The Little Toaster That Sparkles

Although am v. addicted to and inspired by decorating blog Young House Love, own decorating style departs from their "sheik artsy urban thrifters" in a kind of "tribal meets steampunk meets urban minimalist" deviation (or as one college friend put it, "barefoot version of Pottery Barn"). This little project probably represents both styles, as have become addicted to my ORB (oil rubbed bronze) spray paint!

Self was studying some mechanics the other night around midnight, when suddenly realized should immediately spray paint toaster! See, when ourselves married, we arranged our Seattle-ite kitchen in bright red appliances, dishclothes, etc. This worked happily, since kitchen probably gathered all of Seattle's sunshine into its large realm every day. However, in our new Norman House, pocket kitchen has zero windows to outside, and as such does not resemble sun-drenched realm of bright glee. When ourselves remodeled kitchen this year, decided to strategically infer space by using palette of lighter colours.

Soo, has happened that the little red toaster became last (visible) piece of red in kitchen. You can see it here from a former set of photos about caulking around ceiling:

Have been puzzling over what to do with toaster. Sell? Buy new toaster? Move it to campus and replace? BUT turns out, after some digging, found that is nice toaster and replacement would probably end up being cheaper, less satisfyingly toastable version. Ergh. Do love a good toast. What to do. Live with red? But is so bright and jarring on kitchen-eyes!

Soo spray painting might be perfect answer! (Since self has learned about oil-rubbed bronze spray paint from Young House Love, do habitual squints around house peering over what could possibly spray paint with stuff.) Promptly took toaster apart, down to circuit board:

...proceeded to spray paint outer red shell of toaster (outside on back porch to minimize fumage!) (note: forgot white balance in first few photos, thus slight yellow tinge) (also note: yes is wine glass behind toaster helping self spray paint at small hours of morning):

Woke up early this morning, v. excited to put toaster back together. Machine was surprisingly docile at being re-allocated into its former self, and - ta da!

Ahh. So - coordinative. Look at how gently it smiles against the background.

Yum. Can see still need to add another outlet behind fridge still to hide fridge cord, but kitchen is getting finished!

Oh yes, and husband's response? Self showed toaster, excitedly exhibiting Vanna White Behavior. Husband: "what happened to the toaster?! ...hmm, you have steam-punked it." So, husband likes it too.

Wonder, have really steampunked it? Might have the two black knobs spray painted antique brass and sitting next to self right now, drying...might.

(Note: Some spray paints are flammable and should be used with caution to avoid blowing up kitchen. To avoid such blowing up, made sure that the outer metal that wanted to paint does not heat up when making toast. Also, sprayed outside, and made sure to let dry for 24+ hours before use. And always have extinguisher handy! Thanks to husband. :) )



Salmon and Grill-Roasted Sweet Corn Salad

Before Husband and I moved away from Seattle, his family came to visit us, and as a host present they gave us a book of salmon recipes that I'd seen in every gift shop in Seattle and had been drooling over (literally, I would stand in the shop and try to memorize a recipe...). It's called Salmon: A Cookbook, by Diane Morgan:

We've only made a few of the recipes, for some reason that I don't know, because every time we try a new one it is delectable and makes us feel we are back in the PNW! *mouth watering at thought*

One latest favorite recipe is the following, for Salmon and Grill-Roasted Sweet Corn Salad!

(serves 4)
3 ears fresh corn
3 tablespoons olive oil

4 salmon fillets (about 5oz each), skin on if possible
kosher or sea salt
fresh ground pepper
olive oil for brushing

6 cups (about 4.5 oz) lightly p
acked mixed baby greens or spinach
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, halved lengthwise, cored, cut into paper-thin wedges
1/3rd red onion, cut into paper-thin wedges
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes
1/4th cup minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

2 tablespoons rice vinegar
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
fresh ground pepper

To prepare the corn, peel back the husk without removing it, remove the silk, brush corn with olive oil, and re-cover the corn with the husk (twist the top of husks to close).

Brush salmon with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper.

When grill is hot, brush grill with olive oil. Place salmon (skin side up if it has skin) directly over medium-hot flames. Arrange corn on grill. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes. Turn both salmon and corn, cover and cook again, about another 4 minutes or till salmon is almost opaque but still moist. Remove salmon and s
et aside (or put on upper shelf in grill). Turn corn once more and cook for another 2 minutes or so, then remove from grill.

When corn is cool enough to touch, remove husks, and cut corn kernels off cob.

In a large bowl, toss the greens, fennel, onion, tomatoes, parsley, chives, and corn kernels. Combine the dressing in a separate little bowl a
nd then add to the salad, tossing lightly.

Arrange the salad on plates and place a salmon fillet in the center, on top of the salad. Serve immediately.

Yum! Also I should note that this recipe seems very flexible - I've substituted different onion combinations, balsamic vinegar for rice vinegar, a chopped regular tomato in place of cherry tomatoes, dried herbs instead of fresh, added some grilled zucchini cut up into the salad - basically whatever I have on hand that looks like it would work.

And to finish this post, I also have a quick snapshot of some bread that Himself and I decided to make last Saturday night. His is swirled inside with olive oil, pimento-stuffed olives, and has sea salt sprinkled on top. Mine has pesto and grated cheese (asiago, parmesan, mozzarella and ramano) inside, with some grated cheese sprinkled on top. Yums!



Yum Yums

Self didn't used to care much about calories, but with the amount of sporting David and I do these days, it really helps to operate at prime. Also, have you noticed how amazing it feels to fuel self on lots of veggies and fruits?! And with all the running that I'm doing now, it really makes a difference to eat mostly veggies, fruits, whole grains and a few lean meats! Actually we are thinking that we might start deserving the label of "flexitarians"...mostly vegetarians with the occasional meat. Haha. (Although have also found wicked great recipe for single serving brownie made in microwave...totally amazing...maybe in a future post?)

So! David's and my healthy culinary inquiries continue (mostly my testing and his tasting), including tonight a lovely potato and leek gratin! Thanks so much for asking for recipes; I've promised to post some recipes, including my nearing-perfection granola bar recipe! So here they are finally! The best thing about these recipes, in my opinion, is that besides being delicious, they are v. healthy, full of veggies and/or nuts/seeds, and excellent light fares for summer. :)

1. Creamy Chicken and Spinach Enchiladas
1 1/2 cups chicken breast, cooked and chopped
10 oz (1 1/4 cup) greek yogurt, plain and fat free
4 cups spinach
1 T. chopped chives or green onions
2 T. whole wheat flour
1 T. ground cumin
2 t. chili powder
1 t. salt
1/2 cup soy milk
1 sweet red pepper
7 tortillas (low carb high fiber)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar
1 chopped tomato
3 sliced mushrooms
1 avocado, chopped, for topping

(Preheat oven to 375 deg F.)
1. In a medium sized saucepan, cook fresh spinach with a small amount of water, covered, for 5 minutes on medium-high heat.
2. In a large bowl, combine cooked chicken, spinach, green onions or chives, tomato, red pepper, and mushrooms (green chili peppers would be a great addition!). Mix well and set aside.
3. In another bowl, combine yogurt, flour, cumin and salt. Add milk and jalapeƱo pepper and mix well.
4. Pour half the sauce into the chicken and spinach mixture and mix well. Divide the filling among the tortillas. Fold opposite ends of a tortilla up about 1 inch over filling then fold the left and right sides over the folded end, overlapping.
5. Place filled tortillas, seam sides down on an ungreased rectangular baking dish.
6. Spoon remaining sauce over the tortillas and bake, uncovered, in a 350° F oven for about 20 minutes or until heated through.
7. Top with salsa, chives, avocado as desired and serve.

Makes 7-8 well-filled tortillas! Yumm!
(To make it a bit creamier, you could substitute some sour cream for some of the greek yogurt.)

2. (Almost) Perfected Honey and Nut Granola Bars
3 cups old fashioned oats
1/3 cup wheat flour
3 T. flax (ground)
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup peanuts
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1/3 cup craisins
1/4 cup coconut
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup soy milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

(Preheat oven to 350deg F.)
1. Mix all dry ingredients together. You can omit the wheat flour to make it gluten free. If you want a chewier texture to your bars, take one T. of the flax, mix it in 2 T. water and let rest while you do the rest of the ingredients. Mix the flax/water mixture in at the end.
2. Heat the honey for 20 sec or so and mix it in along with the syrup and other wet ingredients. Stir well.
3. Spray a 9x13 pan lightly with olive oil or no stick. Press the mixture into the pan. A spatula helps. ;) A trick I use at this point is to line the pan with foil and then spray the edges. This way when the bars are done, I can lift them all out by lifting out the foil.
4. Cut the mixture in the pan into bars of the size that you want. This is tricky because they might still be crumbly, but you can push them together with your fingers to help.
5. Bake bars for about 25min at 350deg F.
6. Soon after you take bars out (while they are still warm), finish cutting them (either in the pan or if you used foil, pull out the bars and put them still on the foil on a cutting board, and work there). You can still push them together a bit if they crumble, if they are still warm.
7. Let the bars cool completely. If you used the flax/water mixture, you might want to stick in oven for 5-10 more minutes.
8. For storage/portability I like to wrap them in plastic wrap.

Yum! Enjoy!
Makes 12 bars of 200 cal (6x2 in pan) or 24 bars of 93 cal (8x3 in pan).

Disclaimer: I've found granola bars can be hard to make stick together well without getting more chewy than crunchy! It's kind of an art that you get better at as you practice. I like crunchy texture, so I work hard to make the drier mixture work. If it's your first time use the flax/water. You could also add another 1/4 cup of syrup, and/or chop up dates for added "glue". (I still want to try that!) You can always dry out the bars from chewy to crunchy by letting bake longer - just remember that they get crunchier as they cool. Don't let them get brown in the oven. :)

Number of Servings: 24

3. Potato and Leek Gratin
Can't resist including this yummy new one we found tonight! The huge plus with this recipe is only one leek (some of the gratins call for 2-3! That is a lot), low calorie impact but still natural and creamy, and shorter cooking time (because of pre-cooking the potatoes). I don't like the gratins that look like scalloped potatoes. :) (Although I do like scalloped potatoes.) One could double the milk and flour to make this recipe creamier. Also there's lots of possibility for improv by adding spinach, and using a more interesting cheese, like gruyere or blue cheese...yum!!

1 leek, finely chopped
3-4 medium potatoes, cut up
1 cup soy milk (I use soy for lactose intolerant husband)
2 T. whole wheat flour
1/2 onion, chopped
1/3 cup shredded cheese
3/4 cup bread crumbs

(Preheat oven to 375deg F.)

Cut up potatoes and boil them for about ten minutes or until they break when you poke them with a fork. While these are boiling, chop up the leek and onion. Heat the oil in skillet/pan, and saute the leeks and onions for about 5 minutes.

When the potatoes are done, drain them. To add some taste but also calories, you could add some butter/milk to the potatoes at this point and smash them up a bit. I just smashed them a bit with a fork.

In a sauce pan (I used my potato pan once they were done), heat the milk, add the flour and spices/salt/pepper, and stir vigorously with a fork while it thickens. When thickened, pour over leeks/onions and stir together (off the heat).

Now spray casserole dish (9x13) with olive oil or nostick spray. Spread 1/4 cup bread crumbs in bottom of dish. Spread half the potatoes into a layer in the dish. Add half the leeks/onions/white sauce. Sprinkle with most of the cheese. Repeat layers with rest of potatoes, leek mix, and cheese. Top with the rest of the bread crumbs. Bake at 375 deg F for about 45 min. Yum!!

Number of Servings: 8


marrow of life and adrenaline

Well, as everyone hopefully knows by now, it's official: we are moving to Oklahoma in the fall to start PhD programs in Physics! We are excited: sometimes a euphoric fervor of excitement, but usually a more deep, settled happy anticipation: we are embarking on a challenging but worthwhile course that will try our mettle and stretch our brains, like fulfilling jobs in the course of our chosen careers. Surprisingly, I think that we will enjoy Oklahoma (and definitely Switzerland!) in this phase of our lives. Oklahoma will have simple enjoyments, good weather, friendly people, a great department, research opportunities...and our first house! That's right, we are taking the plunge and buying our first house. It is CHEAP in Oklahoma! Our future first owned house together is a cute two bedroom house with character and wood floors, in walking distance of the important things in life, like our physics department and the downtown of Norman with an organic market and local brewery (unfortunately Mennonite church is not in walking distance of campus, but we have found M. churches to try out!).

But I actually did not begin this post to tell you about Oklahoma. In our decision to move in August, we likewise decided to wring the fullness out of northwest life this summer! Already we have commenced with enjoying good friends, camping and hiking, and general recreation, and this weekend we continued with a camping trip to Lake Wenatchee and bouldering (rock climbing) nearby! Although our friends wimped out from coming because of some wind, we tend to enjoy each others' company ;) and so had a lovely time. The lake was beautiful for camping - can see why it gets busy in the heart of summer - and bouldering, a sport at which we are just beginning, wore out our limbs and strength in enjoyment. Self even got in a bit of trail running when we realized David left his sunglasses at the ridge of one of the bouldering sites and self ran back up to get them.

Lake Wenatchee, in the early morning sunshine, not far from campsite:

A rainbow from early morning rain stretched across the mountain lake...

The fearless adventurer starts the morning with some hot cocoa!


We didn't take many pictures...in this one I don't seem to be far off the ground yet, but there I am having fun ;)

...Self is still working on technique...and that is chalk bag hanging off waist.

This was a great climb at "Underwear rock" at the Sword! We both summited this mossy face.

Himself wanders away from top side to find new challenge.

Was enjoyable weekend. Still had time to come back Saturday evening and clean up house and equipment in time for Sunday morning run (myself), church and potluck (both selves), squash game (himself) and weight lifting (myself) before dinner with friends. Is v. equanimicable that ourselves have similar keenness for activity!

Also must comment that self loves these chilly spring weeks when we have campgrounds nearly all to ourselves. Is amazing to feel isolated in what we call "The Nature" even when car camping. Feel as though have found secret for the hardy souls. Of course, camping in chilly weather is satisfying with the great gear we enjoy, having gotten great deals for most of it! Cannot resist listing our favorite gear:
- down vests keep selves warm in almost all weather (notice in pictures! found sizes at REI and then watched for deals online, amazing discounts)
- patagonia long underwear bought with birthday money (if one buys in the fall can find amazing deals online!)
- down sleeping bags that zip together!! purchased on great sale at REI, and amazing source of warmth paired with warm sleeping mats found off craigslist for fraction of original price
- lovely old tin pots from the Bertsche family that cook great over our craigslist stove, together with a water kettle found nearly brand new at value village!
- titanium sporks from REI incredibly lightweight and the only one piece of silverware each needed all weekend

It is fun when our thriftyness meets our adventure selves ;) Lately self is also working on nimble food packing, just enough for the trip, like a little bit of orange juice in glass jar. David's mum is v. good at this and I work on trying to pack food like she does. Is v. fun challenge. :o) Hurray for spring!! Hello May, we are looking forward to you.



sand and dark matter

I was talking with someone at work today about the work currently underway at the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) at CERN (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CERN) and the way that the physicists create collisions between particles. It's interesting because I have a hard time explaining the physics ideas sometimes in "real words" (layman terms) although they make sense in my head. My coworker asked how they collide the particles into each other and I think I managed something incoherent like "they use really complicated magnets". Then I said "this is where my husband would be great to have in this conversation, because he would come up with a relatable illustration that would make us feel like we understand it".

So on the way home (oh car trips of infinite interesting conversation, our co-commutes) I mentioned to him that my coworker was wondering how they make the particles run into each other, since they are so small. David said something like, "Yes, it's very interesting. they accelerate the particles, usually protons because it's hydrogen gas with the electrons stripped off, in either direction [in the big circular tube]. Then they just direct the beams, or clumps of protons, at each other in the tube, and some of the particles from each group manage to hit some in the other group. It's like if you threw two handfuls of sand in the air. Swoosh! Some would collide." Self: "It makes so much sense, of course!"

My husband, the Good Explainer. ;)




Himself and self attended a wedding last night!
Was wonderful to get in touch with some old friends, and celebrate one of himself's favorite tennis friends getting married. Also I love this picture of himself...v. dashing in the clothes we have found for him at H+M that fit him better! :) Is other story, as well as irony of self dressing in fancy tiny dress and then keeping coat on most of night because chilly. Can hardly wait for summer!
But something also funny happened at the reception...! First of all, they had a very yummiest dinner laid out - lots of fruits and veggies and some chicken skewers and rolls. I was delighted with the fruits and veggies! Especially because had squeezed in run between work and wedding so had skipped foods. Hurray for yummy edibles! Annnd they had wine that self could even sit and sip during wedding - truly lovely way of having wedding...

Also had a tier of lovely looking cupcakes for desserts. But when it came time for dessert, and himself procuring cupcake, found could not decide between cupcake and more veggies! A dilemma have never previously encountered, surely! Himself thought this hilarious and suggested self could only have more veggies if tried the asparagus. (Self abhors asparagus! Is smelly like overcooked corn and tastes of overripe brussel sprouts. Which also do not like.)

This was conundrum. Cupcake or veggies with asparagus?

In end chose veggies hoping asparagus would be gone...was not, was one left...!

Tasted quickly while himself still away from table in case needed to remove asparagus in stealth move.


Was tasty.

Not best veggie ever, but was not loath-ful.

Perhaps am getting old and losing taste buds! Experienced confusing conflation of emotions of excitement because asparagus is v. healthful veggie, would like to like, am not used to liking, is v. strange.

Himself enjoyed cupcake with amused laughter on the side.



Wallace Falls!

We did our first hike of the season this Saturday, northeast to Wallace Falls! Is beautiful area although v. busy with people this weekend. No wonder lots of people flock to it in our happy spring weather - is gorgeous nature with various trail lengths suggested! We did the 5.5 mile roundtrip hike. Here are some pictures I can't resist posting!