8.31.2012

back-to-school week: children's stationery.

My brother and I learned the importance of the written letter when we were very young. Every Christmas, Santa thoughtfully filled our stockings with a set of note cards. As in: be thankful, now get writing. It's amazing how it has stayed with both of us, because to this day, my brother still writes me a thank you note for every gift - Christmas, birthday, what have you. And he's a boy. Who is over 30. Really. He still writes thank you notes. Good kid (read: good mom).
{Mari's first stationery set for her first birthday thank you notes, from Minted}
With a new school year starting, now might be a good time to refresh the supply (note to self: several online shops are offering back-to-school specials right now!), or make your first order. Never too young to get writing, in my book.

Personalized stationery from Tiny Prints.

Follow the link to view more from Etsy and Minted.

8.30.2012

back-to-school week: supplies.

I'm always a little nostalgic for back-to-school supply shopping around this time of year. Way back when, I could spend hours in the three-ring-binder aisle, and that was after some diligent research and shopping prep. Don't even get me started on mechanical pencils and dividers. Hello, nerd alert.

How times have changed. Office Depot and Staples aren't the only kids in town anymore. There are so many places to shop back-to-school, and I've rounded up a few wish list items from Minted, Paper Source and Giggle.

Journals from Minted.

For the aspiring artist, from Giggle.
1. zebra zoo backpack; 2. monkey artist journal; 3. kids creativity apron

Necessities, gone fun from Paper Source.
1. recycled binder; 2. typewriter file folders; 3. dessert erasers; 4. scented highlighters; 5. bicycle clips.

Tomorrow, I'll finish off back-to-school week with a roundup of my favorite personalized stationery for the kidlets. Come back and visit!

8.29.2012

back-to-school week: fresh start for fall.

For years (years!), I've been eye'ing the Mrs. Meyers Clean Day line of household cleaning products. I have been known to spend an unhealthy amount of time sniffing bottle cleaners and soaps, and it wasn't until Mari was born - like so many things in my life - that I really started thinking more intentionally about the products I was bringing home.
On an early summer trip to the desert, I got to test run the lemon verbena dish and hand soap, and I fell in love (thanks, Michelle!). When it was time to replenish my soap supply, I finally made the switch, and I have not looked back.

If you're like me, and you love to love your cleaners, I have a feeling you might really love Mrs. Meyers, and with all of those lunch box goods going back-and-forth from sink to frig to school and back, a fresh, new scented soap might make washing a little less of a chore. Just might.

Here's another bonus and for me, what sealed the switch: Mrs. Meyers' products are good for your dishes, your hands, all the little mouths you feed and the environment. Mrs. Meyers can help you rid your life of harsh chemicals and embrace cleaners made with natural essential oils that smell good and work good.

For the big kids, Mrs. Meyers offers a dorm room set, with everything your undergrad needs for their home away from home. Just in time for back-to-school.

Oh, and there is really a Mrs. Meyers. Her name is Thelma.

PS: My new favorite household sponge: Scotch Brite Greener Clean Non-Scratch Sponge. And it's neutral-colored, so it works on your sink. I think Mrs. Meyers would agree that even a sponge can look pretty.

8.27.2012

back-to-school week: love in the lunch box.

Have you noticed? It's the end of August. Which means big yellow school buses with wheels are going 'round and 'round all over town. To honor the season, I have a few back-to-school-themed posts lined up for you this week, starting today with some lunch box inspiration.
These heart-shaped sandwiches were a hit at Mari's birthday party, and would be a sweet way to send your little one off with some love as they settle into the school routine.
What you need:
+ Sandwich fixings: bread, jam, cream cheese, peanut butter... what have you.
+ Heart-shaped cookie cutter (or get seasonal in October and use a pumpkin; tree in December, etc.)

Two steps:
Step one: cut your bread, inside the crust, with desired cookie cutter.
Step two: spread on your filler (these are organic cream cheese and strawberry jam on whole wheat bread), and make your sandwich.

I started out with the steps in reverse, and found that the shape didn't hold up as nicely when I had to cut through two pieces of bread plus the filling; it was a bit too think for my cookie cutter.

For the uber-organized mother - or for those of us who dream to be one - here are some lunch-packing tips and tools-of-the-trade, thanks to I Heart Organizing. Very Pin-worthy.

Photos by Jenna Beth Photography.

8.24.2012

ladies and gentlemen: we have a winner.

Thank you for your sweet notes and kind blog birthday wishes! I don't mean to trade giveaways for flattery, but that's how it seems to work, and I will certainly take it. Please know that it's genuinely appreciated.
We have a winner for Christie's sparkle ribbon ball / tree topper giveaway, and it is:

MONIQUE LOTZE

Congratulations! I will drop you a line with particulars so I can get you your bling for your new digs (that deserve a congratulations as well).

Have a great weekend, all! I will see you back here next week, with a few back-to-school themed posts. Just in time to kick off another school year.

Thanks to Christie for our first-ever giveaway. You can find sparkle balls - and so much more goodness - at the Manhattan Beach paper and fine gift shop located at 1219 Highland Ave. 

8.23.2012

seriously simple.

As in the cookbook, Seriously Simple, by noted food writer and expert cook Diane Rossen Worthington. My mom gifted it to me way back when, and it was our springtime trip to the desert that reminded me of this beautiful - and simple - book. If you're like me, you have loads of books, and it's easy to forget about them, isn't it? Especially when there are blogs and pins claiming 'the best chocolate chip cookies in the world' (for the record, these are my favorites). A recipe is just a click away, these days.
I am happy to report that Rossen Worthington's book has reminded me that instead of cooking from cyberspace, to return to my stack of books, starting with this one.

You might recall my peach obsession. It resurfaces every summer. This year, I'm addicted to white peaches, thanks to my parents who bring us loads of them weekly. We used them for Seriously Simple's Summer Fruit Crisp with Creme Fraiche Filling.

Yes, you read that right. Creme Fraiche Filling.

It's a crisp with luxury, and it was so simple. It's filled with peaches and raspberries with a middle layer of creme fraiche and then topped with a crumble mixture of melted butter, brown sugar, flour, vanilla and lemon zest. And it's a keeper topping, in the crisp/crumble/pie department.

Rossen Worthington's recipes all seem to be this way; not a lot of fuss, and as a bonus, she offers 'advance preparation' notes when possible, plus sub-notes on what the 'clever cook could' do. It's like she's cooking in your kitchen, right beside you. In this case, she suggests subbing peaches for nectarines and blackberries for the raspberries. I like having options, don't you?

The only thing I'll say is that the white peaches cooked up a little tart, compared to the yellow peach, which tastes sweeter, in my opinion. Maybe one of you experts can tell me why. Next time, I'll try yellow peaches with blueberries. Like I did back in 2010.

Follow the link for the recipe.

8.21.2012

two years down + a christie giveaway.

You may have noticed (or not, totally fine, btw) that I've done some housekeeping around here. I've added some pages (look above for new tabs!) and on the right, a search module, links to my favorite things and I've cleaned up the labels. Yet again.
As I was getting down to business, I realized that paper{whites'} second birthday has come and gone. Woah. Two years gone by, and totally forgotten. Maybe it was the excitement with Mari's first birthday. Or the general haze of summer. Or the mom brain, because let me tell you: it's gotten worse and not better. Regardless, we'll celebrate the big no. 2 exactly one month late to the day, if it's okay with you.

As I did last year, I'll take a stroll through the past year with a roundup of my favorite posts:

+ wishing my sweet girl a happy birthday
+ the dinner journal commitment
+ the beauty of being home
+ a bit about motherhood
+ Mari's baptism: part I, part II, part III and part IV
+ ode to Mari's godparents
+ crafting with Mari (I think a bit of birthday party foreshadowing was happening here)
+ our first 2012 dinner party
+ sunflower hand-tie DIY
+ trying to find my balance
+ our first road trip with Mari
+ sharing Mari's nursery

In honor of the birthday, I have my first-ever giveaway (glad it took me two years!): that pretty, sparkly oversized wired ribbon explosion that just might be the world's most perfect tree topper. I'm not trying to rush into the holidays, but when you see something that you know you can't find anywhere else, you've got to grab it.
Over the weekend, downtown Manhattan Beach held its annual summer sidewalk sale, and my favorite paper shop, Christie, has the prettiest things, this Mari-approved bow included.

So, one for you and one for me. A pretty bow to top your tree. (Sweet pre-toddler not included.) I'll even throw in some floral wire so you're ready to go at Christmastime.

To enter the giveaway, leave me a comment or send me an e-mail - by 5 p.m. PT Thurs., Aug. 23 - and I'll randomly pick the winner and announce it on Fri., Aug. 24.

And, if you're in the area, go see Christie and support our local shops. You'll fall in love, just like I have.

Thank you, dear readers, for your cyber love and support, especially in the past year that was filled with a lot of self doubt, nerves and utter joy. I feel your light and energy, for which I'm so grateful, for I love sharing mine with you.

Here's to another great year.

Like to see Christie in action? View my recent Christie-printed projects: Mari's birthday invitations; Krisa's baby shower invitations; Mari's baptism invitations

8.20.2012

house news: we joined a csa.

I feel so legit, joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). I'm always reading about people doing amazing things with produce, while supporting local, organic farming, and I'm happy to say that I've jumped on the band wagon.
Today marks only our second delivery of Tanaka Farms' Small Box. Our first included all sorts of beautiful things, like kale, carrots, green beans, watermelon, grapefruit and mark my words: the best onion I have ever, ever tasted. Probably because it was a Maui onion. It was also the size of a small basketball and it lasted us for more than a few meals.

Besides the good, fresh, organic food, I'm especially psyched to be supporting Tanaka Farms. It was from their original tiny farm stand off the 405 freeway near Wild Rivers (OC friends: remember that place? It's coming back) that I enjoyed the juiciest strawberries, learned to like corn-on-the-cob and see first-hand what real farming can produce. We grew up with Tanaka, and now their local CSA deliveries reach all the way up to the South Bay (and likely, to an area near you). So now, we can all eat even healthier, a bit more veggie'r and Mari can taste my childhood, so to speak.

With meal planning in full swing, this adds a new dimension: planning for a surprise selection of fresh produce every two weeks. This is going be fun.

If you are in the Orange County-ish area, Tanaka Farms is worth a stop, especially for the wee ones. You can tour the crops (right now: harvest tours and watermelon tours), and starting on Sept. 27, it's time for the Pumpkin Patch Tours.

8.16.2012

baby gifting: toms.

Is anyone turning one in your life? Might I suggest a pair of Toms.
Shoes are a great one-year gift. Once those little legs, feet and toes start to put everything together, they seem to be walking in no time. Toms are at that perfect gifting price point, and come in all sorts of fun patterns. Like pink glitter and berry zebra. My mom bought Mari's here.

On Mari: Ralph Lauren Striped Dress & Leggings Set (thanks to my mom - good thing she keeps her in style).

8.15.2012

sweet love: banana cake cupcakes

Do all babies love bananas as much as Mari? Probably. As if there were any other option for Miss Mari's birthday cupcakes, we went with banana cake. And if you know anything about me, then you know cream cheese frosting will be involved.
She loved them, and so did I. My mom helped me bake, so we used her favorite banana bread recipe, from her grandmother Grace. This is the banana bread I grew up with (sans nuts, for the birthday girl), and is tied with Whitney's recipe, my other favorite in this department.

Topped with cream cheese frosting, I followed Camille Styles' helpful guide on how to frost a cupcake, magnolia style. I was elbow-deep in frosting, butter knife in one hand and a scrolling mouse in the other as I meticulously followed Camille's guide. Nothing new to my kitchen (or my laptop, for that matter).

The sweet cakes were were adorned some love; Wilton jumbo heart sprinkles, found in stores around Valentine's Day and online the other 11 months of the year. Don't waste your time aimlessly wandering stores in July is all I'm saying.
Great Grandma Grace's Banana Bread Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)
Yield: 30ish large cupcakes (or 2 large loaves of banana bread)

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter at room temperature
2 eggs at room temperature, slightly beaten
3 large very ripe bananas, mashed
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fill cupcake tins with liners.

Mix together flour, baking soda and powder and salt. I like to whisk them together for a lazy sift. Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar and then mix in eggs, one at a time, and bananas.

Slowly add the flour mixture to the banana mixture in three additions, mixing and scraping the sides of the bowl in between each addition. Add nuts, if using.

Divide batter evenly among the cupcake tins, filling about 2/3 full and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean.

The Barefoot Contessa's Cream Cheese Frosting
From How Easy is That, page 219

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups sifted confectioner's sugar

Place the cream cheese, butter and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, and mix on medium speed just until combined. Don't whip. Add the sugar and mix until smooth.
Number '1' cake topper is a Spritz number, from Target. Mari's cupcake got a little lift from a mini cake stand, from Shop Sweet Lulu.

All photos by Jenna Beth Photography.

8.13.2012

grilled corn + heirlooms + basil.

It's hard to resist the beauty of heirloom tomatoes, isn't it? To that, add the beauty of grilled corn on the cob. Match made in heaven, if you ask me.
Last weekend, Whitney and fam hosted a little BBQ to soak in warm, summer nights, the smell of the grill and the giggles of cousins. It was a delicious potluck feast, to which I brought a bowl of produce: ears of corn, heirloom tomatoes, handful of fresh basil and a lemon.

Inspired by Krisa, from way-back-when we celebrated Andrea's then-upcoming nuptials, we all pitched in to finish off this salad, in between football-throwing, children bonking (our official wiki-word for head-to-head combat), toddlers teething and lots of wine drinking.
This is one of those anything-goes recipes, if you can even call this a recipe. In Krisa's original salad, I think we added purple onions and some other fresh herbs. Freshly sliced avocado would be a creamy, delicious addition, too.

Krisa's Grilled Corn and Heirloom Tomato Salad
Serves 8-10ish (maybe more)

6 ears of corn
5 (or so) medium-to-large heirloom tomatoes
Two big handfuls of basil
Fresh squeeze of lemon juice, olive oil and salt/pepper

To grill the corn, I like to peel the husks back slightly, but not all the way. Remove the silk and thoroughly rinse with water, pat dry. Season with salt and pepper and re-wrap the corn with the husks. Note: to get it started, you do have to remove a few husks totally. Just leave on enough to keep it covered for the grill.

Add ears of corn to a medium-hot grill, turning occasionally as husks char, about 15 minutes. Let cool.

While grilling, large dice tomatoes and slice the basil in thin ribbon strips (read: chiffonade), and add to a large serving bowl.

Slice corn kernels directly into serving bowl (like this), add a squeeze (or two, or three) of lemon, a drizzle of olive oil and season to taste.

This salad tastes best after it sits for a bit.

PS: charred corn husks get flakey and messy. Once cooled, unwrapping the grilled corn over a trash bag (maybe even the same one you used when you de-slik'd) is advised. In other words, don't do it too close to your serving bowl. Or your baby.

8.10.2012

happy friday.

Thanks for hanging in with all the birthday party posts this week. It's been so fun to share details with you! I'll be sprinkling in some DIYs from the big day, here and there, and hope you'll stop by for more.

Until then, I wish you this kind of weekend. Don't forget the sunscreen.
Gosh. She just cracks me up. (PS: Mari's birthday swimsuit: Snap Me Swimwear.)

Photo by Jenna Beth Photography.

8.08.2012

mari's birthday take II: sweets.

Mari's first birthday party was a whole lot of sweet, mostly due to our family and friends. To watch your daughter be loved by so many felt a little reminiscent of our wedding day. On a smaller scale, her party had a lot of similarities to our big day; meticulous planning; high emotion; lots of details; love from family and friends, near and far; pure joy; toes in the sand; and the most beautiful view you ever did see!

And, like the sweets table at our wedding, Mari had one of her very own, too. It was filled with all things red and pink:

+ my mom's homemade heart-shaped sugar cookies
+ rice krispie treats
+ jelly bellies, in small boxed favorite flavors
+ pink and white lollipops
+ for the birthday girl: banana cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting (details and recipe to come)
Mari's crafy birthday girl hat was a DIY number. If there's interest in hearing about it, I'll post details. Number '1' from Target.
Candy [randomly] from Jo-Ann.
Treat bags: leftovers from our wedding (and yet there are still hundreds to spare!), adorned with heart stickers from Shop Sweet Lulu.
Just like her mom: can't get enough of that cream cheese frosting. Attagirl.

All photos by Jenna Beth Photography.

8.07.2012

mari's birthday photos: snacks + stuff.

Party planning in red and pink was so much fun. I'm not much of a red person, except for when it comes to the summer... and the beach... and when it's complimented with pink, I can't help myself and I fall in love.
Channeling inspiration from Mari's birthday party invitation, I let the beautiful ocean set the scene, with a very simple, two-tent and two-table set-up; one for snacks and drinks, and one for sweets. It was a late afternoon party on the sand, so we opted for a few of our favorite small bites, no utensils required:

+ tomato, basil and fresh mozzarella skewers
+ watermelon, prosciutto and mint skewers
+ Eddie's shrimp dip in clear, plastic cocktail glasses, topped with crackers and chips
+ for the kids: heart-shaped organic cream cheese and strawberry jam sandwiches on whole wheat bread
+ to drink: sparkling mint lemonade (on-hand: vodka to mix)
White beverage dispenser from Target; Stripey Straws from Shop Sweet Lulu; Runner cut from fabric from Jo-Ann.
Details to come on the DIY centerpieces.
Knotted bamboo skewers from Sur la Table.
Personalized burlap garland from Etsy seller Expressions In Design.
Does it at all look like Frolic!'s picnic table? I hope so. 'Tis what I was aiming for. Thank you, Chelsea, for endless inspiration. Always.

I'll cover the sweets tomorrow!

All photos by Jenna Beth Photography.

8.06.2012

check: cherries.

It turns out that that summer list I made last month is coming in handy. Or, rather, the list I made that I shared publicly has come in handy, because it's keeping me honest. And it's reminding me to do all sorts of happy things, like eat cherries.
These organic raniers are about as pretty and delicious as they come, and I love having a bowl of cherries atop the kitchen table to pluck from all day long. At least as long as they last.

Speaking of lasting... are you savoring your summer? We're trying, with all our might. We did more grilling of corn over the weekend at a family BBQ, and I have an easy not-even-recipe to share with you, plus I've got more of Jenna's photos from the first birthday. Lots to come this week!

8.02.2012

party love.

Let's get this party started, shall we? Today, I have the invitations from Mari's first birthday party to share with you. And I just love(d) them.
Like the last few, this is a paper{whites} special; design collaboration with Lynette Nixon and printed by Christie. As I do every year, I fell in love with the idea of red + pink + hearts sometime around Valentine's Day and drew on pinned inspiration from the last several months. Which means that I'd been planning Mari's first shin-dig for, well, several months.
It all started with visions of her invitation dancing in my head, and as usual, Lynette's mind-reading capabilities compliment her design services beautifully.

Some signature p{w} paper and packaging details:
+ Paper: 100% cotton bright white Savoy, 118 lb.
+ Fonts: Verner and Novecento UltraLight
+ Envelopes: Paper Source's paper bag envelopes
+ Confetti tissue paper: DIY with a handy heart punch by Recollections (that I regret I cannot find online, but mine was found at Michael's and is a bit smaller than Martha's)