It’s a Win 8 World

At least in my world, lately.

A little over a year into my Microsoft career, the unexpected happened. Remember, I signed on for an advertising job. With digital display ads on our owned and operated publisher, MSN. Never did I dream that an operating system launch would affect my day-to-day job.

But I was wrong.

With  the focus on Windows 8 to re-imagine the computer (or mobile or tablet) screen to be centered on the user, MSN has also developed a new site with functionality that supports the Windows 8 mission. And my role is focused on the display ads offered on that new site format. I worked with many engineers (which isn’t normal), along with my standard team. And usually I work in the US only, and over the next few months, I will have worked with over 30 countries.

And the amazing part is my many, many family and friends who a light computer users may actually see the fruits of my labor the next time they buy a new computer. So amazing to me to work on a project that all computer users see!

Sips of Vino

Needing to run an errand in the Woodinville area means making time to try a few new wineries.

At the top of the list was Efeste (upon recommendation of other guests at the Silver Oak dinner).

The latest batch of grapes arrived that morning – and you could smell them as soon as the car door opened. Once inside, the owners were pouring behind the bar. They were just a bit tired from the morning harvest that they forgot to tell us twice about the wine just poured in the glass. Of course, we asked. Yummy wines, but not a great day to be there!

From there we headed towards Alexandria Nicole, as I have never made it to their tasting room here. And I still haven’t. We were distracted by:

J Bookwalter was not on our list from Bill’s last visits. However, I got distracted by the ABS sign on the top of the building (former stop in my career) so we ended up inside. And we were pleasantly surprised by a couple of bold reds. And I loved the play on literary terms. My mind quickly flashed back to my wonderful high school Engligh classes.

Mark Ryan was packed – and for good reason. Tasty wines. And another place with a theme to the wine – Dead Horse, Long Haul, etc. There has been a lot of press ranking this winery at the top, especially for cult wines. I can see why!

Ross Andrews topped my list of places. First, it is always more fun when the winemaker is pouring his wines. The story of the wine can never be duplicated by the staff. Although I am a focused red drinker, he has a beautiful white blend. In fact, we walked out with two wines and one red. Very rare for me!

And ran out of time! So we headed out for dinner and a movie.


Dinner & a Movie

When you have been dating for well over a year, most couples can’t list all the movie nights they have had – in a theater.  So we consider ourselves unique. Maybe even virginal. In our 21st month of dating, we finally ventured out to dinner and a movie. To top it off, no fine dining was involved!

Dinner: Din Tai Fung, a Bellevue location of a well known Taiwan establishment

We arrived a few minutes after 5 – and Bill was shocked to see there was a very long line already waiting for a seat. Luckily, the bar looked like it would have seats soon. So I watched for seats while he headed upstairs to get move tickets. And before he reappeared, seats appeared.

As a veteran eater of Din Tai Fung, I shared my favorite dishes. Plus, we asked the bartender for recommendations. No surprise, Bill also found truffle dumplings on the menu. Five dumplings come with a healthy price tag (however our total dinner bill was very low for date night).

Movie: Argo

To the movie theater! We had chosen Argo, which was a very interesting movie for me. I am just old enough to remember the yellow ribbons and that there was something going on in Iraq or Iran. Watching the movie was a great re-learning experience. And, it stimulated many other memories from that time frame. Post movie, it made for interesting conversation (at least from my point of view).

School Night. Date Night.

On a school night, of all things! While the girl is away at a school retreat, we take advantage of the eve with a little date night at Bastille in Ballard.

As I was a bit late in arriving due to a rainy evening commute, we sat down and ordered the Frites & Aioli to minimize my hunger. Since the frites included a drizzle of truffle oil, a few bites made the world good again.

And we followed the frites with:

  • Haricots verts salad. A delicous combination of green beans, white beans, young feta, preserved lemons, green onion and dill.
  • Billy’s tomatoes. Plus smoked hazelnuts, fig vinegar and tarragon.
  • Then I choose the Smoked salmon tarting on a bed of arugula.
  • He choose Chicken liver pâté accompanied by peach rum jelly and Crustini

And the finale: Chocolate Passion Fruit Decquoise. Pistachio brittle and ice cream.

The location:

Bastille Cafe & Bar | 5307 Ballard Avenue Northwest | Seattle, WA | 206.453.5014 | Website

Refreshing Tomato Soup

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cups chopped leeks (white and pale green parts only)
  • 4 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes with juices
  • 4 1/2 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
  • 6 tablespoons (packed) chopped fresh dill or 2 tablespoons dried dillweed
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 4 ounces chilled sharp white cheddar cheese, sliced

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add leeks and sauté until tender, about 6 minutes. Add tomatoes and their juices, broth, chopped dill and cayenne and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until tomatoes are very soft and flavors blend, about 20 minutes.

Puree soup in processor until smooth.Bring to simmer over medium-low heat. Season with salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in sour cream (do not boil).

Top with cheese and dill to serve.


Caramelized Banana Purses with White Chocolate Sauce

Sitting in the stands for a multi-hour swim clinic gave us plenty of time to puruse through cookbooks and plan a very yummy dinner. Or in this case, dessert. These delicate “purses” of phyllo pastry contain banana and hazelnut filling. Then top with white chocolate sauce and a crunchy hazelnut crumble. Good thing we also took time for a workout today!
  • 1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup hazelnuts (about 5 ounces), coarsely chopped
  • Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 300°F. Stir sugar and butter in medium saucepan over low heat until butter melts. Remove from heat. Mix in flour, nuts and salt. Spread on baking sheet. Bake until dry and golden, about 30 minutes. Cool. Break into small pieces. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.)


  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 6 medium bananas (about 2 pounds), peeled, cut into 3/4-inch-thick slices
  • 2 tablespoons Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur) or amaretto
  • 10 sheets fresh phyllo pastry or frozen, thawed
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • Pinch of salt

Stir sugar, 6 tablespoons butter and lime juice in large nonstick skillet over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and stir until butter melts and mixture begins to brown around edges, about 5 minutes. Add bananas and liqueur; stir until bananas are coated with butter mixture, about 2 minutes. Transfer to large bowl and cool.

Mix 1 cup hazelnut crumble into banana mixture. Place 1 phyllo sheet on work surface (keep remaining phyllo covered with plastic wrap, then damp towel). Brush phyllo with melted butter. Fold phyllo in half crosswise, brush with butter, then fold in half again, forming square; brush with butter. Place generous 1/4 cup filling in center of phyllo square. Bring all edges of phyllo square up toward center and squeeze firmly at top, forming purse. Place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining phyllo sheets, melted butter and filling, forming total of 10 purses. (Can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Chill.)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cover phyllo purses loosely with foil. Bake until purses begin to color, about 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until phyllo is golden, about 15 minutes longer.

Place 1 purse on each of 10 plates. Spoon 3 tablespoons warm White Chocolate Sauce around each. Sprinkle remaining hazelnut crumble over sauce.