Sunday, March 31, 2013

Oh Glorious Day!

Happy Easter! Today is truly a special Easter because we will be celebrating my dear husband Will's baptism this afternoon! So very excited. 

Thank you Jesus for what you have done for me on the cross. Thank you Heavenly Father for your amazing mercy and grace. 

Have a blessed Easter Sunday! 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Farm Fresh Produce: CSA in Los Angeles

Eating healthier is probably a resolution that tops many people's lists. Will and I eat out quite a bit and as much as we enjoy food, sometimes the most delicious and amazing meals are probably also not the healthiest ones. I try to balance our diet with healthier home-cooked meals but I often find myself reaching for the same  tried-and-true items in the produce section that I am comfortable with preparing. I've always wanted to learn to be a more versatile cook so I can prepare whatever produce is the freshest pick that particular week. I thought that a good way to put these pieces together is to join a CSA, community supported agriculture program.

A farm we visited during a trip to San Luis Obispo last fall

CSAs and other similar organic produce delivery programs, focus on providing fresh and quality foods to a local community group of subscribers. Weekly produce boxes contain organic and locally grown fruits and vegetables that are chosen and produced by a local farm. The contents of the box are usually announced one week in advance. Most CSAs offer either home delivery or have weekly dropoff/pickup points in the local surrounding area. It's a fantastic alternative to farmer's markets, which I love, but rarely have time to go to.

Though its been a hotly debated topic whether organic foods are in fact "healthier" than their conventionally produced counterparts, there are still plenty of other good reasons to "go organic". Locally grown organic produce are in-season (so they usually taste better), grown with non-synthetic pesticides, more sustainable and environmentally friendly, and supports local farmers!

A few great resources that I found for CSAs in Los Angeles: 
My top picks so far are: 
South Central Farmer's Cooperative
Will probably try this one out first since they have a pickup location fairly close to us. $15 and up for a mini box and the lowest level of commitment-- you can try a one-time box. This is the most budget option but from the list of previous box contents it seems like they have less variety and don't include as many fruits.

Farm Fresh To You
A good variety and they offer home delivery of their small box on designated days for $25. Quality, but less in quantity than you can probably get at the farmer's market for the same price (according to this review). You can choose the frequency of deliveries and cancel any time.

Good Life Organics
Probably the best variety of fruits and vegetables I've seen. The list on their site looks pretty extensive and it looks like pretty good bang-for-your-buck for a little more money and commitment. There is a one-time $15 membership fee and then it's $30 per half-sized box with home delivery, either weekly or bi-weekly. 
When I think of farm-to-table cooking, my quintessential inspiration is Canelle et Vanille. Aran fills this lovely blog with gorgeous, airy, and light-filled food photography paired with fresh, healthy, and delectable recipes.

See what I mean? I think I just might have to pick her new cook book, to motivate me to follow through with a CSA and to experiment more with seasonal produce!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Old Fashioned Corn Bread

On our trip to Napa Valley last month, we visited Bale Grist Mill Historic State Park near St. Helena. It was an absolutely beautiful stroll through the woods to reach the historic site where early settlers would gather to have their grain ground to flour by the water-powered mill. We brought home a bag of organic stone-ground cornmeal produced at the mill and I tried out a recipe to make old fashioned cornbread!

"The slow turning of the old grind stones and the dampness of the mill's site gave the meal a special quality for making cornbread, yellowbread, shortening bread and spoon bread. 
As old timers put it, "When meal comes to you that way, like the heated underside of a settin' hen, it bakes bread that makes city bread taste like cardboard." " -- Bale Grist Mill CA State Park Information

When I opened the bag of cornmeal, I could see what they meant-- the texture of the cornmeal was so soft and plush, but not overly fine or chalky the way traditional white flour can be. One cup of cornmeal made a whole loaf that lasted us for weeks: it made for a great lunch with a soup and salad, a yummy side for dinner, and even a quick breakfast that we could just heat up in the mornings and have with a glass of milk!

Adapted from Grandmother's Buttermilk Cornbread on
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 30 minutes

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2/3 white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 all-purpose cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk (I did not have buttermilk so I used lemon juice and regular skim milk, described in the directions)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease an 8.5 inch loaf pan.
  2. Heat the butter in a bowl in the microwave briefly. Remove from the microwave when a small solid of butter still remains and stir to completely melt. 
  3. *I did not have buttermilk so I used lemon juice with skim milk instead* Buttermilk is not butter and milk; rather it is milk that has been slightly curdled with acid, giving it a thicker consistency. The ratio to substituting with regular milk is generally 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to every 1 cup of milk. Stir and let the mixture sit for 10 minutes. 
  4. Combine the buttermilk with baking soda and watch for a slight bubbling. This shows that the baking soda is still fresh and that the bread will rise sufficiently. 
  5. Add the eggs, butter, and sugar in a mixing bowl and beat until well blended. Pour in the buttermilk and baking soda mixture. Stir in cornmeal, flour, and salt until well blended and few lumps remain. 
  6. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
There you have it, fluffy and fragrant cornbread! Yum!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

How Deep the Father's Love for Us

Nothing makes my heart melt like flowers. This past weekend Will and I took a trip back home to San Diego to spend some time with my family and my dad proudly showed off his recent gardening projects. Last year, his make-shift vegetable patch was his pride and joy. At the end of fall, we took home a big bag of his home-grown tomatoes.  Now that its springtime, I'm sure my mom has been nudging and prodding him about filling in some of the drearier looking parts of the yard with some bright spring blooms.

I noticed a few new colorful additions to the garden the minute I walked up the path to the front door. My dad went into the yard and picked a few more fresh blooms for us to bring back before we left that night. I just love the sunny yellow ranunculus and there are a few orange gerber daisies hiding in the mix too. I arranged them in a small floral mug since the stems were trimmed short and they have a been a sweet reminder of my father's love for me.

I guess a part of me, no matter how old I am, will always be a daddy's girl.

Whenever I think of a father's love, I can't help but think of the song "How Deep the Father's Love for Us." I have a heavenly father who loves me so much more than I can ever know or imagine. It is because of His great love that I have an earthly father who loves me too. If my earthly father wants to lavish me with good and beautiful things with his limited time and energy, how much more my heavenly father who is almighty and eternal!

Moreover, because of His great love, He sent His son Jesus on a search and rescue mission to save all of His lost and broken children. This words of this song states it beautifully.

How Deep the Father's Love for Us
by Stuart Townend

How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that left Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward? 
I cannot give an answer 
But this I know with all my heart 
His wounds have paid my ransom

Monday, March 25, 2013

Style Files: Scalloped Stripes Skirt

I spotted this gorgeous scalloped stripes ponte skirt from Anthropologie the other day. I just love the cut of this piece-- high waist fit (great for petites like me) and structured with a little volume. So pretty! I was inspired by the outfit it was styled with and came up with a look-alike using polyvore.

The model's hair is also a very pretty contrast to the black and white ensemble. I'm not a redhead so I added a chestnut leather colored bag to go with the outfit that is reminiscent of the orange-ish hues in her hair. Elegant and sophisticated, with a sweet girly touch. Love!

Scalloped Striped Skirt

Top: Modcloth
Earrings: Stella & dot
Sequin Collar: Nordstrom
Skirt: Express
Bracelet: BaubleBar
Bag: Zara
Shoes: DSW

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Foodventures: Simplethings and Mason Jars

This past weekend we had brunch at Simplethings Sandwich and Pie Shop, which we discovered through Blackboard Eats. This adorable little cafe is located just down the street from the many other popular brunch spots on West 3rd, like Joan's on Third, Toast and Little Next Door. Parking was madness to say the least, but next time we will know just to head straight to the public valet. As an alternative to a public lot, public valets are located on every block between La Cienaga and Fairfax marked with bright orange signs and umbrellas.

Simplethings is set up pretty much like a bakery cafe-- with a large kitchen in the back where all the pies are freshly prepared and a smaller area for seating in the front. You order at the front register next to the display case full of tempting pies. It was a bit crowded because of the weekend lunch rush, but the staff were very friendly and quickly cleaned up the tables and seated us. The size of the shop is certainly cozy, but I just loved how bright and airy the restaurant felt!

I had the vegetarian eggs benedict, which was decent since we had our hearts set on having brunch food, but looking back I really wish I had tried one of their regular menu items like the avocado melt sandwich or chicken curry pot pie. Note to self, always order the items the restaurant is named for. We did try one of their cutie pies (great name), which is the bite-size version of their sweet dessert pies. The strawberry flavored pie we had was good but nothing particularly special, I think perhaps I chose "too safe" of a flavor.

My favorite thing about the the meal presentation was the way my lemonade was served in a mason jar. Such a cute idea! I was inspired by how effortlessly pretty and rustic it looked as an alternative to regular glasses. Perhaps an idea I can bring home?

Mason Jar Drink Glasses
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Spring Vases

I feel like springtime weather in LA has been playing peek-a-boo. It has been vacillating between warm and sunny to cold and rainy every few weeks. I hope spring weather will finally be here to stay soon! One of my favorite things about spring is flowers!

I hope someday I can experience cherry blossom season in Washington DC or Japan, but locally we are lucky to be not too far from gorgeous poppy fields that burst into colorful bloom in late spring as well. But this year I have been checking the bloom status on the website for the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve, and sadly it seems like it may be a very sparse season... so for now I will be content with having more fresh flowers in the house.

Here's a few pretty vases I've spotted. They would be lovely for bringing springs blooms into the home!

Spring Vases
1) Pure white ceramic vase by West Elm. 
2) Interlocking trio vase by Anthropologie. Such a unique design! Would make a great centerpiece.
3) Flower series by Anthropologie. Love the colors and looks plenty pretty even without fresh blooms.
4) Bud vase garland by Urban Outfitters. So cute! Would make a pretty backdrop for a party or shower
5) Laboratory flower vases by Urban Outfitters. Because I love science. and it's rustic, but pretty.
6) 4-some bud vase by CB2. Unique modern design and a great price too!

Sometimes I miss my "flower girl days" (when I worked part-time at a flower shop during college), because I just got to arrange flowers all day long. Some days just don't get much better than that! 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Getting over that cold!

I guess it's that time of year again. That time of year when we get sick. Officially, flu season was actually earlier in the year and when we heard from our workplaces (Will and I are both in healthcare, though we don't work directly with patients) and doctor friends that this year was a particularly bad flu season, we got the vaccine right away.

And so far so good. Until last week. After I was under the weather for a week poor Will, who took such good care of me, got sick too! I remember both of us were sick around this time last year too, despite our best efforts.... but now thankfully, we have both recovered and are pretty much 100% again-- just in time for the weekend!

For the past few weeks we've been having loads of chicken soup and lemon tea around the house. I remembered this super cute idea for get well soon care packages that I saw from Creature Comforts. Great idea for the next time a friend is sick!

Materials for the get well kit:
  • Large mug | Target, approximately $4 
  • Honey bottle | Grocery store, $4.50
  • Fresh lemon | Grocery store, $.40 each 
  • Chapstick brand lip balm | Target, $2 
  • Tissues | Target, set of 3 for $2 
  • Burt's Bees Honey & Lemon Throat Drops | Target, $2 
  • Optional - Clear Cellophane Basket Gift Bag | Michael's, set of two small bags for $1
  • Free printable gift tag (download from original post here)
  • Twine 
  • Scissors
How cute is that? And I've always absolutely loved the bear-shaped honey bottles. Thanks Creature Comforts!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Freshing up our home for spring: Ikea Wish List

I think we will probably be taking a trip to Ikea in the near future. Ikea is a lot like Costco for us-- it's touted to be the budget friendly option but actually we always end up spending a lot of money there, often more than we had anticipated. It's probably because we always end up buying a lot more in volume, so it should still end up being a good theory.

Early last year, when we were still furnishing and organizing our new home, it felt like we were going to Ikea almost every other weekend. Sometimes we would be driving down the freeway on our way to somewhere else and just happen to pass by an Ikea....and we would of course detour to just make a "quick stop". It was a theme in the 2012 catalog to utilize space-saving furnishings and accessories in tight spaces, which gave us great ideas for our city condo.

Then came the 2013 catalog. I had anticipated for it to come in the mail for weeks and when we finally got it I was so disappointed. I flipped through the whole thing in maybe 5 minutes and nothing stood out to me, nothing seemed new and exciting, it was very uninspiring. The trips to Ikea tapered off fairly quickly and now its been over 7 months since we last stepped foot in the store.

This past week I have been browsing their items online again and I actually found quite a few things I loved. Just in time for freshening up our home up for spring! Here's my spring Ikea wish list (best of all, every item is under $15!)

Spring Decor with Ikea

1) Pretty graphic print with hearts and skyscrapers! $8
2) Butterfly cutouts give this piece of art a little dimension $12.99
3) This pillow would go perfectly with our brown chaise and world map hanging in our reading nook/library area $12.99
4) Hanging planters by the window saves counter/table space and brightens the house with a little fresh greenery $9.99-$12.99
5) Picture ledges make it easy to create a gallery wall and display photos and art without having to put a bunch of holes in the wall $9.99-$14.99
6) A brightly colored watering can for our houseplants $9.99

It was hard loosing an hour last weekend for spring forward but I'm so happy about having more daylight now in the afternoon and early evenings. Happy Friday!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Vanilla Panna Cotta with Raspberry Sauce

My love affair with Panna Cotta, the delicious Italian pudding dessert, began when Will and I were still students. We discovered Trader Joe's Peach and Blueberry Panna Cotta and fell in love with the sweet creamy goodness. They came frozen, two puddings per package, for a cool $4. It became our easy go-to dessert after homemade dinners together.

Then there was a period of time when we took a hiatus from panna cottas. I have no idea why now because they are so terribly delicious, but when I was recently craving them again, we could never find them at Trader Joe's anymore! I did a little research and to my dismay, found that they have been discontinued!

So for this past Valentine's day, I planned to make a special dinner for Will. I pan-fried dungeness crab cakes, baked off roasted red peppers stuffed with lemon quinoa, and found a recipe for vanilla panna cotta. I was surprised at how easy it was to actually make! There are actually dozens of recipes out there for panna cotta and I found that the only real difference between them was the varying ratios of milk to heavy whipping cream. Too much whipping cream and the fat content and richness will overtake the dessert and become too heavy, but too much plain milk and the panna cotta would loose creaminess.

In the end, I decided to settle on 1 cup nonfat milk and 2 cups heavy whipping cream. I made everything the night before, it only took about 20 minutes, and poured the mixture in ramekins to set in the fridge overnight. The next evening I set out some frozen raspberries to defrost at room temperature while we enjoyed the rest of our dinner and then I mixed in a spoonful of sugar with the defrosted raspberry and the juices and topped off each panna cotta with a big spoonful, easy!

Adapted from version
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Set Time: overnight

  • 1 cup skim milk 
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream 
  • 1 envelope (0.25 ounce) of powder unflavored gelatin 
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  1. Pour the skim milk in a small bowl and dissolve the packet of gelatin in the milk. Stir and set aside.
  2. Heat the heavy whipping cream with the sugar in a saucepan over medium heat stirring occasionally  When the mixture begins to boil pour the gelatin and milk mixture into the pan and reduce the heat slightly. 
  3. Stir the mixture constant for one minute and then remove from the heat. Stir in the vanilla extract. 
  4. Pour or spoon the mixture into individual ramekins. Cover the top with plastic wrap so that it touches the surface of the liquid. This will prevent a "skin" of milk-fat from forming. 
  5. Refrigerate overnight
  6. Defrost frozen raspberries at room temperature for half an hour or a few hours in the fridge. 
  7. Mix raspberries and liquid with sugar to taste and spoon over the top of the panna cottas. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Style Files: Dress up with Sperrys

Confession: I feel a little out-of-the-fashion-loop, I didn't know about Sperry Top-Siders until just a few months ago. I happened to spot a pair (in my size! a rare sighting...) for sale recently at Macy's and I also had a gift card that was overdue for spending so I was able to snag my new Sperrys for free! They are a blush pink with a beige trim and a sequin plaid pattern on the side. I loved how girly they were and this version even had a fleece lining (usually they are leather on the inside), like Uggs for springtime!

When I first saw the shoe I did some research on the brand since I've never really seen people in LA wearing Sperrys before. Perhaps it's more of an east coast thing and hasn't quite made its way over to California yet. Or maybe I have just been oblivious and behind on my fashion trends. I learned that Sperrys were first designed back in the 1930s by Paul Sperry in Connecticut (explains the preppy northeastern vibe of the brand) for the very practical purpose of increasing traction on slippery boat decks, and thus became commonly known as boat shoes. 

On board with boat shoes

I love that Sperrys are well-made from quality materials such as leather, suede, and a sturdy non-marking sole that provides good support. The plush lining on the inside is so comfy that it makes me feel like I am wearing slippers all the time. Also, they come in all sorts of fun colors and patterns (glitter, plaid, floral, animal prints...).  But I did have my doubts at first since I never really considered myself a "loafer" kind of girl (my go-to flats are usually more of the ballet slipper variety). I thought for a while how I should wear my Sperrys and these are the style combinations I've settled on. 
Sperry's Styles

1) Great for summer paired with shorts, capris, shirt dresses, or short skirts
2) Would also pair wonderfully with a shirtdress and leather belt or bag that echos the material of the shoe
3) Even works for mild LA winters with skinny jeans

It's a great versatile and comfortable everyday shoes, perfect for running errands, shopping, as a casual weekend slip-on, and even traveling (bonus if there is actually boating involved). I find they don't pair well with many of the dresses in my closet though, the way my ballet flats do, especially dresses with polyester material, sheer fabric, or anything too frilly or formal. They look best paired with cotton or denim clothing for a relaxed but composed look.

Love it when I find great new shoes!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Wayfaring Wine Country: St. Helena

A weekend in Napa Valley and Sonoma Part III

There was no better way to walk off a day of wine tasting than along a short lush trail to a beautiful historic mill in the soft golden glow of the afternoon sunlight. Bale Grist Mill was once the gathering place for early Napa valley settlers who would bring their corn and grain to grind into flour. The Bale Grist Mill, originally built in 1846, was completely water-powered and is still functioning today.

We arrived at the park near closing time and were a bit bummed that the tours and milling demonstrations for the day were already over, but they still let walk around for a self-guided tour. The staff at the mill were dressed in period-costumes and they also sold organic cornmeal, flour, and polenta that were actually ground by the mill. I loved the sound of the water pouring from waterwheel as it turned and the patches of moss growing all around the mill. It was really a unique piece of history in a beautiful setting.

We had planned dinner in St. Helena and had some time to walk around the main street before our reservation. There were lots of cute little boutique shops selling interesting gourmet food items, soaps, and even artwork made from bugs! We enjoyed dinner at Market, which was one of our favorite meals of the trip (but we pretty much didn't have any bad meals, food was just delicious everywhere). The menu was simple but all the courses were done very well with fresh ingredients and were beautifully plated. You know how sometimes you read an item on the menu and it sounds so good but then the actual dish falls short? At Market, the dishes taste exactly how you would expect them to, in good way: perfectly delicious, just the way you had imagined it. We turned in for the evening pretty soon afterwards with blissful food coma....

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