Thursday, March 26, 2015

Little Things -- Backyard Chicken Envy

Lately, it seems that I'm nearly as likely to encounter a chicken in a friend's backyard as I am to find a dog on their couch. And I'm feeling a little envious. I, too, long to have continuous hen parties in the backyard... be gifted daily with colorful swag... and always have something to cook up in the kitchen when I'm too lazy to go to the market. Someday...

Monday, March 9, 2015

New York, New York

At the beginning of the year, we had a unique opportunity to grab a NYC trip with the kiddos. Getting out there had been in the queue for a long while, so when fully furnished, top floor digs overlooking Central Park landed in our lap, the deal was sealed. We quickly traded mid-eighty degree So Cal weather (in January!) for mid-twenties. And we couldn't have been happier...

holy view, batman

Almost everyone we knew out there was feeling affected by the brutal weather, but for whatever reason, the cold just didn't bother us. My Cali kids didn't complain even once. So either it's in their blood... or we packed really well. We also armed ourselves with Airborne each day and managed to fend off getting whatever was going around the whole time we were in town.

Since it was the kids' first real time to NYC (older babe did have a pre-memory infant visit), we padded it mostly with some good tried-and-true. Our five day trip was made all the more colorful by snow, sun, rain, hail, and freeze. We had it all. Oh, NYC in the winter. 

Where things took us...

swapped sand for snow in central park

indulged in frozen hot chocolates at serendipity

did a little ironing

took on midtown rain to see the empire state building

Brooklyn had really only taken off after I'd already left NYC. I consider my good friend, Karla, to be one of the original bold voyagers (before it was cool) to seek out more space in the burrows (Atlantic Ave between 3rd and 4th, anyone?). The rest of us clung to Manhattan.

So on this trip, I was eager to go check out Williamsburg. We chose the snowiest day and made the trek out, soaking up some hipster neighborhood culture first and then hitting Bakeri, a spot I'd been swooning over for months from afar. This sweet, little place just oozes charm, and with kids content going back and forth between sips of hot chocolate inside and snowballs out back, I seriously could have holed up there happily the entire rest of the day...

i'm moving in

On a different day, we ventured downtown for a huge group lunch with close pals followed by a little strolling around the icy West Village and Soho streets.

passed by buvette and stuck my head in
hoping to grab a bite there next trip

hidden downstairs

old stomping ground glory

Other adventures included Museum of Natural History, multiple Shake Shacks, Matilda on Broadway, more dinners and hang time with family and friends, and a throw back breakfast at my old regular corner diner, Pier 72...

All in all, we managed to fit in quite a lot despite the added slow motion of kids on foot and major weather happening. We would have loved another couple of days for things including The High Line that got rain booted on our last day (sorry, hubby).

See you again soon, NYC! 

top photo: our view on a sunny, clear (but freezing) day

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Found -- Let There Be LuMee

Cheers to the pal who sees a void... fills it up... and causes an outright stir.

Enter the LuMee.

Al is a longtime professional photographer who has spent his life lighting and securing the perfect photo. When selfies and facetiming took over the world, he immediately recognized that neither worked very well (or at all) at night or in otherwise badly lit situations. So he created a lighting device -- a phone case resembling a makeup mirror -- that makes it possible to take great reverse facing photos anytime/anywhere, while also providing a little extra perfect lighting magic so you'll always look your best self(ie). 


You can grab a LuMee here... and enter code Lumee10 for 10% off your purchase. Then join the growing mass of enlightened selfie takers who no longer dream of snapping without it.

{more found posts here}

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Musing -- The Shelf Life Of Books

Recently, we were looking to clear out some extra space in our house. One of the endeavors was tackling the bookcase and weeding out what could go into storage and what could go -- away. It was fun taking a little ride down my reading memory lane. I can literally remember the things I was going through, my particular interests, or what I was setting out to accomplish at the time, by the books I was gobbling up.

On the shelves --  

A few books from my childhood, such as Six Plays by Henrik Ibsen featuring A Doll's House (yes, this was the type of thing I loved reading as a kid). I was very fixated on dialogue, which propelled me to write little things for extra credit, such as Ronny And Julie, a modern day Romeo And Juliet that I turned in in the third grade. Other faves from kidhood that I got to pass on to my own kiddos -- Florence Nightengale, Born Free, and a collection of poetry called Hailstones And Halibut Bones (that my son chose to recite from for a class assignment last year, sigh). I also managed to bestow them with an oddly well preserved pop-up book of knock knock jokes that I can still quote from (Knock Knock -- Who's there? -- Toucan -- Toucan who? -- Toucan live as cheaply as one)...

Weighty (actually, bicep heavy) required reading from college. Milton, Dostoevsky, Chaucer, Shakespeare (obvious English major here)... Post-college, the classics continued to invade voluntarily with Therese Raquin by Emile Zola, Salinger's Franny and Zooey, and Madame Bovary among the tops. Inspiration for the craft of writing itself and screenwriting also took up some shelf real estate, starting with Strunk and White The Elements Of Style...

Then there were the happened-upon books that I would grab up. Something on a favorite artist like Egon Schiele, or a collection of drawings by Pontormo, or a well-worn how-to book on speaking French that I would flip through every so often in an attempt to justify the four years I studied it unsuccessfully in college...

Of course, every girl needs a trusty Self-Help section, and mine sprouted during my single NYC days. The Seat Of The Soul by Gary Zukov, A Traveling Companion by Joseph Conrad, Chopra's Perfect Health, Creative Visualization and Living In the Light both by Shatki Gawain, all crescendoing to Man's Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl. I still consider all of these the real deal. Invaluable at any stage of life. 

My most recent collected books (not counting cookbooks) have been for the most part non-fiction. (I've heard this happens. At some point, you only want the facts.) For me, it's been autobiographies and biographies in the realm of Julia Child My Life In France, Tina Fey Bossypants, A House In The Sky by hostage survivor Amanda Lindhout (an incredible story but I can't say that I recommend it as it left me feeling traumatized for months), as well as books of essays by various writers...

Almost all of these books that I have held onto (literally and literally, as I still like holding onto a book and turning pages the old-fashioned way), I've decided I have no intention of parting with for anything more than a temporary stint in storage. I can recall certain take-aways from each one (will share a few gems later), and sometimes can even feel re-inspired just by looking at certain covers. 

"If you read a book and get even one thing out of it, it was worth reading." -- my father

Go forth and read!

photo snapped on a visit to wonderful bart's books in ojai

Friday, February 13, 2015

Valentine's Day Repost // Once Upon-A... Nothing

I’m not a big consumer. The list of things I want at any given time is usually pretty small. Very specific -- absolutely. But not grand. And not many. I simply don’t like a lot of stuff.

That lack of overt desire for things may have sent a silent message to my boyfriend many years ago, I’m not sure, but for my first four birthdays in a row with him, he gave me -- nothing. It seemed a little extreme and out of character to me as he falls into the category of nicest guy in the world as opposed to caveman. But nevertheless, even after voicing a tinge of confusion/disappointment a couple of times, year after year continued to bring me the same gift from him – nothing.

Until one particular birthday.

I'd been feeling a little lost. We were living in LA but I was missing the city life of NYC where I had last lived. Also, the inevitable thing that happens when lives begin to blend, was happening. I wasn’t seeing so much of myself in my own life anymore. His life was the more overshadowing of the two. He had certain things very set in place, such as a locale-tied business and already being a father to two lovely daughters, and I was still catching up to a lifestyle and mentality I hadn’t myself arrived at yet.

When my birthday rolled around this particular year, I had no expectations at all. (Isn’t that one of the keys to happiness? To have no/low expectations and be pleasantly surprised when things turn out great?) Well, that morning, I wasn’t thinking much about my birthday when I walked into the living room and saw five gift wrapped boxes, all stacked up and numbered. It was quite a sight. I was told that four of the boxes were for the birthdays I got nothing, and the fifth box was for this one. I was then instructed to open them in order.

They turned out to be all the things that made up my perfect little list at the time of what I'd been wanting. (The audience had been listening.)

This is what was inside the boxes:

Box 1 -- A Classic Trench Coat
Box 2 – A Simple Strand of Pearls 
Box 3 -- A Sweet Pearl Pinky Ring (that he’d had custom-made at the jewelry mart downtown using an image from a magazine tear-out he’d swiped off my desk -- bullseye)
Box 4 -- A Round-Trip Ticket to NYC 
Box 5 – Empty. Except for a Letter.

This is what the letter in the fifth box said:

And finally,
In this box you get nothing. Nothing but the promise that every day, I will work to make things brighter. Brighter for the moment and brighter for our future.
Nothing but my efforts to give you-you back. 
I give you my humanitarianism, my selflessness, with the knowledge that this is an extremely prudent investment.
Nothing but the intangibles, the nuances, the unsaid thoughts of you that fill my days.
Nothing but my devotion, my love, my life.
So, once again, on your birthday, you get nothing.
Love - J

I took that nothing and I married it.

{first appeared on the-pastry 2013

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, fresh start, resolution conquering, goal achieving, risk taking, self-realizing, new year. Or else, a happy, healthy, relaxed, no big changes, accepting, zen, go-with-the-flow, self-realized enough for now, new year. Whichever your current inclination might be! (Mine is somewhere between the two --  though I'm ready to shake things up a little and seize new endeavors this year.) Welcome 2015.

{And... Why New Year's Eve Is My Favorite Holiday}

Cheers... xo

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Good Things/Small Packages

Sweet things in cute packaging is all it takes to show a bit of holiday or seasonal appreciation and love, even last minute to New Year's. A few simple DIYs...

Slip baggies of treats (like homemade fudge) into burlap or muslin bags and adorn with a little message (plus to and from) jotted on chalkboard labels or hanging tags (for less slippage possibility) using this marker

Materials are one trip to Paper Source. Of course, any similar bag and tag that you can round up will work, too.

Jars with pretty cards are always a perfect option. Easiest-peasiest card how-to hereFill 'em up with chocolates, candy, mini cookies, granola, hot chocolate powder topped with mini marshmallows, or any other delectable treat, homemade or whatever you can handle.

For a non-edible sweet package (great hostess gift, too), my fave this year has been Paperwhite Narcissus bulbs (just one or a grouping) in pretty holders and unexpected containers.

You'll be giving this glory...

... and the holders will hold ever after. My supplies this round came from here.

Happy simple gifting!