11.30.2012

friday foto: three cheers.

Someone went to her very first college football game over Thanksgiving weekend. I am not exaggerating when I say it might have been the best day of her life.
I have been trying to be more adventurous with Mari. Because I'm such a homebody, I am content to stay home, or very close to it. Things like football games, amusement parks, road trips and the like give me a little bit of anxiety. I envy other moms who take these toddler outings with such ease. I would like to be more like them.

I'd also rather watch a game on television in the comfort of my own home 99.9% of the time. But, when it comes to the really big games, the ones that get my insides buzzing with anticipation and excitement, I hate to miss out. And now, I want Mari to feel that, too.

Even though our team lost, we had a blast. To entertain the very short attention span of my very active daughter in close quarters seemed impossible, but it wasn't.

Mari was engaged. With everything; the noise, the band, the mascot, the big screens, the fans and of course, her family, who made the whole experience complete. I am so thankful to have shared the experience with her, and can't wait to do it again.

For the big game, a few things were key for us:
+ a big one: timing and getting the naps in before the event.
+ extra hands, like family and friends, who can take a toddler hand-off in a pinch.
+ forgoing the stroller and opting for just the Ergo.
+ lots of crackers and snacks, like Whitney's go-to squeezeable fruits.
+ as Mari says: agua and a straw (or a sippy) always nearby.
+ around this time of year: plenty of layers.
+ with some luck: finding a good, accessible and reasonably close parking spot.
+ for the ride home: teddy.

Happy December weekend, all. Hope you sneak in some college football, and some merriment, too. Enjoy it!

For more Friday Fotos, see the most recent post.

11.29.2012

counting down: the advent calendar.

Last year, I shared my love for the advent calendar. It's one of my favorite Christmas traditions. With just a few days to spare last November, I ordered this Land of Nod calendar (still available this year!) and made do with a small Santa ornament that we moved from pocket-to-pocket as we counted down to Dec. 25.
After the holiday came and went, my mom and I picked up some teeny tiny ornaments (on super sale!) to fill all 25 pockets, and this year, Mari will get to decorate her very own tiny Christmas tree, one-by-one, day-by-day.
I love this calendar because it's simple, has ease-of-access for little hands and perhaps most aesthetically important: it matches our DIY Christmas stockings. I still can't believe we pulled those off last year. Thank goodness for my mom and her sewing machine.

We found most of the ornaments at after-Christmas sales at Crate & Barrel and CVS. Note to self: drug stores have a great selection of small glass ornaments, in box sets, that are cheap and cheerful. They also are sweet additions to a bottle of wine, a plate of cookies or anything that you might be gifting to neighbors and friends in December that could use some merriment.
The ornaments will decorate Mari's mini artificial tree, from Jo-Ann, to which I added a short strand of mini white lights. Her eyes literally twinkle when we turn them on.
I'm so excited to see how she responds to the first ornament on Dec. 1. She's already been very busy with all the ball ornaments. Probably because she can now actually say the word 'ball.' Nothing has ever sounded sweeter.

11.28.2012

paper{whites} picks: peppermint christmas, from ikea.

Have you strolled the seasonal tent at your local Ikea? 'Tis some very good Christmas decor at some very affordable prices to be had. I love the Swedes' simple take on layering natural fibers, red and white. I picked up a few things for gifting and for the home, and with an unlimited budget, here's my Ikea wish list.
paper{whites} picks // peppermint christmas, from ikea.
one // two // three // four // five // six // seven // eight // nine // ten

11.26.2012

inspiration: kraft christmas.

I am still full from Thanksgiving. It's not even New Year's and I'm making dieting resolutions. What a wonderful holiday weekend that was had and was all too fast. In the blink of an eye, we cleared out the pumpkins to make room for pine needles.

Game on, Christmas. We got to some merry making over the weekend and will be sharing a few details this week, like our advent calendar, with a new twist for this year. To get us all in the mood, I have one last Minted inspiration board to share today.
kraft christmas by Alison, see more www.minted.com
kraft christmas board by Alison. See more www.minted.com

I always gravitate towards kraft at Christmastime. And peppermint anything. And natural accents. And baker's twine. And apple pie. Visit the board at Minted for links.

11.21.2012

i am thankful.

It's turkey time. The marketing is done and baking has begun. My mom always hosts the most beautiful Thanksgiving, so there's not much for me to do, which is such a treat. I am so ready for this holiday.
{see the DIY step-by-step for this pumpkin flower vase from our mini Thanksgiving feast}
I'm also really thankful for so many people and so many things.

For twinkle lights.
For a warm bed and a roof over our head.
For kisses from Mari.
For reliable ballet flats that carry me through my every day.
For a healthy family.
For a rewarding day job.
For clean water.
For stripey straws.
For impromptu living room dance parties.
For learning new things.
For a car that works, most of the time.
For cousins.
For butter and sugar. And a full fridge.
For a hot, hot shower after a long, long day.
For friends that turn my world upside down with just a note, a hello or a smile.
For you.

Have a lovely day, however you are spending it. See you next week!

Mini note cards above from our mini Thanksgiving feast. For more last-minute Thanksgiving ideas and inspiration, see Thanksgiving Recipe Week; pumpkin flower vase DIY; last year's sunflower-inspired table setting and place card DIY; and Thanksgiving at Jeff and Whitney's.

11.20.2012

well, this is fun (and a little announcement).

My good and longtime friend Karen at Garden, Home & Party nominated me for a Liebster Award, which is such an honor, because she was and continues to be a great source of support and encouragement for paper{whites}. She is one of my mom's oldest and closest friends, and we've developed a special relationship through blogging. And, if you're a blogger, you are nodding your head in agreement with me when I say that that's really the best part about this gig; the connections.
The Liebster Awards spread the love from one blog to the next, and are chain letter-esque. With the nomination comes some homework; list 11 personal facts; answer 11 questions from your nominator; nominate four bloggers and write 11 new questions for said nominees. Here goes.

Part I: 11 random facts about myself.
(one) my favorite color is blue. // (two) I miss my middle name that I was given at birth, so I use it from time-to-time, like in my e-mail address. // (three) I'm a dog person. // (four) whenever I go to church, which is not nearly as often as I would like, I miss my grandma. // (five) babysitting was my least favorite job. // (six) for the better part of my childhood and into high school, I was a classically trained tap, jazz and ballet dancer, and my dream job was to be a professional dancer. // (seven) I met my husband at work and we had a secret office romance for months! // (eight) good burgers + skinny fries are my weakness. // (nine) my favorite smell is my daughter's hair. // (ten) besides my husband, my brother makes me laugh harder than anyone in the world. // (eleven) I struggle everyday to find balance as a working mom, but I've found it's not impossible.

Part II: answers to Karen's questions.
one // How did you start blogging?
After being introduced to wedding blogs while planning our 2009 wedding, I was desperate for a creative outlet. I started paper{whites} late at night, on a random Wednesday night.

two // What do you enjoy most about blogging?
Connecting very intimately with a community of people that I would otherwise never, ever know.

three // What is your favorite movie?
You've Got Mail.

four // Are you a do-it-yourself person, or do you keep a list of handy people near the phone?
I only have one handyman, and that's my dad. There's nothing he can't do. I like to DIY, with his help on most occasions.

five // Are you a city person or country person, and why?
Both. I love the heartbeat of a vibrant city, but I don't like living in one. I also love to breathe in country air. Manhattan Beach is a small town that gives me a little bit of both, only with the smell of salty sea air.

six // What is your favorite season?
Loaded question in the Fall. But, it's Spring.

seven // Do you prefer old antiques or new furnishings?
I prefer a mix of both.

eight // Do you lean more towards a tailored look or ruffles and lace?
I'm tailored.

nine // Which would you choose: the beach or the mountains?
Beach. But, oh, do I love a trip to the mountains.

ten // What's one modern convenience you couldn't live without?
When Mari was born: the swing.

eleven // What's your idea of the ideal evening?
A glamorous night in, with a home-cooked meal, something sweet for dessert from Becker's and lots of episodes of Homeland on the DVR.

Part III: four nominations and 11 new questions.
Congratulations to the following nominees with whom I have loved connecting: Tulips & Flight Suits; Restored Style; Two PhDs Baking and, here's the really big news, my fourth nomination goes to my sister-in-law Whitney, who just started a DIY-themed blog: Sandpaper and Silly Putty. You are going to love it. So, go! Check it out (and, really, check out all the nominees, for their blogs are so inspiring and entertaining).

And now, the questions.
(one) where do you blog from most often (as in: your kitchen? your bedroom? Coffee Bean?)? // (two) what is your favorite thing to cook? // (three) who is your dream dinner guest? // (four) how many siblings do you have and where do you fall in the birth order? // (five) what is your all-time favorite book? // (six) have you ever wanted to live somewhere else, and if so, where? // (seven) what has been your greatest blogging inspiration? // (eight) in one word, how would you describe your personal style? // (nine) what is your dream job? // (ten) if you were a dessert, what would you be? // (eleven) when you have a free afternoon, how do you spend it?

Thanks for hanging in there with the question-and-answer marathon. I hope you enjoyed it - I did and am so thankful to Karen and GHP.

PS: If any nominees have a full blog calendar and can't squeeze in the homework for the award, no harm, no foul. Like Karen, I am just happy to recognize you!

11.19.2012

foolproof day.

I'll just come right out and say it: I got to meet The Barefoot Contessa. Along with about 1,000 others, at least. With my mom and Whitney (and Carson!), I stood in line for three hours for a 10-second interchange with one of my idols. It was quite a thrill, and I am not one for lines or celebrities. Period. Ever. For me, she is the exception.
{raspberry crumble bars, from The Barefoot Contessa: Foolproof, page 210}
Standing in line with a bunch of women - and a few, proud men - who share the same affinity for things like good vanilla and good olive oil, and who have dreams of dining in the Hamptons was kind of amazing. Even with new-found friends, I learned that no one should ever go a book signing alone. Thank goodness for my mom and Whitney, for we tagged teamed the whole ordeal, navigating between two massively, long lines before getting to meet The BC in person.

Nearly just as exciting was meeting her assistant, Barbara Libath. For about 5 seconds, I felt like I was best friends with both of them.

The signing was much more of a store event than anything else. As we ho-hum'd our way through the Disneyland-esque line, we were treated to a couple of things from the new book - both so absolutely delicious - made in the kitchen, right in front of our eyes by Williams-Sonoma chefs. Those recipes = easily worth the price of the cookbook alone.
{tomato crostini with whipped feta, from The Barefoot Contessa: Foolproof, page 66}
Buzzing with joy, I made it home to bask in the memory of her warm personality and familiar smile while I methodically flipped through every page of her latest cookbook, Foolproof. If you thought you were getting just another brilliant BC cookbook, you're mistaken, because this book offers so much more than just drool-worthy recipes.

In her introduction, she explains that this book is about giving us the tools to cook and entertain with confidence. Foolproof, you might say. She talks about her tried and true foolproof recipes, and how to shop for them. She gives you two full pages of her favorite foolproof entertaining menus, with recipes that span all eight of her cookbooks. She talks Thanksgiving, tips for the oven and tips for the freezer and all throughout are beautiful photographs of the 80-some new recipes.

For those of us who like to entertain and need a little confidence to pull it all together, this book is our guide. You kind of feel like she's right in the kitchen, cooking along with you, just like she says it should be, on page 17.

I can't leave you without a photo, can I? How about two? We weren't able to photograph, so I'm thankful to the Williams-Sonoma crew for capturing these moments in time, albeit a bit fuzzy. The last one is of my mom - just look at those smiles!
PS: On page 102 of the new book, I spied a recipe for balsamic roasted beets, atop arugula, with goat cheese. I squealed when I saw it. She used marconas. I think I might have to try that next time.

11.16.2012

thanksgiving recipe week + friday foto: save the best for last.

The only thing missing from this photograph is a big scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, which floats on a bed of  this warm and gooey pumpkin bread pudding, which was the grand finale of our big / mini Thanksgiving feast last weekend, thanks to Jeanine, creator of all recipes clean and delicious, over at Love & Lemons.
pumpkin bread pudding from paper{whites}
I love bread pudding. It's one of my all-time favorite desserts, and I've even made it for brunch. This souped-up holiday version might be just what the doctor ordered for your Thanksgiving spread. It's so cozy good, but not overly sweet, which is a nice relief after turkey, stuffing and sides. But, I have a weakness for cool vanilla bean ice cream on anything warm, and a spoonful adds a touch of decadence to this easy, rustic dessert that just screams fall.

Jeanine cooks with non-dairy products, so you will notice the pumpkin bread pudding calls for almond milk and coconut milk. I don't usually have them on-hand, so I used a mixture of full-fat and non-fat cow's milk, which you can certainly do, too. Jeanine suggested that the coconut milk might give the dessert a slightly sweeter flavor, which I do plan to try when I make this again.

Regarding pumpkin puree: you're not looking for a can of [Libby's] pumpkin pie filling. Pumpkin puree is more like soup, and is not sweetened like the filling. Trader Joe's is where I find my favorite brand of boxed organic pumpkin puree.

Hop on over to Love & Lemons for the full recipe. You will want to make this. Like, now. And then you'll probably want to make most everything else you see on her beautiful blog.

Enjoy, and have a great weekend, all!

11.14.2012

thanksgiving recipe week: roasted beet + goat cheese salad.

With arugula and roasted hazelnuts. Oh, yes. Roasted beets, flecks of goat cheese, roasted hazelnuts, atop a bed of arugula. No dressing required, really. Just a drizzle of honey and a quick squeeze of a lemon.
roasted beets, goat cheese & hazelnut salad from paper{whites}
Unlike the turkey and the stuffing, I really don't have an official recipe for this. It is a salad inspired by something I've tasted at one of our favorite spots - the Tin Roof Bistro. But, it's been a while, and I was reminded of the heavenly combination that is roasted beets and creamy goat cheese by my friend Lisa, who shared her roasted beet leftovers with me a few weeks ago. And I haven't been able to get them off my mind.

In Lisa's beet salad, she tossed in a sweet-flavored honey and apricot goat cheese, from Drake Family Farms, which should sound familiar to all Tin Roof/MB Post/Simmzy's devotees. The sweet goat cheese escaped my neighborhood, so instead I used plain goat cheese and added a honey drizzle. But if you can find Drake Family cheese - of any flavor - get it (Lisa buys hers at Whole Foods).

The natural flavors and sugars that come from roasting beets paired with goat cheese makes for such a good bite that there's not much to do here but throw everything together on a pretty platter. So, I'll share with you a very loose recipe that can be adapted to suit your taste. What I decided, though, is that beets work with turkey. And stuffing. And, goat cheese? Well, it works with everything.
roasted beets, goat cheese & hazelnut salad from paper{whites}
And a word about peeling hazelnuts: I did some Google'ing to get to the bottom of how to easily peel the nut. I am thankful to My Baking Addiction, who posted on the topic, citing Alice Medrich and Julia Child, so you know it works. Take a look at their method; it involves water and baking soda and between the juicy red beets and the dark hazelnuts, you will need a manicure after all this peeling, but it's so worth it. Promise.
roasted beets, goat cheese & hazelnut salad from paper{whites}
Roasted Beets, Goat Cheese & Hazelnut Salad
Serves 6

3 large red beets, peeled and cubed
3 golden beets, peeled and cubed
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup hazelnuts, peeled (see note above)
Handful or two (or three) of arugula
Drizzle of honey
Squeeze of a lemon

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a medium-sized bowl, toss beets with a good drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. Arrange beets in a single layer on a sheet pan (or two) and roast for about 20-30 minutes. Check at 15 minutes in, and toss for even roasting. Once caramelized (and delicious), remove from oven to cool, and transfer to a plate or bowl to sit at room temperature until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, dry roast the hazelnuts in a sauté pan over medium-low heat until you can smell the wonderful aroma of hazelnuts permeating your kitchen. Let cool and roughly chop. Set aside until plating.

Just before serving, on a platter, toss out an even layer of arugula as the salad base. Scatter the beets (and juices) on top of the arugula. Fleck goat cheese (a fork works well for this) and the hazelnuts over the salad. Add a quick drizzle of honey (if not using sweet goat cheese), a small squeeze of lemon and salt and pepper to taste.

One last note: I roasted the beets nearly seven hours before we enjoyed them. I let them sit at room temperature all day and they held up beautifully.

thanksgiving recipe week: sausage + herb stuffing.

Here's one perfect trifecta to start a delicious dish of stuffing: apples, celery and sweet yellow onion. Once sautéed, the medley is married with spicy and salty sausage, over a big bowl of toasted bread cubes. You really can't go wrong with this combo of flavors that pairs perfectly with herb-roasted turkey.
I know we all have our favorite stuffing. I am sure that most of us are very committed to our recipes. But I want you to consider the depth that apples, onions, celery, herbs and sausage gives to your plate of turkey. Served up at our November dinner party, this sausage and herb stuffing from The Barefoot Contessa was a beautiful complement to our Thanksgiving spread.

On a Whole Foods whim, I was charmed by the bags of cornbread chunks and opted to mix them with the cubes of a fresh Italian bread round. I do love the flavor of cornbread stuffing, but this particular store-bought shortcut required a lot more moisture, and therefore, I used more more than the one cup of chicken stock (probably close to two+). Just, fyi, in case you go the same route as me. Nothing that a little extra chicken stock can't fix. (It really is the duct tape of the kitchen pantry, isn't it? You can thank my foodie friend Lisa for that metaphor.)

While the recipe calls for Granny Smiths, I used Fuji apples, for it's what I had left from my last CSA box (for the record: the best apples I've ever had) and I loved their flavor in this dish. I also omitted the dried cranberries. For no good reason other than Eddie can only tolerate so many fruits in a savory dish. In general, baked fruit makes him fidgety, but he deals with it, thankfully. We are polar opposites in that category.

I prepped the stuffing while the turkey baked, and then popped it in the oven while the meat rested and got perfectly juicy before serving. The stuffing bakes at 350 degrees, so if you time it well, you can add another 350-dish to the oven at the same time.
The Barefoot Contessa's Sausage and Herb Stuffing
Serves 8 to 10

16 cups 1-inch bread cubes, white or sourdough (about 1 1/2-pound loaf)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick)
2 cups medium-diced yellow onion (2 small onions)
1 cup medium-diced celery (2 long stalks)
2 Granny Smith apples, unpeeled, cored and large-diced
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound sweet or spicy Italian sausage, casings removed (or, leftover chicken sausage from last week's soup)
1 cup chicken stock (more for really dry bread)
1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place bread cubes on a sheet pan (or two) in a single layer and bake for 7 minutes to crisp and slightly dry out the bread. Remove bread cubes and add to a large bowl. Increase oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, melt butter and add onion, celery, apples, parsley, salt and pepper. Saute over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened. Add to the bowl of bread cubes.

In the same sauté pan, cook the sausage over medium heat for 10 minutes, until browned and cooked through, breaking up the sausages with a fork as it cooks. Add sausage to bowl of bread cubes and vegetables and give it a good stir.

Add chicken stock and cranberries to the bread mixture, mix well and pour into a 9x12-inch baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes, until browned on top and hot in the middle. Serve warm.

11.13.2012

thanksgiving recipe week: herb-roasted turkey breast.

Unofficially, but officially, it's Thanksgiving Recipe Week on the blog. I have lots of good food for your consideration for next week's holiday. Which, by the way, is just days away. Yikes.
the thanksgiving table from paper{whites}
If you are hosting a small gathering - say six people or less (eight if you don't plan on having lots of leftovers), a whole bone-in turkey breast might be a great way to go. It's got all the good white meat; it cooks in less time; it's easy to slice and serve; and it's just plain cheaper than a whole big bird.

This was my second turkey roasting, and like last year, I slightly under-baked the turkey, bringing it to about 150 degrees Fahrenheit and then let it sit out, covered tightly in foil, for almost a whole hour before we cut into it. By that time, it was moist and juicy and oh-so-flavorful. You won't believe how few ingredients are needed to get this thing to be mouth-watering good (note: depending on your oven, your turkey may require a shorter or longer cooking time; cooking times always seem to vary for me in our beach rental, which is why a meat thermometer is key).

My favorite shortcut that complemented this turkey so well: really good store-bought gravy. I don't mean the kind from a jar. I mean gravy from a trusted, good deli, where they make it from scratch, as you would. Except this eliminates anyone from having to stand over the bird drippings, frantically whisking away while the rest of your food gets cold and hungry people get hungrier.

Our favorite place for delicious store-bought gravy is the Manhattan Market in Downtown Manhattan Beach and/or Bristol Farms. Both are so good and so worth it.
the barefoot contessa's herb-roasted turkey breast from paper{whites}
The Barefoot Contessa's Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast
From The Barefoot Contessa: How Easy Is That?, page 127
Serves 6 (8 for small bellies)

1 whole bone-in turkey breast (about 6.5-7 pounds)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons good olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup dry white wine

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place turkey breast, skin side up, on a roasting pan.

In a small bowl, mix all ingredients from the garlic to the lemon juice into a paste. Digging a bit with your fingers, loosen the skin from the meat to create some pockets, and smear half of the mixture into the pockets and directly on the meat. Spread the other half all over the skin (watch this BC video for a quick demo, if you like). Pour the wine into the bottom of the roasting pan.

Roast the turkey for 1 3/4 to 2 hours, until the skin is golden brown and reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit with an instant read thermometer in the thickest part of the skin. If the skin is over-browning, you can cover it gently with foil. When the meat is done, remove from oven and cover tightly with foil for at least 15 minutes.

Turkey veterans can weigh in here, but I recommend checking the temp after about one hour, and then again at 1 hour, 30 minutes. I tested in several places with each temp check, and after cooking for nearly two hours, got the meat to 150-155 degrees. I removed it from the oven and covered it tightly with foil for almost an hour before serving, allowing it to continue cooking itself. When it was meal time, it was juicy and still very hot when sliced and served.

Up tomorrow: stuffing. Are you hungry? I am.

Serveware: cranberry and gravy served up in Arte Italica cream and sugar - perfectly sized vessels for a small gathering. 

11.12.2012

nov. entertaining: giving thanks (and a DIY!).

Last year, on my mom's birthday, we made a whole Thanksgiving meal. It was the first time I'd ever cooked a whole bird, stuffing and the works in our house. It was December 25 - as you may recall, my mom is a Christmas baby - and this was my gift to her. I made some notes and took a few pictures in prep to share some recipes with you, this year, just in time for Thanksgiving.
thanksgiving placecards from paper{whites}
So this has kind of been a year in the making.

I cooked up a mini turkey day feast over the weekend for my family, thankful that they were our November dinner guests, for they put up with food coming and going, photo shooting and note taking. They were patient and appreciative and I was most thankful to share Saturday evening with them.
thanksgiving placecards from paper{whites}
Over the next four days, I'll be covering four dishes made, including turkey, stuffing, a side and a dessert - all that are make-ahead friendly, but in my case, were all prepped and made same day. I wasn't exhausted or stressed, and I think it's because I had a plan (and, really a cooking timeline), had made two of the four dishes before and had a great sous chef/dishwasher/babysitter. Thanks, love.

While the turkey cooked, I experimented with Thanksgiving centerpieces,which we're going to replicate next week on the big day (which, very thankfully, will not be at our tiny beach house!).

Channeling inspiration from Camille's post on The Thanksgiving Table (and, really, all her posts on the holiday entertaining topic), I arranged this pumpkin flower vase, and here's how you can do it, too.
pumpkin flower centerpiece from paper{whites}
What you need:
+ perfectly plump and relatively even (at the base) pumpkin
+ newspaper, knife/carving utensils and spoon
+ low bowl or round vase that will fit inside your pumpkin (one of these bowls worked great for me)
+ wet floral foam which you can pick up at your local craft store (not to be confused with dry floral foam (for dried flowers) that does not require water, obv.)
+ assortment of big, medium-sized and filler-sized flowers
+ water

Here's the step-by-step:
1. Spread out newspapers on your work surface.
pumpkin flower centerpiece DIY from paper{whites}
2. Using a serrated or very sharp knife, cut around the stem of the pumpkin. You can flip your bowl or vase upside-down to use as a tracing guide, or just eye-ball it. Remove the stem and the seeds/guts with a spoon and shave the interior of the opening so you can nestle your bowl/vase inside.

3. Cut down floral foam and squeeze it to fit in your vessel. It's better if it's a hair to big. It will scrunch and mold as needed. And then set/push/really shove both down into the base of the pumpkin.

Do not fill vase with water at this point; I've found floral foam works best when dry. You can sprinkle some flower food over the foam and bowl, if you like.
pumpkin flower centerpiece DIY from paper{whites}
4. Start filling in with flowers - with the big blooms first; then the medium-sized; then the filler. While the floral foam is soft, you want to guide your stems in with care so they don't snap. The foam is also very forgiving. If you don't like how something looks, just remove and place elsewhere. If you've never used floral foam before, you are in for a treat. It makes arranging so easy.

As you would do with hand-tie bouquets, shift the pumpkin around constantly so you can see it from all angles.
pumpkin flower centerpiece DIY from paper{whites}
From our local Vons, I picked up two hydrangea, alstroemeria and one bunch of cheap, drape-y filler. Based on what the market had, I drifted off into a white, pale pink, wisteria and sage palette. Very earthy and dreamy.

5. Stand back, admire and then fill the bowl/vase carefully with water (a skinny watering can works well - it's kind of like watering your Christmas tree - it's not totally easy once the flowers are in but it's not impossible).
pumpkin flower centerpiece DIY from paper{whites}
Come back tomorrow - I'll be starting with the main attraction: the turkey!

I also experimented with place card ideas; the tiny (business-card sized!) personalized thank you notes and envelopes pictured above are from the Martha Stewart line at your local Jo-Ann

PS: I would be remiss not to acknowledge Veteran's Day today. I am so very grateful to so many who serve and have served, including one very important husband and father who just returned from a 6-month deployment. Welcome home, Lt. Yonkman. And thank you (to all three of you!).

11.09.2012

friday foto: when one door closes.

Today I'm taking a break from the Friday Foto to bring you some really, really good news, especially for my Manhattan Beach and South Bay local friends: Christie is back, in a new home, in one of your favorite places.
This darling message was sent out earlier this week, announcing Christie, part deux. You may know that Manhattan Beach icon and lovely, lovely gift and paper shop, Christie, closed its doors after 28 years. It was a quick good bye for the town staple that for me, for the past 11 years, became one of my favorite spaces.

When we found out we were pregnant with Mari, Eddie made his very first baby purchase from Christie. When it came time for me to finally start putting some design into my own invitations, to Christie I went for guidance, advice and of course, beautiful printing. When my brother married Whitney, Christie printed their gorgeous wedding invitations.

The shop is very special to us, as are the ladies who have made it so - to Christie, Kim and Mara - thank you for years of beauty in Manhattan Beach. We are excited for the next generation of Christie, and will visit you often in your new space at Tabula Rasa.

Happy weekend, all!

11.08.2012

inspiration board: robbin's egg christmas.

So, I didn't win with my first Minted board, but I was featured on their Facebook page! That was kind of exciting, and got me inspired to create two more boards. Here's the first, and I'll share the second with you next week.

blue christmas by Alison, see more Minted
blue christmas board by Alison. See more Minted

You can vote for my board right here, and start your own, too (and win some $ while getting inspired)!

11.07.2012

five questions with: prof. photog. jenna hesse, on the topic of the family holiday card.

Sit back, grab a cup and take some notes. It's holiday photo card season, and if you are considering hiring a photographer for family portraits, read this post before you do anything! I asked my sweet friend and most talented photographer Jenna Hesse of San Francisco-based JennaBeth Photography to answer my top five questions on the subject.

Ready? Let's go.

one: how do I find a good photographer, and what am I looking for?
Finding a good photographer is easy, but finding a photographer whose images speak to you can be a little more challenging. Look for photographers with consistency in their work, and make sure you love most, if not all, you see. If you are 50/50 to like/dislike, keep looking.
Look for images that show joy and emotion and will allow you to look back on this time in your family's life and remember your children just as they were. Sometimes forcing kids to smile and 'say cheese' doesn't always produce those wall-hanging centerpieces. It's nice to just let them be as they are, doing something that they love. An activity during a photo shoot is always fun and can produce great shots!
two: what to wear and should we bring props?
I always recommend my clients wear colors; they photograph best. You don't have to be totally matchy-matchy, but rather create outfits that complement one another. Stay away from patterns that are busy and/or have logos near the face.
Props are great as long as they don't overpower the subject. Bubbles are one of my favorite props for families!
three: what kind of locations are best for family portrait sessions?
I'm an outdoor, on-location family photographer, so I like locations that are lush with trees, flowers and grass. The beach works well, too, if it's not in the middle of the day. In San Francisco, a lot of families request the Golden Gate Bridge for a backdrop, but it can get very busy if it's a weekend shoot. The lighting can also be harsh. Pick a location where there's a good amount of both shade and sunlight.

Don't stress too much about the location, as the focus is your family - not the background!
If your children are younger than six months and cannot sit up, I recommend shooting photos at home, where they'll be most comfortable (and warm!).
four: what time of day do you recommend shooting?
Early morning or late afternoon are ideal times for shooting. At those times, the sun is lower in the sky, and therefore less harsh, which creates a more even lighting on the face.
five: what are your favorite sources for holiday cards?
There are a lot of great card companies out there. I prefer to design my own, and print at Bay Photo. There are so many artists on Etsy that create templates for holiday cards. You can check them out here.

Jenna, thank you so much for putting together such a helpful post - and oh, those photos. You are so good!

Jenna is currently booking family photo sessions, on location in the San Francisco area. She also shoots frequently in Southern California and will travel to you. You can contact her via e-mail or visit her site or blog for more goodness.

Oh, and brides: she's also an amazing wedding photographer. Just look at her most recent love shoot featured on Style Me Pretty.

Today's post is the first in a new series, 'five questions with.' I have lined up some very talented business owners, entrepreneurs, foodies and the like to share their wisdom with paper{whites}. I hope you enjoy the series, and if you have any special requests, please drop me a line!

11.06.2012

today.

Image above created by yours truly, with all my knowledge from Alma Loveland's Illustrator 101. I now dream in Illustrator commands. And I love it!

11.05.2012

hello, soup season.

California is still getting odd temperature spikes, and it's November. It was in the 80s in some parts over the weekend, but the nights are getting cooler and cooler, which puts me in a soup state-of-mind.

One of my favorite things to do with some down time is to catch up on DVR'd Barefoot Contessa episodes. I cued up this Italian Wedding Soup that's basically amped-up chicken noodle soup, with some extras, like fresh spinach, dill and the most delicious baked chicken meatballs you've ever had.
The meatballs are made with ground chicken and chicken sausage for a salty kick, plus some luxury with a bit of parm and pecorino romano. Because they're baked, they seem easier than your average fried meatballs, and they're healthier. Win win. I am also thinking they would make a great marriage with spaghetti. Note to self.

Like most brothy soups, this starts with carrots, celery and onion, which you can sauté while the meatballs bake, and when they are cooked through, it's perfect timing to bring everything together. Don't let the lengthy recipe scare you off. It's easier than it looks - dare I say really easy - and it's so cozy and delicious.
On the topic of chicken broth: of course The BC makes her own, and it's fabulous. I have yet to make chicken stock from scratch. In my life. I'm sure I'll get around to it someday. Until then, I have found my favorite canned organic chicken stock and recommend you do the same if you aren't super woman and don't have loads of homemade stock stored away in the freezer.

Speaking of broth, this soup calls for very tiny pasta, which thickens the broth the longer it cooks. Because I made our soup a few hours before we enjoyed it, I thinned it with some additional stock, in the final re-heat before serving. The recipe calls for 10 cups, but I would say I used nearly 12 when it was all said and done.

Other than that, I followed The BC's recipe to the very last measurement, and you can too, if you hop on over to FoodNetwork.com. You can also find it in Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics, page 72.

What soups are you cooking up this season?

11.02.2012

friday foto: the birds + the bees.

Thank goodness the bee keeper suit wasn't too scary for our little lady bug. She was fascinated with it all night long!
I am so happy to report the tulle skirt + wings all came together! Mari wore both until she crashed, with her cousins, after a major dance party broke out on the walk streets of Manhattan Beach. I'm not sure who had more fun - the big kids or the little ones. One thing is for sure - young and old are all still recovering.

For Mari's costume, I followed last year's DIY, with the addition of some black pom poms. I will detail it next year when we start planning for Halloween all over again. And, as tired as I feel, I would be up for doing everything, all over again.

Have a happy, November weekend!

Mari's wings from One Step Ahead; antennae from Jo-Ann. Eddie's bee keeper suit = on loan from a very good friend. 

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

11.01.2012

holiday minted challenge.

Hope everyone had a great halloween. I'll have a Friday Foto of my little lady bug - I can't resist. She was so cute and we had so much fun. In the meantime, my brain is already on - and, frankly, has been for a week or so now - Christmas. Don't worry, Thanksgiving, I won't breeze by you so fast, but while I'm doing some light Christmas planning, Minted is helping me get in the mood.

Did you know you can create inspiration boards on Minted? Right now, they are hosting an inspiration board challenge, and since I'm addicted to clipping and pinning, I decided to get in on the action, starting with their Happiest Holidays photo card to get me going.
rustic christmas by Alison, see more Minted.com
rustic christmas board by Alison. See more Minted.com

This isn't just for fun, though. There are cash prizes at stake, and if you really like my board, you can help me win by giving it a little love over at Minted.

You can participate, too! Here's how to get started.