All posts in visitors

a wedding at Downton, a party at the farmhouse

It was a night for celebrating … Mary + Matthew’s long-awaited walk down the aisle, the return of must-watch tv on Sunday nights, and welcoming Tembo into the friend family. Cell phones were exiled to the hall table. Like you do.

On the menu:
Mrs. Patmore’s London Particular
Yorkshire Pudding Canapes
Cucumber tea sandwiches
Raspberry Gelato and Meringues


It’s prime apple season here in Minnesota! Some college friends and I made a day of it on Saturday, driving out the Aamodt’s Apple Farm in Stillwater and baking in my kitchen afterward. In the past 24 hours, the following apple-licious dishes have been cooked in my kitchen:

  • Mini apple hand pies (shared)
  • Apple pie (Meredith’s)
  • Apple crisp with my mom’s cobbler crust – amazing (mine now!)
  • Stewed apples with ginger, lemon, cinnamon and cardamom, in the crock-pot (all mine.)
  • Autumn chopped salads with Honeycrisps (also mine)
I learned that Haralson and Regent apples, while not as large or pink-pretty as Honeycrisps, are great for cooking and baking. Good thing, because we picked a peck of ’em at the orchard yesterday.
Now I have stewed apples and hand pies to tuck in the freezer for later.

two recipes for the price of one

Had a house-full of people around this weekend, with our former exchange student Lisa visiting from Germany with her boyfriend Jochen 🙂 So much fun showing them around town, picnicking at the Pizza Farm in Wisconsin, and waterskiing at the lake.

After they left on Saturday, mom and Sarah and I spent a relaxing day here helping Sarah transition from her summer in Panama to her new job/life coming up in Oregon. One of the highlights was a new recipe we found in Real Simple. We made a substitution of Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains (a blend of orzo, couscous, quinoa and others) in place of the quinoa below, but you could also use farro if that’s what you have handy. You’ll notice the recipe calls for pesto, so I’m also including my personal pesto how-to guide for delicious homemade pesto. Enjoy!

Quinoa with Sweet Potatoes, Kale and Pesto
2 cups quinoa (or other grain), rinsed
1/2 cup olive oil
3 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
salt and pepper
1 medium red onion, sliced
2 bunches kale, thick stems removed and leaves cut into bite-size pieces
fresh pesto (about 1/2 cup or 3/4 cup)
toasted walnuts, optional
  1. Cook the quinoa/grains according to the package instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the sweet potatoes, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper and cook, covered, tossing occasionally, until the potatoes begin to brown and soften, 6 to 8 minutes.
  3. Add the onion to the pot and cook, tossing occasionally, until the sweet potatoes and onion are tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Add as much kale to the pot as will fit and cook, tossing frequently and adding more kale when there is room, until tender, 3 to 4 minutes.
  4. Serve the vegetables over the quinoa/grains, topped with 1-2 T pesto and some toasted walnuts.
Lauren’s Pesto
I adjust the recipe according to how much basil I have on-hand. Here’s an estimation of ingredients for about 2 cups of basil leaves, but you should experiment and add ingredients one-by-one as you go so as to customize the taste. Add to Cuisinart in the following order:

Basil leaves, washed and dried (about 2 cups)
Pine nuts, about 2-3 T.
Juice from half a lemon
1 T. olive oil
Parmesan cheese, about 3-4 T.
Add more olive oil if pesto is too clumpy or not spreadable. Add more cheese to offset too much lemon. Some people like to toast the pine nuts first; I find it unnecessary.

Pesto will keep in the fridge about one week, or in the freezer about 3-4 months.

tomato poetry

For you, my friends, three haiku and a recipe.


college girlfriend night
hand-made pasta, fresh red sauce
extra basil, of course


sun is setting soon
boats moored at lake nokomis
perfect summer night
my newest toy
an “ergonomic” edger
the DVD helped

Lauren’s Marinara Sauce
Makes about 6 servings

8-9 medium or 6-7 large tomatoes
half a large white onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
two generous handfuls of basil, coarsely chopped
olive oil
kosher salt
large bowl of ice water
1. Boil a large pot of water; add tomatoes to boiling water and pull out when skins pop (time may vary for each tomato). Transfer to cold water and peel skin. Allow tomatoes to continue to cool.
2. Saute onions and garlic in olive oil in a medium saucepan until translucent.
3. Chop tomatoes and add to saucepan, including seeds and juice.
4. Drizzle with olive oil and cook over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes (until some of the liquid in the pan has evaporated).
5. Simmer on low until ready to serve; shortly before serving, stir in basil and salt. Garnish with fresh parmesan cheese.
Serve over hand-made pasta and with a salad of arugula, watermelon, feta cheese and balsamic vinegar for an excellent summer meal 😉

Visitors + a new recipe

I’ve had a number of lovely visitors lately … Friends from high school and college, and coincidentally, most are currently living in Massachusetts. One dear friend has a number of food sensitivities, which gave me the chance to try some new recipes 🙂 A pork and blackberry chutney recipe I found in Everyday Food by Martha Stewart was particularly yummy.

Garden and house projects have been keeping me busy when I haven’t been traveling. Lots of good posts saved up … Stay tuned.


brunch for twelve and a costco christmas tree

It might be almost Christmas, but I’m still catching up from Thanksgiving-time. The highlight of which was discovering that my house can accommodate exactly twelve people, maximum, for a sit-down meal.

If momma hadn’t invited half the family for Thanksgiving brunch, I never would have tried it. Seemed like a crazy idea to me. But it worked! We moved the big dining room table toward the stairs, and set up the folding table near the window. I had to move the side table out of the window nook to make room, but it came in handy as a beverage station behind the couch.

Just two days later, the main floor went through another transformation. I wasn’t sure I was going to go all-out decorating for Christmas this year, since I’m sort of in and out a lot these days. But, we found a great deal on Christmas trees at Costco (8 foot pine for $30!!) so I relented and pulled out the ornaments and lights (and just a few nutcrackers).

When I left Minnesota the other day, there wasn’t any snow on the ground. So it didn’t make it so hard to come to California for the holiday. I sure hope there’s a few inches when I get back, even if it means I have to shovel!

Merry Christmas to you all, wherever you may be.


in visitor condition

The house is spic and span … perhaps cleaner than it has been in a long, long time, although I’m loathe to admit that. But tomorrow begins ten days of parents, aunts, cousins and friends descending upon the house for a variety of parties and visits. So I’ve been scrubbing for days. There are a few corners (especially in the basement) that aren’t as organized as I’d like them to be, but as of Saturday it’s all going to be as done as it can be.

So for the record, here’s every room of the house, shot on the same night (I can pretty much guarantee that it’s the cleanest any of them have been at the same time since I moved in).

And with that I’ve also accomplished my to-do task of giving ya’ll an updated tour of the place. So there you go. Enjoy. Come visit. I mean it – I’m ready.

Anniversary Dinners

A year ago this weekend, I was taping up paint swatches in the kitchen (remember the big blue v. red debate?) and cleaning like mad.
This weekend, I did no painting and just a bit of cleaning. And a whole lot of cooking… as evidenced by the four wine bottles ready for the recycling bin, and a counter full of dishes drying by the sink.
Why’s that? Because, in honor of it being a year since I closed on the house, I made a big ol’ roasted chicken for Sunday dinner with family and friends. Plus dinner for friends on Tuesday and Friday nights last week. (That makes three Dinner Project checkmarks in the last six days, if you’re helping me keep track.)
The recipes for Sunday’s chicken dinner came from these cookbooks, all of which I received as gifts this year:
Entertaining with the Seasons (Williams-Sonoma) ~ Roasted Asparagus with Lemon
Snow Country Cooking (Williams-Sonoma) ~ Citrus Rosemary Chicken
Stop and Smell the Rosemary (Junior League of Houston) ~ Mile High Biscuits
I won’t reprint the recipes here, but I can’t recommend these cookbooks highly enough – the latter two are staples in my mom’s kitchen, and they are all in frequent use in my own house now, too. I love everything I’ve ever made from them.
Citrus Rosemary Chicken:

Mile High Biscuits:

All together:

Cousin, brother and college friends

And since I’m holding out on you for the above recipes (forgive me for not wanting to be sued by a publishing company), here’s one I can give you. I made it up in the car on the way home from work on Friday, knowing that I had a dinner guest arriving in 45 minutes and a mostly bare refrigerator. Miracles are possible, my friends.

Balsamic Feta-Stuffed Turkey Burgers with Arugula
{makes three burger salads}
1 lb. ground turkey
3-4 Tbsp feta cheese
balsamic vinegar (about 6 tsp)
honey (about 3 tsp)
baby arugula (about 3 cups)
olive oil for drizzling
1. Prepare ground turkey as you would ground beef for a hamburger (add salt and garlic powder at this stage, if desired). Divide turkey into three portions, then divide each portion in half.
2. In one hand, form the turkey into a small round the size of your palm, then use your thumbs to create an indentation. Place about 1 Tbsp of feta cheese in the indentation, then use the other portion of turkey to seal off the top of the patty. Flatten out as necessary (they’ll still be more rounded than a normal burger patty). Repeat to make two more patties.

3. Cook burgers over a medium-high flame (I used a griddle on the stove, but a grill would work great, too). After a few minutes, drizzle balsamic vinegar over the top of each patty and flip. Drizzle balsamic vinegar and honey on the other side, then flip after a few more minutes. Continue flipping until burgers are cooked through and carmelized on the outside.
4. Prepare bowls with arugula and drizzle with olive oil. Place hot patties on top.
We enjoyed ours with hash browns and roasted cauliflower & broccoli 🙂

Lastly, I have to give a shout-out to my dear friend Rachel who stopped through town on her way back to the West Coast. We both left California six years ago, and rarely have the chance to see each other. It was a short visit, but I’m glad to at least had the chance to teach the girl what an apple corer is…

We had a long talk about how one finds a home – literally and figuratively – after leaving a childhood home, and it couldn’t have been timed better. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how grateful I am to not only have a stable roof over my head, but to be settled here in the Twin Cities. I love having so many friends and extended family members nearby. I love my neighborhood. I love the lakes, the theaters, the restaurants and the people. I even love the weather. And I’m lucky to have found a home that fits my personality and my values, I’ll admit.
So if you’re wondering why I spend so much energy on the house, the garden, the dinner project, this blog and photographing every detail in between, know it’s because it means so very much to me. A year ago, I knew it would be a life-changing endeavor. What I didn’t know was how it would make me a more grateful, intentional and (I hope) generous person. Hard work it may be, but it’s all worth it. Thanks to all of you who have helped, visited and celebrated with me over the last year.
P.S.: For some reason, I had in my head that I closed on the house March 28th. So I had an anniversary post all lined up for today that I’ve now rewritten considering the real closing date anniversary was the 25th (or so I realized this morning). C’est la vie.

crafty ladies

When I first walked into the basement of this house a year ago with my realtor, I instantly envisioned it filled with friends and fabric and paper scraps and knitting needles, drinking tea and hot cocoa on cold winter weekends.

The month of January didn’t disappoint.

Thanks to all the beautiful and talented ladies who shared their ideas and good spirits over the last few weekends:

Meredith and her mod podge letters

Maggie and her cards

Miriam and her jewelry (and Gone With the Wind)

Me and Meredith’s sewing machine

Maggie (above and below), master of ribbons and craft photographer extraordinaire

Danica, getting ready for a jewelry show

Erika and her amazing, original, Nordic-inspired fingerless glove patterns

Jen, cutting up an old t-shirt (trying valiantly to make these) and Amber, cutting out fabric for a dress

Karissa, making valentines

We’re already collecting project ideas for the next afternoon of crafting (see mine here, on Pinterest). If you want to join the fun, let me know!

And soon I’ll post the photos of the sewing projects I’ve been working on. Until then… go and be creative, my friends. That’s what winter hibernation is for.

the dinner project

Call it a resolution, call it a goal, call it a lifestyle priority. But I will consider 2011 a great year if I’ve had friends or family over for a home-cooked meal at least once a week. I’ve done pretty well so far – three separate dinner guests so far in the first three weeks of the year.

One was a special friend who came all the way from San Diego… to see the new house… to frolic in the snow… to reminisce and hang out and explore Minneapolis with me for the long MLK weekend. We ate out almost every meal because there are so many places I wanted her to try. But we made a point to cook at least once.

Pasta, of course.

We broke out the new mandoline slicer that mom and dad gave me for Christmas:

This version of Backpacker’s Pasta featured onions, mushrooms, zucchini plus vodka sauce, parmesan cheese and fresh basil:

A typical weeknight has me eating dinner on the road or standing in the kitchen, so whenever I have guests I can’t help but break out the real linens:

Pictures like this make me irrationally happy.

And I want more of them. So if you haven’t been over for dinner yet, call me. We’ll get it on the calendar.
I can’t reach my goal without you – see how sneaky that was? 🙂