…because i just do.

thoughts and things that make me happy

Don’t Forget Mom!

In just 3 short weeks on Sunday, May 11th we will be showering our Mothers with all the love and gratitude they deserve.  Both my Mom and my Mother-in-law live across the country so a beautiful card is always a must.  Below are my favorites to celebrate the day…

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1)  Mother’s Day wreath.  by sugar·paper.

2)  Yellow “Happy Mother’s Day”. by sugar·paper.

3)  Mother’s Day… best friend. by 9thLetterPress.

4)  Chalkboard Mother’s Day. by Lily & Val via Etsy.

5)  Sweetest Grandma. by Hennel Paper Co.

6)  Best Mom in the History of the World. by One Canoe Two Letterpress.

7)  …I turned out awesome. by Cheeky Kumquat.

8)  … from your favorite child. by moglea.

9)  Home is where your Mom Is. by moglea.

Happy New Year!

Farewell 2013… a great year indeed.

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Black Friday

photoAs I enjoyed my most favorite breakfast of the year; a slice of pumpkin pie with whipped cream and a cup of black coffee, I opened just one of the nearly 80 emails in my inbox.  I’m glad I picked this particular message.  It was from Patagonia® and contained a link to “Worn Wear, a film about the stories we wear.”  I encourage everyone to watch it.  It’s a beautiful little film and tells a great story about how our clothes serve as our personal history.

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“Released as an antidote to the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping frenzy, Worn Wear is an invitation to celebrate the stuff you already own.”  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

…because I like the laundromat.

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Corner of Lincoln and Rose, Santa Monica, CA… our local laundromat.

My first experience with coin-operated laundry was around 1980 at an apartment complex in Louisville, Kentucky where my best friend Robyn lived for a few years while we were growing up.  At the time, Robyn and I spent most of our days glued to the TV watching our newly acquired VHS tape of the movie Xanadu.  Occasionally, we would break from the roller-musical extravaganza and walk with Robyn’s Mom to help her carry their dirty clothes down the hall to the communal laundry room.  This particular laundry room was wide open and big.  It was essentially the size of a standard garage with a couple of washers and dryers lined up along one wall.  There was a perfectly smooth, concrete floor with about 4 metal support columns peppered around the space.  It didn’t take long for Robyn and I to figure out that there was usually no one in the laundry room and that the floor and poles would make for the most perfect private roller rink we could have ever imagined.  And so we would load up Robyn’s “boom box” with about 12 D batteries, insert our prized Xanadu soundtrack cassette, lace up our skates and glide around the laundry room using the poles as props to grab and spin around.  We would spend hours in that dank, dark, mildewy basement with the sounds of ELO and Olivia Newtown John intermingling with vibrating spin cycles and the thump of Levi’s tumbling in the dryers.  In the early 80’s this was a 7-year-old girl’s paradise. Let me tell you, pretending I was O.N.J. and roller-skating around that room gave me a lifelong love and appreciation of coin operated laundry facilities.  Now, every single time I walk into a laundromat the song “I’m Alive” by ELO starts playing in my head.

A few years later Robyn, her Mom and sister moved into a house and we bid our own private Xanadu adieu.  My next laundromat experience wouldn’t be until I left home for college at Miami of Ohio in Oxford, Ohio in 1992.  The coin operated laundry facilities in my freshman, college dorm were uninspiring but little did I know that my love affair with the laundromat would begin again when I moved off campus my sophomore year.  It was then that I discovered the Locust Laundry and Car Wash on North Locust Street, Oxford, Ohio.

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Rows of beautiful double-loaders.

There were a couple of great things about the Locust Laundry and Car Wash.  First of all, there were video games, great video games.  So, while you were waiting you could take on your roommate and try your hand at Ms. Pacman or my favorite video game of all time,  Galaga.  I played so much Galaga by the time I graduated from Miami that I was conscious of trying to constantly improve my “hit/miss ratio” and I would get seriously pissed if I didn’t get the extra 10,000 points from the Challenging Stages.  If the video games weren’t enough, you could hit up the self-service car wash that was attached to the laundromat and suds up and vacuum out the car while you waited for your towels to dry.  What could be more efficient than getting your car and your clothes clean simultaneously?  And then, to top it all off, next door to the laundromat was a smoke shop.  So, if the video games or car wash weren’t enough to distract you,  you could buy a pack of Camel Special Lights (my preferred smoke at the time) and puff away or if you were especially cool, you could buy a bag of Drum and roll your own damn cigarettes.  Sometimes I would see people studying at the laundromat, but between Galaga, washing my car and smoking I never found the laundromat a very conducive environment for furthering my academic education.

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“Method”, my detergent of preference.

All of these laundromat anecdotes leads me to a week ago when we were told by an expert that the biggest environmental concern in our home was our front loading washing machine.  It is covered in mold; the drum, the gasket, the whole thing despite my efforts to keep the door open and wiping out the rubber gasket after each use.  Over the past 5 years as I tried to conserve water and energy I have essentially been swaddling my family in clothing, towels and bedding that have been bathed in a moldy, bacterial cesspool.  Not awesome. Our immediate reaction was to simply replace our washer but truthfully our washer is inconveniently located in our bathroom.  It is a mini-washer due to the fact that a full size won’t fit in there and no, believe me, there just isn’t any other place the washer can easily be placed.  So… we’ve been frequenting our local coin-operated laundry facilities and truthfully it’s been living up to my very high expectations.  Our laundromat is located exactly one block from my house and at the end of a really lovely walk street.  KOST 103.5 FM is always playing on the radio and at this time of year they only play holiday tunes and it’s just hard to be in a bad mood when you’re listening to Christmas songs.  Additionally, my 5-year-old is totally into it.  At this point he basically does the laundry and I just assist.  For him putting quarters into the machines, pushing wet clothes around the place in a wheely cart and watching the gas-powered dryers fire up is all pure entertainment.  Most of the time we just go home while we wait but we’ve found some fun distractions by racing up and down the walk street and visiting the art supply store next door.  NO, we aren’t smoking or playing video games.

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Mack gets a double load started.

Most of my friends think I’m a little crazy for not wanting to immediately replace my washing machine, but for the time being I’m having fun spending a little time at the laundromat again.   Also,  I’m really hoping Mack will remember this time and that someday thoughts of the laundromat will conjure Christmas carols and a fond nostalgia for fluff and fold.

Happy Halloween

Let the Holidays begin…

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Mini Jack-o’-lantern light.

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Hundreds of plastic pumpkins decorate a local front yard.

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And… if you were a child of the late 70’s/early 80’s I have a feeling this filmstrip might take you back.  I especially love that you can hear the “ding” in this video which signaled whoever was operating the filmstrip to turn to the next frame.  Hello Nostalgia-land.  Click on the photo above to watch the quintessential Halloween filmstrip, “Danse Macabre”.  Oh, and even if you don’t remember it… watch it, the music and images are enchantingly amazing.

Discovering Ojai

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It’s evolving into a tradition that every August we take a little family weekend adventure to a local spot that we’ve never visited before.  Last year we ferried ourselves out to Catalina Island and this year we drove up the coast and into the Ojai Valley for a weekend at the Ojai Rancho Inn.

It was hot and dry up there which meant most of our afternoons were spent around the pool and playing shuffleboard but we did manage to get out and about for some good food and exploration around town.   Mack spent most of the weekend shirtless with the above blow-up turtle around his waist.

The Hotel

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Main Entrance and morning coffee at the Ojai Rancho Inn.

We could NOT have stayed in a more family friendly, laid back place than the Ojai Rancho Inn.  This place was perfect for us.  I’m envisioning lots of future family trips to this same spot and inviting everyone I know with kids and pets to join us for laid back pool time (there was even a dog swimming with us the first day), shuffleboard, biking (free bikes available to guests), grilling by the pool and s’mores at the fire pits.  You can see more great pictures and learn more about the Inn and its owners, Chris Sewell and Kenny Osehan from this feature on Apartment Therapy.

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Poolside fun and Shuffleboard.

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This picture perfect trailer sits in the backyard at the Rancho.

Food and Drink

I would definitely make the effort to swing by Agave Maria’s to try out a “Pixie” rita, an amazing margarita made with Ojai’s own Pixie tangerines.  We also had dinner here and the food was solid Mexican fare but that “Pixie” rita and their great outdoor patio made a lasting impression.

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The “Pixie” rita

The best part of vacation is slow mornings with nobody rushing to be anywhere.  Nothing feels more decadent than having the time to enjoy a long, lazy breakfast with fresh-baked breads, multiple cups of coffee and even a newspaper.   Saturday morning we tried out Knead Bakery.  My husband devoured his oven-warm blueberry muffin, disappeared and returned with a delicious slice of quiche.  Mack snacked on a flakey croissant and I enjoyed an egg sandwich.  I couldn’t resist leaving without a bag of fresh lemon zest shortbread cookies with lavender sugar for later in the day.  (Please note that Knead is cash only)

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Breakfast at Knead Bakery.

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I bought these cookies at 9:30am. They were gone before noon.

Sunday morning found us just outside of downtown Ojai at The Farmer and the Cook.  They served up some amazing Huevos Rancheros and really yummy Poppy Seed Muffins.  I also loved poking around their market and the rustic, straight from the farm feel of this place.

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Huevos Rancheros and Poppy Seed Muffins at the Farmer and the Cook.

Shopping

Ojai is a quirky little town with lots of art galleries and clothing boutiques but my two favorite shopping finds were Barts Books and ModernFolk.  We were all in heaven in Barts,  the world’s greatest outdoor bookstore.  Mack plopped himself in the kids section with one of my favorite childhood books (The Rainbow Goblins), Gino headed off for some crime fiction and I found myself leafing through used cookbooks and perusing the travel section.  We walked away with 4 great books for $20.  Oh, how I loved Barts.

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Labyrinths of books at Bart’s Books.

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Our treasures from the bookstore.

Next up was a stop at a gorgeous little shop called ModernFolk.  Created by Wanda Weller Sakai,  the shop is “a destination eco-boutique for inspired products, hand selected with you (and the environment) in mind.”  They “offer beautifully designed, artisanal goods that blend natural materials with modern designs and functionality.”  I could have bought one of everything in this place.  I’m very excited to use my new recycled notebook at Blogshop in a few weeks and am hoping this sweet little bird pouch will keep my purse better organized.

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Discoveries at ModernFolk Living.

We can’t wait to visit Ojai again.  Next on our list is to check out more of the art galleries, an evening hike to see the infamous “Pink Moment” when the Topa Topa Mountains turn pink at sunset, biking along the Ojai Bike Path and delving into the Spiritual Vortex of the valley.  Until then Ojai…

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Mack and “Turtie” say farewell to Ojai.

Chicken Sitting

…because fresh eggs are divine.

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Bird watching this week means free eggs!

Savory Summer Tarts

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Fresh from the oven.

Sometimes I find summertime meal-planning difficult.  I find myself making the same thing with little variation over and over again.  Summer to me means grilling and an abundance of fresh vegetables and fruits but firing up the grill for another kabob just wasn’t appealing last week.  Also, we were about to go away for the weekend so I was hoping I could use up any ingredients I had on hand.

When I want something simple and delicious I always turn to Ina Garten.  I found her recipe for Tomato & Goat Cheese Tarts on page 92 of her cookbook “Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics” and quickly discovered the only ingredient I needed to buy was 4 ounces of herb-garlic goat cheese.  I tossed my frozen package of Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pastry on the counter to thaw and headed to store.

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Garlic, onions & heirloom tomato.

Below is Ina’s recipe for her savory tarts…

Tomato & Goat Cheese Tarts

*makes 4 individual tarts

1 package (2 sheets) puff pastry, defrosted (I use Pepperidge Farm)
Good Olive Oil
4 cups thinly sliced yellow onions (2 large onions)
3 large garlic cloves, cut into thin slivers
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons dry white wine
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves (I used ¾ teaspoon dried thyme)
4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
4 ounces garlic-and-herb goat cheese
1 large tomato, cut into 4 (¼ inch-thick) slices
3 tablespoons julienned basil leaves
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler

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Rolling out the Puff Pastry.

Unfold a sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and roll it lightly to an 11×11-inch square.  Using a 6-inch-wide saucer or other round object as a guide, cut 2 circles from the sheet of puff pastry, discarding the scraps.  Repeat with the second pastry sheet to make a total of 4 circles.  (Please note, you will have a lot of unused puff pastry… If you want less waste I suggest using one sheet of the puff pastry rolled out to an 11×11-inch square and simply cut into 4 equal squares).  Place the pastry onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and refrigerate until ready to use.

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I used a latte bowl to create my 6″ circles.

Preheat the oven to 425°.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium to low heat and add the onions and garlic.  Sauté for 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are limp and there is very little moisture remaining in the skillet.  Add ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, the wine, and thyme and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, until the onions are lightly browned.  Remove from heat.

Using a sharp paring knife, score a ¼-inch-wide border around each pastry circle.  Don’t cut all the way through the puff pastry and don’t worry it doesn’t have to be perfect.  Prick the inside of the pastry with the tines of a fork and sprinkle a tablespoon of grated Parmesan on each round, staying inside of the scored border.

Place one-quarter of the onion mixture on each circle, again staying within the scored edge.  Crumble 1 ounce of the goat cheese on top of the onions.  Place a slice of tomato in the center of each tart.  Brush the tomato lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with basil, salt, and pepper.  Finally, scatter 3-4 shards of peeled Parmesan on each tart.

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Ready for baking… notice the scored edge of the pastry.

Back for 20-15 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown.  Serve hot or warm.

I served these with a green salad made up of all the raw veggies left in my fridge … a deliciously different summer dinner.

Flower Friday

…because fresh flowers make a happy home.

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Hydrangeas in Heath Ceramics.

Cape Cod Wanderings

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Lobster Buoys at Sesuit Harbor.

At the end of July we took a family trip to Cape Cod to celebrate the 50th Birthday of my husband’s cousin, Deirdre.  Luckily, after a great party we got to spend the rest of the week alongside beautiful Sesuit Harbor in East Dennis, MA.  One glorious afternoon while my husband took my son and his cousins fishing I went on a little adventure with my camera.  I’m blown away by Cape Cod; how amazingly green and lush it is, how undeveloped much of it has remained and how entirely different Cape Cod Bay is from the Pacific.  It is quintessentially American… the cedar-shingled homes, Old Glory flying around every corner, roadside eateries with delicious, fresh seafood and an undeniable sense of history that oozes from every brackish pond.  It’s only my second time on the Cape but I can understand why generations of families find themselves heading back here year after year.

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The beautiful home we stayed in near the corner of Pleasant and Sea Street.

Along my meandering path I came across the peaceful Quivet Neck cemetery, a sweet bench inviting strangers to take it easy, insanely colored hydrangeas, gorgeous homes,  tunnels of trees, a harbor full of boats, shimmering sea grass and even some patriotic lawn flamingos.  I hope you enjoy my photographic journey as much I treasure that solo day discovering Quivet Neck.

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Quivet Neck’s tree-lined streets.

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Fun finds in the neighborhood.

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A few of my favorite Quivet Neck homes.

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Pink and purple hydrangeas.

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Sesuit Harbor.

Coming back to reality after a day of exploring means a chilled glass of Chardonnay in an outdoor shower with a view of  luscious green trees and a dazzling blue sky and finally, a walk down to Sea Street Beach for a picture perfect sunset.  Here’s hoping next summer brings us back here.

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Outdoor Shower.

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Sunset over Cape Cod Bay from Sea Street Beach.

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