Picnic Must-Haves

April 30, 2013

It's picnic season! Pack a basket and head to the park for some fresh air and fun; here are some essentials for a perfect picnic.

This picnic table conveniently folds up and fits into an easy-to-carry bag. 
A durable yet soft picnic blanket that rolls up for easy handling.
The picnic-perfect dress in a fun silhouette and classic gingham print.
Wedges not only look cute, but they won't sink into the grass or sand like heels do--a total must-have!
Charcuterie is a pillar of any good picnic. Don't forget good bread and this olive tapenade recipe. 
I've yet to find a champagne box more adorable than this one.  
This picnic basket includes everything you'll need, from the tablecloth to the salt and pepper shakers. 
Never spill your wine again with these stemware holders.
Good cheese is always a winning accompaniment to classic charcuterie, and Cowgirl Creamery is one of the best! (The Red Hawk is my favorite.)

Easy Appetizers: Olive Tapenade

April 29, 2013

Olive tapenade is one of my favorite, super-easy party snacks to make; it can be prepared ahead to save time, plus it pairs nicely with a cheese or charcuterie platter. This recipe combines briny olives (kalamata and black) with capers to give it a palate-pleasing bite. 

Olive Tapenade
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1 cup pitted kalamata olives, drained
¾ cup pitted ripe black olives, drained
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar (I used a Cabernet vinegar, but any variety works)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Toss cheese, garlic, and capers into food processor and blend until smooth. Add olives, vinegar, and olive oil and process until finely chopped. 

Olive tapenade can be covered and refrigerated for up to a week.

photography by Angelica Golden

Happy Friday

April 26, 2013

Happy Friday, ya'll! It's been sort of a trying week and all I want to do is have a seat in one of these chairs. I hope you've had an amazing week and have fabulous weekend plans!

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Cool Gifts for Guys

April 24, 2013

My husband's birthday is at the end of the month and I've yet to even look at a potential gift. Last year I bought him a brand new set of fancy golf clubs, which will be hard to top, but fortunately, my guy is pretty low maintenance and won't expect anything too grand.  Still, it's nice to spoil the people you love with nice prezzies, so I've rounded up a few things I think any guy would love.

For the style savvy dude, The Mr. Porter Paperback will be much appreciated.
Not just any headphones, wireless TV headphones so prince charming doesn't disturb his sleeping beauty.
Facial scrubs and hand creams can be intimidating for men, but this hygiene kit is totally guy-friendly.
If he's trying to improve his swing, a talking golf caddy might do the trick. 
Coasters that a guy will not only like, but actually use.
A bow tie in a classic color combo is must for every man.
A little encouragement in the form of a paperweight.  
An electric meat smoker that's a little less expensive than a traditional smoker. Plus this one also roasts meat.
The big game will be even better with home-brewed beers on hand. 

15 Uses for Chalkboard Contact Paper

April 23, 2013

Chalkboard contact paper is a great (and inexpensive) alternative if you don't want to do the whole DIY chalkboard paint thing, or if you're looking for a chalkboard effect that can easily be cut and shaped the way you want it. Here are just a few ways to use this must-have multi-tasker.  

1. Use as a table runner and label food and wine at a wine tasting party. Draw arrows to show which wines go with which nibbles.
2. Put up on a wall to let little ones scribble to their heart's content.
3. Place chalkboard contact paper in a frame, sans glass, and keep in your kitchen to make grocery lists. Or a menu for a brunch or dinner party (or an average weeknight for that matter). 
4. Create labels for kitchen canisters.
5. Make flashcards for kids. You can erase and use for different subjects, or progress with your child as they get older, without having to buy new flashcards.
6. Cut into cute little shapes and use as gift labels.
7. Line the inside of your pantry door and jot down when items are running low.
8. Label beverage containers or dispensers at a BBQ or party.
9. Frame (leave the glass out) and write daily affirmations, scriptures, quotes, etc to inspire you. This is also a really terrific gift.
10. Use to label dishes at buffet table. Or at a potluck have everyone write the name of their dish and who brought it.
11. Cut and stick to plastic stemware for a party. Leave chalk out so guests can write their names on their glass or cups. 
12. Cover the top of your child's desk with it--they'll never have to use scratch paper again!
13. For a non-fancy brunch or luncheon, cut into place mat-sized rectangles and stick to paper or plastic tablecloths. Trace a plate in the center, then write each guest's name on the drawn plate for their place setting.  Get extra kitschy and draw in a knife, spoon, and fork as well.
14. For a game night, roll it out and use for a multi-player tic-tac-toe tournament (or any other game you can think of). Leave the paper on the back so you can roll it back up and use for something else later.
15. Label bins and boxes to keep your garage neat and organized.       

5 Ways to Banish Puffy Eyes

April 22, 2013

When it comes to beauty problems, there are few things worse than puffy, tired-looking eyes.  They're nearly impossible to hide, even with the most expensive concealer, and can make you look older than you really are.  To help rid you of this problem for good, here are five quick and easy ways to de-puff your eyes.

1. Pat vitamin E oil or an eye cream containing the vitamin under and around your eyes.

2. Use cold spoons: place teaspoons in the fridge before going to bed, in the morning hold the backs of the spoons to eyes. Because they're metal, they'll be much colder than, say, sliced cucumbers or potatoes (both of which are also great options, by the way) so will be effective in less time.

3. Drink plenty of water. One of the many beauty benefits of staying hydrated is the flushing of sodium and toxins which contribute to puffy eyes. 

4. Gently, GENTLY tap under eyes with fingertips (use your ring finger because it's the weakest). Start at inner corners and work your way out.

5. Sleep! 

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April 19, 2013

I would be remiss if I didn't take the time thank the law enforcement who were involved in the capture of the Boston Marathon bombers. My heart goes out to all who were affected by this tragedy, and whose lives will forever be changed. Praying for healing, peace, and comfort for your city.

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Happy Friday {and a festival...of books!}

April 19, 2013


To quote R. Kelly, it's the freakin' weekend, baby I'm about to have me some fun! The L.A. Times Festival of Books is this Saturday and Sunday and I'm planning to attend with my little family, as well as my brother, sister-in-law, and niece. There's never a dull moment when my 3-year old and his 2-year old get together, plus Molly Ringwald will be there! Molly! Ringwald! Aaand...the amazingly talented chefs Susan Feniger and Ludo Lefebvre will each be giving cooking demonstrations.  If you haven't been to Susan Feniger's STREET here in L.A. you are truly missing out. And don't even get me started on Ludo! 

I hope your weekend is equally fantastic. 

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Fake a Fresh Pedi

April 18, 2013

There are times in every girl's life when she finds herself making last minute plans, or worse, remembering pre-scheduled plans at the last minute. When time is of the essence, and there's not enough of it to squeeze in a pedicure here's what you do:

Put on a pair of peep toe shoes to see which toes are actually "peeping." Most likely it's only the big toe and the toe next to it. Take the shoes off, paint only those toes, and once dry, rub a drop of cuticle oil into the nail and slide your shoes back on. VoilĂ ! No one will ever guess you didn't just leave the nail salon.

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Shopbop Friends & Family

April 18, 2013

The Shopbop Friends & Family event is on!

Upcycled Candle Jars

April 17, 2013

I have an obsession with candles; I burn them in my home on a near constant basis, and am always left with a number of jars that are far too pretty to throw out. I've discovered that upcycling them is easy; with a creative eye, I've found several uses for my most favorite candle jars.
I thought this Voluspa candle from Anthropologie, with its stunning black and gold jar, was fabulous the first time I laid eyes on it, and the Makassar Ebony & Peach candle inside had the most amazing,  sexy fragrance. The jar was too glamorous to toss so I now use it to house some of my jewelry.

I couldn't bear the thought of parting with this White Tea Thyme candle jar, also from Anthropologie--it's achingly sweet with it's painted hummingbird and bright flowers. After cleaning it out, I decided it would make the perfect candy jar; the candy colors make a brilliant background for the words on the glass.


I bought these Glade candles because the shimmery orange holders match the warm colors in my living room. I knew I could easily clean them and reuse for tea light holders. To make them even prettier, I "beaded" them with fabric paint, which gave them a sort of exotic feel that I love. They would also make perfect drinking glasses at a festive, Moroccan-themed dinner party, no?


These simple glass holders aren't necessarily pretty or special, but when I spotted the candles in Target (also Glade) I knew they would make the perfect mini dessert cups. I can also use them for soup shooters or any other mini appetizer I can think of.  And because they're so inexpensive I can stock up and use them for a tasting party.

There are different ways to clean candle wax out of the jars, but I've found what works for me is to freeze the jar, then use a sharp knife or metal skewer to break up the hardened wax. Then I just give it a good scrub with hot water and soap until all the wax is gone. 

photography by Angelica Golden

How To Make Cake Flour

April 16, 2013

Stumped by a recipe that calls for cake flour? No worries--you can make some yourself. Just remove two tablespoons of flour for every cup used and replace with two tablespoons of cornstarch. So if your recipe uses three cups of flour, you'll be taking out six tablespoons of flour and adding six tablespoons of cornstarch. Sift the mixture a few times and you've got yourself some cake flour. Make sure to remeasure it for whatever the recipe calls for and you're good to go. 

photo by Angelica Golden

Talk About It: Men with Facial Hair

April 15, 2013

Fun fact: I've been with my husband for six and a half years and have never seen him without some sort of facial hair (save for baby pictures, of course). He's altered his look over the years--doing the soul patch thing occasionally, growing in a full beard other times, but he's never done away with the facial hair completely. Fortunately, I happen to love his look and can't imagine him any other way.  But I have friends who are very particular about facial hair, and some have asked their men to to keep their mugs shaved. I even have one girlfriend who thinks facial hair on stars like Ryan Reynolds is super sexy, but refuses to kiss her hubby if he so much as has 5 o'clock shadow. 

So what's your stand on men with facial hair? Do you like your man clean-shaven and smooth or with a little (or a lot) of scruff? And if you have a particular preference, how do you let your guy know?

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Basic Brownies

April 12, 2013

Brownies are essential to my happiness, so naturally, nailing a go-to brownie recipe was crucial. I've found that this one is not only insanely simple, it also produces perfectly fudgy, slightly cakey but super moist brownies every time. Plus it's a great basic recipe that can be modified with the addition of nuts, chocolate chips, candies, cheesecake batter... you name it.

Basic Brownies
½ cup butter
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt 
¼ teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350° and grease and flour an 8-inch square pan. 

Melt butter in a large saucepan and remove from heat. Stir in sugar, eggs and vanilla. Beat in the remaining ingredients and spread in prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. 

photography by Angelica Golden 

Happy Friday

April 12, 2013

I've been waiting for this weekend for a year. Not kidding. My cousin is getting married on Sunday and my sweet baby girl is a flower girl! She can't wait to wear her "princess" dress (although she did have issues with the fact that it's not her favorite color, pink) and I can't wait to party! I won't be popping any bottles with my family but the baby bump and I have big plans for eating wedding cake and doing the electric slide

I hope you have a fun weekend planned!

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Get Gorgeous with Baking Soda

April 10, 2013

Baking soda is one of the most inexpensive, accessible, and versatile products you can have in your pantry.  Besides using it to whip up tasty baked treats or eliminating odors in your fridge, baking soda also makes a fabulous addition to your beauty regime and costs mere pennies per use!

1. Instead of spending money on a separate clarifying shampoo, mix a pinch of baking soda (a little less than a teaspoon) with your favorite shampoo to remove product buildup.
2. Make a paste of water and baking soda and use as a facial mask.
3. Use baking soda as a face and body scrub by mixing it with water and a few drops of essential oil until it's your desired consistency.
4. Get softer skin by adding a cup of baking soda to your bath.
5. Mix a small amount with a few drops of peroxide to make a toothpaste that'll whiten your teeth and freshen your breath.
6. Dissolve 4 tablespoons of baking soda in about 1 liter of warm water and soak brushes and combs for a few minutes for a thorough, build-up removing clean.
7. Apply to a nail brush and give finger and toe nails a good scrub to clean and brighten nails, get rid of discoloration caused by nail polish, and soften cuticles.
8. Add baking soda to a foot soak to help soften and deodorize your little piggies.
9. Dissolve 1 teaspoon in a small glass of water and use as a mouthwash. 
10. And if you wake up and realize you forgot to stop at Target for deodorant, simply use your fingers or a powder puff to dust baking soda on your underarms for a natural deodorant. 

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Currently Drooling Over: Chic Offices

April 9, 2013

I work from home but my "office" is wherever I happen to be planted with my laptop. That's not to say I don't dream of someday having a fabulously chic home office--a place to house all my girly things, stylish coffee table books, and perhaps even act as a dressing room. Until then, I'm left to swoon over these gorgeous offices. 

The lamp, the mirror, the pillows...love it all!

It's the little pop of pink in the middle of all the blue that really sends me. 

 That lime green wall is so cool I can barely stand it...

Okay, this is actually a living room, but I'd totally be down to do my work here!

images via 1, 2, 3, 4

10 Essentials for a Beach Vacation

April 8, 2013

Even though I live on the coast and can visit the beach as often as I'd like, I can't help but long for a tropical beach vacation when the weather starts to warm up. If you're lucky enough to be heading to some exotic locale soon, here are ten essentials to keep in mind when packing. 
1. Oversized sunnies are an absolute must. I love these cat eye frames--so on trend.
2. Taking a reversible bikini is like taking two different swimsuits, and you'll save a little more room in your suitcase (because every square inch matters)
3. Pack a no-fuss dress that's weather appropriate but can easily work for a nice dinner. This one has a sexy open back for a dramatic exit and it's only $30!
4. Protect hair from sun, salt water, and humidity with a  good leave-in conditioner. 
5. Don't forget a cute bag for carrying all your wares to the beach. Lay it flat at the bottom of your luggage to save room.
6. Save space in your suitcase by taking along embellished sandals that you can slip on for the beach, shopping in town, and to dinner.
7. A sunscreen that works for both face and body means you won't have to pack two separate bottles.
8. Perfect for a leisurely post-swim lunch, a casual, lightweight tunic can work as a dress or a top.
9. Stay covered and look chic in a wide-brimmed straw hat. Wear it on the plane so it doesn't get smashed in your suitcase.
10. A sexy, bold lip color, just because. 

Happy Friday

April 5, 2013

It seems like I've been waiting for this weekend for a few weeks now--it's the first time in over a month that I don't have Saturday plans! Also, I'm really looking forward to a lovely, relaxing Sunday brunch with a group of ladies whom I love dearly and always enjoy seeing. It's going to be a fabulous weekend.

I hope your weekend is fabulous as well!

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Roast Chicken & Potatoes with Lemon, Parsley, & Parmesan

April 4, 2013

Every girl needs at least one go-to roast chicken recipe in her repertoire. It's an impressive meal that presents beautifully at a dinner party, but, surprisingly, isn't so laborious that you wouldn't want to make it on any weeknight. This recipe combines the clean, bright flavors of lemon and parsley with the sharp nuttiness of Parmesan. And who doesn't love any dish that has good cheese in it?

Lemon, Parsley, and Parmesan Chicken & Potatoes
For chicken and potatoes:
1 whole organic chicken (3½ lbs)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
½ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 lemon, halved
1 lb fingerling potatoes, halved

For sauce:
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 lemon, zested (2 teaspoons) and juiced (1½ tablespoons)
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon coarse salt
pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
Preheat oven to 425°.  Put chicken, breast side up, on a baking sheet and rub with 2 tablespoons of oil. Season generously with salt and pepper. Put the parsley and the lemon halves in the cavity, and tie the legs together with kitchen twine.

Toss the potatoes with 2 tablespoons of  oil and season with salt and pepper. Scatter the potatoes around the chicken.

Roast the chicken and potatoes for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375° and continue cooking for 25 minutes. Rotate the pan, toss the potatoes, and continue roasting for another 25 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken thigh reads 165° (make sure the thermometer isn't touching any bone). Take the chicken out of the oven and let it rest while you make the sauce.

To make the sauce simply combine all the ingredients. Drizzle the sauce over the chicken and potatoes (place chicken and potatoes on a serving platter first, if you're using one). Enjoy!

photography by Angelica Golden

Brew a Better Cup of Coffee

April 3, 2013

Let's face it, that Starbucks you enjoy every morning before work is starting to take a toll on your pocketbook, and when you just want to laze around on the weekends, running out to wait in line for a cup of joe is the last thing you want to do. The simple solution is to brew your own coffee. Here are a few tips to brewing a better cup of java at home:

1. Since ground coffee tends to go stale faster, buy whole beans and store them in the freezer for up to a month. If you'll be using them within two weeks, store in the fridge.
2. Don't grind the coffee too fine, as this will result in a bitter-tasting brew. And by the way, a good coffee grinder needn't be expensive; I got mine at Home Goods for around eleven bucks.
3. Use cold, filtered water to brew your coffee.
4. Two level tablespoons (not teaspoons!) of coffee for every six (not eight!) ounces of water will yield a better-tasting cup.
5. Instead of leaving the coffee in the coffeemaker pot, which can cause it to scorch as it sits on the warmer, pour it into an insulated carafe to keep it hot and fresh-tasting. 
6. To help keep the coffee even hotter, heat the carafe up by pouring boiling water into it as the coffee brews. Then dump the water and replace it with the coffee to serve. You can also do this if you're using a travel mug.

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Talk About It: Who Pays on the First Date?

April 1, 2013

The rules of dating have changed. Once considered slightly taboo, online dating has become one of the go-to resources for meeting a match. And while dinner and a movie used to be the norm, reality television shows like Millionaire Matchmaker and The Bachelor have challenged couples to step up their game with more extravagant first dates (helicopter trip to Vegas, anyone?). So with all the changes in the dating world, I can't help but wonder if any of the old rules apply, particularly, the rule about who pays. Is it still considered chivalrous for the man to pay? Or are modern women more about going dutch these days? 

Let's talk about this. Who do you think is responsible for paying on the first date? Who paid on your first date with your significant other?

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