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Photo by Amy Kiel Photography

My goal when I started this blog was to average a post once a week (since that is what is realistic for my life) and I think I have done a pretty good job of sticking to that. Through all the ups and downs of the last couple of years, through my mom’s illness and death, I somehow managed to keep blogging. It gave me joy, the routine of it was good for keeping me going and it has given me a place to talk about things. I certainly have not gone this long without posting though, but there was another death shortly after my last post (my beloved dog Charlie), and now my wedding is exactly one month away as of today! So life finally won out over blogging.

I’m okay though. Matt and I are so excited for the wedding and we have finally had a chance to work on some of the visual details, which has been super fun and I can’t wait to share it all with you. This has been such a bittersweet year, that I fear I will be crying tears of joy all day at my wedding, just because I will be so happy to be with my loved ones. We will probably just collapse in a heap for our mini-moon in Maine… and that may be just what we need. My plan is to come back from the wedding refreshed and ready to start this new phase of my life.

So I guess I am taking a blog break and I think it is in order. Thank you for all your kind words and encouragement over the last couple of years. Your comments have guided me through some pivotal moments, from grieving the loss of my mother to planning my wedding dress, so I thank you all for that! I look forward to sharing all the wonderful things we made for the wedding (like the invitations, my dress and decorations and such). So see you all back here in a month or so!

I love my garden this time of year, when all the beds are full and everything is growing like crazy. Awhile ago, I did a tour of my studio and figured this would be the perfect time to give a tour of my garden.

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I’ll start with the front yard, since that is where the majority of the beds are. Unfortunately, I don’t have any good “before” pictures of my front yard. When I bought the house in 2007, there was just one raised bed, by the front fence line, and it was all overgrown. The rest was all lawn.

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Over the years we have added to the garden slowly. One year, we added a couple of feed troughs, the next year, two more raised beds, the year after that, cold frames. Slowly, the lawn disappeared.

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There are still more things we want to add to the garden. Our next big project will be to replace the chain link fence with cattle panel fencing. While we’re at it, we’ll probably build trellises for hops as well. I say “we”, but it’s really Matt, he does all the hardscaping.

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I found these great “before” pictures of the back yard.

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Man, it’s come a long way!

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We spend a lot of time out here in the Summer and have spent countless evenings grilling, playing cribbage and sitting by the fire, with friends or just the two of us! The dogs love lounging out here with us too (note the dog dish in the photo above).

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I had always wanted a porch swing and last year, Matt rebuilt the roof over the side porch so that it was strong enough for one. We found the swing itself at Bay Hay on Bainbridge Island. I plan on sewing some cushions for it, so that Mickey can sit with me (it’s currently too hard for his little bum).

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 The back yard is a good example of container gardening and edible landscaping.

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Last but not least, is the chicken coop. These chickens are 7 years old now, so this was one of the first additions to my little urban farm. At the time, I had no idea how much room chickens really needed, so this coop has been added on to over the years. We started calling it the “Egg McMansion” after Matt built the run to the left. When the chickens were still fighting and picking at each other, he constructed the run to the right. Thus “Cannibal Run”. Yes, it’s open air, but we lock them up at night and have never had a problem.

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My urban farm tour wouldn’t be complete without a picture of the dudes, who often “help” me in the garden, by eating compost and sticks, barking at things, pooping and peeing everywhere and knocking over plants (Wyatt).

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But seriously, these outdoor spaces that Matt and I have created give me so much happiness. Gardening adds a rewarding structure to my life in so many ways. I may not feel like shoveling a yard of compost into the garden every Spring, but it’s so worth it. Getting out in the yard and getting my hands in the soil is a huge stress reliever for me. It relaxes me, gives me time to think or simply takes my mind off of things. My hard work pays off when I taste that first sungold tomato of the season or when I’m collecting eggs and harvesting pounds of potatoes. I take great pride in showing off my garden and love watching people eat snap peas straight off the vine. Being able to share something I grew with family and friends is so gratifying. I now associate annual events, like birthdays and holidays, with harvest times. The years have a rhythm to them that I enjoy, so hopefully this will be something I can do for years to come!

It’s hard to believe that it has been over a year already since Matt and I got engaged. It felt like we had so much time to plan the wedding and somehow, suddenly, it’s only 9 weeks away! We are doing pretty well planning-wise. We were able to get the big things nailed down back in March, while we were in Vermont, like the catering and the tent. The rest of it we have been able to work on from here, like the wedding website, “Save the Date” cards, invitations, having rings made and getting Matt’s suit ordered, etc.. All the while, I have been slowly working on my wedding dress and recently completed my second “wearable” muslin!

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I already did a regular muslin, out of actual muslin fabric, without seam finishes, sleeves, etc. and determined what adjustments to the pattern I wanted to make. Since I want my wedding dress to fit especially well and the actual fabric wasn’t exactly cheap, I wanted to make the dress all the way through, with my adjustments, to get a better idea of the fit. I also wanted to see how it was finished and make sure it wasn’t going to be too hard for me.

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The pattern said “intermediate”, so I was a bit nervous that it would be outside my skill level. There were some things I hadn’t done before, like french seams, but those turned out to be a cinch. Sewing the yoke to the sweetheart neckline was a bit challenging, but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t do.

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When I got to the part where you attach the front and back bias binding (to the inside of the dress, to cover the raw edges), I found the directions a bit hard to understand. So I just did it the way I’ve done it for all the oven mitts I’ve made and it worked great! It was a real confidence booster that I just knew how to do it. See, I have learned some things in the past couple of years!

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The instructions have you do french seams at the shoulders if using “a delicate or mesh fabric”. This was my first time doing french seams and I thought they were going to be a lot harder and/or confusing to do then they were. It was a piece of cake, worked great and looks good with the black lace.

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I have the exact same lace, but in white, for my wedding dress. It’s not very fancy lace or anything. In fact, it was from Joann’s and was super cheap, so I was worried about it being scratchy against my skin, but it’s totally not. Between the french seams and the front and back bias binding (which I did in the rayon), there is no scratch factor at all!

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I had originally thought the cap sleeves would be more form-fitting around the shoulders than they turned out to be. I’m sure I could make adjustments to make them fit that way, but I like how they ruffle a bit, so I think I’ll just keep it how it is.

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This was my first time making a wearable muslin. I usually just do a traditional muslin just to get a rough fit, make my adjustments to the pattern and then go straight to working on the actual garment. So I am really pleased with just how wearable this muslin is. I wasn’t expecting that. In fact, I have already worn it twice! I wore it once on my birthday and once out dancing. It is the perfect dancing dress as it swishes and twirls in all the right ways!

It was a stashbuster too and was from the sale/remnant table at Pacific Fabrics, so it was cheap to begin with. The print is kind of crazy, but I love rayon (it is easy to work with and so comfy), so I had to grab this one. I knew I could find something to do with it! I think it was meant for this pattern, as I had just enough fabric. Plus, I think the black lace yoke cuts down the loudness of the print a bit.

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Matt keeps calling this my “practice dress” and I have started calling it that too, because it was great practice and I learned a lot from doing it. I now know I love this pattern and the way it is finished and that it is within my skill level. Now I just have to make it all over again in white!

It still feels a wee bit big in the bodice but, since there are no side bust darts, altering that will be easy. The pattern has you try on the dress before you install the zipper, so you can make any last minute adjustments to the fit then. I already have plans for a friend to come over and help me do a final fitting at that point.

So take a good look at this dress. Now picture it in white lace and silk. Hold on to that thought, because you are not going to see this dress in full until after the wedding! I may do some progress updates and show some detail shots, but I have to keep something a surprise, don’t I?

One of my favorite things to make in the Summer is quiche with broccoli from the garden and eggs from our chickens. I just made two of these for a baby shower brunch last weekend and they were a big hit. The secret is the homemade crust and the farm fresh eggs. Also, to avoid cow’s milk dairy, I make mine with soy creamer and goat and sheep cheese. And yes, it still tastes delicious and firms up just like it would with real milk.

People are often impressed that I make my own crust. I should just take the compliment, but usually don’t, because the crust is so easy to make. It’s just flour, butter, salt and some water.

My advice to those that find dough scary to make, don’t be scared! It will work out. If your dough is too wet, add flour, too dry, add water. Also, when working with dough (kneading or rolling out) remember to lightly dust your surface with flour every now and then so the dough doesn’t stick.

I use aluminum foil and dried beans as a “pie weight” when pre-baking the crust, so it keeps it shape and doesn’t rise up or shrink.

This is the golden brown color you want your quiche crust to be.

The great thing about quiche is that you can put just about anything in it. I tend to do broccoli and roasted garlic. For this one I had some green onions in the garden, so threw those in too.

Here is my recipe for a basic Broccoli and Roasted Garlic Quiche-

Quiche Crust
Ingredients

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 teaspoon salt
4-6 tablespoons ice water

Preparation

Using a stand or hand mixer or food processor, blend (or in the case of the food processor, pulse) the flour, butter and salt until the butter looks like pea-sized lumps.  Add 4 tablespoons of ice water to start, mix it in and then test the dough by grabbing a handful and squeezing it in the palm of your hand. If it doesn’t stick together, add a tablespoon at a time until it does. Do this slowly and carefully, so you don’t make the dough too wet. Five tablespoons seems to be about right for me, but sometimes it is six. Try not to overwork the mixture at this point or the dough could end up being tough to roll out.

Ball up the dough a bit with your hands and then dump it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide it into 4 portions and then press each section with the heel of your hand to incorporate the butter a bit more. Put all four portions back into one big ball and then press that down into a circle.

Next, dust a rolling-pin with flour and then roll the dough out into an approximately 13″ round. Dust your quiche pan with a little flour and then place the rolled out dough into the pan. Make sure the dough covers the lip of the pan and push the sides of the dough into the pan a bit, so it stays in place. Starting at one side of the pan, use your thumb and forefingers to go all the way around the pan and make a scalloped edge crust. Or just roll it under and push down to reinforce.

Prick the bottom of the pan with a fork a few times and then place in the fridge to chill and set for about a half hour. The crust can be made the night before as well.

Once your crust has chilled for at least a half an hour and you are ready to finish making your quiche, line your quiche shell with foil and pie weights. Bake until the edge is light brown, about 20 minutes. Remove the pie weights and bake another 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

Filling
Ingredients

1 1/2 cups of broccoli, cut into 1 inch pieces
12 large garlic cloves (for roasting)
6 large eggs
1 1/2 cups soy creamer
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 cups goat cheddar
1/4 cup grated sheep parmesan

Preparation

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Using a smallish oven safe dish, cover garlic with olive oil and roast for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. When cool, remove garlic cloves from oil with a slotted spoon and then save the yummy garlic infused olive oil to use later for cooking, grilling, salad dressing or whatever.

Blanch broccoli in boiling salted water for about 4 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water and cool.

Whisk together eggs, soy creamer, cayenne and salt.

Pour egg mixture into your quiche shell, then add broccoli and roasted garlic. Cover with the cheeses.

Bake for 45-50 minutes. Quiche is done when top is brown and quiche is set. To test, jiggle the pan. The center should just barely move. It will set more as it cools. Cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.

 

T-minus 12 weeks until my wedding! Since our wedding is in Vermont, we live in Seattle and we have friends coming from out of state, Matt and I decided to have our bachelor and bachelorette parties early, to break up the traveling people have to do. Plus, it is nice in the Northwest this time of year.

Matt had his in Portland, OR and mine was in Cle Elum, WA. Yes, we both had party “weekends”. His was 4 days and mine was 3! Hey, we don’t get out of town often and neither do some of our friends (with kids), so I think everyone involved was happy to get out of town. Lucky for me, my maid of honor (Flower- also a contributor on this blog) knows me well and knew exactly the type of weekend get-away I would like.  Boy did she deliver.

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Photos were presented to me, at the end of the weekend, in this treasure of a book!

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We stayed in this beautiful house in S. Cle Elum on 3 acres, with a hot tub and sweeping views of the mountains and rolling hills. I was in heaven the minute I walked in.

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The first night we just relaxed and made a delicious dinner or I should say, my friends all made me a delicious dinner. They wouldn’t even let me near the kitchen to help!

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The next morning, breakfast was cooked (no lifting a finger allowed again) and then we headed to town for some good ol’ Cle Elum yard saling! Our very first stop just happened to be the home of a quilter, who was selling gobs of amazing vintage fabric from the 40s on up, for just a buck a yard. I bought an awesome 70s blue knit fabric, with snowflake stripes on it, that will make a perfect long sleeve Renfrew. I also bought several yards of a beautiful light cotton fabric with blue birds on it, that would make a great shirtdress. I think I got 10 yards of fabric for just $10!

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We ate a late lunch in town (complete with Bloody Mary’s) and then headed into Roslyn for some horseback riding!

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I loved, loved, loved going horseback riding. I have a vague memory of going horseback riding when I was a kid, but I know I haven’t done it as an adult, so this was a real treat.

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My horse was named Goliath and I kept talking to him like a dog and petting his neck, but he was a good boy. I had no idea what I was doing, but he was very responsive to my commands. I barely had to pull the reigns to the left, right or back and he complied. The horses mostly just followed each other and the views were amazing. A couple of times though, when he would go into a trot to catch up with the horse ahead, I got a little taste of what it must be like to be on a galloping horse. I can only imagine, and you would have to know what you are doing, but I bet it feels great. I want to do it again!

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It’s amazing how sore you can get just from sitting on a horse for a couple of hours! After horseback riding, we headed back to the house for (you guessed it) more delicious food!

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No bachelorette party is complete without a tiara and a dance party, so that is exactly what I got.

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We might have even taken the dance party out into the field at some point. Somebody brought some glow sticks, so how could we resist?

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We literally danced the night away. Where I found all that energy, I have no idea, but it felt so good to be with friends and celebrating, so I didn’t want it to end.

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All this seems like enough, right? But wait there’s more! I knew we were planning a visit to a spa on our way out the next day, but I had no idea what was in store for me. I got an 80-minute massage (the best one I have ever had in my life), a facial and a mani-pedi. I have had all those things separately before, but not very often and never all at once! When I was finished being pampered, I joined the rest of the ladies out in the sun, by the pools, where we soaked until they had to kick us out because they were closing.

My maid of honor and my friends really out-did themselves. I have the best group of friends a girl could want and I am so lucky to have them all in my life. Thank you everyone. It really was the best weekend ever!