Update: Still Transitioning

Dry earth, Santa Ana winds,  record-breaking heat, and wildfires have been our reality in Southern California in recent weeks.  Seemed ridiculous to complain about the weather cramping my autumn vibes when I was fortunate enough not to have been evacuated from my home.  #perspective

Still I forged ahead, putting one pumpkin branch in front of another, lighting fall-scented candles, willing a shift in seasons.

At it worked!  At long last the heat seems to have broken…hopefully for good this time.  So I’m going to do this foggy, cool November morning justice with a classic fall bouquet.

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I picked up some leafy greenery, pumpkin branches, and hydrangeas.

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In a tall vase with a few inches of water, I placed the greenery first.  I just love these wispy leaves.

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Next I evenly distributed the hydrangeas among the greenery.

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Then finished by placing pumpkin branches throughout.

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Voila!

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The hydrangeas will die first.  When they do, pluck them, put them in the trash, change the water in the vase and buy yourself another couple of days with just the greenery and the pumpkin branches.

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NBD.

Last Minute Holiday Gift Guide

WTF?  How is it already almost Christmas Eve??  Every year I start the holiday season with the best intentions of getting ahead of the chaos curve and every single year, without fail, I find myself running in circles, chasing my own tail while trying to get it all done.

There always seems to be a neighbor, a colleague, a friend, or a hostess that I have forgotten to get a gift for and I simply cannot bring myself to give a box of pre-wrapped chocolates or worse, a sad little poinsettia.

Do not have a meltdown.  You absolutely can and will get it all done.  All you need to do is press the reset button and take a deep breath (maybe followed by a shot of peppermint vodka?).

Here are just a few quick last minute holiday ideas so you aren’t forced to re-gift or show up to a gathering empty-handed.

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Rosemary:  festive, fragrant, and nearly impossible to kill.  Not to mention cheap!! These organic plants were $1.99 each at Trader Joe’s.

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Plant in a simple pot.

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Tie with a festive bow, a trinket (think: an ornament, a cinnamon stick, or a sprig of holly), a gift tag, and voila, hostess gift dilemma solved.

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A small bouquet of holiday cheer will always be well-received.  Grab a pair of scissors, head outside, and cut some festive twigs, leaves, branches, holly, etc. from your yard or garden.  Pop them in a mason jar, wrap with twine, ribbon, and a cute gift tag.

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If you live in Southern California like me and you don’t have access to much other than succulents and palm fronds, then swing by Trader Joe’s or Wholefoods and pick up some inexpensive white flowers and red berry branches.   Cut and assemble into little mason jars and tie with ribbon.

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If arranging flowers/plants is not your thing, you can never go wrong with a scented holiday candle. These ones from Nordstrom are pretty enough that they don’t even need a box or wrapping paper.  I just stuck them in a clear plastic bag and tied them with ribbon and a gift tag.

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And of course, tried and true, it’s nearly impossible to go wrong with a bottle of wine or booze (unless your recipient is pregnant or otherwise sober).  These reusable carrying bags were $3.99 each at Home Goods and I personalized them with gift tags.

While it is very true that it’s the thought that counts, I would argue that the presentation counts more.

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And on that note, I’d like to end this post by sharing a picture of my signature holiday paper this year.  I am OBSESSED.  So different from the basic reds and greens of the holiday season.

Happiest Holidays to you and yours!

NBD.

 

 

 

 

 

Liberty, Justice, & a Cute Table for All

Now I love me some Fourth of Juleeeeeeeee.  The whole ritual just screams summer.  Burgers, beer, corn on the cob, baked beans, (hopefully) sunshine…just some good ole American daytime fun that carries well into the evening and ends with a bang of fireworks.  Sign. Me. Up.

However, anyone who knows me at all also knows that I take serious issue with plastic utensils and paper plates (curiously, Solo cups don’t offend me, unless you’re pouring champagne in them).  My only problem with the Fourth is that it can border on being trashy if you’re not careful.  So let’s make Merica’ proud and do her justice with a classy tablescape.

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The table runner here is actually a scarf that I bought several years ago for less than $20.   But really you could even buy a few yards of navy star fabric at Jo-Ann Fabric and fold it and press it into a runner with an iron.

Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 9.28.42 AMLike this gem at 3.99 per yard!  #Nobrainer

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Don’t be afraid to mix patterns and textures.  I found these wooden starfish for $2 each and decided they’d be the perfect way to incorporate stars since we live at the beach.

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With respect to flowers, less is more.  I picked up these red dahlias at Trader Joe’s for $3.99 and dispersed them in small, simple bud vases.

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But white hydrangeas really do represent the American summer dream and you might even be lucky enough to have some in your backyard or neighborhood.   When I lived in San Francisco there was a gorgeous hydrangea bush in my courtyard filled with lush blooms year-round and I would often sneak down after dark to clip a few for my apartment.

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Keep your eyes open when looking for Fourth of July decor.  Michael’s, Target,  and Jo-Ann Fabric all have diamonds hidden in the rough.  These pillows for example, were buried in the Dollar Spot section at Target (though everything I like there always seem to be in the $3 bin,  which is really just so typical).

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Placed on a chair it’s kind of cute, right?

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NBD.

***Title cred:  Chad Yu & Kellie Reince

 

 

 

 

You Can’t Hurry Love…or Can You?

 

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What are you supposed to do when it’s the Thursday before the Friday of Valentine’s Day weekend and you realize you should really bring in something festive for your team at work (being that they are the loves of your life when you’re away from your family, not to mention that you spend 40+ hours a week with them and all).  Only hiccup is that you still have to get the kids off the bus, then there’s karate and beach volleyball practice, and lunches to be packed, and homework to oversee, and dinner to be made, and hair that hasn’t been washed since Monday, and nails that are chipping, and ideally you’d sneak a run in at the track (but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen).

And I’m sorry, but I can’t half ass things, so going to the grocery store and buying pre-made cupcakes or sugar cookies is not an option.  That to me is about as depressing to me as an unmade bed.

My solution was actually surprisingly simple and involved just a quick stop at Ralph’s on the way to dropping the boys off at their activities.

I grabbed regular and red velvet Oreos, festive sprinkles, white and milk chocolate morsels and I was on my way.

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I fashioned a double broiler out of a bowl and a pot of boiling water and poured in the white chocolate morsels.  Side note: you cannot melt chocolate on a direct flame or it will burn…been there and done that.

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I learned 2 bags of morsels later that white chocolate does not melt easily because it’s not really chocolate.  However, Google advised that pouring in a tablespoon or two of canola oil or vegetable oil when it’s starting to melt will keep the consistency creamy and smooth.  What did we do before Google?

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The milk chocolate melted much easier and didn’t require as much work as the white chocolate.

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Then I dipped the Oreos half way in the melted chocolates and laid them on a baking pan lined with parchment paper, sprinkling them immediately.

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The color combos feel so festive, don’t they?

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Then I popped the trays in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes until the chocolate hardened and they were ready to be dispersed into treat sacks.

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I tied some red and white twine around them and called it a wrap.

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Only problem is we are still finding sprinkles stuck to our bare feet even after several runs of the vacuum, kind of like glitter from gift wrap that won’t go away.  But whatevs, I’m so laid back I hardly notice it.  🙂

NBD.

 

 

 

A Note on Holiday Notes

love holiday cards. LOVE.  But my absolute faves are the ones where someone actually took the time to write a handwritten note.  With all the effort that goes into sending them, it seems such a pity to just toss them in a basket, or worse, the trash.  So instead, I prefer to display them.

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I nailed a piece of white ribbon across the top of our kitchen doors and used hand painted clothespins to hang them.  Paper Source typically has a great selection, but I have no doubt Amazon Prime could have them on your doorstep by the time you finish reading this post.

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Trust me, it only gets cuter as the cards keep rolling in.

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NBD.

Turning Into White Pumpkins at Midnight

 

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This is actually a serious question, but as I type it, I realize it’s one only a very privileged, first world citizen would ever ask:  What the hell are you supposed to do when it’s the day before Thanksgiving and you can’t find the white mini pumpkins you’ve been planning for months to use for your Thanksgiving tablescape?

I literally scoured the corners of Southern California supermarkets (Ralphs, Trader Joe’s, Pavilions, Wholefoods, Gelsons, Bristol Farms…shoot me now) before accepting that my mini white pumpkins were not going to be found again until September 2016.  They’d all been replaced by poinsettias and cinnamon pinecones.  Problem #2345 with Americans:  we cannot live in the moment and are always looking ahead to the next holiday before the first has come to pass. But I digress.

Fortunately I still had all my mini orange pumpkins from Halloween, though obviously orange wouldn’t work for my silver, winter white, sage green and grey theme.  Orange is so October and we are only using it as an accent color in November.

So I picked up can of spray paint. And BTW, thank you Ace Hardware for employing the most helpful young man who didn’t snicker when I told him what I intended to do with my purchase (my best guess is there’s a neurotic, perfectionist woman somewhere deep in the corners of his life).  He guided me to an ivory semi gloss paint that turned out to be the perfect choice.

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So I set up camp outside.  Don’t mind our dead grass.  You can thank the California drought for the lovely backdrop of my project.

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I put tape on the stem of each pumpkin to keep it from the spray paint.
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Then I sprayed a nice even coat over the pumpkins and I’m not going to lie, this is deeply satisfying.

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Then I set them to dry over night.

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I pulled the tape off the steam and voila…white pumpkins.

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NBD.

Red, White, & Blueberries

Alright ya’ll, we’re going from trashy to classy in 15 minutes or less…southern style.  The Fourth of July is all about independence and living the American Dream, right?  No need to be shackled to your kitchen when there are burgers to grill and cocktails to be had!

You just need about $10 and some good serving pieces.  This is pretty much a perfect of example of presentation-is-everything.  We’re about to take this:

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To this:

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No big deal.

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Wash the berries and slice the strawberries.

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Mix thawed cool whip with a few splashes of vanilla.

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Slice the angel food cake.

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Place the cake in a bowl with a pretty napkin.

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You can cover the cake before serving so it won’t get stale and will stay moist (I know, I hate that word too).

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What?  NBD.

Daffodils + Eggs = Easter

This year Easter aligns perfectly with spring break.  I am someone who really appreciates this sort of cosmic intervention…kind of like when your birthday falls on a Saturday, but arguably, even better.  Accordingly, we head out of town the day after Easter Sunday and I did not necessarily feel like spending a fortune on flowers that would be left alone for a week.  Whenever I’m that situation, I look to my garden and then, Trader Joe’s (in that order).

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This camellia bush has been kind to me for years, providing me with lush pink blossoms for many dinner parties.  Clipped and tucked in a bud vase,  camellia blossoms add a pop of color to any table or nightstand.

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But I really don’t think there’s a flower more fitting for Easter than daffodils. It is the quintiessential spring bloom-  bright, cheerful, and playful.  And at $1.49 a bunch it simply will not break your bank even during the toughest of times.

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Okay, so we’ve got the flowers covered.  What about the table?  I decided to make homemade candles using tea lights and egg shells.  So easy!  Can you crack an egg?

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If so, you got this.

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Gently pull the shell apart and use the egg for something else (breakfast?).

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Carefully wash out the shell under a cold, gentle stream of water, using your finger to rinse out the egg.

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Insert a tea candle into the shell.

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Voila!  Little egg candles.  NBD.

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Scattered down a table with daffodils in bud vases?  Yup, that’ll do.  Now what about name cards?  I found an old Piperlime box in my garage and was inspired by the pretty green patterned cardboard.

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So I used scissors to cut into a roughly 3 x 2 name card and wrote names on them with a Sharpie.

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Now if you’re not a craft hoarder like me and you don’t happen to have a Piperlime box in your garage (after all, they are out of business), fear not, any patterned paper will do.  Michael’s has them in droves for 39 cents a piece.  Propped against a bud vase, I think it makes quite the statement.

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Use what you have, be creative, have fun and do not make it a big deal.  Happy Easter to all my peeps!

Edible Easter Nests

Yesterday was officially the first day of spring and Easter is only two weeks from Sunday.  In other words, what better time to share one of my favorite spring traditions, edible bird nests?  They are so unbelievably NBD and serve many purposes all-in-one, including hostess gift, name card holder, table decor, and dessert (just to name a few).  I love me some efficiency-eeeeeeeee.

With only 4 ingredients, they require little effort or expense.  Seriously, if you can make Rice Krispies treats, you can make these.

Oh, these lil’ ole things?  The only problem being that they’re almost too cute to eat.

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My Mom’s Swedish Easter Bird Nests

1/4 cup butter

10 oz. marshmallows

5 cups crumbled Shredded Wheat

A  dash of cinnamon

Melt 1/4 cup of butter on low heat in a large pot.  Pour in 10 oz. regular marshmallows and slowly melt together.  Sprinkle mixture with a dash of cinnamon.  Add 5 cups shredded wheat that has been crushed and pulled apart to look like little “sticks.” Stir and remove from heat.  Let it cool for a few minutes.  If it’s too hot it will not only burn your hands, but will be too sticky to be malleable.  Form into small little “nests” and place on a plate.  Fill with jellybeans or Cadbury milk chocolate mini eggs.

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No big deal, right?

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Happy Spring!  Stay tuned for table ideas and simple recipes.

 

 

 

That’s a Wrap!

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Maybe one day I’ll have a creative space to call my own.  Hey, some girls grow up dreaming of their wedding day.  Me?  As a child, I fantasized about a craft room, complete with rolls of wrapping paper bolted to the walls.  Sadly, I’m not making this up.

But for now, I’ll work with what I have, which is admittedly more than most in the world.

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At the risk of sounding redundant,  I need stress again here, less is more.  When choosing papers, think of simple, but elegant patterns.

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And here’s a little secret worth sharing:  if you have a solid box, don’t even bother with paper.

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Tie a bow on it, affix a trinket and a gift tag…considered it wrapped.

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You would be surprised at the things in your house/yard that can serve this purpose. No need to actually pay for anything.  Cinnamon sticks, pine cones, leaves, berries, twigs…they’ll all do the trick.

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Last Christmas, my mother-in-law gave me a magnolia branch from her garden club and I wasted no time systematically pulling off the deeply colored green, waxy leaves.  I hole punched them and wrote on them with a gold pen.  Voila- instant gift tags, no additional charge or waste.

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Now let’s talk about brown construction paper.

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I’m sorry, but it doesn’t get much better than that.  Target and Michael’s both have this in large rolls, at minimal cost.

And don’t think for a second you need fancy ribbons.  This twine, bought at Home Depot for $3.99, makes an equally strong statement.

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Au naturale just isn’t your thing?  Too boring?  I get it.  I don’t love vanilla ice cream either.  In that case, choose a fun paper, but keep the rest simple.

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Now what about gifts that don’t necessarily fit into a box? No worries, use a cellophane bag (sold at Michael’s, Target, & Paper Source in various sizes) and place in a tin pail.

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Still tempted to use a cheesy gift bag and tissue???? FINE.  I give up.  But wouldn’t you want to open one of these?  After all, presentation is everything.

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It doesn’t need to be complicated or time-consuming.  Choose your wrapping materials wisely and don’t become overwhelmed by choices.  It’s not a big deal unless you make it one.

Merry Christmas & Happy Wrapping!

Stay tuned for holiday tablescapes.