Saturday, March 31, 2012

Tea time...

I don't know what it is about tea parties, but I've always liked them, since I was a little girl pouring imaginary tea into imaginary cups for my imaginary friends :) Today would have been my Nana GG's (my mum's grandmother) 100th birthday, and every year, in celebration of her birthday, my Nana and my Aunty Collie go have a cup of tea (and order an extra one for the birthday girl) and remember the wonderful lady that none of us would be here without. This morning I woke up to an email from my (very tech-savvy) Nana, telling me about their little celebration, and it occurred to me that we should celebrate with tea too! So I called my Mum, called Elise's Tea Room in Long Beach, and we had ourselves a lovely little morning, sipping tea, nibbling sandwiches and savoring scones. What a fun way to spend a Saturday morning. I think (hope!) this will be the start of a new tradition for us! And after tea, we went to wander around the plant nursery, looking for dwarf lemon trees (this is the politically correct term I believe) for my patio... A fitting end to the celebration, since Nana GG is the one who taught my mum about gardening, which she then passed along to us ~ my rooftop veggie garden has Nana GG to thank for this crazy urban 'farmer' :)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Spring is coming!!!

I may have a new temporary addiction... Daffodils! I get a little jolt of happiness whenever I see lots of lovely little bunches of daffodils stacked outside of Trader Joe's. Sure, they are $1.50 this year (inflation!), but they are still a steal. And this morning, when I saw them piled outside, sitting in the morning sunlight, I had to restrain myself. I wanted to 'rescue' every last one of those little bundles, but instead kept it to ten bunches. Hey, I'm planning to give some away! It's just hard to say no to daffodils!!! Lucky daffodil season doesn't last too long each year, or my resolve would surely be worn down! :)

Monday, March 26, 2012

A few of my favorite things...

Or should I say people? Yes, that seems like a better way to put it... Or maybe I should just say 'Adventures at a Korean Spa Experience'? Well, whatever you call it, yesterday turned out to be a lovely relaxing day. Last week was soooooo super busy, and I dragged myself through a very long day on Friday, so when my sister suggested a visit to a recently opened Korean spa nearby, I didn't need much convincing. Especially not since she'd bought day passes on Groupon for $10!! The CJ Grand Health Spa opened a location in Hermosa Beach a few months ago, and my mum, sister and I spent a rainy Sunday relaxing and wandering around there. It was an interesting new experience, they aren't super generous with towels (you get one rather smallish, unplush one, and a smaller hand/face/not sure what it's for other towel), you don't get a robe unless you're having a treatment (but could totally BYO), and you have to wear these hilariously unflattering gym shorts and t-shirts in the common area... It definitely is different from other day spas I've been to, but it was such a fun place to visit and explore with two of my favorite people. The women's spa area has a steam sauna, dry sauce, a cold waterfall and a jacuzzi, as well as showers and a small locker room with a dressing room. The co-ed spa area includes an ice room (my favorite!), a salt room and a clay room, all of which were fun to alternate between. Of course the best part of the whole day was being together, and we're pretty sure that the good company and conversation is part of the 'therapy' that relaxes a person, but it really was a great way to spend an afternoon. We wandered around, had a great time and decided we'd all go back again soon, if only to hang out together. I must admit though, the little wood block pillows (I wish I had a close up picture - need to figure out a way to sneak a camera around a spa to get pics of the facilities without looking like a real creeper :P) in the salt and clay rooms were so incredibly comfortable and the cocoon of heat made me feel like I could have absolutely fallen asleep for a while in there! We had a great time, and I had to be dragged from the ice room, and forced to face reality yet again :P

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Rainy, blustery night...

I believe I've mentioned it before, but boy do I love rainy days! The only thing I love more than rainy days... Rainy NIGHTS when I am snuggled up in bed, cozy and warm, with something good to read!! Yeah, maybe my ceiling is leaking a bit downstairs, underneath the glass sliding patio door, and sure, the drywall looks like it's peeling a bit and there's a soggy bubble that we'll have to deal with tomorrow... But I STILL love my rainy days :) And looking out my window, so does my little garden!!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Rooftop gardening tales...

Well, a blog post months in the making has now come to a sudden end, thanks to my knee! Remember the lovely little tomato that was growing out on my rooftop garden? I have been waiting patiently for it to turn red, and finally picked it this morning, along with three little cherry tomatoes, one for my mum and my sister (who I will see later today), and one for me to eat... Of course I brought the 'big' guy (about 1 1/2 inches actually but comparatively big!) to show them before I made a tiny caprese salad or something with our 'first fruits'. Well. Sad to say, for some time now, my car door lock on the driver's side can only be opened from the inside, not by the key, so I have to unlock the passenger side, reach through and unlock it. So you can probably guess the end of this tale, but I stopped to run an errand on my way to work, reached through to unlock the door and sadly, knelt right on the little paper towel wrapped tomato bundle!!!! From the smell of it, it would have been a delicious little morsel (now I have to wait for the other two to turn red!), and thankfully, it protected my three little cherry tomatoes :) I ate one of the cherry tomatoes, which had a split skin, and it was delicious and tomato-y and consoled me, somewhat. Then I grabbed the ever-present pack of baby wipes that I keep in my car, cleaned the squished tomato that represents six months of organic urban veggie cultivation, and kept driving to work...

Crock pot BBQ chicken sandwiches - YUM!

Well, Sunday I endeavored to make crock pot pulled chicken sandwiches for a crowd. I borrowed my sister's crock pot, and between hers and mine, put ten pounds of chicken in, with a few bottles of BBQ sauce, and set it to high for 4 hours. It feels a little misleading to call it a recipe, because that is basically it. It really is so easy. But of course I messed it up - kind of. One of the two crock pots had a slightly bowed lid, which was steadily allowing heat to escape(!), so after the 4 hours cooking, it wasn't quite 'stir it a bit with a fork and watch it fall apart' done (that's the last part of the 'recipe' :P), so rather than feed the masses sub-standard BBQ chicken sandwiches, instead I ordered pizzas and let the chicken finish cooking. After we got home, the chicken was perfectly done in both crock pots, so I shredded it and froze it for the next time we're feeding the masses. I'll just thaw it, and reheat in the crock pot with a little more BBQ sauce - yum! Of course this 'recipe' works in any quantity, and is great at the end of a work day!

Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

BBQ sauce
chicken (breast, thigh, whatever, boneless or bone-in depending on how much work you want to put in after it's done cooking)

Pour a little BBQ sauce into the crock pot. Add layers of chicken, squirting a little BBQ sauce in between each layer. Set crock pot to high for 3-4 hours, or low for 8-10 hours. Remove chicken to bowl, stir with a fork until it shreds, and add a little more BBQ sauce to the chicken. Serve on toasted buns - yum!

Monday, March 19, 2012

DIY Velvet lamp shades

I woke up on Saturday morning to a spectacular squall! Gosh I love rainy days!! I really should live somewhere other than Southern California, where I could enjoy a few more rainy days a year! But anyway... I spent most of the day relaxing, lazing around the house, but by the afternoon I was ready for a craft project. I have been on the hunt for new lamp shades for our bedroom for a few months now, and bought same plain, off-white shades thinking I would get fancy and customize them :) I had some success a few months ago making my variation of this lamp shade for our living room:

Pinned Image

So I have been on the lookout for the perfect fabric for covering my bedroom lamp shades - I knew I wanted something elegant, and something cozy, like velvet, but nothing more specific than that. While I've been trying to decide on a fabric, I had noticed that the plain shades seemed to let a yellowish light through, which I didn't love, so I decided to spray paint them black, to block some of the light. Looking at my spray painted shades, I realized that while I would NEVER have guessed it, what I really wanted was black velvet lamp shades. Since we've recently moved into a much bigger space from a tiny apartment (where our bedroom was one of two rooms in the 'house'), we kind of have a blank canvas to work with, so I feel like these black lamp shades will help guide our other decorating choices, from art to pillows to paint(eventually, one day) and I love them. Here's how I did it:

I started by finding my trusty glue gun (the hardest part of this project actually!) and cutting a piece of fabric a little larger than the lamp shade. Then I glued the fabric around the outside of the shade, working quickly and burning myself once in the process :S

Then I flipped the shade over and glued the fabric under the top and bottom edges, and trimmed the excess fabric. To give a more finished look, I trimmed the shades with black grosgrain ribbon.

Here's the finished product (please excuse our mess):

I love them - and every time I bump my tiny little blister and it hurts like crazy, I remind myself of these lovely shades :)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Rainy days...

I love rainy days... like today :) I like them best of all when I'm home, with a good book, comfy and cozy, but even on work days, I love looking out my office window and seeing the grey clouds in the sky and puddles forming on the street. It's been a warm, dry winter, so I'm especially enjoying the weather today!

Monday, March 12, 2012


I almost shed a tear today at the gas pump. If the price of bread or milk went up the way the price of gasoline does, there'd be rioting in the streets. Just a thought. Thank God I have a little sedan that is not a greedy gas guzzler!!

Friday, March 9, 2012

The key question to keep asking is, "Are you spending your time on the right things? Because time is all you have."     ~ Randy Pausch

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Cupcake babies and ant adventures...

I was itching to try this recipe since I mentioned it in my post almost a month ago, so my friend's birthday last week was a great opportunity to bake a treat. They were so easy to make, not overly sweet at all, and were devoured by the birthday girl and others. I wish I'd taken a better picture, but I was decorating them in a hurry on Friday morning, before work. So this is as good as it gets ~ but just trust me, they were cute!

Want to know a funny background story? Our house has long been ruled by the tiny black ants we affectionately call beasties... Since we moved in, they have protested the intrusion by invading our kitchen, master bathroom and various other odd locations. I want to hate them, but for whatever reason, I don't find ants to be dirty (like cockroaches), or scary (like spiders), and given how persistent they are, you have to admire their gumption. We've attacked them through various methods, and we've definitely seen a marked improvement, but whenever I make baked goods, that is one of my challenges. There was the unfortunate incident of the cake pops (adorably decorated, kept overnight in a tightly sealed container, found the next morning to be the site of an ant party), and since then, I have developed a short list of safe 'hiding places' that the ants can't find. Fast forward to last Friday morning, when I got up early to decorate my cupcake babies, and I open my microwave to find... my short list of hiding places just got shorter!!! Those ants are SO persistent! Miracle of all miracles, I made 24 mini cupcakes, then used the extra batter to make 3 large cupcakes, and the ants had chosen to set up camp on the big cupcakes, leaving my minis alone, much to my relief!!!

While I made the frosting (my favorite part of this recipe by the way!), I turned the microwave on for 3 minutes, thinking that'd kill them. Well, I opened it to find them crawling around, unfazed by the nuclear action I'd taken against them. So I sprayed the microwave with vinegar (my trusty ant killing people safe organic cleaning spray :P), microwaved them a little longer, and cleaned those guys out! So that is the story of how my ant safe hiding place list got a little shorter.

Try this recipe - ants love it so much, they'll risk microwaves and vinegar for a bite - how's that for a glowing endorsement? :P

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Getaway for a day

Inspired by my Sunday drive to Santa Barbara for a friend's birthday, I wanted to share some of my favorite SoCal 'getaway for a day' places to visit. Life can be so busy, and in this economy, vacations are one of the luxuries that fall by the wayside in an effort to save money. But that doesn't mean you can't enjoy some of these road trip adventures, for little more than the price of a tank of gas!

Santa Barbara

This is one of the most beautiful places, there are so many picture perfect sights that it's hard to focus on driving when each turn and hill reveals yet another breathtaking vista. Park near Stearns Wharf, and enjoy a picnic on the beach, or a stroll on the pier. There are great little shops to visit nearby, all within walking distance, and if you're in the mood to see town via pedal car, or cruise around the harbor in a kayak, rentals are available. You could also surround yourself with nature, hiking one of the many local trails, or if you're there on a Sunday, wander around the Santa Barbara Arts and Crafts show, along Cabrillo.


A day at the Getty, for the price of parking ($15 per car), gets you a tram ride up the hill, with great views of the city, access to all of the exhibitions, and beautiful views, all the way to the Santa Monica. It's the perfect place to bring out of town visitors, and is a lovely place to take a picnic and spend a day.


While a night's stay at this gorgeous resort will set you back a few hundred dollars, parking in the public lot or along the street is free. A day spent at Terranea, wandering around the resort and down to the beach, will give you a chance to enjoy the view and relax. Bring a picnic, or enjoy a meal at Nelsons (they have firepits!) or The Terranea Grill, both offer casual, affordable food. Depending on the time of year, you might see dolphins and whales as well! It really is a beautiful getaway.

LA Farmers Market/The Grove

The LA Farmers Market is the kind of place that I could spend hours wandering around. The fact that it's right next to The Grove is just an added bonus. Great shopping, people watching and occasionally celebrity sighting make for a fun day, and having lunch at one of the many eateries is sure to be a palate pleaser ~ my favorite is Loteria. Kids especially will enjoy watching the fountain at The Grove, and there are free trolley rides available as well.

Another great place to take a picnic and spend the day. There is something magical about this beach, especially at sunset time, when the fading light turns the sky pastel shades of pink and orange. For the cost of parking ($15), you can walk across the road and down a trail to this beach. Spend the day wandering around, looking at tidepools, and reading about the history of the beach cottages. Or take advantage of the 17 miles of hiking trails, if you're feeling energetic.

These are a few of my favorite local getaways... Since our family moved a lot when I was a kid, we tend to see every new place we live as tourists would, exploring and visiting local attractions. And it really is a great break from reality :)

Thursday, March 1, 2012


Lately we've been shopping for housewarming gifts quite a bit, since several close friends (and family) have moved house, and I wanted to share a few of the gift ideas we've come up with, in case you are looking for housewarming gifts too... Or maybe you just want a little something for your house :)

Love this vintage inspired kitchen towel, apron and potholder from Sur La Table

A wreath ~ lavender is my favorite, but there are tons of options online - this one's from Williams Sonoma

Lavender Round Wreath

Chip and Dip plate from Crate and Barrel

 Mrs. Meyers Clean Day gift set - these earth friendly products are like aromatherapy - other than lavender, they have Lemon Verbena, Basil, Geranium, Honeysuckle and Rosemary. And they have cute jar candles in each frangrance as well.

These Mrs. Fields cookie gift boxes make a cute housewarming treat - the one that looks like a door has free customization for the name. 

Mrs. Fields Classic® Cookie TinsColonial Door