Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Things I Love: Knock Knock Notepads

Knock Knock's motto is "we put the fun in functional" and it is SO true! They make a notepad for pretty much every occasion. Seriously.

Need to say you're sorry?

Have a crush on someone?

Never remember what to get at the store?

Can't decide what to wear tomorrow?

Can't stand confrontation?

They even make some pads use.

Case in point

Cute, right? Which one do you like?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Carry-On Bags

I travel quite a bit, so I've gotten packing my carry-on bag down to a science. I'm not one of those amazing girls who can fit everything they need for 3 days into a carry-on suitcase. No, I'm one of those girls who has to pack a full-on suitcase for a long weekend, including outfits for every conceivable event and multiple shoe possibilities for all weather conditions. Therefore, my carry-on bag usually just contains my "essentials" for the flight, and something to wear in case my luggage gets lost (quelle horreur!)

I'm not actually in the market for a new carry-on bag, but if I was, I'd probably choose one of these. All of these bags have top-zip closures, which if you ask me, is essential for plane travel. Plus, you can sling all of these over your shoulder, or you can carry on your arm. The best thing? These bags aren't TOO big, so they can double as a regular purse. You see? You're actually saving room. Good for you.

1. DVF Vintage Print Nylon Tote
2. MEND Where the Wind Blows Bag
3. Oryany Sydney Bag (called Mutable Silhouettes Bag on Anthropologie)
4. Kipling Kyoko Sequin Large Tote
5. MICHAEL Michael Kors Jet Set Python Tote
6. Kate Spade Cape Mountain Harmony Baby Bag
7. Louis Vuitton Totally MM Bag
8. Kate Spade Gold Coast Sierra Tote
9. MARC by Marc Jacobs Take Me Tote

Monday, November 28, 2011

What a great weekend!

I had an absolutely wonderful weekend...I hope everyone else did as well.

First of all, I didn't have to go to work on Wednesday, so it was nice to spend an extra day preparing for Thanksgiving. I managed to figure out my tablescape, which is usually done at the last minute.

I made these napkin rings out of twine and feathers

and I created this centerpiece out of gourds spray painted white and some heirloom silver pieces.

I added a bunch of candles in various heights and shapes,

and it was a very pretty setting. I was satisfied, anyways.

Thanksgiving Day was great. We always have family over. This year, we invited my uncle and 3 cousins because my aunt is still in the hospital after having two strokes earlier this fall. We also had my best friend/cousin and her dad over.

I have to say, it's very satisfying to have boys at Thanksgiving dinner because they are so appreciative of food. They raved about my pies, which are good, but not THAT good. If you need a confidence boost, I suggest making dinner for 3 men who have no idea how to cook.

The rest of my weekend flew by. I'm kind of sad to have to be back at work today, but there are only about 3 weeks until the beginning of my Christmas vacation. Yay!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I posted yesterday about things that I'm thankful for, but I realized I left something important off my list! I'm grateful to YOU (whoever is reading this right now) for reading my blog! I started this blog 6 weeks ago, and I never expected anyone to care about what I had to say. I was surprised and pleased to find that I was wrong!

I'm off to start making pies now, sticking to my schedule, of course. I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, and I will look forward to hearing how they went.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Counting My Blessings wonderful husband, who is patient and good-natured and loving, even when I'm difficult (not that I ever am) parents, who have given me so much support (emotional and well, financial too) brother, who is still my best friend

...the opportunity to travel, because it makes you see the world and your life differently shopping, because sometimes you just don't want to go out

...peonies, because something about those flowers makes me so happy house, obviously because it's a roof over my head, but also because decorating it provides endless hours of entertainment

...the ability to cook and bake, because I love being able to feed my family

...dark chocolate, because that's the best use of calories ever crazy friends and family, because I like crazy

Last, but not least, I'm thankful for
...Jesus Christ, His love and protection, and His many blessings.

What are YOU thankful for?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Simplified Clam Chowder

It was really cold last night, and what's better on a cold night than a bowl of clam chowder soup and a hunk of crusty sourdough bread? That's what we had for dinner last night. And since we didn't have to worry about getting anyone to bed by a certain time, we ate by the fireplace, lingering over our meal. It was heavenly.

This is a super easy version of clam chowder because it uses canned clams and clam juice instead of fresh. While there are times that I like to make fresh clam chowder, last night wasn't one of them. Like I was going to go to a fish market after working all day and in the freezing (for San Diego) cold. Not much. Considering the amount of time it saves, I'd say it's worth giving up a little bit of flavor. It's *almost* as good as the real thing. This recipe is adapted from The Best 30-Minute Recipe which I raved about here.

2 cans of minced clams (6.5 oz each)
2 bottles of clam juice
2 medium red potatoes, diced into 1/2 inch chunks
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
2 slices turkey bacon, finely chopped
1 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 cup flour
1/2 cup soy creamer or heavy cream
1 tablespoon italian parsley, minced

1. Drain the cans of minced clams, reserving the clam juice
2. In a saucepan, combine the reserved clam juice, the 2 bottles of clam juice, the diced potatoes, the thyme, and the bay leaf.
3. Cover and bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Let the clam broth cook while you prepare the rest.
4. Put 1 tablespoon of oil in a Dutch oven and heat to medium-high. Fry the bacon until it is brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. *Note: I used a little oil because turkey bacon doesn't have much fat in it. If you use regular bacon, then omit the oil.
5. Add the shallot and the salt and and cook on medium heat until tender and slightly brown, about 4 minutes. *Note: I used a shallot because my husband doesn't like onions. Personally, I think onions would be better.
6. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.
7. Add the flour and cook for about 2 minutes.
8. Add the clam broth to the Dutch oven and bring to a boil
9. Turn down the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.
10. Add the minced clams, parsley, and creamer and bring to a simmer for about 2 minutes. *Note: I used soy creamer because my husband is allergic to milk. I would DEFINITELY use real cream if I could!

Serve with slices of sourdough or French bread and a side salad.

 P.S. When I first served this, my husband wanted to know why it wasn't white. It's because I used the same Dutch oven to fry the bacon and cook the soup. If you have to have a white clam chowder soup, you can use a separate pan to fry the bacon, and just use regular oil to brown the shallots and garlic. I wasn't about to wash an extra pan just so my soup could be white...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Weekend Recap and Thanksgiving Plans

Despite the dreariness and rain this weekend, I had a wonderful couple of days. My stepson went to spend Thanksgiving vacation with his mother, so my husband and I got to spend the entire weekend together. Since J moved in with us a year before we got married, my husband and I missed the "newlywed" stage. I love having my stepson live with us, but it's nice to have time alone, too.

I still managed to get a bunch of projects started. I didn't get to complete any of them, though, so I won't be showing them today. I began reupholstering a chair, made a wall decoration out of fabric and nailheads, and came up with the Thanksgiving tablescape.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, I also came up with this:

Yep, that's a minute-by-minute schedule for Thanksgiving preparations. (Part of it, anyway. The whole thing is over a page long.) My husband thinks I'm nuts for being so organized, but I like being that way. I'm a list-maker. I like having everything planned out.

Okay, maybe it's a little OCD. But no one every complains when Thanksgiving dinner is ready right on time.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Christmas Plans, Finally

Yay! It's only taken me a few months, but I finalized my Christmas plans! My family usually spends Christmas in Hawaii, but because of something that happened earlier this year, I wasn't sure if we were going to make it. My parents and brother haven't decided if they're joining us yet. I hope they do, because it would be so sad to spend Christmas without them.

I am *really* lucky because my parents own a condo in Ko Olina on Oahu. It's a wonderful little suburb about 30 minutes away from downtown Waikiki, but it's much slower paced and relaxing. (Actually, it's a little longer than that if you follow the speed limit, but I don't. I'm from Southern California. People tend to drive fast. ) I highly recommend staying in Ko Olina because Waikiki can get really crazy, and I avoid it whenever possible. There are 2 hotels there, including the newly built monstrosity, the Disneyland Aulani resort. Plus, a lot of people from our complex rent out their condos.

I cannot wait to get soak up some sun and to blog with this in the background. What are your Christmas plans?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What I Read Last Week... {11.17} and Acupuncture

Two topics on my agenda this morning. First up, what I read last week.

Don Fernando by W. Somerset Maugham

A paean to Spain's golden age of enormous creative energy, Don Fernando begins with the vivid tale of Loyola's life and conversion, discusses the writings of St Teresa and the paintings of El Greco, and comments with sagacity and wit on such illustrious figures as Cervantes, Luis de Léon, Lope de Vega, Velasquez and the creator of Don Juan.

My take: This was a fascinating book to me. First of all, I've never read any nonfiction by Maugham. His nonfiction almost reads like his fiction does, which I love. He incorporates anecdotes and stories into what is essentially a long essay on Spanish literature.

My recommendation: This is definitely not the book for everybody. If you majored in English, you might find it interesting. Otherwise, I'd imagine that few people would care much about this subject matter. I liked it, but didn't love it.
The Progress of Love by Alice Munro

A divorced woman returns to her childhood home where she confronts the memory of her parents' confounding yet deep bond. The accidental near-drowning of a child exposes the fragility of the trust between children and parents. A young man, remembering a terrifying childhood incident, wrestles with the responsibility he has always felt for his younger brother. In these and other stories Alice Munro proves once again a sensitive and compassionate chronicler of our times. Drawing us into the most intimate corners of ordinary lives, she reveals much about ourselves, our choices, and our experiences of love.

My take: I love this book. It's the second time I've read it, and it was better this time around. Munro is an amazing author. Her writing is beautiful, and her stories are intricate and complex, but not confusingly so. This particular collection deals with love that is unromantic for the most part, but still very moving.

My recommendation: Read it! Just make sure you're in the mood for short stories!

And also...
I've noticed that a lot of people have been sick lately. My son's class is one big germ factory, and I'm lucky I haven't gotten sick. The reason for that? I'm pretty sure it has a lot to do with the acupuncture I've gotten weekly for the past 2 years. I have a number of health problems, so my immune system is basically nonexistent. I've always been the first person to get a cold or the flu. Plus, I was notorious for getting stress-induced illnesses. BUT that changed a couple of years ago when I started getting acupuncture. Since then, I've gotten maybe 2 colds. And they weren't bad ones, either. Seriously, it's amazing. I never would have believed it, but it works. For reals.

Now, I know acupuncture isn't for everyone. Some people (my husband included) would never consent to have needles stuck in them, and it can get expensive. But for those of you who are always getting sick, I highly recommend acupuncture! I find it incredibly relaxing and the needles don't hurt. Try it!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Not that I need more boots, but...

I have an obsession with boots. I have nearly every combination of colors and heights you can imagine. The one combination I DON'T have is a pair of flat brown riding boots. So I rounded up a few pairs that I've been thinking of buying. Any suggestions?

Burberry | Bridle Leather Riding Boot
Loeffler Randall | Dana Ankle-Tie Flat Boot
Frye | Dorado Riding Boot
Seychelles | Adventurer Boot
Ted Baker | Bronko Boot
La Canadienne | Paulina Boot
Tory Burch | Aaden Tall Boot

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Reupholstered Footstool

It's a couple of weeks later, but I finally finished reupholstering the footstool I purchased recently. I got this footstool for $22 at Home Goods (my first foray into the Home Goods world). It didn't look too bad before, but the fabric was a bit stained and it just didn't go with my room at all.


Here's how I did it:
I stripped off the fabric and the trim and used it as a template to cut out my new fabric:

I used spray adhesive to glue down the top part over the foam, doing a little bit at a time to make sure the fabric was smooth and taut.

I wanted two strips of self welting- one along the top, and one along the bottom. To make the self welt, I joined strips of fabric cut on the bias. I put the self welt cording in the middle of the fabric strip and sewed the cord snuggly into the piece of fabric.

I used iron on hem tape to adhere the two strips of welting to the fabric that goes around the side of the footstool, and then more spray adhesive to glue the entire piece around the footstool.

The seam turned out a little messy, so I used some nailhead strips to create a decorative column along the seam. I put 3 more columns so the footstool would look balanced.

The project took me all weekend. Partly because the glue had to dry. And partly because I didn't really know what I was doing and had to figure it out as I went along. All in all, I'm pretty satisfied.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

I've noticed that there are two distinct groups of Christmas celebrators: those who begin celebrating as soon as Halloween is over, and those who wait until after Thanksgiving. I am wholeheartedly in the former group. This weekend, I decided to "practice" making new Christmas cookie recipes. These aren't the real thing...I'm just testing out new recipes right now. To make sure that when I make the actual Christmas cookies, I don't run into any problems. Yeah, that's it. In any case, I decided to make some Mint Chocolate Chip cookies. I happened to find mint chips at my grocery store, and that never happens, so I took that as a sign that I should make some mint cookies.

I based this on a recipe for regular Chocolate Chip cookies from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook. FYI- I chose this recipe because it yields cookies that are thin and crunchy (just the way I like them.) If you prefer cookies that are chewy and thicker, you probably wouldn't want to use this recipe. Also, this yielded about 50 cookies, so you could definitely cut this recipe in half.

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter or margarine at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, plus 1 additional egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1 cup mint chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees with racks in the upper third and bottom third of the oven.Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or spray with nonstick spray.

1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
2. Cream together the butter and the sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
3. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and beat on low until combined, about 1 minute.
4. Add the dry ingredients in two batches until just combined.
5. Add chocolate and mint chips and mix until just combined.
6. Drop by tablespoon onto a parchment lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart.
7. Bake for 15- 18 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through.

These turned out just like I wanted them! They are thin and crispy, but not hard. And I just love the combination of peppermint and chocolate. Yep, Christmas is in full swing at my house!

P.S. I just installed Instagram on my phone, and I'm playing around with it. Bet you couldn't tell, right?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Things I Love: Laser Cut Furniture

One thing I am crazy about is laser cut furniture. (Actually, laser cut shoes, clothes, and jewelry too, but that's another post) I purchased a pair of laser cut cabinets a couple of years ago. Since then, I've noticed laser cut pieces popping up here and there. By far and away, my favorite maker of these pieces is Brocade Home. I love every single thing they offer, but I'm just dying to get these:

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

I've also noticed this trend from other companies. The colors and finishes make the pieces modern and contemporary, while the intricate cuts are reminiscent of traditional Moorish and Moroccan furniture. Here are a few of my faves:

5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What I Read Last Week... {11.10}

This week, I only had time to finish one book. I decided to start reading a book that's over 1000 pages long. I'm no longer sure why I did that.
Anyways, the book I did finish was:

The Red Leather Diary  by Lily Koppel

If 22-year-old recent Barnard graduate Lily Koppel hadn't been agile enough to climb into a dumpster, Florence Wolfson's red leather diary might have been lost forever. As it was, Koppel rescued it from a sea of steamer trunks, brought it back to her small apartment, and began an immersion that would last for years. Wolfson's journal tracked her adolescent preoccupations and teenage yearnings from 1929 to 1934 so candidly that Koppel couldn't resist trying to track down its author. When she found her, she met a 90-year-old woman who was eager to be reintroduced to her much younger self.

Joining intimate interviews with original diary entries, Koppel reveals the world of a New York teenager obsessed with the state of her soul and her appearance, and muses on the serendipitous chain of events that returned the lost journal to its owner. Evocative and entrancing, The Red Leather Diary re-creates the romance and glitter, sophistication and promise, of 1930s New York, bringing to life the true story of a precocious young woman who dared to follow her dreams.

My take: This is a solid book, for sure. It definitely gives you a glimpse into the life of a young woman in the 1930s, if you're interested in that time period. The only thing is that it seems a little disjointed. I think part of it is because there are essentially two authors: Koppel and Florence Wolfson. Even so, sometimes it feels like Koppel jumps backward and forward in time. That could be on purpose, because the thoughts of adolescent girls aren't exactly coherently organized. In any case, it's only slightly off-putting.

My recommendation: Put it on your reading list, but don't put it at the top of your list.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Jack Frost nipping at my toes

It seems that the cold weather has come a little early this year. The unseasonably low temperatures, combined with my incredibly low tolerance for cold, have left my poor fingers and toes feeling like ice. So, even though it might be a little lame, here are a few of the warm, cozy slippers that I'm loving right now:

Clockwise from top left:
Colorful | Fair Isle Slippers | Forever 21
Fluffy | Dee Dee Slipper | Tory Burch
Cozy | Thermal Slipper | Victoria's Secret
Soft | Striped Flower Slippers | Ann Taylor LOFT
Comfy | Hot Cocoa Slippers | Roxy
Cute | Dream-In-Color Slippers | Anthropologie
Pretty | Lace and Sequin Ballerina | Accessorize
Warm | Cally Slipper | Minnetonka

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Hazelnut Madelines. Yeah, they're delicious.

You know those packages of Madeline cookies at Starbucks? They're not bad, considering that they are mass produced and packaged and left there for days before you eat them. But homemade ones are a whole different experience. There are a lot of different versions of madelines, but my favorite recipe (this one) uses hazelnuts. These have a crispier crust and a much lighter inside than the ones at most bakeries, which are usually too dense for my taste. The only possible drawback to these cookies is that you have to have a madeline tin, but it's so worth it, in my opinion.

This recipe is based on one that I got from over ten years ago. Literally. I printed out the recipe, and the date stamp says November 4, 2001.

Madeline Cookies
Yield: 2 dozen

1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted
1 cup and 3 tablespoons powdered sugar, plus more for dusting
1 stick butter or margarine, plus more melted for buttering pan
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting pan
Pinch of salt
4 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. In a small saucepan, melt the stick of butter until it is light amber in color. It's best to use a regular saucepan instead of a nonstick one so you can see the color more easily. 
3. Brush the madeline pan with some of the melted butter (not the browned butter you just made) and dust lightly with some flour.
4. Place the toasted hazelnuts and 1 tablespoon of the powdered sugar in a food processor and process until very fine.
5. Combine the hazelnut-flour mixture, 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, the flour, and the salt in a medium bowl.
6. Add the egg whites and vanilla, and whisk to combine.
7. Add the melted browned butter, and whisk until incorporated.
8. With a tablespoon, fill molds evenly, about three-quarters of the way.
9. Transfer to oven, and bake 13-17 minutes.
10. Cool for 2 minutes, then remove from pan. Cool completely on a rack, ridged side up. Dust cookies with powdered sugar.

C'est magnifique!

Monday, November 7, 2011

ERIN by Erin Fetherston

Erin Fetherston has to be one of my favorite designers. Most of her designs are soft, flowy, pretty, romantic and ethereal. Her offshoot line, ERIN by Erin Fetherston, has an amazing Resort 2012 collection. It's not available yet, as far as I can tell, but it must be coming soon. Not only is this collection beautiful, but it's also much less expensive than her original line. Most pieces will be priced at less than $375. I. Cannot. Wait.

So, what do you think? Anyone love these as much as I do?

All images from

Friday, November 4, 2011

Polka-Dot Trench Coat

I normally do not like rain very much. I don't like getting wet. I don't like being cold. Most of all, I love the sunshine. So in most cases, when I wake up to a gray, cloudy, rainy day, I'm not a happy camper. Unless, of course, I have a new trench coat to wear! I bought this adorable trench this summer in Munich, and I've been dying to wear it. The polka dots are lavender against an oyster background, with taupe satin lining and accents. These pictures aren't very good. I decided to write this post at the last minute, and didn't have time to take very good pictures or to edit them much, but oh well.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

What I Read Last Week...

As if I don't have enough hobbies, I also love to read. So much so that I spent a total of 7 years studying literature. Nowadays, I am always reading at least 3 books. I have 3 categories for my books: books read for fun, books read for literary merit, and books read for posterity. Each week, I'll show the books that I finished the previous week and "grade" them according to my wildly biased opinions.

Hollywood by Gore Vidal

It is 1917, and President Woodrow Wilson is about to lead the country into the Great War in Europe. In California, a new industry is born that will irreversibly transform America. Caroline Sanford, the alluring heroine of Empire, discovers the power of moving pictures to manipulate reality as she vaults to screen stardom under the name of Emma Traxler. Just as Caroline must balance her two lives—West Coast movie star and East Coast newspaper publisher and senator's mistress—so too must America balance its two power centers: Hollywood and Washington.

My take: I'm not going to lie. I only read this book because Gore Vidal is a famous author and I liked the cover. I thought it moved really slowly and he must have assumed the the reader had read the previous novels in the series, which I had not.

My recommendation: It's not a bad book, but if you're going to read this, read the other novels in the series first.
The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford

The Radletts of Alconleigh occupy the heights of genteel eccentricity, from terrifying Lord Alconleigh (who, like Mitford's father, used to hunt his children with bloodhounds when foxes were not available), to his gentle wife, Sadie, their wayward daughter Linda, and the other six lively Radlett children. Mitford's wickedly funny prose follows these characters through misguided marriages and dramatic love affairs, as the shadow of World War II begins to close in on their rapidly vanishing world.

My take: Nancy Mitford is one of my all-time favorite authors. I have almost every book she ever wrote, including a bunch of first editions. That's how much I like her writing. This is probably the 5th time I've read these books, and I found it as funny and nostalgic as ever.

My recommendation: Definitely read it if you like humor and sarcasm.
Last, but not least...
I'm always looking for new books to read, even though I literally have a stack of 20 waiting for me at home. Tell me what you think I should read next!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I love this cookbook!

Let me just say, I love to cook. Love it. I started cooking with my mom when I was 7, and I haven't stopped. There are times when I want to be innovative and experimental and come up with my own recipes. Those days are called weekends. But during the week, I do NOT have time for that. I run a business that requires long hours, plus I have a 10-year-old who doesn't see the point of doing homework. Or chores. Or listening to his parents in general.

I am a huge of The New Best Recipe, which I use all the time. So I snapped this up when I saw it at the bookstore a couple of weeks ago, and I've used it practically every weekday since.

Everything that I've made from here has been easy and delicious, even according to my son, who has annoyingly  surprisingly discriminating tastebuds. The recipes really have taken only 30 minutes to prepare. For the non-cooks out there, each recipe contains tips to save time. For instance, it might tell you to brown the chicken, but advise you to chop the onions while the chicken is browning. There are also tips that even seasoned cooks might not know. It recommended using refrigerated pizza dough (I buy mine from Trader Joe's) to make fresh rolls instead of buying the brown-and-serve variety. Worked great!

I know this cookbook isn't for everyone. But I highly recommend it if you don't have a lot of time and are even remotely interested in cooking.