Battle of the Chocolates (and cities)

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Last week we did our taxes and discovered we owed an amount that went screaming into the four digits, rapidly dashing my hopes for a tax bill more along the lines of last year’s $250 one. Multiply that times ten, then keep going. That’s more like what we ended up with. Ugh.

I was distraught, so Chris took me to QFC and suggested that we fulfill a recent desire of mine to do a chocolate taste test. We bought two bars of exactly the same flavor (dark chocolate, almond, salt) and set out to objectively analyze them and pronounce one a winner.

Inadvertently, we picked one from Theo, an amazing Seattle-based chocolate company, and another from Moonstruck, a fantastic Portland-based chocolate company. Portland is my home town and Seattle is where Chris has spent the vast majority of his life, so we had a bit of a battle of the cities on our hands, too.

On the drive home, we discussed the qualities we wanted to compare. I suggested texture, even distribution of almonds, and salt-to-sweet ratio. Chris suggested “which one is most cow.” After a moment of confused silence from me, he added, “Oh, you mean we are actually seriously comparing them? OK, then yeah, texture is a good one.”

We ended up with this list to use when comparing our chocolate bars:

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We placed the bars upside down on separate plates, so we wouldn’t be able to tell which one was which, since the tops of the bars are stamped with the respective logo (incidentally, Moonstruck’s was prettier). Isn’t it funny how one is so much darker than the other, even though there is only a 2% difference in cacao content? Equally strange, the lighter colored bar is the Theo bar which has 70% cacao to Moonstruck’s 68%.

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Here’s a closer look:

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We spent time thoughtfully considering each bar…Image

{that’s a Basquiat skull printed on Chris’s shirt, isn’t that cool? We love Basquiat}

And cleansed our pallets with water and sliced apples (me) or Juanita’s tortilla chips (Chris, who I think just wanted a reason to eat more chips)

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We analyzed the chocolate bars from every angle….

{Theo’s bar, pictured here, had larger almond pieces}

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In the end, we had differing opinions. Chris preferred Theo’s bar, giving it a 33 out of 45. He gave Moonstruck a 22 out of 45.

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And I preferred Moonstruck, giving it a 39 out of 45, while I gave Theo a 30 out of 45.

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I realized this whole thing could have been resolved if we had also bought Toblerone’s dark chocolate, almond, and sea salt bar which is superior to the ones we tried. Don’t worry, I won’t mind repeating this experiment many times over. :) To summarize, when it comes to Seattle vs. Portland, Italy wins. Haha!

Here’s a parting thought: if you haven’t downloaded PhotoGrid to your phone, DO IT RIGHT NOW. You can make amazing gems like this one:

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Thoughts on Vintage

Every weekend Chris and I go on a coffee date. By far, it is my favorite part of the week, and it deserves its own post. Yesterday we went to get coffee in South Lake Union. We wandered around the MOHAI-park area, and meandered the streets, hopped up on caffeine. We came across Antique Liquidators, a warehouse vintage store. It was 99.5% furniture (nothing that fit our current needs) but there was a little section of costume jewelry, all $0.25 per piece. I bought these two necklaces:

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Who is BR? I don’t know anyone with those initials, but I love the tarnished chain, the length, and the cutesy heart. And I think it’s funny to wear initials that mean nothing to me :) also – new dining room table! Isn’t the texture and color great?! I love it.

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I love, love, love chunky bead necklaces.

I didn’t used to shop vintage because it grossed me out. More on that here. Now it’s rare that I wear an outfit without at least one thifted or vintage piece. It comes down to uniqueness. I’d say it saves money, but honestly, for me, it doesn’t. Because I never try on vintage clothes before washing them, I just guess at what I buy and often it doesn’t fit. Or it fits but not in a way that I like. It’s a price I’m willing to pay for the fun of the shopping hunt, and for the gems that I do get. Anything I buy that doesn’t fit me either gets donated or given to a friend. The stuff I do keep is so different and unique, it’s enough to keep me hunting through the next rack or dreaming up the next thing I want to look for. 

When I talk to friends who don’t thrift or shop vintage I tell them to start with Buffalo Exchange or Crossroads. Those are current clothes that have been curated so you only get the best stuff. 

Sidenote: I buy all my nicer jeans there. Why pay $220 for Diesel jeans (a brand I love) when I can get them from Buffalo or Crossroads for $20? 

Now I’ve just given away my best secret… :) Oh, well, do with it what you will.

Happy Shopping!

Ps. I love my two new necklaces layered up! although I don’t intend to wear them with ratty hair and a hoodie normally (I’d just finished working out and put them on to show Chris)

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At-Home Date Night

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an unrelated picture of my dog

Recently I was “forced” to take two days of work. You see, I can only accrue so much vacation time before it stops accruing and I lose some. Ain’t no way I was going to let that happen, so I took last Thursday and Friday off. I know, I know: how I suffer.

I decided Friday night would be at an at-home date. I planned a simple meal and cocktail, went to the grocery store, cleaned the house, and put on a dress (a casual one).

From a food stand point the date was a failure. 

1. I never made the salad

2. the BBQ chicken pizza I made was blah

3. the Mexican chocolate cookies were dry.

I gave Chris the task of mixing each of us a vodka and pineapple juice cocktail (shake, pour over ice.) I told him to put two shots of vodka in each. Later he confessed that he “had put two in each glass, but it didn’t look like much, so I added a third.”

Oh! So that’s why I was swaying strangely while singing The Kill in Rock Band (our after dinner activity). Honestly, it didn’t matter that the food was uninspiring, we had a great time (and that’s not just the vodka talking!). It’s an idea I plan on repeating, but with better food next time. :)

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Love What You’ve Got – 2

Next up in the line of Things I Love That I Already Own: this letterpress print…

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When I was single, I really couldn’t afford large-scale art. I had a few things I got at IKEA but call me a snob, I don’t really consider that to be art.

That’s snobby isn’t it?

Is it?

Let’s not dwell on it.

(It is snobby. Is it?)

ANYWAY, once we got married and our income had increased some, we started picking up art that was meaningful and personal. By that I do not mean expensive, but I do mean more unique than the green and black print of a singer I had gotten from IKEA for $7, and I also mean more impactful than the collection of tiny frames I had turned into a gallery on one wall.

The print above may be the largest piece of art we’ve purchased. It’s 36″ x 48″ and was part of the Wayzgoose letterpress event last summer (put on by Seattle’s School of Visual Concepts. Super cool. Way, way cool. Check it out). Design firms or departments from around the region develop a large “letterpress” print that they then create by hand-inking the block, placing paper on it, and running over the whole thing with a steamroller. You can enter a raffle to win a piece, but I decided to bid online for one a couple days after the event.

Side note: Never let me near eBay, as I discovered I become crazed with competitive rage when faced with an auction situation. This particular print went over the amount I had planned to spend, but I  really couldn’t let the mysterious other bidder win. IN YOUR FACE, OTHER BIDDER!

Now we’ve hung this on the wall of my home office and I absolutely love it. 

This is really a topic for another post, but I like art that has a little grit. Some dark themes. So, this was the perfect print. My home office is mostly pink and a skull advertising the black art provides the perfect counter-balance, and is a great juxtaposition. I may get a frame for this print one day, but I like the textural paint and keeping the print uncovered allows the viewer to see that. 

It’s one more thing that makes this house really us, and I love it. 

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Happy Birthday, Meatball

Today our French bulldog, Meatball, turns two. I wanted a dog for a very long time; I’m so happy he’s the one I got.

To my most favorite dog on the planet: may you live forever. We love you, Meatball!

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Homeward: Parte Deux

So we got the keys to our house in late November 2011. Our house was a short sale and had been neglected for many years (decades?). We knew it needed a lot of work. Pretty much immediately we started ripping up the smelly old carpets to reveal the hardwood floors underneath

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Uncertain what to do next, I started scrubbing the tile shower surround. It was grimy and gross, like the rest of the house. Suddenly I noticed one tile was a little…squishy. I scrubbed it a little more. It wiggled. It took almost no effort to pry it off the wall. Behind it the drywall was soggy and crumbling, like wet newspaper. The tile had been improperly installed, for one thing, but also it was obviously suffering from leak issues. We pried off a few more tiles to discover the same kind of trouble lurking behind them too.

A frantic call was placed to my dad in Portland, as he knows about these kinds of things. We were certain, as baby homeowners, that we were looking at a bathroom overhaul. My dad assured us it was nothing major, and also assured us he would help Chris fix it when he visited in a few days.

We spent the four days of Thanksgiving weekend working every minute on our house with my parents (who came from Portland), and my in-laws. The four of them were tireless. My mother and mother-in-law even supplied the meals. We ripped up carpet, carpet pad, staples, removed trim, primed and painted 3 rooms.

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My dad and Chris spent several days re-drywalling the surround and installing a new surround. It was so cool to see them sitting on the 1950s pink tub chatting away, covered in drywall dust, fixing the surround. 

My mother and mother-in-law spent a day scrubbing the kitchen (which was greasy and absolutely disgsuting). 

I felt so amazingly loved by the way they sacrificed their holiday and time off to help us. They encouraged me when I started to feel stressed and overwhelmed, and of course helped us make immense progress.

At the end of the weekend, our house had made a ton of progress, but I realized how off my expectations and attitude were…

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Bread + Ricotta = LOVE

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I know there are a lot of people out there who can’t eat gluten.

I’m sorry.

This post is not for you

I know there are a lot of people out there who can’t eat dairy.

I’m sorry.

This post is also not for you.

Anyone still with me? Well, let me tell you about my favorite snack.

But first: we are serious about snacking around here. I make sure the house is well-stocked with snacks at all time. This is because we enjoy snacks, but also because if we have something quick and yummy to eat we are far less likely to go out to coffee, a bakery, or out for a meal. Honestly it saves us money and makes us feel happier when we’re just hanging out at home. I take my snacking seriously. Besides, isn’t snack kind of a cute word? Well, I think so.

Back to the matter at hand: homemade bread and ricotta cheese = deliciousness

I recently re-discovered ricotta when I bought approximately a gallon of it on super clearance a few months ago. Unsure what to do with it, I spread it on some toasted french bread, and topped it with purple tomatoes and called it breakfast.

!!!!!!

It was so wonderful! Ricotta is creamy and mild, you can slather it on pretty thick and it feels really decadent. The sweet tomato was a perfect counter balance.

I bought some ricotta recently and knew just what I wanted to do: bake some bread to go with it. 

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So I did! I’m a big fan of the no-knead bread recipe. It’s hard to get much more simple than that, but I did simplify it: I skip the resting phase. I go straight from mixing bowl to hot dutch oven and I’ve never noticed a difference. Fresh from the oven, I spread my ricotta on warm slice, sprinkled it with pepper and coarse salt, and declared dinner was served (the quantity I ate surpassed snack level and could really only be defined as a meal)

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If you haven’t yet tried this amazingness yet, do so immediately!

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