Saturday, December 25, 2010

Joy, Joy, Joy!

Merriam Webster's definition of JOY (verb):
to experience great pleasure or delight: rejoice!

joy glassybaby

The following description of the joy glassybaby my mom gave
me for Christmas sums it up for me:

"I am a light spread from person to person throughout the world by their kindness and smiling faces. You can hear me in the songs of choirs and see me in small children as they stir their hot chocolate beneath the falling snow."

I hope you are all enjoying the Joy of the season. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a joyful New Year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Honoring Traditions ~ New and Old

Traditions are wonderful. They evoke memories from the past, usually our childhood, and help shape new memories for the future. Traditions are especially plentiful and sacred during the holidays, but I think they are important all year long. Annual birthday celebrations with girlfriends, anniversary dinners at our favorite restaurant, fall pilgrimage to Hood River to see old friends, summer vacations in Tahoe. These are a few of my favorites. We look forward to and back at them. They imprint memories in our hearts and minds forever.

For, in fact, Webster’s definition of tradition is: “an inherited, established or customary pattern of thought, action or behavior.”

Traditions connect generations and inspire creativity. They feed my soul.

Here I share some of my family's holiday traditions. What are yours? I always love hearing new ideas.

Festival of Trees Tree Lighting and Santa Photos

Held the Sunday before Thanksgiving as a benefit for Seattle Children's Hospital, this wonderful event at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Downtown Seattle kicks off the season for us. We admire the beautifully decorated trees that are for sale for Children’s Hospital, watch the tree lighting ceremony, see old friends and have Sofia’s picture taken with Santa.

Christmas Wreath
Putting a wreath on my front door signifies it is Christmas. It usually goes up the week after Thanksgiving, around the time we get our tree. Each year, I add pretty ribbon and adornments.  This year I reused this beautiful bright green satin ribbon that came on a gift basket from a new friend and a sparkly star.

Santa Lucia Day
I dedicated a blog post to this beloved Swedish holiday that is celebrated on December 13.

Food and Feast

There is nothing like food and scents to evoke memories and traditions. My holiday favorites include:
·         Aroma of Christmas – Besides the smell of a freshly-cut Christmas tree, this warm, spicy blend of cloves, cinnamon sticks, orange and lemon, is my favorite.

·         Nuts and Bolts – aka Chex Mix (no explanation needed, YUM!)

·         Swedish Smorgasbord – complete with lox, Farmer’s Cheese, rye hard tack crackers, pickled herring (see below), cardamom bread, Swedish meatballs, lingonberries, Johnson’s temptation, Potatis Korv (Swedish potato sausage), Glogg (Swedish hot mulled wine), Pepparkakor (Swedish ginger cookies) and rice pudding for dessert. This feast is my 100% Swedish mother-in-law’s specialty. My husband and I do a scaled-down version of it each year.

·         Pickled Herring – not my favorite to eat, I usually only have one bite per year to keep claim to my Swedish heritage, but the smell of it reminds me of my dad. He and my childhood friend Scott’s dad used to spend a whole day each December pickling herring in our kitchen. I remember our house wreaked for days but I try to appreciate it during the holidays, at least!  

Advent Calendar
While the advent calendar’s origins are religious, most kids (young and old alike) use it as a countdown to Santa’s arrival. Hands-down the best non-registry wedding gift we received 13 years ago was this hand-sewn advent calendar made by my childhood friend Lara’s mom, Kathy. It is such a treasure and so fun to see Sofia’s joy each day as we get closer to Santa’s arrival. So far, she doesn’t know that most kids get chocolate in their advent calendars! I’m sure she’ll catch on soon enough. Until then, we’re enjoying this special, sugar free version!

Meatballs by the Fireplace
For at least the last five years, we have had my friend Tessa over for Swedish meatballs by the fireplace the week before Christmas. When we first started this tradition, Tessa was single and we were childless. It was just the three of us enjoying a quiet evening in. The evening is a little more boisterous and joyous since Robert (Tessa's wonderful fiance) and Sofia joined us four years ago. Now it is the five of us and it is truly one of the highlights of our holidays.

This year we toasted with wonderful Italian Limoncello, lovingly made each year by my friend Shana.

Teddy Bear Suite

The week before Christmas, Sofia and I visit the elaborately decorated Teddy Bear Suite at the Fairmont Olympia Hotel in Downtown Seattle. All dressed up in her red taffeta Christmas dress, yesterday Sofia cuddled with the soft teddy bears and admired the pretty decorations.

New Traditions

We are starting a couple of new traditions with Sofia this year. We got her her very own tree for her bedroom with pink lights, of course, (such a lucky girl) and we are giving her a nightgown (her first) on Christmas Eve just like my mom did for my sister and me every year of our childhood. It is a sweet, sweet memory and I can't wait to see Sofia twirl around in her new red Hello Kitty flannel nightie on Friday night!  We are also going to the family Christmas Eve service at a church we started attending again recently. I am excited for the annual Christmas pageant and hope it becomes a tradition for our family too!

Looking ahead to when Sofia is a bit older, I envision going to the Nutcracker will be a wonderful tradition. I enjoyed seeing it every year when I was a child, and even performing in it too. We saw Le Petite Nutcracker this year (a 45-minute version) which was just perfect. I am excited to share the full Pacific Northwest Ballet Maurice Sendak version with Sofia in a couple of years. Until then, I will have visions of sugar plums as I take in the magic of the season and honor our wonderful holiday traditions ~  new and old.

 Once again, from my home to yours, Happiest Holidays to you and yours!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

My Girlfriends Feed My Soul

Truly, truly you do! (That sounds like song lyrics, doesn't it?!)

Last night, about 25 of my beautiful, wonderful girlfriends descended on my house for a festive evening of "sips, bites and jewels." It was such a great gift to me to be surrounded by such amazing friends, some whom I see often and others I don’t get to see much.  

We sipped bubbly, chatted about new babies, new homes, new jobs, old jobs, husbands’ jobs, engagement rings, weddings, books, travels, schools for our children, home remodels, flooded basements, cute boots, Christmas plans and more “girl stuff!” It was the best! We also oohed and awed over the stunning and stylish Stella & Dot jewelry collection that one of my dearest friends, Megan, reps. I love supporting her and seeing her second career blossom.

Earlier this week, another friend told me that one of the things she admires most about me is the way in which I make and maintain friendships with so many different people. That was the ultimate compliment to me because I do "invest" a lot of energy in my friendships. And I can truly say they are among the best investments I have ever made. 

When I finally fell into bed last night just after midnight, I felt exhausted, exhilarated and so very thankful for my wonderful circle of friends. I love you all so much and thank you for enriching my life and sharing yourselves with me.


We were having so much fun last night that we didn’t take any pictures, so below are some photos of the wonderful hostess gifts I received, as well as some of my favorite Stella & Dot picks for my wish list!

Orange Tory Burch votive candle - LOVE!

Williams Sonoma assorted cookie cutters for Sofia and me!

Homemade Limoncello and darling custom label.

A fabulous bottle of wine is always appreciated.

Delicious, homemade chocolatey nut ginger raisin bars called French Bark - YUM!


And now for my Stella & Dot wish list picks:

The Vintage Link necklace is bold and gorgeous.

The Penelope necklace is sweet and delicate.

The Pave Bee Pendant necklace is beautiful.

The Delicate Drop earrings are so pretty and sparkly.

The Gold Fringe Hoop earrings will liven up any outfit.

I love the green Garden Pary Chandelier earrings.

Aren't these Signature Clover drop earrings gorgeous?!

OK, I think that's all for now. What is on your wish list?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Happy St. Lucia Day

Today is St. Lucia Day (or St. Lucy’s Day) – one of the best-loved holidays in Sweden. Traditionally, it is a home-centered holiday and a tribute to all of the facets of light (Lucia means light) - the longer days, the return of the sun (we had some today in Seattle!) and the end of darkness. To children, it signifies that Christmas is almost here.

Traditionally, the oldest daughter in the household plays the role of Lucia. She wears a long white gown with a red ribbon sash and a crown of (real) blazing candles on her head. Early in the morning on December 13, accompanied by younger sisters as attendants and brothers as mischievous star boys, she awakens her sleeping parents with the sweet St. Lucia song and a tray of coffee and sun-colored saffron buns. The holiday evokes the legend, dating from about the fourth century, of Lucia, a Sicilian martyr who wore candles on her head so she had both of her hands free to carry food to persecuted Christians hiding in underground tunnels in Rome.

My three-year-old, Sofia, was so excited for St. Lucia Day today. We made a paper crown with candles that she proudly wore to school to share her Swedish heritage with her friends and teachers. She also took pepparkakar (Swedish ginger cookies) to share. After school we went Christmas shopping, and she proudly wore her St. Lucia crown the whole time. A few people asked her if it was her birthday and she quietly said “No, it’s St. Lucia Day.” It is so cute to see her embrace her Swedish heritage at such a young age. I didn’t totally appreciate my Scandinavian (Swedish and Norwegian) heritage until I visited Sweden and Norway about eight years ago. Now, I love all things Scandinavian and especially embrace them during the holidays! When Sofia is a little older, I hope she will awaken me with coffee and saffron buns singing the St. Lucia song!

Happy St. Lucia Day and God Jul (Merry Christmas in Swedish) to you and yours!

Sofia in her St. Lucia crown.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Aroma of Christmas

I am so excited. My first batch of Aroma of Christmas of the season is simmering on the stove and my house smells wonderful, warm and spicy. It's instant Christmas for me. Scents are like that. They take you back, evoke memories and stir emotions.

Ever since I was a little girl my mom has warmed this wonderful blend of cloves, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, orange peel and lemon on the stove throughout the month of December. For as long as I can remember she has also packaged it up for friends. I have been sharing it with friends for many years now too. In early December (or maybe even late November) I start thinking about what the packaging will be that year. I love going to Packaging Specialties for inspiration. This year I chose a cellophane bag with red birds and berries and tied it off with red grosgrain ribbon. I, too, love sharing the Aroma of Christmas with friends, neighbors, colleagues and teachers. It's an easy, personal way to spread some joy. Below is the recipe if you feel inspired to share it too. I hope you will.

Again, from my home to yours, Happiest Holidays.

Aroma of Christmas

3 sticks of cinnamon
3 bay leaves
¼ cup whole cloves
Add 2 sections lemon and 2 pieces of orange peel
1 quart water

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and keep simmering over low heat. Add water as needed; it evaporates quickly. Enjoy!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Great Gifts Doing Good.

That is a mouthful, isn't it? I originally titled this post "Good Gifts Doing Good," but after further thought I actually think they are great gifts!

It's like the mantra that some companies aspire to: doing well by doing good. Like I said, it's aspirational, but I think the intentions are good. As I think about the intentions of the gifts I give (and receive!) this holiday season, there are lots of opportunities to have a positive impact on people's lives. Below I share some of my favorite "great gifts doing good."  

A Few of my Favorite Things 

Anyone who knows me very well knows I love glassybaby, fashion icon and designer Tory Burch, and Stella and Dot jewelry. They all offer beautiful products and have a strong social responsibility commitment to doing good.
At glassybaby, 10% of the sale of dozens of special colors they've dubbed "goodwill" goes to a variety of non-profit organizations such as Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Conservation International and the Marsha Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer Research, to name a few. To me, glassybaby is the perfect gift.
seattle sunset
seattle sunset is a personal favorite of mine not only because I LOVE orange but because it was created in honor of a great woman who I was fortunate enough to know and be related to by marriage, Gretchen Mathers. She gave me my first two glassybabies which started my collection four years ago. 10% of the sale of seattle sunset benefits the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. 

 marsha's hope set of three (cabo, pearl, seafoam) benefits the Marsha Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer Research.

10% from the sale of each bff (love the name!) is donated to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

For a look at all of the beautiful goodwill colors, go to glassybaby's website.

Tory Burch just launched a line of beautiful products that benefit the Tory Burch Foundation which is committed to providing economic opportunities to women and their families. The collection includes studded cuffs (see below), key rings, t-shirts, CD, totes, flip flops, a charm bracelet (also below) and more. I love it that they are actually products you would want and they benefit a good cause. Hence "great gifts doing good!"

Profits from this darling charm bracelet benefit the Tory Burch Foundation and microfinance partner Accion USA. I LOVE IT!
This silk scarf benefits the Tory Burch Foundation and Accion USA.

All profits from these Tory Burch studded cuffs benefit the Tory Burch Foundation and microfinance partner Accion USA.
 I LOVE these too, especially the oranage one, of course!

Stella & Dot is a relatively new jewelry company that is empowering women through style. I love their jewelry and their commitment to women and girls. The Stella & Dot Foundation is focused on creating positive change in women's lives through the support of organizations that promote women through education or economic empowerment. I watched a video on the Stella & Dot website today that educated me about their commitment to organizations such as Girls Inc., Accion USA (like Tory Burch) and buildOn.  If you have a minute, I encourage you to take a look at it. It really inspired me to see the ways that companies and individuals can positively contribute to the lives of women and girls in our community.

All net proceeds from these beautiful multi-colored Stella & Dot Foundation Bracelets go to Accion USA, buildOn and Girls Inc., which help create positive change for women. They come in little girls sizes too. What a beautiful way to teach the little girls in your life about helping others.

Wow, I just realized that what all of these products have in common is supporting women. I love that!!

I know there are many, many companies that sell "gifts for a cause," but these are definitely at the top of my list. What are your favorites?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pretty Packages.

I love pretty packages. Just like cards, I love to make them, give them and receive them. I received many pretty packages recently for my birthday. Even my husband appreciates my love of pretty packages and he always wraps them so beautifully for me.

This is the time of year when packages start to arrive on my porch ~  from near and far. Today, an early, early morning visitor deposited a beautiful package on my porch. It is so beautiful that I photographed it (above) and I left it on my counter to admire for a couple of hours before I opened it. When I finally couldn't wait any longer, I carefully removed the beautiful packaging to discover an equally beautiful birthday gift from a dear friend. The orange letter-pressed card atop the package is gorgeous too!

I love dropping off packages at friends' houses during the holidays and throughout the year. Some people don't appreciate the uninvited visitor at their door, but I love the surprise of finding something unexpected on my porch. It adds to the mystery and beauty of sharing ourselves with others, in ways big and small, expected and unexpected. Whether it's a birthday gift, flowers, a magazine clipping that reminds you of that person, or Christmas cookies packaged up with a red bow, it is a joy to give and receive pretty packages all year long.

From my porch to yours, happiest holidays!

For more gift wrapping inspiration go to

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What are you thankful for?

I am thankful for my life. I know it seems really big and kind of trite, but it's true. I was born on this day, Thanksgiving, 39 years ago.

I have a great life, great family, great friends, great home ~  all of the important things in life. I am truly happy and blessed. In these uncertain times, we often forget to pause and think about how good we have it.

Growing up, my birthday fell on Thanksgiving every 6 or 7 years or so, depending on leap year. One of my mom's many traditions was to go around the Thanksgiving dinner table and ask everyone what they were thankful for. I rolled my eyes every time and was shy with my responses. I was a kid after all and I didn't appreciate all that I had. As an adult, I have so many things to be thankful for and I am not shy about showing my appreciation.

Another family tradition was going away for Thanksgiving and my birthday ~  to Cannon Beach with friends several years and to Leavenworth. Today we are going to Leavenworth for a few days to rest and reflect and celebrate. I am so very thankful.

I hope you will take the time to let your loved ones know what you’re thankful for today.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Soul Blossoms.

I have long loved Amy Butler's colorful designs. When I received an email last week announcing the launch of her new Soul Blossoms fabric line, I was once again inspired by her amazing creativity and Midwest sensibility. On her website she says, “This new collection is my interpretation of an enchanted, modern passage through the floral delights of India. Dreamy jewel toned prints in multi-hued flowers and designs - uplifting and passionate - weave together my ethnic inspired story.” I agree, and I think the three color collections - aptly named Passion, Joy and Bliss - are exotic, colorful and stunning.
I was first introduced to Amy Butler's luscious fabrics when I was looking for fabric for Sofia's crib bedding at Bolt, a fabulous fabric store in Portland, with my mom and sister. They helped me pull together the eclectic and colorful patterns which created the color palette for Sofia's room - green, orange and pink! I loved it then - three and a half years ago - and I still love it!

I often go to Amy Butler's website for inspiration for projects. I long ago gave up sewing, and as much as I try to get back into it, I just can't or haven't so far. But I love making cards and gift tags. Her papers and free patterns online inspire me every time, especially as I embark on card projects for dear friends. I love picking the perfect paper that I know they will like. Each card is unique and special, just like our friendship. Click here to for a peak at some of my favorites I've made over the years.
Amy Butler’s line continues to grow from fabric to paper to organic bedding and towels, handcrafted rugs, wall art, books, software and even luggage.  It’s all available online at



Take a look and see what inspires you. I hope you are as delighted as I am, and that you find your own inspirations to help your creative soul blossom! If nothing else, the photography on her site is sweet, sweet eye candy!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Tea for Two.

I love tea. The ritual of it. The warmth of it. The taste of it. The history of it.

This morning my good friend and former colleague Heidi took me to tea at Queen Mary Tea Room
 to kick off my “birthday season.” Heidi loves birthdays as much as I do – possibly more. She is the one who originally coined “birthday season” – the celebrations during the week(s) before and after one’s birthday.

I mostly drink black tea – Early Grey with milk and sugar (or Creamy Early Grey as I had today), the sweet Paris blend from Harney and Sons, or Chai with milk and honey.  But yesterday during another birthday season celebration with my dear friend Liz I thoroughly enjoyed two cups of Might Leaf Green Tea Tropical, a new favorite for sure.  

Like other things I’m experiencing these days, tea slows me down. Ever since I gave up coffee about five years ago, it welcomes my mornings, provides a pick-me-up mid-day, and nurtures wonderful, long, warm conversations with friends. 

I leave you with these pictures from my tea celebration today and this quote that was scribed on a bookmark I picked up at Queen Mary:

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”
– C.S. Lewis

Heidi and me enjoying our tea. And, yes, I even wore a hat!

Delicious sweet and savory treats accompanied our tea.

Queen for the day! Since we were celebrating my birthday, I got to wear a tiara.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I dream of

Jeanne is a very talented artist and fashionista! This is one of her many beautiful blue and white watercolors.

My friend Jeanne's blog, cleverly named "I dream of," is one of the many things that inspired me to start my own blog. A mutual friend forwarded Jeanne's blog to me with a note that said, "It's so pretty and inspiring and blue!" She was right! I launched my blog the very next day and "I dream of" continues to inspire me every day.

Jeanne and her husband just returned from a trip to London. I feel like I went with them! That's the joy of following other people's blogs. You get to experience new things and maybe see life in a different way. Or get an idea to do something you have been wanting to do or something you hadn't even thought of.

Thank you, Jeanne, for this gift. I hope my blog serves this same purpose for my handful of followers, or those who casually stumble upon What Feeds My Soul.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Wine Guy

I bought this Mesta Tempranillo at the Wine Outlet today because I liked the orange label, of course!

In my first-ever blog post a couple of weeks ago I promised to follow up at some point about “the wine guy.”  Well, today is the day because I had an experience with the wine guy this afternoon. Actually it is a different wine guy than the one who originally inspired the mention, but my point is still the same.

When I was on my walk that fateful day a couple of weeks ago when the idea for my blog came to me, I saw the original wine guy – the owner of Madison Park Cellars. I have bought wine from him a few times and we always have a very lovely, long-ish chat. And for some reason each encounter is memorable. For one, he always confuses me with "that mom from Seattle Prep." Each time I say, "No, that's not me." He politely apologizes and we continue talking about the wine I am buying, or my dinner menu, or our travels, or our neighborhood. But I think it’s more than that. It’s his slow pace, calmness and interest in engaging with me and having a conversation. Not just a quick transaction.

Today I stopped in the Wine Outlet in SODO, just a couple of blocks from Starbucks headquarters where I worked for eight years. I was always curious about the Wine Outlet since it was opened a couple of years ago by former Seattle Times wine critic Richard Kinnsies to much fanfare, but I never had (made?) the time to go in. Today I had the time, and I had a similar experience with another “wine guy.” He promptly offered me a good-sized taste of Richard Kinnsies’ own Tempranillo red as he described the grape I had not heard of before. He walked me around the well-laid out store and we had an interesting conversation about the high-quality wines offered at discount prices and his background as a local caterer for 30 years.

To me the wine guy represents the local shop owner who moves at a slower pace and has all the time in the world to chat. He slows me down, which is good. And helps me appreciate the small things – like a great bottle of Tempranillo – or tells me about a fabulous venue for a friend’s wedding. I always leave feeling like I made a new connection and that I want to go back – when I have the time.  

It is like stopping to smell the roses. Life is so much more interesting when you slow down and take the time to really connect with people.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

What a Feast!

A couple of years ago I hosted a Halloween luncheon for my PEPS (Program for Early Parent Support) group. It was a potluck so everyone brought something yummy to share. One of the moms brought this fabulous Roasted Squash salad and it has been my favorite fall salad ever since. Fortunately it wasn’t a secret family recipe so she shared it with the group immediately. I made it tonight and served it with roasted chicken. After dinner, my husband exclaimed "Wow, what a feast!"

I am a visual learner. When reading a recipe, I sometimes miss an important step. So here is the recipe, with visual aids.
Bon appetit!

Roasted Delicata Squash Salad with Greens and Toasted Almond Dressing

1.    Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2.    Peel and seed 1 delicata squash and then cut into ½ inch cubes.
3.    Toss squash with 1½ TBS olive oil in a shallow baking pan and season with salt and pepper.
I love this non-stick Silpat pan liner, made in France, of course!
4.    Roast stirring once, about 30 minutes.
5.    Coarsely chop ½ cup whole almonds, then add them to a skillet with 4 TBS olive oil.
This Lamson Sharp Knife is the best! My mother-in-law is a kitchen designer and she turned me on to this brand. They are the best knives I have ever used.
6.    Cook almonds over medium low heat stirring often until golden, about 3 minutes, then put a strainer into a large salad bowl and strain the almonds and reserve the oil. Set aside both to cool.

7.    Leave the rubber band on 1-2 bunches of arugula and cut into thirds, discarding the rubber banded stem ends. (I used the pre-washed bagged arugula from Trader Joe’s.)
8.    Clean and stem ½ bunch of spinach, if using only 1 bunch of arugula.  (I didn’t have spinach so I replaced it with romaine for crunch.)
9.    When the oil is cool, whisk in 2 tsp fresh lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

10.    Add the squash and half the almonds to the dressing and toss to coat.
11.    Then add the arugula/spinach and toss again gently.
12.    Sprinkle with remaining almonds. Enjoy!

Please note: This salad is best enjoyed with a good glass of red wine!

Recipe courtesy of Helsing Junction Farm CSA.