Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Table Crazy

Who would have thought the arrival of a dining room table could be so exciting? Well, when we have always had hand-me-downs or put-togethers from Ikea - it can be quite exhilirating to get your first piece of REAL furniture.

We gave my dining room table away when we moved into our house. We have kept the dining room empty for almost a year now, awaiting our future table's arrival. It took us a while to figure out what we both liked and really wanted. We eventually formed a mutual list of criteria - it needed to be a long table to accommodate entertaining, solid wood, rustic (but not country), rectangular, including at least eight ladder-back chairs with wooden seats. We looked at a lot of furniture on a variety of retailer websites, CraigsList and at a variety of stores. We looked and looked and looked. We just weren't finding that "right one." After Christmas, we found it. A retailer was selling furniture from India at a "roadshow" at the Costco Home in Kirkland. I took pictures with my phone and have been pining over it ever since. A secret someone even promised us money toward it if we would just buy it. But, it was a big purchase and it took us a while for both of us (hint, hint) to be ready to pull the trigger.

Just today, on a day that needed cheering, it arrived. It is a gloriously beautiful piece of furniture - built of hefty mango wood, with lots of really cool imperfections and sealed with 12 layers of varnish. Hmmm, I think I'll sleep under it tonight.

Happy Birthday to my Mom

Happy Birthday, Mom! I can't believe it is the second birthday where you aren't here for me to make you a cake or get you something special. To at least feel like I'm doing something for you, I will do what I've been doing at each holiday. I will contribute to your Kathy Wallis Memorial Fund in the amount I would have spent on a gift for you. I know that would make you happy knowing it is a small step in helping others with ALS.

I'm doing OK - as you know. But, I have my moments. The other day in the scrapbook store when they asked my name and yours came up, I got really choked up as I told them you had passed away and they could take your name out of the computer. The lady in the store and I both ended up crying!

This whole thing still seems surreal. I don't know when it will ever feel real. I still feel sorry for myself from time-to-time when others talk about their Moms. Especially right now with the wedding plans. But, how cool is it that you are the only one coming to our wedding? I really try to look at it that way.

I love you and think of you all the time. As OJ said to me yesterday, "Courtney, your Mom will never really be gone. She lives on in you." Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you and always will.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sappy But True - I Love My Friends!

It is not a mirage. You are actually seeing invitations stuffed into envelopes. Yes, hard to believe, but true. We aren't entirely out of the woods yet though. I have a few random reception cards to complete and I weighed one of those suckers tonight on my Weight Watcher's scale and I'm afraid to admit we are over the limit and into the realm of extra postage! I'll take them to the post office tomorrow to verify, but it seems to be the case. Can you believe it? Yes, this project has grown entirely out of control. But, it is almost over thankfully!

I couldn't have done it without my wonderful friends. Again today, they trooped on over to help me finish. It was a smaller crowd today: Melinda, Evelyn, Lynn and me. There were my friends: adhesive stuck to the fingers, but happily telling me, "Oh, we'll get this done - no prob!" Thank you, girls.

With that, I wanted to share something about the bridal shower yesterday. You see, my dear friend, Marcie knew something was wrong with her fifteen-year-old Husky "Thunder" before the shower began. Thunder couldn't get up and they believed he'd had a stroke. She called her husband (he was out of town) and told him he needed to come home. Waiting for Bob, the shower went on. Thunder lay in the yard and thumped his tail as the ladies walked by and got lots of pets and love. Marcie was pretty quiet about it until folks started to leave. After the shower, Bob arrived and they took Thunder to they vet. He had suffered a stroke and they made the heartbreaking decision to put him down.

I cannot believe Marcie put all that aside just to make sure the shower went on as planned. I am still just overwhelmed by that. She is such an incredible friend. I am truly blessed. As you can imagine, she is pretty down about losing her buddy. I wish there was something I could do to make that hurt go away. Please share Marcie and her family and Thunder in your prayers. It is hard for us to say goodbye to our furry friends who have seen us through so many years. My Annie is 13 and I know our day is coming when we'll be sending her off to the Rainbow Bridge too.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Bridal Shower at Marcie's

It was a beautiful day getting to spend time with great friends and family. Marcie did such a great job! Thank you Marcie and to everyone who made today so special. I appreciate all of you!!

Update: I posted more pictures (thanks, Lynn!) And, if you want to see the pictures in more "regular" size - click on the little rainbow circle in the bottom right-hand corner of the video box. It will bring you up the Picasa Web Album screen where you can click on Album: Bridal Shower where you can "view slideshow" from there to see the pictures better.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Not Quitting My Day Job

So.... they're still not done. Thought I'd send you a picture in case you never actually get one to arrive in your mailbox. Seriously, though. Give me a jingle if you are free on Sunday afternoon about 3 p.m. A group of us will be finishing them up! The end is in sight!

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Last Wedding Before Our Own

Down in Portland again this weekend. It was Marcie's daughter, Taryn's wedding. She made a beautiful bride and it really was a lovely ceremony at a great location - the Lewis River Golf Resort in Woodland. The ceremony and reception were held right on the river. It was great. Marcie looked very happy. We had a good time chatting with her as well as our friend, Jeff and his wife, Caroline.

We stayed at Jody's that night and did some shopping on Sunday morning. Yes, at Nordstrom's! We were there when it opened and Bill was a good trooper about the whole thing - he even got a few items. We came back home, picked up Annie at Sue and Scott's and konked out pretty early. Well, I did anyway!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Wilson Training for the Summer Olympics

You would never know that just several hours earlier Wilson was at the vet - growling, hissing, ears flat back and baring his teeth at the poor veterinarian and her tech trying to examine him. He even bit Bill when he was putting him in his carrier. We were both embarrassed by his behavior, but also found it very funny. We couldn't help it. We were supposed to be trying to help keep him calm, but kept cracking up each time he yowled and hissed.

Tonight, its an entirely different story - he's happy as a clam now. I pulled out his favorite toy - the lawn mower pull. I had this great idea of tossing it up onto one of the blades of the ceiling fan. I turned the fan on low - and what grand new excitement that was! I don't know what it is - but watching that cat twirl his head round and round and do acrobatics in the air trying to catch the rope swinging on our ceiling fan was pretty darn funny to us tonight. But, yeah - we don't get out much.


It has been a really long week. Wedding invitation preparation fiasco. Family drama. Long days (and nights) for work. Back in the office today with a day packed with meetings. I am so glad it is Friday!
Bill and I head down South for Taryn's wedding tomorrow. I will be ensuring we pay a visit to Nordstrom's while we are in Portland as the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale began today and what better way to partake in the sale, but to do it with no tax! I've been excitedly perusing their site seeing all the items that are included in this year's sale. Oh, the Privos I like are on sale. Darn, the Sudini boots didn't make the cut. Hmmmm, nice Semantiks jackets. Bill, look at the Timberlands that are reduced. Then I came across the above item. A pink Kate Spade purse - and on sale! I would never buy it. On sale or not, it is a LOT for a purse, but I had to give it a lovely prominent spot on my site so I could just admire it. Ahhhhh... Retail therapy.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Let the stress begin!

I am starting to get to that stressed-out pre-wedding phase! My friend, Karen, said to me today, "I thought you were going away to get married to avoid the stress?" I responded, "So did I!!" Well, you can't avoid it all and this was one of those weekends!
It didn't start out all bad. Saturday Bill and I went on a real long bike ride (well, real long for me). We rode even farther into Tenino than I've ever gone. It was a good time - good exercise, good conversation and good time in beautiful sunshine.
I got home and showered and went over to my newly reincarnated (from high school) friend, Jessica's house to bake! My friend Karyn recommended using my cherry chips to make chocolate covered cherry cookies. What a grand idea, Jessica and I thought. We tried it and they turned out pretty darn good (for cookies with cherry flavored chips, that is).
Here are they are - fresh from the oven! Below are Jess' cupcakes in their first stage (finished they were covered in a lovely chocolate glaze and filled with chocolate mint - mmm).
Then came Sunday - my wedding invitation assembling party. I took Jonnita's advice and invited everyone who has said to me, "If you need any help from me, Courtney, let me know." If you didn't get invited it just means you didn't lend that key phrase. And if you did and were either invited and didn't come or invited and came - I am sorry either way! :-)
If, I mean when, the invitations are ever finished, I hope and pray they arrive to you in one piece. They are lovely, but just took lots of different steps and lots of adhesive that didn't always want to stick (unless it was to our fingers).
Here is Sue carefully applying little sparkles to the tropical flowers and Grandma Jo watching over her shoulder.
Lynn and Sara carefully gluing and cutting.

Jonnita - the card designer.

Jonnita, Lynn, Sara and Kelly

To Jonnita - I know you are stressing about this project. Don't worry about it! We made this decision together! We WILL get these done. It just might not be 'til August. :-) No, really they are great and I couldn't have done it without you. You've been awesome!
To all who helped yesterday - THANK YOU. You could have been spending that sunny afternoon doing a hundred other things and I even gave you an easy out to not come. But, thank you for coming and laughing with us, calming me down as I stressed through the entire project and just being there for me.
I love you all!
In case you were wondering. No, they are not done. They are maybe...half done. And I don't even have the heart to go look at them in the dining room tonight. Hoping I have more heart for it tomorrow. Am hoping you'll get them by August. In the meantime, SAVE THE DATE for September 12!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Cookie Recipe

I have baked thousands of cookies during my lifetime. The cookies to the left are a batch I made for Corey and Dad for a recent weekend getaway. I'm known in my family as the "baker". Whenever it is time for a family gathering, I'm always asked to bring a dessert. I have tried hundreds of recipes over the years- from the back of the cookie bag, clippings from magazines to "perfect cookie" recipes from Mrs. Fields to The Nieman Marcus $1,000 Cookie Recipe. I've made some good cookies over the years, but it is the bad ones I can really remember! Cookies that spread out paper thin merging into one another. Hard ones that you worry will chip a tooth as you break off a piece. Burnt ones so black on the bottom even Annie wouldn't eat them. Cookies with missing ingredients so they tasted funny. Oh yeah - I've experienced all the trials and errors of baking and I'd never really perfected it into a cookie recipe that would make good cookies each and every time.

I have finally settled on a favorite. This recipe makes the big, soft and chewy cookies like you can get at the mall. Even better - they are easy! My friend Ann is completely new to the world of cooking and baking. I am happy to say she just tried the recipe and was so pleased with her success! I was saying to Bill recently, I can't believe I finally have a great cookie recipe when now I really shouldn't be eating cookies! Grandma Jo recently brought me a huge variety of baking chips she'd gathered when she saw them on sale - toffee crunch pieces, milk chocolate, semi-sweet, Andes peppermint, white chocolate and even cherry chips (yeah - those ones are still in the pantry. I'm not so sure about those!). Those chips have led to me baking dozens of cookies and giving them away. I've been asked by several recently for the recipe. For anyone that knows me, I am an open book on pretty much any topic. Cookie recipes are no different. So, here you go!

Courtney’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/2 Sticks Salted Butter 

2 c + 2 T All Purpose Flour (I measure this as two heaping cups)

1/2 t Baking Soda

1/4 t Salt

1 c Light Brown Sugar

1/2 c Granulated Sugar

1 lg Egg + 1 Yolk

2 t Pure Vanilla Extract

1 1/2 c Milk Chocolate Chips or your favorite mix-in (ideas: cranberries and white chocolate... add half a cup of PB2 and reduce some of the flour for peanut butter... or at Christmastime add red/green mini M&Ms and holiday sprinkles)

Crystallized Sugar or Flaked Sea Salt (my favorite here) (optional)

Place a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 325 F. Melt the butter in the microwave and cool in separate bowl. Place both sugars in a medium mixing bowl. Pour the melted butter into sugars and mix until completely blended. Add egg, yolk, and vanilla extract. Mix until blended. In separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Add flour mixture and mix until blended. Add chocolate chips (or mix-ins of your choice). Stir until chips are evenly distributed. I use a large cookie scoop – scoop and form into one large ball for one cookie. Place onto the cookie sheets (I use air-bake variety) ensuring enough room because they will spread.

Put cookies in oven and bake for 18-22 minutes. Start checking after about 15 minutes and every two minutes thereafter. They are done when they are turning light golden brown and the edges are starting to get dry and firm while the centers are still soft. It all depends on your oven. I have gas, so I start checking my cookies at 20 minutes and sometimes they are done and sometimes they need to go a bit longer. Let cookies cool slightly and then transfer to a cooling rack or the "old school" variety we used growing up that works just as well - aluminum foil. After you have transferred the cookies, sprinkle them with granulated sugar or flaked salt. This is an optional step. Adults tend to like the salt, kids the sugar.

* The secret to these big and soft "mall style" cookies is the melted butter, the extra egg yolk, low temperature and longer baking time. I’ve tried making these healthier by using whole wheat flour and smart balance butter, etc., but they just aren’t the same. Save your healthy ingredient swaps for other recipes – you just have to go for it with these cookies!

The 4th

Our Fourth of July weekend was pretty quiet. Francie and I did what has now become the annual fireworks viewing at the bench of the Lacey roundabout on the third. The following morning we met up with Sue and Scott and watched our local Fourth of July Parade with Anna. It is always great to see Anna every year at this event so we can catch up. The parade passes by the end of her street so she always save me spots so we can visit. We were pretty worried it was going to rain - but right when the parade started the sun came out. It was great! You've got to love that!

Bill and I ended up having a quiet evening together the evening of the fourth. We went out for dinner and just stayed in. Saturday we took Annie to Fred and Francie's and then went down to Portland as Uncle John was in town. John and Susan live in San Carlos, but also have a condo in Portland right on the river overlooking the Fremont Bridge. It is a beautiful view. Someone jumped from the bridge right after we got there, so we watched from the deck as police boats circled underneath the bridge. Ugh...what a way to start our visit. Very sad.
On a lighter note, doesn't Bill look so much like his Uncle? To me, John looks like Fred (his brother and Bill's Dad) and Bill combined. The resemblance is so striking!

John took us to a local camera shop where we picked out a new camera for our trip. I had done some research ahead of time and we ended up with the Nikon P5100. It is one of the better point-and-shoots. We are happy with it! We also went to Trader Joe's and bought all of the wine for our wedding reception. Two big purchases and no sales tax. Gotta love that!

John is looking at buying a big, fancy camera with all the bells and whistles, so he had rented one for the weekend to try out. He took pictures of all of us and even some artistic shots of my ring. It bugged him that he couldn't get a decent close-up back in January when we were first engaged!
That evening, we had dinner at Bay 13. Wow - dinner was incredible. Bill and I both had rock cod with meyer lemon sauce and asparagus risotto. We are still talking about it! It was a great evening. We enjoy visiting with them so much. It was a treat to get to have some time with them.

I should also mention Bella. Bella is John and Susan's dog and just a cutie-pie. Here is a picture of her watching us through the window.

We finished the evening off by heading back to Jody's. We stayed with her that night and even got to visit for a bit before we all headed off to bed.

The next day we went to Bridgeport Village and got Bill's shirt for the wedding at Tommy Bahama's. We also went to REI and got some water shoes for our trip. I was having a hard time finding some that were functional, comfy, but still girly. I find these pink and brown Chacos - perfect! It is getting so close. All in all, it was a pretty great weekend!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Two boys and a little lady

We had Tanner and Maggie Friday night and then Carson spent the following morning with us. Carson loved being out in the sunshine. Tanner and Maggie had a special treat when Uncle Bill let them take a bath in the pool, I mean, "big tub." They are so cute and we always enjoy our time with all of them.
Bubble hairdos.

Tanner - enjoying me taking pictures (believe me - this is only one of several).

Carson - Mr. Happy Baby!

Getting love from my three favorite blondies!

Below is a video of Maggie and Tanner coloring and playing with stickers. Although, videotaping couldn't last long. Maggie just couldn't stand it. The second video (my favorite) shows her crawling up my leg so she could see what I was filming!


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