Cottage Pie

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Last night was the fifth of our six client appreciation dinners. I had spent the entire day of prep floating on air. Listening to music, shrouded in my favorite apron, feeling super inspired by the weather and thrilled with my menu. And as I stirred and chopped, whisked and boiled, everything tasted and smelled divine. My kitchen experiences are not always this ideal, but when they are, it’s something I truly relish. I woke up this morning exhausted, but exhilarated. Last night was good.

I’d really been feeling the drizzly, blustery days we’ve been having. The cold air and grey skies pushing me towards my favorite comfort foods, and I just knew that the menu had to echo those desires. It would be all too easy to rely on next week’s holiday for inspiration, but since Thanksgiving isn’t really my favorite, I wanted to go in a different direction. Fog, mist and damp cold. Warm, simple, comforting dishes. Pretty soon I arrived at- what I thought- was the perfect solution. England! I’ll do a meal inspired by some of my favorite traditional British dishes.

The crowning glory of the feast was a spin on a shepherd’s pie, but with grass fed beef. A cottage pie. Now shepherd’s (or cottage) pie, may not sound like the most gourmet dish in all the land, but that’s exactly what I love to do. Take a simple, comforting recipe and kick it up a few notches. I served the pies in these adorable little cocottes and every single one came back empty. And today, for lunch, Taylor and I sat on the couch and devoured the reheated leftovers. The flavors are so rich and savory. Juicy sauce made with tomatoes I canned myself, pumped up with balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire. Creamy mashed potatoes, flecked with scallions sautéed in butter and dotted with a few frozen peas. But it’s the cheese, OH THE CHEESE, that really makes this baby. Go find yourself the best aged, smoked cheddar you can find and crumble it all over this dish. Oh my word. I want smoked cheddar on everything from now on.

If you are looking for the perfect seasonal, comforting, yet not Thanksgiving-y dish to make this fall/winter. THIS. IS. IT. Trust me. And oddly enough, this is something that I would never have laid a finger upon in my former life. Boy would I have been missing out!

Cottage Pie | Bird is the Word (6 of 7)

Cottage Pie
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 3 russet potatoes, chopped
  • small handful frozen peas
  • 1 tsbp butter
  • 2 scallions, sliced on a diagonal
  • ⅓ cup milk/cream to moisten
  • 3oz smoked aged cheddar, broken into chunks
  • pinch smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, peeled, roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled, crushed
  • 2 small carrots, peeled, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 celery stalk, trimmed, chopped into small pieces
  • 14oz canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ tsp Tabasco
  • pinch smoked paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • splash balsamic vinegar
  • small handful fresh flatleaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 lb ground grass fed beef
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425F. For the potatoes, heat a pan of salted water, adding the potatoes while the water is cold and bring gently to the boil, then simmer until the potatoes are nearly cooked through, about 15-20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, for the beef mixture, heat half the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and gently fry the chopped onion, garlic, carrots and celery for 5-10 minutes, or until softened.
  3. Add the remaining beef mixture ingredients except for the beef and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat slightly and simmer for 4-5 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Keep warm.
  4. Heat the remaining olive oil in a separate frying pan over a medium heat, add the beef in batches, if necessary, and fry until golden-brown. Stir the tomato sauce into the beef.
  5. When the potatoes for the champ topping are almost done, add the frozen peas and cook for a few more minutes until the peas are tender.
  6. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat, then gently fry the scallions until softened. Add the milk and heat through.
  7. Drain the potatoes and peas and mash roughly. Add the warm milk mixture to the potatoes and continue to mash until combined but still chunky.
  8. Spoon the beef mixture into a medium pie dish and top with the champ. Scatter over the cheese and smoked paprika.
  9. Place the dish onto a baking sheet and bake the pie for 25-30 minutes, or until the potato is golden-brown.

 

BW Gift Guide 2014

BW-Gift-Guide

I had a difficult time making a Christmas list this year. My mom, being the type who likes to get her shopping done well ahead of the holiday rush, usually demands the list earlier than the average bear. But I found myself at a loss.

With a small apartment packed to the hilt and a storage unit that looks much the same, there’s not much that I need. And at first, I felt bad that I wouldn’t be able to provide any desperate need to be filled. But then, then I thought to myself, for once you could ask for something you want. Something frivolous that would make your heart beat just a little faster. Something you’d rarely, if ever, buy for yourself. What a treat! And so, I give you the 2014 BW Holiday Gift Guide, filled with items that aren’t entirely utilitarian, but simply make my heart go pitter pat.

1. Storage Jars, $27 for 3. There’s nothing that makes me grin like dry goods in pretty jars.
2. Sunday Suppers, $23. I’ve followed this blog for a few years and would love to be able to hold the beautiful photos and recipes in my hand, instead of just drool over them on the screen.
3. At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen, $25. Beautiful, inspiring, and healthy to boot. Sign me up. Afterall, one can never have enough cookbooks.
4. Rifle Paper Co Appointment Calendar, $26. I’m pretty sure writing 2015’s BW events in this baby would be the best thing ever.
5. Pastry Blender, $6. I’m kind of obsessed by making the perfect pie crust, and convinced it can only be done by hand. With a beautiful, wooden handle.
6. Women’s Beets T-Shirt, $25. Gray, beets. Enough said.
7. Le Creuset Spatula Spoon, $12. These are the best spatulas ever. I’ve had mine for 3-4 years and they look brand new. Gentle-women prefer white.
8. Jadeite Mixing Bowl Set, $65. Swoon.
9. Le Creuset Cast-Iron Skillet, $99.95. I’ve fallen hard for cast-iron and the blue coated enamel is just too-too.
10. Duralex Picardie Drinking Glasses, set of 6, $16.88. Though I love a good mason jar, I’ve had my eye on these drinking glasses for years.
11. Steele Laundry Basket, $67. Dirty clothes never looked so good.
12. Textured Stripe Throw Pillow, $50. Straight to my couch please.
13. Pendleton Junior Wool Dopp Kit, $60. Nothing is more luxurious in my mind than a snazzy overnight bag. Pendleton forever.

And if this guide just doesn’t do it for you, here is last year’s, which is chock full of just as many covetable items sure to make your loved ones smile. Let’s do this thing holiday season!

This post was not sponsored by any of the companies or products above. All recommendations are based on personal opinion or experience.

Holiday Table Workshop

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A couple weeks ago, on a windy Sunday afternoon, a bunch of awesome ladies gathered at Willamette Valley Pie Co. and let Katie Davis and I, stand up in front of them and wax poetic about our passions.

First, Katie taught the group how to make a holiday table arrangement using locally sourced flowers, foraged elements from around her yard and a thrifted vessel. She shared her inspirations, her methods, how she is constantly motivated to keep learning and how investing time and effort into making beautiful things is worth it. It was such a treat to watch her assemble a breathtaking arrangement and so fun to see one of the ladies as she realized she was taking it home. Thank you so much for sharing your talents Katie!

Next, I got to talk a little bit about easy, inexpensive table decor. I shared my “secret” list of places to find simple items that really make a table set up. I encouraged saving money on things like linens, using mismatched vintage dishes and flatware, and splurging on special details, like place cards or menus. We also talked about putting a fresh spin on classic favorites. Here’s a list of recipes I shared; all ones I’m dying to try. Then, as a group, we assembled and snacked on one of my favorite holiday side dishes; this quinoa and sweet potato salad.

Once we had our fill of salad, it was time for the good stuff. Pie. WVPCO set out a lovely spread for the ladies to sample and even sent three of them home with a free holiday pie! Not to mention mini-pies for everyone. What could be better than pie for everyone?

Despite the fact that public speaking is far from my favorite activity, I really love these workshops where a bunch of ladies come together and talk about things that make us happy. It’s good for the soul.

Thank you for hosting WVPie! Thank you for sharing your talents with us Katie! And thanks to everyone who came. Let’s do it again!

A Day in the Life

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When Bird is the Word moved from just a glimmer in my eye to a living, breathing part of my everyday life, I promised myself I would start an interview series. A series that follows some of my favorite people around for a day, chronicling their lives, their work and their beautiful spirits. And I’m finally making good on that promise. We’re on to our third Day in the Life interview today, and believe you me, it’s a good one. See the other interviews, here.

I have four best friends. They’re wonderful. They complete me in so many ways. We have shared history. Memories. We’re a part of each other’s daily lives. But they are also very different than me. Wildly varied interests and talents, quite a range of taste and preferences.

Which is why, when I first met Kira, I was so very pleasantly surprised to find someone who seemed to understand exactly how my brain works. We have an insane amount in common. She too prefers the company of books to humans. She too would rather enjoy a rainstorm next to a fire, over a day at the beach. She too earmarks the pages of L.L.Bean and scours thrift stores for oversized vintage sweaters. She too obsesses over the curation of her Pinterest page and loses sleep over the aesthetic consistency of her Instagram account. She has this insane way of capturing (in photos), the exact way I see the world. When she shoots my food, it looks just like I’ve shot it myself- only better. And when she shoots me, I somehow come out looking like the best version of myself.

The funny part is, our personalities couldn’t be more opposite. She is probably one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met, and I…well I’ve not often been accused of sweetness. She is kind and soft-spoken, and I’m rather blunt. She is Jane Bennet. And I am Elizabeth. But something so magical happens when we work together and there is no one I’d rather be creative with. She’s inspired me countless times, given me invaluable advice on small business ownership and taught me how to take a decent photo.

Everything about her is beautiful. Her face, her work, her spirit. She’s going to be the most wonderful mama in the world. And I’m so absolutely thrilled to share her with you today. With all the admiration in my heart, A Day in the Life with Kira Noble.


Who are you?
I feel like I’m in a weird growing stage. Going from a girl to a woman. I’m growing a baby, afterall.

I’m a creative. I love beautiful things. Portraits. I’m a photographer. And then, I have a bunch of relationship titles; I’m a wife. A mama. A sister. A friend.

Where do you live?
I live in one of the most beautiful places on earth: McMinnville, Oregon. We live on the edge of town and I love to walk to where things are quiet and open. I need that. But I also love walking downtown. We have one of the cutest, quaintest little downtowns.

What do you love most about where you live?
I love how close we are to the people we love. We used to live a ways away and now we get to see them more regularly. I love that we are close to farm country, open fields, windy roads.

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What does a normal day in your life look like?
My days change by the time of year. In the summer, it’s busy season, so I’m shooting weddings all the time. But in the fall and winter, things are a bit slower.

I usually wake up slowly- I’m not a morning person. Read some emails, read some blogs, write on my own if I’m going to. Browse Pinterest. Drink tea. If I can manage to stay awake, I spend most of the afternoon editing photos. But lately, my afternoons have included quite a few naps.

Sometimes I run errands, often having to do with packaging up my photos to send to clients. I put a lot of energy into making the packages look just the way I want them to. I’ll usually grab a coffee while I’m out, walk around, stretch my legs. Afternoons are when I shoot my own creative projects, which I try to do in the slower months to stay inspired. Whether it’s a craft or simply browsing around until I find something interesting to photograph.

Lately, the evenings have been consumed with church activities, but usually I’ll make dinner and my husband Matt and I will just hang out.

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How did you get into what you do?
I really love how I got into photography. I didn’t realize how much I liked it, but Matt did.

When we were first dating, he noticed I loved to take photos and bought me my first camera. He actually asked me if I wanted a camera or an engagement ring for Christmas, and I said a camera. I wasn’t ready. But he didn’t mind. Instead, he bought me the camera and wrote me this awesome letter when he gave it to me. The letter said, “You’ve been given this incredible gift, and I want you to promise me that you’ll use it to bring joy to other people’s lives.”

In 2008, a friend asked me to take her portraits and I realized that was where I really connected. That’s what I liked to do. I was terrified of doing weddings, I had no formal training, but I knew I wanted to. So despite having no experience and feeling like a fraud, I just booked one. And one of my favorite things is that Matt has shot every single one with me since then.

Though I was still in school at the time, thinking I was going to be a history teacher, as I got closer to graduation, I realized I was dreading the thought of doing anything besides photography. Matt asked me, “What’s the worse that could happen,” so I made a website, made it real, and then jumped in with both feet in 2011. Matt is the backbone of what I do. My encouragement. Voice of reason. He’s really blossomed creatively and it’s been so fun to watch him take on my vision and passion. Our photos are so cohesive, you can hardly tell who’s taken what. He’s really an incredible photographer.

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What do you like most about it? What inspires you?
Studying history in school and becoming a photographer doesn’t feel like such an accident. Being a photographer, you’re documenting people’s personal history- days or times they want to remember the most. It’s exciting to capture those things as they unfold. It’s an honor. And very gratifying.

I’m inspired by beautiful things; joy, emotion. I get paid to be there and intimately watch their most special moments. Sometimes I think I probably remember more than they do. I also feel like I get to know people really well, even if it’s just over the course of one day. It’s important, beautiful work. A wide, ongoing and yet complete story.

My love for photos also spills over into our personal life. My camera is almost always with me, and if it’s not for some reason, I feel physical pain wishing I could capture whatever it is I’m seeing. Matt and I have documented our lives together so well, and I’m so inspired when I look back on all the things we’ve done. I wish that I could look back on my own parents’ lives the way our kids will be able to.

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Favorite thing to photograph?
People. People celebrating.

Taking portraits. Trying to capture what I see of who they are.

Favorite photographers?
My friends Paige Jones and Nakalan McKay. I’m always inspired by them.

Carl Zoch. His portraits are insane. Rylee Hitchner. She has a gorgeous point of view and shoots film, which is just awesome. Vivian Maier. Her self-portraits are stunning.

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What do you like to do on a NOT so normal day?
Drink coffee. Roast coffee and make it fresh at home.

Read. Some online, but especially books. Re-reading favorites. Anne of Green Gables. Pride and Prejudice. I love the stories and characters and I’ve read them so much, I feel like I know them.

I love to spend time with Matt. We spend a lot of time talking. Whether it’s walking and talking or going out to eat, we love to just pick each other’s brains. It doesn’t happen all that often, but it’s simple and feeds my soul.

I’m learning to play guitar when I have time to myself, but I expect that time to myself is going to significantly change once Eleanor arrives.

If you are interested in doing a Day in the Life interview, please get in touch.

Saffron Fields Client Dinner

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Last Thursday marked the fourth of our six Client Appreciation Dinners for the Rogers. I can’t believe how quickly this fall is flying by! This dinner was extra fun for a couple of reasons. First, Andrea and I got to work with an old friend (Katy!) who used to work with us at Community Plate. It was kind of nuts how the three of us just fell right back into the same old rhythm. The night was so smooth and easy. It was wonderful.

The second, was the fact that Saffron Fields has such a beautiful, modern tasting room, so different from a lot of the more “rustic” places we’ve been. I was inspired to write a more refined menu and kept the table decor a little more restrained than usual. I loved mixing it up and flexing my creative muscles in a different way.

Wednesday, the day before the dinner, as I stood in the kitchen prepping and slicing, the light dimmed and rain began to literally dump from the heavens. The sky turned that shade of gray that can only be found in Oregon and created an instant coziness in the warm kitchen. I found myself looking around and instantly a smile came to my face.

Who is this person that gets to spend cozy afternoons working with beautiful ingredients, creating gourmet meals that will be served with world class Oregon wines? How did I get here? How is this my life? My job? I’ll admit it’s not always sunshine and roses, and in reality, my job involves a lot of computer time and even more dirty dish washing, but there are a few days here and there, where I get to revel- even just for a few minutes- in that fact that I’m doing what I was made to do.

Thank you Rogers for hosting another smashing party. Thank you Andrea for your excellent company and even better service. And thank you Katy for being the social director and sharing your space and knowledge with all of us. It was such a wonderful evening, one I hope to repeat sometime very soon!

Menu
Balsamic Roasted Roots with Spinach Sauce
Chicory Salad with Roquefort, Apples and Walnuts
Red Wine Marinated Flat Iron Steak with Herb Roasted Potatoes
Candied Apple Ile Flottante

Holiday Table Workshop

I’m so very pleased to announce (albeit, a little late) this super fun workshop with two new friends! As we all know, the holidays can be a crazy whirlwind of food, family and stress. Come join us this Sunday, from 2-4 p.m. at Willamette Valley Pie Company in Salem, where we’ll help you simplify your celebrations!

PonderosaandThyme

The workshop will feature the talents of local florist Katie Davis, of Ponderosa and Thyme, who will be there showing us how to make a gorgeous, seasonal arrangement that you’ll have a chance to win! She’ll pass along some of her tips and tricks for creating simple arrangements out of materials that can easily be found in your neck of the woods, and guide us in the art of foraging.

BW

Bird is the Word will walk you through putting a fresh spin on classic holiday recipes, teach you how to make our favorite seasonal side dishes and talk about easy, affordable table decor. There’s no reason a beautiful table has to be complicated!

WVPCO

Finally, Willamette Valley Pie Company will be serving up a tasty pie buffet so you can sample all the season’s specialties. Everyone will go home with a mini pie of their own and WVPCO will also be raffling off free pies for you to enjoy in your holiday celebrations!

Goodie baskets, new friends and free pie. What more could you ask for?

Your $40/person fee includes:
-Demo of a holiday table arrangement and tips and tricks for creating your own at home. Plus a chance to win the arrangement that Katie will make during the demo.
-Instruction on seasonal side dishes and recipe ideas.
-Budget friendly holiday table decor ideas.
-Holiday Pie Giveaways and raffles!
-WVPCO Mini Pies, flower frogs and a stocked goodie bag for everyone!

Click here for more information and to RSVP! We can’t wait to see you there!

Beginnings

This post is part of an ongoing series about how Taylor and I met and fell in love. To get back to the beginning, click on the handy-dandy image in the sidebar labeled “Our Story.” And thanks for following along!

Christmas Date

The other night I did something I’ve done a thousand times. I walked out into the dark, over to the car, got in and took my seat next to Taylor. It was pitch black except for the lights on the dash and the music sprung to life as he turned the key. He reached over for my hand and we pulled out onto the road. Completely normal. Routine. It’s happened a thousand times. But last night as we drove along the country roads back from Silverton, music drifting along in the background, a smile suddenly came to my face. I looked down at our hands in the dark, fingers interlaced, and remembered when it wasn’t so common. When it wasn’t normal for me to climb into a car with the boy I loved. When it was the very first time we ever climbed in a car together and drove that very same route.

Shortly after that cold, rainy November night that included the legendary viewing of Aladdin, we made the trek down to his hometown to attend a college group that he’d gone to in the summers. I’d spent hours trying to figure out what to wear on my first official outing as his “girlfriend,” and had settled on my favorite jeans and brand new gray “Oregon,” sweatshirt. When in doubt, always go the athletic route.

He picked me up at my door and we headed out into the night, towards his little blue Corolla. The drive down was a little awkward at first. We’d crossed over into uncharted territory just a few days before and were both still a little uncertain in our new roles. I wasn’t sure what to say. I was still a little bit afraid that it had all been a dream. That he’d wake up one morning and realize he’d made a mistake. That I wasn’t anywhere near deserving of his company, much less the title of his “girlfriend.” But as we drove further and further south, he started to tell me about his home and we settled into our familiar rhythm of conversation.

Anyone who knows my husband can testify to the fact that when he talks of things he loves- things like basketball, Silverton and fantasy basketball, to name a few- there’s this certain tone that takes over his normal, intelligible speaking voice. He gets increasingly louder as he goes and I think the best way to describe the change is to say that when he’s excited about something, his voice literally sounds like a grin. Not only is there a giant smile spread across his face, but his tone is somehow smiling too.

This has charmed me at times and driven me nuts on more than one occasion, but in that moment, I was pretty sure that face, and that silly, excited tone, were just about the most adorable things in the world.

The night went relatively smooth. He introduced me to a few of his friends, we sang songs and listened to a talk, and we sat together at a tall bistro table, drinking Italian sodas and whispering back and forth. The lighting in the room was rather dim, except for a small candle that glowed in the center of our teeny table. Taylor had taken to fidgeting with said candle and as we got ready to head out, fumbled it to the point that it rolled over and spilled all over me. Hot wax dripped across my knuckles and down the front of my new, prized sweatshirt. He was embarrassed, and apologized profusely as we made our way out of the church, but I shrugged him off, all the while quietly mourning the wound to my favorite hoodie.

The first few weeks of our relationship went much the same way. Simple, sweet; a few awkward bumbles here and there. We were both a little hesitant. A little unsure. We played card games with our friends. We stayed up watching Gilmore Girls til the wee hours, holding hands and playing footsie on the couch. We listened to music, ate bottomless steak fries at Red Robin and slowly got used to our new titles, “girlfriend,” and “boyfriend.” It was so different from any of the relationships I’d had before. So innocent and fun. I wanted nothing to change, ever.

But my team was headed off to Hawaii for Thanksgiving and it would be over a week before I’d see him again. Again, I feared he’d come to his senses and decide he’d made a lapse in judgement, but my worries didn’t stop me from daydreaming of him all the way to the island of Oahu. Reflecting on the first few weeks of being liked by a boy so beautiful, looking at him still took my breath away. Reveling in the way it felt when he laced his fingers in between mine. Thinking about the wave of heat that crashed over me whenever he touched me, even if by accident. I was knee deep in basketball season, but I was neck deep in new love.

The trip consisted mostly of talking about, practicing, or playing basketball, but one night, gathered around a stone table outside of The Cheesecake Factory, Melissa, Jaime, Mandee and I bared our souls and bonded for life. Andrew had finally kissed Melissa, you see, after nine months of dating, and we were interrogating her for every single detail. Squealing and giggling, teasing her about things that seemed a million years away at the time, things like marriage and babies. That night The Fab Four, as we would later call ourselves, was born. And in the same month that I’d already received one of the biggest blessings in my life, I somehow ended up receiving three more.

After we got home from our trip, it was all studying and basketball and games and finals.  November flew by and all of a sudden it was time to head home for Christmas break. But not before I had my first two “official,” dates with my new boyfriend.

I remember the first date as clear as day. We went out to a “fancy” dinner at The Farm Cafe in Portland, followed by a play based on one of his favorite books, “A Prayer for Owen Meany.” He held my hand as we walked. He paid for my meal. It was dark and rainy and cold. I felt a million years old. It was the first of thousands of meals we’d share together and though the food was nothing special, the whole night was just so “us.” It set the tone for our whole relationship and I can close my eyes and relive every minute of it to this day. We picked up dessert at Rose’s Deli and drove back to my apartment to watch Dirty Dancing and snuggle on the couch.

Our second date included a little more fanfare. My friends and I, now firmly established as The Fab Four, had decided we’d plan a Christmas Date in Portland, get dressed up and invite our male counterparts to come along. Us girls spent the entire day getting ready, borrowing clothes from a well-dressed teammate and laboring over eachother’s hair, before meeting up with the guys to ride the Max into the city. We walked around Pioneer Square, looking at Christmas lights and shivering in the cold air, before filing into Rock Bottom Brewery for warm burgers and fries. We hopped on the Max again, feeling like big time city kids, and rode up to 23rd street to have dessert at Portland fixture, Papa Haydn’s. I had a six layer ice cream cake that I still order to this day. Taylor and I took our first picture together, it was the first time I’d seen him in dressy clothes and we held hands under the table as we ate our dessert.

When we got back to our apartment, we all decided to watch a Christmas movie, and I picked White Christmas. As the musical numbers increased, the audience dwindled, and soon enough it was just Taylor and I left watching the movie.

He was acting a little bit funny. A little bit like the night when we’d watched Aladdin. Doing lots of deep sighing and fidgeting. At one point, as I reached up to take a silly selfie of us laying on the couch, he reached down and pressed his lips to my forehead. I hit a wall of adrenaline that coursed all the way down to my toes before dying out. And then he kept on sighing. I didn’t know what to think, but I silently wondered what in the world he could be wrestling with after such a magical evening. When the movie ended, he bid me goodnight and left through the sliding door at the back of our apartment. I was convinced I’d freaked him out by taking him on this date, and he was about to call things off.

I trudged into my room, changed into a large t-shirt and took to the bathroom to wash my face and brush my teeth, feeling depressed about our inevitable end. As I was washing my face, I heard what I thought was a knock on glass. I didn’t have my contacts in or glasses on, so I squinted around the corner, wondering who it could possibly be at that hour. Shocked to see Taylor standing on the other side of the locked glass door, I forgot my current wet face and pants-less state, and scampered over to let him in.

“This is it,” I thought. He couldn’t even wait until morning to break it off. He had to be rid of me as soon as possible. I sighed a deep sigh of resignation before reaching for the handle.

But as I pulled the stopper out of the way, he grabbed the door handle from the outside and flung open the glass with great enthusiasm. He quickly stepped up into the apartment, grabbed my still dripping wet face with both hands, and planted his lips directly upon mine. He kissed me twice, softly, then took his hands off my face, turned around and said determinedly,

“There. Now I can go to sleep,” as he stepped out of the door and walked away.

I stood completely still, shocked to the core, until the cold outside reminded me that I was indeed pants-less and the slider was still ajar. I shook my head, closed and locked the door, and walked dreamily back to the bathroom to finish what I had started.

He’d waited exactly one month to the day for our first kiss. He wasn’t freaked out about our date, he was simply trying to work up the courage to kiss me! And his pure determination had completely blinded him to the fact that I had been standing before him in nothing but a baggy t-shirt and a pair of underwear.

I woke the next morning, sure that I had dreamt it, but the look of pride on his face when I saw him that day told me it was real. I’d never dated a boy who’d waited that long (or at all) to kiss me, and I’d never been kissed with such purpose before. Something told me I was in deep trouble.

To be continued…

Tortellini Soup

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There are not a lot of recipes that I made when we were first married, and still make today. Not a lot that survived to the post-culinary school era. But this one came from a friend’s older sister. We had it at her house one night and I fell in love. Slightly spicy, deliciously warm and completely comforting.

At the time, I thought my friend’s older sister was the picture of domestic perfection. She was married, had a few small kids and a beautiful home. I was young, newly married and completely unsure what being a wife was all about. As I sat at her table and slurped down a few bowls of this delicious, warm soup, I figured anyone who could make soup that good, had to be on to something. I decided I wanted to be just like her. I’m not sure I’ve succeeded in that department, but I have continued to make this soup time and time again, whatever that’s worth.

I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit over the years, but the spirit of the thing remains the same. This time I used tomatoes that I canned myself and threw in a dash of red wine. I also subbed in a red onion for the usual yellow and added a pinch of chili flake. It added a really nice depth of flavor and spice. Perfect for the arrival (finally!) of our fall weather. Nothing better than a recipe that’s warm, simple and good. And slightly nostalgic.

Tortellini Soup
 
Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 5 Chicken Sausage Links, removed from casings
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 24 oz. chicken stock
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced (or crushed) tomatoes
  • 1 14 oz. package of refrigerated tortellini
  • 1 head (or package) of fresh spinach
  • ¼ tsp. chili flake
  • 1 Tbsp red wine
  • 1-1.5 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
Instructions
  1. In a large pot, on medium heat, cook sausage in olive oil until browned and broken up into pieces.
  2. Add onion and garlic and cook until translucent.
  3. Add tomatoes and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to low and cook 10 minutes.
  4. Season with salt and pepper, wine and chili flake.
  5. Add tortellini and cook until tender.
  6. Add chopped/torn spinach just before serving.
  7. Top with Parmesan and serve with garlic bread.

 

Silver Linings

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Silver Linings post. Not because good things haven’t been happening, because believe you me, the good overfloweth. But I’ve been busy, and busy means bad at taking time to pursue gratitude. So, without further ado…

I want to cultivate a grateful heart. A positive outlook. I want to be a person who looks around and sees the silver linings on a regular basis. Here’s a few from my life lately…

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This place and the peace it brings.

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Giggly Squish-berries that never go out of season.

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A cookie maker devoted to his craft.

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Knowing that the road ahead is leading to good things.

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A quick getaway to the gorge with my husband of six years.

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The best brunch buddy in all the land.

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A winter’s supply of Today’s Letters applesauce.

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A super handsome pear peeler.

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Breakfast sandwiches after 11 a.m.

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 And a super fun variety of smaller jobs for me to flex my creative muscles.

Gratefulness is a gamechanger. What kind of silver linings are you finding in your life lately?

Montana: Part II

For Part I of our trip, go here!

When we woke up in the cabin at Lake Blaine, it was bright and sunny, the pink sun rising slowly over the mountains. By the time we’d packed up all our stuff and dressed to go fishing, winter had arrived. It was snowing just 25 minutes away in Glacier park and had started raining in town. We’d get some hot food, then see how we felt, we reasoned.

After a delicious breakfast at a cute little place in Columbia Falls, called Base Camp, we decided we were too chicken to brave the cold and would head towards Missoula, seeking trout and warmer weather. On the way, needing gas and feeling intrigued by a sign that claimed “70 different varieties of licorice,” we stopped in a super tiny, rural town in the middle of nowhere. Taylor bought some of their trademark black licorice and I greedily grabbed a bag of the Montana huckleberry. I swear I saw 2-3 tumbleweeds blow down the street as we paid. It was a strange place. But we had fuel, and sugar, and so we marched on. Or drove on. Whatever.

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Rock Creek: My cousin’s father-in-law recommended the fishing on Rock Creek, so we drove straight through Missoula and landed at the Fisherman’s Mercantile at Rock Creek. Stocking up on a few terrestrial flies, a map of the river and chatting up the shop owner, we felt ready to tackle the stream. We’d succeeded in our quest for warmer weather and it turned out to be a beautiful, warm afternoon on the water.

We each caught a few small trout, and though we didn’t have nearly enough time to explore the stream, we felt satisfied with our first excursion. When I was walking along the road on the way back to the car, I spotted a little water snake in the gravel to the side. Shivers ran up and down my spine and I took a wide arc to avoid being anywhere near it. When Taylor got back in the car, I mentioned the snake with a shudder, and he said quietly, “I didn’t tell you this earlier, but there were a bunch of snakes swimming around in the water.”

I wanted to curl up and die.

“Thank you for not telling me,” I whispered.

We made our way back to Missoula to meet my Aunt and her family for dinner, stuffing our faces with licorice and trying to get the wasp flying around the back seat to go out the window. Snakes and bugs. It wasn’t my day. We pulled into my Aunt’s cute little house not far from the University of Montana and unloaded our bags.

Missoula: Missoula has always intrigued me. I haven’t ever spent a ton of time there, but I’ve caught glimpses here and there; enough to pique my interest. After a day and half this trip, I’ve decided it’s very Portland ten years ago. Pre-hipster era. Post 90’s. Portland before it was cool to be Portland.

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And that means delicious, undiscovered, unpretentious restaurants. We had a fantastic Italian meal Tuesday night (at Caffe Dolce) and a fabulous breakfast the next morning (at Catalyst Cafe). I’m still dreaming of that buckwheat waffle. I might have to recreate that sucker here, sometime soon. Delicious food aside, it was so wonderful to spend some time with my Aunt Dee and her family. Hearing about their fascinating jobs in the weather bureau and smoke jumper base. Staying at their super cute house in the college district. Laughing at stories of their geriatric pets with special drinking fountains. Seeing glimpses of my Mom in my Aunt’s laugh and smile.

Taking my poor Aunt on a wild goose chase to hunt down the perfect magnet to represent our time in Missoula. We just had so much fun, I wanted to find the perfect magnet. As if our time would only be validated by the acquisition of said magnet. Yeesh. In the process I found a fly shop, chocolate covered gummy bears, a shirt I wanted to buy but didn’t, and eventually, two magnets. Success! Our time was too short though, and we are sincerely hoping the Sieglers will make an Oregon trip very soon!

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We had planned to head back and fish Rock Creek after our magnet chase breakfast, but the cold weather caught up with us, and we started to get a little worried about getting over the pass before nightfall. Snow was expected and we were afraid our little Camry might not be up to the task. So, we set off for Helena, figuring we’d stop on the Clark Fork River along the way and see what we could find.

Well, we found the Clark Fork. Several green, slimy, mossy pieces of it, in fact. All over our flies. Necessitating removal every 2-3 casts. We stopped several times on different sections of the river, each time being met with weeds and grime and increasingly cold, brutal weather. I’m pretty sure we stopped on some other river, too, without even realizing where we were. There were no fish there either. And we were wet. And cold. And honestly, a little frustrated.

The car was pretty quiet as we ascended the pass towards Helena. We were soaked, and chilled. And instead of braving the water snakes and heading back to Rock Creek, where we knew there would be fish, I’d insisted we try out the Clark Fork. I sank low into my seat and pouted. But it was hard to stay grumpy as we came over the mountains, surrounded by a skiff of white snow. The trees were dusted white and we laughed as we watched the temperature gauge drop from 41 to 38, from 38 to 36, and finally all the way down to 32. It had been 97 when we left Portland just a few days earlier. Nothing like a 60 degree swing!

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Helena: We stopped at a fly shop downtown before heading over to my Aunt and Uncle’s house, and were instantly comforted by the shop keeper. The Clark Fork was a tough cookie. We’d gone too far up. It wasn’t great this time of year anyway. We felt better. We gathered intel on the next day’s stream, the creek my Dad had grown up fishing, and went on our merry way, still dressed in our soggy waders.

My Mom’s sister Jean, and her husband Zach, live on a really nice little golf course in Helena. But since it’s Montana, they also live in the country. Confused? Me too. It’s a beautiful spot, surrounded by old trees and enough land for Zach’s three horses to pasture. We would be staying in the beautiful little guest suite attached to the back of my uncle’s garage/big game trophy room, which is really quite a place. Hard to put into words, but a sight to see, for sure. I’m pretty sure Taylor uttered the word, “awesome,” about 1,500 times. All I can say is, I locked the door that led from the “environment” to our room. I’ve seen Night at the Museum. I know what happens at night.

After a lovely dinner with my Aunt, Uncle and Grandma, we headed back to their house and sat in front of the fire catching up. I’ve always been amused by the fact that my Aunt Jean dated my Dad before he got together with my Mom, and that he and Uncle Zach were best friends growing up. There’s something about being with people who’ve known your parents longer than you. It’s strangely comforting, like they just get it, you know? We’d done a lot of fun things on our trip so far, but sitting down at the end of the night and visiting was always my favorite part.

Before we gave in to the siren song of sleep, Uncle Zach asked if we wanted to go up to the cabin in the morning. I’d been up there as a little girl, before a wildfire changed the face of the entire region, and was intrigued to see it again. I remembered it being absolutely beautiful. Wild and untamed, the very essence of how I felt about Montana. With some coaxing, we talked him down from a 4:30 a.m. departure and promised to report for duty in the morning.

After a good night’s sleep (despite my fear of the stuffed crocodile coming to eat me), and some of Uncle Zach’s eggs and bacon, we all piled in the truck to head for the cabin. It was cold and getting colder as we neared the hills that lead up to the cabin road, and eventually we hit snow. I felt justified in my decision to wear long underwear underneath my jeans, Grandpa George style.

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As we climbed up the mountainside, sliding a little in the snow here and there, I thought of all the times I’d been in the back of a family member’s truck, on some sort of adventure, and felt very, very lucky. Not everyone gets to be related to people who know how to drive up mountains in the snow, or shoot grizzly bears. We stopped a few times so Uncle Zach could call some elk, and what do you know, a nice sized bull elk on a neighboring hill called right back. We spotted him with the binoculars and marveled at his size and grace, considering the weight of the rack on his head.

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Eventually we made it up to the cabin, tromped inside through the snow and poked around, trying to keep warm until the fire was started. Pictures of my cousins covered the wall, and in the corner, sat a stuffed Cougar that I was pretty sure had it’s eye on me the whole time we were in there. I settled in front of the fire, sipped hot chocolate and watched the snow flurry outside the windows. It was absolutely magical. There’s not a whole lot I love more in life than being holed up in a log cabin, next to a fire, with miserable weather outside.

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Thank you so much for taking the day off to schlep us up to the cabin and back, Aunt Jean and Uncle Zach! We so enjoyed our time with you both and sincerely hope you will stop by on your way to Sisters very soon!

Part III up next! B-Ba-Ba-Ba-Boulder-Boulder!