Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday flowers

Peachy dahlias, which lasted all of two days but looked lovely.

dahlias, milk glass
{dahlias, milk glass}

We were walking home from the market and I was carrying my loot in my hands, sans bag, when I realized I had purchased these dahlias and one (heavenly) mango and I was wearing a peach dress. My produce coordinated with my outfit exactly. An amazing feat for someone who has never been able to properly identify complementary/matching clothes and who was pretty relieved when it seemed like the whole concept of matching was being pitched out the window.*

*It has been, right? I mean, people starting wearing black and brown together and then it just sort of spiraled from there, as far as I can tell. I won't say it was a huge relief, because I'd already given up hope of ever figuring out the matching rules, but it was a nice validation.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Summer sangria

This might be the perfect weeknight summer drink - I hope you won't get the wrong idea when I tell you it reminds me of a wine cooler, except a million times classier.

peach + mint
{peach + mint}

It's fairly light, especially if you cut it with a bit of sparkling water. Perfect for sipping on the balcony on a warm evening (which we would have done, if the weather were willing to cooperate and warm up a bit).

summer sangria
{summer sangria}
Summer sangria (makes about 8 drinks - slightly modified from here)

1 cup loosely packed basil and mint leaves
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 cups good quality peach juice (TJs has a nice one)
1 (750 ml) bottle dry white wine (I used sauvignon blanc)
1 liter of sparkling water, if desired

:: Place herbs in a small saucepan and add the sugar and lemon juice. Smash the leaves with the back of a spoon, until they're a bit bruised.

:: Add about half of the peach juice and heat the mixture over medium heat. Bring just to a simmer and then turn off the heat. Allow the mixture to stand for five minutes or so.

:: Pour the mixture through a mesh sieve and into a heatproof pitcher. Add the remaining peach juice and the wine.

:: Chill at least one hour or overnight. Serve with sparkling water to taste (we filled each glass 1/4 full with sparkling water and then added sangria) and garnish with herb sprigs or peach slices, as desired.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Saturday morning started out as perfectly as a morning can. I slept in (until 7:30 am, which is about as much as I can handle), made tea and went back to bed and actually managed to read some poetry, an elusive pleasure lately. Mysteries and novels, yes. I fit those in on the bus and at the gym and while the Tour de France plays in the background and often while I stir something on the stove. Novels are great for multitasking. Poetry requires a bit more of you, more presence, more thought, more quiet.

But this isn't about poetry. Because after I read some poetry I realized that breakfast would be a logical next step and while I was trying to decide what to make (we were lacking milk and bread and many other breakfast things) I got distracted by the glass jars I'd purchased ages ago at the thrift store. Shouldn't they be filled already? So I filled them.


And the cupboard immediately looked so much better, cleared of a few boxes and bags. I had to keep going. At this point D came home from his bike ride and asked if I wanted to get lunch and I realized hours had passed and that I hadn't had breakfast yet.


Sadly, I don't have a beautiful cupboard full of glass jars (yet) but I labeled all my plastic Ikea bins with a Sharpie. I'm sure it would have been more elegant to print out beautiful little labels for them, but the pen was handier. And if you're worrying that I've now irreversibly committed my containers to their contents, I'll let you in on a little secret - Sharpie is not totally permanent. On glass or plastic, a bit of isopropanol will wipe it right off. Isopropanol is the most common form of rubbing alcohol, so you might have some in your cupboard (but check and make sure - some rubbing alcohol is ethanol, which has no effect on marker). Obviously, if you have something you really love, check to make sure the alcohol will take the marker off before you start scribbling all over it.

In my dream life, everything is stored neatly in these Anchor Hocking Emma jars. I can't tell you how many times I've considered purchasing them, but I can't quite bring myself to do it because I already have something that works. So I just stare at them sometimes.

anchor hocking
{anchor hocking emma jars - image from manufacturer}

I've almost talked myself into it. I mean, they're pretty great, right? Square bottoms, glass lids, come in different sizes (10 oz, 20 oz, 32 oz). I just hate buying something new to replace a system that is already functional. I'll report back on whether my willpower continues to hold out.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cutest eggs ever

The street food festival was amazing, and as it wound down, and the sky got darker, we were standing in line for some Thai spareribs and the booth next door started handing out little boxes of quail eggs. Quail eggs!

quail eggs!
{quail eggs}

They are so teeny tiny and perfect. I'm in love.

quail egg, ruler
{quail egg, ruler}

I have one dozen. What to do with them? Can such a tiny thing be poached (because I now poach eggs multiple times a week)? Scrambling them seems criminal. I'm torn - very excited to use them and already a little sad knowing that once I do they'll be gone and I won't be able to stare at them anymore. I mean, I can get more, obviously. But I'd hate to get jaded. Quail eggs that are gifted, out of the blue, seem more magical than ones that I track down online and then purchase at the farmer's market.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The weekend, briefly

A simple lunch.


The most amazing milkshakes I've ever had (at the LA street food festival). The toasted marshmallow shake had just the right note of actual campfire and the texture was perfect (I do not like milkshakes that are like sucking a soft serve ice cream through a straw - you need some milk, and some texture).

perfect milkshakes

ice cream truck
{ice cream truck}

A sweet baby shower.

baby gift

baby shower, tissue
{baby shower, tissue}

Some quality time with my herbs, which are loving their new balcony (more sun).

balcony herbs
{balcony herbs}

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday flowers

Light transforms everything. This ...

lavender, afternoon light
{lavender, afternoon light}

was just 45 minutes after this ... 


The magical golden hour never ceases to amaze me.

P.S. Don't forget to set your DVR before Sunday .... 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cleaning the work room

I haven't really shown you many pictures of our (now not very) new apartment - we sort of got to that point where everything was more or less put away and then we stalled out. I've been incredibly busy ignoring my work room lately. Having the luxury of a space where I can stash all my supplies and projects is new to me, and I think I've gotten overly dependent on the "close the door" method of cleaning. After all, if you can't see it, it really isn't there.

Sunday night I was exhausted from the weekend and I had pictures to edit and we hadn't even thought about dinner, so naturally I decided the room had to be cleaned. I walked in and had that moment of panic and despair, where I thought oh, there is so much to do and I'll never get it done so there's not even any point and ohmygod I need a drink and a nap immediately. Seeing the (strong) potential for a meltdown, D suggested putting in half an hour every day this week, which is eminently reasonable and smart, so of course I disregarded it and dove in. I didn't take a before picture, because I'm not a masochist. And it still needs some work, so maybe we can consider these as the starting point.

work room, treasures
{work room, treasures - see sources below*}

I know, you're thinking it's totally clean! Um, not quite yet.

work room, north wall
{work room, north wall - see sources below**}

But it's so much closer.

work room, east wall
{work room, east wall - see sources below***}

work room, work space
{work room, work space}

The work room also needs to be a guest room on occasion, so the giant fold out couch is on the opposite wall, beneath our seriously outdated school map.

work room, south wall
{work room, south wall - see sources below****}

The wardrobes on either side of the couch provide extra storage space. I would have loved white, but these were repurposed from our old apartment and painting them seems like an onerous task.

work room, south wall
{work room, south wall}

It's amazing how much more motivated I feel when the space is cleaner. Almost like I want to go mess it all up again.

Sources (I think this is pretty comprehensive, but let me know if you're curious about anything I've missed):
* - ribbon organizer on wall, adapted from Ikea, see previous post
   - white shelf - Ikea Ribba shelf holding a linocut by D, a homestead by Lily (not the permanent location), a cactus from Jamie, vintage thread spools, a calender by Lynn.
   - wire racks from Ikea, filled with used tea tins, some with chalk label areas (see previous post)
   - lamp from Ikea
   - desk from Ikea (would love to trade this in for a white one, but it's also repurposed)
   - awesome tray (barely visible on the desk) from Ikea

** - everything above +
     - filing cabinet from thrift store
     - chair from dumpster, recovered
     - sewing machine - Janome special edition - most similar to this one
     - white framed display on wall - made from a thrift store frame
     - small under the table cabinet from Ikea, a million years ago

*** - white frame display - made from a thrift store frame
       - lamp from Ikea
       - standing ribbon holder repurposed from old lab equipment
       - Command hooks on the back of the door for the totes
       - easy access tissue paper holder made from this rail in the kitchen section at Ikea, spray painted glossy white

**** - couch, hand me down
         - map, rescued from an elementary school (that thankfully was finally given a map without the Soviet Union, a mere 10 years after it was defunct)
         - Ikea wardrobes in birch
         - contrasting pillow made by me (see previous post)

So yes, almost everything is from Ikea and in an ideal world I wouldn't have completely mismatched wood finishes all over the place. But there was no way I was going to buy anything new if I had something that would work. I keep my eye on Craigslist, with the goal of eventually trading out some of these pieces to make it a bit more coherent. For now, it's functional and I'm happy.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Vacation idea # 763

Renting a historic cottage at Crystal Cove. D's family had one over the weekend and I had forgotten what an amazing place it is. You have to reserve 7 months in advance, on the first of the month and competition is fierce. Prices are so good it's worth trying until you get one.

crystal cove
{crystal cove}

The beach in summer is not really my scene (crowds of people + children shrieking + sand in everything + people dressed in things they shouldn't be wearing) but we're thinking we might try for a winter weekend. Long chilly walks, lots of coffee and piles of books. No internet or TV, so you have to shut off.

The cove was essentially a private beach until fairly recently (you can read all about the history here). The cottages were built between 1917 and 1979 and there are some fabulous black and white pictures that I would have loved to share with you. Sadly, they all appear to be in a private collection and are completely unavailable online. If you're persistent, you can check out the book here and then use the "search inside" feature to look at the pictures.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The weekend, briefly

Let's pretend like it was a three day weekend, even though it wasn't. Really, all summer weekends should last three days - it's impossible to squeeze everything in otherwise. We were running to and fro both days with lots of family events. We barely managed to get in the recommended summer quota of fried foods and alcoholic beverages and berry desserts, much less get pictures of everything. Life is tough.

beach day
{beach day}

umbrella, sky
{umbrella, sky}

circe watching
{circe watching}


Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday flowers

Bright yellow flowers, in honor of the sun. Thank you for finally deciding to grace us with your presence. Maybe you could stick around for the weekend?


TJs had these tiny bouquets this week that I haven't seen them carry before - they call them pixie stick bouquets. They were almost all different, just three stems of assorted flowers each, for $2.99. Pretty sweet.
pixie stick bouquet
{pixie stick bouquet}

Thursday, July 15, 2010

(Re)reading, lately

I know there are a million worthwhile books in the world and at this rate I might never get through the winners on the Pulitzer fiction list, much less the finalists, and that is a shame. But I still like re-reading. So there.


I Capture the Castle is hilarious and sweet without being saccharine. Very classic. Don't be put off by the new cover, which they designed after the movie came out. (Haven't seen it - is it worth two hours of my life?)

C.S. Lewis never gets old. Can you tell how many times I've read these? Will you be horrified to find out that this is actually the second boxed set I've been through and that the first 30 pages of The Silver Chair fell out years ago and I lost them? My books aren't carefully tended, they are water stained and dog eared and sometimes full of crumbs, but they are thoroughly loved.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


The hiatus has been over for a while, but I really haven't done much shopping. I did order some sunglasses from Zenni, prior to the Greece trip (numbers 4 + 5, in case you were wondering). And there were some summer dresses from  Old Navy and F21, which have gotten quite a bit of use.

And recently, a funny little hodgepodge of high and low ...


Cheap fix:  L'oreal collagen mascara - Miss B recommended it and then I stumbled on it in the store not two days later, on sale for 50% off. Fate, obviously. It's pretty fantastic. My lashes are long, so I need something that makes them look thicker without being clumpy or spider-leggy. This works.

Serious indulgence:  Catherine Weitzman gold coral reef bangle - I'm a bangle person, choosing them over almost any other form of jewelry even though the selection is often limited. I actually got this on sale for half off, but it's only available full price now. It's gold vermeil, so it isn't quite as bright as pure gold but I love it.

Justifiably useful:  Ikea dishtowels - Total impulse purchase, just because I love Ikea textiles and dishtowels come in handy. These are nicer in person - this angle doesn't show much.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Making the effort

The kitchen has been fairly quiet around here lately. We cook, I swear, but it isn't anything to write home about. Most of it is stuff you've already seen - we fall into ruts when we're busy. Frequently we don't make it into the kitchen until 8:30 at which point it's too dark to get any photos even if we were making anything worth telling you about. But we still enjoy it.

pizza prep
{pizza prep}

About the unnecessary plating that I do - you would think that pre-plating (and creating extra dishes) would make cooking more stressful, but I like it. It slows me down, it reminds me that everyday meals are special.  Sometimes the plating takes the place of actual cooking.

wine + cheese + olives
{a simple dinner from last summer}

We even do this when we eat frozen pot stickers (um, at least once a week, if we're being honest). No, I did not bother to make any side dishes, but we do have three different kinds of soy sauce, tempura dipping sauce and rice vinegar. That kind of counts.

gyoza night
{gyoza night - photo and plating by D}

The white platters are from Crate and Barrel about a million years ago and I don't think they make these exact ones anymore. But honestly, I think I'd like to add the cuatro platters from CB2 to my collection, because they look like an even better version. The little prep bowls are mostly from Crate and Barrel as well. When D and I moved in together my mom surprised us with an enormous box filled with an assortment of prep bowls. We use them for prep, but also for serving sauces.

There are limits, of course. My emergency meal* is peanut butter, eaten by the spoonful and adorned with chocolate chips. There's no way to dress that one up, so I just eat it out of the jar.

peanut butter + chocolate chips
{peanut butter + chocolate chips}

*An emergency meal is what you eat when you arrive home from work and you are dying. Ideally, an emergency meal should provide actual sustenance (pickles, though tempting, do not work well), should not require heating or chopping and must be able to be eaten with a single utensil or your fingers.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The weekend, briefly

Sometimes I forget how amazingly lucky we are. I'll never get enough of this state. We drove up the 101 for a wedding in Los Osos (lovely, way too much fun) and explored Morro Bay as well.

driving the 101
{driving the 101}

lights, fog
{lights, fog}

elfin forest
{elfin forest}

shell shop
{shell shop}

succulent sale
{succulent sale}

marigold field
{marigold field}

pink barn, blue sky
{pink barn, blue sky}

Friday, July 9, 2010

Um, did everyone else realize it was Friday already? I didn't even think of buying flowers this week, I have piles of DNA samples that have to get processed before I can head out and we're driving up the coast a bit for a GAF* wedding this weekend. Back on Monday with (hopefully) lots of lovely pictures.

*GAF = good as family. You know, those people that you spent more time with as a child than any of your own extended relatives. And yes, I just made the term up right now. That's why it isn't quite as catchy as it probably could be. I should think of a different abbreviation at some point.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Lemon meringue pie

As far as lemon meringue pie goes, there are two distinct types and the one is not at all similar to the other. The pie I most commonly see in restaurants has a filling that resembles lemon jello to an unsettling degree. I am sure that many, many people love this filling. Personally, I avoid almost all gelatin based desserts (sincere apologies to my Midwest ancestors).

meringue, peaks
{meringue, peaks}

The lemon meringue pie I know and love is more like lemon custard, made easy by sweetened condensed milk. I have, in fact, sweated my way through a more traditional recipe that involved making a lemon curd type filling on the stove and pressing it through a fine mesh strainer. It was delicious, but no more delicious than this easy version. I happily reverted back.

lemon meringue pie
{lemon meringue pie}
Lemon meringue pie (family recipe, adapted from various sources)
Unfilled 9 - 10" pie crust (the recipe I use is here)
6 egg yolks (set the whites aside for the meringue)
2 cans sweetened condensed milk (14 oz each)
1 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons fresh lemon zest

6 egg whites, room temperature
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
2/3 cup sugar
:: Pre-bake your pie crust in a 450F oven for 10 - 12 minutes, until just barely golden. Allow to cool. Reduce the oven heat to 325F.

:: Beat the egg yolks (I use my KitchenAid, you can also just use a whisk) for a minute or so and then slowly add the sweetened condensed milk. Add the lemon juice and the lemon zest and continue beating until well mixed. Pour into your cooled pie crust. Pop the filled pie in the 325F oven for 15 minutes.

:: Meanwhile, put your reserved egg whites and the cream of tartar in a scrupulously clean bowl and start beating. You can do this by hand but it will take a bit of muscle and endurance - personally, I lack the drive. Once the egg whites have started to form soft peaks (they will hold their shape slightly, but the mixture still looks matte and a bit foamy) you can start adding the sugar, 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time. Scrape down the sides of the bowl once in a while to make sure all the sugar is incorporated. Adding sugar too quickly can result in a gritty finish. Using bakers sugar (superfine) can reduce the risk of grittiness, but if you are patient and work the sugar in slowly you'll be fine with the regular stuff. Once all the sugar is added, you should continue to beat the egg whites for an additional 4 minutes (if you're using a mixer - probably a bit longer if you're doing this by hand). Finished meringue will be very thick and beautifully glossy.

:: When the 15 minute baking time is up, take your pie out of the oven (increase the oven heat to 350F at this time) and immediately spread the meringue over it. Do this by adding large dollops to the pie in various places and then smooth the dollops together. Then use your spoon or spatula to create peaks in the meringue. Fun! The only rule is to make sure that the meringue goes all the way to the edge and has contact with the pie crust.

:: Put the pie back in the oven (now at 350F) and let it bake for another 15 minutes, until the meringue peaks are gently browned. Remove and let stand at room temperature for at least two hours before serving.
The pie can be stored in the fridge, but your meringue will get chewy and gritty fairly quickly. I recommend making the pie the day you need it and then eating the leftovers quickly enough to avoid the need to refrigerate. It isn't hard to do.