Monday, December 9, 2013

quick link: slate picks for best books 2013

Slate published their staff picks for the best books of 2013! If I were rich, I'd buy this one for my dad. These illustrations look breathtaking. I'm hoping to read this one while on maternity leave but before baby girl makes her appearance. Because I won't have anything else to do, right?!

PS. A friend bought me this book and it's amazing. She's hilariously inappropriate and I'm a little more conservative when it comes to sexual stuff, and we both laughed a lot while flipping through this. I have a photo of The Husband reading it, but he absolutely forbids me from posting it here, unfortunately.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

artist: danielle tanner

Danielle Tanner of the shop GirlAndParrot on Etsy has a ton of beautiful prints and original paintings. My personal favorite (above) is the first original piece she could not bring herself to sell (though she does offer prints of it in her shop). She also has a sweet little blog you should check out, too. 

Also, she does indeed have a pet parrot named Flojo. I'm usually not huge on birds, but this little guy is pretty cute. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

vegan thanksgiving recipes part iii

I've been raving about my father-in-law's vegetarian stuffing recipe on this blog and in real life. Every year, I start talking about this stuffing on November 1. He resents the pressure to excel, but is always sweet enough to make extra stuffing for me. And you guys, it is the best.

After multiple emails and general annoying follow up from yours truly, this is the best I could pry out of him in terms of a recipe. I apologize for letting you down, but you really can't go wrong with this mix of ingredients. When we have vegan family members attending, he uses veggie broth and omits the egg. I've crossed out the non-vegan ingredients in this excuse for a recipe he gave me.
You know, Steph, I never do it the same.   And I just use amounts that seem right, depending upon the size of the end product…  I use that store-bought bread cubes…just plain bread cubes.   Lots of chopped yellow onion.   Much less (about ¼ as much) chopped celery.  A whole lot of sliced mushrooms.   I use crimini, but you can use any kind.   Usually chop up an apple or two.    Dried cranberries.  Sometimes I throw in pine nuts, or other nut meats that I may have around.  Very small pieces.   Lots of parsley.   Chopped.   An egg or two.   Then low sodium chicken broth, or if truly veggie, then use vegetable broth.    Salt and pepper to taste.  Fresh sage and thyme….lots of it, chopped well.   Then wash your hands, and stick them in it and mix it up real well.    I put it in low sided casserole dishes, maybe 2 to 4 inches deep, max.   Cover with aluminum foil and bake at about 350 to 375 for about one half hour.   If the pans are deep, maybe cook an extra ten minutes.   If you like it a bit crispy on top, then remove the foil for the last ten minutes.
Coming up next: the perfect apple sauce with no added sugar. I am making this, so I promise it will be an actual recipe next time.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

nursery to-do list

I am 6.5 months pregnant and the nursery is not finished. I know this is normal, and that most people don't get the nursery done until weeks, if not days, before the baby decides to make his or her appearance. But I am Type A neurotic and a planner, so this is generally unacceptable to me. Don't worry; The Husband tells me I am crazy on a daily basis.

Our list:
  • Donate clothes and other items that are taking up our limited storage space. Move items to our teensy garage.
  • Get rid of extra dresser and set up large drawers in nursery closet for The Husband's clothes.
  • Ikea trip for a solid wood unfinished crib, armchair (update: we got this armchair instead; way more comfortable AND cheaper), and small laptop table (update: we got this laptop table instead because it's more stable). Possibly purchase some new nightstands to make room for the cosleeper in our bedroom.
    • Survive putting all these items together. Hope that the instructions do not drive The Husband and I to divorce.
    • Paint wood crib with no-VOC white paint and seal with water-based acrylic gloss in order to prevent paint peeling and chipping, especially from baby teeth.
    • Attach glider / rocker base to armchair to make it a glider chair, as shown here.
    • Paint metal portions of laptop table gold, or use gold leaf. Accept that the laptop table you purchased instead will not be pretty, but it is also sturdy enough to not fall on your child's head.
      • Give away current desk.
  • Find a place to move the beloved lingerie dresser / craft cabinet (bedroom or living room?)
  • Purchase blackout roller shades in white.
  • Purchase cheapo white curtains. Realize you did not buy enough while at Ikea. Purchase more from their website. Remove hideous finials and paint curtain rods that came with the house.
  • Purchase long dresser to double as changing table.
    • Fill hardware holes, sand, and repaint. Drill new holes for knobs.
    • Attach cute knobs that aren't baby death traps.
    • Line drawers.
    • Secure changing pad to top of dresser.
  • Cut, fold, and glue colorful cardstock paper shapes to make mobile. Hang from painted embroidery hoops. Make one for over crib, one for over changing table.
  • Paint walls and trim with no-VOC paint.
  • Figure out storage and organization for diaper supplies (on top of dresser? Install wall shelves above baby's reach?).
  • Get some sort of cute storage bin or basket for toys.
  • Find and purchase inexpensive art and frames.
  • Sew throw blanket / toddler bed-sized comforter.

Friday, November 8, 2013


In case it wasn't obvious, I kind of love my cat. A lot (maybe too much). We adopted her from the Ojai Valley Animal Shelter almost 3 years ago, when she was only a few months old. She grew from a shy, scrawny little creature into a big (14 pounds!) kitty who loves snuggling with me and attacking The Husband.

Fiona isn't very a good huntress. She has never successfully caught any sort of creature, not even a moth. Once, we watched her try to attack a tiny spider. She'd run at it, almost pounce, then wimp out and run away squealing in terror. This cycle repeated itself for almost an hour. The spider survived (easily).

We have to put vases of flowers (I always have flowers!) in places Fiona cannot reach, because she likes to chew the flower buds off of the stems.

Fiona loves to hang out in the bathroom sink while I'm putting on makeup. It's as annoying as you think it is.

Fiona also likes to jump in the bathtub as soon as you're done with your shower, or at least lurk between the shower curtains. It's as creepy as you think it is.

Fiona is good at fetch. If you throw a crumpled piece of paper, she will race after it and bring it back to you (or at least halfway back, depending on her mood).

Fiona doesn't have any sort of survival instincts or typical cat street smarts. When something scares her, she either falls on her back with her belly exposed (think fainting goat) or runs to her scratcher and hides her head underneath it. She thinks that if her head is hidden, she's safe, which puts her self-preservation instincts on par with a toddler's. 

Fiona is the most affectionate cat I have ever encountered. She loves to curl up on The Husband's lap or my shoulder. If she is sleeping next to me, she will reach out a paw to make sure she is touching me. Her happiest moments are when she can touch The Husband and I simultaneously while sleeping. She also likes to sleep on television remotes. It's weird.

Fiona likes to lay on a shelf between the kitchen and living room and swipe at anyone who walks by. Considering you have to squeeze by the shelf to get into the kitchen, she gets a lot of targets to hit. This makes The Husband really mad.

Whenever The Husband first gets out of bed in the morning, Fiona chases him and bites his feet while he tries to walk. He swears loudly at her throughout the process and I laugh. It's a good way (for me) to start the day.

Fiona is a complete nut and a bit more high-maintenance than your average cat, but we can't help but love her. She's been the queen of the house for the past three years, so we shall see what happens when baby girl arrives and knocks her off of her throne. Until then, we will keep enjoying her crazy ways. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

vegan thanksgiving recipes part ii

This Thanksgiving recipe is pretty basic, but super yummy. Roasted root vegetables are healthy, flavorful, and very easy to cook. Adding sage and thyme really ties them into the rest of the Thanksgiving dish flavors. Use whatever winter root vegetables (or squash! and then let me know how that works out because I've never tried it!) make you happy. I just made this recipe up when I had a bunch of leftover root vegetables from another recipe, so it's by no means an exact science.

The important thing is chopping everything up to a size that enables everything to cook evenly. In general, carrots and parsnips will cook the fastest, followed by the sweet potatoes, and finally the regular potatoes. So I make sure to chop the carrots and parsnips a little bit larger than the potatoes. Also, make sure there's enough room in your casserole dish for every vegetable to be touching the bottom of the dish while roasting, and stir everything around mid-roast.

Roasted Root Vegetables
A healthy & easy side dish for the fall
Servings: 6

2 small or 1 large sweet potatoes
4 medium carrots
2 parsnips, peeled
2 small potatoes of your chosen variety
2 tablespoons olive oil
Dried sage, thyme, oregano, basil, rosemary (to taste - but go bigger with the sage than the other herbs)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Cut carrots and peeled parsnips into 1 - 1.5 inch pieces.
3. Cut sweet potatoes and regular potatoes into .5 - 1 inch pieces. (See photo above for relative veggie sizes)
4. In a large casserole dish, pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil and use a paper towel to coat the inside bottom and sides of the dish with oil.
5. Place all the veggies in the dish and drizzle with remaining oil. Sprinkle dried herbs as desired and use hands to mix everything together, coating the vegetables with oil and herbs.
6. Put casserole dish on middle rack of the oven for 40-50 minutes, or until fork tender. After the first 20 minutes, use a large spoon to stir the vegetables and expose different parts of them to the bottoms and sides of the dish.
7. Allow to cool briefly before serving. Keeps well and is tasty cold or reheated.

Coming up next: THE BEST STUFFING RECIPE EVER, and it just happens to be vegan. That is, if my father in law ever sends the damn recipe to me. But seriously guys, it's the best stuffing I have ever had in my entire life. Get ready.

Monday, November 4, 2013

my second trimester lifesavers

I am less than two weeks away from my third trimester. Holy crap.

My second trimester was, overall, much easier than my first. Though my morning sickness actually worsened in the first weeks of this trimester, getting on Zofran made all the difference. Regaining my energy level was amazing. Besides the normal and natural improvements that come along with the second trimester, ere are some things that made my life much more enjoyable:

1. Coconut Oil - My skin has always been dry, but it has crossed the line into super dry since I became pregnant. I was drinking a ton of water and religiously applying body lotion, but still feeling itchy and gross. An esthetician recommended that I try using coconut oil. This sounded gross and crazy to me, and I didn't bother to try it for weeks. Finally, out of desperation I decided to go for it, deciding I would just jump back in the shower if the oil was as terrible as I expected it to be. I bought an additional jar of TJ's extra virgin coconut oil (because bringing the jar of oil I cook with into the bathroom is gross). I applied small amounts of coconut oil all over my skin right after exiting the shower, while still dripping wet. was amazing. My skin has been doing so much better. It's moisturizing without being overly greasy and I don't feel like I'm drowning in oil. Get the extra virgin, unrefined version to ensure there are no crazy additives like soy or weird chemicals.

2. Grapefruit Essential Oil - My feet have been swelling a lot throughout the second trimester, and sometimes hanging out with my feet up just doesn't help enough. Grapefruit essential oil was recommended to me by another lovely hippie in my life, and a Babycenter article I stumbled upon also recommended it as a remedy for swollen pregnant lady feet. I put a few drops into a bit of body lotion, and have The Husband rub it into my feet for a couple minutes. I really think it's been helping my feet deflate more quickly when I put them up, but worse case scenario, it smells amazing and I get a foot rub out of it. Just make sure to always combine a couple drops of essential oil with a carrier oil, like olive oil (or in my case, oily body lotion), since the undiluted essential oil can be too strong for your skin to handle; also, test out the essential oil + carrier oil on a small patch of skin before putting it all over your body. (PS. Here's a list of essential oils to avoid during pregnancy)

3. Ginger Echinacea Lemonade - For when I'm feeling a little rough, but not nauseous enough to necessitate a dose of Zofran. Echinacea should be safe during pregnancy (link is to a resource my doctor recommended) but obviously I'm not your medical expert so make your own decisions. The sugar and ginger combination seems to bring me back to normal.

4. ASOS Maternity Clothes - I'm cheap but like to try to look nice, yoga pants notwithstanding. I generally dislike spending a lot of money of a piece of clothing, and absolutely hate doing so for maternity clothes, since the time frame in which I will be wearing them is very limited. Old Navy maternity shirts and dresses are a little too casual / unfashionable for me personally, and while I love my jeans and other pants from Motherhood Maternity, the prices for their cuter tops are a little more than I want to pay. Enter ASOS maternity section. They have a ton of cute clothes and stuff is always on sale. I've grabbed a gorgeous long dress (under $55!) for a maternity photo shoot next month, as well as a couple shirts (under $15 each!) that help me feel less fat / grungy. The size differences made me die a little inside (pre-pregnancy, I was a US size 2, I wear UK size 8 in the ASOS maternity clothes), but my ego can handle it. I will definitely keep shopping there even when I am not pregnant.

5. The Husband - As always, The Husband is by far the biggest lifesaver for me. He is so kind and nurturing, and downright spoils me a lot of the time. He also tries to limit how much he makes fun of me when I eat a scary amount of cookies in one sitting. He can tell when I'm completely run down (even when I lie and try to hide it), and will step up and deal with things so I can rest. And all this is in addition to being hilarious, intelligent, kind, and a great partner. I'm so lucky.

Friday, November 1, 2013

vegan thanksgiving recipes part i

Can you all believe it's November already? Do you know what that means? That my favorite holiday is just around the corner. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year because of its emphasis on family without being preoccupied by gifts. Also, the food doesn't hurt.

The Husband's family is an interesting mix of vegans and carnivores, so Thanksgiving with his family is filled with both traditional and creative dishes. There are a couple vegetarians on my side of the family that have inspired some great dishes, too. Over the years, I have enjoyed amazing vegan dishes cooked by others, and whipped up a couple vegan recipes myself. Between now and Thanksgiving, I plan on sharing some of these recipes here.

(cooking! with a rather large belly! also, how terrible are those orange linoleum counters? i'm trying to own it with the cafe curtains)

This first is a twofer! After the jump, my mom's amazing vegan gravy recipe (with some minor tweaks by me) and my mashed cauliflower (mashed potato alternative) recipe.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Last week, I had a dream that I was holding our little girl. It was a wonderful dream. I'm glad for these nine months of preparation, but I am officially (emotionally) ready to meet this girl. Less than two months ago, I was still adjusting to the fact that I was even pregnant, and now I'm impatient for the next step. Oh how things change so quickly.

(nyc. i told the husband that if he wears a khaki shirt and khaki pants, i will assume he is a zookeeper and knows everything about animals. guess what he wore nearly every day on our trip?)

On the practical side, I am definitely grateful for a bit more time. There's a lot we need to do, including a much-dreaded trip to Ikea for a crib, armchair, and all the magical little Ikea items we never know we need until we are there. And we almost filed for divorce last night after trying to put together a baby bouncer for an hour. The wonders of parenthood are already upon us.

PS. I found a website that clearly explained how all the state and federal maternity leave laws come together, which is pretty much a miracle. Check it out here: (applies to CA only).

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

quick link: discount tickets to alton brown

Santa Barbarians! Groupon is currently offering discounted tickets to Alton Brown's live show at the Granada on October 23. The Husband loves Alton Brown because he is really into food science as well as general cooking information. I love Alton Brown because he's completely insane. The Princess Bride reference in his show description didn't hurt either.

Alton Brown tour website here. Sign up for a general Groupon subscription here.

Friday, October 11, 2013

thoughts on pregnancy thus far

(took this photo right after we found out we were expecting)

At just over halfway through, I finally have the energy and ability to reflect on the past few months and what is to come. I honestly don't have much to say, besides that I am very content and happy. Before getting pregnant, I was worried that I wouldn't be 'good' at it - that I'd eat the wrong things, or miss wine too much, or not be able to attend to my daily life, or be too emotional / depressed to thrive. Looking back, that was just typical worrywart Stephanie coming out, and I now realize my fears were unfounded and that I am generally stronger than I sometimes think I am. Being pregnant has been a wonderful experience and I've tried to appreciate every moment of it. Even the "hung over on a boat"-feeling of morning sickness, and the worries about if baby girl is doing okay, and the weight gain that has slightly bruised my ego. Especially the little kicks I feel daily (which on a sentimental level are amazing, on a purely physical level are weird), the tenderness and happiness that emanates from The Husband whenever he looks at my belly, and the excitement we both feel at meeting this little girl next year.
(8 week ultrasound)

I think a huge reason why I have been so happy and content is that this pregnancy is planned and wanted (I feel even more strongly pro-choice now than before I got pregnant because this is a lot to go through and should be chosen, not forced upon someone). I am proud of us for making life decisions that had our future family in mind for the past 6 years; these decisions are allowing us to grow our family without significant logistical concerns. The Husband and I have also grown and matured together over the course of our relationship, and I am so grateful to be in such a stable, healthy, and happy relationship that is full of passion and laughter. I mean, no one's ever 100% prepared for a child (I honestly have no idea what to expect next year!), but we have done our best with what is within our control, and have faith that the rest of it will work out. We will do our best to be good parents who raise children with a sense of responsibility, empathy, and positivity. Any failings we will have will not come from lack of trying, at least.

(taken just before rushing out the door for a concert. 22 1/2 weeks.)

As for giving birth, I'm not going to pretend like I'm not nervous about the experience. Childbirth sounds, honestly, kind of scary, though I'm trying to view it as an overall positive experience (and if all else fails, at least I'll get a baby out of it). I don't really have a super strong opinion about how I give birth. I'd prefer to avoid a c-section just because it's major surgery, not because it would be taking away from my overall birth experience or some similar egotistical mindset like that. I'm not exactly looking forward to pain and will do my best to use breathing and relaxation for pain management, but I know I'll probably get an epidural if it gets to the point where I'm willing to sacrifice my mobility during labor to get pain relief. But who knows? Maybe I'll end up eating my words, but at least I accept that this experience may go one of several ways and that as long as our little girl is healthy and okay at the end, I will be okay, too.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

easy + healthy cauliflower soup recipe

It suddenly feels like fall around here, though it probably be 80 degrees again in a couple days. I'm taking advantage of the cooler weather by cooking soup. Soup is my favorite thing to cook - it doesn't have to look pretty or require any sort of finesse in the kitchen to be tasty. I decided to throw together a couple ingredients in the dutch oven after work today and see what happened - and a very tasty soup came out of it. It's also the simplest, easiest soup ever....and quite healthy and vegan-friendly. Just cauliflower, shallots, garlic, turmeric, water/broth, thyme, and a bay leaf! Recipe after the jump.

(i am so, so good at getting hipster picture of the ingredients. and then i fail at taking subsequent cooking photos. sorry.)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

eat your way through brooklyn

My trip to NYC with the husband in mid-September was probably one of my favorite vacations ever. We rented an apartment through Airbnb to save a ton of money on lodging and have a full home base. It was the cutest studio apartment in a great part of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and the girl we rented it from was the sweetest person ever with the best food and shopping recommendations. Shoot me an email if you're interested in staying there and I'll give you the scoop!

We did plenty of the cultural / touristy things one normally does in NYC, so I'll spare you the details on that stuff and go straight to my favorite part of the trip (and life): EATING.

(beautiful picture of beet & apple soup stolen from Brooklyn Soup Club)

Diner is an awesome little restaurant that was right around the corner from our apartment. Their menus change daily, which is fun. The Husband and I went there with our friend (who is a private chef! how cool is that?!) on our first full day in NYC, and all three of us were really impressed by our food. I am also committed to reproducing their beet and apple soup here at home one day soon, it was that tasty. Recipe will be posted here if I ever figure it out.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

the best salad dressing + a really easy salad recipe

My wonderful mother-in-law moved to Santa Barbara a few months ago, and we've all done pretty well at getting together on a weekly basis. Right before we went to NYC, Emma invited us over for an early dinner. She lives in a gorgeous Victorian building with lovely wooden floors and tons of sunlight streaming through the huge bay windows.

At this dinner, Emma introduced us to the best salad dressing ever: Annie's Shiitake Sesame Dressing. It's organic, which is always a plus, though unfortunately there's no low sodium / low fat version. That being said, it's still a lot healthier than most dressings out there. Emma served it with roasted turnips, sesame seeds, avocado, mushrooms, and tofu, which was an amazing combination.

Baby girl seems to like it, too, considering the ninja-like kicks I've been feeling after dinner lately.

After the jump, check out a really simple salad recipe (can I even call it a recipe when it's this easy? Salad idea?) that goes wonderfully with this dressing.

Monday, September 30, 2013

what i've been up to

It's certainly been a while, hasn't it? I blame the morning sickness that has persisted for the entirety of this pregnancy thus far and exacerbated by looking at a computer screen. Thankfully, I finally admitted I needed some help and got a prescription for Zofran from my doctor. Thank you modern medicine!

In the past couple months, I haven't really accomplished much, besides continuing to grow a human, taking a wonderful trip to NYC, taking a few small trips throughout Southern CA, and preparing for the arrival of said human as much as I can. I also discovered a fun little iPhone app called Studio App, which is like lazy Photoshop for your phone. I'm using it to make fun little illustrations for an upcoming NYC post. Stay tuned.

Until then, here are just a couple images from the past month or so.

(a woefully outdated 17 week belly shot)

(20 week belly photo taken at 4:30 am, hence the cut off faces)

(i'm reading every pregnancy/parenting book i can get my hands on. even the crazy ones.)

(a sweet surprise gift from The Husband - a pretty diaper bag i had been coveting)

(central park)

(one of the many nursery projects that are current in progress. hardware coming soon)

(the studio app is so fun!)

Monday, July 22, 2013

my 1st trimester lifesavers

I'm almost out of the first trimester. I'm excited to move into this next stage, where hopefully my energy will come back and I'll start looking more pregnant with child than pregnant with the cupcake I am currently eating. I've had a really easy pregnancy thus far, but hopefully this list of things that have helped me get through this first trimester will be of use to other pregnant ladies out there:

1. Morning Wellness Tea - my pregnancy guardian angel (aka my friend Mindy) has saved my life with this tea. My nausea worsens as the day goes on, and this tea truly did settle my stomach. A cup in the middle of the work day helps me keep it together until I can go home and relax, and a cup before bed allows me to relax and not to go sleep feeling miserable. 

2. Preggie Pop Drops - another item courtesy of my pregnancy guardian angel. I fell in love with these because they're super tasty, and then was completely shocked when they actually did help curb my nausea. The Husband and I each ordered a lifetime supply of these without consulting the other. I've been telling him we have to have about 7 kids now just so I can get through our supply of these candies.

3. Yoga Pants - yup, I am already no longer fitting into my normal jeans and slacks. That's more due to my I MUST EAT EVERYTHING food cravings than the growth of The Creature (my nickname for the little one - The Husband is not amused), but whatever works. Yoga pants are saving my life and I'm pretending they're appropriate for the office.

4. TJ's Lavender Salt Scrub - this stuff smells amazing, makes my skin super smooth and soft, and doesn't irritate my skin in the slightest. Also, it's incredibly inexpensive compared to the fancy salt scrubs out there. I don't know how some people live without Trader Joe's. Using this scrub feels indulgent and the smell doesn't make me feel sick, which is kind of a miracle. (Note: the link I provided has it selling for a bit more expensive than at the actual store)

5. Sparkling Water - my favorite is Perrier, which Costco sells in little bottles in bulk (woo hoo!). The bubbles seem to help settle my stomach, and there's no sugar like there is in ginger ale. Pour it in a wine glass and feel extra fancy.

6. The Husband - he's not widely available for others' use, but I do have to mention how amazing The Husband has been. He's been cooking and cleaning while I lay semi-comatose on the couch, debating whether it is time to lose my lunch or fall asleep. I am so lucky to have such a wonderful, nurturing, capable man. Single ladies, I applaud you, because this pregnancy stuff is tough and I could not imagine doing this without significant partner support.

Any suggestions for other life-saving products? I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing, so any advice is much appreciated.

Friday, July 19, 2013

radio silence around here.

So it's been pretty quiet around here because, as I mentioned on facebook yesterday, The Husband and I are expecting our first child! We are THRILLED, there are seriously no words to describe how happy we are. I have been avoiding posting on the blog because looking at a computer screen makes me feel incredibly sick (which is awesome when 80% of your job requires you to be in front of a computer). I love the internet, but not enough to make myself sick over it. However, I am optimistic that the morning sickness phase is coming to an end (though I have said this before and oh how wrong I have been) and will be around a bit more. I have a lot to write about. Mainly, things about the first trimester that surprised me (nothing too TMI, I promise), some amazing artists I have found, and how being pregnant has affected my feelings about reproductive rights. Also, if anyone can recommend parenting/pregnancy blogs, especially those run by hippie feminists, and some fun design blogs that are child or baby-centered, I'd much appreciate it. I am in completely new territory.

Wish us luck with this new amazing journey!

Friday, June 14, 2013

what should a couple of santa barbarans do in nyc?

The Husband and I are heading to NYC in September to visit friends and explore. I've never been before, and it's been years since The Husband has. Any recommendations for things to do and (most importantly) eat? I basically plan on munching my way through the city. And buying some jewelry here.

PS. An eloper's guide to NYC. We may splurge on a dinner or two at places on this list. And another NYC guide from the contingent of evil hipster brides.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

a great recipe + poached egg tip

This past weekend, The Husband and I made this delicious chard and white bean stew. We followed the recipe to the T, minus using large lima beans we already had around, adding extra veggies, and using rainbow chard for extra color. We served it upon toasted french baguette rubbed with garlic and with a poached egg on top.

It was really, really hearty and soooo good. It's definitely been added to our recipe rotation. Poaching eggs is not easy, though! I am definitely going to purchase an egg poacher tray thing. If The Husband can't pull it off (he is beyond talented in the kitchen), there's no way I will be able to.

I was a little leery of eating a poached egg, since I contracted mild food poisoning a couple weeks ago for the first time. Not. Fun. A poached egg is not cooked thoroughly enough to eradicate any possible salmonella that may be present in the egg, which is of major concern to anyone who is in ill health, pregnant, etc. We turned to Harold McGee's On Food & Cooking book to see if he had any tips on cooking a safe poached egg, and he did!

McGee recommends that, after poaching the egg in a pan, transfer it to a pot of water heated to 150 degrees. While keeping the temperature steady, allow the egg to sit in the hot water for 15 minutes. This will safely eradicate any bacteria that may still be lurking in the runny yolk. We tried this, and it did not affect the integrity and tastiness of the poached egg at all. So, if you've been told by a doctor to avoid poached eggs because of food-borne illness concerns, fear no more!*

*not that I think I'm better than your doctor or anything, so don't be stupid about this.

Monday, June 10, 2013

artist: bruno catalano

Bruno Catalano is an artist from southern France whose sculptures are blowing my mind. This series of sculptures, called "Les Voyageurs," are all of people with their suitcases in hand and the middle of their bodies missing. Maybe that is what they are setting out to find in their journeys...

These sculptures are each one whole piece, delicately wrought and connected. You can currently check these out in person if you travel to eastern France.

Thanks to The Husband for sharing this with me!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

our anniversary trip!

The Husband and I celebrated one wonderful year of marriage with a day trip out to Santa Cruz Island, part of the Channel Islands National Park off the coast of Santa Barbara. Santa Cruz Island has an amazing history. The Channel Islands have never been attached to the mainland, so there are many native species found nowhere else in the world. Santa Cruz had also been used for ranching, sheep raising, grape growing, and a ton of other functions in the 1800 - 1900s, before the island was purchased by the NPS. It is currently being restored to its original / native state.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

around here...

Oh hey! It's been a while. Things have been a little crazy around here lately. Stay tuned for a real post soon...we went to the Channel Islands for our wedding anniversary and we have lots of great photos and tips to share.

Until then, check out what a shower repair project looks like in our house:

(yes, it was exactly as annoying as it looks)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

things we love: grill baskets!

Have you ever used a grill basket? Someone gave us this one as a gift a while back, and we finally used it this past weekend. It was amazing!

The Husband has a tasty and incredibly easy kebab recipe (recipe after the jump), but we don't make it as often as we should since skewering everything takes some time and I don't like touching raw meat. Yes, I am a princess. The Husband reminds me of this every day. So we decided to bust out the grill basket and see what happens.

We love the basket because all we have to do was dump all the veggies and meat into the basket, stick on the grill, and let it cook. The basket has a very long handle so The Husband didn't get burned. It was also much easier to turn the basket and get everything flipped at once instead of turning each skewer and hoping you don't lose a mushroom in the process. That being said, we still lost some stuff. Next time, we will use it for cooking larger items, like corn or fish.

Check out The Husband's super lazy kebab recipe after the jump.

Monday, May 27, 2013

words on marriage

A dear friend gave me a card celebrating my first wedding anniversary, and I was touched by the wisdom and poignancy of his words. Though they are certainly directed at me, I think the perspective and advice is universal.

Your first year of marriage has almost passed and no doubt you both are reflecting on where the time went. Building a life together is done piece by piece, day by day, through the ups and downs. I'm so happy that you found your soulmate and such a wonderful one at that! Behind the sometimes "tough" exterior you put forth is a person who pours her heart and soul into what matters most: love and relationships. It's the greatest thing for me to hear your stories about you and Reed, and it reminds me of a simpler time in my life with [my wife]. Always keep the love and passion alive and support one another no matter what the cost. I truly believe there are big things in store for you both and a sweetness that is genuine...

Thursday, May 23, 2013

recipe: quinoa stuffed bell peppers

(the husband really loves making decorative flourishes with Sriracha)

Stuffed bell peppers have been done time and time again, but when I stumbled upon a recipe that used quinoa and feta cheese, I was majorly intrigued. After making this a couple times and adapting it to my tastes, I think I have perfected the recipe. Though this is a meatless dish, it is packed full of complete protein from the quinoa and very filling. The cheese gives it a nice flavor but is honestly not necessary, if you're super lactose intolerant or vegan. I'm lactose intolerant but the small amount of cheese in this dish did not bother me in the least. Enjoy! Recipe after the jump.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

happy birthday, husband!

(isn't the husband handsome?)

Happy birthday to The Husband! You are my favorite person in the entire world. I am so glad that we are so  in love and happy together. You understand me better than anyone else, you are my partner in crime, and my closest confidante. I don't know how I lucked out with you, and am so happy to celebrate you turning 32. Remember when we first started dating and you were 26 and I was 21 and I would (and still) call you an old man? Yeah, never going to stop doing that. I love you.

Friday, May 17, 2013

on patience (earned)

I used to be an incredibly impatient person. For as long as I could remember, I had always been anxiously awaiting something, anything. It's a stressful and exhausting way to live, honestly. I don't recommend it.

As life progresses and I grow older, I am finding myself capable of patience and acceptance, in ways and in circumstances that my younger self would never have been able to handle. Part of this change stems from a changing perception of time - it's no joke that the older you get, the faster time seems to go by. Sorry to my mom and dad for all the times I rolled my eyes at them when they said that sort of thing to me. 

Another part of this comes from the time and effort I have invested in creating a happy life and healthy environment for myself. The happier and more at peace you are to begin with, the easier it is to maintain that peace and positivity in the face of difficult moments. Prioritizing my own happiness seemed like a selfish and petty thing to do at first. Shouldn't I be more worried about saving the world / changing my community / helping others? Well, I have learned being happy makes it much easier to do all those things; happiness is the root of a good life, it impacts things both great and small. The younger me would have scoffed at my excitement about finding the perfect nail polish color - isn't that such a trivial thing and wouldn't my time be better spent reading ____ or ruminating on the existence of _____? But now I know that, while the nail polish itself isn't important, those little bits of happiness really are. They add up to a well-rounded perspective. Volunteering at the animal shelter brings a different kind of happiness than laying on the grass in the sun at the courthouse; helping others is certainly the more honorable action, but both are important and necessary in their own ways. Life is not exclusively grand gestures and great accomplishments. Neither is love, or happiness. It is the sum of the whole.

(fresh flowers...another little thing I enjoy so much)

The final great contributor to my level of patience is faith. That the journey will never be too long or too hard for me to handle. That life will never be completely without some sort of pain or struggle, and that is okay, because I am stronger than I think. That everything is temporary, nothing is permanent. Things are always changing, and that means that even if things are bad right now, they won't be in the future. I may not know when or how, but I know things will get better. The good and the bad are always changing, always fluctuating, and you either learn to ride those waves and stay afloat or you drown. To me, being patient is choosing to believe that things will be wonderful, maybe not on your own timeframe but that they truly will be...

Thursday, May 16, 2013

a one car family?

(oh how i wish i could cruise around in this baby)

The Husband and I are seriously considering selling my car and becoming a one-car family for the time being. I only use my car to drive to work and back; otherwise, I ride my bike or take Reed's car for long trips. And honestly, I really should be biking to work, too. Has anyone out there tried going from a two-car family to a one-car family? Was it amazing? A disaster? Any tips or advice for making this decision?

PS. Isn't the ABM photo app fun?

happy birthday

(this photo is followed by a photo of us cracking up in a group shot while everyone else looks somber)

Happy birthday to my amazing best friend! You're my spirit animal (and incredibly handsome, duh). I am so proud of how far you have come and how much you accomplished in just 27 years.....but not surprised in the least. I love you!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

food nerd book alert

I kind of love food. A lot. I am always, always up for trying new dishes and unusual foods. I am also lucky to be surrounded by some real foodies who have blown my mind with dining recommendations, ideas, and experiences (Seagrass, where The Husband proposed, and The Little Door stand out in my memory). 

My love of food and trying new things has finally helped me develop some cooking skills that were sorely lacking even a year ago. Cooking went from being a boring, frustrating process to a fascinating experience in combining flavors, textures, and marveling at the transformative properties of heat. Cooking became fun and fulfilling, and I wanted to learn more about it.

Years ago, I purchased a book for The Husband called On Food & Cooking: The Science & Lore of the Kitchen. It's basically a wonderful way to geek out about science and food simultaneously. Last night, I grabbed it off of our bookshelf and started browsing through it. The next thing I knew, it was past midnight and I was still on the couch reading...because holy crap I never even knew there was this much to say about anything, let alone food.

This book explains the scientific process behind many cooking procedures, as well the evolution and detailed explanations of various common foods. For example, his section on dairy covers the molecular makeup of cow's milk, the history of civilization drinking animal milk, the differences between raw and pasteurized milk, the implications of the industrial processes milk goes through to end up at the market....I could go on and on. Furthermore, the same section also contains helpful tips for getting perfectly foamed milk, the best way to store butter, and the history of ice cream. 

It was so fascinating to read. And I rarely even eat dairy. If you are a science nerd who loves food, or if you are married to a nerd who loves food, this book is a great little resource.

Monday, May 13, 2013

how to open up peony buds asap


So, it's kind of hot right now, no? If you are like us and don't have air conditioning (and a house that heats up like a furnace), you're hanging out at the beach a lot. However, the bright side of our crazy hot house is that the tightly-closed peonies I bought yesterday opened fully in less than 24 hours, and boy are they beautiful.

However, without surprisingly warm weather, peonies can be a bit stubborn and take their time opening. If you're putting them out for a party or wedding, you need those blooms on your schedule. All you have to do is fill a bowl deep enough to immerse the buds with warm / lukewarm (not hot) water. Immerse for 30 seconds (for buds that need to open in a couple hours) to 4 minutes (for buds that need to open 30 minutes from now). Arrange as desired, and watch those beauties open up in record time.

Monday, May 6, 2013

words to remember

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

-- Mary Elizabeth Fry

Friday, May 3, 2013

this weekend

This weekend will not be easy, but it will be important and valuable. Honoring an old friend from high school who was taken too soon. Hoping we can get around this fire to do so (and thank you so much, firefighters, for keeping us safe despite this scary situation). Celebrating a dear friend's new and beautiful home. Soaking up the sunshine and 90+ degree heat of the valley. Checking out the art deco buildings in Beverly Hills. Hoping for another set of zebra-print bath robes in our hotel room (only in LA, right?).

LA, here we come.

Monday, April 29, 2013

whimsy in carpinteria

Over the weekend, my best friend (and Man of Honor at my wedding) came up to SB for a long-overdue visit. We spent a lovely Saturday in Carpinteria, a town that makes SB look bustling and fast-paced. The beach is absolutely gorgeous and peaceful, and it was so amazing to lay in the warm sun and listen to the waves. Summer is coming!

(isn't The Husband handsome?)

We ended up wandering into Whimsy, one of the million antique / shabby-chic little shops on the main drag in Carp. It's a little bit expensive for my taste, but in retrospect things weren't terribly overpriced. Regardless, it's a great place to wander around and get decor or project inspiration!

I really wanted this giant metal star from an old barn:

And how cool is this arrow?

There were a ton of old photos for sale. I don't know how I would feel having a stranger's personal photos on display in my house, but they were certainly fun to look through. It was really neat to see old Model T-era cars and women in Victorian clothing.

(I really wanted this "O")