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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Year #1


In honor of Valentine's Day this weekend, I thought I'd finally post some photos from our anniversary shoot we took with the fabulous Melissa Kilner in November. She shot my sister's wedding a couple years ago, and I loved the photos, so I booked her and told Mr. Graham later (sometimes that's the way to get things done, amiright?). Not knowing where life is going to take us, I wanted to capture the true pacific northwest feel where we spent our first couple of years together. I think Melissa captured that and more.

The location was Rattlesnake Lake and up on Rattlesnake Ridge/Ledge in North Bend (whichever name you prefer). We got dressed after a Saturday dance rehearsal and hiked the two miles up the trail to find ourselves in a white sky, rather than the expansive views we were expecting. Just know this: in the photo below, J is standing on a boulder on the side of a cliff, and I'm woozy just looking at it.

Aren't these photos just dreamy? I think so. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

I've got plenty to be thankful for


The number one thing I'll always be thankful for in life is my family.

For sweet memories of my dad, and family videos that have become sacred, and for his love of documenting life through photos.

For my mom, who played us to sleep with her piano, and who read to us for hours on end. Who teaches me about bone broth, and calls me to leave a thousand messages on my phone that I just can't delete.

For John, who is gentle and loving, and so forgiving, and for his wonderful family that I get to be a part of.

For my incredible siblings who can make me cry at the drop of the hat, I love them so much. For the special relationships I have with all of them, and how life is so much better when we're all together. For the emails, Skype, phone calls, and hand-written letters that bridge the many miles between us across the globe. And especially for their goofiness.

For my uncle who is special and wonderful, loves his kids like no other, who doesn't judge me and my stuff, who loves everything crazy, and who's always there for me if I need to talk.

For my grandpa who has softened with age, and who has survived 25 years of cancer and 18 different chemotherapies, who says he loves me and has the cutest high pitch laugh you've ever heard.

For my dad's mom's side of the family that took me in for Thanksgiving one year while I was at college, and doused me with love and happy stories and memories of my dad. Years between seeing each other, but still family and still loved anyway.

For my rich German heritage, and my beautiful Oma who is a saint always and forever, who cooks the best food in the entire world, and who has always been a big part of my life. For the love of Germany I have because of her.

And now I'm crying.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

cookies, glorious cookies!

 This blog looks a little like a food blog this week. But don't worry, it's not. I promise the next time I post (probably this weekend because I'm on very productive kick right now that might last through Monday) it won't be about food. But hey, at least I add photos of John, and who doesn't love that? Just look at that face. 

I know what you're thinking after last night's healthy broth/soup post: "She's all talk and no walk!" Yes, we're trying to be healthy. No, cookies aren't healthy. BUT they are gluten free AND there are very limited refined sugars in there: I sweetened it with maple syrup (grade b, of course), and the chocolate chips are the darkest I could find (aka, less milk and less sugar, and not for the faint of heart). Want the recipe? Of course you do. They're almost (but not entirely) guilt-free. 

This is what you do: take your typical three ingredient peanut butter cookies and add chocolate and more chocolate. 

Here:
1 egg
1 cup peanut butter
1/4 -1/3 cup maple syrup (grade b - the real stuff)
1 tsp. baking soda
a smidge of vanilla (I just can't help it)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup - 1 cup chocolate chips (depending on how chocolatey you like it, and go for dark)

Mix mix mix.
Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Let them cool. They will be fudgey and you will be singing praises to the GF god. But seriously.
Pairs well with a cold glass of milk (keep it whole, please (fat is good for you)(and more delicious)).

I ate like four. Probably because I was watching Gilmore Girls at the same time (them and their food!). Whatever. It happens. And it was a really fantastic night.

Broth and White Bean and Chicken Chili


Right now I'm big into soups. More specifically, I'm big into broth and soup is a great way to consume large amounts of broth.

Why? Because homemade bone broths are amazing. Many many many health benefits, I've read. I'm no health expert, but I'm definitely drinking the juice (broth?). I totally dig it. Get this: felt a serious cold coming on the other day, then I made broth. Ask me how I feel right now. (I feel good!) Warmth + liquid + minerals + gelatin + lots of other things = good things.

Anyway. Dinner.

Saturday night I threw a chicken straight into the stock pot, and then one in the oven to roast for dinner. I let that first one simmer away for about an hour then carved it and saved the meat and then threw it back into the stock pot along with the carcass from the chicken I roasted for dinner (and, if you're interested, I also cubed two onions, threw in some carrots, some celery, a couple of halved apples, a couple of bay leaves, and - very important! - apple cider vinegar (it helps leech all the minerals from the bones into the stock). My freezer is stocked.) So tonight I made this white chicken chili with that saved meat and lots of broth (I added extra. and some tomatoes because I luv tomatoes). Hello, yum. It hit all the spots.

If you were wondering, John busily worked away as I put this together. He made dinner last night (curried carrot soup. he is so hot right now), so tonight I let him do his thing. He usually helps me anyway, which really helps me on like five thousand different levels (#feminism #genderroles #thestruggleisreal).

The recipe: White Bean and Chicken Chili
Found the loveliness HERE (thank you, Mr. Leite!).
Pretty darn delicious. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 pound bacon
  • 6 ounces pearl onions, peeled, or 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 cup peeled, shredded carrots (optional)
  • 1/2 cup diced celery (optional)
  • 1 Anaheim, poblano, or jalapeƱo chile pepper, seeded and finely diced, or more to taste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 4 cups (32 ounces) homemade chicken stock or low-sodium canned chicken broth
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 2 15-ounce cans white beans (any kind), drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin, or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS

  • 1. Fry the bacon in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat, turning once or twice, until browned and crisp. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and reserve 3 tablespoons drippings in the pot. When the bacon has cooled enough to handle, crumble it into pretty small pieces.
  • 2. Heat the reserved bacon drippings over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery, if using, and chile pepper and cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
  • 3. Add the crumbled bacon, stock or broth, chicken, beans, cilantro, cumin, salt, and pepper to the pot and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes before serving.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Chocolate Pudding! + a lecture on good ingredients



I've made it not once but twice in the last week or so, it's just that good. You have to make it.

But first, let me tell you why it's so freaking good: quality ingredients. That's it! That's the secret!  You think this will taste as good using low fat milk and low quality butter and cheap chocolate? Yeah. Right. If you haven't already committed to spending all your money (hah!) on high quality ingredients, do so now! If you can, choose organic (start here: dirty dozen) ! It will change your life in more ways than one.

Here are the ingredients in this recipe that I use that I believe make all the difference:
~ Raw whole milk (from my local health food store, but whatever whole organic milk you can find will be fabulous - and yes, I know there's a slight risk to using raw milk, but I'm a believer)
~ Pasture butter (from grass fed cows, which not only tastes better, is better for you, but is also even 
magically better for the cow! So many wins!)
~ Pasture eggs (you guessed it: chickens that get to roam around on grass, too! Sounds normal right? Not so. Sadly most chickens can't even walk because their breasts are too heavy and because there just isn't space (I could go on). If I had a place to own chickens I would. Because I don't, I buy them from local farms, or grab the best on the shelf at the store (like these which cost a fortune, but I believe are totally worth it, though I generally don't use them for baking). The yolks are closer to dark orange than pale yellow, and are packed full of nutrients. Remember how grass-fed cows are healthier and happier? Sames goes for chickens.) 
~High quality dark chocolate (this calls for cocoa powder, but chopping up some chocolate would work fabulously, I just didn't have any.)

Before I actually give you the recipe, I want to say one more thing: be dedicated to whatever you are making. Even a simple recipe for chocolate pudding requires patience and dedication. It means you should read the recipe, instructions and all, before you make it. Care about the food. Care about the details. It makes a difference for you, the food, and the people who eat it. 

There. Tangent over! 

Behold, the recipe.

2 1/2 cups milk 
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup real maple syrup (did you know that 39 gallons of sap make just 1 gallon of maple syrup?)
1/4 cup cocoa powder (I always use more, and when I doubled it I used 3/4 cups, and it was divine)
4 TBLS cornstarch or arrowroot powder (heaven knows we have too much corn in our diets)
1/4 tsp salt
3 TBLS butter
1 tsp. vanilla

Directions, version A (for those of you who know your way around a kitchen)

- Combine the dry ingredients in a pot, whisk. 
- Add the milk and maple syrup, stir to combine.
- Heat on medium heat until it thickens, stirring constantly. 
- Temper the egg yolks, then add slowly. Cook for a couple more minutes, to cook the cornstarch.
- Remove from heat and stir in a tablespoon of butter at a time. Add vanilla.
- Serve warm, or cool with a sheet of plastic pressed into the top to avoid a film.

Directions, version B (for people like me who wants to know all the details)

- Combine the cocoa powder, salt, and cornstarch in a pot, and whisk to combine (whisking works as well as sifting). 
- Add one cup of milk, then whisk it like mad. It will come together to be very thick, which will allow you to whisk out all of the clumps quickly. When it looks satisfactory, add the rest of the milk slowly while whisking. 
- Add maple syrup.
- Turn stove on to medium and stir constantly. The mixture will thicken as it heats.
- In a separate bowl, use a fork to whisk the egg yolks. Really break them apart. Now, we temper them. This means that as the milk heats up, you add a tablespoon at a time of the warming/hot milk mixture to the eggs while whisking vigorously to ensure that the milk (if hot enough) doesn't curdle them (cook them). I like to start doing it before the milk is too hot, but you can do it then, too. You might end up with a cup or more of egg mixture by the time you're done; it doesn't matter. 
- When the eggs are very warm, pour them very slowly into the milk mixture (think stream of olive oil), which should be fairly thick and on the verge of boiling if it's not already, whisking all the while. Your pudding will thicken even more and start looking more like a custard very quickly. 
- Cook for a 2-3 more minutes to cook the starch (the eggs cook much faster, but if you don't cook the starch all the way you'll taste it). 
- Remove from heat.
- Stir in one tablespoon of butter at a time.
- Add vanilla.
- Serve hot, or pour into a mixing bowl and allow to cool with a piece of plastic wrap pressed into the top to avoid the development of a film (but then again, hot plastic isn't good for anyone)

Voila! Eat it! Enjoy it! Share it! 

"If you give, get. If you learn, teach." ~Maya Angelou

Friday, September 19, 2014

washington state fair


it was so good we went twice.
lots of kissing. lots of food. lots of laughing. lots of silliness.
i need more of this in my life.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Right Now

^^I need to find myself a place like this

Labor Day has come and gone, it's still summer but leaves are starting to fall, I've officially donned a sweater, and there's so much on my mind.

Current thoughts:
I'm coming up on my 18th month anniversary at work, and I'm getting more and more anxious to be involved in my future. I'm getting more involved in the dance program with John, and I'm looking around at different classes I'm eager to sign up for (though finding classes that don't conflict with various jobs is harder than it seems). I'm looking for direction in my life, and some motivation to chase it.

New happenings:
My little sister just got a job with a family in Paris as their au pair. She'll be just a 10 minute walk from the Eiffel Tower, doing precisely what I was going to be doing before marrying John: living in a gorgeous foreign country learning a beautiful language and getting swept up in it. I'm thrilled for her and simultaneously jealous of the adventure that is imminent. That will make 2/5 siblings living in Europe. I'm once again on the hunt for a life plan that will lead John and I to Europe, for work or school, where we can experience a whole new way of life and completely satisfy our very deep desires to get to know that part of our heritage (for John: England. For me: Germany). John is less convinced in a future in Europe, but deep down I think he would love it, too. For now: Christmas in Europe with Hannah and Ryan, and we are so excited. Just thinking of the Christmas markets makes me want to weep.

New goals:
Being all there when I'm with people. Too often I pick up my phone to check something while John's driving or when we're in our living room or getting into bed at night. I read on Darling Magazine that this couple doesn't pick up their phones unless they get a text or a phone call between the hours of 7-9pm, which is kind of this super simple radical idea. This is an amazing age for technology, but I also find myself having to check myself because of it! I've slept a few nights with my phone in a different room, and it's nice. While we were dating, my phone was always on me in case I got something from him while we were apart, but when we were together I just didn't care about my phone and wouldn't check it for hours, even with it buzzing from all the texts and phone calls (from mom, checking on me, that dear). And now? I check it constantly. For no reason but to entertain myself. How bad would it be to just get away from a cell phone? Maybe the next phone I buy will be a flip phone, capable of texts and phone calls. I'm convinced I would be happier. And I'd probably take more pictures with a real camera.

Upcoming plans:
John and I barely lived up our summer. In our 3rd floor apartment without AC we definitely felt the heat of the summer, but with weekends covered in dance responsibilities for John, we hardly got out. One weekend for camping together, and then a week in Utah with mostly crummy weather (but having fun with my little brother!), and then a couple long Saturdays' dedicated to triathlons and organized bike rides. Fun, busy, and productive, but we have seen no beach, my body has worn no swimsuit (during the daylight hours), and John and I have spent little time just together. So this weekend we're going to take off while the weather is still warm to find a beach where I will don my bikini, soak up some sun, roast some marshmallows, and read a good book. I'm looking forward to the fall, but I'm determined to live up the rest of our warm summer, dammit! PNW people, where and what do you do during the summer?

Books and friends:
Wild. My dear friend sent me the book in the mail, and I've loved every page of it. Books are so lovely, and so are friends. I am grateful for both, and realizing as I type that I just simply do not make enough time for either of them in my life. Priorities, amiright?!


Upward and onward, friends! May your September be full of the end of summer activities and a lovely welcoming to autumn and all the glories that come with it!

Monday, August 11, 2014

In which I gush about my dear husband.

Saturday night John and I headed north for my friend's wedding reception, held at the home his wife grew up in, just a few miles shy of Bellingham. We were getting there just as the sun was setting over the San Juan Islands. Our plans were all over the place for the weekend, so the trip was actually pretty spontaneous, but it ended up being just marvelous. Beautiful neck of the woods, beautiful home (like, very very beautiful. like, one day I will ask them for their blueprints, and maybe even the key to their home, etc, etc.), beautiful beyond beautiful couple (her dress! and so fun to see friends! and her dress!), and there was even dancing. I was in heaven.

John and I took a quick self-led tour around their yard. It was getting dark very quickly, but it was nice to step back and check out the garden (we also want to replicate that eventually), the orchard beyond that, and just watch the party and happy newlywed from afar. We were reminiscing and also talking dreams for the future. Maybe it was more me, but he just happily listened as I gushed.

We're rapidly approaching our first anniversary, and I really don't think I could be happier. We're floating into this part of life where everything is just so comfortable and normal, and where we know everything will be okay as long as we're together. I've discovered that just about everything is better with John, which I always thought, but things are even better than when we first got married. Everything about our relationship has deepened. He's my go-to guy and my best friend. He's goofier now that we're married than before, and I just can't stop laughing. Sometimes he'll wake up groggy, go to the bathroom, and then come back to bed with newfound energy and pounce on me while pretending to be a little dog. It sounds weird, but it's hilarious and endearing. Okay, and kind of weird. I like his weird.

Our relationship didn't start with fireworks or accolades, but with a very small friendship. When I think of our relationship I think how sometimes love comes softly. We got married because we loved each other, but I think more so that we knew we would just be so good for each other. Like, we knew good things were in store. I had this very vivid feeling before we got married that the way I knew and loved John was only the very beginning of a very deep and profound love. It's almost a year later and I still feel somewhat the same, except that the way I love John today is so far and beyond how I loved him then. I feel like I'm falling in love with him in a whole new way. Does that even make sense? I feel like him starting to ramble. But the love! The love! It's powerful.

The man full of patience and love, and he is the best listener a girl like me could ask for. We've had a year full of ups and downs, high stress, emotions, and busy schedules. I've had to adjust to being married and tied down (location, jobs, etc), and John has had to adjust to my needs. We're learning to speak different love languages, which is making us both feel more loved and appreciated. I'm very okay with admitting how hard some days are (so so hard!), but man.... it gets better, and better, and better. Willingness to learn is key here. And willingness to just love, and love, and love.

And that's what John does for me. He just keeps loving me, and loving me, and loving me.

John Leonard Graham, I. Love. You. Too.