How to Organize Your Earrings

I have a fair amount of what I lovingly refer to as “bling.” I adore the bright colors and charm of my jewelry, and how it can really make an outfit or just brighten my day! Since we moved, I have been taking the opportunity to re-think how all this said bling is arranged. While my necklaces and bracelets were in some kind of order (more on this later), my earrings always kind of looked like this:

A big blob of beauty, but not very useful when you are looking for the second earring in a pair, or even trying to see what you have. At the risk of sounding like one of those unintentionally hilarious informercials that make up problems for their products to solve (I resisted the urge to start this post with the phrase: “Ladies! Are you tired of your earrings looking like this?! Well, I have the solution for you!”), I do kind of have a solution, and, best of all, it will not cost you four easy installments of $39.99, but will actually cost you more like about $10 or less. Yes!

So, let’s get started! What do you need? First, some ordinary wire cloth from the hardware store. (Before I found this stuff, I was thinking of using peg board, but wire cloth is much easier to use, especially if you are hanging studs, because of its larger openings.) I got mine at Orchard Supply Hardware for $10, and most hardware stores will have it, usually with the building supplies, wrapped up in neat little rolls.

You can also get wire cloth in just about every size and length imaginable through McMaster Carr, and they also have awesomely fast shipping. I chose a roll with medium-small openings at a length of five feet, and it was pretty much perfect for me, but you can adjust based on how much bling you have.

Next, you’ll need a hammer, some nails, and some good sturdy gloves, since the wire cloth can have sharp edges that would injure your pretty hands.

Put on your gloves, unroll the wire cloth, and lay it out flat with some heavy books on top to straighten out the curves. Russian literature will always do the trick!

When it’s sufficiently flat (I let mine rest for half an hour or so), put your gloves back on, pick it up, and nail it to the wall in the top corners, along the sides, and at the bottom. That’s it–you’re all done!

Now just put your earrings up however you like! Studs will also stay up easily, since they fit right into the corners. You could also hang bracelets or necklaces on it, or anything that has a clasp! I hope you have fun taking your pile of earrings from this:

To this!

Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho

I’ve been waiting all summer for good tomatoes, and they are finally here! We went a little crazy at the farmer’s market this week, and as a result we have mostly been eating tomatoes since then, but I am not complaining!

I knew the first thing I wanted to make with them was this incredible gazpacho that my best friend and matron of honor made for our bridesmaids’ luncheon back in June. It was steaming hot in Memphis, and my dear friend, being the classy and intelligent lady that she is, designed a menu of all cold dishes. We could not have been happier to see this soup on the table, and, oh my goodness, it is insanely delicious. Insanely.

It’s also really simple to make, not requiring you to turn on the stove or the oven, which would introduce more heat into your house and make you melt like a popsicle. All it requires is some chopping and chilling, and voila!

As with most soups, this one just gets better and better as the days go by, since all the flavors have more time to blend. I am going to be really sorry when it is gone!

Eric and I were lucky enough to score an awesome deal on some patio furniture this weekend, and this was the first meal we had outside. Even though I thought we’d left the rain behind in the Bay area, the sky turned green and then orange and purple, a cool breeze picked up, and soon we were in the midst of a real summer rainstorm. It was incredibly beautiful, and delightful to watch from under the roof of our balcony. A perfect summer dinner!

Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho
Adapted ever so slightly from my best friend’s recipe

6 ripe heirloom tomatoes, chopped
1 green bell pepper,  finely chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2 large cucumbers, peeled and finely chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c fresh dill, chopped

-Mix all of the chopped vegetables together in a large bowl. Make sure the juice from the tomatoes makes it into the bowl.
-Whisk together the lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper, and stir into the vegetable bowl.
-Pureé about half of the mixture in a food processor or blender. Pour it back into the bowl, stir in the chopped dill, cover, and refrigerate for at least one hour.
-When serving, top with a sprig of fresh dill, and enjoy!

Labor Day Love

I’ve always loved Labor Day and appreciated the break it brings to a busy fall–who doesn’t? This year Eric and I spent most of the day working on various things around the house, but it’s all worth it to be moving further in the direction of unpacked and settled in our new place.

We took a break this afternoon to walk over to Caltech, where he took these photos in the warm sunshine. It’s not quite the beach, but it was a beautiful interlude to a busy day! I put my hair up in a high bun, which I haven’t done in ages, simply because it seemed like the best thing to do in the heat, and I put on this sweet key necklace that my cousin gave me ages ago.

I have long referred to this blouse, acquired so long ago I can’t even remember which thrift store it’s from, as my teacher shirt. The ruffles make me feel kind of authoritative in a 70s Spanish class sort of way. The belt is from the beloved Bargain Barn, and I actually found these shorts at Sears! They are almost the only ones I own, so they have been getting a lot of use in this steamy weather!

I do love Labor Day, but the love in the title of this post also refers to the photography session, because when your husband will spend 20 minutes kneeling in the grass during a heat wave taking your picture, and actually *enjoy* it, that is love. 🙂

PCC Flea Market

We are lucky enough to have not one, but two amazing flea markets in close proximity. I had heard about the Rose Bowl Flea Market before we moved here, but only recently found out about the Pasadena City College Flea Market, which is held on the first Sunday of every month. It was marked on our calendar, and yesterday we went to check it out!

In the Bay area the big one is the Alameda Antiques Fair, which I went to with my dear friend Steve a time or two, but, sadly, always when it was really really cold. Since the fair is held outdoors, there’s nothing to do but shiver and try to find shelter from the wind behind a headboard or a chest of drawers.

In Pasadena, we feared that we’d face the opposite problem, since it has been so hot this week. Thankfully, the geniuses behind this fair put most of it inside a parking garage, so you are shielded from the sun: glorious! I also liked the layering effect–meandering through the fair, you feel like you are slowly peeling the skin of a crisp antique-filled apple. (Our apologies to the vendors located outside–we will come visit you when it gets cooler!)

We didn’t have to look far to find an inspiring array of beautiful and interesting things: bright colors, vintage designs, and all kind of curiosities were everywhere.  I think we only lasted about an hour; the eyes can only take in so much!

I asked Eric to be on the lookout for some buttons, since I have been searching for some for a few projects I have in mind. We came across a stand with all kinds of tiny lovely little things, and while I was looking through old Scrabble and Mah Jongg tiles, Eric hit the motherlode: buttons galore! I picked out some pretty blue and green ones, and he found a bag full of shiny ones, several pounds at least, for only $3!

It was just as much fun talking to the seller as it was finding these treasures. She told me about where she had found them, and how truly antique many of them are (I am putting in an image of her card, just in case any of you are looking for buttons or antique Lego pieces!).

I have a soft spot for old things, to be sure, and I love to imagine the former lives of the things I pick up at thrift stores or antique fairs. It makes me happy to know that my buttons were hard at work before my grandmother was even born–a thought that certainly makes me pause and wonder at the curious power of everyday objects not only as repositories of specific and personal memories, but also as tiny encapsulations of entire eras. Beautiful.

The Red and the Teal

When I first starting putting outfits together, I wore an awful lot of red and black. No joke, I used to quiz my colleagues as to which Stendhal novel I was dressed as (I know, I know, I am the queen of nerds, but you will just have to believe me that most people found it at least mildly amusing!) I still love that combo, but I try to mix things up too, since I’m a die-hard fan of color blocking.

I have always loved red and teal together, but I was most recently inspired by Vanessa’s outfit over at Snappy and Savvy. It’s not hard to be inspired by her, and indeed, hers was the first style blog I found that I really loved and felt I was learning tons of cool stuff from; I wrote lots of ecstatic comments on her Chictopia page, like, “You are completely amazing!” And she is:)

I thought her red and teal look was so gorgeous that I had to pay a little homage! This red dress, again, no joke, was given to me by my best friend way back when we were in high school. She has given me so many amazing hand-me-downs! The sweater vest is from my favorite thrift store of ALL TIME, the Bargain Barn in Memphis (pity that I only get to go twice a year at best!) The necklace is from my favorite clothing exchange party in Oakland (I miss it so much! Pasadena/LA ladies: want to have a clothing swap party?!) And the heels are my highest Nine West stilettos, retrieved from abandonment at my husband’s old apartment, and always ready for wobbly walking action!

White Peach Baked Oatmeal

It has been a really busy summer. Thankfully, in a good way! My husband and I both graduated and celebrated my brother’s wedding, and then about a month later we got married too. After a month and half or so of wedded bliss, we moved to a new city. Whew! While I wouldn’t have changed a thing at all, there are certain things that have fallen by the wayside, like…breakfast.

My sweet husband is perfectly content with cereal and toast (though he won’t turn down a waffle!), but I crave things that are warm and hearty in the morning: scones, pancakes, muffins. I’ve been eating bagels for a few months straight, and now that we’re finally getting settled in our new home, I was more than excited to start making real breakfasts again.

I was intrigued by my BFF’s success with baked oatmeal, which she wrote about here, and I couldn’t wait to try it. I have actually already made it twice, it is so addictive! The first time I gave it two layers of cherries (mmmm…), and it was so good that I wanted to duplicate it this week, but alas, the cherries didn’t look so hot, so I bought white peaches instead. It turned out just as delicious! You could really use just about any fruit you have on hand, or whatever is your favorite.

My BFF says this is the best oatmeal she’s ever had, and I do not disagree!

White Peach Baked Oatmeal
Adapted from Heidi Swanson‘s Super Natural Every Day

2 c rolled oats
1/2 c walnut pieces
1/3 c brown sugar (This gives it just a touch of sweetness; you could definitely add more or tone it down based on the sweetness of your fruit.)
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 c milk
1 large egg
2 Tbsp melted butter, slightly cooled
3 white peaches, sliced (or 2 1/2-3 c of your favorite fruit)

-Preheat the oven to 375F. Generously butter the inside of an 8-inch square baking dish.
-Line the bottom of the dish with peach slices.
-In a mixing bowl combine the oats, walnuts, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Pour over the peaches in the baking dish.
-In a mixing bowl (the same one if you like doing dishes as little as I do!) whisk together the milk, egg, and butter. Pour over the baking dish, letting sit for a minutes to ensure that the milk is soaking into the oats.
-Top the baking dish with another layer of sliced peaches.
-Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the top is golden, the peaches have browned beautifully, and the oat mixture has set.
-Sprinkle with extra nuts or sugar if you like, and enjoy!


Pretty Bold

This is the first dress I made on the sewing machine I got for my birthday last year. I didn’t even use a pattern, but instead just traced the form of my favorite shift dress, which my best friend sent me from Korea. It’s a simple form, and I was pretty pleased with how it came out!

Still, I wanted to do some pattern mixing and add a belt for a tighter silhouette. The plaid top came from my favorite clothing exchange party (ah, how I will miss thee, now that I’ve moved away!), and the belt is from my favorite BB Dakota dress.

The bracelet came from the best wholesale jewelry spot in the world, right in Memphis, Tennessee: Jun Lee, where my awesome mom and I usually go for annual field trips to stock up on colorful bling. And, of course, I put on my most fun brown heels:)

White Beans, Potatoes, and Cabbage

My sweet BFF gave us Heidi Swanson‘s new cookbook Super Natural Every Day for a wedding gift, and I have been dying to dig into it! I love Heidi’s blog and appreciate her one-pot dishes and creative use of beans and grains, which are very close to my heart.

The first recipe I tried was actually the one pictured on the cover, but I didn’t realize it until later. It seems fitting, though, for a start!

The basic change I made to the recipe was to cook the beans and vegetables over a lower heat for a longer period of time, so that it was smooth and creamy instead of browned, as it is in the original. Either way, it makes a lovely lunch!

And of course, I got to use some new tools for the first time, including our majestic pressure cooker (a Fagor Duo) and our amazing Wüsthof knives! Thank you thank you thank you, dear family and friends!

It would be really easy to make substitutions in this recipe, say, if there is another kind of bean that you prefer–white beans just happen to be my favorite!

White Beans, Potatoes, and Cabbage
Adapted from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day
Serves 4

2 Tbsp olive oil
4 oz. potatoes, cut into tiny cubes
1 large shallot, finely chopped
2 c cooked white beans (You can either use canned or start with dried beans.  If using dried, you can cook 1 c beans in your pressure cooker on high for about 40 minutes, or you can simply soak the beans overnight and cook them in a pan over medium-high heat, for about an hour or until tender.)
3 c shredded green cabbage
Freshly grated Asiago cheese (parmesan would also be good)
Salt to taste

-Pour the olive oil into a large skillet on medium heat.
-Add the potatoes and a pinch of salt. Cover and cook for 20 minutes or until tender, making sure to deglaze the pan with water every 5 minutes or so, to keep the potatoes from sticking.
-Add the shallot and cabbage and cook uncovered for another 5 minutes, or until the cabbage is wilted.
-Add the beans and simmer for a minutes more.
-Add salt and pepper to taste, top with freshly grated Asiago cheese and enjoy!


Roasted Eggplant with Couscous and Feta

Sometimes you’ve got to throw dinner together with what you have on hand, and in those instances, it’s very good if you happen to have an eggplant and some feta. Very good indeed. This simple dinner has lots of flavor and is very quick and easy to prepare.

Part of the secret is to toss the eggplant in oil and vinegar. Eggplants are like little sponges, and they will soak up whatever you put them in. When those flavors are baked in, it adds a great richness to the humble (yet beloved!) eggplant.

The coriander and cumin seeds give the eggplant a nice smokiness too. Yum.

Roasted Eggplant with Couscous and Feta

Serves 2-3 as a main dish, 4-5 as a side dish (the recipe could easily be doubled, and, in fact, I think I will double it next time I make it!)

1 eggplant, about 1 3/4 lb, cut into 1″ cubes
4 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2 1/2 oz. crumbled feta cheese
1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper
Pine nuts (for topping)
1 c couscous

-Heat oven to 450°F.
-Cut eggplant into 1″cubes.
-Whisk together olive oil and red wine vinegar and toss eggplant cubes in it until soaked.
-Place eggplant cubes on baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper, coriander and cumin seeds. (Don’t worry if there are clumps of coriander–the moisture of the couscous will soak it up.)
-Roast eggplant for 40 minutes at 450°F, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.
-While eggplant is roasting, bring 2 c water to boil. When boiling, stir in the couscous. Remove from heat, cover, and let rest for 10 minutes.
-Chop 1 Tbsp fresh basil (or more if desired) and place in large bowl. Add crumbled feta, couscous, and roasted eggplant, and stir well.
-Sprinkle pine nuts over the top for some extra crunch. Voila!



Lemon Cinnamon Cake

I have been wanting to make this cake for such a long time! The idea struck me when I made this lemon cinnamon lentil dish several months ago. My BFF, who blogs here, had mentioned that she’d made it, and I begged her to blog it so I could try the recipe. My BFF is a woman of her word, and she dutifully shared the recipe, adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s An Invitation to Indian Cooking.  The highlight of the dish is the combination of lemon with a cinnamon stick, slow simmered. It was incredibly delicious, and the pairing so unexpectedly perfect that I was determined to try it out in a cake.

There is no tried and true recipe for a lemon cinnamon cake, at least that I could find, so I just came up with this one. It came out so wonderfully lemony, with an aromatic infusion of cinnamon. Part of the fun was that I got to use so many of our new kitchen toys: the new Bundt pan, cooling rack, and cake dome, to say nothing of the majestic Microplane grater! Thank you kindly, dear friends and family!

Lemon Cinnamon Cake

4 eggs
1 1/2 c sugar
1/2 c butter, softened
2 c flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c milk
5 Tbsp lemon juice
Zest of three small lemons
1 tsp cinnamon (I used Penzeys Extra Fancy Vietnamese cinnamon, which is very strong, so you might use a bit more if you are using regular cinnamon)

-Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour the inside of a Bundt pan.
-Zest and juice the lemons.
-Combine the eggs and sugar and beat in the butter gradually until the mixture is creamy.
-Add the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and milk, and beat to combine.
-Add the lemon juice and lemon zest and beat to combine.
-Pour into the Bundt pan and bake for approximately 50-55 minutes at 350 degrees F. (I started checking it around 40 minutes with a toothpick, but it still needed more time. When the toothpick comes out clean and the outer edges of the cake are pulling away slightly from the sides of the pan, it is ready.)
-Let cool for at least 30 minutes, and then loosen the edges with a  spatula before turning out onto a cooling rack or serving plate.
-I served the cake as it is, but you could also dust it with powdered sugar or add a simple lemon glaze (just lemon juice and powdered sugar). Enjoy!

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