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That Bookshelf

We have a bookshelf in our living room, which is very similar to the one in the right foreground of this photo I found on Pinterest.  My husband has always used the lowest of the shelves as his centralized area to keep his wallet and keys when he gets home from work.  Since he claimed this space very early on, it's also the space where his mail goes after I've sorted it every day.  The only problem is that not only does his mail stack up, but he's taken to making this his catch all for all the items he may need but not right now.  His passport is there.  Some paperwork from his doctor is there.  He's a receipt collector, and they end up there.  There is some chalk there?  We don't even own a chalkboard as far as I know.  And now it's not just the lowest shelf but three of the four shelves.  We have a library, so I had never planned to fill the shelves with books as pictured here, but there are some art and coffee table books on the top shelf.  I have some family pictures and candles on the other shelves, and I thought he wouldn't put anything on them, but I guess because there is plenty of space in front of the pictures, it's a great space to stack stuff on.  I'm wondering what to do to slowly take his space away from him, but honestly, just putting books on the shelves to fill them up isn't what I want to do in this space.  I think I just need to sit there starting at it until I have some inspiration.  How do you fill your bookshelves?



My sister who is an amazing kitchen designer and who you can follow as @woodwardkb on twitter and on Pinterest can vouch for the fact that my favorite type of meal is the snack.  You can also classify this meal as starters, but far too often we overeat the starters and then still try to eat dinner.  Her kitchen has this immense island where we lay out cheese and olives and every other kind of good snack-y type of food, and then that becomes the central gathering point for all family meals.  Our family loves to eat bread with olive oil.  It's kind of amazing that this habit hasn't been popular in the U.S. for all that long. You have to have really good olive oil to make this a decent snack though, and so many times, I just have the usual cooking olive oil in the house when I want to do this.  I discovered this technique to turn even the least inexpensive olive oil into something great for dipping.

I start with one cup of olive oil in a pan over medium low heat.  You don't want the oil to overheat or smoke but just to get warm enough to start taking on the flavors of the things you're going to add.

Next I add a whole can of anchovies in oil.  I use the kind that are wrapped around a caper for extra salty goodness.  Now I know what you are going to say but just trust me.  It doesn't taste fishy; it just adds a salty richness that you have to try.

As they heat up, I take a spoon to them to mash them around a little bit.  They basically melt into the oil leaving a cloudiness and the little caper gems.  It takes about 30 minutes for everything to heat up and melt down.  

Toward the end, I will add something extra like kalamata olives or chili flakes.  It usually depends on who is around for dinner.  The kids don't really like olives (where did they come from?), so for them I'll add chili flakes.  Sometimes I'll strain out the cloudiness if it looks too dark throwing the capers and olives in after and putting it back on the heat.  I always serve it warm.  I prefer a crusty bread, but my husband likes a softer crust, but really it depends on what I can get in the bakery section that day.  This is the kind of thing that I can sit and eat and not need anything else.  I do have to say since it is salty, it's great served with a beer.  The Stinking Rose does this hot oil and cloves of garlic thing that makes me think that the next time I do this I should throw in peeled cloves and just let it go for hours.  Hmmm...maybe these are my plans for this weekend.


Reading Slump

It seems like such a silly thing to be stressed over, but I'm in a reading slump.  It's probably because I'm stressed about a lot of different things right now really, but this seems to be the straw that is breaking the camel's back.  I have always read as my way of making my self feel better when I'm sick or down, as a way to relax after a hard day, or as the way to fill the hours and take my mind off of things when I'm stressed.  I always read at bedtime; it's my way of winding down.  I take a book with me to appointments to fill the time in waiting rooms.  I can read in the car, so when I'm the passenger on a road trip, I have a book.

I started blaming this slump on the last book I read, which I wrote about here.  The Robert Crais book actually depressed me quite a bit, so to combat that, I picked up an easy comfort read, Back to School Murder by Leslie Meier, the next in her series, which I've already told you about here.  These books are like comfort food to me: they have a likable main charter who is far from perfect, they don't take too much thought, and I find Lucy's juggling of motherhood, working to make ends meet, and loving but being annoyed by her husband amusing and realistic.

But it's just not working this time.  I'm suffering from insomnia, so you would think that I'd have plenty of time to lie there reading, but I would read a few pages and then put the book down.  Then I didn't pick it up again for a day or two choosing to stay up watching t.v. instead of going to bed to lie awake. Now I realize that I haven't read anything for over a week, which is hugely out of character for me.  My mission tonight is to get ready for bed early, make myself comfortable with some pillows, and break through this slump by reading.  I have to get some sleep; we go back to school on Wednesday, and (wait for the horrible pun) that can be murder.  


Back to School? Back to Dancing!

It seems like I haven't fully recovered from the last competition season, and it's time to kickoff the prep for the next one.  I know, who am I to complain when I'm not the one working, learning routines, and practicing, but I am the one who worries about logistics and sits and waits while all the other stuff happens (plus I get to pay for it all!).  A only competed in two routines last year, but I think she'll be doing more this year plus she's en pointe this year, so that means extra studio time.

Here's what we have to look forward to even before competition begins: auditions, waiting after auditions to see which pieces she'll be dancing, keeping her calm while she waits to see what she'll be dancing, reassuring her when she hasn't heard anything so thinks that she won't be dancing anything and starts to freak out, celebrating when she finds out what she'll be dancing, not freaking out when I find out how much it's all going to cost,

a Saturday spent taking company photos,

ironically this usually happens before the company is fully fleshed out, and someone always quits and someone is usually added (this picture looks nothing like the one below of who ended the season),

visits to the dance store, here for a pointe shoe fitting, but we'll be there for at least a pair of ballet shoes, toe pads, and jazz shoes at some point in the year,

sewing and burning ribbons, and being fitted for costumes, and paying for costumes (yeah!),

learning routines, practicing routines, and dancing in the parking lot to learn how to keep going on stage when there are distractions,

the mad dash on competition days of making sure all costumes and pieces of costumes are there, waking up for hair and makeup, driving and driving and driving, and waiting and waiting and waiting,

knowing it's all worth it when I see that face.


New MintStyle Catalog

The new comprehensive MintStyle catalog has finally arrived, and I only just realized that even though I was really excited for new pieces, I would have been really upset if some of my favorites were sold out.  I was so happy to see two of my favorites, the Coquette Collar necklace and the Caspian cuff on the cover as well as the Baroque Bloom necklace inside.  My other favorites, the Lantern Tassel, Victoria Cameo, and Heirloom Tassel pendants are back as well.  Everyone who has purchased a piece or attended a showcase has commented on what great quality the pieces are for the price.  My new favorites are the Chombard earrings and the Honeycomb bangle.  If you'd like to see samples, arrange a showcase, or place an order please contact me.  If you book a showcase, you will receive credit from any purchased made toward your own purchase of jewelry.  I hope you enjoy the new catalog, and I'd love to hear what your favorite pieces are.


The Just Because Gift

We all go through those tough times.  Stuff can be happening at work, with our families, with our health or the health of a loved one.  It's nice to put a little gift together for a friend when she is going through something to make it known that you care and just because.  These little things can go a long way to making your friend know that you care and are thinking of her.

I just posted that I want to build my own terrarium here.  Giving a friend the base will let us work on them together.

This beautiful blown glass ball makes it feel a little like Christmas in the middle of the summer.

Delicate and sparkling, she'll just have to look down at her wrist to know that you are thinking of her.

Is she a cat lady?  I have a few friends whose cats are their kids.  This is cute to put on her desk at work without being too over the top crazy cat lady.

She'll think this is a gag gift, but once she tries it on, she'll thank you.  Goes on as a sheer berry-colored gloss that is incredibly moisturizing and full of Vitamin E.  


Umami Burger

Sometimes when the husband and I have a night to ourselves and we want to run out to grab a quick meal, we don't even need to think about it, we choose a burger.  We are very fortunate to live in an area that has some outstanding burger restaurants.  I've talked about The Counter before, but I do have to say that Umami Burger is really my favorite.  When we first started going to Umami, we'd have to trek over to Los Feliz, but now we have our own in Old Town.  It is pretty small, so getting a table always feels like a major undertaking unless you are there at an off-peak hour.  They have a good selection of bottled beers and sodas.

Without fail, I order the manly burger, which has beer cheddar cheese, smoked-salt onion strings, and bacon lardon, but I always say I'm going to order the port and Stilton burger (but I never do).  I have had the classic Umami burger, but I prefer the manly.

I am sometimes tempted to order the truffle burger, but we always order truffle fries, and I don't want there to be truffle overkill.

I thought that writing about food would satisfy my cravings while I'm trying to do better with my diet, but I have to admit that looking at these fries is making it pretty difficult to concentrate.


Dr. Dean and Wink Readers by ICU Eyewear Giveaway

If you have ever watched one of my YouTube videos you know that I can't go more than a few minutes without having to put on a pair of reading glasses.  Now I luckily have pretty good insurance and have been able to buy a few pairs of really nice glasses at reasonable prices, but I was definitely suffering because where do I need to wear my glasses most often?  In front of the computer or when I'm reading in bed.  But what about when I'm cooking in the kitchen, and I need to read directions?  Or when I'm in the bathroom trying to read how much cold medicine I'm supposed to take?  Or when I go out to get the mail and drop it off in the living room and try to sort it between everyone who lives here?  And I could go on and on.

Leave it to my wonderful husband to supply me with the obvious solution: put a pair of readers in every room not to mention the car and my purse.  And his car.   The one problem: readers at the drugstore are kind of...ugly.

I was thrilled when ICU Eyewear reached out to me recently offering to sponsor this post about their products.  They make styles for men and women that suit every fashion, and they have some really cute things at reasonable prices.

Right now they are asking for your help in picking your favorite style.  Just pick one from either line to vote for and be entered to win one (1) free pair of the reading glasses you voted for.  There are so many great styles to choose from including these:

ICU Eyewear is giving away 1,000 pairs of Dr. Dean and Wink glasses or 40% off one order of readers.

To enter:

1. Go to the Read In Style Giveaway page to enter your email address and gender.
- Your gender determines if you vote for the Dr. Dean or Wink readers.

2. Based on which gender you selected, vote for your favorite pair.

3. You will then either be selected instantly as a winner and asked to fill out your shipping and Diopter details OR receive a 40% off coupon for all readers on the ICU Eyewear site.

The giveaway is active from August 14th 2013 at 12am PST and ends on August 27th, 2013 at 11:59pm PST.

The 40% coupon code is valid until October 1st, 2013 on reading glasses only.

One entry per email address. Winners will receive their free pair of reading glasses via First Class Mail and will be delivered 4-6 weeks after the giveaway ends.

This post is sponsored by ICU Eyewear.


I Wanna Build a Terrarium

When we were kids, my sister had a terrarium inside of a Sparklett's water bottle.  I thought it was the coolest thing ever.  I was poking around on Pinterest when I was looking for pictures of bar carts when I saw a console that I really liked.  What was that on the corner?  A little mini terrarium inside of a bell jar.  You know how serendipity or coincidence happens when you least expect it?  All of a sudden, I started seeing pictures of terrariums pop up all over the place in Pottery Barn catalogs, in magazines, and on t.v.  Maybe it's my renewed interest in gardening, but I think I'm going to try and plant one.  I found these easy instructions from Better Homes and Gardens that make it seem so simple.

I have this old bottle that I'm going to start with.  I'll have to find little, tiny plants, but I think it will be cute.

You can always start with several different containers they have at Pottery Barn.  


Cheese Danish

Entenmann's Cheese Filled Crumb Coffee Cake may just be the most perfect food on the planet.  Don't be fooled and mistakenly buy the Cheese Danish Twist, which is good and all but so inferior to the Cheese Filled Crumb.  Of course by me saying this you have to realize that I'm not eating this right now.  I've been going through so many spurts of eating healthy followed by falling off the wagon and then getting back on it this year.  And I'm kind of tired of it.  I have vowed to eat several small meals during the day, to continue to watch my saturated fat intake (which means Entenmann's must be saved for very special occasions), to limit myself to one glass of wine or one cocktail when I drink, and to stay away from white bread, pasta, and rice (again, goodbye Entenmann's).  I know that I will venture away from these rules occasionally, and I vow to not be so hard on myself when I do in hopes that I will not take one indulgence meal as a license to eat everything in sight.  And I'm working out regularly, which I'm pretty of myself for.  I've gotten back into a routine of alternating yoga/Pilates/Ballet Beautiful with the treadmill, and I'm up to three miles.  I think I've set unrealistic goals in the past, so I'm starting with just these as far as eating and to continue to move as often as possible.  Oh, and Entenmann's in moderation.  


Blooming Bulbs

Here's an update on the bulbs I planted a few weeks ago and wrote about here.  They have been living in the greenhouse window in our kitchen, and I'm very proud that I remembered to water them, and when I didn't the husband stepped in.  The next step is to get these into the ground, which could prove tricky over the next few days.  Would it look unusual for me to be out planting in the yard in the dark?  Would the neighbors think I'm burying something?  Have I been reading too much crime fiction?

I've really struggled with gardening in the past.  I'm really good with roses for some reason, but other things I mangle usually because I'm really bad at not just remembering to water but also how much.  Now that these are about to go into the yard, I'm breathing a sigh of relief.  It's totally up to the automated sprinkler system now to keep them watered.  

I think I'm totally over-invested in the things I plant, and because of that, you would think that I would take better care of them.  I feel like a failure when they die, but does that make me remember to water them?  No.  Hmm, getting into deep therapy mode here.  Better to save it for another time and place.  Just with me luck getting these into the ground.


Clam Chowder

I know, it's August, but it must be cooling off somewhere.  I'm starting to think about back to school, which always includes sweaters and football, even though I never watch it anymore, and soon the holidays will be here.  Oh and rain.  I miss rain.  So in that crazy, maybe it will cool off soon hopefulness that I'm full of right now, here's how I make clam chowder.  I have to admit that I'm the worst with creating recipes for things I just do.  This probably started off with me using a recipe when I started making it years ago.  Now I just put in what I feel.  Sometimes I use carrots, sometimes I don't.  This time I went a little heavy on the vegetables, and the family kind of revolted.  They like for it to be mostly white with little glimpses of green celery.  They felt this was way too heavy on carrots.

So first, I chop all the vegetables.

Once those are chopped, I brown in butter starting with the onions then adding the celery and carrots.  I let them brown for about 5 minutes.  When those are in the pot (notice how battle scarred my pot is), I add the seasoning.  The only spice I've been using lately is thyme with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

I know that looks like a lot of salt, but I'm going to be adding a lot of potatoes.

After I add the potatoes, I let them cook for about 5 minutes then add the stock.  Now lately I've been using clam juice.  Some people think that's gross and just use water or even chicken stock.  Since I use canned clams, I think that the clam juice helps with the flavor.  In an attempt to have at least one measurement, I poured them into a measuring cup, and it's official.  Four jars of clam juice is four cups of liquid.

I let that come to a boil and then immediately turn it down to a simmer for 20 minutes.  Notice the butter just hanging out waiting to become a roux.

Clam chowder is a relatively quick soup to make.  Some people get freaked out about making a roux, but since this once hardly cooks at all, it's a great one to start out with.  At this point during the cooking time, I'm assembling everything to get ready to serve.  The clams will go in at the last minute and heat in the soup while I'm making the roux.  You have to serve a lot of bread with this chowder.  Have to.  I use 1 cup of flour and 2 sticks of butter for my roux for this soup.  I know that's a lot and some people say it can have too flour-y a taste, but that's how we like it.  And by this point, I'm having wine.

For the roux, melt the butter and add the flour whisking constantly.  It will bubble up and turn light golden brown.  I turn the soup back up to a boil while I'm making the roux.

Once you combine the roux into the soup, it should start to seize up and thicken immediately.

It will thin out as soon as you add the cream.  Most of the time I use whole milk, but sometimes I'll splurge for some half and half.  I don't measure how much I put it but look at how far down the level is in the pot above and then where it is in the pot below.  I add as much as it takes to actually thin the chowder back down quite a bit because as the milk warms it's going to continue to thicken.

I personally don't think there were too many carrots, but since you can see them, some people think there were too many.


Lullaby Town - Robert Crais

Sometimes I feel like I'm odd man out.  I seem to like things that other people don't and dislike the things that other people rave about.  It's not everything, but usually the things that get a lot of hype, I just don't like.  I didn't like Avatar even though everyone in the world went to see it three times because they thought it was so great.  My bookish friends hated Angels and Demons, but I thought it was fun.  I do admit to being one of the addicted throngs of Game of Thrones though.

This week I tried to read Robert Crais again.  Not tried, I finished Lullaby Town because I have this weird need to finish every book I start even if it takes 10 years.  I want to like Crais' Elvis Cole series for a number of reasons.  So many other people like it (like everyone in my book group except for me), I feel like I'm the outsider who is not going to be picked for dodge ball if I don't go along.  You know, the kid who wants to play with Barbies still while everyone else is planning boy/girl parties.  I also want to like it because I had the chance to hear Crais speak a few years ago, and he seems like a really nice guy.  I want nice people to do well, although I'm not sure how just me not liking his books is going to make a difference to him.  I mean the guy has made a gazillion dollars off this series.  But I feel like I'm letting him down by not liking his writing.  So you know what that means?  This time next year, I'll probably be reading Free Fall and wondering why I don't like Crais' writing.



I know we all have those days.  I've been having a few lately, and yesterday was a doozy.  Do people still say doozy?  I guess so since I just did.  I read the suggestion that when you are having one of those days, and your thoughts are your own worst enemy, you should be prepared and have a list of things to take a break and think about that will help snap you out of it.  After I read that, I prepared my obligatory list: my husband, my kids, the dogs, pizza, my pillow...then I was in such a bad mood, I couldn't think of anything else to put on the list.  That made me get even more upset and mad at my self.  How could I not think of good things to put on a list to cheer myself up?  What kind of person am I?  I wandered around the house in a snit criticizing myself.  The more I wanted to snap out of it, the more upset I got.  I finally gave up, went to bed, and lay there thinking even more critical thoughts.

This morning I woke up vowing to put it behind me.  I needed to edit some photos and for some reason started going through the old photos on the computer.  I immediately started criticizing myself again.  I really need to move the photos onto storage; there are just too many of them taking up room on the computer, and I keep just putting it off.  The voice in my head started nagging reminding me of all the other chores I've been putting off.  Then I opened this picture and just stopped.

It's a picture up through the trees in our backyard of the full moon through a layer of fog.  It was so purely black and white, it looked like something out of an old movie.  Looking up through those trees was like being somewhere else for a few minutes.  Finding this today when I needed it was a chance to be looking up again for a few minutes, remembering that cold night and the full moon in the sky.  Now I have something else to add to my list.


Happy Anniversary

To my husband.  I waited a long time for you to come along, and you made my dreams come true.  My husband is actually pretty easy to shop for, something that can't be said about a lot of men.  I seem to find more than enough little goodies that I think he'd like.

I'm told his desk in the office is rather bare, so this quirky docking station would allow him to charge his iPad, use it, and have something to talk to visitors about all at the same time.  He would probably get a laugh out of the snippets in this book, but maybe he'd learn something at the same time.  This camera is retro and cool for a great price.  He has a sweet tooth, so chocolates and brownies from Sur La Table are always welcome.  I just have to make sure there are no nuts because, "Why ruin good chocolate with nuts?"


Pancakes at The Griddle

On any given weekend morning, you would have to stand in this line to have breakfast at The Griddle.

But believe me, it's worth it.  It's the perfect kind of breakfast place.  There are no frills here.  It's as crowded on the inside as it outside.  The tables are scared.  But they know how to make breakfast.  It starts with your own French press of coffee, which they replenish whenever it's cold or too low.

They have about 20 different kinds of pancakes, 10 different French toasts, not to mention the eggs.  We always get pancakes, which are bigger than a dinner plate and must weigh 2 lbs.  I've never seen anyone finish an order, not even the husband who loves sweet things.

"Tis the Season" - Pumpkin

Red Velvet panCAKE


August MintStyle Lookbook

The Mint Style August lookbook is out, and they just keep continuing to create great pieces.  The rings are my favorites this month.  This edition is full of colorful stones and statement pieces that you can wear for the end of summer and into fall.  You really need to see these pieces in person to appreciate how substantial they are at such a great price, so if you'd like to see any of the pieces prior to ordering, please contact me to set up an appointment.

If you are interested in purchasing or would like to schedule a showcase, just let me know.  Showcase hostesses do earn credit for jewelry, so if there are pieces you would like to order, consider hosting as a way to make your purchases.


Bar Cart

There seems to be a real theme going on here...I seem to be cocktail obsessed.  The other night we were sitting in the family room, and the husband was musing on the fact that he had always wanted to have a room with a built-in bar.  Maybe it's a leftover from the nostalgia of his childhood, but I think he truly meant a walk-behind-it, stools, and kegs kind of thing.  Since that's not going to happen, I decided to surprise him with something a little more realistic.

We have this distressed console in the living room that really hasn't been utilized.  I've changed the things sitting on it so many times, but nothing has ever felt quite right.  Since it already has a wine rack, why not make it a bar?

I started with a simple tray.

All of our bar tools had been gathered in this ice bucket, but it had been on a shelf out of the way.  I actually found even more things after I finished taking these pictures.  We have quite the barrel full.

I pulled together a variety including mixers, bitters, and rimming sugars.  It may not be a built in bar, but it's a good workable area that we can continue to refine.