love is all around.

I love Valentine's Day. Not for the chocolate. Or the flowers. Or candy hearts (but, for the record, I do love those little treats - more than chocolate. Gasp!). I love it mostly for the mail. Crafty snail mail. With notes of love. I've got hearts on my brain, and I'll be sharing a few Valentine's-themed posts as we head into February. To start, let's talk rubber stamps.

Last year, I made these cards, and I got all my supplies from one of my most favorite of paper stores, Paper Source. If you have one near you, and have never been, please go - though you may blow your entire paycheck there if you're like me. Don't say you weren't warned.

It has a fab collection of rubber stamps, and they've got lots of pretties to celebrate this time of year.

Stamps above from their Valentine's collection, which includes the stamp I used in last year's batch.


mari, meet sweet potatoes. sweet potatoes, meet mari.

Big things are brewing over at our house; Mari's eating solids! We started with rice cereal, progressed to oat cereal, and now we're onto veggies. This is a whole new world, and it's full of experimentation, adjustment, flexibility (on Mari's part, really - we have no idea what we're doing)... and a lot of dirty diapers.
I'm especially grateful for Jen over at The Haystack Needle; this post was perfectly timed for our solids experience. It was the guidance - and confidence boost - I needed to get started.

We got the book and the food mill (which might be my most favorite kitchen gadget), thanks to my dear friend Michelle, and we're off and running. Or smearing. Depending on what ends up in the mouth and what ends up elsewhere.

Sweet potatoes get about 3.5 stars out of 5. Fun factor = 10. This week, we're into green peas. So far, so yummy.

More to come on making Mari's baby food!


not your mom's french onion dip.

Eddie loves french onion dip. You know, the kind you buy in a packet, whip with sour cream and makes a perfect marriage with Ruffles? I eat it, but it's not my favorite, but it's his, and so for years, I've wanted to make this BC classic from her first cookbook.

We finally enjoyed this dip last weekend, and it's a quick one, once you get your onions caramelized. I think I was a little passive with the heat, for it took them a bit longer to caramelize than suggested. And, while she's the master, and I usually don't stray too far off the recipe, I may go easy on the butter and oil next time around. But, oh, there will be a next time. There will be a next time.
Pan-fried Onion Dip from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, page 53
Yield: 2 big cups

2 large yellow onions
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise

Cut the onions in half, and then slice them into 1/8"-think half-rounds (adds up to about 3 cups of onions). Heat the oil and butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions, cayenne, salt and pepper and saute for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 more minutes until the onions are browned (really browned) and caramelized. Allow the onions to cool.

Place the cream cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until smooth. Add the onions and mix well.

The BC suggests serving at room temperature, but we preferred it with a little chill, straight out of the frig, which also gave the flavors some time to get yummy and acquainted. This is a good make-ahead app and is super Super Bowl-worthy.

PS: my go-to cocktail napkins: robins egg blue pearls.


recipe update: white bean chicken chili.

Like most of you, I'm sure, I get into a rhythm once I've cooked a dish enough times and I start to re-build a recipe based on what works for me, for our lifestyle and for our palates. This is an update on Whitney's tried and true White Bean Chicken Chili, which we've enjoyed so many times on so many occasions, like our fun dinner with friends over the weekend.  Here's how I make it work in our house.
The working mom's version of a family favorite: Whitney's White Bean Chicken Chili.
Serves: 6-8

1/4 cup butter
2 large yellow onions, medium diced (about 2 to 3 cups)
1/3 cup flour
3 cups nonfat milk
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 cans S&W white beans in light seasoning, drained
1 cooked rotisserie chicken (from your local market), white meat shredded (or, cook your own, obv.)
3-4 tablespoons of La Victoria fire roasted diced green chiles (works out to about half of the 4 oz. can)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
hot pepper sauce (we like Cholula)
sour cream
grated cheese
finely chopped scallions, white and green parts

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions (and, if you're like me, a sprinkle of kosher salt) and saute until tender, about 8-10 minutes (note: this is a good time to shred the chicken). Whisk flour into onions, just enough to cook it (do not brown; this should only take a few seconds). Gradually whisk in milk, followed by the chicken broth and simmer until thick, about 10 minutes. Add beans, chicken, chiles and seasonings and stir. Simmer gently, about 30 minutes, occasionally stirring the chili.

Before serving, taste for spice and add hot pepper sauce, if desired. Top with sour cream, grated cheese and/or scallions.
Like all chili, this is make-ahead friendly, and usually tastes better as left-overs. It keeps well in the refrigerator for a few days, and freezes well. It pairs nicely with a sweet butter lettuce salad, cornbread and is delicious when topped with our secret weapon, time permitting for a stop at the mall: croutons from Corner Bakery. Careful - they have a little kick.


jan. din party: chips, dip, chili + babies.

I spent lots of time spent in the kitchen over the weekend, with Mari (and for Mari! details to come), which made us both happy. And, in the spirit of a long overdue get together with good friends, we hosted our first dinner party of the year; a serve-yourself chili buffet, with a side of salad and cornbread. We ate on our knees as we watched our babes roll around and get reacquainted with each other.
Mari has known Bodie as long as I have known Bodie's mom. Kara and I met early in our pregnancies, connected by yoga. We saw each other twice a week for nearly 40 weeks, on the mat. We experienced morning sickness together, baby prep classes together, swelling, food aversions, bad news, good news, bad advice, good advice and everything in between that comes with the beauty of carrying a child. She's a special friend, and so are her two special men.

Our weekend dinner was a much-needed celebration of the half-year mark (WE MADE IT!) and a chance to re-connect after months of maternal hibernating. We kept it very casual, with my favorite white bowls and tri-pod server.
I made some notes for an update on Whitney's White Bean Chicken Chili, and will be sharing that later this week. Also to come: a new chip/dip that might just be perfect for your Super Bowl Sunday.


yum: serena & lily.

If I had a million dollars, and a baby on the way, I would go nuts over at Serena & Lilly. Their catalog is like candy, and with each flip of the page, I am oooh'ing and aaah'ing.
First row: Ellie Side Table; Malibu ChandelierZodiac Art.
Second row: Mix & Match Lilac and Mandarin Bedding; Sausalito Moses Basket; Flora Crocheted Rug.

I'd spend my next loot of cash on their grown up pieces.
First row: Catalina Bedding; Hammered Metal Scallop Lamp; White Chakki.
Second row: South Seas Side Cart; Bent Branch Lantern; Fillmore Headboard.

Patterns. Texture. Colors. Finishes. Fabrics. Details. Love.


2012 intentions.

A wise yoga instructor taught me to make intentions for the new year (vs., say, resolutions). She tells me that when we make intentions, we tell ourselves that we intend to do something, and that triggers something in the brain to get it done.

I've never made a public list before, but a few of my favorite bloggers do (fave one, fave two and fave three), and I thought that this might help keep me honest. What's on your list? Intentions, resolutions or otherwise?
Host a dinner party once a month.
How many times do you hear yourself saying, 'we should really have so-and-so over for dinner soon,' and then before you know it, 2011 has passed and you've missed so many opportunities to break bread with dear friends? Well, it happens to me way too often. This is the year of the dinner party. Dinner, brunch, casual, take out or fancy - any and all of the above will do.

Read to Mari every night (and then, to myself).
I haven't been great about reading to Mari, but in the last week, she seems to be more book-engaged. I want it to be part of our evening routine, and a part of mine as well, starting with this book (thanks, Andrea!).

Take a photography class.
Speaking of photography, I know I'm cheating myself for everyday I use my camera without really knowing how to use it, and I'm getting frustrated. Knowledge is power. And I need some power over my Nikon (and I think this might be the answer).

Make Mari's baby food.
I'm all set and ready to tackle making my babe's food, and I'm so excited about it. I did a lot of research and it turns out that you don't need a whole heck of a lot to do it, but there are tools out there to help simplify the process. If you're in my boat, start with The Haystack Needles' recent post on the subject.

Finish Mari's first year baby book by the time she turns one.
And by this, I mean print out our favorite photos, write in her book (or make one? I am tossing around options), get all her milestones tracked, etc. I'm all over the place in this department. Must get organized.

Get creative on the computer.
Re-learn the Adobe software that I was introduced to in college. And then have fun with it.

Plant an herb garden and help it grow.
We don't have too much outdoor space, but we've certainly got enough for a little herb garden, be it in a planter or something creative like this. Kind of right up my alley.


clean lines.

I'm always a bit sad to see Christmas go, but once January rolls in, it does feels good to part with the red and green, doesn't it? We gave our kitchen a fresh new year's start with some kitchen linens from Williams-Sonoma. Thanks to Santa, here are my favorite new additions to the kitchen.
Like most people, I've accumulated way too many kitchen towels over the years, and it's time to purge (read: recycle as cleaning rags). These crisp W-S striped towels come in a four-set and are completed with matching stripe pot holders.

In khaki, they look great against a few new Martha tools, like my turquoise dish brush that currently escapes the world wide web, but rumor is that Santa made a deal with Macy's.

PS: another Martha tool I'm loving: magnetic measuring spoons that actually fit in your little spice jars!


happy new year.

From my paperwhites, to yours, happy new year. I have been at a loss for writing, mostly because I've been having so much fun being Mari's mom. With some time off from work, I really unplugged - and how often can you really say that about a little mini-break?
Really, for me, this might be a first. With Mari in my life, I've been living and counting each and every second, and trying my best to make the most of it. To capture it, in memory or in Nikon, and savor it. People regularly stop us and comment that this must be our first child because we are seen snapping at every chance we get. Is there something wrong with that?

Maybe it will be different should we be blessed with a second child, but for now, I'm going to blissfully be a first-time mom, take too many photos and love every second of it.
Speaking of first-time moms, I would like to send the happiest cyber congratulations to a dear blogger friend, Miss Mary of Tulips and Flight Suits. Her little Ellie is just perfect, and we send California light and love your way as you wade through the precious first few weeks at home with your little one.

Take a million photos. We did, and I still want more.