A Handful of Happy Things

Ribbons!There’s so much to be grateful for this week. Life post-NSF-proposal is pretty great!

Candlelight DinnerThis was our candlelight celebration dinner, complete with champagne and The Decemberists. Well, sort of candlelit. The lamp helped too.

PastaI decided to try to make sundried tomato cream sauce. It worked. So delicious!

Ignatian PrayerFor the past five weeks I’ve been going to a series on Ignatian prayer at our church. It has been quietly revolutionary. This book was recommended for further reading, and I have been devouring it. So helpful, so informative, so funny.

AvocadoThis week we’ve had a parish mission with an awesome priest from Australia. On Tuesday morning someone brought avocados from her tree and gave me one. So sweet.

accidentalfeminist_jacketLast night I went to a talk by M.G. Lord on her latest book, which is about Elizabeth Taylor. Lord was vibrant and engaging, and I met some really nice ladies there. I have never seen a single Elizabeth Taylor film, but perhaps I should remedy that situation.

Christmas RibbonsThose ribbons up top are from a care package sent by Eric’s parents. They know how I love shiny things, and our Christmas in Nashville was so gloriously warm, fun, and loving that I think about it every day. So I love having this tangible accompaniment to that.

Citrus, Oat and Cranberry CookiesThey also sent my favorite cookies! These are oat, citrus, and cranberry, and you cannot eat just one. This was especially sweet because our store doesn’t carry this flavor. Thoughtfulness runs in the family, for sure.

ConfirmationToday our confirmation came in the mail from the B&B where we’ll be staying in Ventura in March. I love that they do things so old school, with paper and ink. This B&B is a converted church! So excited for that.

Cross-StitchAnd finally, I have been working on a new cross-stitch project. This one is a sampler, and it is gigantic, so I will probably not finish it until the end of the year, but I am having so much fun with it. Can you see the theme emerging?

These posts of bits and bobs are always so all over the place, but they are my very favorite ones to write, for this is what life really is, in all its beautiful non-cohesion. Each time I hit publish on one of them, I feel a bit more grateful that I get to live it.

Easy DIY Embroidery Floss Organizer

Embroidery Floss OrganizerLast week I further indulged my new cross-stitch obsession by acquiring a big pack of embroidery floss, just for fun. I am so in love with colors, and this is a veritable explosion.

Wood on WoodIt came in a clear plastic case, but I wanted to somehow organize and display it. I landed on the idea of a piece of wood with long nails, to be hung flat against the wall like a plaque. When Eric and I went to the hardware store on Sunday, we found this lovely round number, and we were sold.

Picture HangersI put some simple picture hangers on the back, since I didn’t think a wire was necessary.

NailsThen I hammered my nails in. I realize this kind of looks like an implement of torture. Yikes.

Embroidery Floss OrganizerAnd then I put my embroidery floss on, in all kinds of beautiful color combinations! I thought about arranging them in ROYGBIV order, but I usually respond more to color combinations than solid colors, so I decided this was the best way to go. I have multiples of each color stored away with my supplies, so if I really need to see all my red options, I can find them there. I have four colors to each nail, and that worked perfectly for the long nails I used.

Embroidery Floss OrganizerAnd, I’m not gonna lie, one of the best things about having an image with this many colors going on is playing with photo effects. Vignette!

Embroidery Floss OrganizerGraduated tint! All of this makes up for the fact that the spot where I hung it is just completely non-photogenic. No light!

Embroidery Floss OrganizerBut at least that spot is now bursting with color.

Quinoa and Chickpeas with Lemony Cabbage and Dill

Quinoa with Lemony Cabbage and DillI love dill. I suppose enough time spent in Russia will lead one to that allegiance. But back here in the States, I typically associate it with summer. I use it to spike my potato salad with flavor and to give a hearty punch to my gazpacho. Dill in the winter? I am hereby sold on it.

Quinoa with Lemony Cabbage and DillAlso, I have to say that in looking back through my archives I can see that I have a definite pattern in recipe-sharing. It goes like this. Healthy bean-grain-veggie dish. Cake. Healthy bean-grain-veggie dish. Pie. Healthy bean-grain-veggie dish. Cookies. This is fairly representative of life around here, I would say, except when Eric makes a meat dish every now and again. I was telling Eric today that I wouldn’t do well with some diet or other because I like vegetables too much. And then I paused for a second and added, “And cake.” It’s all in the name of a healthy balance, and that’s what where we find ourselves most days.

Quinoa with Lemony Cabbage and DillBut enough about all that–let me tell how delicious this is. I would eat it every night. Next time I will for sure double the recipe. I love the crunch of the quinoa and cabbage, and the lemon makes it so fragrant and lightly tart. And the dill, well, the dill is the star. The more, the better, I say!

Quinoa and Chickpeas with Lemony Cabbage and Dill
Recipe from Martha Stewart

1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup red quinoa, rinsed well
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 head Savoy cabbage (about 1 pound), cored and thinly sliced lengthwise, divided
1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 ounces pitted large green olives, such as Castelvetrano or Cerignola, halved (about 3/4 cup)
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh dill

-Bring water to a boil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Stir in quinoa and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 15 minutes. Uncover, raise heat to high, and cook until water evaporates and quinoa is dry and tender, about 5 minutes (stir frequently to prevent scorching).
-Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the cabbage and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden brown in places, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with 1 1/2 tablespoons oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and remaining cabbage.
-Add remaining tablespoon oil to skillet. Return sauteed cabbage to skillet, add quinoa, and raise heat to high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until quinoa is toasted and crisp, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Add chickpeas, olives, and lemon zest and juice, and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in dill and serve warm.

Gumby Green

DIY Maxi DressI made this dress! I am so happy I finally finished it, since I believe I started it in August. It was a cinch to put together, too. It’s just a little over a yard of soft jersey fabric, stitched down the side, with a v-neck in the front and back. I still have a lot to learn as far as sewing goes, but I can say without hesitation that this is a dress I will definitely wear all summer long.

DIY Maxi DressAt first I had intended to use the fabric for a skirt, but I realized what I had was just about enough for a dress. I used Sweet Verbena’s awesome tutorial as a jumping-off point for my dress, but mine is a bit different, since I didn’t have much fabric to work with. I was drawn to that gumby green like a moth to a flame, and I bought all that was left! (I find this highly ironic because this was my high school’s color, and I had to swathe myself in it for graduation  and I was so not a fan.) Initially I stitched all the way up the side, and then tried it on. As you can imagine, I was walking like a penguin! It never ceases to amaze me the things I don’t think of while sewing! I ripped that seam out and put a finished edge on this side slit. Much better.

DIY Maxi DressThe blousey look of the top is intentional. Even if blousey does not turn out to be an actual word. Blousey is so very comfortable.

DIY Maxi DressThe sleeves are formed entirely by the slit in the center of the fabric, which open up to become the v-neck. As the v widens, the sleeves are pushed further out onto the arms. Most effortless sleeves ever! That Sweet Verbena is a genius.

DIY Maxi DressAnd here is the back, just for kicks.

DIY Maxi DressMy shiny belt actually came from a pair of yoga pants, and I added a few extra shiny accessories for good measure. I made that yellow bracelet on my bead loom. I love it.

DIY Maxi DressI bought these earrings after Christmas because my inner magpie could not resist their shininess. It seems that everything with glitter goes on clearance after the holidays, and I’m all for that, but I also plan to keep wearing it all year long. Why not make every day a holiday?

DIY Maxi DressAnd I’m carrying a vintage Hunt Club satchel, a lucky thrift store find. It’s the perfect size for…

DIY Maxi DressMy library book! Seven Days in the Art World is the latest pick for the C & E Book Club.

DIY Maxi DressEric and I had the most luxuriously lazy weekend. I spent a lot of time curled up with books. Those weekends are just the best. Hope yours was full of lovely too!

Lately

T-Rex at WorkThese last few weeks have been all about getting into a writing groove and enjoying the cool weather. We still have some warm afternoons, but on Tuesday it was as gray and rainy as the Bay area, and I loved every minute of it. In any case, I just can’t complain. I am so happy, and that feels like a gift every day. This is my resident position on the couch for afternoon writing (in the mornings I am more scrupulous and sit at my desk). For the project I am working on right now, I am rereading my journals from the last three years or so. It is so weird and wonderful to relive all that, and I have been surprised by how vivid the memories my writing has triggered turn out to be. I can smell the lilies and feel the sun on my toes in the morning, in my little apartment in Oakland. I can taste all the pesto I made in those years and recall all the emotional rushes of dissertation writing. I can hear the floorboards creak in Eric’s little apartment down the road from mine and remember our hands cooking and washing dishes in that kitchen. Mostly I am just so happy that I wrote all of that stuff down, because it’s as real to me as the air I breathe, resting there in paper and ink.

ValentineI got this gorgeous handmade Valentine from my sweet friend Michele last week. Have I told you about my friend Michele? She gave me basically all of the scrapbook stuff I have, out of the goodness of her heart. She mailed it down from Northern California, and that was a hefty load of postage. I never imagined I’d meet someone so generous and genuine on these interwebs, but she blows me away all the time. She sent me a Starbucks gift card too! I will be having a nice chai latte afternoon in the near future, raising my glass to her.

Off the ClockLast week Eric and I went to this awesome art show at Caltech. We saw such beautiful things, all made by Caltech employees. Our friend Annie won in her category–so fun!

Snow on the MountainsThere’s snow on the mountains. Beautiful.

Mint JulepLast weekend we went out for barbecue, and it was pretty good. That’s high praise from a Memphis girl! We’d totally go back, and next time I might get nothing but smoked sausage. So good! Eric got a mint julep, and I took a sip, and then he laughed hysterically at the face I made. I just can’t stand bourbon. Tastes like my grandmother!

Heavenly FragranceDown on the corner where we usually go to take style pictures, there is this heavenly fragrance. I have been trying to figure out where it’s coming from for months, and I finally discovered it this weekend! Good job, detective self.

AnthropologieThis week on an afternoon walk I popped into Anthropologie. I have never bought anything there and I doubt I ever will (so pricey!), but I always walk away with a huge dose of inspiration. I take pictures of things I like and then make them myself. These necklaces are next in my queue!

RathskellarTonight we went to the Rathskellar for beers with Eric’s team to celebrate the completion of their grant proposal. They are such wonderful people, and we had a stellar time. I am way beyond stoked that now Eric will have more free time, but I am also really happy that he had such awesome people to go through this process with. It’s been a majestic couple of weeks. Can’t wait to see what the next ones have in store.

Celebrating

ChampagneToday Eric turned in the enormous NSF proposal he has been working on for months, and that is great news. We won’t know for some time if his team will get the funding, but we really hope so. I’m just so proud of him and the work he is doing, and I think his project is completely awesome. For now, though, we are celebrating no more long nights and weekends working on it! There will be plenty of other projects to take its place, of course, but this is still a big weight off his shoulders. I went to the store(s) today to get groceries, and I saw that our most favorite champagne was on sale: ten dollars off! So, I bought it for a special surprise. I don’t even like champagne, but this stuff is the nectar of the gods, I tell you. (No one paid me to say that, I just seriously love this champagne.) We are looking forward to a fun weekend and a little getaway sometime in March. (Suggestions? We are sort of split between Palm Springs and Vegas…or a pretty lake…I change my mind every day!) In other happy news, Be @ Home did a really nice feature on my blog yesterday in their Best of the Web series, which was super sweet of them, and I had a submission accepted to a book–lots to celebrate! Here’s to this happy day.

Project Life, Weeks 25 and 26

Project Life, Weeks 25 and 26There’s so much joy in these weeks. My dad’s visit, Eric’s birthday, and some holiday magic. It’s so much fun reliving it all. Also, I am in love with these Christmas papers and have been waiting patiently for months to use them!

Project LifeIt’s no exaggeration to say that my dad’s visit was the highlight of this week. We had so much fun relaxing and catching up, and, of course, drinking coffee!

Project LifeEric and I also made the trek out to 99 Ranch, and he was ecstatic to find mangosteens there. He totally did a happy dance, I am not even kidding!

Project LifeThe next week brought Eric’s birthday and lots and lots of chocolate. And also, one incredibly fancy steak dinner.

Project LifeI am so glad I took this picture of his birthday breakfast. We love Sunday mornings with the paper, but this one was extra special.

Project LifeI’m almost caught up to Christmas, and I am so excited about the sequin explosion that will be found there. How are your documenting projects going? Have you beat me into 2013? I bet so!

Chocolate Ganache Tart with Hazelnuts

Chocolate Ganache Tart with HazelnutsEric and I had a really lovely low-key Valentine’s Day. He brought me lilies and chocolate, and I secretly made him this incredible tart. He has a very big proposal due this week, which has been keeping him busy for months, so he is very easy to surprise! I pulled this out of the fridge after dinner, and he was all smiles. I kind of love this picture too, since this is just how you’ll want to eat it, right off the tart pan.

Tart CrustOne of the best things about this tart is its crust, which is spiked with cinnamon and a hint of ginger. Such a perfect pairing for chocolate.

Chocolate GanacheIs there anything more beautiful than melted chocolate? I don’t think so. This reminds me of the first time Eric and I made ganache, back when we were dating, to use in truly decadent hot chocolate. We mostly just ate the ganache with a spoon, but that was treat enough itself.

Chocolate Ganache Tart with HazelnutsThis recipe comes from Joy the Baker, but the hazelnuts were my idea, since I don’t like eating things that aren’t crunchy. I happened to have some on hand from an Ottolenghi dish I made last week, so it was the perfect storm.

My Frizzy ValentineThis tart will last you forever, since it’s rich enough that you want to cut it in tiny slices. I think I’ll be putting about half of it in the freezer. Here’s to a Valentine’s Day that lasts through April! Hope yours was fantastic too.

Chocolate Ganache Tart with Hazelnuts
Adapted from Joy the Baker

For the crust:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground ginger
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold
1 large egg yolk, beaten

For the ganache:
8 oz dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temp, cut in half

For the topping:
1/2 c hazelnuts

-Heat oven to 275F and roast hazelnuts, skin on, for 15 minutes. The skins will dry out in the oven, and you can peel them right off. Once cooled, chop finely.
-In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt and spices. Cut in butter with fingers until well incorporated. Some butter chunks will be the size of small pebbles, others will resemble oatmeal flakes. Once incorporated, add the egg yolk and bring mixture together with a fork. (Honestly, this just did not work for me without a food processor. If you have one, use it!)
-Dump mixture into a 9 inch tart pan (or 9 inch spring form pan) and press the crust into the sides and bottom with your fingers. Place in freezer for about an hour.
-Place chopped chocolate in a medium sized bowl. In a small saucepan over medium low heat bring cream to a very low simmer. Pour half of cream on top of chocolate and let stand for about a minute, then whisk together. Add in the rest of the milk and butter. Stir until butter is melted. Let rest at room temperature.
-Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 350ºF. Butter a piece of foil and place butter side down on top of chilled tart. Bake for 20 minutes, then take foil off and bake for another 15, or until golden brown.
-Allow tart to cool completely before filling with ganache. Top with chopped hazelnuts. Enjoy!

Playing with Peplum

PeplumPeplums seem to be one of those polarizing trends–people either love them or hate them. As for me, I think they’re adorable, sort of mini-dresses on tops or dresses. I have been wanting to get my hands on one for months, and I finally found this sweet dress…on clearance. I love stripes, and the dress actually came with this lemon yellow belt, so I was doubly sold.

PeplumI, of course, saw this as an excuse to trot out some of my favorite bright accessories, including this green envelope purse.

Red EarringsThese red earrings are new, and I love that they are shiny and slightly musical at the same time.

Bracelet and BeltMy mom bought me this bracelet in Amsterdam and gave it to me for Christmas. I love its big shiny beads. They kind of look like gigantic cheery pills.

NecklaceThis necklace once belonged to my awesome aunt Ellen. I am trying to keep its legacy of awesomeness alive.

SpinningI think one of the obligations of wearing a peplum is that you must be willing to spin around. I tried!

SpinningAnd tried!

SpinningAnd tried!

PeplumAh well, at least these shoes are really cute!

PeplumI think this is going to be my favorite dress for quite a while. Here’s to after-Christmas sales!

Currently: February

Currently: FebruaryReading In the Woods by Tana French and feeling thankful for the people who recommended it to me. It’s majestic, and so lyrical that I am reading extra slowly to avoid missing any beautiful morsels of prose.

Spending most afternoons curled up on the couch, writing, writing, writing. Loving it.

Instituting “no computer time” in the evenings and really enjoying it.

Working my way through this book for Lent.

Savoring the leftovers of the chocolate ganache tart with hazelnuts I made for Valentine’s Day.

Wearing lots of sweaters and appreciating every cool and breezy day.

Listening to an awful lot of Beethoven, actually. No matter how cliche it is, The Moonlight Sonata has my heart.

Looking forward to all the traveling we’re going to be doing this spring.

Plotting to do some sewing with beads and sequins.

Resolving to create some of my own cross-stitch designs.

Feeling just so very happy to be right where I am, doing just what I am doing.

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