursday morning I have to Google up fun recipes to use with veggies I've never cooked before.

This week I wanted to use my butternut squash and curly kale in a recipe together, and boy did I find a good one. This was easy and delicious, the perfect combo. 

Butternut Squash and Kale Gnocchi
Adapted from The Food Network


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I softened mine up in the microwave first)
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth or water
  • 1 bunch kale, stemmed and roughly chopped (about 8 cups) -- I didn't have this much but it was still good.
  • 1 17.5-ounce package potato gnocchi
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese (I used a lot more than this!)


Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large ovenproof skillet or frying pan over medium heat. Add the squash and cook, stirring, until slightly soft and golden, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, sage, red pepper flakes and 1 teaspoon salt; cook until the garlic is soft, about 2 more minutes.
Preheat the broiler. Add the chicken broth to the skillet. When it starts to simmer, stir in the kale and cook until it wilts slightly, about 2 minutes. Add the gnocchi, stirring to coat. Cover and cook until the gnocchi are just tender, about 5 minutes. Uncover and stir in 1/4 cup parmesan and the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan  transfer to the broiler and cook until golden and bubbly, about 3 minutes.