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Heartache and Beauty: A Bosnian Tale

After our hair-raising adventure just over the border into Bosnia, we were delighted to find our road emerge into gentle, rolling hills, some smooth with closely nibbled pasture, others carpeted with thick forests. I was glued to my window, scarcely wanting to blink lest I miss some beauty of this amazing country.

I delighted in the dome-shaped haystacks, shepherds prodding their sheep, children romping in the grass with their dog. I wanted to pull over at every home, magically be able to speak Bosnian, and sit and talk for hours learning about their family and national history. But I couldn't. All I could do was smile, wave at cute little kids strolling along the highway with sticks over their shoulders, and grin at the dapper old men taking the air in flannel trousers, blazers and hats.

My heart lurched as I saw hillsides covered, absolutely covered in headstones, both Muslim and Christian, women clad in black carrying armloads of flowers. I know every town has a cemetery, but usually the stones are old, covered in lichen, almost hidden by grass, a few new ones noticeable by their glossy marble and fresh flowers.

But not here. Here they gleamed, almost has if they had been erected yesterday. Row upon row of white crosses and black marble pillars. Hundreds of them in tiny mountain towns. My heart ached for the intensity of their loss.

Even as I soberly reflected on the devastation war has wrought on this place, we turned a corner and my heart again lurched, but this time for joy. A jewel of a lake tucked between forested hills, glistening and still, exquisitely reflecting everything around it. We pulled over and just stood there, staring, drinking in the peaceful beautiful of this unexpected place. After a bit some of us clambered down the bank, squelching our way through marshy grasses accompanied by the deafening chorus of thousands of frogs singing their hearts out. We couldn't see them, but we heard them, and smiled. :-)


Sunshiny Days and French Toast with Toasted Prosciutto

A Washington summer is so beautiful, so exquisitely clear and sunny and green, that we happily (cough, cough) endure months of dreary winter rains and the random hail storms of spring. This weekend brought those glorious sunshiny days at long last. I unpacked my sundresses and wore sandals for the very first time this year, my nose and shoulders are sunburned and I feel absolutely wonderful. :-)

It was so good to have my friends here for a couple of days. We spent many a happy hour on a blanket by the creek, the sun beaming down upon us as the water gurgled by and the wind shushed through the trees. We sipped water and ate strawberries and talked of writing and cooking, travel and good books, drawing and treasure hunting in junk stores. It's so fun dreaming and scheming with kindred spirits. :-)

This morning we had brunch as we waited for the sun to rise over the trees and flood the meadow with sunny warmth. We had French toast made with fresh French bread from the Dutch bakery in town, slathered with extra thick sour cream, topped with super ripe strawberries, and drizzled with Dutch syrup I brought back from Amsterdam.

Mmmm, SO good, especially accompanied by salty slices of toasted prosciutto.

 After they left, I sat down with some Cheetos and dark chocolate and stared out the window for a while, processing our talks. These friends inspire me, challenge me, empathize with my freak out moments, laugh at my EUREKA! ones, and draw out talents and dreams I didn't even know were there. I'm so grateful for good friends today. :-)

What are you grateful for, dear folks?

French Toast Krista Style

1 loaf French bread, sliced thickly
3 eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups fresh strawberries, washed and sliced
1 bottle real maple syrup or Dutch syrup

  1. In shallow, wide bowl mix eggs, milk and cinnamon until egg is well incorporated. 
  2. Quickly dip both sides of one slice of bread in mixture and place in well-buttered skillet over medium-high heat. 
  3. Cook 1-2 minutes each side until nicely browned. Repeat until all slices are cooked. 
  4. Spread French toast generously with sour cream, top with strawberries, drizzle with syrup and eat heartily.
Toasted Prosciutto


Prosciutto, sliced thinly

  1. Turn on broiler.
  2. Place prosciutto slices on cookie sheet. Place under broiler for 2-3 minutes until edges begin to curl. WATCH CAREFULLY. 
  3. Remove from oven and flip prosciutto slices. 
  4. Broil another 2-3 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Remove immediately and serve.


A Wee Bit Feisty and Blueberry Pudding Cake with Crème Fraîche

Happy Friday, dear ones! Aren't you SO glad that the weekend is almost here? :-)

It's been a decidedly wild but good week for me, and I'm feeling quite brave and feisty this evening after battling fears, squashing false guilt, and facing obstacles with my chin up. :-) There have been a few weepy moments along the way - isn't anything worth doing sprinkled with those? - but I feel strong in spirit because I soldiered on, pressed through, and am the better for it. :-)

Last night I was so happy to have friends, my parents, and my goddaughters over for dinner to celebrate Mother's Day a bit early. :-) I had such fun treating them, but Mums, Johanna and the girls also treated me with big squeezy hugs and these gorgeous things that now adorn my kitchen counter and remind me I am loved. :-)

The little girls arrived with these clenched in their fists. :-)

Mums brought me these lovelies from her garden. :-)

We had a great visit, strolled out to watch the sun set over the creek, and the little girls had a grand time plastering me with make-up and jewelry and making me "so beautiful!". :-)

For dinner we had Clementine Ceviche, a lovely soup that I'll tell you about another day, and warm Blueberry Pudding Cake with Crème Fraîche. Mmm, mmm, it was so good! :-) Mounds of blueberries atop buttery cake moist with blueberry juice. Delish! :-)

Now I must be off to put away laundry, vacuum, tidy up the last of the dishes and come up with a menu plan for this weekend. I have friends coming to visit - Rebekah and Trish and Todd and Deb - and I'm so excited! :-) A whole weekend of exploring and eating and talking our heads off and sleeping in and being crazily creative. :-) I just love kindred spirits. :-) They make life so beautiful!!

What beautiful thing do you have to look forward to this weekend? :-)

Blueberry Pudding Cake
(From Epicurious)


1/3 cup plus 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon cornstarch
10 oz blueberries (2 cups)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup whole milk
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 teaspoon vanilla

  • Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan.
  • Stir together 1/3 cup sugar with water, lemon juice, and cornstarch in a small saucepan, then stir in blueberries. Bring to a simmer, then simmer, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
  • Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a medium bowl.
  • Whisk together egg, milk, butter, and vanilla in a large bowl, then add flour mixture, whisking until just combined.
  • Spoon batter into baking pan, spreading evenly, then pour blueberry mixture evenly over batter (berries will sink). Bake until a knife inserted into center of cake portion comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 5 minutes.


A Bit of Orcas Heaven - A Guest Post

Good morning, dear folks! Today I'm delighted to host my first guest post from my friend Kat. :-) I hope you will enjoy her jaunt to Orcas Island as much as I did! :-)


Sometimes I have to wonder at all the splendour that surrounds me here in the Pacific Northwest. Where else in the continental states can you find sun, mountains, sea, and an abundance of luscious organic gourmet food? 

A short ferry ride from the seaside town of Anacortes brings you to Orcas Island in the San Juans, home of many friendly folks, lots of sheep,

and more importantly, the best sorbet I have ever tasted.

Nestled amongst the quiet trees and waters of Doe Bay on Orcas Island, the Doe Bay Cafe caters to those who love local organic food at its finest. I had the pleasure of dining at this delightful spot with a friend who had done his online research well. We were on the island for a Leon Redbone concert, and wanted somewhere to eat that had organic, island-grown and above all, delicious food. We found an exact match in Chef Abigael Birrell. This lady knows her audience wants and delivers above and beyond. Talented, experienced, and creative, Chef Birrell has built an excellent and well-deserved reputation for herself.

The restaurant itself is unassuming from the outside, hidden away at the back of the Doe Bay Resort’s front office. Walking down the lovely path marked by colorful hexagonal tiles, my friend and I joked that we might be overdressed for our surroundings, but we soon found that our attire was well suited to the open and rustically elegant atmosphere. Plenty of cedar, many paned windows with beautiful views of the bay, fresh-cut flowers and a knowledgeable staff made us feel right at home.

A very friendly, efficient young woman named Kelly showed us to our table overlooking a lovely little cove and left us to peruse the menu. She returned quickly to bring us an amuse bouche (indeed, for two) of a Mediterranean ajvar with rosemary crackers,

 and to recommend her favorite wine, a 2007 Penner Ash Viognier. I’m not generally a fan of white wines unless they’re dessert wines, but we requested a second bottle of this one to take home with us. This viognier was smooth, a good balance between sweet and dry, and went perfectly with our cheese plate. Oh, the cheesiness!

I must confess, I’m a fairly brand loyal cheese fanatic. Show me a good gouda or brie and I’m likely to remain devoted to that creamery for life. However, I am always eager to discover a new dairy, so I was joyous that our appetizer cheese plate arrived with nothing that I recognized. There was a sterling (locally made) herbed chevre, which paired delightfully with the thinly sliced apples, a PortTownsend Seastack, from Mt. Townsend Creamery, a buttery flavoured cheese which complimented the homemade quince paste and crostini. There was also a very good soft-ripened cheese which I unfortunately cannot find the name of, but it matched what I am guessed to be some kind of balsamic reduction as well as the very tasty Marconi almonds. Seeing the attention they paid to their cheese plate got me even more excited for the main course, and we were not disappointed.

My friend had ordered a dish of sea scallops with local vegetables and capellini pasta. We were curious to see what kind of herbs they would pair with scallops. It turns out that fresh basil from the restaurant’s garden and succulent arrugula make a consummate pairing. Topped with the delicately browned scallops, roasted red pepper and button mushrooms, paper thin radishes, and a light creamy sauce, the proportions of flavour with the capellini were well-balanced and amazing.

I fared as well or better with my Island Harvest Bowl. I chose udon noodles with a sesame ginger sauce to customize my dish, and was quite pleased with my selection. The sheer variety of vegetables made the dish, with perfectly steamed carrots, parsnips, cauliflower, green beans, and celery. It has been a long time since I have had vegetables that well prepared. They were not too crunchy, not too soft, just the right resistance to the bite. (I daresay they were al dente!) Completing the dish was a tuft of fresh and springy pea vines and a sprinkling of black sesame seeds.

We pushed our full plates to the side to take some home for later, (the café gives generous portions), and requested the dessert menu. Kelly animatedly informed us that the chef had prepared a special dessert for our evening, a baklava with Lopez Island vanilla bean ice cream and lemon-scented honey. I think perhaps the lemon scent was overpowered by the warm cinnamon and walnuts and crisp phyllo, but it wasn’t much missed in wealth of the overall flavour.

 I did manage to save the best for last. I would willingly part with my last bottle of my aunt’s homebrewed root beer to have a lifetime supply of the Café’s Blackberry Cabernet sorbet. I lingered over the perfect ripe taste of blackberries mellowed by the rich body of the wine, and jealously guarded my glass from my dining partner, allowing him only one bite and pointedly ignoring all his hints that we trade dishes. Alas, the tiny bites could not last, and I all but licked the glass clean, dignity at this point lost to the exclamations of rapture.

 By the time we left, the previously deserted restaurant was full, the staff were moving quickly and efficiently from table to table, and everything looked to be running like clockwork. A light drizzle fell as we left the cozy cove and hurried to our car, but I took one last look back and raised a mental glass to Chef Abigael Birrell and her excellent staff at the Doe Bay Café. I hope to return soon.


Cinco de Mayo and Clementine Ceviche

It's so wonderful to arrive at CEC in daylight again! So lovely to putter in the kitchen as the sun streams in the windows shimmering through our wine glasses before sinking behind the trees. :-)

This week we chose Cinco de Mayo as our theme, and we laughed as most of us arrived clutching recipes for a bevy of things to go with tortilla chips. We ended up having an appetizer dinner and not a soul complained. :-)

Don started things off with his famous margaritas, some blended, some on the rocks.

Darren made fabulous guacamole, bright with cilantro and lime and a hint of spicy cumin.

I made a citrusy bowl of Tilapia Shrimp Ceviche, adding clementine juice to the lemon and lime to make it even better. :-)

Selwyn made two massive pans of delicious nachos sprinkled with chilies, tomatoes, red onion, ground beef and all manner of goodness.

Cameron smoked a platter of deliciously seasoned carne asada that was tender and flavorful.

He also roasted corn on the cob and we eagerly slathered it with butter and sprinkled on a smattering of taco seasoning.

Mike made cheesy beefy taquitos that rounded things off nicely. 

Deb finished off our feast with deliciously creamy sweet corn pudding.

What is your favorite Mexican food?

Krista's Clementine Ceviche


2 cups chopped fresh tilapia
1 cup chopped fresh shrimp or prawns
Juice of 6 lemons
Juice of 6 limes
Juice of 2-3 clementines
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 red onion, chopped fine
1/2 serrano chili, diced fine (more if you like it hot)

  1. Combine all ingredients in a non-metal bowl. Cover and refrigerate 4-5 hours, stirring occasionally. 
  2. Serve with tortilla chips.
Deb's Sweet Corn Pudding


5 Tbsp. butter, softened
1/4 cup masa (corn flour)
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen, thawed
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. milk

  1. Preheat oven 250 degree F.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, mix the butter, masa, and sugar using an electric mixer until light and fluffy. About 1 minute.
  3. In a blender, blend half of the corn kernels with the water until smooth.
  4. Combine this mixture with the butter mixture, stirring well.
  5. Add the remaining corn kernels, corn meal, baking powder, salt and milk and mix well.
  6. Pour the corn mixture into an 8 inch square baking pan. tightly cover with foil.
  7. Place covered dish in a larger roasting pan filled with so water is 3/4 of inch up side of baking dish. Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  8. It is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.


A Bosnian Detour

It's not every day you get lost driving through Bosnia and stumble upon a military installation complete with tanks and fighter jets and end up hanging out the window snapping pictures like mad with your heart beating like crazy because you think you're going to be shot any second but you do it anyways because your brother is in the middle seat and can't reach the window and thinks this is SO COOL and really needs to be captured. :-)

He was right, of course. It was terribly cool and utterly terrifying. It was especially invigorating when, just as we got past the last of the tanks, a loud explosion occurred right in front of us. Our eyes bugged out and our hearts leaped into our throats until we realized that it was only a semi-truck blowing out one of his rear tires. :-) Needless to say it took a wee bit for our pulses to stop racing. :-) 

We didn't intend to get lost, of course, but our well laid plans of "stick to the main highway through Bosnia" came to naught once we crossed the border and suddenly the highway was shut down and we were shunted off into the hills with the aid of orange signs that we can only assume spelled "detour." Unfortunately for us the detour signs disappeared and we were left to wander through the back country of Bosnia trying to find out where in tarnation we were. :-)

 Wherever we were, it was absolutely gorgeous and, barring the whole military/explosion incident, wonderfully peaceful as we wended our way through pastoral farmland, thickly forested hills, watching shepherds in their fields, children playing by the water, women carrying groceries along the road.

 This was not the Bosnia I anticipated. My pictures of Bosnia were formed by grainy WW2 photos and, even more recently, the terrible battles of the 90's that left so many dead or shattered in body and spirit. I confess I was afraid of Bosnia before I went, but I also desperately wanted to see it, to drive over the land that has been torn by so many wars, to see the faces of the people who have survived, over and over again. In reading their history I can't begin to fathom the horrors they have seen and experienced, yet they are still here. Still getting married, having babies, working the land. We would see evidence of massacres, battles, and death further down the road, but for now there was beauty, life, and peace.