10.30.2010

saturday edition: fall tablescape.

Could not resist sharing my mom's festive table we enjoyed during last night's fall family dinner, complete with roasted pork loin and butternut squash salad. We're still full.

(More fall inspiration here.)

10.29.2010

happy halloween weekend!

I'm so ready for the weekend, which for us, is jam-packed with family and friends, near and far and I couldn't be more excited - there is so much to look forward to; dinner tonight with our families, Saturday's Dia de los Muertos party, trick-or-treating with our nephews and niece - M, M + M - plus a weekend visit with two of our favorite people on earth, in town from Kansas City (Mo., not Ks., if you're wondering).
{PS: if you missed it, see yesterday's posts on DIY gift tags, like the ones above}
I have big plans to bake our three pumpkins some Halloween treats, and I'll be back next week with the details. In the meantime, here are some inspiring signs of the season:

+ This week's new blog discovery: the Lucky Knot's dreamy, Fall front porch.
+ The Chic Line's festive mantle and entryway.
+ Big Girls' grown-up Halloween party bites.
+ A Party Perfect Halloween bash.
+ The most creative carved pumpkins DIY (kind of reminds me of that pinhole project that I've been neglecting), from Design*Sponge.

In the not-so-Halloween-y category, I was captivated by another Design*Sponge post this week; its special on typography and lettering designers. I'd like to come back in another life as Jessica Hische.

On the same note, check out Oh So Beautiful Paper's profile on Page Stationery. The first image featured - Caitlin - beautifies a meaningful message with nothing more than a simple combination of black, white and various type.

Happy weekend! Hope its spook-tacular. Or whatever the kids are saying these days.

10.28.2010

tagged.

I'm a little obsessed with gift tags. I mean, who isn't?
I love looking at them, buying them and especially ... making them. After punching about, oh, 200 or so tags for our wedding escort cards (another day, another post), I've found ways to recycle paper and cardstock and put my $14.99 paper punch to good use for inexpensive, simple - and with a little DIY - meaningful gift tags.

Having a little anxiety over holiday gift wrap? Consider investing in a few tools that will last and save some $, esp. around this time of year.

DIY gift tag supplies:
+ tag paper punch - available at craft stores in various sizes. I got mine from Michael's.
+ paper (left over cardstock scraps, stationery, recycled gift bags get bonus points)
+ single hole punch
+ twine, raffia or any thin ribbon you like (+ scissors)
+ optional: stamps/ink/colored pens, etc.

Step one: punch away!
Step two: hole punch for your twine/ribbon/string.
Step three: add some flair (and if you do, let the ink dry a few minutes).
Step four: thread your twine with a loop, swoop and a pull. Knot at the top.
Step four: sign, seal and deliver.
If you invest in a few go-to stamps, you can have some real fun.
Once you are a tag believer, you can find all sorts of ways to use them.
My favorite, go-to combo is dark brown paper + white Gel pen + twine. Or, any paper that requires the white ink. Obv.

My favorite place to dream about gift tags and stamps: Paper Source.

In the hopper for this year's Christmas gift tags: red baker's twine. (PS: other inspiring bakers twine ideas in the gift wrapping dept. here.)

10.26.2010

new wknd recipe: split pea soup (and barefoot contessa cookbook launch day!).

Until I met Eddie, I didn't realize how much I really loved soup.
I used to underestimate soup's complexity and satisfying potential, but thanks to Eddie, and some good go-to recipes, I find myself craving a warm bowl of ... anything, especially around this time of year. Soup's one-stop-pot cooking and plentiful, freezer-friendly leftovers makes me love it even more.

Split pea is one of Eddie's favorites, and I made it for the first time from scratch over the weekend, sans homemade chicken stock. I turned to The BC for this hearty, easy meal that made the house smell divine. Most of your energy is spent chopping only four things: garlic, onion, red potatoes and carrots. The star of the show comes from a bag (which, at our market, was a whole 99 cents). Your stove top does the rest so you can get on with your day. How easy is that?
Parker's Split Pea Soup from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook (p. 73)
Serves: 5 to 6

1 cup chopped yellow onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 cup good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups medium-diced carrots (3 to 4 carrots)
1 cup medium-diced red boiling potatoes, unpeeled (2 to 3 potatoes)
1 pound dried split peas
8 cups chicken stock or water

In a 4-quart stockpot on medium heat, saute the onions and garlic with the olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper until the onions are translucent, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the carrots, potatoes, 1/2 pound of split peas and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Skim off the foam with a spoon while cooking.

Add the remaining split peas and continue to simmer for another 40 minutes, or until all the peas are soft. Stir frequently to keep the solids from burning on the bottom.

Taste for salt and pepper before serving hot (preferably, with a big hunk of a husband. I mean, bread.).

Note: When I saw this soup featured on The BC's Back for the Weekend episode, she explained that you get some crunch in the soup by reserving 1/2 of the peas to add half-way through the cooking process. Ah. Haaah.

Lastly, and with the most accidental, yet very appropriate timing - today's post coincides with the release of The BC's new cookbook, How Easy Is That? Yahoo! Big Girls, Small Kitchen featured a great one-on-one one with Ina Garten yesterday. Sink your teeth into this fascinating interview from the 20-something cooks on what inspires her, how to make mis-matched flatware work and her simple entertaining philosophy.

10.25.2010

quick sunday breakfast, etc.

Clearly, I've yet to tire of waffle photos. Thanks to my friend Erin, we tossed last weekend's leftovers into a freezer bag - instead of the trash - and enjoyed them again this Sunday, after a quick re-heat in the toaster.
And, on Saturday, once the sun showed up after some morning rain, I tended to my very water-logged and molded flowers. These little guys seem to be doing so much better after some TLC and good dose of sunshine. 
It's good that I got to them when I did, because the rain came back yesterday. Which was just perfect for a cozy Sunday soup night after a marathon day. There is nothing like coming home to the smell of fireplaces burning, the sound of rain tapping on the roof, soup warming on the stove and bread crisping in the oven.

I'll have have the new weekend recipe for you tomorrow. Happy last week of October!

10.22.2010

friday light.

Here's to hoping it's that kind of day for all of us! And, spending it in a chair like that one would be perfection (thanks to Whitney for tipping me off to Wisteria).
{image source}
Some goodness to catch up on from the week:

+ I like these easy, breezy chair covers from SMP, from a Martha Stewart wedding feature.

+ An alternative to eggplant parmesan: Eggplant Parmesan Rigatoni. This I could do. And love.

+ LOVE. THIS. DRESS. From an Oregon wedding, of course.

+ For brides - thinking especially of Andrea who's 29 days from her big day (!) - what to pack for your European honeymoon.

+ A Hermosa Beach living space makeover with punches of persimmon, compliments of GEORGE Interior Design. So fresh, fun and inspirational (oh, and helpful: a source list for all the goods).

+ New blog discovery: Rustic Chic.

+ A Christmas wish list item, from The Chic Line. Her style and sensibility just make my day. As do her lovely photos and words.

If you have some leisure time, I recommend picking up the November issue of House Beautiful. There's of course the usual, fabulous design ideas, photos and designer Q-and-As, but what I love most about their entertaining issue is the list of 101 party do's and don'ts from pro's like Colin Cowie and Rachel Ashwell. The list made me think, made me giggle and I might just save it forever.

My favorite, no. 61, comes from designer Andrew Fisher: 'Crowd the table a little: with more people at the table, no one can ignore their neighbor.'

Happy weekend!

PS: This very important - but very unrelated - question is from my very clean and efficient (and dreamy) husband: Do any hardwood floor'd readers out there have a floor/sweeping/vacuuming/mopping/cleaning system that you love? We have not found a great solution, and we need recommendations. Last night, we considered these steam sweepers!? Help!

10.21.2010

namesake post.

I think it's officially time and I'm v.excited about it! Paperwhites bulb-planting-season, that is.

I don't have the greenest of thumbs, but I'm learning, and while the name of this little blog was inspired by the pretty blooms of the daffodil family for several reasons (one of many: here), I do happen to be a fan of what-experts-call 'forced bulbs,' which are un-intimidating to me, and indoor friendly - great for beach town nests that come with limited outdoor space.

Last season, I purchased a Smith & Hawken bulb kit from Target, which turned out to be an inexpensive experiment and a bright, cheery treat around the holidays. I've been keeping my eyes out for this year's kit and vessel, and found a few online options to consider:
+ Holland Bulb Farms
+ White Flower Farm
+ Stonewall Kitchen

In the last few weeks, I've been following the Paperwhites discussion, and have a few resources to share if you're considering planting bulbs in the coming weeks. Sunset featured a great, quick article on forcing bulbs for the Christmas season, and two new-to-me blogs provided some knowledge-building insight: Vintage Garden Gal and All Things Farmer (this might be a new addition to my daily read list, btw).

And, here are a few more pointers and eye candy inspiration:
+ Flower bulb favors? Yes, please.
+ A pretty idea from Martha for a paperwhites-inspired hostess gift.
+ For growing shorter paperwhites that will not need to be supported by stakes, etc.: use booze?
+ Some good general facts about the sweet-smelling blooms.

The photo above is from last year's Target batch, and I'll be sure to snap a few as soon as I get planting. Inhale. I can smell them now.

10.19.2010

whole grain mustard.

{image source}
Just a quick bit for today to share a new revelation... This time, from my friend Amy - who, by the way, is an amazing cook and gets credit for introducing me to Alice Waters and The Art of Simple Food. She's a good friend.

To dress up a very simple mixed green salad, Amy whipped up a delicious balsamic vinaigrette from whatever she could find in our house. And, when given the choice of dijon to whole grain mustard, Amy went for the whole grain. I've never even considered it an option and I think I've been missing a little somethin' somethin' all this time.

Is this news to only me? If you haven't tried whisking with whole grain, you might consider it for your next dressing. The grainy mustard adds some good texture and rounds out the balsamic in a warm, welcoming way. We think we have a whole new look on vinaigrette after Sunday night's dinner, and we're very excited about it.

Merci, Amy!

10.18.2010

orangette's waffles with a side of BFFs.

Happy third week of October! Yesterday, I spent a perfectly dreary Fall morning with my best girlfriends over a casual brunch, where we all chipped in to make quite the feast, complete with mimosas, homemade breakfast sausages, fresh fruit, cinnamon rolls and waffles - specifically Marion Cunningham's crispy-on-the-outside, custardy-on-the-inside waffles from The Breakfast Book - compliments of Orangette.
Orangette, and her book, are compliments of my friend, Lisa, without whom I might have never known that waffles - or pancakes, for that matter - didn't always come from the Bisquick box. So, thank you, Lisa: you - via Molly Wizenberg - have forever altered the way I look at waffles. Which, in my world, is pretty life-changing.

Like Orangette explains in her beautiful story*, I too grew up on Bisquick, and I love it. My dad is the best breakfast chef I know; it's not just the mix that makes everything he cooks so good, but it's part of our breakfast ritual, to this day. If he uses Bisquick, so do I... and, for the rest of my life, I'll forever have a box stashed in my pantry.

But, when Orangette posted a waffle taste test and raved about Marion Cunningham's mix-the-night-before waffles, I was moved to try them, and while I won't say I'm never going back to Bisquick... I will say that it will be some time before I do, because I find myself craving these waffles at all times of the day and night, and I was thrilled to share them with my best friends yesterday.

Like all of her recipes, Orangette provides very helpful notes, which is particularly helpful for those of us second-guessing every measure, sift and pour. So, when you try the waffles, read her every word (e.g. active dry yeast vs. rapid rise) and follow it.

I've made these waffles with non-fat milk, because when you're jonesing for these at 2 in the morning (thus projecting the next morning's breakfast craving), and that's all you have... that's all you have. Whole milk fat always makes everything better, but don't be afraid to try the recipe with whatever's in the frig. I've also mixed the batter by hand and used a hand mixer; either method works, but really ... who doesn't prefer the hand mixer over the alternative (especially at 2 in the morning).

While I may have shelved the Bisquick mix for a while, I will never give up my lifelong allegiance to Aunt Jemima's Lite Syrup. I just won't, so don't ask. But, these waffles are so good that a little powdered sugar and banana might be all you need...
... unless, of course, your best friend Andrea makes slow-cooked scrambled eggs with goat cheese and chives, a la BC to go with. They were velvety delicious and absolutely divine. Absolutely the best treat besides spending a few hours with my favorite gal pals.

* page 65, to be exact.

10.15.2010

oh, happy weekend.

I'm ready for the weekend - how about you? Here's to a slow Sunday morning and spending some quality time with my best girlfriends over brunch ... it's been keeping me going all week long!
If you're up for some weekend reading, try these links:

+ Farmer's Market flowers: step-by-step DIY guide for arrangements, compliments of 100 Layer Cake.
+ I mentioned it earlier this week: this is my new favorite blog.
+ Hooray! New recipes and eye candy from Five O'Clock Food.
+ More Fall decorating inspiration: DIY napkin rings. (If you missed the quick look at the pumpkins in our house, you can see them here.)

Thanks for stopping by on your Friday; I'll look forward to seeing you next week. Hope you have a relaxing one!

10.13.2010

autumn accessorizing.

Fall has officially arrived in our house. Here's how we're looking.
Wire basket + white pumpkins + greenery + old corks = cheap + easy decor. Pumpkins and leaves are from the local Vons; basket is a sale purchase from Sur La Table (from a few months back, but some stores may still carry). Earthy wine corks from our lifetime collection fill up the basket and give the pumpkins some height.

More baskets + pumpkins + leaves: this one perches in our entryway. Hello, pumpkins. I've been waiting for you.
Last stop: wreaths. I am a wreath person, probably because my mom filled our house with pretty ones year-round. These are my favorite because they're inexpensive and can easily adapt to the season (99-cent filler also helps).
Wreaths = warmth. I love seeing them in our stairwell and am so happy they're finally up!

PS: If you're a wreath person, but would welcome the opportunity to have someone design for you (and are in the Southern Cal. area), check out Growing Wild. It's like a floral fairy land.

10.12.2010

the flea market experience!

On Sunday, Whitney invited me to join her in Pasadena for my first-ever flea market experience, and we will definitely be going back. Between the two of us, we found some great, washed-up pieces that, with a coat of paint and a little love, will be good as new (or, will look authentically weathered).

The Rose Bowl Flea Market is one of the biggest in the U.S., with miles of vendor booths. Our focus was home goods, and we sweat it out over about three hours, and had a blast. Here's our day in photos.

We got sidetracked several times by shabby chic'd pieces, like these benches, windows and doors.
We also got sidetracked by vintage bottle cap openers.
And this liberty bell. The seller should have charged admission to get close to this monster.
Other items that made us stop and smile included vintage pitch forks, horseshoes, wrought-iron hooks and candlesticks, mini rocking chairs, hobnail juice glasses and 70s lime green-and-white vinyl club chairs.
{best buy of the day: icy, cool refreshment that fueled us through the Pasadena heat... all 90 degrees of it}
Here are the treasures we schlepped home, and are so excited we did...
Furniture pieces that we'll be working on ...
{Whitney's vintage ladder/step-stool for hard-to-reach kitchen cabinets + new hallway table}
{I love lamp with a new shade/coat of paint + Whit's xmas gift to me: refinishing this vintage metal stool}
I'm proud to say that between the two of us, we spent under $130. Whitney has an amazing eye, and without her, I would not have had the nudge to (A) go, nor (B) buy; highly recommend attempting the flea market with a partner-in-crime. (It also helps that she has a garage full of tools and paints that I can dig into anytime and is a dictionary when it comes to refurbishing ... just about anything. I think she gets it from her mom.)

I'll be sure to post some 'after' photos. Eventually.

(I can't wait for Christmas - how lucky am I?).

10.11.2010

weekend wrap.

What a beautiful weekend we had! I have a few bits to share this Monday morning.

I did a little Autumn-izing to the house, and it feels good. More to come this week.
In the food department: We made a quick drive to Venice on Friday, and on recommendation from our hip, fun friend Chrissy, ate at The Tasting Kitchen. We loved everything about it, from the pond of wine corks to the mismatched antique china plates, and will be returning soon for their homemade pasta that rendered me speechless. On our quick window shopping stroll along Abbot Kinney, I fell in love with this shop. Holy cake plates.

Neglected corner update: The frames are purchased (with 50% off coupons, I might add!), and their thin, black detail works well against our naked Sandcastle wall. I've started punching, and here's a peak.
Improvising without Breanna's suggested pony bead and thumbtack, I used one of my grandma's sewing needles with a small eraser. Her rubber thimble also came in very handy - thank goodness I inherited her magical sewing basket. I wish I knew its age.
One down, five to go. It's a time-suck, but very therapeutic.

I have so much more to share from the weekend - specifically yesterday's trip to the world-famous Rose Bowl Flea Market. Amazing sis-in-law no. 1 and I made the trek to Pasadena and had quite the adventure. It was a blast, and Whitney and I found the perfect addition to the neglected corner, plus a few other gems.

I'll have flea market finds + details tomorrow!

PS: Another weekend discovery - the Design*Sponge project was the first-ever DIY Wednesday post from Breanna Berger, of a new-to-me blog: Paper & Ink. I'm in love.

10.08.2010

happy fall friday.

I am loving the barrels of pumpkins greeting me at the local Vons these days. I finally picked some up this week and am slowly adding some Fall to our little beach house, as I absorb some autumn inspiration from Snippet & Ink. Here are a few other bits of inspiration from the week that made me think... and smile:

+ The Chic Line is reading my mind! A tried-and-true turkey meatloaf recipe is just what I've been looking for.
+ A great resource for making a small kitchen feel larger, via Garden, Home & Party.
+ Oh, Orangette. Every post and every recipe makes me so... happy. Thank you. PS: plums on the next market run.
+ Another sweet treat my friend Lisa treated me to yesterday... printing + filing this one!
+ A warm touch for Fall/Winter brides: wedding day cardigans.
+ Is it too early to window shop holiday cards? Early bird sales abound at Paper Source and Minted (thanks for the introduction, Tulips!) and Tiny Prints is showing a sneak peak of its 2010 line.
I look forward to seeing you back here on Monday ... and am hoping to have a progress report on our neglected corner project. I think I found the perfect wall frames

Until then, I wish you a wonderful weekend!

10.07.2010

can't-live-withouts: the registry edition.

Last week, one of my favorite friendly bloggers posted her registry favorites that she's thankful to have, especially as she unpacks in her new home (!), and we both agree that the registry process - while fun - can be a bit overwhelming.

So, taking a page from Tulips & Flight Suits, I've clipped my top eight registry favorites - especially for brides - but also for the rest of us who might be in the market for some new, reliable and durable home goods (or... who just might be making their list for Santa?! It's never too early.).

+ Good juice glasses: for a huge selection of go-to basics - C&B.
+ Simple white china: Jasper's Wedgwood is our everyday + fine china that I simply cannot live without.
+ Sturdy saute pan: my mom recommended this one, and I'm so happy she did. We're an All-Clad family.
+ Cheery kitchen towels: Martha's preppy stripes are available in several colors.

+ Baskets: every room needs a good basket for magazines or blankets ... or anything, really.
+ Mixing Bowls: Most every meal begins with these.
+ A really good, big sharp knife: Wusthof's santoku gets the job done perfectly. (The entire set is worth it.)
+ Cozy blankets: all-time favorite. In wheat (on sale now!).

Dear brides: As you think about your home, exhale and remember that the gift registry is a constant work in progress; you can change your mind as often as you like, as you find what you like best, and what works best for your nest. If you know you'll never use the KitchenAid Stand Mixer that every department store says you have to have, you don't need it. (But, for the record - if you're debating - it's fab. Two thumbs way up.)

As I re-heated Monday's left-overs for one last night (yum!), I noted a few more registry-worthy items:
+ A good cutting board (rec: Boos).
+ A set of one-size-fits-all wine glasses that are ok to break and inexpensive to replace (rec: C&B's Nora).
+ Tongs (rec: these in both sizes).
+ Set of bakers (rec: this is an updated version of our set - and it's on sale!).
+ Dutch oven (rec: if someone else is buying - Le Crueset).

Before I go, check out Smitten Kitchen's superb, practical resource for building your own kitchen, Smitten Kitchen style, as well as The BC's tips on cookware.

What do you have in your home that you can't live without?

10.05.2010

rain = whitney's white bean chicken chili.

Hooray for rain! I'm one of those Californians who love rain, mostly because we don't get enough of it and it's a welcome change from the norm. But, when it's wet outside, I crave Whitney's White Bean Chicken Chili (usually, with a side of cornbread or muffins). It's hearty and smooth, and brings a little heat to the taste buds. And, like most of Whitney's recipes, it's of the easy breezy / healthy variety.

After a last-minute market run (thanks, Z!), we had a big bowl of this delicious-ness on the table in under an hour last night. Our shortcut was buying a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken and shredding it while all the ingredients simmered away and made the house smell wonderfully comforting.  Welcome, Fall - until this weekend, when the weather will be back up in the 80s! In the meantime, enjoy this warm, yummy recipe.

Whitney's White Bean Chicken Chili*
1/4 cup butter
2 large onions, chopped
1/3 cup flour (add more to thicken)
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
3 cups half-and-half (fat free option works)
2 cans 'Great Northern Beans' or white beans
2 tablespoons canned diced chilis
4 cups shredded chicken
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper

Melt butter in a large stock pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and saute until tender, about 10 minutes. (At this point: get your chicken broth and half-and-half measured and ready to go.) Add flour and stir just enough to cook it, but do not to brown. Gradually whisk in chicken broth and half-and-half. Simmer until thick, about 10 minutes. Add beans, chilis, chicken and 5 seasonings. Simmer gently about 30 minutes.

Yields: 10-12 servings.

Whitney and I recommend serving big bowls of the chili with an array of sides, like sour cream, shredded cheese, hot sauce, freshly-chopped cilantro or green onions. We especially love this dish with a side of college football.

*This recipe has been updated, here