Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry, Merry Christmas!!!

From our family to yours!

Friday, December 24, 2010

I'm Dreaming Of A White Christmas...

But I'll take cotton balls, paper snowflakes and 62 degrees instead.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Is That Rudolph?

We found this fun blinking red nose at Restoration Hardware. They have really fun vintage stocking stuffers for those of you doing last minute shopping. We are getting so excited about Christmas here in the Coffee Cottage but Gracie said "I'm really excited about Christmas...but I am really, REALLY excited about Santa Barbara!" Maybe Ryan should be looking for a position at UCSB!?!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


This is a papa-post of my girls getting excited about our upcoming Westfalia adventure.  We'll be heading down the coast to Santa Barbara, but as we all know, it's about the journey, not the destination.  

This year we travel in style... super style!

Brook has always wanted a Westy, so we will be renting from  

If you never hear from us again, you'll know we've found paradise on the road.

Friday, December 17, 2010

3 Months

an angel here on earth...

Simple Supper :: Chicken Soup with Rice

After roasting a chicken last night, I simply dumped the remaining chicken, carrots, oinions and garlic into the slow cooker, covered with water and cooked on low overnight. In the morning I added brown rice, more carrots and kale. Ryan said it was one of his favorite soups ever. Then he fogot to put it in the fridge and we lost the leftovers. Don't worry honey, I'll make it again next week! xo

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Camping Food?

I am getting our camping trip list together this week and planning our menu. Does anyone have a good camping meal with as little prep or perishables as possible? Have you found a tasty packaged food--think mac and cheese but not mac and cheese?

For example, one of my favorites that I used to take on backpacking trips in college was the Frontier dried chili mix that I used to get at Whole Foods in the bulk section. Just add boiling water. And sometimes canned beans and corn and more chili powder to spice it up a bit.

Simple Supper :: Roasted Chicken

I know what you are thinking. Roasting a chicken is not a simple supper. Think again because dinner prep took me literally FIVE minutes. Using TJ's mirepoix and precut butternut squash to line the pan, I simply sprinkled olive oil and herbs de provence on the chicken and baked at 425 for 1.5 hours. Delicious!

Then we turned it into chicken soup with rice....

Close Up

Look at that cute little nose! Perfection.
Her eyes keep changing color depending on the light. They look blue with brown sun streaks to me these days but who knows how they will finally turn out. Gorgeous. 
And those lips? Delicious.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Baked French Toast

I found whole wheat cinnamon raisin rolls at TJ's but they were on the dry side so I turned them into this delicious breakfast. It would be great for entertaining guests or for a brunch with friends. The praline topping is a little sweet for me so I could do without it but everyone else thought it was great.

butter a large casserole dish
Break cinnamon rolls into one inch pieces
8 eggs
2 cups milk
1 cup half and half
1 tsp cinnamon
dash of salt
1 tsp vanilla
pour over bread

Praline Topping:
One stick butter cut into pieces
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup pecans
pour over toast to bake for the last 20 minutes

**This makes an excellent dessert. Better the next day. Tastes like bread pudding**

Morning Love

Gracie is starting to read to Emily when they wake up in the morning. 
Then I get a chance to make coffee!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wrapped In Love

My grandmother's scarf

This year, in lieu of extensive amounts of wasted wrapping paper, I am trying my hand at furoshiki, the artful Japanese tradition of wrapping gifts in large, beautiful swaths of cloth. Why furoshiki? It is reusable and multipurpose. Each year billions (BILLIONS!!!) of plastic bags end up as litter. Reusable bags, such as furoshiki can help reduce the impact to our environment. Its versatility allows you to wrap almost anything regardless of its shape or size.

Here is a link to a famous furoshiki store in Japan demonstrating how to make a darling purse.

Here is a link to simple cotton flour sack towels which would be great for furoshiki. Fun for craft projects too!

Here are a few techniques from the Tea Collection, which is offering furoshiki for gifts this year:


basic wrap

1. Place object in center of furoshiki as pictured above.2. Wrap top and bottom corners over box.3. Bring together right and and left corners.4. Tie a knot with right and left corners over wrapped box.

tote wrap

1. Place object in center of furoshiki as pictured above.2. Bring together one set of corners and tie a knot.3. Tie the other set of corners into a knot.4. Bring together knots and use the loops created in the furoshiki to tote object.

twisted handle wrap

1. Place object in center of furoshiki as pictured above.2. Bring together one set of corners and tie a knot. Bring other set of corners through loop created by the knot.3. Twist the corners to create tight wound lengths of fabric.4. Bring together ends of twisted fabric and tie a knot.

bottle wrap

1. Place two bottles in center of furoshiki as pictured above.2. Lie bottles down, leaving a space between the two.3. Take a corner and place over bottles, rolling the bottles along to create a tube of fabric.4. Pull ends together and tie a knot.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Brought to you by the letter...

We'll be looking for the letter "P" today while we run errands. 
Using cinnamon to write the letter on her morning oatmeal was a fun way to start the day. 

Friday, December 10, 2010


I love this website about missed connections and it got me thinking...

Thirteen years ago, I could have easily had a missed connection. I went with a girlfriend to a local espresso shop (that is known not only for it's excellent coffee but also it's egotistical baristas) to get a late night cocoa during finals week. I recognized the guy behind the bar from a history class. What had caught my eye besides that cute smile? He was obviously the smartest student in the class, he was buds with the teacher Valor Pickett, and he wore obnoxious plaid flannel pajama pants to class.

Me: Hey we were in Valor Pickett's class together
Him: Long pause... oh yeah

I realized he didn't remember me. Gasp! He didn't remember me? But I had a cute smile! I was obviously the second most intelligent student in the class, I was on a first name basis with our teacher Valor Pickett,  and I wore comfortable but adorably well planned outfits to class. What do you mean he didn't remember me?!!?

The next afternoon I went in for a Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, french press cafe au lait. He was studying and eating dinner when I sat down next to him to chat while my coffee brewed for seven minutes. An hour later my coffee was cold, his dinner was old and we had just unknowingly met our soul mates.

The next night (okay, I was a bit of a coffee shop groupie) I went in again with a friend to get another cocoa and he was working again. They were packed. The line was to the door. He took our order and asked me if I could stick around for a couple of minutes. He placed a pad of paper and a pen on the bar beside us. We waited for a couple of minutes but the line only got longer. So...I wrote down my number and left. He called the next day and he still has that piece of paper in his wallet.

We could have so easily been a missed connection.

But here we are 13 years later, connected in so many ways.

Connected by our history,
by our vows,
by our two angels,
by our future.

And I wouldn't miss that for the world.
i love you hon. xoxo

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Pesto Pizza

Tonight is the first time I have made homemade pizza since Emily was born. Too long!!! She is asleep in the swing and Gracie is helping me roll the dough. What fun.
It's a pesto pizza tonight--topped with cherry tomatoes.

Thank goodness for frozen pesto (made before Emily was born.) Unfortuantley, I am down to my last few tablespoons and I will be hard pressed to find good basil this late in the year. PLEASE let me know if you see some big bunches around town for another batch.

This pesto batch was two HUGE bunches of basil with one bag of toasted pine nuts, some garlic and enough olive oil to pull it together. Scoop, freeze, and bag. Then just pull out enough for your recipe. Four or five for a pizza.

Our Art Cart

We bought this little art cart from Under the Nile a few years ago and it really was a great purchase! It does such a good job keeping Gracie's favorite art supplies together and it is portable so she can tote it around the house, outside or on an adventure. Some of her favorite art supplies are wax blocks, colored pencils, and her current favorites, tape and scissors!!! She spends HOURS everyday cutting and taping various art treasures. We have a second one designated for crafts that holds stickers, beads, yarn, etc.

What are your favorite art and craft supplies these days?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dear Santa

Baby Blue Buntings

Bill and Brook :: 4 months
Ryan and Emily :: 2 Months


B: Let's put on our raincoats and hike to collect some holly for the mantlepiece.
G: I also want to hike to the buckeye forest
B: We need to wait for daddy
G: Why?
B: Well, I get too nervous hiking by ourselves because of the mountain lion
G: Well, we can just take the kazoo with us!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Compost Cookie?!?

We are a BIG composting family so when I spotted these on Cup of Jo, I had a BIG smile. I am going to have to try making this Compost Cookie (with pretzels, potato chips, coffee, oats, butterscotch, chocolate chips, graham crackers ) from momofuku. $10 for six? Please!

I'll change the ingredients up a bit and get back to you but here are theirs:

butter, unbleached wheat flour, sugar, brown sugar, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, graham crumbs, pretzels, potato chips, glucose syrup, eggs, whole oats, cream, milk powder, coffee grounds, salt, leavening, vanilla
What is your craziest recipe?

Monday, December 6, 2010

What's for Lunch?

Gracie got a new lunch box from PlanetBox at the Green Festival. This day I cut her sandwich into a heart and the red bell peppers were in the shape of flowers. I have to admit it makes preparing lunches so much fun and she can carry it instead of mama lugging around eight different containers!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Happy Holidays

Just a little sneak peak.....
Most Wonderful Year Christmas 5x7 folded card
Shop Shutterfly for elegant custom Christmas photo cards.
View the entire collection of cards.

Friday, December 3, 2010

I Like...

Grace: I like Christmas,Halloween and Wednesdays. Oh, and I like fish.

Today's Technology

Grace: The juice on the pomegranate seeds is much healthier. It doesn't have sugar bugs ( to quote dr. quo)
Brook: Did daddy tell you that?
Grace: No.
Brook: It is just some thing you know?
Grace: I learned it on my website.


Emily was able to get ahold of the blue ring on our favorite gym today. She is loving it as much as Gracie did but the "middle man" seems to frustrate/entice/baffle/entertain (?) her as much as it did for big sis! This was definitely one of our best baby purchases.

For My Child

I bought some wool felt today to start making one of Gracie's Christmas gifts. I know I will need a whole month to actually make it, so while the girls are both napping (!!!) I feel like a little elf. This little project will go with her favorite book, Child of Faerie, Child of Earth by Jane Yolen. I'll keep you posted!

Waldorf Holiday Faire

There are SO many wonderful fair(e)s taking place this weekend: Third Street Fair in SF, our local craft fair, etc. but while we were in our favorite store today, the owner, Julie and another mom were discussing how the Waldorf Faire is SO amazing and to be sure not to miss it. I have been wanting to go for three years now so finally I have it on my calendar. They will have lots of fun activities for the kids as well as a chance to do a little Christmas shopping. They even have trees, so this could be a "two birds with one stone" kind of adventure. We are a bit behind this year as traveling with two is proving to be much more difficult.

Hope to see you there but if not, what are your holiday plans this weekend?

When you get a chance, check out what our friends Kate and Riley are doing to celebrate the season. It is inspirational!

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Sunny Day

Grace and I made Sun Bread today using the recipe in the book of the same title by Elisa Kleven. It is a bit gray outside but this made things a lot brighter.


    3 eggs 3 TBSP sugar 2 cups sifted flour 1 stick melted, unsalted butter 2 packages active dry yeast 3 TBSP lukewarm milk


Mix well:
3 eggs
3 TBSP sugar

2 c sifter all purpose flour
1 stick butter, melted

Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and beat well.

in a small bowl combine
2 packages active dry yeast
3 TBSP lukewarm milk
Let stand until foamy, at least 5 min.

Add the yeast mixture to the batter and stir. Knead dough on greased, floured surface for 8-10 min. (My dough took in about another cup of flour while kneading. The nutritional info includes 3 cups of flour, because of this)

Place dough in greased bowl, cover with a cloth and let rise in a warm place until double (about an hour).

Punch down and knead for a few minutes. The separate in to two portions.

To form the sun's face, shape one portion of dough into a rounded, somewhat flattened ball and place on a large greased baking sheet. (you can make a face by punching eyes and drawing a mouth with your finger)

Make a corona for your sun by dividing the remaining dough in half again. Roll half into long snakes. Then curl the snakes into puffy snail shapes. For the rest of the dough in to puffy triangles. Firmly attach the snails and triangles to the sun (use a little water if your dough is to dry)

Cover your sun and let rise again for about an hour.

Bake at 400 for 20 minutes testing for doneness with a toothpick!

Enjoy! Plain, or with honey or jam!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Good Morning

Satsuma skirt + Black Eyed Pea eyes + Pumpkin Seed wings + 
Pecan smile + Arborio Rice nose + Earl Gray arms = 
Avala the Breakfast Fairy

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

I am so thankful for....

these two sweet little girls!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

In The Redwoods :: Hermit Thrush

We are reading Flute's Journey to celebrate our sighting of a Hermit Thrush this morning. A BIG redwood branch fell down from the storm this morning and the Thrush seemed to like the seeds or bugs that came down with it. Click here to hear the beautiful flute-like song. The rain has stopped and the birds are abundant--Anna's hummingbird in what is left of the butterfly garden (the branch landed on top of it), Hermit Thrush, Chestnut Backed Chickadee, Dark Eyed Junco, and a wren (sp??) in five minutes!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Q&A :: What is your favorite holiday dish?

Emily :: 2 months

And don't say turkey! :-)
We all know that the sides are far better than the main dish on Thanksgiving Day. Ryan's favorite is roasted garlic mashed potatoes and Gracie's favorite is roasted brussel sprouts similar to Ina's recipe. She eats them like candy...well, better than candy.

MY favorite though is a recipe that I clipped out of a Williams-Sonoma catalog years ago, when they used to be big and fat and full of yummy things to cook. It reminds me of the first time Ryan and I were in New York for the holidays. There was a man roasting chestnuts on a street cart and selling them in small paper bags and I had never had a real chestnut "roasted on an open fire." There wasn't jack frost nipping at my nose but it was magical!

Wild Rice and Chestnut Dressing (so good that you will want to make it year round!)
1 lb. (2/3 loaf) ww bread toasted and 1/2" cubed
3/4 cp wild rice (cooked 45 min in 3 cups water)
15 oz chestnuts ~20 chestnuts
1 onion chopped
1 fennel bulb chopped
1 stick butter
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp marjoram
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp sage
3 eggs
2 1/2 cup broth
cook all (sorry I didn't write down the temp) for 1 hour stirring a fews times to toast

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Q&A :: What is your favorite holiday dessert?

Leaf Jumping 2010

What is YOUR favorite holiday dessert?

Our family is celebrating Thanksgiving at Uncle Steve and Auntie Sue's house this year and we are bringing two sides (potatoes and brussels-more on this tomorrow) and a dessert. Pumpkin Pie is already taken and we will probably bring our favorite Dutch Apple Pie--a recipe from our friends Nicole, Greg and Rainey(xo) but I would also like to get some feedback on YOUR favorite holiday/party desserts. If you can share recipes in the comments section that would be fantastic!

Here is our favorite apple pie. It is so easy and a.m.a.z.i.n.g!

Dutch Apple Pie c/o Greg's Mimi:

take frozen pie crust (TJ's) out one hour before baking
preheat oven to 450
4 large tart apples
1 uncooked pie shell
1 cup (I use less) sugar
1 Tsp cinnamon
3/4 flour
1/3 cup butter (grated in a cheese grater-the BEST way to cut butter)
I also sometimes add oats and/nuts

slice apples into 16 pieces each
toss with 1/2 of the sugar and cinnamon,
pour into crust
mix flour , the remaining sugar and butter (oats and nuts if using)
pour over apples

bake at 450 for 10 minutes
lower heat to 350 and bake for 40 minutes

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

DIY :: Castile Hand Soap

Anyone who has used castile soap knows that if/when you put it into a pump dispenser, it will inevitable clog in the pump, and you will inevitably get a VERY painful squirt of soap in your eye. This is why Dr. Bronner's does not have a pump. They know better. 
So you can either dilute it with water and use a foaming pump dispenser (usually unattractive and plastic) or you can thicken the regular castile soap. Dr. Bronner's sells a thick soap with a pump. It is their Shikakai line which is basically sugar and their castile soap base (I asked them at their booth at the Green Fest last year.) I now make my own at home. I started with organic sugar but it was too brown for my taste so now I use white sugar.

Warm 1 cup castile soap in a saucepan
add 1 cup sugar and cook and stir until dissolved. Let cool and pour into your favorite soap dispenser.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Naughty or Nice?

Santa Claus 2009
The Coffee Cottage sure needs a dose of nice these days! We have all been a bit naughty in these sleep deprived, caffeine addicted, high energy, work overloaded days lately. Papa, Mama, Grace, Emily....okay she is just a baby and hasn't really been naughty but you get the idea.

I never thought that I would resort to this but I keep catching myself singing to Gracie...

"You better not pout. You better not cry. You better not shout I'm telling you why.
Santa Claus is coming to town."

Our discipline regimen has declined from
1. having a patient conversation and trying to teach understanding and empathy
2. to having rewards and a star sheet
3. to having consequences and taking away privileges
4. to just saying the words "Santa's watching."

I am not sure what the future implications will be but it works in two seconds flat. :-)
I wish it worked for Papa and Mama too!
But what will I do in January? I'm thinking birthday fairy, summer solstice santa!

What have you resorted to these days?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

We are already getting in the holiday spirit around here--listening to Christmas music, planning our holiday menu and the cookie collection, making lists and checking them twice, and taking photos for our holiday card. I love the fact that a portrait holiday card forces me to organize a photo session (thanks Kate!), get the girls into something cute, and put a little makeup on. Then we have a keepsake for years to come. I love looking back at previous cards to see how our family has changed and I imagine what is yet to come.
I used to make handmade cards but these days I really prefer a very simple and easy card like Shutterfly. Plus, they are having a promotion to other bloggers out there for 50 free holiday cards if you spread the news: Bloggers get 50 free holiday cards from Shutterfly, follow the arrow à 
They have the cutest selections. These are a few that I am partial to.

A simple card like this would be great for any occasion (thank you, party invite)

I love the colors on this photo card.

And if you have a great family pic, this stationary card would really hi-light a good photo

Monday, November 8, 2010

Fountain of Youth

Thanks Kate for capturing this magical moment the other day! 
This may be my favorite picture ever.

Emily :: 6 weeks