Thursday, June 30, 2011

Wine off

We know nothing about wine, despite belonging to a wine club (which, honestly, we only do because it FORCES us to make a quarterly trip up the coast for the pick up and we like that). For the wedding, I needed wine that was no more than $6 a bottle and that didn't taste like vinegar with a side of dirt.

wine tasting
{wine tasting}

We did this by going to Whole Foods* and scouring their $10.99 or less section. We picked up a few bottles of different varietals that fit in our budget. We went home and sliced some bread and cheese, turned on The Decemberists and started drinking. It only took a single sipping round to determine our favorite, but we had multiple refills of each. You know, to give all of them a fair shot. Riiiiight.

We're going with a Malbec that is slightly over budget but worth it and a Sauvignon Blanc that is almost indecently cheap (but it's actually what I stock for myself at home, so I'm not worried about it). My palate might not be the most refined, but there will be red and white wine available** that I would happily drink myself and that's good enough.

* Whole Foods has a reputation for being pricey but they're actually great for large quantities of wine because they give you a case discount of 20%. We compared prices at a couple of stores but most of the time that discount took them down below Trader Joe's or Costco. AND, if the wine is on sale, the case discount normally still applies. I got my favorite sparkling wine for 40% off retail when they had a sale a few months back.

** Along with margaritas and really good beer. We aren't bothering with a full bar - if guests have very particular alcohol needs, they are welcome to bring along flasks and I will be totally impressed by their sheer awesomeness and self reliance.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tahini-lemon quinoa

I've accepted that I probably won't have time for much cooking for a while, and my stop gap solution is to make a large one bowl dish at the beginning of each week and then eat it every night. Thrilling, right? But it's amazing how much more time I have in the evening if I can just come home and pull something straight out of the fridge and eat it with no fuss.*

Last week ...


The recipe is right here. The only change I made was to soak the chopped red onions in a bit of water and vinegar before using them. It takes the edge off the bite of raw onions, which D appreciates. We had it with flatbread or stuffed in a pita or plain with veggies on the side (+ additional hummus).

The recipe is supposed to serve 4, so I doubled it and whoa! We both ate it for dinner for 5 nights and there were still leftovers. It was really filling for something so light - maybe that's the quinoa?

I'm scouting around for more one dish meals. And considering making two smaller batches of different ones so that we aren't totally bored by the weekend.

* It has the added bonus of preventing me from eating peanut butter straight out of the jar if I come home desperately hungry and/or collapsing on the couch in despair because I can't think of anything to make and my life is So Hard.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The weekend, briefly

It finally feels a bit like summer here.




dinner platter!
{dinner platter!}

Weekend notes: 

:: I was either running errands or cooped up inside getting stuff done for most of the weekend, but we took a short evening walk to smell the jasmine and appreciate the local architecture. I love all the silly little apartment buildings in our neighborhood and I can't tell you how much it makes my heart hurt every time they tear one down and replace it with a faux Italian villa monstrosity.

:: The flowers are coming along, but they are eating up an enormous amount of paper, not to mention time. May have to move to back up plan.

:: A weekend dinner - La Brea bakery bread, whatever cheese we have, honey, dried cherries, cornichons (for me). Plentiful wine.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday flowers

I couldn't resist these purple clover flowers.


They totally make me think of Bambi, which was a movie I never liked, not because it was sad but because I found it incredibly boring. The clover scene was clearly the best part -  I always felt like I could actually touch the texture of the flowers when I watched it.


They do have a great texture. I'm glad the animation was accurate.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Counting backwards

We are really trying to get in gear here, wedding wise. The biggest weapon in my arsenal is the calendar.


I do this for every big project, not just wedding stuff, but it's particularly helpful in this situation. I printed out our calendar for the next three months and jotted down some important dates (when the invites should go out, when the rsvps should come in, when our deposits are due) and then started scribbling all over it in pencil. I started on our wedding date and filled in that week, then worked backwards, setting deadlines for purchases and decisions and projects. Success is 90% proper scheduling, I think.

Ideally, I'd like to spend the week before the wedding doing nothing but baking and relaxing, so I blocked out the whole week for that. I do know how weddings go, so I'm not expecting it to actually work, but I'm committed to giving it a try. I'm restraining myself and not planning nearly as much baking as I did for my sister's wedding, but it's tough. I enjoy baking and I'd really like to do most if not all of our cakes and cookies. Of course, the back up plan is just to purchase some or all of it from various bakeries a few days before. We're doing a dessert buffet and not having a huge wedding cake and you don't need to pre-order normal sized cakes. We'll see how it works out, but at least it's penciled in.

Currently, D is wrangling with the invitations and I'm a flower making machine (both activities clearly noted on the schedule). We are blowing through all kinds of Netflix in the evenings. I just re-watched both seasons of The Riches, which I loved when it was on. So bummed when it got cancelled.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


The salted caramel from Huckleberry. Which I got to go after breakfast and then started to eat in the car on the way home. Hence, the bite marks.

sea salt caramel heaven
{sea salt caramel heaven}

It's just a thick layer of salted caramel on top of a flaky crust. I think you could replicate it at home but I would never trust myself with a whole pan. My track record with resisting caramel is very, very poor.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The weekend, briefly

We got a tiny bit of a jump start on the weekend by going out for an impromtu breakfast on Friday morning before work. I'm really glad we did, because the rest of the weekend went by at lightning speed as we tried to work through to do lists and see family.

weekday breakfast
{weekday breakfast}

wrapping it up
{wrapping it up}

dogs in exile
{dogs in exile}

lee's #5
{lee's #5}

drinking + painting
{drinking + painting}

Weekend notes: 

:: Breakfast was at Huckleberry, which is on the pricey side, but really good. And honestly, we could have saved some money and just split the fried egg sandwich because we were both overly full for the rest of the day. I did like my eggs over sauteed spinach and potatoes, though.

:: I finished up some custom orders and closed up the shop for the summer. I knew I'd need to do this in order to free up enough time to get this wedding planned. I'll re-open in October. 

:: We were doing some heavy lifting in the back yard, and the pups are notorious for getting under your feet and making you trip so we locked them in the house. Side benefit - I can get a shot of them both looking at me, without having Snowy trying to lick the camera lens.

:: We're still on a Lee's kick - we've been doing a lot of driving around and this is one of my favorite fast food options.

:: More prep work for paper flowers! Painting enormous sheets of paper solid colors is tedious but the case of Sierra Nevada seasonal is helping. If you aren't normally a huge fan of SN (I'm not), you might still want to give this one a try - I'm really enjoying it.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday flowers

Finally, some flowers that are actually in my house.


I got these at TJs for 1/4 of the Whole Foods price (where I had seen them earlier and couldn't bring myself to spend $22.99 on 6 stems). It seems like they re-stock on Monday, and have plenty of them Monday and Tuesday but if you go at the end of the week, there are none to be had. Maybe that's just my Trader Joes.

peonies, fading
{peonies, fading}

I love them even when they get overblown and start to droop.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


We always keep sharp cheddar, parrano, and chevre in our house and grilled cheese sandwiches are in regular rotation around here. But every few years, I get the worst craving for Kraft singles, which I'm pretty sure can't even be called cheese, legally. It's humiliating.

grilled cheese
{grilled cheese}

I have no idea where this comes from. I didn't even grow up with it, so the only time I ever had it was at other people's houses. It's something about the plastic-y way that it melts that gets me. Luckily, the cravings usually only last a couple weeks. Fingers crossed.

My most perfect grilled cheese is made in our cast iron skillet, with the heat on low, butter on the bread and a heavy glass lid on top that helps melt the cheese quickly and pushes the bread firmly against the pan.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

In love

So, we registered on Saturday, which was both fun and stressful. We're way under the amount of items that the stores told us to register for, but we were adamant that we weren't putting anything on the list that we didn't both need and love. We already have a lot of the kitchen equipment we need and I'm not really interested in upgrading. I think the bulk of our registry is comprised of servingware. Entertaining matters to us, so that makes sense.

China was the hardest part, mentally. I mean, requesting plates that cost $139 per setting seems extravagant and unnecessary. We'd already decided that we wouldn't even consider it unless we found a pattern we really loved. I had found something online that I've been looking at for months, but I hadn't seen it in person and there was no way I was asking for it without handling it first.

And ...



It's the Wedgwood gilded weave pattern and I adore it. D loves that it doesn't have any cabbage roses on it and that it feels modern. I actually woke up the other night thinking about how much fun it would be to set the table with these plates. I know. It's ridiculous.

China is one of those things that some people don't even bother registering for anymore, which I totally get. But I grew up in a house where we used our china all the time. Really. Any meal that is more than the immediate family calls for china (crystal on the other hand, is only taken out for the big holidays). It helps if the china pattern is relatively simple, so that it works well for casual dinner parties and doesn't need to be paired with fancy linen. I think this will be perfect.

I'm still a little insecure about putting something that pricey on our list, but I figure that people who think china is silly or overly expensive just won't purchase it. I don't know why I'm so worried that people will find our choices offensive. I'd like to say that this wedding stuff makes me a little crazy, but I always feel weird about birthday lists too, so this isn't anything new. I overthink everything, always.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The weekend, (very) briefly

The days are flying and I never seem to catch up - this weekend I barely even managed to get my camera out. We were shopping for 8 hours on Saturday (registering + more suits) and I'm amazed we survived. Luckily, the Macy's we went to had a restaurant in it, so we were able to break for a caprese sandwich and a Fat Tire. We're making progress, but all those little tasks add up and feel daunting.


fat tire
{fat tire}

paper flowers mock up
{paper flowers mock up}

I did a couple of quick centerpiece mock ups with the paper flowers. I'm happy with how the concept is coming along, but I never commit to a DIY project without stepping back and taking a realistic assessment of the time involved. The idea I have is going to be incredibly time consuming, so we came up with a scaled down back up plan and a back up back up plan. I'll make the final call a month before the wedding.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday flowers (one week old)

These are from last week (or the week before? I'm losing track of time) - they aren't even at my house - I shot the picture at my parent's place.

garden roses
{garden roses}

Simple. Lovely.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Couscous salad with roasted vegetables

A rare bit of cooking from around these parts, and there's no recipe. Luckily, you won't need one.

couscous with roasted veggies
{couscous with roasted veggies}

Just go through your fridge and find whatever veggies are waiting to be used, toss them with olive oil and sea salt, roast them at 400 degrees until soft. I used cauliflower, carrots, beets and tossed them with plenty of chopped fresh sage.

In the meantime, cook your whole wheat couscous with a tablespoon or so of butter. You could be virtuous and leave it out, but you're about to eat all those veggies and the flavor is lovely. You do realize that couscous takes less than five minutes to "cook", right? You can just pour boiling water over it and then wait.

Mix the veggies and the couscous. Splash in a bit of balsamic vinegar, if you like. Crumble in some chevre if you have it. Eat warmish or cold from the fridge the next day. And the next, if you're like me and accidentally made enough for 8 people.

We're still on a soup and cheese and cracker diet for the most part. I cannot seem to find time to cook anything these days and I've given up caring. I'll get back to it, someday.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Suit saga

Okay, so can anyone explain to me why there are whole shows dedicated to wedding dress shopping, when wedding suit shopping is clearly much more difficult? I mean, a suit has a minimum of two pieces that have to fit perfectly. There are endless variations on color and fabric blends and weights. There are different cuts and then controversy over said cuts.

D has a suit and it's fine. But not amazing. And not what he wants to get married in. D is not a big guy and he's an architect, so design matters and he knows what he wants. Slim, European cut, with a shorter jacket than you usually see, something confusing about the lapels that I don't understand. Nothing that looks grandpa-esque or like you might suddenly decide to go yachting for god's sake.

d - suit shopping
{d - suit shopping}

We tried a couple of routes. D ordered one online at Indochino, after seeing good reviews on the interwebs. He had a Groupon, so it was a decent deal ($300 all told). I took the measurements carefully and we double checked everything. When the suit arrived, it was beyond bizarre. The pants fit, albeit somewhat wonkily. The vest was perfect. But the jacket. The jacket was an unmitigated disaster. It has enormous armholes and is so nipped at the waist and flared at the hips that it somehow manages to create the illusion of an hourglass figure. D took it to his tailor and she laughed hysterically (and confirmed that our original measurements were correct). There is no way to fix it other than completely remaking it.

And the really annoying part? I'm pretty sure we won't be able to return it. We didn't read the fine print and apparently you have ONE WEEK to ask for a refund. Who even has time to pick up a package and try something on and get a second opinion in one week? D is going to try to call and plead his case, and hopefully he'll be able to re-coup something.

To sum up ... I won't say that Indochino is a waste of your time, because the deals are pretty good and plenty of people have had it work out. If you decide to try it, please do yourself a favor and try on the suit the minute it arrives and then initiate the return right away if it doesn't work out. $300 is a good price for a suit you love, but it is a colossal waste of money for a suit you'll never be able to wear.

After that mess, we tried one more online option. Bonobos has a great reputation and I triple checked the return policy (whenever you want, free shipping both ways!) because we were feeling a little gun shy. D picked out three of their suits and had them in a week. After an at home fashion show, I was completely convinced - the man looks great in a suit. They're a little more expensive than Indochino, but still affordable ($560 for the ones D ordered). D was happy-ish, but worried that the fit around the torso could be a little slimmer and they were out of his size in the pants he really liked.

So on Saturday we hit up Nordstroms (fail) and Bloomingdales, where we found a Theory suit that looked pretty sweet. It's this style, but in a different fabric. $895 was a big step up from $560, but the pants were crazy good and a bit of tailoring could have solved some of the jacket issues.

We continued on towards Opening Ceremony. Which, let me tell you, is terrifyingly hipster. As in, finding your way in is awkwardly difficult and when you get in you realize that you probably don't belong there because you're wearing F21 jeans and a wrinkled J.Crew sweater and absolutely nothing ironic and you've definitely eaten sometime in the last week and you just pray that they can't see the crumbs and frosting from the cupcakes you scarfed in the car. (This is probably overly mean - the salespeople were perfectly nice and helpful, but I have never felt so out of place and I was a little afraid of touching anything)

And there, against all better judgment (once we'd seen the price tag), D tried on a suit that blew everything else out of the water, completely. There was no more comparison. Except for the fact that the jacket alone cost more than the entire Theory suit and once you add in the pants it would be almost a month's rent. It isn't available online and I was too intimidated to take pictures in there, so I can't give you a look, which is a shame because it was a thing of glory.

As penance, we stopped at Loehman's, which I despise (specifically, I hate the one near the Beverly Center, which happens to be the only one near us). Luckily we didn't get trapped in the crazy parking structure and we were able to quickly flip through the few available options and rule it out. 

We retreated to Mozza to recuperate and discuss the feasibility of buying an outrageously expensive suit. For the record, I'm game to try figure out a way to make it work, especially because it's commonly accepted that women will spend that much and more on their wedding dress, which you can't use again, and D will be able to use this suit regularly. D is still horrified over the cost (which I totally get - it's a shocking amount of money for us).

I'm at least relieved that we have three options at all different price levels. If D were taller, we'd probably be hitting up vintage stores as well, but vintage shopping for men under 5'8 takes up more time than it's worth, in my opinion. Did I mention that I'm not a patient shopper? This was probably the most epic trip I've ever been on and I only survived because I got fed twice and no one made me try anything on.

So here we are, in suit dilemma land. We're still considering a custom made suit, but from a local source. We're kind of running out of time, guys.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Mango cupcakes!

Only available during the summer (and only on Thursdays and Saturdays, I believe, but call before you go if you're likely to be disappointed) at Vanilla Bakeshop.

mango mini
{mango mini}

They have mango buttercream and mango filling. You know how I feel about mangoes, right?

mango filling!
{mango filling!}

Words fail me.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Weekends, lately

Things are a blur here. There has been a tiny bit of baking (all birthday related), barely any cooking (and everything that has been cooked has been roasted), there has been a lack of flowers and some wedding crafting and lots of shopping for wedding attire and tiny cupcakes eaten in the car to sustain the shopping and a reward dinner/snack at mozza (we split the pepperonata pizza and I think it might be my new favorite, but sitting at the bar and watching all the pizzas get assembled really made me wish there was a way I could sample all of them).



paper, dyed
{paper, dyed}


rhubarb, sliced
{rhubarb, sliced}

double birthday
{double birthday}

roasted asparagus, again
{roasted asparagus}


suit shopping
{suit shopping}

mozza, beer
{mozza, beer}

for the road
{for the road}

a dozen, depleted
{a dozen, depleted}


I'll be trying to get some wedding planning updates posted, because honestly, after family and work that is what is occupying any leftover brain space I might have. Turns out, reading about other people's weddings is more fun than planning your own, which mostly seems to consist of signing contracts and having heated debates over font choices and alignment options and then having mild heart attacks every time we look at the budget. But there's good stuff in there too.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Doughnut day

You guys, I am alive! But much more importantly, it's national doughnut day.

sunday breakfast
{sunday breakfast}

If I'd known, I would have prepared accordingly. (Who makes up these days?)

You might not know it, but my grandparents had a brief fling with a doughnut franchise and my mom was unpaid labor back in high school, working alone on the night shift. She still loves doughnuts (shockingly, right?), but we're a pretty discriminating family. I only eat doughnuts a few times a year, because I only want good ones. Also, doughnuts are a terribly ineffective get rich quick scheme.

Photos from last weekend are still hanging out in my camera, and I'm not even sure how many I managed to take. The wedding is in three months. We are trying to get our asses in gear. Will report soonest.