Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Two of my favorite people in the whole world: my dad and mom, have been chosen as Everyday Heroes for 2008 by the Green Bay Press-Gazette, in the families and individuals category. In the photo, my parents are in an aisle of the St. Vincent De Paul Store. Dad is the volunteer president for the Green Bay Council of the Society St.Vincent De Paul. Mom volunteers in the store once a week. But wait that is not all they do; read my sister Lisa's letter of recommendation which she sent in to the GB Press Gazette:
Nominee: Our parents, Vincent and Virginia Rae Nicklas are everyday heroes.
Nominator: Lisa Rupiper, one of the Nicklas' five children.
Our dad, Vince, is the volunteer president for the St. Vincent De Paul Society.
He is always available to help the many people in need.
Over the past several years he has gone on house calls helping families, opened a new St. Vincent De Paul Christmas Store, worked in his church in many areas including the food pantry, distributing communion at the nursing homes among many other things. Just this year he accepted the position of volunteer president for St. Vincent De Paul, which also includes helping run the House of Hope.
This year he has had many health problems including cancer and kidney failure. He goes to dialysis three times a week and still makes time to commit to others in need. We believe that by helping others he is able to feel good and have such a positive outlook on life.
Our mom, Rae, also volunteers at St. Vincent De Paul and at Unity Hospice. She helps at the St. Vincent De Paul stores and at Unity she does some helping in the office and also sits with patients that need a companion. Another area she volunteers in is Meals on Wheels, she helps deliver meals to people in need. Over the years she also has volunteered at their church, distributing communion, teaching CCD, helping clean and much more. She also rings bells for Salvation Army.
While doing all of this she has been there for our dad to help him through his difficult times with his health.
Our parents have always volunteered ever since we can remember. What a super example they have shared with our families and everyone in the community.
Of all the 'Best Of...' lists that are in the news as we close out 2008, this one from Green Bay touches my heart and rings most true for me and my family. Mom and Dad, you deserve it!
Tonight I tried another new recipe: Risotto. I have read descriptions and seen photos of this creamy Italian rice dish and I was intrigued. So tonight, with help from directions on the box of rice from Trader Joe's I simmered and stirred, adding the hot stock a cup at a time and whisked in the cream and grated Parmesan at the very end. It was rich and creamy and well worth the 25 minutes of non-stop stirring.
It is not that photogenic of a dish but don't let looks deceive you. It is a comfort food that is perfect for winter. The shrimp skewers were incredibly easy; cleaning them before skewering is the only unpleasant part. I went the easy route and marintaed them in Tuscan Basil Salad dressing from Safeway for about half an hour before grilling. I made melted garlic butter and lemon dipping sauce. The wine was Honey Moon, a Viogner, also from Trader Joe's.
in a big hurry. I saw my first unadorned tree at the curb while on my morning run today. Mine still glows in the corner of our living room but I think that Friday will be the day to dismantle it all and heave ho the red and green Rubbermaid boxes down and up again to store it all away till next November. Do you have holiday books you love? We have a box of them which we started collecting when HG was a little baby. The Peter Spiers book is wordless but chock full of minutia in the illustrations. You know what I mean; those many small details that make for glitter and glow as well as clutter and chaos during the holidays. Speaking of clutter, our week of snow is now very much behind us, leaving piles of sand mixed with dislodged Bott's dots along the roads, potholes in the roads, and grimy cars on the roads. I do miss the pristine white of the snow and the camaraderie it brought to even the most casual of greetings exchanged with other Seattlites when trudging through the icy streets. But I can do without the inconveniences of getting from point A to point B and the muddle of wet clothes, shoes and boots in our stairwell.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Friday, December 26, 2008
I had never made gnocchi before and I was a bit daunted. I poured over online recipes and fretted over boiling, steaming, or baking the potatoes to make the dough. I chose to bake them which actually turned out to be one of those 'kill two birds with one stone' decisions because we ate the potato skins smothered in melted cheese for our Christmas eve dinner. Christmas eve is a low key thing for us: appetizers, cookies, a bottle of wine, wrapping Christmas gifts in front of a fire and watching It's A Wondeful Life together. Actually we all had a hand in making the gnocchi because Chris riced the potatoes for me (My left elbow is bothering me yet again and it hurt to squeeze the handles of the ricer.) This is the recipe I adhered to for the most part. It is a lengthy process and I was glad we had baked and riced the potatoes ahead of time. Honey Girl was a big help in forming the little dumplings. After the gnocchi popped to the top of their boiling water bath I scooped them out with a slotted spoon and spread them in a casserole dish, topping them with sauteed garlic and melted butter, a scattering of sundried tomatoes and a liberal dusting of fresh parmesan. Ten minutes under the broiler melted the cheese to a thin crust. The gnocchi was wonderful and accompanied the delicious teriyaki tri-tips from B & E Meats perfectly.
The table was set with my grandma's china and silver. I love the ivy pattern and not a single piece of the 12 piece place setting is missing. Yes, that is snow you see falling outside, and the red and white scarf on the chair is one of my Christmas gifts from Tunisia.
This is Christmas #24, give or take one or two, spent with our dear friends (really more like family) the Kornowskes.
We did play dominoes, much to my delight. To appease those who are less enthusiastic about the game we only played 12 down to 6. Joe won with a generous margin.
Triffle for dessert made by Valerie. It was incredibly rich and delicious and WE got the left overs. I think it is time for breakfast....well it does have fruit!
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Merry Chrismas from Seattle
Originally uploaded by mtnester.
The white stuff is still on the ground and the rain has returned. The streets are an awful mess of sand and slippery slush. Maybe tomorrow I will be able to run! Speaking of running: I came in #4 of 138 in my age group in the Dec. 14 Jingle Bell Run! My time was 25:26.
I am happy with my gifts of a scarf and bowls from Tunisia; one woven and one ceramic. The 'honey girl' is sipping her Solstice Tea as she computes on the couch and tries out her new web cam. The DH just heated his last cup of coffee in the microwave before he heads downstairs to shave. He has his new red Tunisian cap perched on his cranium (makes him look like he should be on Little Mosque on the Prairie). I too am on the last cup of coffee. Time to check out the directions for cooking the tri-tips and the recipe for the gnnochi. Kornowskes will be here at noon. Maybe I will convince everyone to play dominoes after dinner.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
I have taken a bazillion photos of Seattle's snow and I quite honestly have had my fill (of both snow and picture taking). You can view my photos in the slideshows below or some are at my flickr account. For really wonderful photos of downtown Seattle covered in snow go to zenseas' flickr account. I predict that by Christmas we will be dealing with slippery brown slush instead of slick icy white snow. The weather gurus predict an inch more snow tonight but I am skeptical, and hopeful, that we have seen the end of the white stuff. I'm hankering for a good run.
Monday, December 22, 2008
On Sunday the car did not leave the garage. The snow was unrelenting. It was a day for jigsaw puzzles, crosswords, books, and dvds. I did a walk in run to the grocery store and fussed in the kitchen, prepping for a 'Solstice Dinner' we were hosting for Anna Rae's faithful and true friend, Christine, and her parents. The girls have been friends since second grade and never a holiday break goes by without at least one dinner together. I was truly impressed and very happy when their trusty Volvo brought them to our door last night. I fixed an Apple Cranberry Stuffed pork loin roast and it was delicious and it looked pretty on the platter. Aside from grilling, I am pretty much a novice at cooking meat, so it was a pleasant surprise to find a recipe that worked.
Our deck table looked like this when they left:
And this was our street:
It is so nice to have friends that brave conditions like this to join us for dinner. Not to mention, they brought a yummy appetizer, a Cran-Apple Cake, and homemade truffles!
Saturday, December 20, 2008
'the Junction'. We ate at Jaks, from their scrumptious brunch menu. I had their egg scramble with steak, mushrooms, and spinach and a huge biscuit with honey. It was a 'stick to your ribs' kind of meal. The plan was to head on over to SAM to see the Hopper exhibit. As we left Jaks I looked up at the pearly grey winter skies and walked with a crunch, crunch, crunch through yet another icy parking lot. When I saw someone I knew as we walked to our car and she heard of our plans, her eyes got big and she said her family had just returned from downtown and traffic was super thick and slow going.
As much as I hated to nix our plans I had to agree with Chris, staying home would be the wisest choice. I am the worrier and visions of accidents such as this one from yesterday crowd my head:
-from Seattle Times
So here we are snuggled on the couch with computers warming our laps , books in hand and basketball on the TV. Outside it has begun to snow and the thermometer reads 25. I wonder how much snow we will get THIS time. Time to open that puzzle box.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Today they went to the Pike Place Market. In fact, Chris is picking them up now and we will then go to our monthly wine tasting here in West Seattle. Washington Reds tonight!
Thursday, December 18, 2008
I went to bed fully expecting to go to work today. I woke up, jumped into my clothes for the Y and just as I was about to put on my running shoes, the husband hollers from the bedroom: "They just said NO school on the news!" I groaned, really I did. I was ready to have one more ordinary day in my classroom before Christmas. Just then there was a flash of lightning and I saw that what I had mistaken for fog was actually falling snow and it is still falling now although more lightly. The West Seattle bridge is closed in both directions and 520 traffic is at a standstill. So instead of going to the Y I went on a 5:30 am walk and snapped the photos in the slideshow. Who should I see on the streets at this early hour but Matt, our neighbor and fellow Y member. He was walking his border collies Sadie and Luca. We did the Shorewood walk together. At 10 months, Luca is still a pup. He loved to bite the snow as you kicked it up with your boots. It made walking an interesting challenge.
So today the kids will get their fill of snow play and I guess I will bake cookies and maybe take more pictures. I want to catch a close up of the hummingbird huddling on the extension cord for the light bulb which keeps the sugar water in the feeder from freezing. The husband is busy in his shop, painting away. This canvas is big, it will take him awhile.
And in the back of my mind I worry and wonder, "Will this blanket of white interfere with 'Honey Girl' and her friend Jesse arriving in Seattle tonight from Arizona?" I certainly hope not! Jesse you should bring boots if you have them!
Sunday, December 14, 2008
and likewise from the front (every one's Christmas lights sure looked extra pretty).
This morning it was still there, it was 30 degrees and and our street was slick.
So I was a bit on the tentative side when I slipped behind the wheel and headed to downtown Seattle for the Jingle Bell Run. The driving really was not all that bad once I hit the main streets and everyone seemed to be taking the weather into account and were driving about 10 mph slower. It is really hard to know how to dress for a run in this weather. I layered 2 long sleeved tops and my thickest sports tank with built in support, my usual spandex/polyester running pants and my thick Thorlo socks, a pair of lined mittens, and a stocking cap. I had bells and a big flocked ribbon on my back same as last year. It worked, I stayed plenty warm and I am glad I went; the crowd was festive and everyone was hopping up and down to keep warm. It was a decent enough run but I don't think I did better than last year. I really slowed down for ice just before I entered the express lanes. The cold air literally assaulted my nasal passages and my lungs, it was an unexpected and rather painful feeling. I don't think my lungs warmed up until after the long hot bath I took when I got home. I think my time was about 25.30 The Jingle Bell Run might have to sustain me through the week as it does not look it is going to thaw very soon.
Weather like this is great for oven cooked meals. Here is the stuffed squash I made for our supper:
I didn't use a recipe. I liked it well enough to repeat sometime so I will list the ingredients in the stuffing here:
Halve and seed the squash. Give it head start by cooking it for 12-15 minutes in the microwave.
3 Mild Italian Chicken sausages squeezed from their casings and sauteed in 1 tblsp. of oil with:
1 yellow pepper
1/8 of an onion
1 stalk of celery
1 small chopped tomato (last one from our plants)
3 chopped basil leaves (from the plant in my garden window)
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
1 teaspoon of crushed red chilis
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Meanwhile a cook a cup of rice; I used a combination of black and jasmine.
Once the rice is done and the sausage and vegetable mixture is cooked, take them off the heat, add 1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Take squash out of microwave oven and stuff each half with the sausage and rice mixture. Bake in a 350 oven for 20 to 30 minutes more. Garnish with a chunk of Parmesan and basil leaf. Serve in a bowl. It is scrumptious and sticks to the ribs like winter food should!
Saturday, December 13, 2008
and a small Berber rug in off white with gazelles and fish woven in horizontal rows. You will need to use your imagination, I don't have a picture. Yes, our daughter arrived home on Monday and is gone again, but only for the week. She left this morning for Arizona to visit her boyfriend. Lucky girl to be going to Arizona, winter has decided to strike Seattle with a vengeance. Last night as we left Elliot Bay Brew Pub in Burien cold miserable sleet was coming down. They say it could snow tonight. Oh joy, I do not like the timing of this; tomorrow morning I join hoards of others in downtown Seattle for the Jingle Bell Run for the Arthritis Foundation. Maybe I will 'best' my time in an attempt to keep warm. I brought my pots of cilantro, chard and lettuce inside and made sure the hoses were disconnected and stored in the garden shed. Chris let some water out of the rain barrels in case they freeze and he brought the hummingbird feeder closer to the patio doors, under the shelter of the house's overhang. I cut out Christmas cookies today and I think I am done with my shopping. Doing a few things online really did help.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Winter is starting out pretty mild here in the Pacific Northwest. Yesterday I was able to cut back dead foliage and work on seed collection (see garden list on left). I also made cookie dough for cut out sugar cookies. As of last weekend, my Christmas tree is up and the mantle, garden window, and dining room table all reflect the spirit of Christmas. Chris put the string of red lights across the front of the house (LED now a days) and I strung white lights on the back deck rail.
Today I woke early to the smell of coffee, Chris was up and had set the pot a brewin'.
I drank 2 cups, read a bit in bed, then dressed for my run. I ran 7+ miles today which is my longest ever. Down,down down to Lincoln Park, along the water and UP,up,up to Shorewood, listening to my IPoD, not feeling pain of any sort, loving every mile. But when I got home I was plenty ready to shower, collapse, and read the newspaper.
I have spent several hours online today too. Shopping at Etsy and Amazon for Christmas gifts. Then of course there were the phone calls to connect with family in the Mid-west.
Constantly lingering at the edges of my mind is my daughter. She should be home now. I should have given her the welcome back kiss and the bear hug that are pent up in me. But her flight out of Rome was delayed, so we wait, anticipating our reunion tomorrow night. As you might imagine, I am on pins and needles until I hear her voice or see her smile.
Friday, November 28, 2008
Two new favorite dishes this year: Valerie's quince jelly on Manchego cheese made for a delectable appetizer that was a pretty display of pink and white on a plate. The quince were from their tree. I made a grape salad that was very easy: red and green grapes and a dressing of softened cream cheese and sour cream and sugar, garnished with brown sugar and toasted pecans. It was a refreshing change on the traditional fruit with whipped cream salad.
The 'kids' are growing! Lindsey has her driver's permit, next year she will be their designated driver.
Galen has a crummy cold, although you wouldn't know it by the smile on his face. Maybe the smile is because he won the dominoes game.
We talked to our daughter in Tunis via Skype. She was getting home from her Thanksgiving dinner at a hotel hosted by the directors of the OSU program which she attends. She said the dinner was ok but the mashed potatoes were like glue. Her host family's house was a jumble of conversations, probably in three languages. These Skype calls are still such a treat for us. There's our girl, on the other side of the world and we are talking to her and seeing her in live time. When I was her age and lived in San Francisco and my family was back in Wisconsin we talked every other week if that and I set the timer for ten minutes because to talk any longer would be too expensive. I looked forward to weekly letters(USPS NOT internet) from my mom and sometimes dad or my younger sisters. I would read and reread those letters 'till the next one came. I suppose everyone says "It's a whole new world." as they age, and I guess now it is my turn. So I give thanks for the ability to look back and smile and marvel. Life is good.
As I walked past the easels on my way to the coat closet on Wednesday, I saw Zoe's painting and thought: "I'll have one of those!" I did not watch her paint this picture and I am sure she has a story to go along with it that does NOT include a martini but that was my frazzled brain's interpretation. The 3 olives are significant; one for each day of this short (blessedly so) week. Twenty six conferences are done and the twenty six report cards are close to being behind me too. We had conferences for seven school days. The kids get dismissed at 1:05 on those days and granted, it makes for a challenging day care scenario for some families but I'm not sure I want to change the system. First of all, eight conferences in any one day is the maximum I can effectively hold. More than eight and I'm talking about Suzy when it is Sally's parents sitting in front of me, and I begin to wonder if I can give genuine enthusiasm for Johnny's stick figures in his journal, or concern for Jill's ability to stick her fingers three inches up her nose. If I did three days in a row of eight conferences I would be a basket case, not to mention my vocal cords would probably be stretched beyond capacity and I would only be able to whisper at the Thanksgiving table. AND for those of you who think we sit in the staff lounge and eat bonbons on the days when we have a light conference load, you are SO wrong. The spare hours created in the conference schedule are used to catch up with a myriad of tasks; report card writing, talking to specialists about the kids we both serve, writing our Data Team goals (a recent years' addition to our work load), planning for December, and tidying up closets. Even with all the so called 'extra time' one might think is within the conference days, my teammate and I never left the room before 5:00 and most days it was 6:30. So Wednesday evening it wasn't a martini but a bottle of wine I uncorked to sip as I zipped around the kitchen prepping for Thanksgiving.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Other food I will remember with longing: the Koren frozen yogurt we had at Pinkberry. This is nothing like the American version of frozen yogurt. It is more tart and yogurty tasting and the stores are only in California and New York. The meal I will lust after most of all is Armenian Chicken. It is delicious beyond belief. I think Kim and Arthur bought it at Zankou. The garlic paste, the creamy hummus, the tender rotisserie chicken or maybe it was just how ravenous I was that night, but Armenian Chicken is a delectable dinner not to be missed.
Los Angeles stretches on and on. I guess we were lucky to get such clean air and great visibility. You must click on the photo above to get the full impact of what we saw.
Chris and the Nakatas here, just gazing out at the 'City of the Angels' below:
Saturday, November 15, 2008
We went up to Forest Lawn Cemetery to see a Tiki show at a gallery on the grounds. I know, sounded weird to me too; "Art gallery at a cemetery?" But the show was great! Sorry, no pictures allowed. When we came out there was this gorgeous sunset starting. It is one of my favorite photos from this trip; probably because of the vertical palm trees punctuating the horizon.
And I saw this painted wall and had to take take the picture. I figured it gives a good time line perspective to all my other L.A. photos.
I am sure it is not this vacant in summer.
The 40 mile per hour winds kept all the 'Baywatch Babe' types away; much to Chris' disappointment.
This is certainly the most unflattering photo of us you might ever see. Just as Lynn clicked the shutter a big gust of sand hit us in the face. There was sand in my teeth, ears and down to the roots of my hair. Good thing we had sunglasses on.
Recognize this rock? It has been in several movies. This is Zuma Beach. If you enlarge the photo you can see a rock climber getting ready to rappel down the front face. There was a guy on the shady side too but I don't know if he is in this photo.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Not pictured are the lemons, figs and grapefruit; three of which we are taking home.
Almost directly across the road from their house is Topanga National Park and this trail which we hiked:
Dry mustard plants against a beautiful blue sky:
If you click on the photo to see it full size you can see the Pacific Ocean in the distance between the hills.
The striations in the sides of the rocks showed millions of years of shifting; nothing horizontal,it was all diagonals, I suppose as a result of earthquakes.