Life Lately

Snapshots of life lately:

Rhubarb Grapefruit Smash Cocktail
Rhubarb and grapefruit cocktail
Kate from Drinking with Chickens

Last weekend, I headed over to Kate's house to help her shoot some photos. Unfortunately, those images aren't ready for prime time yet, but while I was there I forced- er, um PERSUADED her to create another cocktail to shoot. (And ultimately, drink. See how that works?) Also, I may or may not have convinced her to stand barefoot in a minefield of chicken poop for a few shots. To be fair, she didn't need much convincing. {wink}.

Head over to Drinking with Chickens for more images + the recipe for these purple basil and rhubarb sours. I kinda hate grapefruit (one of the main ingredients) but that didn't stop me from slurping down more than one of these pure magic, summertime elixirs.

colorful farm eggs
multi-colored urban farm eggs

Speaking of Kate- one of the perks of having a friend with chickens is that every time I hang out with her, she showers me with pretty, delicious eggs. I can't stop myself from snapping a few pics no matter how many times I'm sent home with them. I mean, just look at these perfectly pale blue, ecru and speckled specimens of perfection.

Blooming Cactus Plant

This weekend we were dazzled by a cactus plant in the backyard that conjured a magnificent bloom seemingly overnight. I'm still mystified by it.

Pumpkin Plants

My answer to "how does your garden grow" this season has been "not well." I've been struggling with my little patch of veggies and herbs. And to add insult to injury, Mr. Gooder contributed pumpkin plants from seed and they are going ape sh*t. It's not really a contest, but- oh who am I kidding, it's totally a contest and he is gloriously winning. Good news is, I get to win too when I eat the pumpkins. :)

Outdoor pillows Ikea Fabric

I've also been doing a big spruce up in the realm of the backyard. I've added some new furniture, plants, and a few DIY projects and I'll be doing a big reveal once I'm completely finished. I couldn't help but show a sneaky peek of some oversized floor pillows I made though. The fabric is from Ikea- unfortunately, I don't think it's still available. I bought it several years ago, and once upon a time, these pillows were drapes in our previous house. Gotta love a good recycling project!

Feast by Sarah Copeland

Lastly, I spent a fair amount of time digging through my cookbooks last night and enthusiastically settled in for a nice long flip with Feast by Sarah Copeland. The images (captured by Yunhee Kim) transport me to simple suppers with friends, and summer nights binging on farmer's market finds. It made for a delightful evening of inspiration- both on the cooking and image capturing fronts. 

Kale, Apple and celery salad

Kale apple and celery salad

I have a shirt that reads in oversized, block letters “Oh Kale No.” I don’t wear a lot of T-shirts, and I especially don’t wear conversation T’s, but something about this particular one spoke to me. Apparently, it speaks to others too. It’s a rare occasion that I’m out and about in it without multiple strangers grinning and commenting on it. People REALLY like this damn shirt.

But here’s the conundrum- what does it really mean? I ask because it’s been a subject of many lively debates between me and Mr. Gooder. I’m firmly on the pro-kale side. I think the tee is a cheeky way to show your support for healthy eating choices. It wasn’t until I listened to his argument that I started to see it a different way. And much as it pains me to admit it, I think the reason why I get so many chuckles is because others see it his way too: as a person fed up with having kale shoved in their faces at every turn while also pretending to be grateful- heck, enthusiastic even- about it. Apparently, everyone just wants to say “oh kale no!” but can’t for fear they’ll be kicked out of the cool kid, trendy health food ingredient club.

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And I get it. I’ve had plenty of terrible kale salads. Enough that I should have sworn them off a long time ago. I once sat and watched a co-worker suffer through an especially dry, intimidating kale salad over lunch one day. After several minutes she looked up with defeat and said: “I think this thing is multiplying.” We all felt her pain.

So hold onto your (apparently confusing) conversations T-shirts, cause I’m about to drop some kale salad knowledge. No more bitter forkfuls of disappointment, because today you’re going to learn the secret to preparing raw kale: massaging it into submission. No, your kale doesn't need a backrub- but close! Massaging it will break the tough fibers down so that they’re MUCH more palatable, and then you can play with the leaves much like any other green.

kale apple celery pine nut salad

Once you've given those leaves a good rub down, I like to pair them with other ingredients that have strong flavors as well to offset and enhance the inherent bitterness of the kale. In this case crisp, tart apples, snappy celery, and toasted buttery pine nuts.

MASSAGED KALE, APPLE & CELERY SALAD

Ingredients:

(1) bunch of kale
(1) apple- chopped
(2) stalks of celery- chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts
(1) lemon
olive oil
honey mustard dressing

1) Remove kale leaves from stems. Discard stems and roughly chop the leaves. Put the leaves into a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and squeeze half of the lemon over top. (Save the other half of the lemon for something else.) Using your hands, massage and squeeze the oil and lemon into the leaves. Do this until the leaves soften slightly. And don't be afraid to really get in there- this isn't a delicate job.

2) Toast the pine nuts lightly in a small pan for a few minutes. Make sure you keep your eye on them- pine nuts can burn quickly!

3) Top the kale leaves with the apple, celery and toasted pine nuts. You can leave the salad undressed if you like because there is already oil and lemon on it, but I like dressing it with a small amount of Primal Kitchen honey mustard dressing before tossing.

(When I can, I make my own dressings, but it's nice to have a few store bought versions on hand for busy nights. Primal Kitchen is one of my favorite brands (not sponsored BTW) because they're sugar-free and use avocado oil instead of canola oil.)

This little trick rearranged my thinking about kale, and I'm hoping it can do the same for you! Maybe in the future, we'll all be walking around with t-shirts that say: "Oh Kale Yes!" 

 

Upcycled tassel trim basket

Upcycled basket beforef

I found this basket buried under a rack of clothes at the thrift store several years ago for the whopping price of $4. From the beginning, I had plans of transforming it in some fashion, but the poor thing sat and sat and sat waiting for that day to come. 

Finally, the perfect plan was hatched. I'd always loved the "architecture" of the basket- that the top and bottom had different weaves- and wanted to accentuate it. I'm also just a wee bit obsessed with tassel right now (along with the rest of the world) so I knew I wanted to add some to the top. 

Up-cycled basket with painted stripe and DIY tassels

Up-cycled basket with painted stripe and DIY tassels

My original idea of painting a portion of the basket actually worked to set off the light colored tassels- and I've been loving black mixed with the neutral tones.

DIY FRINGE BASKET
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SUPPLIES NEEDED

- Basket (Either new, or one found from the thrift store)
- Silk yarn for Tassels: I used this tutorial from Sarah Samuel Sherman to make mine
- Black latex paint
- Medium and small brushes to paint the basket
- Tape (to plan out where to put the tassels)
- Superglue
- Large thick needle or crochet hook

1) If you are making tassels, go ahead and make a bunch of those. I wish I could tell you more about where to find the yarn I used for the tassels, but I can't remember! (Sorry!) I pulled it from my stash, and for the life of me can't remember where I found it. I love the texture of it though- it looks similar to raffia, but is much softer and delicate. If I could just remember where it came from, I'd be making tassels all day long. (Actually, maybe it's a good thing I can't remember...)

2) Apply black paint to the basket with a brush. I was conflicted whether I should use matte or gloss, and I'm quite pleased with the matte because it still has a healthy sheen. I think the gloss would have been too much of a disconnect with the natural materials.

You can tape off the basket if you're nervous about making a straight line, but I just went for it. This is 2 coats.

3) Use some tape to attach tassels to the basket before you secure. This will let you space out exactly where you would like them to go.

4) Attach the tassels to the basket. I just poked the top tails through some of the basket weaving and then tied them into a double knot. Apply a dot of superglue to make sure they are super secure before trimming the ends.

Thrifted basket tassel DIY
Upcycled tassle basket

This was a super, super easy up-cycle- one you could do in a couple of hours on the weekend. And I think it makes a still pretty, but ordinary basket so much more chic!

The best DIY sunburn mask ever

DIY Yogurt sunburn mask

Over Easter weekend, we hit the road and headed to Mammoth Lakes, CA for some springtime skiing and snowboarding. The abundance of rain in California this winter also has meant some pretty epic snowfall in the mountain areas. The weather was perfect- still piles of snow and warm, sunny days. 

The sunny days part is what got me into trouble though... On the first day out, I forgot to put on sunscreen- which is crazy, because I'm kind of the sunscreen queen. I'm so fair that I don't even bother trying to get a tan anymore. I just rock the lily white skin year round. When we got back to the hotel that first day, I realized there was a problem when the bottom half of my face was feeling rather tight. Turns out I had a wicked snow goggle sunburn.

It was not cute. And worse, it was hands down one of the most terrible sunburns I've ever had. To be honest, I was a little freaked out that I might end up with some permanent sun damage/pigmentation issues. I jumped into crisis mode, and started slathering my face with all sorts of good stuff. 

DIY sunburn mask

Step one with a sunburn is to try to minimize damage. The best way to do this is with cold compresses or cold water if you can stand submerging yourself. Never, ever put straight ice on your burn though- you'll risk making matters worse with a frostbite. Cool milk is also soothing. Drink lots and lots of water, but skip heavy oils and creams the first day/night of a burn because you'll trap the heat under your skin. 

Aloe will help you feel more comfortable, but contrary to popular belief, it actually doesn't help the burn heal any faster. Manuka honey is also a great soother AND healer. (See below- it makes an appearance in the mask.)

After about a day, I started in with my DIY mask, and let me tell you, it was a SKIN SAVER. After the very first session, dry, damaged areas of skin started to slough off. I did the mask daily for about 3-4 days and every time it would slough off more- cutting that hateful peeling phase down by a good week or so. Now- let me caution you though- don't aggressively try to rub or peel your skin- just like with the ice, you'll make matters worse. Just let your skin do it's thang, and trust that it's rejuvenating as fast as it can. This mask will just move the process along faster. 

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SO- the mask!

It's incredibly simple, but it works. Start with about 1/3 of a cup of yogurt- straight out of the fridge will feel extra nice on that burned skin. Then take about 1- 1 1/2 teaspoons of colloidal oatmeal (I used Aveeno soothing bath treatment because I had some on hand) and mix it with the same amount of water (or less) until it has a smooth consistency. I actually just used my fingers to make sure all the powdery bits where mixed in. Add the oatmeal mixture and a teaspoon of Manuka honey to the yogurt and stir together. (You can use regular honey if you'd like, but Manuka has amazing healing properties- there's actually been a study using manuka honey vs traditional dressing for burns, and the results were astounding. The Manuka honey dressings made the wounds sterile in less time, enhanced healing, and had a better outcome in terms of hypertrophic scars and post-burn contractures as compared to traditional dressings. Amazing, right??) You can keep the mixture in a resealable container for several days, so don't worry about having to use it all up in one go.

Now, take that mixture and spread it on your face. It actually has a fairly thin consistency as you can see in the photo above. Here is where the key part comes in though- once the mask has dried (or mostly dried) add another layer. Do this several times. 3-5 layers are best. THEN, rinse it off. 

The yogurt will help soothe, and the lactic acid in it is what will help dissolve that damaged skin faster. The oatmeal soothes and helps lock in moisture, and  we've already gone over the amazing healing benefits of honey. 

Post mask treatment, make sure you slather up with extra moisture. And keep applying, applying applying. I used The Honest Company skin healing balm mixed with some vitamin e (also, an ingredient that will help your skin heal faster.)  Any moisturizer with Hyaluronic Acid in it is great too because it locks moisture into your skin. I actually started using a Vitamin C and Hyaluronic Serum a few days after my burn, and I'm still using it daily and my skin has never looked better!

Let me know if you try the mask- and you don't actually have to have a burn either! It'll make your skin glow regardless!

Strawberry Ginger Julep

It's springtime, and that means the Kentucky Derby is right around the corner. I'm pretty sure I've never actually watched the derby, but I am a supporter of a couple of the race's big traditions: oversized, ladylike hats and mint juleps. In fact, I'm such a supporter of the later, that for many, many years now, I've been known to whip up a batch or two even if the Derby isn't on. 

This year, I'm livening up the old standard with another springtime ingredient: strawberries! And while we're at it, might as well throw in some ginger for good measure. Because ginger makes just about everything better. 

The result? Let's just say, this version may now be my NEW old standard. Recipe below.

strawberry julep woodford reserve

STRAWBERRY GINGER JULEP
{makes 1 drink}

1/2 oz Ginger Simple Syrup (recipe below)
1/2 oz Strawberry Mint Simple Syrup (recipe below)
2 Sprigs of Mint
Angostura Bitters
2 oz Bourbon (I like using a Kentucky straight bourbon like Woodford Reserve, but Jack Daniels Tennesee Honey is quite lovely with this recipe too.)
Crushed Ice

Fill a 1 oz drink jigger half full with ginger simple syrup and the remaining half with strawberry mint simple syrup. Pour half of the syrup mixture into the bottom of a julep cup or rocks glass. Add a few mint leaves to the bottom of the glass and gently muddle. Pour 1 oz bourbon over the syrup and mint leaves, and add a couple dashes of bitters. Fill the glass a little over halfway full with crushed ice, then add another 1 oz of bourbon. Top off the glass with crushed ice, and pour remaining 1/2 oz of syrup mixture over top. Stir gently if you would like, and garnish with mint.

GINGER SIMPLE SYRUP

1 Cup Water
1 Cup Sugar
6" Knob of Ginger, Finely Chopped

Combine water and sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat and stir until sugar has dissolved. Add chopped ginger, bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow ginger to steep while the syrup cools to room temperature. (At least 1/2 hour, but you can let it rest longer for more ginger flavor.) Once cooled, pour syrup through a fine sieve into an airtight container and discard ginger. Refrigerate up to 1 month.

STRAWBERRY MINT SIMPLE SYRUP

6-7 Large Strawberries, Quartered
2 Cups Water
1 Cup Sugar
1 Bunch of Mint Coarsely Chopped (About 3/4-1 Cup)

Place the strawberry slices in a medium saucepan.  Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a medium simmer and let the strawberries cook for about 20 minutes. Skim any foam that rises to the top. After about 20 minutes, the strawberries will have lost most of their color and the water should be deep pink/red in color. Remove from heat. Strain the strawberry liquid through a fine mesh strainer into another clean pot, separating the solid berries from the liquid. DO NOT press down on the solids to extract more juice; doing this will make your strawberry syrup cloudy. Once the strawberry liquid has been strained, discard the solid berries. Add 1 cup of sugar to the strawberry liquid. Bring back to a boil, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar into the syrup. Let the syrup simmer for 5 minutes till the sugar is completely dissolved, skimming any additional foam that rises to the top. Remove from heat and add chopped mint to syrup. Allow the mint to steep while the syrup cools to room temperature. (At least 1/2 hour, but you can let it rest longer for more mint flavor.) Once cooled, pour syrup through a fine sieve into an airtight container and discard mint. Refrigerate up to 1 month.

Sunday Gratitude

Minnesota Lake

The smell of jasmine everywhere in the city right now. Impromptu dinners with people I love. Freshly filled bike tires. The wind on my face while riding said bike. Late night recipe making/cooking sessions. Dogs that sneak onto the bed at 5 am. Feeling strong in my body. The arrival of hot summer temps. Feeling happier and happier as the days go by. Realizing that there is never an end to learning more and improving a skill- and feeling really freaking excited about it.

Finding the California Super Bloom

By now I'm sure you've heard that California is having a massive wildflower super bloom this spring due to the many years of drought coupled with record-breaking rains over the winter. (It can even be seen from space!) Eventually, the instagram posts proved to be too tempting, so I hit the road with my friend Kate so we could experience some blooms for ourselves.

We were pleased as punch when we (quite accidentally) happened upon this field of yellow flowers. Seriously- we discovered at our first planned stop that the blooms had already dried up from the heat, and were feeling a bit defeated. Then we took a wrong turn, ended up someplace we weren't supposed to be, and BOOM! A sea of yellow.

Here I am channeling Little House on the Prairie. And below I'm doing my best "blogger jumping" impersonation.

The blooming goodness goes from March to July. While it’s over in the places closer to Los Angeles, the bloom is just now starting in Northern California’s coastal areas; some parts of the state with later snowmelt, like Lassen Volcanic National Park, will be abloom in the summer. If you're in California, hop over to Visit California’s list for peak wildflower times by location and hit the road for a flower finding adventure!

Touring LA: Griffith Observatory

A few weeks ago, my brother came to town for a quick trip, so it was the perfect excuse to play tourist in our own city for a day. I love taking out-of-towners anywhere up high so they can get a great view of the expanse that is Los Angeles (The Getty Museum is another favorite of mine.) A stop at the Griffith Observatory jumped to the top of the list since we were already in the neighborhood. And whoa- I don't know if it's the La La Land effect or what, but holy balls was it busy!! (Note to self- from now on, get there early and probably on a weekday.)

Since it was so packed we didn't spend a ton of time inside. Instead, we opted to lazily stroll around the building and take in the amazing architecture and views. It was one of those days that made me happy to be an Angelino.