Post-Merriment Minestrone

Everyone knows tomorrow there will be resolutions aplenty.  Some may include a more healthful lifestyle, or maybe just a few more vegetables at mealtime.  Either way, this recipe can help.  Do yourself a favor and buy the ingredients today, so that come tomorrow you will be ready to make those resolutions a reality.

The reason to make this soup is the pistou (the Provençal cousin of italian pesto), which is ladled into this traditional vegetable soup, making it aromatic and rich in flavor.  This delicious recipe comes from Pasta & Co. – a legendary Seattle food shop, opened in 1981.  I grew up with Pasta & Co., so the flavors are familiar and comforting to me.  This recipe for Minestrone Genovese was published in 2002 by the original Pasta & Co. owner, Marcella Rosene, in a cookbook called Pasta & Co. By Request.  Rosene has a way of amplifying flavors in pure foods that elevates them to true loveliness.  I think you will find that this recipe, in particular, is just what the doctor ordered in the lull after December holidays.  It may even make you want to keep those pesky New Year resolutions!

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Minestrone Genovese

Makes 13 cups.  Will keep for five days, refrigerated.

 
Pistou Ingredients:
1/3 to 1/2 cup basil leaves, washed dried and finely chopped
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, put through garlic press
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup orzo or melonseed pasta
1/2 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
 
Soup Ingredients:
6 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups carrots, peeled and cut into a 1/4 inch dice
1 cup celery, cut into 1/4 inch dice
2 cups red potatoes, skins on and cut into a 1/2 inch dice
1/2 cup green bell pepper, cut into 1/4 inch dice
1/2 cup zucchini, unpeeled, cut into 1/4 inch dice
1/4 cup best-quality unflavored bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon hot paprika
10 grinds black pepper
Optional: Very small pinch saffron
2 cups water
1 (8-ounce) can kidney beans, well rinsed and drained OR 3 cups fresh green beans, washed and cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes or 2 cups fresh tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch pieces including all juices
1/2 cup frozen peas or corn (add to soup frozen) – do not use if using fresh green beans (unless you incorporate fresh corn cut from the cob)
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
Parmesan cheese, grated by hand at the table, to top

Preparation:

In medium bowl, whisk together basil, Parmesan, tomato paste, and garlic into a thick paste.  Slowly drizzle in olive oil until it is incorporated.  Set aside.

Cook orzo in a large amount of boiling water until tender.  Drain well and fold into olive oil mixture.  Fold in Romano and set aside.

In a large soup pot, bring the 6 cups of water and the salt to a boil.  Add carrots, onion, and celery and cook 5 minutes.  Add potatoes and cook 5 minutes more.  Add bell pepper, zucchini, bread crumbs, paprika, black pepper, and saffron (if desired) and cook 5 minutes more.

Turn off heat and ladle a couple of cups of the soup into orzo mixture.  Stir well and pour back into the soup pot.  Add the 2 cups of water, kidney beans, tomatoes, frozen peas or corn, and parsley.

Stir to mix.  Serve topped with additional freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

 Happy New Year!

Bean Boots and the Bus Stop

We have stood at the bus stop for approximately 59 days so far this fall. Give or take…  For the foreseeable future the bus stop will be part of our everyday life.  Four of us (mom and three kiddos) trek outside each morning at 8:34, no matter the weather.  As a stay-at-home mom of babies, there was little need to get outside – we could stay cozy inside on those rainy, nasty days, drinking hot cocoa and reading stories.  Now, we all go outside with our kindergartner and wave him off, wishing him a successful day away from us.

Sam has transitioned just fine to riding the bus, the element I hadn’t thought about was bus stop style.  Whereas in years past, I could throw on some Uggs for the quick drive to preschool, suede is totally impractical for the muddy, rainy days of Seattle (of course as I write it is a gloriously beautiful, sunny, clear and cold day!).  Anyhow, on those rainy days, I have been challenged to find the “just right” footwear for our quick, daily trip out into the elements.

I have a hypothesis.  It goes something like this… The people who are happiest in their environment (whatever that may be), have figured out how to dress for it and be comfortable.  We moved to Seattle 11 years ago (Gasp! I can’t believe it has been that long!) and since then I have been trying to figure out how to be most comfortable in this mild, yet damp place.  Hunter boots and Patagonia jackets have been successful steps towards Seattle comfort in varying degrees.  But this week I think I figured it out.  Eureka!!

There is an L.L.Bean tradition in our family that goes back to my husband’s Maine roots.  We named both our dogs after this particular northeast retailer, respectively Leo (after Leon Leonwood Bean – L.L. Bean) and Ella Bean.  As we have made our life on the west coast, this is a small nod to our extensive roots that exist on the other coast.  When Gus and I first got together I became obsessed with the L.L.Bean Tote, .  Every summer when visiting family back east, we would get a new one with some new monogram.  Eventually our home reached a saturation point on those totes, but they are used heavily to this day and are still one of my favorite gifts to give.  My newest L.L.Bean passion is for the classic Bean Boot.  I think it was created specifically for the PNW Bus Stop.  I just ordered a pair of the classic 6″ style and I couldn’t be more excited for them to arrive (and for the rain to begin again so that I can give them a try)!

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I found a fun Bean Boots guide on The College Prepster.  It gave me the courage to add these to my Bus Stop look!  I went with the classic 6″ – which pair would you choose?  Maybe add them to a holiday wishlist and let Your LL Bean Boyfriend know that these could make your winter “just right”!

Moccasins | They’re great for slipping into on lazy mornings and wearing with patterned socks when it’s cold. 

Gumshoes | These are a great pick if you’re not sure what size to get. They’re low. And easy. A great medium between the 6″ and the mocs. 

6″ | Perfect for slouchy socks and tucking into skinny jeans. I like that these are definitely made more for the elements

8″ | If you’re in a snowier climate, you might consider the higher boot. I personally think the six inches feel more comfortable and hit my leg at a better point, but you definitely get more pant coverage with the eight inchers!

You may be familiar with Your LL Bean Boyfriend on Tumblr.  It was created by a fellow Mainer, Liz Pride and is hilarious.  She pulls photos from the LL.Bean catalogs and creates dialogue with them as though it is your ideal man saying something dreamy.  It is something Gus and I particularly enjoy, because of these L.L.Bean connections and history.  Pretty brilliant actually.

"I just chopped more wood for the wood pile," Patrick said. "If we get snowed in, we’re prepared."

I just chopped more wood for the wood pile,” Patrick said. “If we get snowed in, we’re prepared.”

Before I’d even woken up, Liam had already raked the yard and was in his workshop refurbishing some chairs for his parents. I brought him out some coffee to reward his hard work and he took me into his arms. “You’re all the reward I need,” he whispered. 

Before I’d even woken up, Liam had already raked the yard and was in his workshop refurbishing some chairs for his parents. I brought him out some coffee to reward his hard work and he took me into his arms. “You’re all the reward I need,” he whispered. 

"Let’s go check out the foliage by the river trail," Mitchell said. "We can pick up some apple cider doughnuts to take with us too."

 “Let’s go check out the foliage by the river trail,” Mitchell said. “We can pick up some apple cider doughnuts to take with us too.”

I see now that Liz is doing a female take on the award winning, Your LL Bean Boyfriend, with Your LL Bean Girlfriend…”She’ll serve you pancakes with the maple syrup she tapped herself. Can’t beat that.”  I think these Bean Boots move me a couple steps closer to fitting the profile of Gus’ LL Bean Wife… Here’s hoping!

Happy Fall!

PS:  If a buyer from L.L.Bean reads this, please know that my LL Bean husband would do practically anything for you to make Bean Boots in a size 16.  Pretty, pretty please…

1st Day of School Oatmeal Cookies

Well, it happened.  The first day of kindergarten has arrived and the world appears to still be turning.  All seems okay!  The boy will come home in a few hours and we will have some homemade cookies to greet him.  It may be real, or imagined, but I believe I was greeted with these same cookies when I was in school.   This is not a complicated or secret recipe, by any means, but it is worth remembering!  It is the Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies on the inside of the Quaker Oats container.  We’re not raisin fans in this house, so we sub in some Ghiradelli Milk Chocolate Chips instead.  Hopefully, it will be just the taste of home that our kindergartener needs after his first day!

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Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies

yield: about 4 dozen

1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 6 tablespoons butter, softened

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups Quaker Oats (quick or old fashioned uncooked)

1 cup raisins (or chocolate chips)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In large bowl, beat butter and sugars on medium speed of electric mixer until creamy.

Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.

Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 8-10 minutes or until light golden brown.  Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack.  Cool completely.  Store tightly covered.

Book Bags and Goldilocks

Can you smell the pencils being sharpened?  Yep, it’s that season again.  The start of school is around the corner.  This always brings feelings of excitement and nostalgia for me.  Have you done your back-to-school preparations yet?  We’re part-way there, but I got distracted when a custom request for a preschool book bag came my way.  Then I realized that Duncan could use a little newness to start his year off right!

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My quest for the perfect “preschool book bag” has been a bit like Goldilocks searching for the perfect chair:

too big… too small… just right…

Last year’s bags (Book Bag Fever) got the boys through the year, but improvements were needed.  As time wore on and washings were necessary, the bags required some maintenance and a few of the fabrics didn’t hold up as nicely as I would have liked.

Lessons learned…

  1. I’ve brushed up on my tote-making skills this year with a few amazing classes at make*do*mend, a wonderful sewing studio in Ballard, run by the lovely and talented Keli Faw.  First, Keli is wonderful – she is just someone you want to know.  I guarantee you will want to move in to the comfortable and hip crafting space Keli has created!  If you are in the Seattle area and curious about sewing – take an intro class!  Or, if you already sew, but want a little community – go to their open sewing times!
  2. My favorite bag from last year’s selection was the Kokka Elephants, so I learned that using a little heavier weight fabric works a bit better than quilting cottons for an unlined tote.  It happens that the fabric I am using this year is also a Kokka fabric that I purchased last year without a clear plan in mind, but look for any home decor weight fabric, or canvas.
  3. Handles were another source of frustration.  I didn’t love how my fabric handles became wrinkly over the course of the year.  A much better solution is cotton webbing for a durable and attractive handle.
  4. And lastly, thank goodness for Pinterest, where my friend, Adriane, happened to pin a fantastic simple tote tutorial by Purl Bee.  Purl Bee has a tutorial for The 20-minute Tote that just might be “preschool book bag” perfection (as well as many other uses)!  I love this tutorial.  Although it took me a little longer than 20-minutes, the instructions are clear and all worked according to plan!

I’m really excited to think we’ve got a winner to start Duncan’s preschool year off just right.  Duncan is excited because his new school bag is blue and has “race cars”.  Thankfully my preschool age audience isn’t too picky (about some things at least)!

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Cama Bay Camping

Summer.  Camping.  Time away from the pressures of home.  No television or cell phones.  Real quality family time.  S’mores, camp fires, nature in abundance…  Really, what’s not to love?

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Well, I will admit I am a reluctant camper. More specifically, I love camping in my mind’s eye, in theory, and in the planning stage. And, to be fair, it does always end up being fun.  The awkward stage for me happens somewhere between setting the plan and the time when I relax enough to realize we are all going to be covered in dirt and that is totally okay. Can you relate?

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Recently, we had an experience that far exceeded my expectations of camping. The spot is a well-kept secret that I feel so excited to have discovered. I even debated a bit about sharing it with you…

We went to Cama Bay State Park on Camano Island and I am hooked!

I want to go back every year. I want to call now to reserve our next ten years of camping trips (not allowed, unfortunately). This in and of itself is different for me. Usually camping is fun, but I am not ready to sign up for more camping immediately upon our return to civilization. (Let me be clear that at this point, the camping we are doing as a family of five with children under the age of six is definitely “car camping”.) We do not pack lightly enough to attempt anything more adventurous than this. But, even with all this in mind, Cama Bay hits a very sweet spot!

First off, Camano Island is a 90-minute drive from Seattle – no ferry schedule required. Once you have arrived, there is a shuttle service that brings you and your stuff down to the waterfront (for us this meant multiple Rubbermaid totes, copious amounts of bedding in Ikea blue bags, large cooler of food, friend’s paddle board, etc… ). There are no cars allowed at the campsite. This is a wonderful feature once you have gotten settled.  Camping occurs in small rustic cabins that were built as a 1930s-era Puget Sound fishing resort. There are amenities such as electricity and running water, but no heat.  The website describes Cama Bay as a “time capsule” experience and I can’t think of a more apt description. The location is absolutely lovely and feels relatively untouched by time. We felt so far away, not only in location, but in time.

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Our cabin was right at the edge of the beach, which made this event feel even more like a vacation (clearly not how I would typically describe camping). Once settled, there was also very little schlepping. This definitely added to our overall feeling of relaxation. The kids spent the entire weekend in their swimsuits, exploring the beach. We discovered shells and wishing rocks aplenty.  We created our own play structures with driftwood.  We tested our comfort zones with a caterpillar colony.  Because of the beach, it wasn’t even that dirty! There were loads of families present and it truly felt more like “summer camp” than “camping”.

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We had an amazing weekend at Cama Bay. The weather was spectacular. The company was fantastic. The memories are forever. And I’ll be calling in 3 months to book our time for next year. I encourage you to do the same.

Happy exploring!

A Look Back

Things are a bit crazy right now!  It is the first week of summer for the kiddos and things are also getting busier with Poole Party Designs!  I have been spending a lot of time at the sewing machine and it makes me think back to what was going on a year ago!

Here is a look back at some of my favorite moments from June 2012:

1.  We were celebrating the upcoming birth of a good friend’s baby:  Inspiration

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2.  School was coming to an end and my thoughts were on how to document time:  Holding A Memory

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3.  My baby was still spitting up and the Poole Party Burp Cloths were born:  Product Testing

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Time can feel like it goes by quickly, yet look how much has happened!!

Happy Summer!!