Ten Blogging Years

Hello Blog Friends– This August marks my tenth year of typing away on this blog.  Really it’s more of a scrapbook of recipes and thoughts I want to hang on to.

I’ve been thinking for a while that I would use this anniversary to close the site down.  Life is full. And there are so many things I want to give more time to–people we love and projects we never seem to get done!

But when I then I thought about now much I would miss it–especially keeping in touch with old and new blog friends (that means you– Lacey, Mollie, Kat, Marcia, Daisy, Suzanne, Lisa, Mary, Carol, Lilly, Cindy, Brigid, Vero, Ursula and Susie!!)

So I’m cutting back to once a week– less recipes, more of life and faith and family.  I think that will fit just fine.

And to mark the happy event of Ten Blogging Years, I thought I’d link to my favorite posts (just click on the blue letters to link through):



Chocolate Cream Cake with Ganache Frosting

Creamy Lemon Parmesan Chicken

Books & Breakfast– A Morning with Friends

Beef Barley Soup

Swedish Pancakes with Blueberry Sauce

Bacon Ranch Potato Salad

Moroccan Spiced Chicken with Apricot Couscous

Overnight Orange Rolls




True Home


My Notebook

Rethinking Christmas


Aging Well




Christmas With the Crew 2015

Wonderful Woodsy Wisconsin Wedding Weekend

Good Times in Big Bear

Grammy Camp 2017

Cambria with Kids

Sweet Times in San Francisco

On Being A Mom




Booklist Page (Notations of books I’ve read the last 3 years)

Five Favorite Children’s Books!

At Home in the World (& Other Travel Books)

Books For A Special Baby

30 Years of Books (Lit Group favorites)

Favorite Books (October 2009)




Family Trek Through the Sequoias!

Beautiful Kyoto

Vancouver Days

Wet Market in Lijang China

Lunch in Paris

San Francisco with the Grand-Girls (or Fun in SF with kids!)

Wisconsin Part #2– Off to the North Woods!!


Whew! That’s a whole lot of posts.  It wasn’t easy narrowing down to very favorites!!  And if you, by chance, are still reading this overwrought posting– thank you!!  It’s been a joy to send out posts for the last ten years to dear people like you.  I remain thankful.


Simple Christmas

IMG_6375Hi there– A friend asked me to give a little seminar a couple weeks ago.  My topic– Simplifying Christmas.  So, first thing, I googled just that.  And you’d be astonished how many people have written on Simple Christmas!!  So I gathered up ideas from here and there and here’s a just a few I found to make Christmas a little simpler and most of all, more meaningful:

#1.  It starts with a budget.  I read that 2/3 of American families have no idea exactly how much they spend on Christmas.  Decide how much you want to spend on each area of Christmas (gifts, decorations, entertaining, meals, cards, donations travel…) and keep totals as you go.  Then stick to it (the hard part)!

#2. And budget your time as well.  Open your calendar early on and budget how you really want to spend those precious December days. I read about one family who finished shopping, baking decorating… by December 13th and then went on to spend  the “12 days of Christmas” enjoying a simpler quieter Christmas time together…

#3.  Take a pre-Christmas family survey.  Around the table, or by email, ask your family, “What 3 things make it a good Christmas for you? What could we skip and not miss? What should we change?”  Last Christmas I realized I did not actually have to bake 12 kinds of Christmas cookies, so I emailed my kids and asked which they’d like to see in the kitchen when they came home– and just baked up their favorites. Better!

#4. Can you be the brave one in the family to suggest drawing names or just buying gift for children?  Saves time, shopping anxiety and money!

#5.  Give events as gifts, not things in boxes– for example:  craft pamphlet for a January “Girl’s Day” out with your mom and sisters, or plan an individual date with a grandchild.  How about a January scrapbook date with kids to chronicle 2014?  Or tickets to the zoo, a museum, bowling, the movies…  Last year for Christmas we invited our kids to a February dinner at Bar Jules and a night at the SF symphony– great fun! (and no gift shopping or wrapping involved!)

#6. With our extended family–we pass a basket and  in lieu of gifts everyone can slip in some cash to send to World Vision to buy a donkey for a family in need in another country, to buy mosquito nets, a flock of ducks or vaccinations for children–or to send $35 it takes for a child in a third world country to go to school…

#7.  While you wrap up gifts for friends and family, take a minute to pray for that person as you tape up the package and tie the bow…

#8.  I love Elizabeth Elliot’s idea to save the gifts until Epiphany (King’s Day) –January 6th and keep the focus on the real meaning of the day on Christmas.

#9.  Keep wrapping supplies tucked in a shopping bag. Pull it out and wrap as you bring gifts home.  Don’t save them all for a Christmas Eve wrap-a-thon!

#10. To decorate the house– don’t shop!  Use what you have.  And if you just need  fresh Christmas things, invite friends to coffee along with their used Christmas items and have a decoration exchange!

#11. Cut greenery from your yard (it doesn’t have to be pine, any green is pretty)– and spread it around to decorate.  I planted a holly bush a few years back so I could trim it and bring those shiny leaves and red berries into the house in December.

#12.  Decorate your coffee table with a stack of colorful children’s Christmas books– Don’t buy them– hit the library!  ( This comes in handy for cozy times with kids in the house)

#13.  Limit the space you allow for Christmas storage (like my smallish upper hall cupboard)– so if you get something new– you have to throw something away to make it all fit.

#14.  Instead of the time and expense of Christmas cards to 100 people– send 5 handwritten notes to the ones you love the most.  Or just send a photo-laden Christmas email out.  Or opt for Thanksgiving cards,  a New Year’s letter or Valentines!!!– to stay in touch with people you care for.

#15.  Feeding people is one of my favorite parts of Christmas!! But sometimes the simplest meals are the best.  A friend went through a difficult divorce one Christmas time.  All she had on hand for Christmas Eve supper for her and the kids was cans of Clam Chowder.  But the next year, remembering that dear time together, they decided to do the same– and now it’s become their tradition.  My family lived in Spain for 12 years, so Christmas night after all the hub-bub is past, the girls and I set out simple tapas on the coffee table by the fire place.  It’s my favorite Christmas time meal.

#16. If you must throw a big Christmas party– make it pot luck!!  Let everyone chip in.  Or save the party time with friends for New Year’s Eve or a Super Bowl soup-fest when life isn’t so busy.

#17.  Allow your self to gain 2 pounds over the holidays so you don’t anguish over every bite you take.  January’s privations are around the corner!

#18.  Christmas carols– play them at home, in the car, at work… They are free and simple and set your heart to the joy of Christmas!

#19.  Set out the nativity scene together as the first part of your Christmas– I read of one family that wrapped all the nativity figures in Christmas paper and set them at the dinner table.  Then each person unwrapped their figure, explained who/what it was and placed it in the stable.

#20. Celebrate Advent with your family– each Sunday until Christmas– or, if you’re not altogether until the week of Christmas, read and sing and light the candles all in one day.  Here’s a link to an advent idea:  Christmas Advent

#21. Simple tradition– Have Grandfather or perhaps the oldest grandchild read the Christmas story from Luke 2 before you open your gifts.

#21.  As your gift to Jesus this Christmas, memorize a bit of scripture– Luke 2:8-14 (the Angels announcing to the shepherds) or Isaiah 9:6 & 7 (For unto us a child is born…) or sections of Psalm 86 (my favorite Psalm of devotion)

#23.  With your extended family have a Christmas Night Talent Show!– our line up in the past included– 5 red nosed family members whistling Rudolph!  Silly Christmas poems, the arrival of the world’s skinniest Santa, “What Child is This?” solo on the flute by a 9 year old, the 12 Days of Christmas rewritten to poke fun at family members, and the Nativity Tableau of little cousins all dressed in bathrobes and sheets (great for photos!).

#24. Just sit and watch your family.  That’s who you are doing this all for– Skip basting the turkey again, leave the dishes in the sink.  Just sit. And watch the kids explore a new Christmas toy, study the curve of their cheek, watch your older kids sit and talk over cups of coffee, your mom cut into the chocolate pie, your husband carry in a load of fire wood.  Be present with the people that you love.

#25.  Read through the book of Luke as your own personal Advent.  There are 24 chapters, one for each day leading up to Christmas.  Jesus the newborn babe, the child, the man, the Savior…

As you make your Christmas plans– ask yourself– Does this make Christmas more meaningful for my family?  Does it add joy, not stress to the holiday?  Does it honor the Lord we are celebrating?

Hoping you and your family have a warm and wonderful Christmas time together– simple and beautiful– with lots of hugs, chuckles and good food!

Food Faves in Chicago

IMG_1554Hello there– Did I mention what a wonderful week I shared with our Laurel in Chicago?? (of course I did!)– We’ll here’s a little P.S. to that previous post.  Wanted to tell you a few of the great things to eat that you can find in Chicago…

IMG_1550     10553462_10100749314434860_6510726160228527300_nLaurel knows I’m a sucker for Cute Coffee Shops– so the first morning we headed over to “Lovely: a bake shop,” and settled into their homey old fashioned space for some moist fragrant scones and the cutest (yep, cute!) pots of tea.

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IMG_1632     IMG_1639We spent one entire afternoon wandering through the shelves of Eataly, Mario Batali’s two story Italian goods store– so much glorious food!  And it provides several spots to set yourself down to a lovely meal  (and that’s exactly what we did for a charcuterie lunch at the mozzarella bar).  The bottom-right photo is a gnocchi maker at work…

IMG_1787      IMG_1786 Of course, in Chicago, having a hot dog at a neighborhood place is a must.  One evening after a long session of painting/furniture construction in Laurel’s new apartment we walked down to Chopper’s– and a late supper along with a whole fleet of Chicago policemen who seemed to like this place as well.

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IMG_0437     IMG_0435One warm evening found us sitting out on the patio at Mott Street Restaurant.  How can I describe this place?  It’s small plates to share like tapas, but ingredients and tastes borrowed in from various cultures–   Loved the pork stuffed cabbage with kimchi & sticky rice. Pictured:  bread with pickled red onion & cranberries + kale butter — and wok cooked Brussel sprouts with pancetta, maple brown butter and peanuts)

IMG_1595     IMG_1596We made a quick stop, as we came out of the blue line train, at Stan’s Donuts.  It was a terrible decision– blueberry fritters or nutella stuffed donuts… but we landed on a “pocket donut” stuffed with bananas and peanut butter and covered with chocolate.  Oh my!

IMG_1597Thanks Laurel Kate for being my resourceful eating buddy–I’m looking forward to more comestible adventures ahead with you!

To Market, to Market

Hi all–  When we travel to new places, I’m happy to admit I’m a real tourist– love those museums, monuments, scenic views…  But the place I really love to tuck into is a grocery shop!  As much as I adore the Louvre, it feels like you get a better idea daily Parisian life wandering into the cheese shops and bakeries of the Marais.  All that glorious food.

And trips to visit kids in San Francisco are usually peppered with stops for food.  Here’s my SF “faves.”

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IMG_7388     IMG_2136Small and bright, a fixture in SanFrancisco, Bi Rite Market is a wonderland of beautiful food.  Their annexes across the street include a shop scooping out house made ice cream (roasted banana–exquisite!) and an event space with all kinds of cooking workshops. The friendly lady in the bottom left photo, is sharing free citrus salad samples.  yum.



IMG_1460     IMG_1436We’ve spent a couple of bountiful mornings at the Farmers Market scattered all around the Ferry Building– Booth after booth of luscious produce and if you duck inside the Ferry Building itself, you can tuck some Cowgirl Creamery cheeses and Acme bread into your shopping bag.

IMG_2944     IMG_2941If If you’re loading up for a friendly little picnic lunch– at the park or even at home sitting around the coffee table, Salumeria is chock full of treats for just that kind of meal– beautiful cheese, sliced meats, fruity flavored mustards, homemade preserves.  You can order take out sandwiches  or eat them there on the patio.

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IMG_6348This winter in the Mission, we wandered by the Local Mission Market.  I just had to peek in and found the most beautifully curated grocery shop ever.  Exceptional produce, study bread, a mix your own vinegar counter that looked a bit like a chemists shop.  Every little jar was tidily labeled.  So stylish!

Food glorious food–  Writing this us is making me want to grab by grocery list and set out to shop…

Food “Faves” in San Francisco

416909_10150594715521592_1935116286_nHello friends– Back from a food-fillled week in San Francisco, up to see our kids.  And Eat.  That’s what we do best.  So here are some of our favorites…

IMG_3954     3897032237_c698b70c0c_zHere’s a sweet little quail with a peach loaded salad at Bar Jules (pictured above).  And a warming bowl of noodles and pork from our dinner at “Yummy Yummy” Vietnamese, when we met up with my niece Andrea and her Paul.

IMG_4066     IMG_4070Monday morning I took a sunny 5 hour walk– with plenty of eating/reading stops along the way.  I sat in Peasant Pies and nibbled on this adorable little pear/blueberry pie while I poured over my book.

IMG_4099     IMG_4111On our “girls day out and about in the city” Ani and I lunched over fish tacos and beef flautas with the most imaginative salsas at Tropisueno.  Later we sat overlooking the city at Samovar for tea/Chai and scones.  I couldn’t resist ordering the chai.  It was described on the menu like this– “India grannies come here for our Chai and say it’s better than what they make at home!!”

8618750504_62592af1c6     IMG_4197One noontime Aaron drove us over to the Mission neighborhood for pastrami and ruben sandwiches and Wise Sons Delicatessen.  It felt like sitting in New York 40 years ago.
I loved it.

l     IMG_4313We dropped into the Woolly Pig Cafe for sandwiches– pork belly, tuna with wasabi…  and carried them off to Golden Gate Park to sit in the sun and watch Harry the dog run to his hearts content.  Another lunch found us at the Taco shop for, what else?, tacos! and this cheesy, spicy “Elote” (corn on the cob).

IMG_4266     IMG_4268Sat over a lively dinner at the Biergarten in Hayes Valley– long communal tables loaded with beer steins, sausages and pretzel treats.  We opted for the the banana, hazelnut spread pretzel for our (first) dessert.

IMG_4273     IMG_4279After we strolled by “Schulzies Bread Pudding” shop, I couldn’t get if off my mind.  (It’s like the bread pudding of Yogurtlands– 12 flavors of bread pudding with all the toppings you could want.)  So I dragged Ani and Brian back after our dinner for some warm toffee bread pudding with with chocolate sauce, caramel and toffee bits.  oh my!  Saturday morning we ambled on down to Trouble Coffee for their famous toast.  From the funky decor, to the driftwood seating, to the heavily tatooed waitress.  It’s a decidedly SF kind of coffee place.

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A stop at the “Off the Grid” food trucks found us at the Kogi Kitchen truck– Sandwiches of short ribs, grilled beef or spicy chicken (the one you see here) layered between two “buns” made of roasty rice.  So tasty and you feel a bit like you should be eating them from a bowl with chopsticks.  San Francisco in August is foggy jacket, kind of weather!  So out and about I tried my share of hot chocolates.  I sat with this yummy cup from Specialty’s with my book for q quiet half hour mid day.  (They have great wheaty cookies too!)  So that’s it.  We ate our way across San Francisco–thanks to the best eating buddies ever–Brian, Ani, Aaron and Jessica.

Fun Food Finds in Chicago

IMG_0423Hello all– Last week in Chicago visiting our girl Laurel, we couldn’t help but run across food galore.  Here are some of our fun faves!

IMG_0497     IMG_0420Photos:  above–lemon lavender sandwich cookie from Milk & Honey.  Breakfast oatmeal at Swim Cafe.  Smoked gouda and Avocado on homemade wheaty bread at Milk & Honey.

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Photos:  Thick spanish chocolate and hot churros at Xoco.  Bowls of silky noodles with with beef and veggies at Penny’s.

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Photos:  Vegan “chicken”with kale, tofu with veggies and bright vegan tacos at Native Foods.  Leek and tomato breakfast bread pudding at Swim Cafe.

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Photos:  Cubs game bratwurst at Wrigley Field.  Crazy big cannoli stuffed with smaller cannolis at D’amata’s Bakery.

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Photos:  Take away box of fast food Chinese buns– whole wheat & edamame, teriyaki chicken, mongolian beef, bar-b-que pork, chocolate banana!  –from Bao Wow (love the name as much as the buns!)  Grainy-nutty morning pancakes from Filter Coffee Shop.

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Photos:  Banana bread french toast with Foster sauce and candied banana and sugared pecans.  Chilliaquilles with chicken and scrambled eggs, topped with guacamole & queso fresco.  Both for brunch at Prasino.

We loved you Chicago, every delicious calorie, every nibble.  Thanks for all the good eating there Laurel!

Wet Market in Lijang, China

Our first morning in Lijang, we set off with my sister Luanne to the “wet market,” through winding alleyways to stall after stall of — fruits and vegetables, meat and spices…

First stop, the herb counter for Lulu to pick up a small bag of lavender.

There were so many vegetables I had never met before.  I’d like to buy a basket full and take them to a Chinese friend to cook up for us…

There were dozens and dozens of varieties of dried and fresh mushrooms, some fungi as big as my head!

We browsed past the copper smith’s stalls– rows of beautifully burnished pots and ladles,

…and on by the potter’s tables of pitchers and pots.

There were varieties of fruit, familiar and brand new to me.

And I studied tables of bright peppers and every color of pickled vegetables.

There were eggs, hen, duck and quail…

Fresh meat and all kinds of cooked fowl…

Midday even the vendors stopped for a bit of lunch as they tended their stalls.

We took home a small bag of these– just to find out what they were.  The thick peel comes off to reveal little slimy while globes, tasting a bit like super juicy strawberries.

It was a fine, full morning ambling through the market with my Mom and sis.  A feast for the eyes as well as the shopping basket.