happy halloween.

From my lady bug to you, I hope you have a spooky good day.
Mari got some trick-or-treating practice in on Monday in a hand-me-down lady bug costume that is just adorable. It's also our backup for tonight. We've practiced in the wings that I found online - it's very touch-and-go - but they look so cute with the DIY tulle skirt, which I hope to share with you if it all comes together. As of yesterday, she acted like she was wearing the most annoying backpack ever. Keep your fingers crossed!
Happy Halloween. May you enjoy chocolate like it's the first time you've ever tasted it ... in your life!


s'mores on a stick, step-by-step.

Happy halloween week! To start it off sweetly, I have some details to share from those s'mores on a stick. This method is easy, isn't messy (although, that's arguably the beauty of real s'mores, I know) and is all about bringing that campfire feeling inside.
paper{whites} // step-by-step: s'mores on a sick
When I'm entertaining, I like to have a balance of homemade and store-bought / no-bake. No-bake s'mores on a stick look pretty and a lot harder than they really are, but only you and I will know that they are as easy as pie. Which is really not easy at all. But you get my drift.

Here's what you need:
+ wax paper
+ bag of giant marshmallows
+ bag of wood skewers
+ graham crackers
+ secret to my success: a genius tub of melting chocolate (Wilton also makes the tubs, and you can find them in the baking aisle)

Here's whatcha do:
1. toss about 8 graham crackers in a plastic sandwich bag and seal and crush with the back of a 1-cup measuring cup. If you like really fine crumbs, you can also use a food processor, but I prefer to keep it a little rustic looking, and the bag/mash method is so easy (and fun - Mari even got into it with me). Once crushed, pour into a bowl and set aside.

2. line two baking sheets with wax paper (and take a look at your frig - you'll want to clear out some space for the baking sheets for later).

3. skewer the marshmallows (I did about 2 dozen and still had a little chocolate leftover) and place them on the cookie sheets.

4. melt chocolate according to package directions.

5. set up your dipping station: (1) chocolate tub; (2) graham cracker bowl; (3) wax paper-lined cookie sheets.

6. start dipping marshmallows in chocolate. To help chocolate drip nicely, a twirl or two of the marshmallow works well.

7. immediately dip the choc-covered marshmallow in the bowl of crushed graham crackers. Twist the skewer around in the cracker crumbs to make sure you cover the entire marshmallow.

8. place on cookie sheet, and once done dipping, place sheets in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes for chocolate to set. Once it is set, you can carefully plate or consolidate so you can get your frig back to normal.
paper{whites} // step-by-step: s'mores on a sick
If you have sand nearby, you can display the smore's in sand-filled galvanized pails to give your dessert table some height. And some sweet s'mores goodness.
paper{whites} // step-by-step: s'mores on a sick
PS: if you're wondering about how the tubbed chocolate tastes - it's yummy. It has very good flavor for dipping anything - and I use this same method for strawberries and pretzels (and pretzel sticks). White chocolate dipping tubs are also available.


friday foto: more from the patch.

I just love Cinderella pumpkins, don't you? This is from our visit to Tanaka Farms. By the way - this is the last weekend the farm is offering pumpkin patch tours and harvesting activities. I highly recommend a quick (or long - you'll want to stay, trust me) stop.
On a totally unrelated note, I wanted to share a quick FYI to ponder this weekend: Nicole's Classes is offering a 30% off year-end sale. On everything. I know a few of you out there are thinking about trying one of her classes, or buying one of the books. Now's the time to get on it. Consider this your nudge.

With that, I wish you a happy weekend. I'll be back next week with s'mores-on-a-stick!

For more Friday Fotos, see last week's post.


it's beginning to look a lot like: fall.

In all the senses, Fall has arrived at our house. Though it's supposed to warm up, we had rain last weekend and thanks to our progressive party, we got to decorating, just a little, with white pumpkins and lanterns. Very simple, but at night, it's all candlelit and moody. And it feels like Fall.
I also recycled some DIY wreaths from year's past. How are you decorating for the season?

Lanterns from Ikea and Crate & Barrel; votives from Target (dollar bin!).


caramel cream cheese dip + apples.

Are you ready for the easiest, sweetest, most perfect dip for Fall? It's not peanut butter. It's caramel. And cream cheese. And toffee bits. It's crazy good and it is one of my favorite go-to desserts that my besties and I have been making for years.
We've been enjoying the leftovers from this dip since the weekend, when we served it up at our progressive dinner party. My favorite thing about it - besides the fact that it's made with cream cheese - is that it's actually better with the pre-sliced, bagged apples you can find at your local market. Those apples are coated, and free from browning, and so when you let this sit out on a dessert buffet, you can be confident your apples will stay nice and crisp. And pretty.*

Caramel Cream Cheese Dip with Sliced Apples
From somewhere in Westlake Village, Calif. (thanks, Marce!)
Yield: a lot

16 oz. tub of caramel dip (look for it near the apples in the produce section of your market)
8 oz. brick of cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 bag of Heath toffee bits (find in the baking aisle, and if you can't, buy a couple of Heath bars, stick them in a plastic bag and crush them with something heavy, like a rolling pin)
2-4 bags of pre-sliced organic apples*

The night before: unwrap cream cheese, place it on a small dish and let sit overnight to come to room temperature.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix caramel, cream cheese, sugars and vanilla until well combined. Fold in toffee bits.

Serve with apples.

This dip is good for a few days (or more - though it's never lasted me that long). I hope you'll try it this season. It's a great way to lighten up a dessert table.
Or, just to enjoy on a random Tuesday. Because that's what we did last night. Yow.


october entertaining: progressive dinner party.

How great are progressive dinner parties? I love them. I also love our neighbors, and it was their big idea to do a Fall progressive party on our block over the weekend. How fun is that?
Drawing on some serious inspiration from Fall-themed party posts, we anchored the evening with dessert and I finally got to scratch that baking itch that was just waiting for our hot weather to pass. So, we got in the rustic Fall spirit, complete with burlap, galvanized pails, caramel, apples, popcorn, s'mores, sunflowers, peachy-orange dahlias and white pumpkins (thank you, Pinterest).

Here's the menu:
+ pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and topped with candy corns, on Mary's recommendation. She's a pumpkin expert and I trust all of her recipes.
+ s'mores-on-a-stick, inspired by Annie's Eats.
+ caramel cream cheese dip with organic fuji apples.
+ kettle corn from the El Segundo Farmer's Market (thanks, mom!).
+ to toast: mulled cider.
Sweets were served up in a collection of my favorite serving pieces, including one of the big glass jars from our wedding, atop a burlap runner that was leftover from Krisa's shower. My new favorite vessels for the season are berry baskets, which you can find in all sorts of sizes at Garnish (note: for some color, Shop Sweet Lulu sells pint-sized berry baskets that I know you will love, too).

I'll have the recipe for the caramel cream cheese dip later this week. It is a tried and true favorite, and very perfect for the season. And I've got some tips on the s'mores to share, too!


friday foto: from the patch.

I'm not totally complaining about the hot weather Southern California has been experiencing, but I'm so ready for sweaters, boots and soups. Aren't you?

Under the hot sun, we got in the spirit last weekend, with a visit to Tanaka Farms. It's so worth the trip if you are in the area, whether you are with or without kids - it's just so amazing. There's a petting zoo, wagon rides and you can pick your own vegetables and pumpkins, straight from the vine. It's the real deal.
from paper{whites} blog // friday foto: from the patch.
We loved it, and I hope to share some more photos with you next week as we gear up for Halloween. And speaking of: is anyone in denial that it's so soon? I am. DALS posted a Halloween wish list, and I need to jot a few things down to get myself organized, too. So, here goes.

+ finish Mari's costume and give her some more practice time in the lady bug wings (we do have a back-up bug if the wings end up being her ultimate wardrobe malfunction - she's not too sure of them quite yet).
+ share some spooky sweets with our neighbors.
+ add some more fall touches to our home.
+ buy Halloween candy.
+ a few days before Halloween: make a soup, stew or chili to enjoy post trick-or-treating.

PS: if anyone is having a last minute costume crisis, a fluffy tulle skirt that's cheap, cheerful and requires no sewing machine might be your answer. Perfect for ballerinas, lady bugs, bees, ballerinas... anything that needs some girly pouf. See my DIY tulle skirt here.

For more Friday Fotos, check out last week's post.


learning design.

Love is all around with Nicole's Classes. I've gushed about my experience with Photo 101, and this month, I'm taking Illustrator 101 with Alma Loveland. This is a dream come true, really. For years, I've wanted to learn the basics of Illustrator and Nicole's online classes are making it happen. It is liberating and inspiring.
We're two weeks into class. We've learned all about the basic tools: type, pen, pencil, shapes, lines and for our homework, got to create an invitation all on our own. My personal challenge was to re-create Mari's birthday invitation, but this time, for a boy's first birthday.

What do you think?

This week, we're onto the brush tools and they are so much fun!


shopping for: a vintage desk clock.

I love hanging out in Mari's room. It is hands-down my favorite room in our house. It gets the most beautiful light in the afternoon, and when I get home from work, we spend a lot of time together in there.

As if she's catching me up on all she's done all day, we get lost doing all sorts of things... reading, dressing up our Jelly Cats (that'd be Jelly Cat, who is really a pig, and Jelly Bean who is actually a bunny), trying on her favorite shoes and pushing around my favorite: her Melissa & Doug shopping cart. We get very busy, the evening flies by and I always find myself straining to find a clock to keep track of time as we settle into our nighttime routine.

I need a clock in her room. Any clock will do, really, but I think a vintage desk accessory is just what we need in her special space.
{one, two, three, four, five}
Craving a vintage alarm clock? There are tons on Etsy. Which one is your favorite?


sneak peak: carson's first birthday.

Vintage circus details are still dancing in my head from Mr. Carson's first birthday party yesterday.
Whitney outdid herself, as you would expect. It was so much fun and it was so, so, so pretty. Party perfect pretty.

I snapped a bunch of photos that I can't wait to post. Just as soon as I do some light photo sifting today. So much goodness to share. Hooray!


friday foto: it's 5 o'clock somewhere.

Good Friday to you! How cute are these little adidas?
Mari's obsessed with them. When given the choice, she picks these over all others. Over her cute Toms and her sparkly Stride Rites. They're also her daddy's favorite; they came from one of his dear college friends, and was one of her very first pair of shoes.

When she wears them, she looks a bit like she's wearing moon boots. They're still a bit big on her, but she loves them.

I took this picture last Sunday night, when the sun was setting, the lighting was just beautiful, and we were barefoot on the sand. It was last Sunday when I realized that this early evening, just-before-dinner is my favorite time of day. Some days, like on Sunday, we pause and get to enjoy the sunset. Most nights, we're rushing to get dinner together, in between playing with Mari. But it's our time. From 5 o'clock on, it's our family time and that lyric, "it's 5 o'clock somewhere," well that has an entirely new meaning for me.

Though I don't mind a glass of wine to wash the day down. We did have full red party cups on our trip down to The Strand last week. Standard, really.

Happy weekend. May we all get to 5 o'clock quickly!

For more Friday Fotos, check out last week's post.


DIY thursday: birthday party hat.

Today is Mari's cousin's first birthday. Hooray. So fun. We get to celebrate with Mr. Carson this weekend. Until then, I thought I'd honor his birthday with a little party hat DIY, albeit a pink and red party hat. I don't think he'll mind, though. Mari and Carson seem to share everything these days, and it's been so fun to watch them grow together over the past year.

So, this is of course Miss Mari's birthday party hat that organically evolved with a few materials and a glue gun. And, according to the glue gun great Amanda, that's all you ever really need.
I didn't have a real plan with this, but I took some photos as I crafted, and if you have a birthday boy or girl in your life anytime soon, here's a quick suggestion on creating something custom that's simple and not overwhelmingly work intensive; a combo of store-bought - thanks, as per normal, to Shop Sweet Lulu - with a little DIY love.

Here's what you need:
+ A sweet hat from Shop Sweet Lulu. They come in sets of 12, and they're reversible. So, if you mess up, or need more than one, you'll be more than covered.
+ Tulle (find online or at your local craft/fabric store)
+ Hot glue gun
+ Optional: latex gloves to protect from glue gun burns
+ Scotch tape
+ Other paper embellishments of your choice to add a finishing touch

First things first: thread the chin strap so you're not trying to peel back glued tulle.

Next, using the hot glue gun 'draw' a line of glue along the inside edge of the party hat, and loop the tulle back-and-forth, sort of figure-eight-style, on top of the hot glue. Press down on the tulle as you go - taking care not to burn your fingers (I suggest some latex gloves, if you have 'em). Since the glue dries quickly, work fast but gradually, about two to three inches of glue at a time.
After you are done gluing tulle, seal the hat with the provided tab and reinforce with a piece of tape on the inside of the hat. And then - embellish as you like!

For Mari, I tied in some elements from her birthday invitation and again used the glue gun to affix a heart-shaped 'one' for my no. 1.
It paired nicely with banana cake cupcakes and cream cheese frosting.

Happy birthday to Cousin Carson. We can't wait to celebrate you this weekend!

Birthday girl photos by Jenna Beth Photography. Party hat tutorial photos by paper{whites}.


accessorizing your DSLR.

How cute is this handmade camera strap? It was gifted to me by Whitney, and I love it. It's comfortable and extra long. And it's cute. And it makes me happy.
{The Sweet Strap's yellow citron daisy strap}
This strap gives my Nikon a little flair, and some personalization that I seem to crave for most of my prized possessions. Custom, handmade straps are affordable and are a great gift for shutterbug friends (plug for the Christmas list I've yet to start on). If you're super thoughtful, like Whitney, you'll pair it with a handy LensPen liquid-free lens cleaner that she swears by, which I also give two thumbs up.

Etsy's got a lot of great straps out there, but my favorites come from The Sweet Strap, Rhyah Papaya, and Phat Straps. I want one of each. 
From The Sweet Strap: one, three, four and eight.
From Rhyah Papaya: two, five and seven.
From Phat Straps: six.


loving: hometown fair wknd.

Last year, we missed the fair. The year before, I was pregnant and didn't even know it. The only thing I can remember about the 2010 fair, besides running into some of our favorites Chad and Amanda, was how crummy I was feeling. I can vividly remember that. And I think that's pretty amazing.

So, technically, Mari's been to the fair once. But since this was her first official trip, we wanted to soak it all in, starting with meeting Eddie at the finish line of the MB 10K. Quick brag: he finished 14th in his age group. Fourteenth! Someday I will run it.

At the fair, there were multiple ring tosses, funnel cakes, snow cones, caramel corn, brats and BBQ. There were high school cheerleaders selling cookies. And you could throw a swing at the Hi Striker with the rugby team. Parents trailed their face-painted kids with cotton candy and bags of just-won gold fish. It was October in Manhattan Beach, and we're so glad it's here.
We made a quick loop of the vendor village, and spotted a few really great shops you must keep your eye on:

+ Anthropologie-esque aprons, vintage dresses and sweet, sweet things from Funktion.
+ My favorite local photographer: Ken Pagliaro.
+ Milk-painted, vintage-style wood frames and other gifts from Simple Living.
+ Everything oilcloth - tablecloths, aprons, bags, etc. - from Oil Cloth Alley (PS: see what Lay Baby Lay did with oilcloth in her daughter's playroom).
+ I mentioned this shop a couple of years ago, but it's worth a refresher: Model Metalworks for hand-woven pine needle baskets with touches of silver (the wine coaster would make a great gift!).

Lastly, I spied some really, really great pillows. Pillows made from fabric that we would all pin the heck out of. And I met the sweet gal behind it all, who just started her business. She has no website, but she's got lovely stuff, and I'm saving her name and email for us: Coonley Designs.

She started sewing because she couldn't find a duvet cover she liked (I get her, don't you?). So, her boyfriend bought her a sewing machine. She took some classes. And she made her own, and now she's just a few months into her new business. Isn't that exciting?
I think it's inspiring and a good way to start the week.


new series: friday foto.

Lately, I've been feeling incomplete when I'm not able to post before the weekend (read: on Friday). Since I had such a great experience with Nicole's Photo 101 class, I thought one photo a week would be a good way to keep the learning process going, hold me accountable to shooting manually and very intentionally (like the weekly homework assignments!) and provide a little sign off for the week's end.

Sound okay to you?
Here's the very first Friday Foto, sent to you with love from Mari's favorite stuffed animals and toys, piled high in her Melissa & Doug shopping cart (to which I added her name on a piece of wood, sprayed with chalkboard paint). From our deck, this cart went back to her room and was over-stuffed with everything from our mail and my wallet to her sippy cup and a few more friends.

And, even though Friday Foto is meant to be just one photo, you really ought to get the aerial view. Yes, that is one of her little shoes tucked in, next to her Jellycat. She usually insists that Jelly wear her Gazelles. Sometimes, just sometimes, they can ride in the cart, too.
Watching her plod, plan and pile it on is one of my most favorite things to do. 

Have a lovely weekend!


comforting classic upgrade: lobster mac and cheese.

I finally made mac and cheese from scratch, and it was pretty much everything I'd hoped it would be and more. Okay, and I threw in some langostino, which made it pretty unbelievable. And what surprised me is how quickly it came together and how easy it is to make way in advance. We've enjoyed it for days.
I made this with my parents over the weekend for Eddie's homecoming after a business trip. He's a big fan of the mac, and I split the recipe in two; three-quarters went in a medium-sized casserole to bake that day; the remaining was divided into two gratin dishes that I baked two days later. And two days later, it actually tasted even better.

Like The BC usually does, she finds ways to make her classics explode, and by adding lobster, this dish becomes a real treat - as if the gruyere and sharp cheddar can't cut it on their own. This dish is classy enough to serve for a small dinner party with a beautiful green salad, with lots of tomatoes... because I think that mac and cheese and tomatoes were made for each other (in fact, in the original recipe, The BC tops the dish with tomatoes before baking). It would also be a wonderful gift to your friends who just had a baby, or for anyone who could use an extra hand, really.

If you're thinking that you'll never make this because of the lobster: think again. Sure, you can just leave it out. But, if you find that your local Trader Joe's is selling bags of frozen langostino meat, grab one and then make this dish. Langostino isn't exactly lobster, but it's close (here's the Wiki definition). It's actually a kind of crab meat, but looks and tastes as luxurious as lobster. If it was delicious in The BC's Lobster & Shells, and I figured it would be an excellent candidate for her Lobster Mac and Cheese.

And it was.
Follow the link for the recipe.


shopping for: a new faucet.

We rent. So, when it comes to actual beach house DIY, there's not a whole lot we can do. Everything is very cosmetic; wall painting, the occasional light fixture, some hardware, etc. I dream of the day we own a house that we can go this-old-house on. Can't wait.

Until then, we'll continue to rent from a wonderful family who gives us lots of liberties and opportunities to participate in their home ownership and care-taking, by helping with things like selecting a new refrigerator when the original broke; having the wood floors refinished; and repairing our small but lovely deck.

Which brings us to the kitchen faucet. It has seen better days. I can't even bring myself to show you a before photo, so you'll have to trust me on this one and instead, settle for my favorite dish soap.
Where to start when it comes to faucet shopping? Any tips, dear readers?

I'm leaning on my parent's knowledge from their dream kitchen re-do, and I'm hopping around a few DIY-type blogs for more insight. I have trips to Lowe's and Home Depot lined up. I've got measurements and I'm ready to tackle things like: stainless steel vs. chrome vs. nickel; to pull down or not to pull down; and so on.


glammed up creamy butternut squash soup, from the box.

Last week, Eddie was on the road and whenever it's just Mari and me, I barely cook for myself. I snack on veggies, maybe whip up or poach some eggs, but there's not a lot going on in the kitchen when I'm cooking for one. It was a nice break for the first few days, but by day five, I was ready for something I could sink my teeth/soul into. But I was also exhausted.
paper{whites} // glammed up creamy butternut squash soup from the box
Enter: soup in a box, with some fresh toppings and crusty, multi-grain bread to give it a boost. This is organic creamy butternut squash soup, topped with flecks of creamy goat cheese, chopped scallions from the garden and lots of freshly ground black pepper.

It was the perfect, comforting bowl for one that I needed to wash down the week. I had my own little date night on the couch, and it made being alone not so bad. I think a good meal has a way of doing that.

Have you glammed up a box'd soup? What do you top it with? Here are some other things I'd like to try:

+ toasted sunflower seeds or pepitas
+ freshly grated apple
+ a dollop of creme fraiche
+ sprinkle of gorgonzola, or any bleu cheese
+ freshly chopped herbs
+ zesty croutons (tip: my favorite store-bought are from here. Buy two bags at time and freeze the second.)

I'm shooting entirely in Manual mode now, and just finished Photo 101. I know I still have so much to learn, but the light bulb went off, and I am proud to say that I own a DSLR and I totally know how to use it. Today, I'm starting Illustrator 101. I'm just going to keep that back-to-school momentum rolling.