Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Ginger-Orange Cocktail:

       Back at the beginning of the month for my 4th of July party I made a ginger-orange cocktail that was so delicious that I knew I had to share the recipe. Whenever I'm hosting a party, I try to make things easier on myself by serving up one signature cocktail that guests can help themselves to. This tangy citrus drink requires only 4 ingredients, involves no cooking (Who wants to make simple syrup from scratch before a large gathering? Not me!), and will satisfy even the pickiest of taste buds! Here's how to mix up a batch that serves twelve:

Magic Ingredients:
-1 fresh orange, sliced into rounds
-5 cups orange juice
-2 quarts mineral water
-Ginger flavored vodka to taste

Getting Started:
1: In a large punch bowl, incorporate mineral water, orange juice, and ginger vodka. 
2: Add the sliced orange into the punch bowl and chill until serving. 
3: Enjoy!


Monday, July 30, 2012

Small Morsels:

(Empty liquor bottle turned table vase now holds sunflowers)
      Summer seems to be in full effect lately. The weather is lush here in Santa Cruz, my home is filled with fresh cut flowers, and I even got to crash a wedding this weekend for the first time (I guess I can cross that one off my bucket list)! I'm realizing that now is the best time of year to really enjoy yourself! And if you are looking for a refreshing warm weather cocktail to sample this Summer season, be sure to check back tomorrow! But until then, here are a handful of things I am enjoying right now:

(My personal summer "it" shoe, yellow converse!)

(Shot glasses used to display flowers. Just wash well afterwards.)
(Finding outdoor inspiration at a local plant nursery.)

(You can never have too many flowers!) 

(Enjoying a mild afternoon with my best friend. I planted, he borrowed my comics.)

(Stellar margarita from Cilantro's in Watsonville, CA)

(My favorite spatulas, they withstand high levels of heat without warping!)

How do you enjoy the Summer season?


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Mixed Prints!

      I purchased this top during a sale at Express for a mere 8 bucks and I have never felt even the slightest tinge of buyer's remorse. I dressed up a simple striped blouse for a super cool evening style in today's post, but I also styled it last week with lots of casual denim for a more laid back vibe. I always find it refreshing when an inexpensive staple item can be worn in so many different ways, making the garment a true gem and multitasker in my closet. 


Thursday, July 26, 2012

My Father's Garden:

      As some of you may know already, I've recently tried to develop a green thumb. If you're curious to see what I've got growing in my own garden, feel free to check out this post. However, if you are interested in seeing where I find my inspiration... then you are in the right spot! Ever since I can remember my dad has always had some sort of piece of land to tend and cultivate. As a kid, instead of watching Saturday morning cartoons I would sometimes watch over his shoulder in the yard as he tediously pulled weeds. I never understood why he spent so much time in his garden digging, weeding, and generally just getting dirty over a few plants, until now. There is a sense of accomplishment that comes with growing your own food and produce. Like watching one tiny seed sprout into a climbing tomato plant or a giant sunflower stock. Not to mention, if you are growing edibles in your garden, how much money you will save on purchasing groceries. So if you have been thinking of starting your own garden, I hope that my inspiration can also be your inspiration. My father has planted a huge amount and variety of fruits and vegetables that would make any gardener or chef jealous. I know he sometimes feels overwhelmed with the amount of plants he maintains, but I also know that there isn't anywhere else that he would rather be than in his own lush garden (which also doubles as his own personal farmer's market!). 

(Just some of the pumpkin vines)

(Sunflowers that brighten the area)

(Both red and yellow tomatoes are grown here. They are so sweet
and tasty that you can eat them like you would an apple)
(A eggplant parmesan recipe might have to be arranged soon.)

(Excited to carve pumpkins this October!)

(In addition to lime, there are also persimmon and a fig trees)

(Cut stems I took home for arranging, more on that note very soon!)

(Just a portion of fresh produce I took home. I also was lucky enough
 to walk off with a grocery bag filled to the brim with hot peppers, another
crate identical to this one filled with squash, and don't forget about all the
 flowers in the previous photo that I took home for home decor!)

      Not all of us can grow an entire grocery store produce section in our yards... (My dad has 57 white pumpkin plants, 170 orange pumpkin plants, 75 tomato plants, 24 basil plants, 40 thai dragon hot pepper plants, 40 habanero pepper plants, 48 jalapeno plants, 10 yellow squash plants, 14 patty pan squash plants, 7 cucumber plants, 6 eggplants, 5 bell pepper plants, and all kind of flowers both edible and ornamental) But I am really happy that I was able to return home with some goodies of my own. My dad grows so much produce that he gives what he can to friends and family and any left over produce goes straight to our local food bank! 


PS: If you'd like to see my post from last year on my dad's garden, go ahead and click here

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Zesty & Bright Lemon Cookies!

My friend Johnathen has been asking me for far too long to write down the recipe for my Lemon Cookies (for over a year!). Johnathen, I really did intend to do this much sooner. Every single time I whipped up a batch of these cookies I would eat them before I could even get the chance to photograph the little lemony morsels of heaven. For this particular batch, I enlisted two sous chefs to help me complete the process. Jonas (You can see the monster eggs Jonas and I made on my blog as well!) and Isabella were there to assist in the baking process, but also to ensure that I didn't eat all of the cookies in my kitchen alone shamefully. With three people in the baking, we completed this easy recipe before we knew it and were grubbing on cookies in no time. I even had some left over for pictures!

Magic Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 cup salted butter at room temperature
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract

For the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
3-4 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

Getting Started...
1: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line three cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside for later.
2: In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and lemon zest with your fingers until fully incorporated and fragrant. 
3: In a standard mixer, beat the sugar/lemon mixture and butter until light and fluffy.
4: Beat in egg and vanilla extract until smooth.
5: Slowly add in the flour and baking powder and beat on low speed until fully incorporated.
6: Using a tablespoon to measure even cookies, roll each ball of dough into a sphere and then flatten before placing on a cookie sheet. Cookies should be spaced an inch and one half apart.
7: Bake cookies for 12-15 minutes or until they turn a very light brown. 
8: Allow the cookies to cool completely before glazing

For the glaze...
1: Mix the powdered sugar and lemon juice together until a smooth.
2: Dip each cookie face down into a bowl of glaze, allow the glaze to harden completely before eating devouring.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Movie Marathon:

      These photos were taken quite awhile ago right before a massive movie marathon session. I feel like I rarely share more deconstructed casual outfits, but I wear this men's chambray shirt so often that I wanted to share. 

(Shirt- American Apparel, Top-Express, Denim-
 Alloy, Shoes- Converse, Watch- Michael Kors)

      I love to watch The Barefoot Contessa, like most aspiring cooks. She is a major inspiration in the culinary world and apparently fashion arena also. Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa), is continually caught in a chambray shirt on her television show. I think I heard thru the grapevine that she wears them for aprons. Once I thought about that concept, it made so much sense to me. I'm not a huge fan of overly frilly or girly aprons (My anthropologie apron sadly does not get nearly enough active time in the kitchen). Chambray or denim shirts would button up over clothing, keeping it clean while in the kitchen, denim shirts are durable and easy to wash clean, and most options come with pockets for storing small items like rubber bands. Needless to say, I've been wearing my denim shirt not only for movie sessions but also in the kitchen (constantly). 


Monday, July 23, 2012

Small Morsels:

(Reading material plus new pens and highlighters)

     This past week has been slow and steady, just what I needed. After having some dental work done I spent some time doing a lot of reading, resting, and mild gardening. I thought since I was having jaw surgery, it was only appropriate to revisit the world of  Invisible Monsters Remix, a book by Chuck Palahniuk. An interesting tale about an unusual bunch of characters (one of which has several jaw surgeries after a car accident) that reads similar to a magazine....stories will start and then, skip to page whatever. Here are a few snaps from my week plus a few extra odds and ends:

(Preview of an upcoming style post)

(My tomato plants are coming right along with a little advice from this book)

(A summer window display at my favorite local hat store, Santa Cruz Hat Co. )

(Utilizing left over cups from this soiree as planters for seedlings)

(Decorating idea: A bar in a bookshelf! Even small apartments can squeeze in a mini bar.)

(Looking forward to making a berry pie soon...)

(I swear my sweet tooth is never satisfied.)

(When there isn't a rolling pin in site, chilled liquor bottles work just as well!)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

D.I.Y: Chandelier!

      I have continually seen birdcages used as decor but it wasn't until I saw the lovely stylings of Alaina's home on her blog LiveCreatingYourself that my desire was ignited to have one of my own. But apartment dwelling also means that there is limited space for sheerly decorative items so I came up with the concept of utilizing a small bird cage as a make shift "chandelier" as well! A basic concept that involves hanging a bird cage from the ceiling, coiling white lights inside the cage, and then artfully draping the excess strand lights to the nearest outlet. Here's a few tips on how I created mine:

*As I mentioned, I've been wanting to display a birdcage in my house for such a long time and I have been keeping my eyes peeled for the perfect one. Antique stores offered the best vintage cages but they also seemed a bit broken down and came with a hefty price tag. Luckily, while at Ross one day, I stumbled across the one photographed above. The color didn't suit my tastes but when I saw the 6 dollar price stamp, I knew I could spruce it up myself. 

(I placed my birdcage on an outdoor hanging plant
 stand so that I could spray paint it more easily)

*White paint really made the piece come to new life plus I knew it would match the decor of my dining/living area, but select any color that suits your tastes. Make sure to use specialized paint for whatever surface you are working with. I did not use primer for this project, the spray paint I purchased said that it would adhere to just about anything, and it did. Sometimes I get impatient while completing projects, so it's nice to be able to skip a step.
*When spray painting, it is key to do two light coats of paint (holding the can 12" away from the surface). Using a back board is also helpful as well. Just place a sheet of cardboard or poster paper behind whatever you are spray painting to ensure that the paint coats thickly/evenly. Using a backboard is also cost effective because paint is not wasted. 

*I used a simple (and minimally invasive) hook screw to fasten my small (and light) birdcage to the ceiling.
As I mentioned, I live in an apartment and I did not want to damage the walls so a smaller cage was perfect for me. If you are using a larger/heavier cage, I would suggest looking for something sturdier at your local hardware store that can with stand more weight. 
*Don't plug the strand lights in and directly loop the excess lights into the cage. Instead, run the lights elegantly up a wall, use a clear tack to secure to the ceiling, drape the strand slightly to the fastening hook, and then loop the lights artfully into the birdcage.

      You may not be able to tell from the photo but I actually have my dining table underneath my staircase. My apartment's floor plan did not allow for a separate eating area but since having a place to sit down and enjoy a meal with friends and family is so important to me, I took advantage of the awkward and unused space under the stairs. After managing to fit a full sized table under there (plus a set of DIY chairs!) there wasn't much room left over for floor lamps. I knew I needed to light the area much better (I'm the kind of person that has to be able to see what I am eating) so overhead lighting was essential. I love the idea of a grand crystal chandelier in an elegant dining room, but since I'm decorating on a shoe string budget, this "birdcage chandelier" will more than suffice! Maybe even sometime down the line I'll add flowers to the wires of the cage or perhaps attache ornaments in the winter, do you have any other ideas to make this project your own?