Monday, September 29, 2014

No-Bake Chocolate Almond Oat Bars


Here's a totally delicious, totally easy, no-bake bar recipe from Martha Stewart (you can view the video here). To me they are more like candy than a "power bar," and I'm sure that in addition to high-protein, high-fiber ingredients they are loaded with calories!  

A couple of  notes: I had only one 4-ounce bar of bittersweet chocolate (Ghirardelli brand) on hand, so I added a few dark chocolate chips to the mix. I think the bars would be plenty chocolately with just the 4 ounces of chocolate. Next time I may try adding some rice crisp cereal. Lastly, if you follow a strict gluten-free diet, be sure to buy oats processed in a gluten-free facility, such as Bob's Red Mill brand. I used Quaker oats.

1) Spray an 8" square baking pan with non-stick spray and line bottom and sides of pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

2) In a 3-quart saucepan, put 1 stick of butter, 1/3 cup honey and 1 cup natural almond butter (just nuts, no added oils). Cook over medium-low to medium heat, about 6 minutes, until smooth and butter is melted.
3) Remove pan from heat and stir in:
  • 4 to 6 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 cups old fashioned oats

4) Mix well. Transfer mixture to the prepared pan, spreading evenly. Put in the refrigerator to chill until firm. Remove from pan and cut into squares or bars and enjoy!

While we're on the subject of cooking, I'd like to say how much I'm enjoying our new, 3-quart saucepan by Le Creuset. We'd been wanting to replace our old Calphalon pan of the same size for a couple of reasons. One is the handle, which is not at all ergonomic (what's up with that? Seems simple enough to design a pot handle that feels good in the hand and is easy to hold, rather than one that's uncomfortable and hard to grip). The other is that the Calphalon pan is tapered, rather than straight-sided. The bottom of the pot is too small for all but one of our burners, even at a 3-quart size. 

While shopping at Crate & Barrel recently (one of my favorite stores) I gravitated immediately to the cookware section to check out their options. A 3-quart saucepan by Le Creuset was actually on sale, and while I wouldn't typically spend more than $100 on one pot, I'm glad I did this time.

Made of 3-ply stainless steel, this pan has an aluminum core sandwiched between two layers of stainless, which continues throughout the pan to ensure excellent heat conduction from base to rim and prevent hot spots. The rim is rounded for drip-free pouring and the shorter extra handle opposite the long one makes it very convenient for carrying a heavy pot to the sink. Because of its excellent heat conduction, the "Care and Use" guide warns not to heat over high. We have found that water comes to a boil quickly at a "7" or "8" setting on our electric range, and holds a simmer at a lower number too -- clearly a well crafted piece of equipment. Now I'm wanting a 12" Le Creuset fry pan as well! Maybe for Christmas ...?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Home Tour 2014

My husband and I made our annual trip to my favorite home tour in a lovely historic neighborhood yesterday, and as usual it did not disappoint. We were joined by a couple of good friends this year, and we all had such fun oohing and aahing over all the details. There were six homes on the tour, including an industrial-style loft.

My favorite home on the tour, a 1944 bungalow, is one that I didn't photograph the outside of because the exterior was rather plain and uninteresting. I didn't have my hopes up for the inside, but boy was I wrong! I fell in love with the layout, the decorating and the art. Sadly, interior photos are not allowed on this tour, a rule that is strictly enforced. Sorry, I know how much better this post would be with interior shots, but I'll do my best to describe some of the highlights.

The standout feature in my favorite home (not pictured) was the master bedroom, just off the main living space, with a step up into the room and a pocket door for privacy. The first thing you see is a modern black canopy bed covered in white linens with a large, dramatic black and white photograph directly over the head of the bed. The entire space is beautifully lit to highlight the photograph by Thomas Joshua Cooper, one of the most celebrated and distinctive landscape photographers in the world today. Many other large-scale black and white photos by Cooper, framed in groups of four, are hung throughout the home. The house has great lighting as well, including a modern mercury glass ceiling fixture in the living room, and curvy, sculptural wooden veneer pendants in the bedroom and dining room.

Another home I loved is the historic bungalow below (there's my hubby on the porch). Built in 1903, this house had tons of charm with its original wood floors, original tiled fireplaces, paneled walls and intricately detailed windows. I loved this house both from an architectural and decorating perspective. Over the years, the second story had become a rental unit with an external door on the side and stairs to a separate entrance. During the course of three renovations, the stairs were removed and the home returned to a single family dwelling. The most recent renovation retained the home's original footprint.

Here is detail of the window on the upper floor. This house had a great color scheme and period light fixtures. Another unique aspect of this home was the extensive collection of antique paintings, some dating to the 1600s. Of particular interest to me was a dark powder room that I was dying to photograph. The dramatic black and white chevron wallpaper was contrasted by a huge, dark antique dresser and ornately carved mirror that had been converted to a vanity with a sit-on-top white basin. In a little alcove above the toilet hung an antique painting in an ornate gold frame with an attached picture light. While the room is not what I might choose to live with on a daily basis, I loved it for its drama, uniqueness and reflection of the owners' personality.

Here's a peek into the back yard of this home. I love the arbor and gate, and that sweet garage!

The next house is new construction, obviously. The lot had a small brick ranch on it when the owners bought the property. They tore down the house and built this home, which the tour guide book states was designed to fit into the neighborhood and its historic past. I'm not sure that was achieved, and the exterior is too symmetrical in my opinion, but the inside of this home is wonderful. It's completely modern with a grey and white color scheme throughout. Parts of it were too sterile for my taste (though I think the owners are still getting settled in). Upstairs, the master suite is amazing. The first thing you see through its doorway is a built-in beverage refrigerator and coffee station. Turn the corner and you enter a very large room with a wonderful screened-in porch off of it, fully furnished with sofas, coffee table and gas fireplace. The master bathroom is spectacular! It has heated marble floors, a gorgeous freestanding soaking tub, an enormous glass-walled, marble-tiled shower with I don't know how many shower heads and jets, a double sink vanity with low-profile rectangular basins and a separate water closet. This home was stunning and quite fun to tour. The garage, below, has a separate living space, but was not open to the tour.

The next home, a 70-year-old bungalow, was also on the tour. The front of the home was not changed when the owner remodeled, but space was added to the back half of the house and upstairs. In the master bedroom on the second floor are two doors that open and overlook a large great room and kitchen below, secured by wire railing (a little scary, but cool). A beautiful porch off the back of the second story was also a wonderful space. The lovely kitchen had marble counters, a waterfall-style marble island and high-end appliances.

So there are the descriptions of four of the six homes we toured, with photos of three of them. Every time I visit this neighborhood, I like to take photos of other charming homes we pass. Enjoy the next three houses, which were not on the tour, but I had to include them because they're so cute. Please share your thoughts of these homes and which ones you like best. Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Blueberry Crisp

I made this blueberry crisp using six cups of blueberries from the buckets and buckets full of berries my husband bought (and cleaned) last month while I was in Seattle. You can find the recipe here. I used Cup 4 Cup gluten-free flour to make the topping, and it was excellent! The square baking dish is from Crate & Barrel. I love simple white dishes and bakeware in the kitchen. So classic.

I hope you are enjoying the last days of summer. I'm sad to see it go, but we have a beach trip planned for September. Something to look forward to!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Home Tour: Seattle-area House with a View

Today I'm highlighting my friend's lovely home near Seattle. Look at this stunning view they have of the Cascades. The photos don't capture just how pretty it is in person. While I visited in July, we had dinners out on the deck, enjoying this view. Hummingbirds, flickers, chickadees and other birds frequent the bird feeders and plants that are on the deck. Eagles are also commonly seen flying by.

The cozy living room, below, features two Thomas Moser Lolling chairs in cherry with black leather upholstery. A couple of white upholstered ottomans accent the room and hold soft blankets for snuggling up with on Seattle's damp, chilly days. Not seen in the living room photos is a large black leather sofa by Kravet accented with pillows from Room & Board.

Vivid pink orchids and green candlesticks add a splash of color to the mantel. The painting above the mantel is so realistic, I thought it was a photograph. The artist is Taman VanScoy. Check out his website. I find his graphite drawings to be particularly fascinating, and so detailed!

The living room features floor-to-ceiling windows, which allow for a wonderful view of the valley and mountains in the distance. Because this room gets so much sun during the day in the summer months, cellular blinds encased between the glass of the windows and sliding doors can be lowered to keep the room from getting too hot.

The antique rug is a recent purchase and brings more blues and reds into the palette (I think a couple of glassybaby votives in "Cashmere" would look lovely in this room). A black leather ottoman serves as a coffee table.

A lineup of glassybabies in shades of cream and brown are set on a slim, glass-topped console in the dining room window. Be sure to check out my previous post on Seattle's glassybaby store and the hot shop where these beautiful vessels are made.

The kitchen has been completely updated with granite countertops and backsplash, warm wooden cabinets with modern pulls, high-end appliances including a Wolf gas range and Sub-Zero side-by-side refrigerator, and bluestone tile floors (too bad I didn't get a photo; the floor is one of my favorite features in the house). 

Lastly, I can't leave out the cats. Below is Camille, one of two gorgeous grey cats, lounging on a fringed cashmere throw. Don't you love how she coordinates with the décor? She and her sister Colette are nearly identical, except that Colette has an extra toe on each of her paws. They are very loving, playful kitties.

And below is Fitty, the old man of the house. What a sweetheart he is. He has this very funny way of eating: he takes some dry food with his paw, scoops it into the adjacent water bowl and then fishes it out of the water with his paw -- just like a raccoon! 

I hope you have enjoyed this tour of my friend's home. Many thanks to her and her husband for allowing me to share it with you. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Whidbey Island, Washington

A short drive and ferry ride from Seattle is Whidbey Island. When I visited my friend in July, she asked if I wanted to go to Bainbridge Island or Whidbey Island. I chose Whidbey, not knowing much about either place. I'm sure you can't go wrong with either! 

The morning ferry ride over to Whidbey was quite chilly and I was underdressed. Fortunately I had on jeans, but only a t-shirt on top. One of the first things I did when we arrived in the cute village of Langley was to find a store where I could buy a jacket. I found a nice navy windbreaker by Landway for a decent price. I was glad to have it, because it didn't warm up until a bit later when the fog lifted and the sun came out.

There are many cute businesses on Langley's main street. How charming is this animal hospital! Just look at the plantings and that beautiful hydrangea!

Around 10:30, we stopped at Useless Bay Coffee Company for a snack. My friend had a latte and muffin, while I enjoyed a gluten-free cookie and the most delicious hot chocolate I've had since my husband and I were in Paris six years ago. Even though the sun was out by this time, it was still chilly. I'm used to the hot summer weather of the Southeast, and this drop in temperature was a shock to my system.

Below is First Street in the town of Langley. Charming galleries, antiques shops, bookstores and cafes line the streets of this little village. There's even a chocolate-themed shop called Chocolate Flower Farm - The Garden Shed where you can buy flowering Cosmos that smells just like dark chocolate! 

Below is The Inn at Langley. My friend has stayed here twice. I took a peek into one of the guest rooms overlooking the water and the Spa, which also overlooks the water. Wouldn't it be a treat to stay here!

This bronze statue is called The Boy and His Dog. What a lovely view he has!

I love visiting galleries when I'm traveling. At Brackenwood Gallery, I purchased this pretty stone and silver necklace made by Washington state jeweler Rebecca Bashara -- a lovely, handcrafted piece to add to my collection. You can purchase her work via Etsy.

I so enjoyed our day on Whidbey Island and hated to leave. On our trip back to the mainland, our ferry was unable to dock due to a medical emergency on the ferry in port. We ended up sitting in the middle of the sound for an hour. At one point, the captain announced were were going to have to head back to the island, which caused my friend to panic just a bit because we needed to get back by a certain time to pick her son up from camp. Fortunately, they were able to move the ferry on the mainland side so we didn't have to turn back. But I have to admit, it was lovely to be out on the water soaking up the sun. I actually came home from Seattle with a bit of a tan!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Miniature Bouquet

This little bouquet of pink roses, carnations, daisies, alstromeria and other flowers caught my eye at Whole Foods the other day. Only $8.99 for this happy little bouquet. 

Ella, our beagle, stopped to smell the roses, below. A good reminder to find pleasure in the small things.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Seattle's glassybaby

One of the things I wanted to do while visiting my friend in Seattle was to go to the original glassybaby store in the Madrona neighborhood. I had been there before on a previous visit, but had not purchased any of their beautiful glass candle holders. If you are from the Seattle area, then you probably know of glassybaby. If not, here is a link to their website, which details the fascinating glassblowing process and the story of how the company gives back to the community. All the beautiful glass candle holders are handmade on site, and each one is unique, varying slightly in size and color.

When we arrived at the shop, I asked if I could take some photos for my blog. I always ask permission first, since some businesses are sensitive to photos being shared online. The ladies at glassybaby were so welcoming and helpful, even taking us on a behind-the-scenes tour of the inventory room and the "hot shop" where the magic happens. Look at all the colors! There's a shade for everyone's taste! With about 170 color choices, you can imagine how it took me a while to narrow down my selection.  

My friend is I what you might call a glassybaby collector. She has more than a dozen around her house -- and she bought two more the day we were at the shop. Below are just a few from her collection, which inspired me to start my own. The night before we went to glassybaby, we lit candles so I could see how each of hers looks lit in the dark versus unlit in the daylight. The colors can appear very different with and without candlelight, so it's important to like how each glassybaby looks lit and unlit.

Once in the store, I was a bit overwhelmed with choices. I don't do well when faced with lots of options, but after I narrowed down my selection to the neutrals and with some help from my friend and veteran glassybaby customer, I was able to make a decision. I chose beach, nest and wet dog. Glassybaby donates 10% from the sale of each "wet dog" to The Humane Society of the United States to help rescue dogs from natural disasters and abusive situations. This fact definitely helped me choose that color!

Here's what our new glassybabies look like on our mantel. The colors are, left to right: nest, wet dog and beach. 

I didn't want to carry my purchase on the plane or pack them in my checked luggage, so I opted to have them shipped to my home, free of charge. If you don't live near Seattle, you can purchase glassybaby through their website.

Or, keep you eye out for a city near you this fall, when glassybaby will be hitting the road for a glassroots tour. They'll be visiting 30 cities over the course of 16 weeks from September until Christmas. On the list so far are Portland and Bend, Oregon; Sun Valley, Idaho; Jackson, Wyoming; Chicago and Detroit. I hope they make it to a city near me!
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