Thursday, January 31, 2013

Still Hanging Out Upstairs

Blanket Collection
Chilhuly Garden and Glass

I'm still hanging out here upstairs in the house. The kitchen remodel is plugging along. Plodding forward a full two months after I thought I would be moving our furniture back in (I know........). I am now more realistically referring to this project as the 'downstairs remodel' due to some flooring and millwork that were included. 

Right up front I should tell you that I am so very happy with the couple of guys measuring, sawing, hammering and finishing away down there. I can't say enough about their honesty, work ethic, communication, attention to detail and excellent craftsmanship. But certain things appear to be beyond the control of those spending their days here....and well, during the past week this has become more than obvious: Door/window millwork lumber was returned for the second time because the entire order arrived wrong yet again. The fire door to the garage was for some reason drilled for a different deadbolt than the one that was brought directly to the door store when the order was placed.....just so that type of thing would NOT happen.  Hardware was back ordered. Certain phone calls weren't returned promptly. In the on going saga of our front door lock (you didn't know there was one did you?) we were locked out of our house Friday evening.

And my dog died. I had a week last week....

Normally this might call for diving into a pan of warm homemade brownies while snuggled under my favorite blanket in front of the television, a cold glass of milk at the ready. Since most of my baking equipment is still packed away in the garage......I turned to the next best comfort food: Pasta. 

I began thinking about the way my mom loves macaroni best (and often mentions it!)...... warmed together with canned chopped tomatoes and their juice...... and started out to buy the ingredients for this simple dish. Somehow, my recent passion for kale got in the way......and then my craving for Beecher's Cheese. A can of  cannellini beans made their way into my cart, and well.....this is what I came up with. It was honestly so good, simple and comforting that I made it twice.


Tomat0, Kale and Cheese Pasta

2 14.5 oz cans of chopped tomatoes with their juice
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 lb kale, washed, de-stemmed, de-ribbed, rolled up and cut into ribbons
2 tsp dried basil (although I think fresh would have been wonderful)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
3/4 lb of conchiglia pasta (kind of a cross between a fat macaroni and a shell     
  shape....other similar shapes will do!)
1 can cannellini beans (Italian white beans), rinsed and drained
2 or more cups shredded Beecher's cheese

Place tomatoes and their juice, along with the minced garlic, chopped kale, basil oregano, salt and pepper into a large sauté pan or saucepan. Simmer 5-10 minutes until the kale has softened to your liking. Then add the beans.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta to just al dente. Save out a couple cups of the cooking water, then drain the rest from the pasta. Gently toss pasta thoroughly with the tomato/kale/bean mixture in its pan. Add about a cup of the shredded cheese and gently fold until the cheese melts into the hot tomato mixture, there is kale sticking to the sides of the pasta and some of the white beans are lodged into the ends. If you feel the need (and depending on the consistency of sauce you enjoy with your pasta), add some of the reserved pasta cooking water to the pan. Correct the salt and pepper seasonings.

Sprinkle the remaining cup or more of cheese on top and dig in while it's warm.

Makes 4-6 generous servings.

**Marc thought another can of beans would have been nice, but I thought it turned out perfect this way. Your decision!

Wishing you a wonderful week ahead!

Warmly, Margaret


PS. Have you  noticed that I haven't necessarily been sticking to a regular day for my posts. The first year it was EVERY Tuesday and Friday without fail. Then as life changed, I every Wednesday. Which sort of shifted toward Thursday. Which then became the occasional skipped week of posting. 

One thing I know about this process is that both writing and photography are important to me. So important that if I'm rushed or hurried or simply uninspired and don't feel I can put something 'out there' that I'm happy with, that I'd rather put it off until I can. It's such a great discipline to post once a week with regularity, but on the off chance that I don't show up, please do continue to check back in. Or join me through Blogger. Or sign up to receive an email with each new post. And by all means...please feel free to leave comments. I LOVE hearing from you!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


I met him in a Target parking lot and fell in love in an instant. 

He wasn’t the first puppy I had looked at, but the right one. Just a few months prior, at a breeders suggestion, I was allowed to bring a pup home from her litter for a trial run. Pedro. He was absolutely adorable. Everything one might want in a Golden Retriever pup, except that after our allotted four hours, I knew the timing wasn’t right. The connection wasn’t there. I returned him to the breeder with thanks and an explanation. I had not a doubt that he belonged with another family.

I wanted another pup and knew it would happen at some point in the future but was OK with putting the idea on the back burner for awhile. And then, after stopping in at a friends house one February day I was greeted at the door by her, an eight week old, red-haired Golden Retriever babe in her arms. I oohed and ahhhed and petted and cuddled ......loosing track of the fact that she was even standing there. When I mentioned that a new member of our family was something I’d considered for awhile, she followed up with the information that she thought one of her pups litter mates was still available. Did I want the phone number? It couldn’t hurt to check it out.

I knew how I had felt holding her pup, but wasn’t completely sure I was ready to bring another living, breathing, shedding and un-trained being into our home, which was why I mentioned to Marc that I meant to simply ‘take a look’.  The breeder offered to meet me at a location closer to my home since she would be out that way anyway. 

The Target parking lot.

Round body. Soft red coat. Black marble eyes. Gentle demeanor. Without question or hesitation I transferred him from her arms to mine where his nose settled into the hollow of my neck and his warmth settled into my chest. With barely a word the deal was sealed. As it turned out, he had been returned to his breeder after spending three days with a couple who knew he wasn’t the dog for them (thank you). But I didn't have a doubt. This dog belonged in our family. With that first nuzzle I knew he had a place alongside me, Marc, our three boys, a dog and a cat. And I knew his name: Logan after one of our favorite places on earth, Logan’s Pass in Glacier National Park.


Seven years later his symptoms came on quickly. In retrospect maybe they had been there for a month or so, but it wasn't so unusual for him to throw his food up after gobbling it down all too fast, occasionally skip a meal or to sleep the day away. He was a dog after all. I took him in one day, when after giving him a pat on his way out the back door, I was shocked to feel the bony protrusions of  his scapula. A split second glance registered the outline of vertebrae down the center of his back. Afterward, he declined my offer of cheese. This is a creature that hung out with me almost all day, every day, and in just a few minutes I noticed that he, all of a sudden, looked and acted uncharacteristically different. Like a different dog.

A couple of visits to our regular vet, then an ultrasound at a specialty clinic showed the grim prognosis. The cancer, by the time it was discovered (most probably histiocytic sarcoma) had spread throughout his GI tract and other internal organs. An aggressive bully, insensitive and out for its own gain, it robbed him of 10 pounds, his ability to ingest food or water and stole most of his energy except for an occasional tail wag. 

In the face of bad news I can be logical. Stoic. Able to take the next step forward in order to move through the motions of whatever needs to be done. I was able to ask questions, listen to their answers, take notes, make phone calls, talk to my husband and our sons. I relayed information and knew that the rest of his family was in agreement: whatever we chose to do had to be all about Logan and not one bit about us. He was a loving, loyal, gentle, appreciative, generous and happy creature. Not one of us wanted to prolong his life in the face of pain or suffering. The decision, when the time came, was simple, easy and made painful sense. It was time......and before either of us voiced it, Marc and I had been seated quietly together, independently thinking the same thing. So at 9-something PM on a Sunday night, he was loaded onto a rug in the backseat of our car for the last time.


On this day it is difficult to realize that I will no longer hear a groan as he changes position in his sleep. No wet panting in my face when it’s time for me to ‘GET UP!’ No eager offer (from him) of a morning game of chase around the coffee table. There will be no sound of tail thumping before I even make it ‘round a corner or into a room. No cheering him on right around 7 PM each evening in his frantic search to find a sock he can present to Marc at the front door.  No bits of kibble strategically placed under the kitchen table for who-knows-what doggie reason. 

I have a washer full sheets and a blanket that made him comfortable during his last few days. His bed lays empty at the foot of mine. I miss him deeply and with my whole being. There will be routines to undo; moments I will need to correct in order to remind myself that my anticipation at seeing him is no longer useful.

And I have spent brief moments...... vacillating........wondering...... ‘Did we let him go too soon?’ ‘Allow him to suffer a couple of days too long?’ Sometime ago I remember hearing or reading or being told that the best day to put a pet down is the day before you think you need to.

We did the right thing.

And he is making a bunch of souls very happy in Heaven right now. I am sure of it. Smiling, running, chasing, protecting, patrolling and announcing his presence. Laughing (because research shows that dogs do laugh) and twirling ‘round and ‘round, chasing his tail, in his signature happy-dance move.

Wishing you a wonderful week ahead. XO Margaret

Monday, December 31, 2012

I Wish You A Very Merry Christmas Season and A Happy New Year!

I adore Christmas cards. The tradition of sending and receiving. Reading enclosed sentiments, personal notes and newsy letters. Looking at photographs and paying attention to all that has changed. Wondering how yet another year has passed so quickly. 

Sweet and sappy or simple and to the point. Handwritten, handmade and hand-signed or created, addressed and signed in printer's ink. Pictures of friends, families, pets and favorite adventures. They all carry more meaning than the card stock conveys. I have favorites I can remember from years ago. I love the way they help us all keep in touch; how taking the time to send a card reminds someone that they remain in your thoughts.....and vise-versa.

My friends, however, may not receive that message this it is well past Christmas and not-a-single hard-copy card, photo or piece of news has been stamped and mailed from this address. (I think for only the second year I can remember.) I'm still hoping to get something put together for New Year's.....but have a feeling that I won't. Just in case....see below.

I took particular joy in re-reading the cards and notes we received this year, then stringing their wishes together like a colorful paper chain for my own holiday message. I know it's almost too late, and that I've played around with tense and possibly taken a few other liberties with their text, but the wishes are heartfelt and come from a very sincere place. Cheers!


Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Winter Wishes. Seasons Greetings. 

Joyful Greetings!!

Here's hoping that the season came softly and gently......bringing you a feeling of wonder. That it brought a flurry of fun! That you were at the top of Santa's list!

I hope you found nice surprises waiting for you everywhere. That you Celebrated with the Merriest of Friends! That your days were Filled With Love and Happiness. Warmth and Joy. May they continue to be Merry and Bright (as bright as the star on the top of the tree)......and filled with Joy and Peace.

Cherish the Season.Wishing you laughter and memories that shine brightly all year.

From Our Home To Yours......Our Family To Yours: Wishing you Special Joys, Warmest Thoughts and the Very Best. May the New Year bring you continued Health and Joy! 

Best Wishes for 2013.



With Love. 


(PS. Let it Snow!)

Friday, December 21, 2012


A few (many) years ago....when I was twenty-five, I lived in an apartment in Seattle. It was a one bedroom, where, for the first time in my life, I lived by myself, with my cat, Eddie. At first that apartment felt strange and spacious and sort of decadent, since I had only lived with groups of others up until that point: a family of seven, a dorm, college and post college houses and apartments full of friends. I paid affordable rent for digs that had a view of Lake Union, the Space Needle and Queen Ann Hill. From my large window I watched morning light, sunsets, a famous lighting storm that I think the Seattle Times still sells photos from and lighted Christmas ships pass by throughout the holiday season. The building was in a neighborhood right in the city and had an actual asphalt parking lot where I could park my car. I started my job at the hospital at 7 and made it home by 4, which left plenty of time for an afternoon walk around Greenlake or to Pete's Market to see what sounded good for dinner.

At that point in my life, my sister and one or two other friends met up nearly every weekend for Breakfast at Julia's Fourteen Carrot Cafe which I could walk to. Their Tahitian Toast with a side of fresh fruit and yogurt was, and still is, one of my very favorite breakfast food memories of all times. For awhile, on Thursday evenings, my sister and one of these same friends took turns making dinner, after which we would tune in to the latest episodes of Family Ties, The Cosby Show and of the very best TV lineups of all times. 

At twenty-five I took the occasional weekend trip, understood I had never met someone like Marc before (we had been dating for about a year and a half at that point) and dreamt of going back to school. I enjoyed my friendships, loved to cook, walked for exercise, read and made things. I chopped enormous salads topped with cottage cheese, shredded cheddar, raisins and crushed saltines many nights for my dinner. I drove into downtown Seattle to shop and look and dream. I loved all kinds of music but had a special passion for classical. I knew I loved the out-of-doors, writing and taking pictures, and had a sense of adventure. I liked where my life was and where it was going. I didn't know exactly what the future held, but didn't really feel the need to either.

At twenty-five I didn't know that within the next five years I would be married, move all the way across the country and then back again, or have twin boys. I didn't know I'd have a husband who would give me flowers the day before our anniversary (which is, by the way today!) so that I could enjoy them the entire day of, or that another baby boy would come along. That I would explore my political views, quit a paying job to stay home and raise kids or exchange a vibrant city for the suburbs. 

About a week ago, my older boys turned twenty-five and I am (blank) years over twice their age. I think they live in a more complicated world than I did at that age.....but perhaps my parents felt the same way about me and their other children.  The one thing I do know is that certain themes have carried on throughout my life: my interests, what I value and the purposeful ways I spend my time. I can look back and see a similar pattern in my boys; activities each of them showed an interest in from an early age and the ways those have translated into how they currently choose to spend their time and energy. 

Have they noticed this pattern? I'm not sure and I don't really want to point it out....just to encourage them to pursue whatever it is that they're interested in. I want them to have the same sense of discovery about their own lives that I did and still do about mine.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Contact Sheet

Above is a contact sheet of images from a calendar I recently put together for 2013. A gift I enjoy making for friends and family. It is my way of keeping in touch, of remaining in contact (if you will), with them throughout the next twelve months. I try to use photos shot during the year in which I will give it......with the exception of those taken in December. I've made an executive decision that due to time constraints, December's can be drawn from the last month of the previous year.

I enjoy the hours of perusing computer files and blog posts. Of sifting through and remembering. Of eliminating, narrowing choices and then narrowing them some more. Of figuring out the one photo least to represents each month. I enlist Marc's help, see what he has to say about all of it (because he is totally willing and I respect his opinion), but make the final cut myself. 

As I do this I am looking for the best possible combination of subject, color, tone and feel. It's like putting a puzzle together. Each image is sized to 3 1/2 x 5" and printed on heavy 5 x 7" cardstock (the month underneath) so I want an image that can be viewed easily from across the room. I want the viewer to know what they're looking at from a few feet away, so the simpler the better. 

The whole process is fun and rewarding and something I love to do. It encourages me to slow down during a busy season. Allows me to take pause and feel thankful for some of the beauty I've come across during the year and for those I want to share it with. I know it might sound silly......but if I can actually match a photo to the month in which it was shot, I somehow feel as if I've scored a point in this game!

I have to say, putting 2013's calendar together has been a welcome distraction from the construction that is still (!) going on downstairs at my house. Call me naive, but I didn't think it would take as long, cost as much or be as noisy and dusty as it has been. No complaints here. I know that by changing these few elements, for the first time we are making our home into 'our home'. Can't wait.

Hope your Holiday season is going well! Wishing you a wonderful week ahead.



(PS. This post wasn't meant to be a shameless attempt at self-promotion.......but yes.....I am willing to print a copy for you. $20 plus shipping. Look for a link to my Estsy shop within a couple of days or send me an email at


Friday, November 30, 2012

Holiday Dream

Last night I had one of those dreams. You know the one: Where you wake up engulfed in panic because you arrived late to a test or slept through a job interview. Nearly everyone I know has experienced a version of this dream at one time or another. 

My own personal twist on this nighttime theme of missing-out-on-something-important was that I showed up on time but forgot to bring my camera. In this scenario I was at a photo workshop, riding along merrily with a few others toward the location of our shoot. I remember being happy and chatty and looking out at the passing scenery, excited for all of its potential...... but as we piled out of the car and onto a rocky beach near sunset, I realized I had forgotten my gear. As everyone else, carrying cameras and tripods and backpacks with lenses in them, raced toward a variety of shooting possibilities, I stayed behind to dig through the trunk and circle 'round the vehicle in order to scan its seats thoroughly just one more time. 

Nope. I had arrived without a camera, I was away from home, and the hotel we were staying at was miles away. In this dream I wasn't the driver of the group of photographers, but a passenger, and I remember thinking that I couldn't very well ask him or her to drive me back to collect it. There would be no use, because by the time we both returned, all of that glorious evening light bathing the sand and rocks and driftwood and shore life would have disappeared. While normally I check and double check to make sure I have every piece of equipment I might need for a shoot, apparently I was so distracted by the fun and conversation of the people around me that I had neglected to bring any of it. To focus on the one necessary thing.

In the next scene......because, you know, my dreams have scenes......I was sitting back on a log watching the others in their excitement, wondering how to creatively stretch the limits of the Instagram app on my cell phone. 


So 'What is going on in your life, Margaret?' you might ask? Well.....a lot. Wonderful things, but a lot. And I'm theorizing maybe too-much-at-once, because...... I had that dream last night. 

We are inching closer to the Holidays......what am I saying? The holidays are HERE. 
Meanwhile, the remodel on the main floor of our house is inching along. I will not complain (not one bit) but I've been without use of a kitchen since October 29th. And without my favorite writing, gift wrapping, photo editing, and gazing-out-the-window-into-the-backyard table. The table where I set my baked goods on racks to cool, work on Christmas projects and the one which, I think, prompts me to write a few lines on this blog. (See, I knew I could fit in a great excuse for skipping out on a post for last week!) The Holidays are......errr......HERE, not one cookie has been baked and I'm feeling a bit stressed and behind and wondering if I will be be able to pull it all together by the time two of our boys return home from afar. Or at the very least by Dec 25th.

Amidst all of this sort of chaos, I do, every day, know and understand that I have much to be thankful for. Here is a list I made last year: Thankful . It still applies. I'm going to re-read it now as a good reminder to myself. Then I will take a few deep breathes and try to slow down and compartmentalize and do what I want/need to get done. I will visualize and dream about it all coming together.....or at the very least appreciate each moment as I move forward.

Wishing you a Wonderful Week ahead!


Warmly, Margaret

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cool. - Empty Nest Repost #8

I have to admit I've wondered ever since I wrote a certain piece a few months ago, if I'd have occasion to refer to it again. The opportunity to say, "Yes......that happened. I hoped it would.....and it did." Well, tomorrow evening it will. Tomorrow evening Marc and I are heading into Seattle to hang out with a couple of our boys at a concert. They WANT to go with us. The only difference between tomorrow's concert and what I originally wrote about is that we'll be seeing someone current and not from know......and oh, I-can-hardly-say-this-because-it-makes-me-feel-sort-of-oldish-and-uncool, but......our 'era'. 

I've had warnings that 'It will be loud, Mom........and long', but except for the fact I'll be missing the one of ours that now lives in New York......I don't care. It'll be cool.

Click here to read the original post:  Cool.

Wishing you a wonderful week ahead.



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