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2012 April

Ringing in Spring

I adore this dress. Cute as a button, fits like a glove, and features my favorite colors. It was such a lucky find at the thrift store. The crazy rain of Friday has given way to sunshine again, so after a lovely afternoon run (and shower!), I knew it was time to break it out.

I paired it with my beloved purple cardigan. I cannot get over all the shiny buttons: so fun!

I love the echo effect with my green button necklace, which I made a few years ago and have been wearing like crazy lately. I somehow managed to make it the perfect length without measuring at all, and that kind of jewelry-making good karma deserves to be put on display!

My favorite happy surprise about this dress is that it has pockets! I have proclaimed my love for dresses with pockets before, and I will proclaim it again: they are the best!

I grabbed my green envelope purse for an extra burst of spring. I love these old vintage purses, even if I will never be able to fit my Nalgene or my library books into them.

Once again, we wish we could have managed to squeeze in an outdoor shoot, but even with the sun staying out much later these days, we keep trying to cram just a bit too much into a Sunday. I’m still so grateful that I was able to go for a run and Eric a bike ride, though, that it’s hard to think I would have changed a thing about this day.

Every Sunday night, when I put these posts together, I am so thankful for the weekend that has passed us by (even if I wish it were one day longer!). I am thankful for the break from work, thankful for extra time to spend with my husband, thankful for however many hours of sunshine we basked in, thankful for the adventures we had and the people we shared them with. Maybe it makes Monday a little bittersweet, but I love having these bright and sunny memories to hold onto as I’m easing into a new week. Hope you all find the same!

LA’s Historic Farmer’s Market

Last weekend when Eric and I hit up the Miracle Mile, we were excited to go to the historic farmer’s market. Spring is upon us, so who knew what treasures we might find? The joke was on us, since it isn’t exactly a farmer’s market anymore, but it was still pretty delightful, especially for the palpable sense of LA history history it gave us. This modest little spot at Fairfax and Third was once a dairy farm, and then an oil drilling site, and then finally, during the Depression, it was transformed into a farmer’s market. Now it’s a bustling collections of shops and cafes, all under sweet striped awnings.

I loved watching everyone enjoy their morning coffee, and wished I weren’t still full from breakfast at home. You never know when you might need to sample a crepe.

A lot of the restaurants are international, and that was exciting too. A Singapore style breakfast? Sign me up!

And I loved the stained glass window on this sweet Greek place.

And this shot of their sign in Greek is for a certain BFF of mine, who I’d love to take there next time she’s in town!

The other restaurants represent a particularly LA style of Americana. Charming, no? Those doughnuts smelled really good.

And so did the waffle cones!

There are also some food shops, offering all kinds of delights.

And of course, my eye was turned by the spice bazaar, especially since they had several Turkish coffee sets out on display. That, my friends, is always a good sign.

And I was charmed as well by Puritan Poultry.

This is one of my favorite shots of the day. A cup of coffee, a wall of sauces and salsas. I love the colors in this display and the Saturday morning feel of the scene.

And finally, I loved that the old gas station from the turn of the century has been so beautifully restored. It was almost as good as asparagus and strawberries. Not so tasty, but at least as pretty.

Easter Dinner

Before Easter falls too far behind us in the rearview mirror, I want to share our Easter dinner. It was so special, and I want to record it here not just for you, but also for us. Our first year of marriage is really flying by, and I know we will treasure these early memories, hopefully until we are old and gray and bouncing our grandchildren on our knees. We had our Easter dinner on Saturday night, actually, and then again on Sunday. Eric usually cooks on the weekends, and he wanted to make lamb shanks. Almost all of the recipes he chooses are from our Gourmet Today cookbook, and they are always amazing. This one was no exception! But first, a bit of context.

We spent Saturday in LA exploring the Miracle Mile and West Hollywood. We traipsed around the historic farmer’s market, the La Brea Tar Pits (Still bubbling! Crazy!) and the pretty LACMA complex. It was gorgeous, and it was also really hot, with no shade to be found. By the time we stumbled into a cafe for lunch, we were exhausted.

We headed back home in the late afternoon and took a dip in the pool (and the hot tub, of course), and then I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing, while Eric was in the kitchen. He was being just a tiny bit secretive, which was really sweet.

Around 7:30, he came into the office, held out his hand, and asked if he could take me to dinner. He led me into the dining room, where he had set dinner out on our china and crystal. And he had our wedding dinner playlist playing on the stereo. Oh my goodness, I was in tears. I wasn’t crying so much because all of these incredibly sweet gestures were so overwhelming, which they were, but mostly because these incredibly sweet gestures happen all the time: this is the man I married. I am so intensely grateful for him, and for the fact that, with him, magic little moments like these can and do happen anytime, anywhere.

Replanting Our Kitchen Garden

Last fall, I planted a little kitchen garden on our balcony. Even though we don’t get much light, I hoped that we could cultivate at least some fresh herbs for cooking. The garden was a total success…until the winter and the Santa Ana winds hit. Our lettuce, which does so well in the shade, was lying on its side after the storm. We had a nice salad that night, but I’ve been itching to get the herbs growing again ever since.

This weekend we finally got to it. Last fall, I bought most of our herbs already potted, but this spring I am mostly growing from seeds. Here’s hoping they all sprout! I made little tags for them with toothpicks, and I love them. And yes, I planted quinoa. A girl can dream.

I also planted chamomile. Fingers crossed! It would be awesome to have it fresh for tea.

Because we know that lettuces and green onions do well in the shade, we got a few heirloom blends to try. I can’t wait for the butter lettuce to peep up!

We haven’t tried to grow any vegetables yet, since we need more light and space for that, but I hope that by this time next year, we will have a serious garden. It is so wonderful to watch things grow. And eat them! I used some of our new thyme for a green lentil dip last night, and it was divine. Being able to savor the plants you grow is such a beautiful luxury.  Here’s to many delicious summer meals!

No-Knead Oat and Honey Sandwich Loaf

Given both my great love for bread and my constant desire to try my hand at making the staples I usually pick up at the store, I am slightly surprised that it’s taken me this long to bake some sandwich bread. Part of the delay was that I didn’t have loaf pans, but my sweet husband gave me some for Christmas, so now I am in business! For my first attempt, I wanted to make a loaf that incorporated some of our favorite things about the breads we usually eat, and oats and honey were at the top of the list (with 7-grain right behind it!). This bread is intensely rich and yeasty, almost decadent. We devoured it within a few days, and it’s definitely going on the keeper recipe list!

The best part is that it’s a no-knead bread, which means that, with a little foresight, I can have it ready to eat the next day with very little actual work involved. That’s my kind of recipe.

You start by mixing the dry ingredients and then stirring in the wet ingredients for a few minutes, just until all of the flour is moistened. It will look like a blob, but it is a blob with great promise.

This is what the dough looks like after it’s risen for 18 hours: very bubbly and puffy.

Here you can see how much it’s risen. Plenty.

At this point, you roll the dough out onto a lightly floured (and/or oated) surface and shape it into a loaf. Easy!

Then you place it in your greased loaf pan for the second rise. Make sure the pan is greased, since there is nothing sadder than a beautiful loaf of bread that won’t come out of the pan!

This is what it will look like after 2-3 hours of rising. I love how it expands over the edges of the pan.

Then, the only thing left to do is bake it! Here is my loaf, fresh out of the oven. It smelled so amazing, and tasted even better. I am so glad I can use the no-knead method for sandwich bread. Stay tuned for more experiments!

No-Knead Oat and Honey Sandwich Loaf
Adapted from

1 cup wheat flour
3/4 cup quick oats or oat flour
2 1/2 cups white flour
1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 3/4 cups water

-Combine all the dry ingredients (white flour, wheat flour, quick oats or oat flour, yeast, salt) in the large bowl (3 quart or larger) and stir with a mixing spoon for about 15 seconds or more.
-Combine water and honey in a separate bowl and stir until the honey is dissolved into the water.
-Add water and honey mixture to the dry ingredients bowl and stir for about 3 minutes, or until the flour is thoroughly moistened (it won’t look that good, but that doesn’t matter).
-Cover the top of the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let sit on counter top for about 12 to 18 hours; the dough will look bubbly on the top when it is ready.
-Generously sprinkle flour and/or oats onto a cutting board and slowly pour the dough from the bowl on to the floured surface, using a spatula to help it peel off the sides of the bowl.
-Sprinkle a little flour on top of the dough and rub your hands together with flour. Gently stretch the dough out to a rectangle shape.
-Roll up the dough from one end to the other.
-Place the dough into a lightly greased bread pan (seam side down).
-Let dough rise until it is a bit above the top of the bread pan (about double in size or 1.5 to 2 hours).
-Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and place bread in the oven for 40 to 45 minutes.
-Remove bread from oven and let it cool on a cooling rack.
-Get out your butter and jam and dig in!

Easter Brights

I love Easter. I think maybe because I love fall so much, I forget what a miracle spring is every year. Those first days when I can leave my windows open, when the world is suddenly full of color, and the air is perfumed with the sweet smell of new life are always magical, and this year is no exception. I am especially happy, too, that Eric and I could spend Easter together, since our first two were spent apart. Every Easter that I’m not skyping him in Australia or New Mexico feels like a gift to me. And this gift was very special indeed, our first Easter together as a married couple. We had a beautiful weekend, and bright and celebratory colors were in order.

My sweet mom gave me this lovely dress, and I adore it. Not only does it have this pretty braid detail around the neckline, but it has pockets! Us girls, we love pockets. Pockets make a Sunday dress functional enough for a trip to the nursery to buy new plants for the garden (one of our many projects this weekend!)

I am still wearing my beloved red heels, and I grabbed my little red purse for an echo effect. Additional sunshine is provided by my favorite chunky bracelet.

I love yellow with teal, so I knew I wanted to wear my corn kernel necklace. I made it in December out of corn grown on Eric’s parents’ farm. We just bought our plane tickets today to go and visit them in May–can’t wait!

Eric and I were kind of bummed that we ended up having to do this shoot inside–today was a busy day–but we are happy about how much time we spent outside this weekend. After being sick last weekend, I was so ready to get out and enjoy the sunshine. And that’s a big part of what this smile is about. That and the fact that it’s impossible not to smile at my husband when he’s taking these pictures!

I hope you all had a bright and beautiful weekend as well!

Weekend Wishes

The last two weekends have been pretty low key around here. First, poor Eric had to spend the weekend working on a proposal, so we were determined to get out and do something fun the next weekend. And then I got sick. Boo. Now that we’ve been cooped up for a while, we’re ready to hit the town! We don’t exactly know where we’re going yet, but we’re in an exploring state of mind, and that feels celebratory enough already. Nothing like hitting the road with your very favorite traveling companion! This picture was taken in January above Silver Lake Reservoir, where we hiked a rather astounding number of stairs with Eric’s wonderful parents (and Eric’s dad graciously carried my bag!). I’m sad they won’t be here for the adventure and for the holiday this weekend, but we’ll definitely raise a glass to them, wherever we may be. Hope you all have a beautiful weekend as well!

Honeymoon: Hanapepe

A few nights ago, Eric and I had the most delicious mango for dessert. It was a champagne mango, which we’d never tried before, and bow howdy, did it knock our socks off. It was so cool and rich and deeply flavorful, and it reminded me not only of our honeymoon in Hawaii, but of this incredible mango pie I had in Hanapepe. We ducked into a little cafe out of the rain, and there were pies everywhere: in the windows, on cooling racks, in display cases. I knew we had come to the right place. After a light lunch, I ordered the mango pie, which was insanely delicious. You could really taste the love and care that went into the buttery crust, and the fruit gave it a wonderful tang. A pie to remember is a beautiful thing.

Hanapepe is a tiny little town with an artistic bent. Along the main street, there are lots of antique stores and studios, as well as a great used book shop. Historical placards are posted on all of the buildings, so it was fun to stroll up and down the street, learning about the shops and homes that were there almost a century ago. I loved this old truck-turned-planter, beautifully painted with a space theme. Perfect for an astronomer on his honeymoon!

The truck is parked at what was once a gas station, and the pump is still there, now resplendent with a space theme too. Pretty.

Another lovely feature of Hanapepe is its swinging bridge. A beautiful wooden structure suspended by cables, it sways in the wind, of which there is plenty!

The bridge stretches out over this pretty river, quiet and peaceful on a sunny day.

It’s really only once you get out into the middle of it that you understand the swinging part. As the wind picks up, you suddenly find yourself with that old lurching subway feeling, although it is far more pleasant out here in the beautiful countryside than in a cramped BART car.

It makes me so happy to look back on these pictures of our honeymoon. It wasn’t so long ago at all, but I still find myself longing to go back. And maybe have some more of that pie. Here’s to a second honeymoon!

Paint Chip Mobile

I have been wanting to make this mobile for ages, and I finally got the right supplies. Paint chips are an obvious treasure for anyone who loves color as much as I do, and the interwebs are full of awesome projects people have done with them. Mine was designed to fill a very specific space: we have these little open windows between the kitchen and the living room and the kitchen and the dining room. The living room one is larger, and I filled it with jars of beans and grains. The window into the dining room is smaller, and it stumped me for a little while. But at last, inspiration dawned on me: I would make a colorful mobile, suspended on thin thread, to give the effect of bright colored circles floating in the space between the two rooms.

All I needed to get started was a circle punch and the paint chips. These are mostly in cool colors because I used the warm colors for another project, but I kind of like it that way. The punch cuts a circle about 1.5 inches in diameter, just what I had in mind, but they come in lots of different sizes.

I knew that I wanted each circle to have multiple colors, so I cut not only in the middle of the paint chip sheet, but along the edges. This way, I could get semi-circles in two colors to use as accents.

The next step was to glue the circles and semi-circles together. I found that a glue stick was the best tool for this. Nothing like feeling like a first-grader for the afternoon!

Then it was time for some math to calculate how many circles per strand and how far apart I should hang them. I show this mostly because I think it is hilarious, evidence of some tiny spark of engineering in me that was buried under thousands of tomes of Russian literature. Sometimes it cracks me up how my projects involve the kind of math problems I know I hated as a child. Good thing I learned how to do them anyway! Once I had properly reflected upon this, I got out my tape measure and my trusty silver thread and got to cutting and glueing.

For each circle, I glued the thread in between two circles, both facing out. This way, when the strands sway in the breeze, both sides will show bright color. I like it that there is no back side.

This only took about 15 minutes for four strands, and then I was ready to hang them. Because I wanted to create a floating effect, I simply taped the threads to the back of the opening of the window between the two rooms, though you could also attach them to a rod or stick for a more grounded look. I have to tell you, I amazed at how well this little project came out! It makes that awkward opening look kind of elegant, and it brightens up our drab kitchen. Huge thanks to my husband for taking this picture (and many others!)–making our kitchen  look this pretty is a work of art unto itself.

Chickpeas and Dandelion Greens

I love a simple dinner, one that can be thrown together in 20 minutes on a busy weeknight. This one from Heidi Swanson definitely fits the bill, and it features beans and greens, and thus, its arrow goes straight to my heart. My only disappointment was that I hadn’t doubled the recipe because it disappeared so quickly.

I didn’t adapt this recipe one little bit, but it would be a great base for experimentation. I had never tried dandelion greens before, and they have a kind of pleasant bitterness (if that isn’t a contradiction in terms). I think the garlic, lemon, and chile oil would also be beautiful with my current favorite, collard greens, or mustard greens.

I am from the South, after all, but this style of greens is so different than the one I grew up with. I think I prefer this light saute to the more heavy Southern style, but I did gulp down a whole bowl of those with glee last time I was in Memphis, so I suppose my loyalties remain in the shadows.

I love chickpeas too, and their nutty soft crunch was great with the greens. Nonetheless, I can’t wait to try some different ones, like white beans or cranberry beans. This recipe may go through 10 different incarnations in my kitchen before this year is out, and that is just a testament to what a solid recipe it is to start with. Thanks, Heidi!

Chickpeas and Dandelion Greens
Recipe from Heidi Swanson‘s Super Natural Every Day

2 cups cooked chickpeas, or one 15 oz can
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
sea salt
3-4 handfuls dandelion leaves, stems trimmed
Grated zest of one lemon

-Put your chickpeas in a medium bowl.
-Add olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes and two pinches of salt to a cold skillet.
-Turn on the heat to medium, and stir until the garlic just begins to sizzle. Add the dandelion greens  and stir until they start to wilt. Stir in the lemon zest.
-Pour greens over chickpeas and stir to combine.
-Add salt to taste.

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