October 29, 2009

pumkin patch

We went to a cute little pumpkin patch last a few weeks ago with Avery. Ella was in heaven. "Ball. Ball. Ball. Ball. Ball...."

Stuffed Toys

One of my friends is taking stuffed toys (used, decent condition) to the Philippines at the end of this month. If your kids' old lovies are no longer loved, let me know and I'll pick them up and give them to a good home.

October 24, 2009


Check this out. We're pretty proud of our little starlet.

{Just for the record, modeling is not something we sought out or something we will likely continue. A man down the street works for naartjie and asked if ella would be part of the shoot. It was fun, but there are no tiaras in our future.}

October 22, 2009

Attention to Detail

Last night we had friends over for dinner and I was in charge of dessert. In the spirit of fall I decided upon caramel apples. The recipe said to cook the caramel to 225, about 15 minutes. It quickly turned a beautiful golden color, then brown, then dark brown. But the thermometer only read 150. So I kept cooking. Finally I could smell it burning, so even though it only read 200 I turned off the heat. It was only as I dipped the apples in the dark, thick, gooey goodness that I realized my mistake.

Can you guess?

So we had candied apples, which would have been delicious if the caramel (toffee?) didn't shatter as soon as you bit into the apple. Oh well, better luck next time.

October 19, 2009

Sunday Afternoon

{out of focus, but I love that smile}

October 15, 2009

Health Care Reform

"Are you bleeding? Then stop your bawling."
-Grandma Tweet

I think she might like this article.

I did.

*Those Pittsburghers are a little blunt, and this article might rub some the wrong way. Apologies.

October 11, 2009

Crusty Loaf

Today is your lucky day. On Fast Sunday I often torture myself by reading cookbooks or looking through food magazines. I know--it just makes it harder and is not in the proper spirit of the day, but somehow I always find myself with Ina, Giada or Betty. Today it's Ned. Ned Gardner is in Jamie's ward, and he contributed this fabulous recipe to the Harlem Family Recipe Book. It is absolutely wonderful. I even bit the bullet and purchased a cast iron pot just so I could make this bread.

One hint: read the recipe all the way through before starting. The first time I made this I ended up not having enough time to finish the bread properly and had to rush to Albertson's and buy bread to take to a gathering.

3 c all purpose or bread flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt
cornmeal or wheat bran as needed

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water and stir until well blended; dough will be sticky and shaggy. Cover dough with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature.

2. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking, gently shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal. Place dough on flour dusted towel, and cover with another floured towel. Let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450. Put a 6 to 8 quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, pyrex or ceramic) in the oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from the oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over in pot, seam side up (it may look like a mess, but it's okay). Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

October 10, 2009

Belated Birthday

Here are a few pictures from Ella's birthday party. Ella was "not loving the camera" as one friend put it, so the shots of her are not so hot. Next time.

{cupcakes from the amazing Sugarhouse Cakes--love, love, love.}

{this criscrossed the yard 4 times--thanks jamie for helping me finish it}

** I put the rest of the pictures here if you want to check them out
1st Birthday

October 8, 2009

the owl

Jamie made Ella three darling onsies. Here's the first.

Ella is working on her final molar, so the Tylenol is her best friend. An analgesic and a chew toy all in one.

October 7, 2009

highights and lowpoints

in no particular order

  • drinking hot chocolate in San Marco Square
  • trying to make an authentic Italian meal, only to realize that you do not have salt, and it's Sunday so everything is closed and you can't get salt. 
  • waiting in 5 different long, barely moving, lines in the Rome airport
  • traveling with the Wrides {this is a highlight, just in case you wondered. they were our perfect travel companions}
  • paying $5 for peanuts and water on EasyJet
  • Communist training camps
  • Jamie's bug bites that nearly turned to cellulitis
  • the haze over Umbria and Tuscany. We still aren't sure what it was
  • Nadia and her pastries
  • running into a friend from residency in Vernazza
  • all the buildings that were painted to look like decorative stonework
  • finding the perfect souvenir/thank you gift at a little booth in Rome {vintage postcards from the early 1900s}
  • running/sprinting 2 grueling miles in the Cinque Terre to catch the perfect light for the perfect shot
  • Jill, our garmin guide. we loved her. we hated her. we all agreed her navigation skills were far superior to mine
  • Perugian driving
  • the white church in Todi, with the sermon on hearing vs listening
  • my tour of the chapel in Sienna that got Jamie in trouble. she was not pleased.
  • Assisi
  • rick steves {highlight or lowpoint, depending on who you talk to}
  • Taylor mistaking me for Jamie and putting his arms around my waist. the "You're not Jamie!!!" was priceless
  • gelato and amazing food
  • declining Fabius' coffee laden Tirimisu , only to be given liquor laced Panna Cotta
  • riding bikes in Lucca
  • drying our clothes in the sauna, nearly starting a fire
  • our selection of TV channels in our villa. we had Arab sports. Arab news. Arab porn. But very few English or Italian channels. Were we really in an Arab safe house?
  • waking up at 6 am to get the perfect shot in Venice, only to find a gray and foggy morning
  • all those pictures where you look like a "tool"
so, there you have it. italy 2009. we had a wonderful time. again, thank you, thank you, thank you to the grandmas, grandpas and aunts. couldn't have done it without you.

October 6, 2009


Definitely the smallest of the hilltop towns. Our good friend Rick tipped us off on this tiny village. The woman above, Maria, is the last of Civita's native residents. She lets you see her garden with it's spectacular view for a small donation. If you ever go to Orvieto {key music} make your way over to Civita.

p.s. I added some pictures to earlier posts. Thanks to Jamie and Ryan for taking them, and to Taylor for carrying around the camera bag.

October 5, 2009

dear noelle...

thank you for your insider information on this place

the food was wonderful and the ambiance...unparalleled.

as for this place,

we are not sure that it is the one you recommended, as there were two with similar names.

never mind, we found this guy

who, instead of giving us menus just told us what we wanted to eat that night.

and he was right.


as way of thanks, may we recommend this place

no name, but you can find it here

if you ever want an amazing salad in rome, and who doesn't after all those carbs, look no further.

much love,
the packers and wrides

October 1, 2009


Venice at night. It doesn't get much better. My favorite evening of the trip. Venice during the day...let's just say we wandered, and decided that perhaps the locals have it figured out: a siesta is the perfect way to avoid the hoards of tourists. Plus, you're nice and rested to live it up again come nightfall.

Those Europeans. So smart.