Christmas Baking 2015

Hello all-

Some years I do very little baking at the holidays, and sometimes I do a fair amount. It just kind of depends on how I’m feeling that year, or what I see that looks cute and I want to try (in addition to standard, family favorites).
This year, as you can see below, I was a bit out of control!🙂
I found all kinds of cute cupcake decorations and other clever, cute recipes that I just had to try this year!


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

4th of July in Edmonds

Another great 4th of July! Hope you all had a nice holiday.  The day started off by us taking a ferry ride over from Edmonds to Kingston to go to the farmers’ market over on the island (it’s basically just an excuse to take a ferry ride! We love doing that!). We came back, enjoyed some sun and an early lunch, and watched the kids’ parade and main parade in downtown Edmonds. I think the hot weather might have kept some people away, as it was not quite as insanely busy as it usually is, but it was fantastic as always!

I just love all the colorful, patriotic clothing and accessories people wear! So great!

Amazing Experience in Washington DC

With Memorial Day right around the corner, I wanted to share an experience  I had during a recent trip to Washington D.C. for a work meeting.

On the last morning when I was there getting ready to head downstairs for breakfast and the morning meetings, I happened to turn the local news on (which I had not done any of the other days). I saw about that day being the 70th anniversary of V-E Day, that it was going to be at the WWII Memorial starting around 10:30am, and that Madelyn Albright was supposed to speak. I couldn’t believe I was lucky enough to find out about that! I had just enough time between the end of the meeting and when we needed to leave for the airport to go to the memorial and see some of the events.

Unfortunately, Albright apparently had something come up, so she couldn’t be there (I was bummed-really wanted to see her) but she had her sister give her speech, and she did a really nice job.   Listening to her and looking around at all the old veterans, I got choked up many times.

After the speeches and the wreath ceremony, they did the “Arsenal of Democracy” Flyover, and it was amazing. There were over 50 vintage WWII planes that came down the Potomac, came around by the Lincoln Memorial, over us, by the Washington Monument, and down the rest of the Mall. To see them coming around Lincoln and hear the sounds of planes from so long ago was something I will not soon forget.

The part that got me most of all (and got me to full on streams of tears running down my face) was the last group of planes. The announcer said they were going to do the “Missing Man” formation which is an honor to those that have been lost in the war(s). It is still done today in airshows and dates back to WWII. Before they came by, the band played “Taps” and then they came by. There was not a dry eye there as that was playing. How can you NOT get choked up during Taps?  There were 4 planes together and just as they were over me, 3 kept going forward and one turned up towards the sky/the heavens. I think you could have heard a pin drop in the entire Mall at that point. It was a spectacular and special sight to see.

I’m thankful for being able to have the opportunity to see an important event like that. Thank you to all veterans.





Spring Training and Sister Time

Wow- I’m waaay behind on blog posts for Sugar Sand! I have been focused this past year on getting the word out about a cookbook I recently co-wrote, but I am back now to, hopefully, a more even balance of main employment, cookbooks, and photography. I’m going to try anyway!

Last month, my sisters and I all met back up (after a hiatus last year) in Phoenix for our long weekend of fun, sister time, and Seattle Mariners Spring Training. We stay at the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort (I love to say “tapatio”) which has great landscaping and colorful architecture on the grounds, and also has a variety of great pools to get in as much sun as possible! And these white Seattle legs needed it that’s for sure! In addition, the resort is located right next to the North Phoenix Mountain Preserve, so we can go on our morning hikes before we hit the sun and baseball. The beautiful hiking trails and the proximity of them to the resort make it one of my most favorite parts of the vacation. Within a few minutes you feel like you’re really out in the middle of nowhere and able to really relax and enjoy the beauty that is Arizona.

Here are some photos taken of the hotel grounds, on our hikes, and at the baseball games and practices. I’m already looking forward to the next trip!



4th of July in Edmonds

Some photos taken at last weekend’s 4th of July parade (and kids’ parade just before) in downtown Edmonds, Washington. It’s always fun and patriotic and such great Americana!


Wonderful Book and Subsequent Fieldtrip

I recently read a book that I enjoyed so much, I still can’t stop thing about it. I’m even half considering re-reading it again! As soon as I finish this post!

The book is called “The Boys in the Boat” and it is about the varsity crew from the University of Washington who won the gold medal at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany.


The book is great for so many reasons. First, and most importantly, it’s about one unit of nine guys and their boat, the Husky Clipper. They worked together, they failed together, and they won together. Much of the story focuses on one of the rowers in particular: Joe Rantz. The author talks in the prologue about his first meeting with an elderly Joe and his daughter, to discuss writing the book. Even some 60 years later, the thought of his other teammates and their amazing journey together as one, brought him to tears when speaking about it. His one condition to writing is was to be sure it was “not just about me. It has to be about the boat.”

This was a group of young boys growing up during the Depression, who came from small towns in the Pacific Northwest (an area barely even known about to the rest of the country at that time) and many of whom barely had enough money to eat; let alone get themselves through school. And at that time, the UW crew was hardly the powerhouse it is today. Before they could even get to Germany to race for gold, they had to beat the incredible US teams; which, at that time, we’re predominantly from the East Coast. Once they did make it to Berlin, they were going up against the fierce and extremely driven Germans and the Italians. Teams that had funding for days and had damn near professional athletes.

And it wasn’t only those nine boys and the Husky Clipper going up against the Germans at that time. These Olympics were just a few years before the start of World War II and the global tension and worldwide concern was reaching it’s peak. It was the entire nation behind these boys and pinning so much on them in Berlin. Their ability to tune that out and to stick together and rise to the occasion is what makes this book so great.

I also found the details and explanations of rowing, as well as the character back stories and narratives particularly fascinating and engrossing to read. Living in the Seattle area, it was really cool to read about all the references in and around the city and to learn new things. I was constantly like I know where that is” or “I didn’t know that’s who Royal Brougham was!”

I was so sad when I came to and began reading the epilogue. One, because it was sad as the years pass and they begin to die, and two because I was coming to the end of the book. I think when you are truly sad to see a book end, and want to immediately re-read it as I do, then you know it was something pretty special. I can only say I’ve had that experience a handful of times, which makes this on my “Top 5” of all-time list for sure.

At the end, the author talks about what happened to the Husky Clipper, and how it is now hanging in the ceiling of the Dining Hall at the University of Washington shell house. Seeing as that’s only about 10 minutes from where I work, I decided to go by one afternoon and check it out. I have to say, it was a very moving moment for me. Surprisingly so actually. I looked up into the shell of the boat, and saw all 9 different foot holds; leather and worn after 70 years. I walked from one end to the other, rattling off their names, and trying to picture these young boys sitting in it and rowing together in perfect unison. It was so special and something I won’t soon forget.

A wonderful story and a great read. I highly recommend it.




Our Recent Visit to Iceland

My apologies for the long post this time. They normally aren’t this bad, but I had a lot to share from our recent trip to Iceland!


Even as far back as the Fall of 2013, I began wondering “WHAT would be a cool thing to do for my 40th birthday?” (which wasn’t until that next March). Nothing really came to mind until I came across a deal on Living Social entitled “Reykjavik Nights: A 4-day, 3-night stay in Iceland.”

“That’s IT” I thought! How cool would Iceland be?! A quick whipping out of a credit card, a few clicks of the mouse later, and next thing you knew it; we were headed to Iceland. And we would be going just a week before my birthday. Perfect timing!

Andy and I were International travel newbies for sure. I had been to the Bahamas, but being a Floridian, that barely counts, so, needless to say, we were a little nervous when the travel day actually got here. We landed at Keyflavik International Airport on a Thursday morning and got on a couple of different buses, taking us to downtown Reykjavik and onto our hotel. After we checked in and dropped off our bags (the room wasn’t ready yet. It was, after all, only 9:00 in the morning and the people were still in their rooms!), we headed to the City Centre and did some sightseeing. The city sits right on the water, so it’s quite stunning. I also noticed a lot of murals and artistic drawings and graffiti (as you’ll see in the photo gallery). One thing I had heard about Iceland is that often times, and experienced it firsthand as we were sightseeing, is that Iceland can have all 4 seasons of the weather in one day. Man, that was definitely true! One minute the weather was quite pleasant and I could take some pictures, and then it was a full on, wind blowing sideways blizzard! After we did some more sightseeing and got some lunch, we headed back to the hotel; completely exhausted.

While we didn’t get to see the Northern Lights due to cloudiness (the only bummer of the trip), we did go on two very interesting tours over the next couple of days. One was the Reykjavik City tour and the other was called the “Golden Circle” tour.

The city tour was a nice way to learn about the history of Reykjavik and just to see the downtown and other nearby sites. We saw the President’s house, the “Pearl” (the highest point in the city- where the warm water from underground is pumped to, for distribution throughout the area), and the house where the 1986 Reagan/Gorbachev summit was held. It was a really nice tour.

The “Golden Circle” tour was billed as a “must see”, wonderful thing to do on your first visit to Iceland and wonderful it was. The tour consisted of seeing the following sites: Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir geothermal area, and the Gullfoss (“Golden Falls”) waterfall.

Thingvellir is where the American and Eurasian tectonic plates are pulling apart at a rate of a few centimeters/year. That spot is the only place in the world where this separation happens above sea level. Having a minor degree in geology, Andy thought this was particularly cool (as did I). And I believe the tour guide had said that some of the HBO show “Game of Thrones” was filmed there as well. Thingvellir is also important historically, because it is where the parliament would meet during the long summer days. Their parliament is the oldest in the world; dating back to 930 AD.

The Gullfoss waterfall was socked in with fog when we first got there, but as I mentioned earlier, the weather changes very quickly there, and soon the fog lifted! The Geysir geothermal area was also quite lovely, and very similar to another favorite of mine: Yellowstone National Park.

One thing that I found so interesting, is that Icelanders pay almost nothing for heat. There is so much warm water from the geothermal activity below the surface of the whole island, that they just pump it into all buildings and houses (the Pearl mentioned above). Paying nothing for heat?! That’s just crazy to me! And it’s a great heating system. Many time we would have to open the window in our room it was so warm (a not uncommon thing to do there).

I have to say though, that my favorite part of the trip (and, unfortunately, what we spent the least amount of time at due to the schedule), was the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa located in a lava field in Grindavik, west of Reykjavik. Listed by National Geographic as one of the 25 “wonders of the world”, it was truly spectacular. The water was a beautiful turquoise and it was so warm and re-energizing. It felt so amazing; like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. What was funny was that my hair felt so weird afterwards! Like pure straw! The mineral-rich water completely stripped everything out of my hair. It was so cool, and when we do go back there, Blue Lagoon is getting its own day for sure.

While relatively short, we packed a lot into those days, and were happy because we had a great time (and we felt it would be mostly a “reconnaissance” trip to kind of check things out and “get our toes wet” so to speak!). Iceland is a beautiful place, and one that we would definitely go back to. I have to see my Northern Lights after all and need my spa day at the Blue Lagoon! We felt so good to have had a successful first international trip, and we look forward to many more.