Charting life's circuitous path

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Blueberry Crumble Pie and Seattle Indulgence

I love crumble.

I love pie crust, too, but between that and crumble, the crumble has the rumble to win it all the way!

bluepieBlueberries are on sale at my area grocery stores and I couldn’t resist buying a few pints.  We ate a lot of dessert on our vacation and while it was all delicious (Shari’s Creamy Pecan Pie was voted our table’s most yummy pie and it was all MINE!), I didn’t really go for many fruity desserts.

Sure, there was a wonderful strawberry frosted, vanilla cake with rhubarb compote cupcake from Cupcake Royale.  I was also told that the double chocolate vegan cupcake was very good and the salted caramel and chocolate cheesecake cupcakes went down a hit as well (and gobbled up just as quickly!). We definitely lucked out with having the shop a minute down the road from our rental home!


So many wonderful cupcakes with just the right amount of frosting and a deliciously dense cake – almost like a dense angelfood in texture. Even though there are a lot of chocolate cupcakes in this box, these were all that were on offer. Not your place to go if you want a wide selection of chocolate cupcakes.

There was also the surprisingly delicious white chocolate cheesecake with berry topping from Collin’s Pub in Pioneer Square whose thick crust won my heart and vote.


A wonderfully understated cheesecake at a pub that didn’t have a dessert menu and only two desserts on offer. We’re glad we asked our server! Seattle doesn’t seem to really do dessert menus as much as the midwest, so definitely ask!

But what we overly indulged in were the cinnamon laden pastries.  Like the chocolate chip cream cheese topped cinnamon roll from the Pike Place Bakery.  The extra large, two palm sized buns were dolloped generously with cream cheese frosting and sprinkled with chocolate chips and curls.  We also ate a Bavarian cream horn and an apple fritter from this bakery, but they paled next to the deliciousness of this bun.  (In fact, I’d suggest skipping their other desserts since they all tasted like ones you can get at other places like your local grocery – not bad, but nothing fancy.)  If we ever go back to the market and brave the crowds again, we’re hitting them up for more of these buns!


The moist bun wasn’t overwhelmed by the topping at all – perfection!


A lot of great looking desserts, but they didn’t all live up to their looks. Be selective here and go for the buns.

Our sticky fingers were well licked by the end of the vacation and it was all worth it!  Every cinnamon bun, apple danish, coffee oreo ice cream cone bit of it!  🙂

But I was seriously craving my OWN, home baked dessert and one with fruit.  So, when these bright blueberries went on sale, I knew that I wanted to make a pie.  We had a wonderful piece of cream pecan pie at Shari’s Cafe and Pie, but while it was decadent and definitely worth indulging in, it wasn’t quite the same as a solid, crunchy, fruity crumble pie.


Shari’s Cream Pecan Pie – very delicious, although more cream and less pecan than I would have preferred. There are 4 layers in that pie – pecan pie filling, a dense vanilla cream, chocolate (I think) and the cream topping.  Whew!

I love me some double crusted pies, sure, but I have a big soft spot for crumble pies.  There’s something irresistible about that crunchy, oat topping on a fruit pie that brings out the flavor of the fruit without weighing it down like a crust can.  I also like really thick crumble, so I went for big crumbs with a LOT of spice – but not too much spice that it dominated the berries.

This is no ordinary blueberry crumble pie.  This is the BEST blueberry pie I have ever made.  The fresh berries maintain their plump shape, the crumb crumbles on your tongue and the flavors are deep and developed.  Go on, try it out!  Trust me, this is no runny pie. 😉


Blueberry Crumble Pie


1 pie crust either homemade or pre-made.  I used a Trader Joe’s pre-made crust with great success.


  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar (or 2 tbsp brown sugar splenda – which I used and it worked beautifully)
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter (use more if needed, but that’s all I needed to make my crumbs)


  • 5 cups blueberries (2 pints)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice (or Real Lemon crystals)
  • 1-2 tsp dried orange peel
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar (or, again, 2 tbsp brown sugar splenda)
  • 3 tbsp flour + 1 tbsp potato or corn starch


  1. To make the crumble: Mix all dry ingredeints in a medium bowl.  Using a grater, grate butter into bowl and mix with fingers until big crumbs form. Set aside.
  2. To make the filling: Rinse berries, pick any stems and set aside.
  3. Mix dry filling ingredients in a plastic bag and reserve 1 tbsp for later.  Sprinkle rest of mixture over rinsed berries until coated.
  4. Press crust into 9 inch pie pan and sprinkle reserved mixture over crust.  Fill with coated berries (it might mound a bit, but that’s okay!).  Top with crumble and press down gently (don’t squish the berries but press to keep the crumble in place).  Place in preheated 375 F oven and bake for 50 – 60 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool completely on a wire rack and serve at room temperature.

Leftover pie won’t go all runny on you and will hold its shape and its crumb the next day, if need be. 🙂


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The Seattle Series Ep 3 – Watching the World Walk By

Seattle is full of character.  The massive sprawl of the city has created distinctive “neighborhoods” where people express themselves freely and with abandon.  Just walk down any street on Capitol Hill and you’ll easily see abundant displays of personal expression in the piercings and elaborate tattoos.  Go for a jog in West Seattle and you’ll want to wear either a sundress with big sunglasses or a pair of yoga pants to shop for groceries. coffee2

Personal choice and freedom of expression seem to be a way of life in Seattle and you’re just as likely to order a burger from a waitress who looks as if she’s ready for a glamorous night on the town as you are to order a coffee from a heavily tattooed barista.

We had a lot of time to people-watch while in Seattle.  No excursion would be complete without at least two stops at coffee shops to have a mocha and a bun. With every sip we sat back, rested our tired feet and watched as people sauntered past us on their way to home?  To work? To a date?

Back home, there’s little people-watching unless you are at a Starbucks in a mall or taking a break with an icee at your grocery.  Any watching one might do is confined to an enclosed space. There are few streets where you can sit nursing a drink and watch as the world walks by to destinations and experiences unknown.  The fact that everyone drives everywhere is, of course, partly to blame, but it’s also how we define “getting a coffee”.  Rather than an event where you meet up with friends or kick back with a newspaper or a book, it’s more of a chore that happens at the drive thru on your way to work.  It’s not about the experience of coffee drinking but more about getting the beverage with the caffeine as conveniently as possible on your way to something else.coffee4

But as I kicked my feet up in a cozy coffee house and geared myself for the next item on our overly enthusiastic itinerary, I noticed something odd.

For a city with so much personality, I felt a bit, well, bland.

My clothes didn’t feel distinctive enough in their jean short and t-shirt combination and my simple bobbed hair and lack of makeup made me feel rather inconspicuous next to the well-coiffed, ruby red women around me. 

Back home, I would have been almost unique (in a slightly preppy sort of way), but here, I didn’t stand out enough to warrant a blip on anyone’s fashion radar.

Even those that didn’t seem to try to be fashionable still managed it in their sundresses and nonchalant style.coffee5 

Grant it, I have always found pairing clothes to be a trial by error exercise with more time spent discarding clothes and frantically searching for “something to wear”.  Style has never come easily to me and I’ve always been one step behind everyone else.  I take just a bit too long to gather up my confidence to wear the latest style so that when I’m finally ready, the world has moved on and it’s back to square one.

So, I found it odd that in a city where I should have felt at ease in my own skin, I felt, well, boring.  Even my plain skim milk mocha wasn’t as fashionable as the drinks my coffee drinking compatriots around me were probably sipping as they typed away on their laptops!  I remember looking at my barista with a sideways glance of distrust when she asked me if I wanted a “spicy” mocha.  “What does that entail?”  I asked her, as if she was planning to spike my drink.  Apparently, spicy entailed milk infused with red pepper flakes.  I declined and carried my drink back to my table cradled in both hands.

coffee1Perhaps it wasn’t the city that was making me feel dull.  The more I sat watching people, the more I reflected on myself.  Each person was like a mirror where I compared myself to them – that person looks a bit extravagant with their coal rimmed eyes, so my natural eyes must look really plain.  Or that person looks really confident in that tight bright blue mini dress – I wish I had that much confidence to pull it off!

In a way, while all of that comparison watching didn’t always make me feel good about myself, I did come to realize that I actually liked being me.  I knew where I was with my jean shorts and t-shirts.  I knew what to expect when I picked up my mocha and took a sip of it’s milky chocolate.  I was, in a way, comfortable in my own skin and with my own habits. 

And while I might have wished I was more outgoing or more of a risk-taker (I sort of regret not taking her up on that spicy mocha), I knew that in that small way, I was also unique. 


The Seattle Series: Episode 2 – There’s no place like home

Growing up, my family used to stay in motel rooms on our two day driving trips to see my grandparents. The rooms always smelled faintly of smoke and seemed perpetually smudged around the edges.  Before we even got to the door, my mother would issue warnings to not touch anything.  She’d immediately whip out the cleaning kit and set to work wiping down surfaces until she saw them fit enough to touch (even then we’d still wear shower flip flops in the bathroom).  It wasn’t like we were staying in a roach motel, but her frequent cautioning meant that I grew up viewing hotel rooms with a deep suspicion. So it’s no surprise that when I think about staying in a hotel for two weeks a shiver of disgust runs down my spine. I imagine the bedbugs, the germs, the stray hairs and it makes my gross meter explode.  😯


What my hubby looks like when he stays at a hotel.

My hubby is the opposite. He can settle right into a space just fine without worrying about what might be lurking on the doorknob. While I’m tiptoeing around to minimize feet to carpet contact, he’s right at home with shoes kicked off. (I used to ask him about shower shoes, but the quirked eyebrow had me packing only one pair.  I don’t ask him anymore.)  I’m envious of his nonchalance, his carefree nature because if I could settle more easily into a room like he can, then I’d probably be less wound up.

Let’s just say that our two week vacation to Seattle was causing me no little amount of stress. Hubby never gets excited about vacation planning, so I knew I was on my own. I wanted to pick out a nice, clean place with great reviews. Just like with my car rental, I started at the most obvious – Expedia.

My best friend lives smack dab in the middle of Seattle. Convenient, yes, cheap, no. Double occupancy hotel room prices ranged from $200 – $500 a night, and we’re not talking the Ritz here. Seeing as how we were going to be meeting up with hubby’s mother and her partner, we didn’t relish spending at least $2800 on lodging per couple. I wanted somewhere clean and nice, but I also didn’t want to spend our entire savings just to save my hubby the frustration of seeing me grimace any time he touched a faucet.


And then there’s me . . .

So, I started thinking. Whenever we visited our relatives in England and went traveling with them, they’d rent a house. A whole house. We’d all have rooms, a shower and a kitchen to sit and chat and drink tea.  So I googled vacation houses to see if there were houses to rent just for vacations.

And found

It’s a website that lists the homes owners rent to travelers, usually with the caveat that you’ll be staying at least a few days. Unlike hotels or motels, you get the entire place, the yard (if it has one) and conveniences like a kitchen and laundry. (There are other sites out there, too, like VRBO and Flipkey.  Some houses actually still have the owners living in them, so double check to make sure in case rooming isn’t your thing.)

There were cute bungalows, townhouses and even beach studio pads! Every entry came with a list of amenities and pictures, and I spent weeks looking at house after house making a list of all the possibilities. We wanted something cheap (definitely under $200), would sleep four adults, have WiFi (there’s no way we’d be having a good time without it) and air conditioning.  Not too demanding, right?  😉  When I asked my friend about the air conditioning,  her husband laughed out loud.  Apparently people in Seattle don’t do air conditioning, but with our luck, it’ll be the hottest summer on record so I wasn’t taking any chances!

Even though I was beginning to go spare with all of my searching, it finally paid off! We nabbed a very cute house located in West Seattle, within 2 miles of Alki beach, and it has everything we want: 2 bedrooms, a kitchen, a laundry room, WiFi, parking and air conditioning. The pictures of the house looked both cute, comfortable but above all CLEAN. I could imagine staying here and not worrying about whose feet touched the floor. In fact, I could imagine myself living here.

The price was also right. For our two week stay, our party of four adults will cost us $1600! That’s $800 a couple for two weeks! I can’t exclamation point enough!! Even if we were going by ourselves, we still would have saved at least half the cost of a regular hotel room. Another perk? You could pay the owners with PayPal so your credit information stays safe.

If you’re going on vacation, just like with rental cars, take another look at your options. Instead of paying for a hotel (whose prices include the room cleaning and desk operator costs), see if a house is in your future. Surprisingly, you have a lot of choices when it comes to accommodations and it pays to look around.

I’ll post a review of the property once our vacation is over. Until then, I’ll make sure to only pack one pack of cleaning wipes. 😉