Pizza! Pizza!



Brandon and I love pizza and we’ve decided to take the plunge and BUILD a wood-fire brick oven in the backyard. We had a slab poured in the official pizza oven location when the rest of the patio was and we’re just waiting for a free, non-rainy weekend.

While I wait for the weather and scheduling gods to align, I’ve scoured the internet for designs, how-to’s and other inspirations. (Did someone say gourmet pizza toppings!?)

There are a lot of more rustic round ovens, but we’ve decided to go the more traditional square route. We’re thinking something along the lines of this:

The ideal pizza oven. Can we do it? I hope so!!

The ideal pizza oven. Can we do it? I hope so!!

When we were in Texas last weekend, we saw this gem at Salt Lick Cellars. This is our dream — and it would take up a quarter of our backyard!

Pizza oven at Salt Lick Cellars in Driftwood, Texas

Pizza oven at Salt Lick Cellars in Driftwood, Texas

Now that we’ve figured out the general design, its time to a) find a masonry shop in the greater Seattle area, and b) determine if we want to free-hand design it or use a form kit. There are definitely pros and cons for both, and since we’re beginners, I think a form is in order.

DIY Pizza form. The instructions make it look pretty easy...

DIY Pizza form. The instructions make it look pretty easy…

The best instructions I’ve found are from BrickWood Ovens, and I think the Mattone Barile would be the perfect fit for the backyard. BrickWood Ovens has some great videos that show the building process to take less than 5 minutes. Unfortunately, they also have a how to/spec list that says it will take one person 28 hours to complete the whole project and the instructions list just 44 steps FOR THE BASE of the thing. Oh, and $970.

We have just a few projects left for the backyard and while I continue my pizza oven research project, I’m going to see about ordering the bistro lights to really make the backyard an outdoor living space. EEEEEEEEE! Were almost there! I’ll post photos of our ongoing project soon!

Wine Wednesdays are here!

Wine Wednesdays are here!

Wine Wednesdays are here!

This isn’t a secret to anyone who knows me… I love wine. I’m planing on using this blog to share my love of wine with you every Wednesday! We can celebrate Wine Wednesdays together.

I started out as a Riesling fan and over the past 10 years my palate has grown and I drink both reds and whites. My preference is red, but I do love a good white wine every now and again, especially in the warmer summer months.

Lucky for me, Brandon is also a wine lover. We love wine tasting locally and we always manage to find a winery or two to try out when we’re on vacation. (We just tried a Texan winery last weekend, and the vacation before that, pineapple wines from Maui!)

Brandon and I belong to two wine clubs locally: Davenport Cellars and Efeste, both in Woodinville’s Wine Warehouse District, an area about 20 minutes north of Megan’s Island. We have become friends with the winemakers and owners and genuinely enjoy every wine that they produce. We’re headed up to the Warehouse District this weekend and I’m looking forward to sharing our visit with you next week!

Wine Wednesdays will include wine recommendations and reviews, along with recipes that pair well with our favorite wines and of course, wine-related crafts! If you love wine, check back here for our Wine Wednesdays!

America’s Best Doughnuts (or is it donut?)

Gourdough's. Big. Fat. Donuts.

Gourdough’s. Big. Fat. Donuts.

First, is it donut or doughnut? I’ve never been sure.

US News recently published their list of America’s Best Doughnuts and I was pleasantly surprised to see that I’ve dined at four of their top 12:

Top Pot

A local favorite of ours, my favorite is the cake doughnut with white or pink frosting and sprinkles. I have an unhealthy obsession with sprinkles. More on that later.

Voodoo Doughnut

We went to Voodoo a few years ago, when we were in Portland at a friends’ wedding. Brandon was kind enough to bring a few doughnuts back to the hotel and the bacon maple bar was the perfect hangover helper.

Doughnut Plant

We went to NYC for our honeymoon and Brandon had done his research and Doughnut Plant was a must-visit. They didn’t disappoint; we tried three varieties of donuts and enjoyed every last bite.


We discovered Gourdough’s through a friend’s Facebook post and have been lusting after it for years. We finally made our way down to Austin (last weekend) and happened to visit Gourdough’s on Brandon’s birthday. That was one really happy birthday boy!

Happy Birthday, Brandon!

Happy Birthday, Brandon!

I shared this list with Brandon and he was pretty proud of our accomplished eating and ranked Gourdough’s as the best doughnuts he’s ever enjoyed, but you be the judge. What do you think? Delicious? (Menu:

The Razzle Dazzle:  Rasberry Filling with Chocolate Fudge Icing

The Razzle Dazzle:
Rasberry Filling with Chocolate Fudge Icing

Heavenly Hash: Marshmallow with Chocalate Fudge Icing Topped with Fudge Brownie Candy

Heavenly Hash: Marshmallow with Chocalate Fudge Icing Topped with Fudge Brownie Candy

Black Out: Brownie Batter, Chocolate Fudge Icing, Chocolate Covered Brownie Bites and Topped Chocolate Syrup

Black Out: Brownie Batter, Chocolate Fudge Icing, Chocolate Covered Brownie Bites and Topped Chocolate Syrup

Hopefully we’ll get to the other eight soon. I’ll have Brandon check on the flights. Next time you’re in Seattle and in the mood for doughnuts, make sure to check out Top Pot and Daily Dozen Donuts (unranked, but a favorite of ours) at the Pike Place Market. Get the assorted dozen and really enjoy it!

Instagram Envy

Instagram Envy: Have you had it? I have.

Instagram Envy: Have you had it? I have.

I met a new friend today and as most conversations tend to do, we ended up talking about social media. She admitted to having a Facebook page, but didn’t like going on because whenever she did, she would get jealous of her friends. Pretty impeccable timing, since I read this article yesterday: “Instagram’s Envy Effect.”

This excerpt sums up the article:

My life looks better on the Internet than it does in real life. Everyone’s life looks better on the internet than it does in real life. The Internet is partial truths—we get to decide what people see and what they don’t.

A fascinating read, this article is spot on. I’ve been victim of Instagram (and Facebook/Pinterest/Twitter/Blog/etc) envy a time or two.  In fact, just the other day I was reading My {DIY} habits, a wonderful new blog written by my friend Katie Cole, and I questioned if/how I could be doing more myself. I’m not sure where she finds the time: Katie works, has a toddler and is an expert DIY home remodel-er and blogger. I’m not a slacker by any means and I like to keep myself busy: full-time job, full-time small business and an aspiring rock star blog all while trying to workout, keep up my FitBit numbers and cook delicious and healthy meals for Brandon and myself. I mentioned my envy to Brandon and asked him if I could be doing more and he laughed at me and told me no. So, that was that.

Pie crust #FAIL. Wasn't pretty but tasted great.

Pie crust #FAIL. Wasn’t pretty but tasted great.

I’m pretty good about talking about my failures along with my successes, especially with home and Pinterest projects, but I’m going to try and reveal a ‘more real’ version of myself and my life online and truly celebrate the everyday. Just tonight I made a highly-anticipated birthday pot pie for Brandon (at his request) and totally failed with the homemade crust. I made the most of what I had to work with and used double crust on the top and called it a “rustic” pot pie.  

I hope you’ll join me in committing to share the highlights and mundane parts of everyday life.

Seattle Restaurant Week Review: Volterra

Birthday Boy: Before Dinner

Birthday Boy: Before Dinner

Tonight we went to Volterra in Ballard, as part of Seattle’s Restaurant Week and…we LOVED it.

We had a group of six — Brandon, me, my parents, my sister and her husband — ready to celebrate Brandon’s birthday and some place new — and three courses for $28 really helped the cause! We started off with a bottle of Montepulciano, which was very dry, but quite good.

Then, Brandon and I ordered the same three dinner options: starter, entree and dessert. We usually try not to do that, but we weren’t paying attention and the others added some variety. Regardless, our selections were delicious and the chef did not skimp on the portions:

Roasted Beet Salad Roasted Organic Beets, baby arugula, and toasted walnuts tossed in balsamic vinaigrette and topped with aged Asiago cheese

Course one: Beet salad

Course one: Beet salad

Piedmontese Beef Tenderloin Grilled beef tenderloin topped with truffle scented Prosciutto di Parma, wild mushroom demi glaze; served with mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus (cooked medium) 

Course Two: Piedmontese Beef Tenderloin

Course Two: Piedmontese Beef Tenderloin

Chocolate Orange Cake Chocolate Orange cake with chocolate mousse and chocolate tuile

Course three: Chocolate Orange Cake

Course three: Chocolate Orange Cake

Since we’re all family, we shared some of our dishes and these two entrees were also really good:

  • Wild Mushrooms and Tagliolini House made organic egg pasta tossed with Locally harvested wild mushrooms, truffle butter and grated Grana Padano cheese
  • Herb Marinated Pork Ribeye Grilled Pork Ribeye with Cranberry beans, cauliflower, smoked tomatoes and leeks topped with goat cheese cream

All in all, it was a wonderful dining experience. We’ll definitely be heading back! And a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my one and only!

The Birthday Boy!

The Birthday Boy!

Seattle Restaurant Week

Where will you dine?

Where will you dine?

Seattle Restaurant Week started a few days ago with more than 160 restaurants offering three-course lunches for $15 and three-course dinners for $28.

Brandon’s birthday is coming up next week so we looked through nearly all of the menus to see where he wanted to go to celebrate. With more than 160 three-course menus to go through, we had to narrow them down somehow. How did we do it? We used trout. We enjoy fish, but not trout. So, if they offered trout, they were OUT.

Many of our favorite restaurants are participating in Restaurant Week so it was tough to narrow it down. We finally settled on two restaurants: Volterra (I’ve never been and Brandon hasn’t been there in years) and Ma’Ono Fried Chicken & Whiskey (totally new for both of us). The menus look fabulous and I’ve heard really good things about both places, so I’ll check back and let you know what we thought and if we’ll go back!

How will you celebrate Restaurant Week?

Anyone for a glass of wine on the deck?

The deck is one of my favorite parts of our house. We have a view of Lake Washington and Seattle, Seward Park specifically. We have a lot of trees on Megan’s Island, but we’re able to see the sunset from time to time. This was one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve seen in the last five years. (This photo doesn’t do it justice!)

Sunset from Megan's Island

Hello, sunset

With our deck remodel in mind we bought two Adirondack chairs last summer and haven’t really had a chance to enjoy them…until now. The deck has been retrofitted and is as stable as can be. The patio is built and we’re ready to move the wrought iron table and chairs to their spot down there (photos to come on the next sunny day, when we can properly stage it).

Those Adirondack chairs have been pretty lonely looking so I set out on an outdoor pillow and stool mission. My mission started with talking to my friend Esther, who is in charge of all of my sewing projects. (I tried creating and sewing a pair of shorts one time in high school and was fired from sewing from there on out.) Esther agreed to help me sew some pillowcases so I started browsing fabrics online. I wasn’t able to find exactly what I was looking for, so I waited before buying. Turns out my delay was a good thing…

Our new ceramic stool

Our new ceramic stool

When we were in Portland over our spring break we stopped at HomeGoods and picked up some great stuff for our back patio and deck, mainly in search of a ceramic stool to use as a table between the two chairs. I had seen several that I liked online but wanted to spend less than $100. We found this gem for $79. I was pretty indecisive about buying it — I was hoping for something a little more colorful — and Brandon convinced me that this stool was everything that I was looking for. And I do have a pretty neutral color palate, so it was perfect.

Once the stool was picked out, it was time to find pots and pillows to match. Lucky for us, HomeGoods had quite the selection. I found a large rectangular indoor pillow that had a really cool hexagon pattern. They had two of the same pillows: one in teal and one in green. I was debating whether or not to buy them both or just one. I ended up buying the teal one and had a fun Esther sewing party in mind! The pillow was too wide for the Adirondack chair, but cut in half it would be absolutely perfect. Best part about it? It only cost $17. Not too shabby.

Esther: the official sewer of Megan's Island

Esther: the official sewer of Megan’s Island

Esther and I got together last weekend for our sewing party (she sewed, I brought pastry) and the whole project took just under an hour. At first Esther was skeptical of my ‘cut the pillow in half’ idea, but she’s game for most everything and offered me her best, sharpest scissors.

Cutting and sewing the pillow case was the easiest part. We literally cut it in half, including the zipper and then sewed it back together. The actual feather pillow was a different story. We started off inside and quickly moved out to the deck. Turns out there are a ton of feathers in a feather pillow and cutting a pillow in half creates quite the mess. We grabbed a few garbage bags and started removing some of the feathers, and kept cutting. Here’s a photo mid-way through. We were skeptical of the cut and sew plans and were ready to call this a DIY Fail. It was a particularly windy day and many of the extra feathers literally took flight. It looked like we killed a few birds on the porch.

DIY Fail? Only time would tell

DIY Fail? Only time would tell

But, we pressed on, pinned the pillows back together, sewed them shut and then put them into the cases. Voila! A miracle! And they look so, so good, don’t you think? One of them even has a fully-functioning zipper!

Final product!

Final product!

Here’s the final product. I’m ready for that sunset and glass of wine now.

All I need now is a glass of wine and a good book

All I need now is a glass of wine and a good book

Grace and Gusto

This year I’ve been trying out new recipes, workouts and crafts that I’ve found on Pinterest. I’m calling it my 2013 Pinterest Lifestyle Challenge. Follow along on Pinterest.

April's workout: Grace & Gusto

April’s workout: Grace & Gusto

This month’s workout “Grace and Gusto” was discovered on Comcast’s OnDemand and so far, I totally love it. The tagline for the program is “Get beautifully toned and energized with this graceful fusion of Pilates and ballet basics.” You can read more about it on Amazon.

I’ve had my challenges with Comcast and their billing and internet departments, so this is not an endorsement for the company per se, but I really like their fitness channel on OnDemand. There are a ton of options — cardio, dance, yoga, walking, weight loss, intervals, you name it, it’s there. The programs usually run for six months and they’re a great trial run for the real DVD or just a nice way to mix up at-home workouts.

In January, I did a walking and weights program from Prevention magazine. Read about it here. I didn’t see the expected results, but it was a great workout for general fitness and exercise. I still enjoy the treadmill programs to switch things up.

In February, I tried “Fab Ab February.” I paired the ab and push up exercises with intervals on the treadmill. I definitely saw a positive change in my upper body and core strength, but I managed to mess up my apparently-weak wrists. My wrists are improving, but they’re not back to where they were in January yet. Maybe in May?

March was a little rough and I was supposed to do a “March Forward” type of program on the treadmill. I was really busy with work, prepping for interviews, switching jobs and enjoying spring break and I didn’t really get a chance to work out. Just another reason to give Grace and Gusto a real go!

Go forth with grace and gusto! (And check out Comcast’s OnDemand exercise programming…)