Thursday, May 31, 2012

The weekend, briefly

sister tea
{sister tea}


weekend meals
{weekend meals}

double birthday
{double birthday}

belated birthday cake
{belated birthday cake}

:: weekend notes ::

We had a really busy Saturday (not pictured) followed by a very lazy Sunday. My sister and I are just four days (+ four years) apart, so in lieu of exchanging gifts we spent a belated birthday weekend together, drinking tea and baking cookies and eating cake and re-watching the entire season of Veep.

We picked up olives and dips from the farmer's market and grazed for nearly every meal that wasn't dessert.

We've always loved each other fiercely, but growing up we fought with equal intensity. It's pretty wonderful to finally be getting old enough that we can really be friends. I love you, R.

I did not make that cake, by the way, it's the vanilla-lemon berry from Vanilla Bakeshop. D and I realized it was the same one we cut at our wedding, but neither of us could remember how it tasted. Turns out it's pretty good.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Reading, lately

Gobbled this up in one day, had to resist making D listen to me read the funniest bits out loud nonstop.


I had to include the back cover, of course.

It isn't a biography, more like little essays, anecdotes and funny bits. It goes quickly and yes, it is light. In a good way.

One of my favorite quotes:
A note about me: I do not think stress is a legitimate topic of conversation, in public anyway. No one wants to hear how stressed out anyone else is, because most of the time everyone is stressed out. Going on and on in detail about how stressed out I am isn't conversation. It'll never lead anywhere. No one is going to say "Wow, Mindy, you really have it especially bad. I have heard some stories of stress, but this just takes the cake."
And this one:
I don't think it should be socially acceptable for people to say they are "bad with names." No one is bad with names. That is not a real thing. Not knowing people's names isn't a neurological condition; it's a choice. You choose not to make learning people's names a priority. It's like saying, "Hey, a disclaimer about me: I'm rude." 
Dustin has been telling me that for years, but this was much more convincing for some reason.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Purchases - apparel

I am majorly regretting the purchase tracking already. I'm generally not a big clothing shopper, so I figured this would be no big deal. Last year I basically bought a handful of tee shirts + three pairs of $11 jeans. This year, I feel like I have a pretty clear idea of how I want my wardrobe to grow. The good news is that I'm comfortable with the purchases and I feel like I'm making smart choices. But it's still embarrassing to cop to every single thing I buy, particularly when those things are expensive. I'm sticking with it because apparently I'm a masochist.

Here goes ...

purchases, apparel

1. Hunters, in navy. I have never owned a pair of rain boots. Never. Which means for the last five years that I've been taking the bus daily there are rare (it doesn't rain very often here) but incredibly annoying times where I spend all day with soaking wet feet. A sweet reader alerted me to a Gilt flash sale on Hunters, so I went for it. I'm hoping this means I don't have to think about rain boots for several decades.

2. I'm normally pretty wary of trends, but I gave into temptation and got these totally ridiculously bright blue jeans from F21. Thoroughly enjoying them, although they aren't as great a fit as my usual ones, which I am happy to report are still the best jeans I've ever purchased, more than a year of hard wear later.

Annnnnd ... the more indulgent ones. I went completely nuts at the Shopbop sale a few weeks ago. It was only 20% off, so this really wasn't justified but after wearing everything for a while I have no regrets. I guess I'm going for really cheap pants paired with really pricey tops?

3. This one is so amazing that I am going to watch and see if it goes on sale and buy another. It's very loose but cut really well and it feels like the best kind of casual luxury. Fully worth the price. Really tempted to buy one just to wear to bed.

4. And this one is a little more conservative, but also beautifully cut and transitions nicely for work meetings if necessary.

5. This one is definitely more casual and I contemplated returning it because it's a little long for me, but then realized that I love it tucked in (seriously cannot remember the last time I voluntarily tucked a shirt into pants).

6. This dress is crazy bright but I love the cut and it will be the dress I wear for all weddings this summer.

7. Plus these sandals. I allow myself one or two new pairs of sandals each summer and then I wear them into the ground.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The weekend, briefly

May is birthday month around here and we kicked off the first round this weekend.

90th birthday lunch
{90th birthday lunch}

bow tie!
{bow tie!}

essie's fifth avenue + coziest new sweater
{essie's fifth avenue + coziest new sweater from D}

new (old) cake stand
{new (old) cake stand}

sunday evening browsing
{sunday browsing}

birthday evening
{birthday evening}

:: Weekend notes ::

We celebrated my grandmother's 90th birthday at lunch on Saturday and then drove straight back up to LA to attend a birthday party for one of D's clients (which was catered by Son of a Gun - so good).

With a double booked party day on Saturday I treated myself to an early morning manicure and a blow out. So worth it. I have yet to learn how to do anything with my hair and it felt good to know it looked good all day. Essie's fifth avenue was the perfect red-orange.

I have a new addition to my cake stand collection - this gorgeous hobnailed, ruffled piece. My mom found it in an antique shop back in January and managed to keep it under wraps til now. 

I spent my actual birthday lying in bed most of the day, which I've decided is the best celebration ever. I've never been very fussy about birthdays and I've gotten less so with every year. I'm not sure if this means I'm getting old or if I've just finally accepted my true nature. Napping + reading for the win.

I did wake up to drink in the late afternoon light and D picked up some dessert from Tavern. Pretty perfect.

We'll start the second round next weekend ...

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday flowers

I had a bit of filler left from the arrangements so I made myself a simple one.


I have no idea what these flowers are called. They're purple, if that helps.


We have a packed weekend coming up - May always seems to be kind of crazy. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Flags, for lots of things (template provided)

I wanted little tags for our mother's day flower arrangements because each one was created with a particular mother in mind. Of course, I didn't think about this until 15 minutes before we had to leave and I had to scramble.

mother's day flowers
{mother's day flowers}


flower flag
{flower flag}

Look familiar at all? I re-purposed the file that we used for our wedding dessert buffet flags. Then I printed them out on cardstock and quickly glued them around some bamboo skewers* and popped them in the vases.

I love having a file on hand that I can pull out in a pinch. I always work in Illustrator, but I know that not everyone has it, so I modified the file to make a fillable PDF template. You can use it anytime you need quick tags - weddings, flowers, cheese parties (I'm not sure why that popped into my mind as an example, but I would gladly attend a cheese party, if you happen to throw one).

You can download my template right here. You must download the file to work with it on your computer - if you open it in Google docs you won't be able to use the fillable form function. I've embedded the font that we used in all our wedding designs (Tw Cent MT) and I think it looks best in all caps, but you can play around with it. There are several different sizes, for all your flagging needs.

* My bamboo skewers weren't tall enough to stick out over the flowers so I used two, overlapped them slightly in the middle and them taped them together with packing tape. The ugly part was hidden by the flowers, so it all worked out fine.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The weekend, briefly


seascape strawberries from harry's berries
{seascape strawberries}

cleaning up

flowers, waiting
{flowers, waiting}

girls' dinner
{girls' dinner}

mother's day
{mother's day}

of course
{of course}

the rattler
{the rattler}


:: weekend notes ::

We hit up the farmer's market early to get the best pick of mother's day flowers and came home with paper wrapped bundles, the most expensive strawberries I've ever had and a bag of very good dates.

I had a rock climbing, mexican food, dive bar session with my girls from high school, celebrating the upcoming wedding of one of our ladies.

Our families celebrated mother's day together again with a big brunch. Waffles with piles of fresh berries, mimosas and rattlers.

We had out of town friends over Sunday evening and I scrounged up some appetizers from our understocked fridge. Luckily we always have some cheese (I can't say the same for crackers - we just got lucky this time), nuts and dried fruit. Then we headed out for burgers at the newish Plan Check (ridiculously good) and came home to a cuban pastry and a cookie the size of my head. I woke up Monday morning with a food hangover.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Devouring ...

Found these funny looking mandarins while mushroom shopping* at our favorite Marukai. Turns out they're a southern California delicacy called Temecula Sweets.

temecula sweets
{temecula sweets}

They are crazy knobbly and insanely sweet. Now I need to get back to pick up a second bag, soon.

* Mushrooms are so much better/cheaper from the Japanese market that it's worth making a special trip almost every week, even if that's the only thing we get. White button mushrooms alone just don't cut it.

Perfect Mexican rice

I have some sort of mental block against making rice. I won't try to explain it because it defies logic. But let's just say that after one particularly trying incident where I re-made jasmine rice THREE times while a guest waited for coconut curry, I accepted the truth. I am terrible at making rice.

We don't have a rice maker. I'd rather the space be taken up by a food processor and apparently rice and I are just not compatible, even with mechanical intervention (I grew up with a rice cooker - it did not help). I gave in and started buying frozen packets of cooked rice at Trader Joe's, and the problem was solved.

Every once in a while I attempt rice, with no expectation of success and no fear of failure. It's rice, after all. Not world domination. If it sucks, we'll eat something else.

So far, this recipe works every time.

perfect mexican rice
{perfect mexican rice}

I realize rice, even spiced up with chili powder and garlic, is not the most thrilling topic, but I like to have a few staples down so I'm making note of this for future use. And I have been working on my regular rice technique, sporadically, and I'm making progress. I will not be defeated by a grain.

Perfect Mexican rice (original recipe here, makes 4 servings - scales up well)

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder*
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 cups chicken broth
Salt, to taste (I like 1 teaspoon - this will depend on how salty your broth is as well)
Cilantro, chopped (optional - I like it sprinkled over the top)

:: Heat oil in a 2 or 3 qt pot over medium heat and add rice. Cook, stirring constantly, until the rice is toasted and barely golden. Toss in the cumin and chili powder and cook for a minute.

:: Stir in the onions and garlic and cook until tender. Stir in the tomato sauce and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer gently for 15 - 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. I find that sometimes the rice cooks more quickly, so I check for doneness each time I stir.

:: Remove from heat and let sit for at least 30 minutes, tossing with a fork every once in a while. This will allow some of the excess moisture to steam away. The rice will still not be nearly as dry as what you get in a restaurant, but I personally love it this way. If you want it dry, make it a day ahead, refrigerate overnight and then reheat the next day. It will be perfect.

* Know your chili powder! When chili powder is mentioned in a recipe, they usually mean the dark red variety that is smoky and less spicy than some of the brighter red types. You can use whatever you like in your recipes, but if you have a bright red powder start very light on the measurements and then work your way up. They are often much spicier. And cayenne is in a different class altogether!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The weekend, briefly

saturday kitchen
{saturday kitchen}


{caffe luxxe}


We cooked a bit on Saturday and then had a leisurely meal with friends. Warm weather and good margaritas. Basically perfect.

We walked and walked on Sunday, stopping for our favorite coffee in the neighborhood and peeking in to see what farmshop is doing (answer - lots of good things that involve food. We need to get back for a meal and some serious shopping).

Messing around with Instagram, as you can see here. So far, my verdict is that it's handy, particularly for times when lugging my camera around doesn't appeal (six mile walks being a case in point). 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Cilantro-lime sorbet (tequila optional)

Dustin made a cilantro-lime-tequila sorbet last week and it was so insanely good that he made a non-alcoholic handheld version just a few days later.

cilantro-lime popsicle
{cilantro-lime popsicle}

These are refreshing, really light and equally delicious with or without the tequila. If you add the alcohol, you'll probably want to stick to the sorbet version. Alcohol interferes with the freezing which isn't too big an issue with sorbet but is a pain with popsicle molds.

Next plan - make these sans tequila in an ice cube tray and then pour tequila over them to serve. Instant margarita! That will be happening this weekend.

Cilantro-lime sorbet (original recipe from Food & Wine - makes about 8 servings)

1 1/4 cups whole milk
1 1/4 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 cup cilantro leaves
1 cup fresh lime juice
Zest of two or three limes
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup silver tequila (optional)

:: Combine the milk, water, sugar and cilantro in a saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside for at least half an hour to let the flavors mix.

:: In a blender (or using an immersion blender, which is much less messy), blend the mixture to incorporate the cilantro and then strain through a fine mesh sieve.

:: Stir in the lime juice, zest and salt. Allow to chill thoroughly for sorbet purposes. I always make ice cream bases a day ahead of time and then leave them to chill overnight. If you don't have the extra time, stick the mixture straight in the freezer until it gets nice and cold. If you plan to make sorbet, chill your tequila as well but keep it separate for now.

:: If you are making popsicles, get the mixture as cold as possible before pouring into the molds. It's actually best if you run it through the ice cream maker first and get a slush. If you pour the mixture directly into the molds, it will want to separate, sadly.

:: If you are making sorbet, follow the instructions on your machine. Start with the chilled mixture and let it get fairly well frozen before adding the chilled tequila. Once it's as frozen as possible you'll probably need to stick it back in the freezer for at least a few hours to get it to firm up sufficiently. Of course, it's also perfectly acceptable to serve it as a slushy.

I really want to try a few variations on this - I think subbing coconut milk for the regular milk could be amazing (no tequila for that one!). And I'd like a few more herb-y popsicle recipes under my belt for summer. So much more refreshing than super sweet ones.

P.S. - We have this popsicle mold. It's simple and it works really well.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The weekend, (very) briefly


ginger-date cookie
{ginger-date cookie}


It was quiet this weekend. And warm. I love that. I didn't feel like lugging my camera around, so I didn't. Toying with the idea of Instagram and I tested it out a bit this weekend, but I'm a little resistant. I'll probably give in soon but I don't want it to replace my beloved camera.

My current favorite cookie is the ginger-date-molasses one from Tavern. It is intensely flavored and very chewy. If you happen to be in my neighborhood, I highly recommend stopping in to pick one up. I know everyone else swears by their chocolate chip cookies, but I'm not as big a fan.

D made popsicles and we've been eating them all week, even though the weather promptly switched back over to chilly once the weekend was over. I'll share the recipe tomorrow. They're insane.

Not pictured -

We hit up the Gilt warehouse sale and I got my $5 admission worth in free (mediocre*) drinks and Kind bars that I smuggled out in my pockets. There was nothing worthwhile. I'm not a big fan of Gilt anyways.

I dropped by our local Heath to stare at the summer collection pieces a bit more and decided that really the shallow salad bowl and the dessert bowls would be the best choices, if we ever decide to pull the trigger. A word of warning - the glaze on the literally all the platters (I went through the whole stack) looked flawed to me. I asked about it and they said it was part of the character of the glaze, but I'm just not a huge fan of the effect. I would highly recommend checking them out before committing. I actually like to do this with all Heath purchases, because they are handmade and you might like one variation a little more than another. I'll sometimes exchange pieces if I get them home and realize they aren't quite right with what I already have. I know, picky. But when you pay $130 for a salad bowl, you better plan to love it to death and use it your entire life.

* I'm not sure how other people feel about acai alcohol, but I'm not on board. Blah.