Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Seattle Japanese Garden and Sincere Thanks

Before I continue with the sights from my trip to Seattle, I'd like to say thank you to each and every one of you who shared your kind thoughts and condolences on the loss of our precious dog, Phoebe. Though we've never met, I feel as if I know many of you personally. Those of you who are dog owners understand the bond that forms -- and the heartache that comes when it is time to say goodbye. Before Phoebe passed away, my husband and I had been through this loss before and it is always devastating. Fortunately we still have two lovely, sweet dogs in our life who give us their unconditional love and make us laugh every day. Thank goodness for them! If the house were empty, the sadness would be overwhelming. I truly appreciate the outpouring of kindness from our friends, family and those of you who follow My Little Bungalow. My husband and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Now on to the next highlight I wanted to share with you from my recent trip: the Seattle Japanese Garden. One of the oldest Japanese gardens in North America and regarded as one of the most authentic in the U.S., it is beautifully designed and very tranquil. You can purchase food to feed the koi, but more than just the fish love it. Many little turtles and ducks will also come to devour the pellets.

Throughout the garden are several lovely stone temples. My husband and I recently purchased one for our garden, similar to the first one seen below. When we finally get around to landscaping our yard, a Japanese maple tree will be on the list, under which we will place our little temple. We may also bury Phoebe's ashes there -- a special place where we can sit and think of her.

I can only imagine how gorgeous this Japanese Garden must be in the spring, when the azaleas, rhododendrons and wisteria are blooming. If you visit Seattle, be sure to make a stop at the Japanese Garden. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Phoebe

As I write this post, Phoebe is laying on the floor next to me, our sweet old girl of 15 years. This is our last day with her before we have to put her to sleep. I'm not sure how I'm able to write about this now, with her still here. But I think it would be even harder to deal with after she is gone.

We adopted Phoebe from our county shelter when she was 4 months old. It was a Saturday in August, and we had just been to the hospital to visit our friends' newborn baby girl. As we left the hospital, I said to my husband, "Let's adopt a puppy." And so we did. 

Phoebe was one of the few puppies at the shelter that day. At the time, the county shelter wasn't a very nice facility; it has since been rebuilt into a wonderful shelter that is able to take in many more dogs and cats and their adoption rates are way up (unfortunately, the influx of unwanted, stray and abused/neglected animals far outnumbers the shelter's capacity). A Lab mix, Phoebe was almost solid black with only bits of white on her chest, chin and back paws. We asked the shelter attendant if we could take her into the visitation room and were immediately struck by her high level of energy and intelligence. 

The shelter had called her Rascal, and for good reason. As a puppy, she got into her fair share of trouble. How many dog beds she destroyed! When she was young, my husband used to take her to work with him. She loved to lay on the loading dock in the sun, waiting for the delivery trucks and the drivers who brought her treats. She ran around the fenced-in lot and received plenty of attention from my husband's coworkers. It was a dog's dream. 

Phoebe had so much energy, she would sometimes explode into fits of wild playfulness that more than once drew blood and even left a small scar on the palm of my hand. I used to call her the devil dog. But as she grew and matured, the craziness disappeared. Her energy level stayed the same though, and she always maintained her playful nature. Even in her senior years, she would run to get one of her toys and bring it to us for a game of fetch or tug of war.

Phoebe loved swimming in lakes and the ocean, chasing squirrels and going for long walks, even into her 15th year of life. She loved food, people and other dogs (probably in that order). When she was around 2 years old, she welcomed her "sister" Winnie into our home. Phoebe liked having another dog in her pack. When Winnie died in January of 2012, Phoebe let us know she wanted a new canine companion. We adopted Henry and, shortly after, Ella. Phoebe welcomed both with an open heart.

I can't imagine life without Phoebe, but I know we will be saying goodbye very soon. I will always cherish the memories and find comfort in knowing we saved her life all those years ago. We gave her a comfortable home, plenty of adventures and tons of love. And in return she loved us unconditionally and made us laugh. What more could we ask for.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

My Trip to Seattle: Space Needle & Chihuly Garden and Glass

Last week I was in the Seattle area visiting an old friend. Our friendship, which dates back to our first day of Kindergarten, has not only lasted, but has grown over the years. We both realize how very lucky we are to have such a longstanding, close friendship. We can talk to each other about anything and have very similar tastes in decorating, clothing, food and more. Although time goes by without seeing each other (we do live on the opposite ends of the country after all), I always feel as though it was just yesterday that we spent time together.

I had such a lovely time in Seattle, thanks to my friend who went out of her way to make sure I had a great time. And boy, did I! On Sunday, after attending church, we went to the Ballard Farmer's Market. The Ballard Seafood Fest was taking place that day and we had some of the most delicious salmon for lunch, followed by two scoops of fabulous gelato at D'Ambrosio. I bought a box of delicious fleur de sel caramels -- a gift for my husband -- from Seattle-based Jonboy Caramels. They are amazing! Later that day I enjoyed a chilly (or at least it was chilly to me!) swim in Lake Washington's clear water.

One thing I really wanted to do was go to the top of the Space Needle. My friend is not a fan of heights and gets a bit dizzy, so I was grateful -- and very proud of her -- for joining me on the ride to the top. What amazing views. The weather was perfect the whole time I was in Seattle, but it was extra clear the day we visited the Space Needle. 

Right next door to the Space Needle is the Chihuly Garden and Glass, featuring the exquisite work of Dale Chihuly. This was a real treat. It's one of my friend's favorite places. Her 7-year-old son loves it too, and I can see why. The whole time I felt as though I was walking through a child's storybook -- the sculptures are so colorful and whimsical. The garden is especially beautiful. I love the way they combine the glass with the plantings.

Stay tuned for more posts from my trip, including the peaceful Seattle Japanese Garden, the original Glassybaby store and a mini tour of my friend's lovely home! 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Taking a Break ... and a Different Basil Pesto Recipe

I'll be taking a short break as I travel to the Seattle area for a visit with my best friend and her family. I am so looking forward to it! The weather will be sublime (hot, but no hotter than where I live and with less humidity). It's been six years since I've seen my friend and her family. Her son was less than a year old at the time! I'll be sure to take photos of the area and share them with you when I return.

Meanwhile, I wanted to share this wonderful recipe for basil pesto with you. It's different from the one I posted here last year. This recipe uses no Parmesan, which I guess makes it vegan. It's just as delicious as the version with Parmesan. In fact, my husband likes it even more! I made this batch the other evening because my basil plants are so prolific right now and I didn't want any to go to waste. I'm afraid they won't fare well much longer in this heat.

Basil Pesto (no cheese)

1 cup pine nuts, toasted at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes
8 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves
2 to 3 garlic cloves, chopped
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1) Bring 5 cups salted water to a boil. Add basil and quickly submerge leaves with a spoon. Immediately drain in a colander and rinse with cold water until cool, then pat basil dry with paper towels.
2) In a food processor, combine pine nuts, basil and garlic; season with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. Process until nuts are finely chopped. With machine running, pour oil in a steady stream through feed tube. Process until smooth. Use immediately or freeze for up to six months.

To use from frozen: defrost pesto at room temperature or at 30-second intervals in the microwave. Mix well before using in recipes.

Lastly, I harvested our first cucumber of the year. It's the first time we've grown cucumbers and I've been very excited about it, checking the plant nearly every day for signs of fruit. All of a sudden this beauty popped out. The plant is taking over the side yard. My husband has built an intricate web of stakes and string to keep it off the ground. 

I believe this has to be the most delicious cucumber I've ever tasted!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Blondies with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

Wow, am I in love with this blondie recipe! I'm experimenting with my gluten-free flour and recently made blondies with two kinds of chocolate chips and walnuts. These bars are fantastic and the gluten-free flour worked beautifully. Of course you can make these treats with regular all-purpose flour too. Give them a try and let me know what you think!

Blondies with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup gluten-free or all purpose flour (I used Cup 4 Cup flour from Williams-Sonoma)
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup white chocolate chunks (I used Whole Foods 365 brand)
1 cup chopped walnuts

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8" square baking dish; line pan with a piece of parchment paper, leaving a 2" overhang on two sides. Butter the paper.

2) In a large bowl, whisk melted butter and sugars until smooth. Whisk in egg and vanilla. Add flour and salt. Mix just until moistened (don't overmix). Fold in half the semisweet chocolate chips (1/4 cup), all the white chocolate chunks, and half the walnuts (1/2 cup). Transfer batter to prepared pan and smooth top. Sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips and walnuts. 

3) Bake until top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 30 to 35 minutes. Set pan on a wire rack and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to two days. Enjoy!

And happy Independence Day to my friends in the U.S.!

Adapted from Everyday Food
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