March 6, 2015 Its My Birthday!

 

Birthdays aren’t a super big deal around here.   We’re pretty boring about them… maybe dinner out or drinks with friends.  If we’re really going to do something, it’ll be a trip somewhere or some kind of experience.  Our birthdays are just a few weeks apart, so if we do it, we do it well.  And if we don’t, we don’t really do it at all!

I think because getting older hasn’t been such a big deal for me, the celebration of it didn’t need to be a big deal.  Thirty was hard.  And weird, because I’d never really cared how old I was.  But thirty seemed, well, like a clear mark in time.   Thirty was big.  And I was torn on what to do, I never figured it out, so we did nothing.  But 32 feels like just another day.  Although, 32 does feel big in that it will be a big year for us, the year our family grows into three.  And that feels enormous.  Perhaps we’ll spend it building shelves in her room icon smile Its My Birthday!

This year will be pretty low-key… a quiet weekend since Chris has been on the road for the last week.  A little socializing, a little sleeping in, maybe some cake (because what’s a birthday without a little cake!) and taking in our final celebrations before it’s no longer just about us anymore.  Before we’re going to start celebrating birthdays hard… with parties and bounce houses and super amazing fun times.

In other news, my friend Heidi Ryder and I took a little photo field trip out to see the almond blossoms.  She snapped a few photos of me and I’m really hard in love with them.   That girl, she’s the best.

Almond 1 Its My Birthday!

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March 4, 2015 The Studio

 

The front room of our house has undergone many a little renovation.   Minor things, nothing too major as its bones were in pretty good shape when we bought the house.  It was yellow, but it wasn’t terrible.  I actually made it more terrible by painting it fluorescent blue.  When I say terrible, I mean, it felt like you were walking around in an upside down swimming pool.  It was hideous.

This is the room you walk into from the front door, I guess a formal living room.  We had no need for it, so for nearly it year, it was blue and empty.  Terrible.  But then I needed a meeting space for clients.  I hated meeting in cramped corners of loud coffee shops, squeezing albums on to tiny tables.  So I built out this space to meet with clients in a quiet environment.  It made an incredible difference and I’m so happy with it!  Now, it’s also my office space, it’s been rearranged (again) and I’m so happy spending even more time in this beautiful room!

So, it looked like this on the day we closed escrow…
Studio Tour 0001 The Studio

And now, it looks like this!
Studio Tour 0002 The Studio

That chandelier was a score on Chris’ part.  He went up to the Habitat for Humanity store one day not too long after we bought the house without me.  He spotted this ENORMOUS chandelier in the corner.  It was brand new, from a store that had gone out of business and still had the $2,500 price tag.  But it had been sitting around there for a while,  I imagine because it is so gargantuan.  So they sold it to him for $100.  WHAT!?  He installed it before I even got home from work that day!

We painted the walls Urban Sunrise from Valspar at Lowes and it’s the perfect grey.  Not too blue or too red, it’s light and reflects the natural light in the room so beautifully!  I painted the ceiling the same color, but left a white border to accent the coved ceilings.
Studio Tour 0003 The Studio

Almost all of the furniture here was found at estate sales (the white & black chairs) or Craigslist (the console table).  But the sofa is from Custom Sofa Design and the coffee table is from Overstock. The “merde” pillow is Alexandra Ferguson.
Studio Tour 0004 The Studio
Studio Tour 0005 The Studio
Studio Tour 0006 The Studio
Studio Tour 0007 The Studio

And now that it’s pulling double duty as my daily office, it’s undergone another round of changes!   But I’ll save those for another day icon smile The Studio

 

Photos: Heather Kincaid

Hair & Makeup: Moira Taylor Paris

Florals: Floral Crush

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We had a party a few months ago, and someone brought muffins for us.  Not for the party, but for Chris & I to eat the next day.  Eating those muffins with coffee in bed, the day after a huge party… it was heaven!  It was such a morning treat, that I didn’t have to think about.  We reminisced about how amazing the party was, how lovely our friends are… it was just a really beautiful morning spent with my love.   So now, everyone who throws a party gets muffins.   And I get to eat more muffins.  And if there are a lot of muffins, I freeze them so I get to eat A LOT of muffins!  It’s a win-win-win for everyone all around!

I’ve been trying my hand at a few different kinds, but these from Ina Garten are pretty incredible.  Whenever I need a delicious easy recipe, I turn to Ina.  How Easy Is That? is my go-to book for super easy entertaining!  I made a few changes that were pretty delicious (mostly because I dislike coconut and I’m also not a fan of nuts INSIDE the muffins.)  But I added some sugar coated walnuts on top of half of the muffins… nuts in sweets, it’s a polarizing thing y’all!  Make these, take them to people, freeze them for later… Everyone will love you icon smile The Most Delicious Hostess Gifts
Banana Muffins Hostess Gifts 2 The Most Delicious Hostess Gifts

 

 

Banana Crunch Muffins (adapted from Ina Gartens’ recipe)

Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 pound unsalted butter, melted & cooled

2 extra-large eggs

3/4 cup whole milk

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2 bananas)

1 cup medium-diced ripe bananas (1 banana)

1 cup granola

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

brown sugar & vanilla extract (for sprinkling)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line 18 large muffins cups with paper liners.  Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add the melted butter and blend.  Combine the eggs, milk, vanilla and mashed bananas and add them to the flour-and-butter mixture.  Scrape the bowl and blend well.  Don’t over mix.

Fold the diced bananas and granola into the batter.  Spoon the batter into the paper liners, filling each one to the top.

In a small bowl, mix the chopped walnuts with as much brown sugar as you please.  Add a teaspoon or two of vanilla, enough to make sure that the brown sugar sticks to the walnuts.  Sprinkle the coated nuts onto the muffins.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool slightly, remove from the pan and serve.

 

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I really hate spending a lot of money on furniture, but I also really hate cheap furniture.  Catch 22, eh?

But I do love a good hunt and I’ve been so lucky with Craigslist over the years.  You have to dig through all kinds of junk, and sometimes it takes forever, but if you can really see through the ripped fabric and the terrible paint jobs, you can score some really beautiful pieces!

These are a few iPhone pictures of some ugly furniture I’ve bought over the years.   The blue chair was one of the priciest, I think it was about $100, but I’d never seen anything like it.  The design was so lovely and the wood was in excellent condition.  The wood credenza was probably $50, and it was so brown and so ugly with terrible hardware.   Then that red chair, you guys know my love for that chair, that was around $20.  It was ugly, but the wood was in excellent condition and the shape was just divine.
How to Find Treasures on Craigslist 0001 Finding Treasures on Craigslist

Those ugly ones are now some of my favorite pieces in the house!

Now, I spend a lot of money at the upholsterer, but it’s significantly less than buying something of this quality new.  AND I get to make it exactly what I want it to be.  This chair was spray painted with automotive paint (my husband is fantastic, and sprays everything for me with some kind of sprayer thing attached to the air compressor.  It’s lovely.)  The paint is super thick and shiny and has never chipped.   The fabric is from Micheal Levine downtown.
How to Find Treasures on Craigslist 0005 Finding Treasures on Craigslist

A random side table I picked up, probably $25.  It was beige I think, a terrible beige.  So Chris sprayed it, and I was able to switch out the beige granite top for a marble top when we were doing our countertops.  I switched out all of the table tops I didn’t like at the time and it was a great way to use all of the material we’d purchased.  If you don’t happen to be renovating a kitchen at the moment, you can have scraps cut at any marble yard, usually fairly inexpensively.
How to Find Treasures on Craigslist 0002 Finding Treasures on Craigslist

I could wax on and on about this chair.  But you know her story and I’ll leave it at that.
How to Find Treasures on Craigslist 0003 Finding Treasures on Craigslist

I am obsessed with this bar cart, and didn’t do a single thing to it.  It just happened to fill that space absolutely perfectly and was in pretty good shape.  It could use a little touching up, and a little strengthening (it wobbles a bit), but we’ve never gotten around to it and it hasn’t fallen apart.

And that credenza.  I bought it for my office, but it’s in my studio now.  It’s a dining room credenza, and has velvet slots to hold all of your silver in one drawer.  But it’s full of office supplies and paperwork now.   Chris painted this too, and we switched out the ugly hardware.   It is always so shocking what a coat of white paint can do!

How to Find Treasures on Craigslist 0004 Finding Treasures on Craigslist

So, how do you dig through and find this among all the junk?

1. Use Craigs Easy.  It’s a program that will show you only the title and full size images on a separate page.  No more staring at the tiniest thumbnail images and clicking through all kinds of links.  It makes it so easy!

2. If you don’t really know what you want, but need all kinds of things, do random searches.  I like “antique French” or “vintage French”.  You’ll come back with all kinds of things!  If you like more modern lines, search for “danish modern”.  Or if you are really into a Spanish style, search for those key terms!  Also, I always click “Search Titles Only”, it limit the amount of crap you have to filter.

3. Ignore the paint job and the hardware and the fabric… it’s all changeable!  Look at the condition of the parts that you’ll be keeping… ripped fabric is a great detail if you’re going to be replacing it anyway!  Notice the lines, and what the piece could really look like with the right accessories.  And look for pieces that are really unique!

And should I be in a purchasing mood today, I might pick up these guys.

Brass Twin Bed Frames

Secretary Desk

Industrial Chairs 

Upholstered Arm Chair

And if you’re feeling REALLY crafty… antique baby crib ends for FREE!   Would make such a cool twin bed frame if you could repurpose these ends!

Good luck & happy hunting!

 

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February 23, 2015 Coconut Whipped Cream

 

I’m really in to sweets these days.  I would blame it on the pregnancy, but I kind of always want to eat a cake.  I keep it in check, because I don’t want to gain 75 pounds, but I’m definitely indulging a bit more regularly.

And then my friend Amanda went to vegan culinary school.  And she made this coconut whipped cream for me.  And it’s ridiculous.  So amazing, and I don’t even like coconut!   You guys, it’s just whipped coconut milk, a little bit of sugar and a hint of vanilla.  That’s it.  So I feel like I can eat it by the spoonful (and sometimes I do).

It’s super easy to make, but be forewarned, the can of milk will need to be refrigerated for about 24 hours, so you do need some time.  See, when it’s cold, the milk hardens and you can whip the crap out of it.  Apparently some brands don’t harden as well as others, but this Golden Star from Ralphs has worked perfectly for me, so I’ll stick with it.

I’ve been spooning it on top of fresh fruit, but you could put it all over anything and I’m sure it would be super tasty.  Seriously, try it.
Coconut Whipped Cream 0001 Coconut Whipped Cream
Coconut Whipped Cream 0002 Coconut Whipped Cream

 

Coconut Whipped Cream

Ingredients

1 can coconut milk

2 Tbs powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla

Directions

Refrigerate the can of milk for at at least 24 hours.  Scoop the hardened coconut milk into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whip attachment, being careful to avoid any liquid milk (there may be some on the bottom of the can).   Whip for a few minutes, then add sugar and vanilla.  Continue to beat until fluffy, not too much longer.

Enjoy!   I’ve spooned it over fruit the last few times I’ve made it, and served with a wafer cookie.  So good!  If for some crazy reason you have leftovers, just be sure to refrigerate in an airtight container.

As for the extra liquid at the bottom of the can, Amanda suggested I freeze it in ice cubes and drop in to a glass of bourbon.  That sounds amazing and I will do that as soon as I can get back to straight bourbon.  Or, add to a morning smoothie!

 

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February 20, 2015 The Kitchen

 

I’m not saying it was the worst kitchen in the world.  I’ve seen some kitchens that need to be ripped out before I would allow myself to spend the night in the house.  Chris wanted to buy one of those houses once.   But it was bad.  Tiles were popping up and the layout was terrible and the appliances were old.  But we spent over two years with it, learning the house and really figuring out what we wanted from a new kitchen.  We built it for entertaining and the hours spent agonizing over a drawing on a napkin as we drank wine were totally worth it.   It was important to us that we be able to entertain, but still be part of the party.  We wanted to be able to cook, but not be impeded by well-meaning guests who wanted to chat.  We wanted to be able to do it all, and that kind of kitchen design is a tough one.  But LOOK!  It worked!

Kitchen 0001 The Kitchen

I spend a lot of time in here.  Very little of it is in a gown, full make-up and heels, sitting on the counter reading Julia Childs cookbooks.  I mean, some of it is, but very very little.

Kitchen 0002 The Kitchen

You guys, this backsplash.  Ohhh I fell in love with it, and hard.  Well, not this one.  I fell in love with one that was similar, but was more contrasting… darker lines against lighter lines.  And it was $100/sq ft.  And we needed a lot of it.  I spent months trying to convince Chris that we could do it!  That we could have it… I LOVED IT!  He’s saner than I am, so it was a hard no there.   So I found a place that would custom make it for me, for $42/sq ft.  He was going to budge, I could feel it!   And then, we were looking for marble slabs at Surfaces USA and I started to wander as Chris was chatting details.  And I stumble upon this.  We were able to get it for $9/sq. ft.  NINE DOLLARS!  I guess it’s still way pricier than a lot of tiles, but I was saving $91/sq ft people!   And four years later this continues to be one of my favorite parts of our kitchen.  Worth every single penny.

Kitchen 0003 The Kitchen

The countertops are carerra marble, and I love them.  The etch pretty badly, but that just makes me feel like they are really lived in.  Like wrinkles on a woman that you know has spent her life laughing… each one of those marks is from a great party with wonderful friends.  Chris doesn’t feel the same way and I’m not sure that I’ll ever convince him to do it in another house.  So maybe we just never move.

The pulls & knobs are from the now closed Mother of Pearl & Sons Trading in Studio City.  I’ve got to find a new hardware place… any recommendations?

 

Kitchen 0004 The Kitchen

These light fixtures were a splurge.  But I’d seen them in a magazine years and years before we started renovations and loved them.   I didn’t know who made them, but I was sure they were crazy talk expensive.  So I kept trying to find something similar, but never did.  Then I’m browsing through Circa Lighting and there they are!  It was early morning and I jumped on the bed, woke Chris up with my screaming and told them they were coming home with us!  I think he was too confused to argue.

Kitchen 0005 The Kitchen

The Bar Cart was a Craigslist find.  The guy had two of them and I hate that I didn’t buy them both.  I don’t need them both, but it is oh so pretty.

Kitchen 0006 The Kitchen

It’s now one of my favorite rooms in the house and we spend all of our time here.  Get togethers are more casual and our poor dining room gets very little love these days.  But crowding around the island with our people is so much nicer icon smile The Kitchen
Photos: Heather Kincaid

Florals: Floral Crush

Hair & Makeup: Moira Taylor

Dress: Morning Lavender 

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February 18, 2015 Passion Fruit Curd

As much as I’d love to make an entire cake, I just don’t have enough passion fruits to do it yet (because I’m sure people are stealing things from me).  So, I make half recipes for other little bits of goodness that I can mix in to other things.  Passion fruit is a REALLY strong flavor, so this works in my favor!

Curd!  You can make small amounts and it goes pretty far.  And you can mix it in anything.  Today I mixed it with fruit and yogurt and it was delicious.  Or you could make a pound cake and slather it all over the place.  Or on vanilla ice cream.   I haven’t done that one yet, but I’m sure it will be incredible.  Do it and let me know!

I took the recipe from here, it was super delicious and incredibly easy.

Passion Fruit Curd 0001 Passion Fruit Curd
Passion Fruit Curd 0002 Passion Fruit Curd

Passion Fruit Curd

Ingredients

2 eggs, plus 2 extra yolks

5 tablespoons fresh passionfruit pulp

1 oz unsalted butter cut into small dice

1/4 cup superfine sugar

Directions

Put all the ingredients into a bowl set over a pan of simmering water and stir constantly until the mixture starts to thicken and take on the appearance of a thin custard.  Continue to cook, still stirring, until it thickens further, about 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat immediately so as not to overcook.  Ladle the curd into a clean jar or container, and leave to cool before covering and refrigerating.

Note – don’t let the water in the pot boil.  I did and I’m pretty sure I overcooked it a bit.  It’s fine, tastes great, but the texture is a little chunkier as opposed to smooth.

Mixed in with yogurt and some fresh fruit, it makes for a delicious snack!  Enjoy!

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I don’t even like soup.   Well, most soup, I just don’t care for it.  Especially when it’s chunky soup with lots of stuff floating around in a super hot broth.  Nothing about that is appealing to me.  But this soup.  I made it twice last week.  TWICE!   Once for a networking event that was so lovely, and then once to nosh on whenever I feel like it.  It’s that good.  And it’s so easy, you’ll want to make enough to eat for weeks on end!

It’s roasted vegetables, soaked in broth and pureed.  It’s so simple.  I serve it with a toasted baguette and will literally lick the bowl.  It is lick the bowl good!

You can really roast whatever you want… something heavy and fibrous, something sweet and something a little more flavorful.  I’ve made it with squash, pears & fennel.  Or Broccoli , apples & onions.  Really, throw some produce on a baking sheet and see what happens!   I can pretty much bet that it will be delicious.

Squash Apple Leek Soup 0001 Butternut Squash, Apple & Leek Soup Squash Apple Leek Soup 0002 Butternut Squash, Apple & Leek Soup

 

Butternut Squash, Apple & Leek Soup

Ingredients

1 Butternut Squash

4 small apples

2 Leeks

3-5 sprigs of Rosemary

32 oz carton of Chicken broth (you could use veggie too and I’m sure it would be fine!)

Olive Oil

Salt/Pepper

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Peel & cut the squash in to cubes.  Core & cut the apples into slices.  Slice the white-light green stalks of the leeks, discarding the dark green tops.  Mix produce on a baking sheet with a good coat of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt & pepper.   Roast for 35-45 minutes, until squash is really tender.

Remove rosemary sprigs (they should be pretty crispy) and empty baking sheet into a dutch oven.  Add 3/4 of the carton of chicken broth to the dutch oven and bring to a simmer on the stove.  Simmer for 25 minutes, until squash is falling apart.  In batches (I usually have to do two), transfer produce & broth to a blender and puree until smooth.  If it’s too dense, add some of the remaining cold chicken broth until smooth.

Roast some baguette with olive oil, salt & pepper, pour soup into a bowl and go to town!  Lick bowl & repeat.  Enjoy!

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February 13, 2015 Passion Fruit Cocktail

 

About five years ago, I wanted to cover the front fence in our yard.  It’s so Americana, it hurts.   White picket fence surrounding the yard.  Eventually we’d like to pull it out and build something more structurally sound, but for now, it works real well.   So I bought a pretty vine that makes really pretty flowers.  I didn’t really realize at the time that (a) those flowers would turn in to passion fruits or (b) that the vine would take over the ENTIRE fence.   I’m so happy on both of those points though, thrilled really! 

Passion Fruit Cocktail 0002 Passion Fruit Cocktail
But passion fruits are tough for a few reasons, especially when they’re on the sidewalk.  I think people steal them.   My husband thinks I’m crazy, but I’m so absolutely sure that we have at least half of them go missing before they’re really ready to come off the vine.  I’m torn on taking them early and risking them never fully ripening.  Or letting them stay and risking someone else taking them.   Normally, I wouldn’t mind.  Feed the neighborhood!   But, it takes a dozen of these little suckers to make anything that might feed more than one person.  So I want to hoard them like a crazy person.
So I stalk the vine and hide them behind as many leaves as I can.  Seriously, crazy person style.
But now I have seven, so I can do something!   First up, a cocktail so heavenly that I made mine with sparking water instead of champagne and it was delicious.  I would drink ten of them.  And I could really, because it’s fruit and water!  But if I was you, I’d make it with champagne.

Passion Fruit Cocktail 0001 Passion Fruit Cocktail

Basil Passion Fruit Cocktail
Ingredients
1 oz Passion Fruit Juice & Pulp
1 oz Basil Simple Syrup
Champagne
Basil Simple Syrup
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
4 large basil leaves
Directions
Make the Basil Simple Syrup – put sugar & water in a small pot and bring to a simmer, just until sugar melts.   Add basil leaves and allow to soak until basil leaves start to turn, around 20 minutes.   You can easily make larger batches, just add equal parts sugar and water, then as much basil as your heart desires.
Mix the Cocktail – Slice open the passion fruit and pull out everything inside; pulp, juice and seeds.  Depending on the size of your passion fruits, you might need one or two. Mix 1 oz of the pulp/juice/seeds with 1 oz of the Basil Simple Syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice.  Pour into a coupe, holding back the ice.  Top with champagne.  Enjoy!
Honestly, you could use the passion fruit juice/pulp and simple syrup mixture with sparkling water.  Or gin.  It might even be really lovely with bourbon.  It’s incredible and super flexible!
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February 11, 2015 The Guest Room

 

I’ve never had a guest room before, and I’m kind of obsessed with them.  A whole room, just set up to look comfortable and welcoming all the time.  No extra stuff, no real life.  Walking past this room makes me smile and when I decide to take a little afternoon nap, I feel like I’m heading to a hotel for a few hours!  It’s really lovely.

But when we bought our house, it looked like this…

Office Renovation 0014 The Guest Room

SOOO dirty!  And why is that ceiling fan hanging by a few wires?  Did the previous owners never vacuum anything!?

The ceiling fan came down (much to Chris’ chagrin.  He loves ceiling fans and I hate them.), the window was replaced, the carpet ripped out and hard wood floors went down.  White paint makes everything better and some heavy duty base molding… Voila!
Office Renovation 0015 The Guest Room

The bed is from Craig’s List, and comes with an amazing story.  A 16 year old girl in France ran away to get married, and this bed frame was a wedding gift from her parents.  Apparently she had a whole slew of kids on this bed (sometimes you just get too much information).  They brought it with them to America and her great-granddaughter sold it to me.   I don’t know if the story is true, but I love this bed and I love this story.   It’s a full size, but that meant something different 80 years ago, so current mattresses don’t actually fit… they’re about 1/2″ too large.  So we raised the mattress on risers and it actually floats above the bed frame, making the frame completely useless, just really really pretty.

The ceiling fixture is Restoration Hardware (and I actually have two extra that I’m thinking about selling if anyone is interested!).  The wall sconces are also Restoration and the mirror is Overstock, but a million years old.
Office Renovation 0016 The Guest Room

That green chair is a favorite of mine… another Craig’s List find!  I had it reupholstered for a photo shoot a few years ago and mean to sell it afterwards.  But I love it, so it stays.  The lamp & side table are Target.
Office Renovation 0017 The Guest Room

Thanks so much Heather Kincaid for the lovely photos (except that terrible first one) and Floral Crush for the prettiest flowers… you guys make my world go ’round!

 

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