Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sunshine and Weekend Eats

The weather was positively lovely this weekend! Warm sunshine, clear skies, and the occasional cool breeze. I put on a nautical blue and white striped sundress that had been buried deep in the back of my closet during the winter months, Will donned his usual professorly getup (collared shirt under a v-neck sweater...I've teased him that rain or shine, summer or winter, he always wears the same outfit!) and treated me to a spontaneous day of eating our way through LA. We enjoyed a leisurely brunch at La Provence Patisserie in Beverly Hills (a check off this delicious list of the top 10 macarons in LA), strolled through Cal Tech campus (I've never been before, it's quite nice! lovely Spanish architecture), cooled off with some gelato at Piccomolo in Old Pasadena downtown, and finished off with milk tea and soup dumplings at Din Tai Fung, one of our favorite Chinese Restaurants!

We were able to enjoy our weekend indulgence guilt-free because Will had gone running twice this past week (usually he only has time to go once) and I had dance class... it's all about balance right? The not-so-glamorous part of my weekend was the terrible blisters I got on the back of my heel from a pair of new shoes... ow. Just short of a perfect day.

Friday, April 26, 2013


I recently discovered Society6, an online shop where artists sell their unique designs as a variety of products. I wanted to share about Society6 because often times as a consumer, I come across beautiful and inspiring works of art and design online, but finding a way to own a version of the piece and support the original creator of the work can be pretty elusive. Society6 fosters support for the creative community by making it easier for artists to market their original works and admirers to purchase their favorite designs in a very practical form. I've been finding lots of fabulous decorative graphic prints, unique iphone cases, and even a handful of pretty throw pillows!
A few favorites from Society6

I'm really loving that "Up" inspired graphic print by Derek Temple! I am thinking about ordering one for our bedroom. The woodland creatures series by Teagan White is also super adorable and would be really cute for a baby's room (for future reference?) or on a tote bag. And those throw pillows with colorful artwork by Garima Dhawan-- whimsical and playful, I love them all.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Foodventures: Nook Bistro and Eating at the Bar

About a month ago I had dinner with a friend at Nook Bistro. It's tucked away in the corner of an unassuming strip mall (quite literally the "nook" of the plaza), but the interior of the restaurant is modern and rich in wood tones giving the space a warm and cozy feel. I missed the opportunity to make a reservation and instantly regretted my oversight when we arrived and saw that every table was filled. It's such a hidden little place, who would have thought it would be so packed on a Tuesday night?

Thankfully, the waiter kindly informed us that there was space at the bar where they also served the full dinner menu. Usually eating at the bar would not be my first choice (except perhaps if I were at a sushi bar enjoying omakase). Eating at the bar reminds me of communal dining tables, which seem to be a growing trend in restaurants lately; I can appreciate the concept, but I just personally much prefer the more intimate setting of separate tables especially when I am catching up with a friend and looking forward to sharing some uninterrupted conversation.

Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised by our dinner-at-the-bar experience at Nook Bistro. The food was great (we especially enjoyed  the kurobuta pork belly with tomatillo), the service didn't miss a beat, and best of all we still had wonderful, unbridled conversation all dinner long. Perhaps my prejudice against eating at the bar is amiss? Come to think of it, one of the best meals Will and I had on our honeymoon in Hawaii was also served to us at the bar; again, it was because the restaurant was wildly popular and we didn't make reservations...but afterwards we definitely understood why it was packed; the food was fantastic and we had the added bonus of having refreshing drinks from the bartender right at our fingertips. Eating a full dinner at the bar can actually be quite a fine experience!

Monday, April 22, 2013

My Cup of Tea

I love tea parties! Bright colors, dresses, flowers, sweets, finger food, and tea? What's not to love? Sadly, I had to miss a friend's sweet tea party bridal shower recently, but the theme has been on my mind. Tea parties have the odd whimsical quality of bring back all the charming memories of childhood playtime, yet retaining a sophisticated and classy semblance.
Tea Party
Dress: Modcloth
Necklace: Fracesca's
Earrings: Beautyland Etsy
Coral Bow : Miss Selfridge
Teacups: Anthropologie and Cost Plus World Market
Teapot: Crate and Barrel
Square Cake Stand: Martha Stewart Living Collection for Macy's
Two-tier Cake Stand: Target

I love the colorful graphic design teapots Crate and Barrel has been releasing as a part of a collection celebrating its 50th anniversary. One of twelve different limited-edition versions of a porcelain teapot showcasing designs by artists from around the world will be released each month through this year. November's to-be-released design by Julia Rothman depicting colorful geometric shapes echoing the timber-frame construction of buildings is my favorite! 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Wayfaring Wine Country: Mustard Season

A weekend in Napa Valley and Sonoma Part IV

Japan has romantic cherry blossoms, Holland has rainbow fields of tulips, and Napa Valley has wild mustard flowers. We had the luck of catching the peak of mustard season in Napa Valley on our recent trip and we were captivated by the beauty of the wine country landscape covered in a lovely layer of yellow wild flowers. Many travel guides will say that September during the autumn grape harvest is the best time to visit Napa Valley, but I think enjoying the springtime beauty of the valley on a warm weekend in mid February was such a treat and definitely one of my favorite experiences! Though the grapevines were bare, the hills were lush after the winter rains and interspersed between the vineyard trellises was a fine carpet of the sunny yellow blooms.

Early in the morning, we sleepily packed our things, had a quick breakfast, checked out of our hotel in Napa Valley and headed out to Sonoma County to catch our Safari West tour. As we were driving along Highway 29 just north of Yountville, we spotted a vast open meadow covered in wild mustard, stretching from the roadside to the farmhouses and hills in the distance. We pulled over and found ourselves knee-deep in the field of wildflowers. In the chilly and crisp morning air, everything was calm and quiet with just the occasional car passing by and the sound of resounding bird calls. Fresh dew glistened on the flowers swaying gently in the wind under the canopy of a bright blue sky. It was magical. A rare sort of peaceful picturesque moment that makes you want to hold your breath for fear that it would somehow disturb the tranquil beauty of it all.

I later learned of the Napa Valley Mustard Festival, which celebrates the mustard season through various food, wine, and art events bringing vibrancy to the valley during the "off-season" winter months. Sadly, the festival, after 17 years, was recently canceled due to the difficult economic times. I do hope they bring it back someday! I absolutely loved Napa Valley during mustard season!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Love is...the cross

I really love this. I couldn't find the original source but I just love the simple truth it illustrates.

Recently at a prayer retreat our pastor spoke about the cross of Jesus. In Luke 9:23 Jesus says, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, pick up their cross daily and follow me." I have always thought of "my cross" as the struggles in my own life: being misunderstood, injustice, and illness. But our pastor pointed out that the cross Jesus carried was in fact for my sins, not His own. Jesus did not need to be burdened by my darkness and inequities and suffer on a cross that was meant for me, but He chose to because He loves me. In light of the cross of Jesus, my vague understanding of "my cross" as the occasional inconvenient circumstances and disappointments in my own life, has been far too shallow.

If this is how Jesus loves me, it must also be an example of how I am to love others. Our pastor spoke about bearing with one another in love, despite the things they may say or do that hurt us.  By sacrificing time that may go unappreciated, reaching out to others only to be rejected (I am super sensitive to rejection), humbling myself to be the first to apologize despite still feeling some hurt and anger in my heart, are all just little steps closer to the cross of Jesus and His love. Denying myself and dying to my selfish desires daily is the way true love takes shape. I fail so often, but by grace and strength from God....I want to love that way.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Our Balcony Garden

Lately, I've been bemoaning our home's lack of outdoor space. It's spring and I long for a little spring greens and a garden of my own filled with blooming flowers. Unfortunately our city condo is definitely lacking in usable outdoor space. We have two balconies, one off the living room and another off our bedroom. Both are tiny and terribly awkward; basically you step out the screen door and you are already right up against the railing. I always thought that making some usable space out of our balcolini (my made-up word for our tiny, baby balcony) was a lost cause but Will promised that we could make it work and have an area for the greenery I've been hoping.

Sure enough, our little project last weekend was starting up a herb and succulent garden on our balcony! We picked up a few hanging flower boxes, soil, and plants from Home Depot and a few hours later we had ourselves a little balcony garden. Very thankful for Will who diligently washed and scrubbed our dusty balcony until it was usable again! (We used to have neighbors who smoked and kept dogs on their balcony above ours so with all of the ash and pet hair that floated over it was pretty gross...)

In one planter we have a variety of baby succulents and in the herb planter we have mini red peppers, pineapple sage, oregano, and boxwood basil. When Will and I were bent over the planters potting our mini garden and getting our hands dirty, it made us feel like kids again; I remember in elementary school our class planted a small vegetable patch to learn about how things grew and back then we didn't seem to mind getting dirt on our hands and clothes and the occasional bugs because it was all so much fun. This time, I kept a Lysol wipe within arm's reach (and somehow, there was a lot more cleanup involved than I remembered....definitely don't have memories of doing that part as a kid).

Can't wait to watch our plants grow!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Let's pretty up the office!

It occurred to me that my office space at work is a bit drab. I have a brand new bulletin board with nothing on it and just a few basic office accessories that look rather lonely on my large desk (when it's not covered in piles of paper). So, I've been on the lookout for some cute little accessories that will brighten things up a bit.

Pretty Up the Office

The test tubes office supply set is absolutely adorable and perfect for my line of work! The pretty little potted air plant is low maintenance and doesn't require daily watering; instead a short soak every few weeks in a small bowl of water is plenty for these little guys.

I also found a few items that would look fantastic in our home office. We don't have a dedicated work space at home, but since we have a rather open and spacious living room, we organized one side of the room with a pair of desks, wall shelves, and wall-mounted organizers to create a makeshift home office. In particular, I was absolutely in love with that turquoise filing cabinet from CB2. It would have looked so pretty under our simple white desks and give our space a lovely pop of color. But then I took a closer look and realized that there was extra support built in beneath our desks so the filing cabinet wouldn't be able to fit underneath quite the way I had envisioned.... I was so bummed. So, I'm still on the lookout for a pretty filing cabinet or I suppose we shall resort to a simply functional one and hide it away in the closet...

A pleasant work space can make all the difference and sometimes all it takes is a few lovely little accessories!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Foodventures: Bru's Wiffle A Waffle Joint

We've been loving our weekend brunches lately. Waffles usually aren't my favorite (I once burned my finger on a waffle iron), but there are definitely times when a warm crispy-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside waffle just hits the spot. Bru's Wiffle is a cute little breakfast joint in Santa Monica that we tried recently and definitely qualifies as a local authority on waffles! For the size of the restaurant I was surprised at how relatively extensive the menu was: savory waffles, sweet waffles, over half-a-dozen variations on chicken and waffles, traditional breakfast plates, burgers, and even pastas!

I had the hardest time deciding whether to go for a savory waffle or sweet waffle (waffles topped with bananas, strawberries, and ice cream? So very tempting), but I finally settled on the (healthier?) twist on chicken and waffles, the curry chicken salad waffle. It was a great combination of sweet and salty with a little herbal spice!

Another happy waffle memory: these adorable heart-shaped mini waffles from my bridal shower almost two years ago!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Travel Planning: Airbnb or Hotel?

Part II
We've booked our plane tickets for our Europe trip! Next on the list is settling our accommodations in each country. In Copenhagen we'll probably be staying at the conference hotel, so that leaves Paris and Venice. I've recently discovered airbnb, a fantastic alternative to hotels that has become popular for finding unique and authentic lodging experience for travelers in Europe. Its been quite fun browsing through airbnb to see all the distinctive flats and homes-- anything but cookie-cutter.

Modern with a little rustic charm and a spa-like bathroom

Bright and airy apartment filled with sunlight

Classic Parisian flat with a mezzanine bedroom

Traditional hotels on the other hand, come with all the creature comforts that makes relaxing after a long day easy. Takes the guess-work out of all the arrangements and conveniences that make for a restful and pleasant stay. 
Love the facade of a typical Parisian hotel with planters on the balconies

An ultra modern hotel featured on designlovefest and BLTD for its lighting artwork. Very affordable too! 

Something in-between is this pretty apartment-hotel in Venice! Staffed by a professional company with hotel-like amenities such as limited concierge services and toiletries, but like a vacation rental also offers more living space, a kitchenette, and is located in a residential luxury apartment complex. 
Love the exposed wooden beams, hardwood floors, and the decor combination of clean modern lines with a touch of traditional Venetian flare! 

  • A homier atmosphere; more immersed in the city
  • Usually located in less touristy and quieter neighborhoods
  • More affordable in prime locations (walking distance to attractions)
  • More living space (even a moderately sized flat is usually larger than an affordable hotel suite)
  • Kitchens and some have washer/dryers (not necessary for our trip, but could be useful for longer stays)
  • Minimal cleaning throughout the stay; most homes seem to have a pick-up-after-yourself policy
  • No front-desk or option of changing rooms if issues arise 
  • Most do not have air conditioning 
  • Availability 
  • Room service
  • Air conditioning (it seems the majority of flats in paris lack this amenity)
  • Concierge and front-desk services for questions and problems
  • Toiletries 
  • Fresh towels everyday 
  • Breakfast (some airbnb options include breakfast as well)
  • Smaller rooms and less space for storage and to "spread out"
  • More foot-traffic throughout the hotel and more neighbors on every side (during peak season most rooms will be occupied)
  • Staying in an environment with a bunch of other tourists can be noisy

My dream vacation home or hotel in Europe would be clean and updated but also tastefully decorated with design touches authentic to the local culture, have lots of natural light and a pretty view out the window, and of course the location is key: a quiet area of a great neighborhood that's walking distance to attractions, public transportation, restaurants, and cafes. It's a tall order (especially on a budget) but there are so many fantastic choices it's going to be a difficult decision!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Style Files: A bright bag!

I'm loving the look of a simple outfit with a pretty statement color shoulder bag! Especially when paired with neutral clothing, a pop of color adds a touch of whimsy and panache. I'm pretty excited about my new bright pink leather Coach shoulder bag I happened upon at a Coach Factory flash sale. The bag has a simple and structured design but the pretty rose pink color was just enough unique charm to catch my eye. And it's got a changeable strap so the bag can be worn as shoulder bag or a crossbody-- love the versatility! 

Fashion color trends change from season to season, but I think a classic well-made bag in your favorite statement color can always be stylish. Let's spin the color wheel! 

Clockwise from top | Raspberry: Mika from Piperlime | Coral: Austin Crossbody from Fossil | Sunshine yellow: Quilted Crossbody from Banana Repbulic | Lime: Newbury Mini Shoulder by Ralph Lauren | Azure: Envelope Crossbody by Forever 21

Statement Color Shoulder Bag

Bright Bags

Can't wait to take my new bright bag out for a spin this weekend! Happy Friday!

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