Friday, March 30, 2012

Purchases - party supplies

Paper + watercolor + envelopes for invitations

purchases - invites

Gold fringe (self explanatory) + paper lanterns + crepe paper (already had hot glue) + cocktail napkins

party supplies!

Baby jungle cats (8)

baby jungle cats

Bridal festivities are definitely a chance to go all out, but I like to focus on a few key details and let it be. The best part about small parties is that you can spend time on small things. Hand painting + adding backing + adding dots + lining envelopes? I would not have been able to do this (or enjoy it) for our 100+ wedding invitations. For 15 invitations, it's a pleasure.

Likewise, making 5 lanterns was do-able, but if you're considering this on a larger scale, plan ahead accordingly and enlist help. I have the tutorial ready, so that will be up soon, promise.

I relied heavily on the gold fringe to set the mood, which really made it a good bargain and I think that could easily be used for a wedding decoration. The most important thing we found was getting the edges trimmed exactly. If they are wonky, the whole thing starts to look cheap quickly.

Everything else I used at the shower was something I already owned. I had the glass globes (to be fair, they were an incredibly impulsive holiday purchase and this is the first time I've used them). I was planning on using a cream colored tablecloth for the welcome table and at the last minute realized I'd ripped it terribly awhile ago. I dug through my fabric stash and found a piece of pink and cream striped fabric and then just tucked it so that the selvedge was the only edge that showed. It ended up looking better than my original idea. Oh, and that was my dresser pretending to be a table under it.

The weirdest decorations were the random cat pictures that we framed and scattered all over the house. It was subtle enough that some people thought we were just oddly obsessed with cats (um, we are not), but it was funny as everyone slowly figured it out. And so I guess I have to add our last party purchase ....

cat fancy
{cat fancy - totally worth it}

Thursday, March 29, 2012

New favorite

I rarely make mixed drinks with the exception of the rattler (in the absence of an actual bartender, I tend to stick to good beer, cheap wine and straight whiskey), so I had to do a bit of searching to find something good for the shower.

Luckily, I had set myself some really narrow guidelines. I wanted to somehow incorporate both gin and champagne but without veering too far into sweet territory. Desserts should be sweet, drinks should not. Emily introduced me to Hendrick's quite a few years ago and we have a well established champagne tradition from college, and I knew there must be a way to pair the two.

welcome table
{cherub's cup}

The cherub's cup was basically the only drink I found that met my criteria and it forced me to go purchase St. Germain, which I've been dying to do based on the bottle aesthetics alone. Win win! This drink is fairly similar to a French 75, but with a bit of a dressy twist thanks to the strawberries and elderflower. I can see this being a great standard for spring/summer parties.

Cherub's Cup (original recipe available all over the place - modified loosely to fit a large pitcher - I think it's a 52 oz one) 
1/4 cup sliced strawberries + more for garnish
1/2 cup St. Germain
1 cup Hendrick's gin
1/3 cup lemon juice (this was NOT exact, so you can adjust)
~ 1.5 bottles dry sparkling wine (I just filled the pitcher) 
*the original recipe also calls for simple syrup, but I tasted the drink and decided to leave it out - if you prefer sweeter drinks, you can add simple syrup or superfine sugar to taste*
:: Muddle your strawberries with a bit of the St. Germain (it's easier to muddle if you're working with a small volume - I always forget this and try to do it with the entire batch and whatever I'm muddling keeps floating up to the top, annoyingly).  
:: Pour the muddled berries and all the hard alcohol into a large pitcher. Stir in the lemon juice and the sparkling wine and taste to make sure you like the proportions. You can make a bit more of the St. Germain + gin mix and add it in if you like. Add additional sliced berries to the top for a pretty finish. 

I was preparing this super last minute, panicking slightly over the time, and realized I hadn't juiced the lemons yet. And then remembered that a couple months ago I'd frozen some leftover fresh lemon juice in an ice cube tray. I can't tell you how relieved I was - I needed those spare 30 seconds to get into real clothes. They had the added advantage of keeping the pitcher cold. Now I'm going to try to remember to always have lemon juice cubes on hand.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Emily and I have been friends since college, and she's one of the most amazingly generous people I know - the sort of friend who shows up at your house with takeout and champagne on a Wednesday, just because you're having a bad week. I knew that a traditional shower would make her exceedingly uncomfortable, but her friends and I wanted to plan a party that would honor her, show her how much we love her and celebrate this moment in her life. It wasn't a surprise (surprises are a complete no-go, for both of us) but we kept all the details completely secret.

We ended up with an intimate and leisurely lunch for twelve, with good drinks, plenty of food and lots of talking. Absolutely no games, and I don't think anyone missed them. I didn't get as many pictures as I normally would, because I was busy hosting, but here are a few snippets. And for those of you who want details, I'll give additional info at the bottom.


welcome table
{welcome table}

drink tags
{drink tags}

getting started
{getting started}

china - from Em
{china - photo from Emily}


cat in a globe!
{cat in a globe!}

:: I made the invitations using a wash of watercolor and some gold accents, which set up the color scheme for the party. The text and envelopes were grey and I used patterned gold paper to line the envelopes.

:: Our apartment is upstairs and in the back of the building, so I set up the welcome table at the top of the flight of stairs so guests could see it as they arrived. It made it easy to spot the correct apartment and it gave me a location for the drinks (my apartment is a decent size, but there aren't all that many places to set up various stations!).

:: Do the drink tags look familiar? D made the template for Thanksgiving dinner, and we used it again but printed them out on some leftover watercolor paper that I had used for the invitations. I love drink tags because it lets you keep track of your glass as you move around the party.

:: Appetizers - roasted asparagus wrapped in prosciutto, dates stuffed with chevre and wrapped in applewood smoked bacon, rosemary and sea salt roasted almonds and a selection of marinated olives and cornichons.

:: Food (not pictured because we were busy eating) - Several varieties of grilled cheese sandwiches and a large salad. We had a seated meal, which I think makes conversation so much easier. Grilled cheese sandwiches are sort of a thing for us, so I was determined to make them even though I knew it was a little impractical because they had to be grilled at the party. It worked out fine.

:: The table decorations came together very randomly. I'd seen this post and marked it because I know D would kill for a squirrel candleholder (and now I've ruined that surprise - oh well). And I like to tease Emily about turning into a crazy cat lady, so I thought it would be funny to incorporate cats into the decor. The closest thing I could find at the party store was "baby jungle cats" so I sprayed them gold and stuck them in these globes that I already owned (they're from CB2 and I bought them before the holidays) along with a little confetti.

:: My philosophy with party decorating is that you want a few high impact areas rather than trying to hide or modify your entire space. I made liberal use of gold fringe backdrops and crepe paper (more info on the lanterns coming soon, I promise) and I bought the cat figures, but that was it really. D made the letters for me after I mentioned I wanted some but completely ran out of time. He just printed them out, traced them on cardboard and then wrapped them in crepe paper.

:: DESSERT! Clearly, the most important part of a party. I made an ombre cake (you'll have to pop over to E's post to see it) mostly because I've had various images of those marked for ages and this is the best possible excuse for that sort of craziness. A good friend made a dulce de leche and mexican chocolate crepe torte that was to die for. And we also had white chocolate chip cookies (because they're E's fave) and brownies to go with the ice cream. Because yes, we had a full ice cream sundae bar with homemade hot fudge and salted caramel. Except it ended up being more of an ice cream free for all because I ran out of time and just plunked everything down in the middle of the table and let everyone pass it around. It's more fun that way, right?

Whew. Sorry for the extreme wordiness. I had so much fun planning and thinking of ways to make it perfect for Em. And now I can't wait for the wedding!

Update - drink tag template is available here. And the invitation tutorial is right here. Fringed lantern tutorial is here. Cherub's cup drink recipe is here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The weekend, briefly

Lots of prep for Emily's shower (the final product deserves its own post - coming tomorrow) + a busy Sunday hanging out with friends who are moving out of the country. Yay for them, sad for us.


testing it out




los angeles after the rain
{los angeles after the rain}

going away party
{going away party}

baby fuzz
{baby fuzz}

LA post rain
{LA buildings}

Not pictured: A rainy trek out to Alhambra for some truly excellent pho. If you live in Southern California, it is crucial that you get into adventuring through strip mall restaurants in search of treasures. It's the only way to go.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday flowers

from the garden
{from the garden}

The very first white dahlias from my mom's garden. We had thought about planting dahlias to use for our wedding and then quickly lost steam (so much advanced planning!). But my mom sweetly ordered a plant anyway, knowing that I love them and they'll always go to good use. And apparently they grow like weeds.

garden flowers
{garden flowers}

The roses and the rosemary were also plucked straight from the garden. I'm going to use the rosemary for cooking, but in the meantime it has been happily pretending to be part of a flower arrangement.

By contrast, I have managed to kill off my entire little herb garden and finally admitted that I need to start over. Hope springs eternal, I guess. I can usually manage to keep it going for a season or two before I get distracted and forget to water.

Looking forward to a busy weekend and a little party to celebrate Em's upcoming wedding. I didn't want to share any of the details beforehand because I like secrets. I will tell you this - I've gone seriously overboard with the dessert and I'm completely unapologetic about it. If you can't do it for something like this, when can you? You have to take these opportunities as they come.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The weekend, briefly

saturday morning
{saturday morning}

sweet + yukon
{sweet + red}

caramelized onion frittata
{caramelized onion frittata}

sunday brunch
{sunday brunch}

cranberry-cherry scones
{cranberry-cherry scones}

sunday morning
{sunday morning}

:: Weekend notes ::

It poured on Saturday, which was unfortunately the day we had scheduled for all our errands. It would have been so much better to have stayed in, but we soldiered on.

An improvised  frittata for Sunday morning brunch turned out really well. Sweet potatoes + red potatoes sliced and tossed with rosemary and olive oil and then roasted.  I caramelized a little pile of onions while the potatoes cooked, then tossed everything in a pan and poured several eggs over it and baked at 350 for 40 minutes. Perfect.

Scones are still my favorite easy treat for breakfast guests. They look, smell and taste impressive but come together in just a few minutes. You do have to have cream on hand, but not too much of it. This time I used dried cherries + cranberries (didn't have enough cherries to go it alone).

Friday, March 16, 2012

Purchases - clothing

A few good deals from the Barney's warehouse sale.

: : An A.L.C tee shirt that was still $59 but is ridiculously perfect - I've been wearing this non-stop and I'm so glad I decided to splurge on it - I should have steamed it before photographing it to do it justice. : : A simple dress that doesn't have sleeves for $29 (meaning, I can wear it with a cardigan). : : A Vince sweater that I've been stalking, marked down to $36 (it has a tiny hole on the shoulder and I need to repair it or patch it).: : A black shirt that is nicer than a tee shirt but not too fancy to wear to work for $23 (not pictured, because the black was ridiculously hard to photograph and I gave up). : :

barney's finds

And a little close up of the notch in the A.L.C. neckline that somehow makes the tee way better. The sleeve is not normally tucked up like that - I didn't notice it until I was editing photos and I didn't want to re-shoot.

A.L.C neck detailing
{A.L.C. neck detailing}

All of it together was less than the sweater alone at full price. I had to resist a few things that clearly didn't fit my needs, and I was bummed that the shoe selection was so poor, but overall I'm happy with how I made out.

If I had unlimited funds, Vince would feature heavily in my wardrobe and I would wear nothing but silk + wool + premium denim + super soft cotton. A girl can dream.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Pastry cutters are totally multi-purpose

I rarely use my pastry cutter for making pastry dough anymore (because I use the food processor). But it happens to be really helpful for making guacamole. You get the perfect texture because it doesn't make it overly smooth. I'm a firm believer in lumpy guac.




We get the avocados mashed and then gently stir in whatever else we're adding (lemon juice + salt if we're going simple, hot fresh salsa + jalapenos + garlic + lime juice + salt if we're feeling fancy).

It's also the best tool for making egg salad, randomly enough.

egg salad
{egg salad}

I mean, I'm not saying you need to run out and buy one if you don't already have one. A fork will stand in for either one of these tasks. But if you do have one lingering around in your drawers, you might want to consider giving it a little bit of extra work.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Loving ...

Essie's smokin' hot nailpolish. It's more grey than purple (which is good, because I'm not wild about purple) and I loved having it on so much that I went back and had them re-apply it. Twice.

smokin' hot
{smokin' hot}

I rarely bother with painted nails* because they last three days, tops and I've always had a hard time finding colors that I like. For some reason all the various greys that are out right now just feel much more me than anything I've found in the past. It's enough to have me contemplating a gel manicure just so I could enjoy the effect a little longer.

*Toes, however, are always painted and always in some variation on red. Not sure I'll ever branch out there.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The weekend, briefly

saturday breakfast
{saturday breakfast}

ikea boxes
{ikea boxes}

rattler at sunset
{rattler at sunset}

cafe lights
{cafe lights}



:: Notes ::

One of my favorite breakfasts lately is to just heat up whatever leftover roasted veggies we have in the fridge and toss a poached egg on top. Saturday was roasted mushrooms + cauliflower + asparagus. It's a good way to use up those odds and ends.

The weather was so shockingly warm on Friday that I started itching to get our patio ready for spring. We spent Saturday cleaning it up and hanging some lights and then drank some rattlers (a friend christened the habanero tequila-grapefruit juice mix that we're all obsessed with the rattler, and it's sticking).

We've been messing around with our apartment, replacing a few things. Details forthcoming. Currently everything is in a state of disrepair, as is wont to happen during projects.

I spent Sunday afternoon making saag paneer at home because we had a huge excess of spinach that needed to be used up (sorry - no real recipe, because it was based off several different ones and modified a bit - but you can read about the paneer process here) and then we drank a fancy bottle of beer to celebrate a productive weekend. And watched GCB - I think it has promise, for sure. But you might want to take that with a grain of salt, because I have been loving Revenge (so pleasantly soapy!) and apparently no one else agrees with me.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Purchase - Clarisonic Mia

*I have a few of these posts backed up and just need to finalize them and get them up - I was holding off on this one until I'd had a chance to use it for a little while*

I have been contemplating the Clarisonic Mia for so long and my post-winter skin finally convinced me to give in. It's a big upfront cost, but D and I are sharing it (the heads are removable, so this isn't gross).

I've had it for a few weeks now and I can say that while we both really like it, I wouldn't call it life changing. I think this may vary person to person. My skin was already decent, just dry. My skin definitely feels smoother, but I haven't noticed that it looks much different.

It does make washing my face much more pleasant. I'd liken it to my electric toothbrush that I've been obsessed with for years. It definitely does a better job than I do on my own and it makes it more enjoyable. As long as the Mia lasts for several years, I'll consider it money well spent.

And maybe after a full month of use my skin will suddenly become transcendent? I still hold out hope.

ETA: I also got these deep pore brushes to go with it. The Mia only comes with one brush and I needed two so that D and I could share. I like the deep pore brushes better than the standard ones, so I'm glad I went with them after reading the reviews.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Flowers, of late

A gift from someone who is more optimistic about my plant raising skills than I.


Beautiful yellow freesias. I love seeing the flowers start to pop up in the market as spring approaches.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lemon debutante cake

lemon curd
{lemon curd}

I normally put recipes up here when I use them, because I normally have notes and tweaks and clarifications and I like to be able to look back at them.


I will not be posting Miette's recipe for the Lemon Debutante Cake here. I'm sorry. Mostly because it is so incredibly long and detailed that it would pain me to type it out and partly because the instructions are so exhaustive that I have nothing left to say. If you are looking to get a crash course in cake baking, the Miette cookbook is a great source. They walk you through it all step by step, which makes the recipes look intimidatingly long but is probably useful if you've never understood why you need to do a crumb coat.

lemon debutante cake
{lemon debutante cake}

It was incredibly good. It took a lot of time. You will need an instant read thermometer. You MUST measure out all your ingredients in advance and have them ready and waiting. Please consider all those factors before diving in.

You have to make a curd and a simple syrup before you even get going on the cake. The cake itself requires you to use a double boiler to cook the eggs and you have to melt the butter into the milk and everything needs to be at the proper temperature before you start combining things. The buttercream uses the European method, so you need to beat hot sugar syrup into egg whites. My cake fell in the oven and wasn't terribly cooperative and I was cursing while I got it out of the pans and I swore I wouldn't recommend anyone else make it.

But the cake was so roundly enjoyed that I can't bring myself to steer you away from it. I will just recommend that you avoid starting it at the end of a 10 hour workday. Come to it fully rested and everything should go just fine. And maybe don't bother trying to split the layers, because it really wasn't necessary.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


satsuma heart
{satsuma heart}

sunday coffee
{sunday coffee}


dark beer
{dark beer}

russian river brewery
{russian river brewery}

almond groves
{almond groves}



chevre + cheddar
{chevre + cheddar}

evening light
{evening light}

Life has been mildly hectic, but that isn't really the reason for the silence here. I'm working on priorities this year. Priorities and letting things happen as they will. It feels good, although I miss being here every day. I haven't made any decisions (future post - decisions/lack thereof in 2012) and I definitely still plan to be here when I have things to say or pictures to share. It might just be more sporadic sometimes.

We made a quick trip up to the Bay area a few weeks ago, drank lots of beer, ate lots of food, saw lots of people and headed straight back home. We've been kicking around the house, contemplating projects (and actually starting some of them), spending time with family and each other. I'm having a hard time tearing myself away from reading Game of Thrones. And debating whether I should then dive into the second book or wait and watch the second season first. Crucial decisions. I spend a lot of time hoping no one will ask me what I'm reading because the obsession is mildly embarrassing.