make a date.

Here's one final piece to my Pretty Paper Products portfolio that I've been pouring myself into over the last couple of weeks. I can't recommend this class highly enough!
12-month calendar, designed by paper{whites}
This calendar is sized perfectly, thanks to Alma's tip, to fit into plastic jewel cases that will sit right on your desk. I loved this project, and plan to print this at home to enjoy in my new home office (aka: our bedroom, for now)... but wouldn't letterpress be amazing?
I was inspired by Paper Source's letterpress desk calendars of old, specifically 2011, and my new iPhone case, with pretty turquoise stripes, just like you see above.

PS: speaking of my home office, thank you for your sweet notes of encouragement after Friday's post. I realize I may have left a small detail out, and that is to fill you in on my next adventure. I will continue to practice public relations in the events industry, and the best part is that I get to do it from home. I'm very grateful for this opportunity and look forward to a new challenge.

And I'm taking tips from all you work-from-home'ers, so send 'em my way!


pretty paper products.

Over the weekend, I got lost creating Pretty Paper Products for my current Nicole's Class, taught by Alma Loveland. Last week, we created business and greeting cards, and last night, I submitted this faux invitation for my homework.

I can't take any credit for this design concept; it's Alma's. I challenged myself to re-create her original, with some typography tweaks and the addition of triangle bunting and freehand'd birdies (inspired by this sweet book that Mari loves). Alma taught us how to create woodsy-inspired trees using AI's Transform -> Transform Each tool. Magical!

We also learned lots about creating photo cards in Illustrator, and here's my little owl, who you might recall from a few Friday Fotos ago. For this project, I got in lots of practice with Clipping Masks, went back to basics using the Brush tool and tried some new tricks with Opacity. All things that could have really helped me design our Christmas card.

Inspiration for this valentine's card again came from Alma, which you can view here. Plus, you can pick up some tips about Clipping Masks, if you're interested. Such good stuff on the Nicole's Classes Blog for the taking!


friday foto: life, lately.

I feel like I'm a bit behind. Everything. Lately.

I'm behind on reading, but I've managed to make a dent in Joy Deangdeelert Cho's Blog, Inc. Highly recommend, by the way.
I haven't even flipped through January magazines, and the February issues have already arrived. The pile is piling. And, I'm spending lots of time with my Macbook, but still so behind on my latest Nicole's Class, Alma Loveland's Pretty Paper Products. Last week, we got to design business cards and a greeting card. This week, we dive into invitations, photo cards and calendars. So, everything I ever wanted to learn to do. And more.

But I'm still behind. Ever have these kind of weeks?

I suppose it's a good thing. To be blessed with being busy, running from one thing to the next. Speaking of running from one thing to the next, I am making a leap and taking a new job after eight wonderful years with an amazing group of people. It is so very hard to wrap up a life that I have loved for so long, despite knowing that change is almost always a good thing. Still, it's hard and very bittersweet.

So, on any other Friday of the year, I'd generally say: 'TGIF' or 'I'm so ready for the weekend.' But, the truth is, if I could stretch out this week, just a bit more, I probably would. I am going to miss this.

Have a wonderful weekend. See you on the other side.

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


the circus is in town.

Do you remember this mention of Mari's cousin's first birthday party? Way back in October? Well, I am so excited to finally share that we've got photos, lots of 'em and you can get all the details over on Whitney's new blog, Sandpaper and Silly Putty.
Theme: vintage circus. Venue: her backyard. Details: so many good ones!

Today, she's talking food. Hop on over. You will be inspired!


two favorites from the trb.

I know I've gushed over Tin Roof Bistro before. It was the perfect setting for Krisa's baby shower last year, and on Monday, Eddie and I enjoyed a long overdue happy hour date on the bocce lawn, plus two of my favorite dishes from one of my favorite places.
Someday I will make a proper date to photograph this perfectly crafted restaurant. From the vine leaves that greet you out front, to the real tin roof, collection of vintage chandeliers and use of of things we love like chalkboards, clothes pins, wine corks and recycled glass bottles - this is a beautiful, cozy restaurant really well done.
And then, you sit down, are treated to some of the friendliest service in town, paired with delicious food, wine and beer, just like what we have come to expect from the Simms' restaurants (for more, see: Simmzy's and the MB Post).

Chef Anne - who, by the way, is so wonderful and so good at good, good food - makes two of my very favorite things that blow any other versions out of the water. On our little day off, we enjoyed Calamari Frito Misto and Seared Ahi Salad with a glass (okay, two glasses) of Bonaccorsi Rosé and a pint of The Strand Brewing Co.'s Atticus IPA.
The secret to the calamari is the flaky breading mixed with the dipping sauces; a sweet and spicy chili vinaigrette and a garlicky tartar sauce. And that salad? It is crunchy, smooth, sharp, sweet and creamy - all in one bite.

We come to Tin Roof for drinks that are hand-selected and food that's farm fresh and local, but it's more than that; sharing these dishes brought us back to a happy place, one that reminds us of lots of important celebrations with our family and friends, like birthday parties, showers and the first time Mari met her great grandmother. As we dined al fresco, we watched a sweet family of four play bocce on the TRB lawn and make some memories of their own.

We ended our date day with a quick stop in at Susie Cakes, which is conveniently right next door to Tin Roof. Basically, Monday was our perfect afternoon. Thanks to Mari's grandma for giving us a free day, just for us!

For locals or those visiting, happy hour is so worth it. But then again, so are dinner reservations. Seven days a week, you can enjoy happy hour (and bocce!) from 4 to 7 p.m. 


quick recipe note: banana bread(s).

This is a quick check-in today with a note on banana bread. Like lots of sweet staples, I am sure you have your own favorite recipe. In the last couple of weeks, Mari and I have baked more than a few mini loaves, and have some reporting to share.

First, we baked up my great grandma's recipe, which was the same recipe we used for Mari's first birthday cupcakes. It's simple and on an early morning with a few really ripe bananas, it's so easy. So easy, in fact, Mari helped me mix the dry ingredients (really, she loves the whisk) and by the time we were ready for a mid-morning snack, we ate it warm, straight out of the oven.
If you can't tell, we nearly finished off the first loaf before photographing. We could not stop snacking.

Regarding baking times, here's the update: For Mari's party, we baked cupcakes, which are generally shorter on baking time than your average loaf. I always opt for mini loaf pans, and with this recipe, you will yield four mini loaves, for which I recommend a 30-to-35-minute baking time, or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean after inserted in the middle of the loaf.

Last weekend, we tried the Barefoot Contessa's old fashioned banana cake and wow. Is it good and kept so moist with sour cream. It's a departure, though, for banana bread traditionalists, with some flecks of orange zest. So, there's a bit of a zing, which I welcomed but some people, like my husband, prefer to go without. Either way, it would make a lovely, lovely layer cake, which already has me thinking about Mari's second birthday. In July.

We again made mini loaves with The BC's recipe, which yielded three. Cooking time of 50 minutes was right on.

If you don't scarf down a loaf a day, both breads freeze beautifully when wrapped tightly with a couple of layers of plastic wrap (maybe inside a zippered plastic storage bag for for an extra good seal, though I usually tend to overdue things in the plastic department - something to work on for 2013). Enjoy!

PS: loaf pans of all sizes are hard for me to grab with oven mitts. I line them up on rimmed baking sheets for easy in/out of the oven.


friday foto: 01.13.13.

Someone turned a year and a half on Monday. I'm sure there are all sorts of exposure issues with this picture, but it's one of my recent favorites.
Look how big my 18-month old is. In the last month, I've watched her put objects, sounds and nearly whole words together. She communicates with me when she's full, when she's thirsty, when she wants her shoes on or off and when she'd like to snack on some pita chips with her own little bowl of hummus. Although sometimes she prefers pretzels with tzatziki.

Her favorite words are agua, truck, car and ball. She is cutest when she tries to woof like a dog or moo like a cow. She blinks her eyes extra long when we mention the word 'ojos,' the Spanish translation for 'eyes,' and she's nearly able to somersault all on her own.

She's a curious little soul who likes to make sure everything and everyone is just so. Above, she's tending to her favorite Teddy who spends most of his days waiting for her in her sweet little crib.

Love you, my Mari girl. Can't believe we made it to the 18-month milestone. Let's play this weekend!

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


venue alert: camarillo's mccormick home ranch.

One of my best work gal pals just got engaged! Hooray. So engaging to talk to the newly engaged, isn't it? As I bask in her glow and toss around venue ideas, wedding blog links and Snippet & Ink inspiration boards, I was reminded of a beautiful ranch just a bit north of us that we visited for a family wedding at the end of the year.

Eddie and I danced our brains out in cozy Camarillo, smack-dab in between Thousand Oaks and Ventura as we celebrated his cousin's nuptials. It's a sweet little area with farmland as far as you can see, and somewhere in the middle of nowhere sits a quaint, colonial-style farm house that is just about the most perfect backdrop for an outdoor wedding.
The McCormick Home Ranch is an all-outdoor venue that can accommodate up to 250 for a seated dinner. They provide you with most everything you need; you bring in your own caterer and alcohol - which may sound like a lot of work, but it's such a great way to go if you're on a budget. And, aren't we all?

During cocktail hour, I escaped to explore the beautiful setting, lush gardens and found some farm favorites - their beautiful barn, plenty of chicken wire and rustic old ranch equipment.
It made me day dream of our wedding day. Can we do it again?


comfort: favorite chicken noodle soup.

Cooking comforting in January is challenging (say that five times fast!). With the new year, I've turned to some healthy soups to warm the heart and soul, and stock the freezer. We got so much mileage out of my favorite split pea soup in the last couple of weeks, so over the weekend, I made an extra big batch of The Barefoot Contessa's Chicken Noodle Soup. It is hands-down Mari's favorite meal of the season.
I first tried this at my mom's house last fall, and was blown away at how simple but oh-so-flavorful this soup is. She is the genius who used Trader Joe's pappardelle noodles, and broke them in small pieces, giving your average egg noodles a boost and I think, a more luxurious texture. They also thicken the soup considerably, so for re-heats on nights two and three, I added more chicken stock to thin.

I also added a big bunch of kale, because we had it (thanks, Tanaka!). Miss Mari has a thing for wilted leafy greens, and while thankful, I have no idea where that came from.
All weekend, we enjoyed big bowls of this cozy, healthy goodness, rounded out with some crusty, warmed whole grain bread, and had plenty to share with some dear friends who just welcomed a baby boy to this world. Nothing like a little brand new baby love to blow your mind on your average Saturday.

Make-ahead note: this soup is made especially easy if you roast your chicken a day or two in advance (or even buy an all-natural pre-cooked chicken from your local market). And how about getting the celery and carrots diced ahead of time, too, while you're at it? It helps when your mom loves being a sous chef!

Click below for the full recipe.


friday foto: whooo is that.

Look at this cute little bug. I mean, owl.
Here is Miss Mari, debuting her Blueberry Hill knit owl cap that Santa scored from one of our favorite Manhattan Beach shops: Bella Beach Kids.

Kris and Tony at Bella are two of our favorite Manhattan Beach shop owners. They put up with dozens of baby-related questions when I was pregnant, and helped us with major parental decisions like: what stroller to buy. Over the last several months, it's become one of Mari's favorite places. She always heads straight for the play kitchen, and Bella welcomes her in with open arms and entertains her while I get to oooh and aaah over all things sweet in their adorable shop.

You can visit Bella online or you can take a stroll down Manhattan Beach Blvd. Right next to Simmzy's, you'll find one of the prettiest places in town. Oh, and they also have a Bella Beach for women. So many yummy things for us grown ups!

Have a lovely, lovely weekend, all!

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


app alert: white bean flatbreads with prosciutto + cheese.

And rosemary! Don't forget the delicious rosemary. I have saved this Food & Wine flatbread recipe since our last Foxen shipment in November, to be enjoyed with their 2011 Chenin Blanc. It brings together so many things that I love on a crispy pita: white beans, proscuitto, fontina cheese, rosemary and the topper: chopped marcona almonds.
I made this twice over the holiday, and think I've omitted a step (and some oil!) for you. One thing is for sure: a salted nut, preferably a marcona is a must. You think you have enough salt from the prosciutto, but the crunchy nut topping puts this over the edge into hors d'oeuvres bliss.

We snacked on this with Eddie's parents, our first dinner guests of the new year. We celebrated so many things, including a new adventure for them on the other side of the U.S., as they prepared for a move from Southern California to Miami. We fought back more than a few bittersweet tears, watching Mari giggle like crazy with her grandparents.

I made this with Eddie's dad in mind, for whom peanuts are a fifth food group, and we all agreed this happy hour treat paired very well with a glass of crisp white wine and/or a swig of good beer.
Best enjoyed warm out of the oven, but so yummy that you'll eat it cold, here's a new years-worthy flatbread recipe you will love.

White Bean Flatbreads with Prosciutto & Cheese
Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine, via Foxen Winery
Yield: 4 flatbreads

4 pocketless whole wheat pitas
One 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon crushed pepper
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary, plus extra for garnish
2 ounces chopped sliced prosciutto
1/4 cup salted marcona almonds*
1 1/2 cups shredded Fontina cheese

Preheat the broiler. Position a rack as close the the heat source as possible.

In a bowl, mash the beans, red pepper and rosemary with a fork. Mix in the proscuitto. Set aside.

Warm a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Toast each side of the pita breads until pretty crispy and golden.

Place pitas on a baking sheet and spread each with the bean mixture. Top with a sprinkle of cheese and then almonds. Broil for 2 minutes, or until cheese is melted and the nuts are lightly toasted. Let cool sligtly, garnish with fresh rosemary and cut into wedges. Serve warm with your favorite white wine.

A quick note: for the second round of pitas, I refrigerated half the bean and proscuitto mixture two days before using it and it saved just fine. You could prep everything a day (or so) in advance and have warm flatbread appetizers in less than 5 minutes.

*My new favorite dry, lightly salted - and not greasy - marcona almonds comes from ... Kirkland. In bulk. Available at your local Costco! Or, in my case: from my mom because she always finds the best finds.


sources: mari's play kitchen.

Thanks for all your sweet notes on Mari's little play kitchen. Every day, I watch her learn as her imagination grows. It's so much fun. I also don't mind partaking in some pretend play myself. What a little mind vacation it is to be in the world of Miss Mari. It always makes my days better.
custom IKEA play kitchen by paper{whites}
I am a big fan of glamming up basic Ikea pieces, with custom touches from favorite places like Anthropologie, The Home Depot and Etsy. If you're in the market for a play kitchen or considering going the Ikea route, here's the shop-easy list of sources for all the little add-ons you see above, and then some.

one // Ikea Duktig kitchen.

two // additional Duktig top section.

three // Ikea Raskog kitchen cart in teal.

four // a perfect fit to Ikea's pre-drilled holes on the lower cabinet and microwave: two Liberty Steel 5" Bar Pulls from The Home Depot.

five // Red Licorice Apron (and matching hand towels) from Little Lily Lulu.

six // Metropolitan Hook from Anthropologie (for installation: two small wood screws are needed and a drill is handy but not necessary).

seven // two Silver Mirrored Knobs from Anthropologie.

Also handy: a hacksaw to trim the excess from the Anthro knobs on the interior of the left door.

Not pictured: white magnetic kitchen timer from Anthropologie, only available in-store.

Need to add: a small rug to frame the area. Mari spends a lot of time on her little knees, going from cabinet to cabinet. She gets very busy!

The stainless tools you see are all from Ikea, referenced here. Instead of buying a bunch of play dishes and bowls, I repurposed what we had from some old purchases, including a plastic mixing bowl set from Ikea, some OXO kid plates and turquoise-lined melamine bowls from Target.

The play food we are enjoying includes Ikea's Duktig fruit basket, Plan Toys' assorted vegetable set, Pottery Barn Kids' bake and decorate cupcake set and Melissa & Doug's felt pizza set. Around the house, we regularly go shopping for all sorts of play food items with Mari's favorite shopping cart, from Melissa & Doug.

There are lots more details shots over at yesterday's reveal post, which you can check out right here.


reveal: mari's play kitchen.

When it comes to play and kitchens, I think Ikea takes the cake. Their set-up is an easy afternoon build that is easily customizable, which is exactly what I was going for.
custom IKEA play kitchen by paper{whites}
I had big dreams of building a kitchen, but when my mom nudged me to check out Ikea, I realized I could add a few bells and whistles to make it special for Mari without breaking out the tool kit, tape measure, drill and saw - and the budget. Like all things Ikea, it's affordable and it's bright and white, with a clean, practical design for little hands with big imaginations.
custom IKEA play kitchen by paper{whites}
custom IKEA play kitchen by paper{whites}
custom IKEA play kitchen by paper{whites}
To the kitchen, I added another Ikea item: an antique-looking metal kitchen cart to store all of her goodies. 
custom IKEA play kitchen by paper{whites}
My favorite thing about it: it's magnetic, which means perfect little kitchen timers from Anthropologie stick!
custom IKEA play kitchen by paper{whites}
Its teal color is a nod to my favorite item in her kitchen: her custom apron and matching towels. Sweet Lauren of Little Lilly Lulu made her the most perfect apron that looks just like mine, an old Antrho purchase. Lauren's creation was the piece that brought everything together.  
custom IKEA play kitchen by paper{whites}
My favorite details are the pink polka dot fabric knots and pleated skirt that match the hand towels.
Here are a few more detail shots of some custom additions, including the drawer/oven/microwave pulls you see above, plus glass knobs-turned-oven knobs and vintage apron hook. 
custom IKEA play kitchen by paper{whites}
custom IKEA play kitchen by paper{whites}
Tomorrow, I'll have the shop-easy list for all the sources so you can customize your own play kitchen, too. In the meantime, go over and check out Lauren's Etsy shop. Her creations would make the perfect gift for that little gal in your life - from bibs to tutus, tooth fairy pillows, blankets, baby hair pins, and of course, vintage aprons.

PS: Have you been following the Nicole's Classes Blog? You should. It's chalk-full of so many good design tips and beautiful, free downloads. It's a good dose of daily creativity. Yesterday, they featured one of my invitations I designed in Typography class back in November. I'm so excited to be included in a student feature. Check it out right here!


friday foto: play kitchen sneak peak.

Mari's play kitchen is my new favorite thing in our house, and I will be sharing photos and details with you next week, including all the sources for so many good details, like these beautiful knobs from Anthropologie.
She's cooking up lots of yummy things for us, like mushrooms, onions and birthday candles. Or her favorite: cupcakes with pizza sauce. Oh, the possibilities with pretend play!

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


the best job.

My husband and I are big fans of really well-done marketing campaigns and commercials. Him more than me. He has an eye and a mind for artfully crafted messaging and clever use of media. He is one of the smartest people I know when it comes to smart marketing.

We both have professional backgrounds on the topic, and while I don't post much on my day job, I did mention back in November that we met at the office. Our mutual love for the live events industry brought us together, and it's often a conversation topic at the dinner table. We do actually get to work together occasionally, which is really fun because it's occasional. We are in lock-step when we're out on the job and he makes me proud. 

He loves what he does so much more than most and it's inspiring.

He is good at what he does because he reads a lot. I find him surfing the web all the time, but he's not just surfing - he's knee-deep in research mode. Learning the newest breakthroughs in e-commerce; catching up on who's marketing to the Hispanic sports fan best; and in the past several days, catching up on Adweek's best-rated commercials of 2012

Yesterday, he interrupted some very important pasta salad making (more on that next week!) for this heart-swelling Proctor & Gamble ad. You'll remember strands of it from its run during the 2012 London Olympic Games. With very little dialogue, this ad communicates so very clearly, in different cultures in all different lands, that moms make dreams come true. 

This is the full version that you may have seen, may not. Either way, it's worth one more view as we settle into the new year. 
I am certain this tugs at me in a new way, now that I'm a mom. Even so, it reminds me of my own. I see visions of carpools to dance classes, torn ballet shoes, bobby pins, sequins and lots of hair spray. My mom french braided my hair too many times to count, and I loved it every time. Even when I was filled with utter fear of performing (which was really often), usually for piano recitals, my mom always made it better with a little french braid. 

Mom: thank you for all the braids, and for showing me how to do the best job in the world the best. I try every day to do the same for Miss Mari.

PS: if you're into this sort of thing - and by thing, I mean powerful story telling through video - watch Nike's Jogger ad


new year, new intentions.

Well, hello 2013! What a holiday season. Just a few days after Christmas, I started a bit of a house cleanse, and it felt so good. I am list-making to tackle a few really neglected spaces in our house this month, including the garage and our multi-purpose closet that holds everything from craft and wrapping supplies to purses, the vacuum and photo albums. It's a mess, hasn't been touched since before Mari was born and January seems like a good month to try to get it under control.
Along with some organizing, I'm also making writing my 2013 intentions. Looking back on last year's list, I feel pretty good. I feel good that most intentions turned to reality, and became a part of my life; the monthly dinner parties, furthering my creative education and cooking fresh for our family. Sure, I fell off the wagon here and there - I think there was a good two-to-three month stretch without dinner guests, and while I got to read to Mari on most nights, I didn't really do it for myself.

There's one intention that I didn't get to - at all - and it crushes me. And that is Mari's first year baby book. I didn't even touch it. Starting today - you can hold me to it - it's at the top of my short, but very specific 3-intention list. Here goes.

Make Mari's first year baby book.
A hold-over from last year, I am getting hung up on the fear of organizing thousands - thousands - of photos. I do have a sweet baby milestone calendar, on recommendation from Mary, that is going to help me pull it all together. My hope is that this intention inspires the next very important one.

Print out 10 of my favorite photos each month.
A co-worker of mine reminds me that photos on a screen mean nothing until you can print them out, and hold them with your own two hands. He's inspired me to re-discover what photos are meant for: memories that you can hold onto, touch and share. In person.

Practice yoga twice each week.
This doesn't sound too hard, does it? After going from practicing four times each week to barely four times in four months, this is a big challenge for me. Yoga helps me feel good in so many ways, about so many things, and I miss it. I need it.

There are lots of little things on my list for Spring, like re-planting my herb garden that has suffered from the cold and rainy outdoors, taking more Nicole's Classes and hosting friends, old and new, over for dinner on a regular basis.

What are your big plans for 2013?

PS: I'd like to tell you that I grew the paperwhites you see above, but they were gifted, already blooming. I have yet to actually plant bulbs. Is it too late?!