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Finding your roots. Why chasing your ancestors is an important lesson in self-discovery. Part I of III


~Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. “Be still”, they say. Watch and Listen. You are the result of the love of thousands. ~


I cannot tell a lie. I am a history nut. I love it. But more importantly I have always loved family history.

Even from an early age I can remember having interesting people around… All of them family members. I was fortunate as a child to spend a lot of time with my grandparents. I loved looking at the photographs that they took throughout their lives and hearing their stories.

It’s no secret to anyone in my family that my paternal grandmother and I had a very close relationship. I was in high school when my grandfather passed away and as a result Grandma Jean moved closer to us. While my high school friends were at soccer practice, or out at the mall, I was at her house. I spent every afternoon I could with her. My only regret is not asking her about her family history. As a teenager I never thought to ask the important questions. The questions that would have helped in my genealogical journey now.

I picked up my journey again last year when I made the decision to start archiving family photographs. Now, in our family that is quite an undertaking. Between prints and slides we have to have thousands of photos. Undertaking this project sparked yet another. We have documents, photos, and letters dating back to 1845! Who were all these people? What were their lives like?


I fell down the preverbal rabbit hole! I wanted to know more! No… I HAD to know more! What I found is leading me on some spectacular journeys.

I spent a lot of time asking my mom questions. I spent a lot of time looking at photos with my dad. I have a close relationship with my mom’s cousin now because of asking her questions. I also know more about my dad’s side of the family… things I never could have imagined.

My dad’s eldest brother had created a family tree for our “McKee” side of the family back to 1180 in Scotland. With this family tree in hand I went to Google.

As I searched for databases that might help me find out more about these ancestors I came across the Genealogical Research System (GRS) provided by the Daughters of The American Revolution (DAR). Not expecting to find anything I typed in “McKee”. To my surprise I was very wrong. All of a sudden I found a huge chunk of my family tree! Cross-referencing the names and dates on the tree, I found my six times great-grandfather Robert Dunlap. Next to his name PATRIOT.

Wait, what?! What did this mean? How is this possible?!

For those not familiar with the Daughters of The American Revolution they are a national society of women who can trace their lineage back to an individual who directly supported the cause of American Independence. Along with that they work with veterans, are unwavering champions for historical preservation and education, volunteer in their communities, and so much more. Click HERE to learn more.

As it turns out Robert Dunlap served as an Ensign during the Revolutionary War under the command of General Nathanael Greene. He ignored an order to stand down at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in North Carolina and was killed in action. This was a pivotal battle in the American Revolution.

I was stunned, excited, and practically jumping out of my skin! Did this mean I could join the DAR? As fast as I could, I printed out all of my evidence and contacted my local DAR Chapter.

To my delight I was quickly invited to the next chapter meeting. These lovely women offered me more help in tracing my ancestors then I possibly could have hoped for!

Now a few months later I am preparing to send in my official paperwork and waiting to become a full member of the DAR! These women are some of the kindest, most fascinating, and most knowledgeable women I have ever met.

Their advice on tracing your ancestors will be coming up in the next instillation of my “Finding Your Roots” blog. This will include a list of important questions to ask your relatives.

Something amazing happens when you start piecing together your family history. You start to recognize similarities between yourself and your ancestors. You start to care for these people. They have long since passed but they are just as much a part of your family as any living relative.

This journey, inevitably, becomes an emotional one. But that emotion comes with a great sense that your roots are getting deeper and wider. It brings you closer to those you are not able to talk to anymore. In a way it’s very comforting.

Every tear and laugh is well worth the journey!

Coming up in the next two blogs will be questions and tips on starting your genealogical journey, how to preserve family pictures and documents, and more about my journey.


I found this on pinterest from… I LOVE THIS!!



Matthews Winery

Recently I had the very good fortune to be invited to a private tasting at Matthews Winery in Woodinville.

View of cellar from grass, has Matthews banner

Having lived in Woodinville for many years I have been past Matthews several times. The two times I had been there I was ill and couldn’t wine taste. (Insert sad face here!)

This time however I was more than ready to drink some wine. I was fortunate enough to spend the afternoon with one of Matthews owners, Diane Otis and their customer relations manager Ann.

Matthews is set just outside the main circle of wineries in the Woodinville wine district.

This boutique winery was established in 1993 by a local family and focuses on maintaining production of Bordeaux-style and single varietal vineyard-designated wines. Everything from the labels, to the wine is created with enthusiastic passion. You will be hard pressed to find a wine in either the Tenor or Matthews lines that you won’t enjoy!

This winery is unique in that it features a barrel room and an estate house that also doubles as a wedding venue or bed and breakfast!

Tenor Classic of Cellar


When you walk in to the barrel room you will be stuck by how warm and inviting it is.  Check out the magazines on the book shelves and the really great state of Washington wine map! (I kind of want one of theses!)  If you are lucky you may also be greeted by little Miss Freckles! (Diane’s lovely little pup who I took to right away of course! How could you not just melt when that face looks up at you!)


The Estate house is gorgeous! The very first time I visited Matthews I was a guest of a wedding. This house is the perfect place for an intimate reception. The deck off the estate house provides the perfect location to either dance the night away or watch the sun set over the Woodinville wine valley… with a glass of their wine of course.

Living Room & Kitchen View copy

Check out their Vemo tour of the estate house here!

If you are looking for a great place to spend a Friday night with friends look no further than Matthew’s Friday Night Live live music. Generally held from 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm, these concerts take place at the tasting room. Even if it’s a little chilly at night don’t worry! Grab a glass of wine (or a bottle), and sit down under one of the patio heaters and enjoy!

Now to the wine!


As I said above, this boutique winery offers two different labels; Tenor and Matthews.

I tasted four of the Tenor wines and the Matthews Claret.

Below are my favorites!

2130 Tenor Sauvignon Blanc 


I happen to be partial to Sauvignon Blanc’s from Washington and I was certainly not disappointed with this one! This Sav-Blanc is crisp with just the right amount of citrus. I happen to love hints of grapefruit in my white wine and this one had just the right amount. Even if you think you don’t like whites or citrus, I encourage you to try this wine. It will be perfect for a warm summer evening on the deck or boat!

-What I would pair with this wine –

 Caprese salad and grilled lemon butter salmon

2011 Matthews Columbia Valley Claret


Ahhhh where do I start with this wine. I LOVE this wine. Not to fruity, not to spicy, for me, this is the goldilocks of red wines.. it’s just right! I can’t imagine anyone not loving this. This wine received 90 points from Wine Advocate and Double Gold from Seattle Wine Award! I would keep a case of this around for me and to take as a ridiculously amazing hostess gift. A little spicy, a hint of currents, and just enough fruit to make it decadent.

-What I would pair with this wine-

My caramelized onion, cremini mushroom, and arugula cream pasta. (recipe coming soon)

2011 Tenor Syrah


Described as a wine with hints of black fruit, baking slices, and tobacco leaf. This is another great wine to have around the house for a cool night curled up on the couch or an evening spent with friends around the outdoor fireplace. Even if you aren’t a huge fan of red wine I would encourage you to try this! I happen to love red wines, and I wouldn’t mind having a few bottles of this on my bar cart. This wine received 92 points from Wine Advocate and Gold from Seattle Wine Awards.

– What I would pair with this wine-

Steak au poise with or without cream sauce. Blue cheese and pear salad with dijon vinaigrette.

If you are in Woodinville I really encourage you to stop by and enjoy a tasting at Matthews! You will not be disappointed.

For my best friend on her birthday!

As Carrie said in the second to last episode of Sex and The City to her three best friends…

“Today I had a thought… What if I… what if I had never met you?”


That scene always gets me. I choke up a little every time I see it. Around this time of year I start to think about that very question.

I met my best friend the first day of college orientation at F.I.D.M. in Los Angeles. I sat across from the coolest girl… with long wavy hair, a larger than life smile, and a Bostonian accent that was almost not there. It just so happened she ended up sitting right next to me in Textile Science the first day of class. I knew immediately that she was someone different. I couldn’t have imagined then how much she would mean to me now.

Ten years later, through school, boyfriends, breakups, jobs, adventures, and living 3000 miles apart, we are still the best of friends! She means as much to me as any member of my family. She is my family!

I love you more than anything! Happy birthday to my best friend in the world! a5c614c1cc28d0515ba6ebac03caf2ce

The Book That Found Me

I come from a long line of… shall we say… Book hoarders.

We love books. I LOVE books!

My particular love is for books about history, fashion, and food. Sometimes history of food, sometimes history of fashion.

So you can imagine my surprise when a vintage cookbook seemed to have found me.

While I was home for Christmas I went to a local used bookshop with my mom. Of course the two of us ended up in the cookbook section. We can’t help it. I’m convinced it’s in our DNA.

While I was searching for the Les Halles cookbook and having a slight meltdown when I found a book on Truffles (the mushroom) in the candy section; I came across what appeared to be an old leather bound novel.

Thinking that yet again there was a book in the wrong section… I sat down on the floor prepared to rearrange the books and take the vintage book back to it’s proper home. The glass enclosed vintage book case.


I carefully pulled the book from it’s resting place between Ina Garten and a gluten free cookbook. The cover was so unusual. Shiny black and orange leather, slightly worn on the corners.

It felt different. It felt comfortable.

Like Alice, curiosity got the best of me and I fell down the rabbit hole.

The cookbook was published in 1931 for “The Household Magazine”. Having an affinity for all things vintage and food I started to flip through the pages.

The smell, the tiny bits of flour left in the bread section, and the notes clearly written on the pages by someone who used the book frequently gave me the most giddy feeling.

 I turned a page and picked up a note written on a calendar page in beautiful handwriting.


Monday Oct. 15th. 1951

“Bonnie’s Pumpkin Pie”

2 Eggs

1/2 can of pumpkin

1 1/2 cups milk

1 t. salt

1 cup sugar

1 t. cinnamon

3/4 t. nutmeg

1/4 each cloves and nutmeg

Expecting to find the rest of the instructions on the back I turned the page over.

What I found seemed to be a little more than a coincidence.

Sunday October 14th 1951.

“Home from Pullman”


Wait… what?!

Yes, the page said “home from Pullman”. For those that don’t know from previous posts, I’m currently living in Pullman, Washington. I attend Washington State University finishing my degree in Apparel Merchandising.

So imagine my surprise that I found the book 300 miles west of Pullman at one of my favorite used bookstores.

The coincidence was just too much… I took it as a sign and bought the book.

I like to think that like my collection of cookbooks passed down from my mother and grandmother, this book was looking for another owner to care for it.

And care for it I will. It has a home next to my other food books and a beautiful copy of “Alice in Wonderland” from 1920.

It will remain with me for the rest of my life. I think I might add to the notes hidden in the book and leave one about graduation day next spring 2016.

“Last day in Pullman. Happy Graduation day! Go Cougs! – May 2016

Who knows maybe it will find it’s way in to the hands of another coug some day.

I plan on making a trip to our archives at WSU to see what kind of information they can give me about life in Pullman in 1951!

DIY Cornhole Boards

I was introduced the game of cornhole while visiting my best friend in Massachusetts. Since then it has quickly become a summer and fall favorite.

Since I moved to Pullman, Washington to finish my degree I have become a hard core, bleeding crimson and gray, Saturday loving, COUG!

Since tailgating is so big here (as in any self-respecting college town), I decided last summer that I was going to make a set of Washington State University themed cornhole boards.

My dad helped me build the boards, and let me tell you… when my dad decides to build something he does it right… these are by far the most sturdy boards at the tailgate.

This link will take you to the instructions for the boards. We tweaked it a little but for the most part these instructions worked really well.


use all proper safety equipment when using any tool!

We used a Hole saw for a power drill to cut the actual hole for the bean bags. It was a much more even circle.

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After you get the boxes all put together, you want to sand everything down. This is really important because you want the bean bags to slide on them. We used a power sander and hand held sand paper. Make sure you get the inside of the hole nice and smooth.

I used a Bear primer in white to prime the top, sides, and bottom of the boards, and the legs. It took about three coats to to get the paint even. You are better off using some kind of a fluffy roller for super smooth finishes. Using a brush will leave to much texture.

You MUST let these dry completely! If you don’t, any design you try and put on here will not work.

Try and draw out your design, before you get going… it makes life a lot easier!

IMG_7047Now, the week that I was working on these was brutally hot! So having a few beers didn’t hurt either!

While I was looking for just the right crimson paint I happened to find one called “Stadium Red” by Ralph Lauren… It was the PERFECT crimson! I had the color mixed in to a Bear paint, and purchased a dark grey as well.

Remember when you are marking your design on the board, you will not be able to erase pencil marks on this paint. so try and print all of your designs out and make sure everything is to scale.

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Don’t bother trying to use that blue painters tape. It will be a waste of your time and money. Invest in some Frog Painters Tape. It seals the edges better and peals off perfectly.


Those who are in the Pac-12 or are familiar with the insanity that is Cougar Nation, know that our logo is a big deal to us.

Seriously… don’t mess with our logo.

It was really important that I get it just right. Because trying to free hand it with bright crimson paint was quite frankly terrifying, I printed the image out in the right size. I then turned it over and used a pencil to trace around the outline. Then I flipped it over on the spot where I wanted to the image, and used a pen to trace around the outline. The pencil that was on the back, then transferred to the board.

IMG_0764I didn’t want the paint to turn out pink, so it took about four coats to get it just right. Keep in mind that if it is hot out… like it was when I was doing this, you may need to do the painting after the sun has gone down.

You also want to wait until all of the paint is 100% dry before pealing the tape off. If it is still tacky the paint is liable to peal off with the tape.

This was the finished paint job!


Your goal is to get the bean bags to slide across the board’s surface and through the hole. So the board needs to be smooth. Because I used an oil based paint it was pretty smooth. But we were perplexed with how to seal the top. Varnish and acrylic spray were just way to risky. We didn’t want the paint colors to bleed together or change color! After researching online, my dad came up with a fairly expensive solution.

It was totally worth it though.

We ended up purchasing two sheets of crystal clear acrylic.

Leave the plastic film attached to one side of the acrylic until you are ready to attach it to the board. You can take off the plastic for the side that will be against the board, and leave the film on the side that will have the bags sliding across it. This will prevent scratching.

Using the same hole saw for a power drill we lined up the acrylic with the board and marked the hole. Then we took the acrylic and placed it on a piece of plywood and cut. Be really careful because you don’t want the acrylic to crack.

After you are done you can mark where you want the screws to be. Carefully drill the holes in the acrylic and the board. Then use a hand screwdriver or a power screwdriver and very slowly attach the acrylic to the boards.

Don’t tighten them to tight or you run the risk of the edges cracking.

After you are done, peel the film of of the acrylic and wipe it down with a paper towel.

You are ready to go!

However, we went one step farther and attached bottle openers to the top ledge!


Now all you need to do is make the bags!

Use a heavy cotton fabric, you will need eight bags.

This lovely gal has the best instructions!


I hope you enjoy your new tailgate toy!


A Chateau on a hill

For our fourth installment of our Woodinville Winery series we are featuring DeLille Cellars!

Thank you to Alante Photography for sharing the images with us!

Florals all by Flora Nova Design.

DeLille Cellars is a very popular winery in Woodinville.


This family owned winery has been producing ridiculously great wine for nearly twenty years. Their exceptional wine list led to the distinction as the only wineries in the world chosen for both the Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast Top 100 Wines of the World lists for two consecutive years.

Their Chateau is set up on a hill slightly outside of the main circle of tasting rooms in Woodinville. If you drive past at night you are likely to see their drive way lit by beautiful trees covered in twinkle lights!


Maria & Travis 8/2/2013

The villa is surrounded by beautifully manicured grounds, a beautiful pond, and a sheep or two!

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The Chateau is an incredibly popular wedding venue and one of the select wineries featured in the wedding show, “Weddings in Woodinville”.  There is a large wood burning fireplace inside the chateau’s main room. Not only does it add a slightly rustic feel to the beautiful main room, but it is the perfect place to sit and enjoy a glass of wine during a party in the fall and winter.

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Florals by Flora Nova Design

The outdoor space is absolutely stunning at anytime of year! Every time I have been here the patio has been tented and set up beautifully!

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If you are looking to have a party or wedding here it’s best to plan well in advance. There is sure to be a long list of people wanting available dates.


Because of their popularity, their tastings are held just down the road at their carriage house. For a $15.00 fee you can sample some of their limited production wine. If you purchase two bottles of wine the tasting fee is waved!

Tasting Room Hours:
Sunday-Thursday 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Friday 12:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Saturday 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

If you have a party of six or more please call ahead so they can have the staff to accommodate your party with the special care they are known for.

I have had several of their wines and the reds have to be my favorites! It doesn’t really mater which one… they are all amazing! You can’t go wrong picking up a few bottles of wine at the carriage house!



Oscars Red Carpet Review

I love the Oscars Red Carpet. It is by far my favorite of the entire year!

I sit with a bottle of wine or champagne, a sketch book, and wait.

We don’t do glamour much in this day and age so I like to see everyone dressed up and looking like really movie stars.

Here are some of my favorites from this years Oscars Red Carpet.

Emma Stone was my best dressed this year! It’s really unfortunate that the true chartreuse color of her dress didn’t photograph quite right. Either way I think she was styled perfectly! Her red hair,  chartreuse dress, and the creamy coral used on her lips and cheeks was absolute perfection.

Colorful Characters


Rosamund Pike and Dakota Johnson were both close seconds for me! They both looked like absolute perfection in scarlet red!

Red hot screen sirens



Black and White is always a good choice in my book and here us a little recap of my favorites! To be fair though… I am fairly certain that Reese Whitherspoon’s beautiful gown was actually ice blue and black. It photographed as white.

Meryl Streep… ahh what can I say about Meryl. She’s just perfect. That’s all and she looked divine!

Cate Blanchett was surprisingly understated for this year’s Oscars but she was gorgeous either way!  And can we just talk about her turquoise, aquamarine, and diamond bib necklace… DIVINE! It matched her eyes perfectly!

Margot Robbie was by far the commentators favorite. Over all she was just ok for me… Don’t get me wrong I think she is fabulous in general. But the dress was a little to loose and her hair wasn’t quite polished enough for the look. However, her 1.5 million dollar Van Cleef & Arpels necklace was ridiculously divine! Created for the Duchess of Windsor in the 30s the necklace is a working zipper made from 18K gold, diamonds, and sapphires. Don’t feel like wearing it as a necklace… the working zipper turns it in to a bracelet when it is zipped!

Zendaya looks like youthful perfection in Vivienne Westwood! Her stylist nailed it! Everything about her was perfect!

Marion Cotillard in Dior Haute Couture was probably one of the most surprising of the night. Her gown featured a modern take on the bustle! I can’t remember the last time I saw a patterned fabric like this on the red carpet!

Kelly Osborne… where do I begin. First, I love her… I just do. This dress was PERFECT for her! It fit her fabulously and it was youthful and fun! Her hair worked really well with it too!

Black and white


And on to my favorite couples! Just because they all looked like they were having such fun!

couples take the carpet