• 31 December 2009

After putting the kids to bed last night, I came downstairs to my quiet kitchen to document all the thoughts spinning in my head that day...a yummy trifle I recently made, an organizing tip, a short video of La Maisonnette, and some images recently clipped from a favorite magazine. Then, I noticed a link I'd left on my computer earlier that day--a link to a series in the Arizona Republic about Stephanie Nielson's plane crash and miraculous recovery. I sat down to read it and found myself pouring through the web pages, wholly immersed (even though I've been following her blog, this series of articles shares new insight). Forty-five minutes later I wiped my eyes and could only think of Stephanie, her struggles, her pain, and the challenges she's facing in her personal life.

I felt particularly impressed with her honesty, faith and love for motherhood. You see, not everyone comes wired the same way, and while I love my children with all of my heart and have willingly suffered to bring them to the world, I do not feel currently equipped to be the kind of mother that Stephanie has always been...pre- and post-crash. However, whenever I read her posts, and in particular this story, I am increasingly motivated to change, to improve and to be the kind of mother my children need me to be. I try so hard, but I know I need to increase my efforts.

I am deeply appreciative for all we've accomplished as a family in 2009 and hoping for a bright and hopeful 2010. May we all allow another persons' example to move us towards developing our full potential in this upcoming new year. How lucky we are to experience a new beginning and put our best foot forward. Friends, have a wonderful new year!

image by Elizabeth Perry of Woolgathering


Crudités with Buttermilk Herb Dip

• 30 December 2009

I can't resist sharing just one more great appetizer to make/bring to a New Year's party, or any party for that matter. What is appealing about this recipe (besides the fact that it's the best vegetable dip I've ever consumed) is that it halves nicely and you can be creative in your vegetable selection. Whatever you choose, make sure you have a little variety when it comes to shape, texture and color. I used organic carrots (they taste better and come with their pretty, delicate stems attached), radishes, celery, endive leaves, fennel and cucumbers. If you aren't a fan of radishes, a red bell pepper would an excellent substitution.

Find the recipe here.


Organizing a Kitchen Pantry

Forget it...I can't wait until the new year to start organizing! My messy pantry is too far gone to ignore for another few days. I'm sure most people only need to spend maybe an hour or two max, but oh no, it took me 4 hours to get my pantry in ship-shape. That being said, I can't tell you though how good it feels to have this completed. Cooking and baking will be even more fun now that I can actually access what I need!

This is what I did to organize my pantry:

* took everything out and then wiped down the walls and shelves
* threw expired food in the trash (as well as any other junk/papers/etc.)
* cleaned out bins and re-sorted contents
* assembled can racks, helper shelves, and under-the-shelf organizers before placing in pantry
* filled in the empty spaces with everything else
* rewarded myself with a box of San Pellegrino because the bottles are not only pretty all lined up, but nice to sip during a nice dinner :)

Now on to my junk drawer for the second time since returning from France. Clearly I need a new system :)

image 1, 2


Crostini with Prosciutto, Mushrooms + Blue Cheese

• 29 December 2009

With New Year's Eve just two days away, it seems appropos to share my favorite appetizer with you. Appetizers really are the best {and easiest} type of food to eat at any kind of New Year's event, be it a quiet evening or a hoppin' party.

View the recipe for Crostini with Prosciutto, Mushrooms + Blue Cheese here. It's guaranteed delicious!


Fidalis Buehler

• 28 December 2009

I am thoroughly enjoying the work of new-to-me artist, Fidalis Buehler and just had to share a few images with you. He fuses"island" influences (he spent 15+ years in the South Pacific) with an overall contemporary feel, which results in a distinct--and beautiful I might add--style. Word on the street is that his prices are quite reasonable too...added bonus :)

image from Buehler's Village of Catetonia Project


Rose + Radish Sale Continues...

• 26 December 2009

Why do all the good shops and good magazines go out of business? So frustrating! And now Rose + Radish, a beautiful shop in downtown San Francisco, closed its doors as well. At least they are going out of business with style and offering all sorts of lovelies at a discount {online}. Speaking of discounts, further markdowns took place today--check out the sale here.


Joyeux Noël

• 25 December 2009

Merry Christmas dear readers! I hope you enjoy a beautiful holiday wherever you may be. Here is a lovely quote I found in my files this week. Enjoy!

Bless us Lord, this Christmas, with quietness of mind; Teach us to be patient and always to be kind.

-Helen Steiner Rice

image via Good Housekeeping


Etsy Pick of the Week: Two Shoes Studio

• 24 December 2009

Last year I scoured Etsy for a sweet little tooth fairy pillow for my daughter and luckily stumbled upon the work of Lauren Brandy. While it looks like she is taking a bit of a hiatus from this particular Etsy shop, she is still updating her blog with adorable tutorials and patterns for those who want to try and make their own tooth fairy pillows. Speaking of fairies, it appears the Talent Fairy was quite good to Lauren, as she is also pursuing a cupcake business...and a mini-career in painting. I think this petite canvas would look perfect hanging on a closet door or in a bathroom.


Simple Gift no.2: Mistletoe

• 23 December 2009

I spotted some fresh mistletoe at a local market* and I immediately thought how fun it would be to gift a little mistletoe to some of our friends and neighbors. Admittedly, I like the thought of encouraging romance amongst both the young and old this holiday season :) I, of course, saved a little for our home too...

Wrapping the gifts took just minutes and required few supplies--a little baker's twine, some labels from the wedding aisle at Michaels, and clear cellophane bags. I hope I stumble upon mistletoe again next year...this could turn into a fun tradition!

* Liberty Heights Fresh


Country French

Until this year I've never been a fan of "country french", but I've definitely learned to appreciate the style for obvious reasons :) I'm especially keen on the clean, simple, uncluttered versions. These images capture everything that I love about the look.

images from Country French


Neighbor Gift no.1 + Cranberry Orange Bread

• 22 December 2009

Since making the decision to not send out Christmas cards this year (a 1st in our 10-year-marriage), I've suddenly felt a desire to bake and wrap and do all sorts of fun {but simple} holiday projects. Making this decision was quite a relief, actually, something had to give. I know I say this every year, but next year will be the year I have Christmas done by Thanksgiving so I can enjoy a stress-free holiday and send out cards :)

With unexpected time on my hands I now feel like I can bake, craft with my kids, and make simple, homemade gifts. A delicious baked good is always a hit when it comes to gift-giving, wouldn't you agree? I made a few mini-loaves of Cranberry Orange Bread last week and liked it so much I decided to go for batch no.2 this week. Between the flavor, the colors, and the perfect size, it's a win-win. Plus, it presented another occasion to create a brown paper package tied up with string :)

I'm sharing my recipe for Cranberry Orange Bread over at Zupas today, so follow me there for a moment if you are in need of a delicious, festive holiday recipe. Keep in mind that it's quite addicting so make sure you bake extra loaves for you to munch on as well.


Lego Birthday Party

• 21 December 2009

When planning my son's recent birthday, he requested two things...1. that we use "red, orange and blue because those are my favorite colors" and 2. eat "vanilla cake". I decided to hit a local stationery/scrapbooking store hoping to find some inspiration that met both criterion plus added another element he'd love. When I saw this Lego-inspired paper I knew it was the just the right thing. And so it was official, a Lego theme it was!

As you can see, we had a lot of fun with it...we made boxed invitations full of jelly beans (inspired by Jordan), paper legos to hang from the ceiling, napkin rings for napkins that weren't used (kids seem to prefer their sleeves), Lego coloring pages (from their website) and a silly "pin-the-circle-onto-the-lego" game. Boy, it's amazing how much can be packed into just an hour and a half. Pfew! 

update:  Aren't parties with themes so fun!?  I have recently listed a few new birthday party ideas over here.


Downtown Chic

• 18 December 2009

I recently previewed the inspiring book, Downtown Chic, and I can't tell you how thrilling it was to pour through its pages. When we returned from renovating La Maisonnette, I felt emotionally and physically spent; but, after reading about how a family in NY (with six kids! or is it seven now?) renovated a home abroad, as well as a handful in New York City, I feel instantly energized. Who knows...maybe in several years we'll do it again! I also appreciate that Downtown Chic is not only a pretty book, but informative as well. Home Depot should totally pick this up...its book racks could use a little sprucing up :)

Added bonus...it's on sale.


Deer Mom

Just when I was feeling like a sub-par mother my son presented me with this piece of paper. Talk about motivation to do better and be better. It's so nice to be reminded of what's really important in such a sweet way.

Today will be the day I bake gingerbread men with my kids...


Etsy Pick of the Week: Faire Houre

In case you missed the blitz on the blogosphere a few weeks ago, here's a little intro to Faire Houre. I'm not sure what I like more about Faire Houre...the amazing styling/photography or the gorgeous handmade clocks or the cute French name. Her Etsy shop is currently well-stocked and her blog is full of beautiful images showcasing her clocks in real spaces. After only a few minutes I felt instantly inspired. Take a peek!


Inside Look: Paris' Merci

• 17 December 2009

I recently stumbled upon some iPhone images I took inside Merci this past September. What an interesting experience that was...I rented a car (scored a hybrid!) and drove up to Paris with my 2 and 4-year-old children on La Maisonnette business. Looking back, I can't believe I thought I could actually get anything done with the little munchkins--just driving and parking in Paris can be headache enough, but add in two little ones and that's C-R-A-Z-Y. Luckily, my sweet friend, Natasha, who lives just outside Paris, offered to tend my kids for a day so I could double park my way around Paris and do what I drove up to do. What a gem! I thank her for even having a spare moment to snap a few pictures.

Anyway, after discovering an article about Merci in one of my French magazines, I knew another post on the store was in order--the magazine featured a massive spread on the shop and included lots of fun images for your viewing pleasure. I hope these images satiate your curiosity and give you a better idea of what Merci is all about. When I discovered that 100% of the proceeds are donated to a charity in Madasgascar, I was even more endeared. How refreshing that anyone does that anymore, right?

all images with print are from Marie Claire Maison; the rest I took with my phone


Christmas Favorites

Sometimes I see fantastic ideas on the internet and then forget to bookmark the source...oops! As a result, I am always grateful when bloggers publish "recaps" featuring some of those forgotten favorites. In case you feel the same as I, here are a couple of my favorites from last year.

Favorite Christmas craft to make with your children

Stocking toppers (even if you just tucked in some greenery those stockings would look all the more fabulous!)

Peeling a Pomegranate...mess-free

Favorite gift toppers - this will be the third year in a row I've made these; can't get enough!

Santa's Address (it's not too late!); and also letters from Santa here.

Christmas Traditions: Readers' Favorites; glean some fantastic ideas from these comments.


Herman Miller Picnic Posters

• 16 December 2009

These new-to-me Herman Miller Summer Picnic Posters make me want to redecorate. They are fabulous with a capital "F".

You can find a nice selection of new posters here, or a few select framed versions here. Also, if you are interested in a vintage (and subsequently more expensive) version, go here.


Menu of the Week

A little preface about the "menu of the week" posts for those of you just tuning in...I write these posts not because I think it's important to share what we are eating; rather, I think (and hope!) that many people appreciate the new ideas and recipes presented. Sometimes we find ourselves in a rut, only making the same handful of recipes we've made for months, or even years. When we see what other families are eating for dinner, it makes cooking wholesome meals seem doable and often sparks a general interest in trying something different.

Discovering new, delicious recipes is one of my favorite things to do, yet old-favorites certainly have their place. Typically when I meal plan, I write out 5 meals (I figure one night we'll eat "Brupper" and the other "leftovers"); three or four are meals I've tried before and the other 1 or 2 are recipes that are new. Sometimes I make them again, and sometimes I don't, but teaching kids (and husbands!) to appreciate variety is a good thing :)

This week's menu:

Perfect Roast Chicken, Roasted Potatoes and Asparagus with Lemon + Pine Nuts

White Cheddar Corn Chowder, Mixed Greens with Dijon Vinaigrette and Cloverleaf Rolls

Homemade Cheese Pizza with Veggie Sticks + Fruit Wedges

Slowcooker Beef Stew with Rosemary Corn Muffins

Couscous + Parsley-Encrusted Fish, Salad, Herb Roasted Potatoes

Dessert: Bittersweet Molten Lava Cakes with Haagen-Daas Vanilla Swiss Almond ice cream


Sunset Magazine's Holiday Cookbook GIVEAWAY

• 15 December 2009

For me, spending ten dollars on a magazine is quite a splurge and typically reserved for Donna Hay and the like. But, I haven't regretted picking up Sunset Magazine's Holiday Cookbook for a moment because that is exactly what it is...a cookbook! True, it's masked as a magazine, but what you'll find inside is an extensive, well-edited collection of test-kitchen favorites. Some of them I've posted about in the past and are available online; but, I noticed that many of the recipes I hope to try are not available online making this holiday cookbook even more coveted in my kitchen. If you are hosting a Christmas or New Year's party, you'd be wise to give this publication a consult :)

For this giveaway, Sunset Magazine would like to offer 3 readers one copy of the Holiday Cookbook. Since time is of the essence, this giveaway will only last for one day. Good luck!

Giveaway Guidelines:

- You have 1 day to enter this giveaway (closes Tuesday, December 15th at midnight).
- Make a comment on this post to enter.
- One entry per person please.
- Anonymous comments will be ignored so make sure we know who you are!
- The winners will be chosen via random.org and announced on Wednesday, December 16th in this post.
- Winners, please respond by the end of the week to secure prize. Thank you~


Freshly Grated Nutmeg

If you haven't discovered the world of fresh-grated nutmeg, consider peeking at this week's post over at Zupas. I promise after one taste of the real deal, you'll never go back to McCormick's again :)


A Baby Shower for Marin

• 14 December 2009

I recently threw a shower for my friend, Marin, and just in the nick of time too...she gave birth two and a half weeks early! The inspiration for the color theme was a pretty Japonese chiyogami paper I bought in San Francisco's Japantown two years ago. I've been saving for the right occasion, and this was it!

The shower was an evening shower so I served a mix of sweet and savory plates (mostly sweet!):

* Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
* Baguette slices with store-bought dip--Alouette Artichoke + Garlic
* Gingerbread Pumpkin Mousse Trifle (deserves it's own post...soon)
* Crudités with Herb Buttermilk Dip
* Fresh raspberries
* Milk shots with Chocolate Chip Cookies

Decorations for Marin's shower were simple...white tulips...a garland across the fireplace...and mini-pom-poms hanging over the table. Less is usually more, right? When it comes to games I am always torn. I like the idea of a little mixer, but it can be challenging to find a game that isn't silly. I loved Brooke's idea of a little questionaire, so I went with it and loved it. I'll definitely add that to my list of shower "musts". One last note on details...with all of us holding identical water bottles, I wanted to make sure there was a way to keep track of our drinks. I decided to make each guest a little nametag to wrap around the neck of her water bottle. It worked...no mix ups!


Great Gifts under $20

A few things I think both practical and pretty at the always-popular price point of twenty dollars. Enjoy!

Egg Timer

Stackable Measuring Cups

Cable Yo Yo (you can buy 4 for $20!)

Canvas Tote (forgive me...I'm 95 cents over on this one!)

Recycled Milk Bottle + 4 glasses

White Porcelain Pitcher


French Office Niche: Before + After

• 11 December 2009

I'm enamored with this petite office space from French magazine, Marie Claire Maison. While the "before" shot (see left-"avant") looks pretty nice in my book, that "after" shot (see right-"apres") is simple perfection.


Divided Lunch Plates

Picking up these simple, kid-size divided plates/trays (per my friend Lisa's recommendation), was such a great idea. I can't tell you how easy they've made our lunchtime routine. Since I bought them all in the same color, there is no insisting on a certain color and no drama if a particular colored plate is still dirty :) The divisions also remind me to add fruit + vegetable servings to their meal, which makes for a more balanced, healthier meal and of course adds variety as well. And last, my kids appreciate how their food stays divided (especially helpful when hummus or salad dressing is on the menu). Best 98 cents I've spent...hands down.

I found mine at Walmart, but you can also find them at Target (not online...just in stores). If you are looking for an online source, these would work; Ebay has a few nice options too.


Welcome Sponsor: Simply Basic Designs

I'm swooning over Karen's baby pods...I've never seen anything like them and I pretty much think it's the best idea ever. What baby wouldn't want to be wrapped in a little knit pod? Plus, the pods make for a pretty baby picture :)

Simply Basic Designs is definitely an Etsy shop worthy of being added to your "favorites". The bang-for-your-buck ratio is spot on and you'll appreciate the nice balance of detail and simplicity. Check out the shop here.


Free Holiday Music on iTunes

• 10 December 2009

In case you haven't heard, for one week only iTunes is offering a Holiday music sampler (value $20.31) for "free"! And, it's not a lame-o mix either--you'll find everyone from Sarah Maclachlan to Aretha Franklin to Weezer. My eclectic taste in music was definitely satisfied. Enjoy!

Click here to download the free music via iTunes.

If you don't have iTunes on your computer yet, you can download it here.

heads up via lifehacker; image via the young and talented, firepretty


French Wooden Toys

In the town of Beynac, home to La Maisonnette, is a tiny toy store that sells wooden toys (mostly by Vilac) and hand-crafted wooden games (chess, checkers, etc.). They were all well-priced and simply adorable so guess where this Mom went when she needed a little something for her kids? I loved spending 6 Euros on something that would cost me $30 here...oh the satisfaction in that.

I've tried to source as many of the toys pictured above as possible on American websites (it's nice to avoid those international shipping charges). I think that little fire station is my favorite...it's the best balance of "cuteness" and price.

Fire Station

Hippo Pull Toy

Petit Ours Brun Car

Ladybug Pull Toy



Holiday Cookies

Tonight I am attending a cookie exchange and I've been scheming all week as to what to make. To be honest, I still haven't completely decided, but I do have it narrowed down to two recipes. Time to get crackin'! What are some of your favorite holiday cookies to make? I love this recipe a lot. Word on the street is they are the favorite cookie over at Martha Stewart's test kitchen.

image via Sunset


Yves Saint Laurent

• 09 December 2009

A stunning ensemble by timeless French designer, Yves Saint Laurent. I love the combination of the billowy white blouse with the black pencil skirt...it's truly a look that will never tire. I'm going to have to keep my eyes peeled for lower-priced versions from here on out.

Did you know you can find deals on Yves Saint Laurent via Ebay too? In addition, if you speak a little French, you can navigate France's Ebay site too. There are YSL deals to be had there as well. Has anyone ever purchased something on an Ebay site in a foreign country? Do you have to have a PayPal account in that country to make it work?

image via Elle Decor


The Christmas Spirit

Of all the months, December feels the best. Hearts are softened, wallets are opened, and hands are extended. During these 4 weeks, it seems goodwill is everywhere and oh how it feels good!

Writer, Isabel Currier once said, "It is the personal thoughtfulness, the warm human awareness, the reaching out of the self to one's fellow man that makes giving worthy of the Christmas spirit."

I've been thinking about what I can do to share the Christmas Spirit and the first thing that came to my mind (besides sharing treats!) was trying to donate useful items I already have, that are in good condition. Perhaps we could all take a few hours and clean out our closets, cupboards, bathroom drawers, and toy bins.; then, we can donate the items to a local homeless shelter*, a domestic violence shelter, or an often-overlooked smaller charity. I think it's a good idea to involve everyone in our households, if possible.

What are some meaningful activities you are participating in this Christmas?RFABW2K7GVZR

P.S. Adorable scalloped felt tree skirt tutorial here.

* I've noticed that men's clothing seems to be in particular demand at the homeless shelters.


Reflections: December in Paris

• 08 December 2009

One year ago this month, we closed on La Maisonnette and gutted 2 of the 3 floors. It obviously wasn't preferable to have to take care of business during the holiday season, but the French didn't appear concerned with timeliness (it took 15 weeks to close), so the situation simply was what it was. With two weeks' notice, Ben planned out all the work he wanted to do while there, namely alot of demolition :)

His buddy Chris generously offered to come help for 10 days, so they spent several nights poring over lists of tools they'd need, and then packing those tools carefully in suitcases weighing exactly 50 pounds :) Tools are quite expensive over there so it was necessary to bring over as much as possible. This was the first of 3 occasions when my husband was required to head over to France to work on the house for almost a month each time (the workers wouldn't work unless we were there unfortunately). Pfew! I'm glad those days are done :) I can hardly believe what's happened over the last year. Talk about unpredictable.

The day before they left Paris, these two friends captured Christmastime in Paris on video, namely the Champs Elysses. It looked chaotic, but incredibly fun at the same time. As a viewer it was easy to feel the energy of the city and I instantly thought about how fun it would be to head over there in December. Just check out the lights! Aahhh...Paris.

P.S. Has anyone else almost killed themselves driving around the Arc de Triumph besides me? That was undoubtedly the craziest driving experience of my life :)

image via my jewel thief on flickr


Wine Alternatives

• 07 December 2009

If you are interested in learning how to prepare recipes calling for wine...without the wine...then you many be interested in today's food-related post over at Zupas. I've found all sorts of fun alternatives for you :)

image 1, 2


White Tolix Chairs

According to Google, I talk way too much about these chairs; but I simply can't help myself. I love them so much! And when I see good deals on these French imports, I feel even more compelled to talk about them. So here it goes: the Sundance Catalog Outlet, here in Salt Lake, has nice little bounty of white Tolix chairs right now. They have a small stack in their "As-Is" section for $100, as well as a stack of metal stools for $80 (these are the ones I have in my kitchen--love them). At first glance, both stacks looked great, condition-wise. Then out on the main floor they have several white Tolix chairs that are "new", but still discounted...these run $150. So you see, I just couldn't keep the good news to myself...:)

Bonne chance!

P.S. I announced the winner of the Koo de Ker Giveaway here. Take a peek!


a Donna Hay Christmas

Some simple, darling holiday ideas from our favorite talent Down Under. I'd say all of these fall into the "simple-enough-I-may-actually-be-able-to-replicate-this" category. Felt napkin rings requiring zero sewing and a few cinnamon sticks? Yes, please. Laser-cut lacy placemats? Buy them here. Little white pouches for chair backs that could be used over and over again for different occasions? A great investment of time and oh the possibilities for this one given different fabric/ribbon choices. Love that Donna Hay...


Mocktail Recipes

If you want to serve a fun, holiday drink sans alcohol, here are a few recipes worth trying. They look delicious, don't they? I'm loving the star anise, lavender, pineapple spear and mint garnishes. Yum! Now, if only I could find a great "mocktail" recipe incorporating passion fruit puree, I'd have a nice little collection of inventive drink recipes. If you want to discover mocktail recipes beyond this edited list, you can look here and here.

Hibiscus Mocktini

Pear Tree

Blushing Pink Crush (see below for recipe)

Apple Cider, Cranberry and Ginger Punch

Sparkling Spice

Lady Lavendar

Blushing Pink Crush

1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup sugar
lime wedges
3/4 cup cranberry juice
3/4 cup ruby red grapefruit juice
1/2 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
extra mint + lime wedges for garnish (optional)

To sugar the glasses:

Process mint leaves and sugar in a small foot processor until combined. Place the mixture on a flat plate. Rub lime wedges around the rims of 4 glasses and dip into the mint sugar.

To make the drink:

Place cranberry juice, grapefruit juice and orange juice in a pitcher and stir to combine. Fill the sugared glasses with crushed ice and then add the juice mixture. Garnish with extra mint leaves.


Germany's Christmas Markets

• 04 December 2009

One of these days I'm going to add some sweet, hand-carved, wooden ornaments from a German Christmas market to my collection of Kmart glass balls (to their credit they are from the cute Martha Stewart line). Right now nothing sounds better than donning a warm, winter coat and enjoying a bustling, holiday night market! In the meantime, I'll start planning my trip using this recent article in Bon Appetit as a reference point.

Have any of you experienced one of these Christmas night markets in Germany? Are they as wonderful as they appear to be?

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