Monday, August 31, 2009

The weekend, briefly

Whew. It is hot in Southern California.

I still managed to get quite a bit of crafting done.


Thanks to the genius who invented otter pops.

otter pops

And because Little Britain makes for good company.


The results of the weekend?


New rosebud headbands up in the shop in lovely new colors.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday flowers (fake out), thank you edition

I am absolutely overwhelmed by the sweet response to my shop. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Also, I have no flowers this week. But if I did, they would be for you. The only reason I don't is because every single surface in our apartment is covered with fabric, ribbon, and papers. You can consider yourself lucky if you don't sit down and land on a stray sewing needle or two.


This weekend I will organize like crazy, and I'm also creating the rosebud headband in some lovely new colors (including seafoam green, coral and chocolate). Expect a shop update on or around Monday.

Flowers will return next week, I promise.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Reading, lately


Now is the Hour by Tom Spanbauer - I loved, loved, loved this book. It's a pretty straightforward bildungsroman of a young gay man growing up in Idaho in the 60s but the voice is pitch perfect and the characters suck you right in. I was so grateful that it was nice and long because I didn't want it to end. I even re-read parts of it right away.

Drowning Ruth
by Christina Schwarz - This is almost a mystery, with lots of secrets and tension. It's set in a rural area and takes place during and after World War I. If you love dark period pieces about social mores and family secrets, you'll like it.

Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout - I found this book hard to read, because the central mother daughter relationship is so painful. But the writing is absolutely beautiful and the characters come alive and I ended up loving it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Weekly rituals

First of all, thank you all for the sweet comments yesterday about the shop. It's nervewracking, putting everything out there like that, but you are all wonderfully supportive and I feel very, very lucky.

I find rituals so soothing. Every Wednesday I pick up our CSA box on the way home from work and lug it home on the bus (this part is not soothing, I'll admit). Then I open it, excited to see what veggies we get for the week, pour myself a glass of wine and wash them all up while I listen to the evening news on NPR.

wednesday ritual
{just the beginning}

I stick to this because I find that if the veggies aren't washed and put away immediately, it's easy to put it off too long. And it's such a lovely way to break up my week because it forces me to slow down a bit.

I'd love to hear about any simple rituals you have, if you'd care to share. Maybe we'll all get some ideas.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A new venture

I am so excited to finally share this with all of you....

shop banner 2

My own little Etsy shop!

This has been very slow to develop, and I like it that way. I've been mulling (maybe obsessing) over it for months, designing the banner, picking out packaging, and, of course, crafting.

Lots of these items will look familiar to you because I've shared them as DIYs over the last year. That won't change. I wholeheartedly encourage you to make things for yourself and I'll continue to update the DIY index. But for those of you who are busy, or don't want to invest in all the supplies, I'm offering ready to go versions of my favorite projects. Sometimes the sanest thing you can do is pass off a project to someone else, after all.

At the moment, you can find headbands (ruffles, lilypad and rosebud versions) in several colors. They are all slightly different, so read the descriptions for details about the fabric and finishing. I used several types of silks, so the textures will vary. Some of the edges are singed for a contrast finish and some are left raw for a wispy look. These details are all specified for each model, so you will know exactly what to expect. Any of these headband designs can be sized up into belts for custom orders. Just contact me.

headbands collage
{heart of light headbands}

(The model is my lovely sister! How lucky am I to have a beautiful sister who is willing to patiently sit still while I fuss around and tie things on her head and photograph her?)

I also have a limited run of embroidered napkins, which I absolutely adore. If you guys like them too, I'll look into making more. Currently there are only 10 sets available.

pick 3
{EAT napkins from heart of light}

And I had to add in my meal planning notepads, because I love them so much. These are also available customized, and I love the idea of giving them out as shower gifts along with some little kitchen accessories.

{meal planning notepad}

I have to send out a big, heartfelt thanks to all of you. I am so very excited about this little shop and I could never have done it without all the encouragement and enthusiasm you readers have shown me in the past year. You are all truly amazing.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The weekend, briefly

We had a quiet, busy weekend at home, but we managed to sneak in a date night at Bacaro LA.

ribbon stack
{ribbon stack}
Align Center
computer + tea
{computer* + tea}

thread line up
{thread line up}

{dinner at bacaro}

*I bought a computer! I gave up on research and just purchased the laptop that was most similar to the one I'd been using. Such a huge relief not to have the decision hanging over my head.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

About me

My name is Rachel and I write this blog. Here are some bits and pieces about me.

WORK: Yes, I do have a job and it is in no way related to blogging. I work in a lab, on the educational end of things rather than the research end.

PHOTOS: Update! In September 2012 my much abused D40 finally got replaced. I got the next lowest model, the D3200. The basic kit I linked to includes a lens but I went to a local camera shop and bargained a bit so I essentially bought the kit but then sold the unused lens back to them. I'm still adjusting to the D3200 and I'll eventually get a review up. I do miss my D40 but it had gotten to the point where it was having a lot of trouble shooting and the cost to fix it didn't seem to make sense. I still use the same lenses, so that information still applies.

From the beginning of the blog through September 2012: I shoot with a Nikon D40 and I love it. Most of the time I use a fixed 35 mm lens. It doesn't zoom, so it takes a bit of getting used to, but it's my absolute favorite. I generally shoot with the aperture pretty wide open (around 2 is my standard, but it depends on the situation). I have a fixed 50 mm lens as well, but I tend to use the 35 mm more often.

I also have a pretty standard 18 - 55 mm lens that came with my camera and I used it a lot in the beginning. It does zoom, so I'll still take it out when I'm in situations where I might need that capability, usually if I'm shooting outside with other people and just want to get quick shots.

I don't use any fancy equipment other than a tripod (when I can be bothered to get it out). I use Photoshop for small adjustments but I'm no expert.

SEWING MACHINE: My mom generously gifted me a Janome when I first learned to sew. It isn't available anymore but it's similar to this model. It's amazingly easy to use. I still do a lot of handsewing, for small details.

FABRIC SUPPLIERS: I'm lucky enough to live in a city with lots of fabric options. I shop at F&S a lot - they have the best selection of silks and wools. If you're looking for amazing silks, you need to track down a store that specializes in dressmaking fabrics. Quilting stores are great for cotton prints and craft stores are okay for synthetics, but only a clothing fabric store will really have a huge variety of silks and jerseys and high quality linens.

PLACES: I live in Los Angeles and I grew up in Orange County. I'm seriously attached to Southern California. I studied abroad in Athens, Greece and my family lived there when I was a baby, so I pretend that Greece is my other homeland. I attended Scripps College in Claremont and I couldn't have had a better college experience. I double majored in biology and English and I like to think it balanced me out a bit.

THE DOG: Circe is a wire fox terrier and she technically doesn't belong to me. My parents bought her while I was still living at home, so I consider her to be partly mine. But really, she's our family dog and we're all obsessed with her. Wire fox terriers are sturdy and sweet and like to get into trouble. They are also quite a bit of trouble to groom, but worth it. We use this cheater comb on Circe, to avoid the tedious hand grooming method we're supposed to use. I'd love a dog of my own, but we live in a no pets apartment. Snowy is a relatively recent addition and you can read a little bit about how we accidentally ended up with him right here. He's some sort of mutt and probably has a bit of terrier heritage. DECEMBER 2013 UPDATE - We found a pet-friendly apartment and adopted Circe and she now lives with us full time. She's taken to being an only dog like a duck to water and we're over the top in love with her.

THE GUY: D is my husband. He's an architect. We've been best friends for most of our lives and we have a lot of fun together. His name is actually Dustin but I refer to him as D 90% of the time both on here and in real life. I realize an initial seems like a weird nickname, but it's better than Dust.

ADVERTISING/$$ STUFF: To date, I haven't accepted any advertising on the blog, but I'll update if I ever do. I do use affiliate links with Amazon, but only for products I've purchased and love, and only because I was already linking to stuff on Amazon before they made the affiliate program so easy to use. I'll never recommend anything that I wouldn't have purchased myself.

If I've linked to a product on Amazon and you click on it, I receive a small commission if you end up buying the item. If you aren't comfortable with that, you can make a note of the item name and then look for it in a new tab, or go to the item itself but clear your cache before you purchase.

Every once in a blue moon I will accept items for review, generally only books. These items will only make it onto the blog if I find myself using them regularly and would actually have been willing to spend the money on them myself. I have never accepted money for a post and I don't see that happening in the future. Too forced for me to feel comfortable. 

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday flowers - 2 for 1

The callas are hanging on from last week. I change the water every other day and I've trimmed the stems twice. The tablecloth is an Ikea fabric, of course.

callas, week 2
{callas, week 2}

I couldn't resist these giant snowy white chrysanthemums. (I could not for the life of me figure out how to spell chrysanthemum just now, which immediately made me think of Anne and Gilbert in the spelling bee. Do you remember that scene?)

flower corner
{flower corner}

That clock is from the flea market. It's amazing. The numbers are actually on little flaps and they flip around as the time changes.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

krank press calendar love

I've had this calendar up for two weeks now and I can't tell you how much joy it brings me. It's been killing me not to share it, but I had to wait until after the big birthday weekend because I got one for my mom as well.

{late afternoon sun}

It's the perpetual gardening calendar from krank press and it is even lovelier in person. Each month features a different hand carved linocut and a letterpressed list of what to eat and what to plant (geared towards Southern California). It's amazing. You know those little items that are even more beautiful than you could have imagined? This calendar is one of them. I smile every time it catches my eye.

See more from krank press on their etsy shop and their blog.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Cakes galore

Cakes, last week.

best birthday cake - recipe from smitten kitchen
{best birthday cake}

A classic, perfect birthday cake. Golden yellow layers swathed in creamy chocolate frosting. Recipe from Smitten Kitchen, of course.

best birthday cake - recipe from smitten kitchen
{best birthday cake + flowers}

I used my favorite easy decorating trick. Cut a circle of paper a inch or two smaller than your cake. Gently lay it in the center of your frosted cake. Sprinkle colored sugar around it. Remove paper. Voila. P.S. You aren't still buying colored sugar, are you? Check out this post. I've never looked back.

the cake
{the cake}

And we had the monster cake. Four layers of chocolate cake, piles of nutty fudge. I think this thing weighed 20 pounds.

the cake
{the cake}

I used my other favorite decoration trick. Pick out pretty candles (these are from Party City), grab some simple flowers in a matching color. Done.

Regarding cake frosting - you absolutely must invest in an offset spatula. I don't know what I would do without mine.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The rosebud headband

This headband was custom designed for my little nieces, who will be attending a wedding in a couple of weeks. Picture blue velvet dresses (handmade by my mom), blonde curls, and these...

the rosebud headband
{the rosebud headband}

I'm calling it the rosebud headband. I got the textured effect by straying away from my beloved china silk and using a poly instead. Silk (and other natural fibers) actually burn a bit when you singe the edges, but they stay nice and flat. Polyester melts slightly, which gives you a beautiful, curled edge. Totally different effects and I love them both.

the rosebud headband
{the rosebud headband}

Naturally I added bits of tulle and glass beads. They're for a wedding, after all.

*This tutorial is provided for personal use only. Please do not sell this tutorial or create items for re-sale using this tutorial. Tutorial may be re-published only with my permission.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The weekend, briefly

Busy, busy weekend here. Sometimes the number of pictures I manage to snap seems to be inversely related to how much activity is going on. I still don't have a computer, and I'm seriously considering going to the store and just buying the first laptop I see because I don't feel like doing any research.

the cake
{birthday cake}

fresh lemonade
{freshly squeezed lemonade}

fabric roses
{bits of fabric}

red stripe
{red stripe}

Follow up posts to come on everything except the drinks. Because what is there to say about the lemonade and beer, really?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday flowers (+ cake wishes)

Lovely mini callas in the yogurt container.

mini callas

Send me good kitchen juju, my dears. It's that time of year again and I will be making the famous fudge frosting tonight. It's a teeny bit humid, which has me nervous. I'll report back next week.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

New food find

I bought this yogurt* because it was pretty.

new yogurt

Can you blame me? Luckily it was delicious, too.

*Saint Benoit yogurt, with honey, from Whole Foods, in a reusable, returnable ceramic container. I hope they don't hate me for keeping the container for a little while, just to look at it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Summer squash risotto

It might not even be fair to share this, because the recipe is a bit sketchy, seeing as I made it up as I went along. But if you are overrun with summer squash, you might be willing to give it a go. Look at it as a cooking adventure.

summer squash risotto

I love risotto because it will take pretty much anything you throw at it. Which in this case was a completely random assortment of squash.
Summer squash risotto (serves 4)

For the risotto:
A chunk of butter (a few tablespoons)
1 onion, diced
1 cup arborio rice
About 5 cups hot liquid (I used 2 cups chicken broth, because I had it, and 3 cups water)
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
Small handful of sage leaves, diced
Dash of salt and pepper
Handful of grated Parmesan or other cheese

For the squash:
A bit of butter or olive oil
Chopped squash, about 3 cups total (I used a zucchini, a yellow squash and some patty pan squash, unpeeled)

: Make a basic risotto - start by sauteeing the onion in the butter over medium heat, until it is soft. Toss in the rice and stir it about for a couple of minutes, to coat it. Pour in a bit of hot liquid (step back - it's going to steam like crazy!) and stir it in. Add the chopped sage, some salt and pepper and the minced garlic.

: Now comes the slow part. You have to stay in the kitchen so you can stir the risotto every few minutes. Once it absorbs the liquid you've added, add another cup. Continue doing this until the risotto is nice and soft but not mushy. It usually takes about 30 minutes for me and you're adding liquid every 5 - 10 minutes. You may not need the entire 5 cups of liquid. That's just what it happened to take for me this time. Trust yourself.

: Meanwhile, you can go ahead and chop up your squash. Toss it in a large saucepan over medium high heat with some butter, pop a lid on top and stir it occasionally. You'll be taking turns stirring the squash and the risotto.

: Once the risotto is cooked and the squash is tender, dump the squash and the Parmesan cheese in the pot with the risotto. Stir everything together. Serve immediately.
Every cookbook I've ever read claims that you cannot reheat risotto. I guess my palate is underdeveloped, but I love it as leftovers, hot or cold.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Flea market finds

Sunday morning we set out for the Rose Bowl flea market with a very short list - phones, clocks.

We have a land line for the first time in 3 years and we needed a fun phone to go with it. I've never adjusted to talking on the cell phone. I can't seem to get a good connection, and talking to someone I love over a bad connection makes me feel lonelier than not talking at all.

{rotary phone}

We liked the soft green of this rotary phone and it actually works! It does take me about 5 minutes to dial a number in, but I'm sure I'll get faster with practice. I am going to try to clean it up a bit.

I also got a pretty little clock for my bedside table. It's beat up, but I love the numbers.

{little clock}

We got another clock and another phone, just because it's so hard to stop at one. But I didn't manage to get pictures of those, so I'll have to save them for another time. All told, we came out better than we would have on Ebay, even when you factor in the admission fee and the exorbitantly priced frozen lemonades we had to buy in order to prevent heatstroke.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The weekend, briefly (and slightly late)

I'm off to a slow start today! My beloved (and much abused computer) finally died on me yesterday, taking with it lots of stuff that I hadn't bothered to back up. I am dreading having to go shop for a new computer. Technical information overload + sticker shock = stress. Ugh.

Let's focus on nicer things, shall we?

Like steaming mugs of tea and books.
drinking, reading

And pretty messes of scattered beads.

And stacks of paper.

That's better, isn't it?

Um, I realize that this makes it look like I did not leave my dining room table the entire weekend and I assure you this is not the case. I spent some time working on the living room floor as well. The carpet just isn't very photogenic.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Friday flowers

The mums held up so well that I didn't even get myself new flowers this week. I change the water every day, which helps give them a little more life.

mums, week 2
{mums, week two}

I also change the tablecloth pretty often, although not quite daily. It's yet another fabulous Ikea fabric. I can't get enough of them.

P.S. Thanks for all the cabinet love yesterday! For those of you who were asking about the colors, we used Behr paints from Home Depot in dark granite and limeaid.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Cabinet re-vamp

I am always in need of more storage space. So why have a side table when you can have a side cabinet that can be stuffed full of fabric?

I found this cabinet on Craigslist, where it was rather optimistically described as "shabby chic." It was certainly shabby. And I'm not even showing you the hideous black stain defacing the top of it.

cabinet, before
{cabinet, before}

We (and by we, I mostly mean D, who kindly took over this project for me) washed it up, primed it and then painted it a warm grey.

new cabinet
{cabinet, painted}

To make it a little more fun, we painted the inside of the drawers bright green.

new cabinet drawer
{green, revealed}

It fits in perfectly.

new cabinet

And it's already stuffed full.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Summer pizza

I love pizza of all kinds and I'm almost positive I could eat it for every meal. During the summer I like to keep them pretty simple.

This one is my favorite right now.

tomato pizza
{tomato, basil and feta}

Followed closely by this one.

potato, squash, pizza
{potato, squash and chevre}

No sauce here, although normally I am a double sauce, half cheese person. Super thin, almost cracker like crust is the perfect complement to summer vegetables.
Basic pizza dough recipe (enough for two super thin crusts or one thick one)
2 tsp active dry yeast (or 1 packet)
3/4 cup lukewarm water
Pinch of sugar
2 1/4 cups flour (you can use all white, all whole wheat, or a mix)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt

:Proof the yeast - stir it into lukewarm water with a tiny touch of sugar added. It should get foamy after 10 minutes. If not, toss it and start over.

:Mix the flour and salt in a bowl. Pour in the proofed yeast mixture and the olive oil. Knead for about 10 minutes.

:Cover with a damp towel or saran wrap and allow it to rise in a warm place at least 45 minutes or until you are ready to use it. If you suddenly realize you aren't going to make the pizza immediately, go ahead and stick it in the fridge. It will keep just fine for a few days, all you have to do is pull it out a few hours before you want to use it so it can warm up again.

:Divide the dough into two balls and roll them out, one at a time, until they are very thin. This doesn't take talent, just patience and a good rolling pin. Place each crust on a baking sheet and top them to your heart's content.

Tomato, basil and feta pizza
4 or 5 small summer tomatoes (tomatoes must be excellent!)
Olive oil, for brushing
Basil, as much as you like, chopped
Feta, or any other sharp cheese

:Brush the crust lightly with olive oil. Scatter the basil around. Arrange the tomatoes on top. Toss a bit of cheese over it. Bake at 500F for about 10 minutes, or until the crust is crispy.

Potato, squash and chevre pizza with rosemary and sage
1/2 cup chevre (soft goat cheese)
Rosemary, chopped (one small sprig)
Sage, chopped (a few leaves)
1 small yellow squash, thinly sliced
3 small red potatoes, thinly sliced

:In a small bowl, mix together the chevre and chopped herbs. Add salt and pepper as desired.

:Spread the cheese mixture over the crust. Layer first the squash and then the potatoes on top. Bake at 500F about 15 minutes or until crust is crisp and potatoes are tender.
I love that you can basically do whatever you want with pizza because it's a blank slate.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The lilypad headband

Yet another headband.

lilypad headband

This one is for days when I'm feeling more subtle, and less ruffle-y. I'm calling it my lilypad headband, because that is what it reminds me of.

No tutorial, because I'm afraid it would be too self explanatory. I just cut out circle(ish) pieces of china silk (lightly singed the edges to minimize fraying), layered them and stitched them to some grosgrain ribbon and then added a few glass beads. I'm playing with adding more beads, slowly.

More of my headbands here, here, here and here. Yes, I'm obsessed.

*This tutorial is provided for personal use only. Please do not sell this tutorial or create items for re-sale using this tutorial. Tutorial may be re-published only with my permission.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Psst...where I blog from

Jane has been doing a fun new series called where we blog from. I've been loving the chance to peek at other bloggers' spaces and today I'm featured! Head over and check it out.

The weekend, briefly

It was a very domestic weekend.

wild cherries
{native cherries}


lipton yellow label
{lipton yellow label tea}

needle, thread
{needle + thread}

crafting, stamps