Wednesday, August 31, 2011

unsolicited wedding advice wednesdays : dinnerware

Market Street Dinnerware by Kate Spade for Lenox

Larabee Road Dinnerware by Kate Spade for Lenox

Dinnerware.  Love it or hate it.  How many settings do you get?  What color?  Do you need a whole set?  Will you end up using the 5" party plates?  Augh, dinnerware.  My mom's advice to me when I moved was, "Don't buy expensive dinnerware.  Just go to Ikea."  And while I heard her I didn't listen and I bought dinnerware from Crate & Barrel.  C'mon, you're just starting a new chapter in your life, Ikea dinnerware just feels like you're going backward to college.  In some ways I regret not listening to my mom's advice as I stupidly break dishes and freak out because it's a discontinued design.  Dinnerware sets can be satisfying because everything matches but also imprisoning BECAUSE everything matches.  At least for me an incomplete set of something can bug me to no end.  By the way, how cute are these Kate Spade sets for Lenox?!

So here's a little questionnaire that Mark and I asked ourselves and helped us make some dinnerware decisions:
  1. Do we see nice china as an INVESTMENT or not, as in is it "worth" extra money?  
  2. Do we enjoy ENTERTAINING guests (having groups) at our house?  How many people could realistically fit in our house?
  3. Will we ever have to host FAMILY events, i.e. Christmas dinner, Easter brunch?
  4. What kind of DECORATING style do we have, i.e. modern, country, boho, Asian?
  5. Does one of us have a PERFECTIONIST type personality?
  6. What kind of dishes do we ALREADY have?

Q.1. We decided that we didn't see fine china as an investment but I thought it was worth a little extra money to have something nice for the house.  So instead of going for Ikea we settled for an affordable design (that was on sale even!) from Crate & Barrel.  Remember, investment also means you're probably going to have this for the rest of your life so you probably should up the place setting amount you're thinking of getting thinking of the future.
Q.2. I enjoy having small-medium sized groups over for dinner and I knew we might have to host our church small group at some point so we settled on 8 place settings (10 was tempting).  Personally, I think that unless you're a recluse the minimum for any couple is 6 settings (especially if you'll be having kids).  Before you starting over compensating and getting 16 settings you have to think about the second question: How many people realistically can fit in your house or apt?  If only 10 people can fit comfortably then there's no reason to get 16 settings UNLESS you're going the investment route in which case you might want to because you're not going to be living in that small apt forever.
Q.3. If you think you'll ever have to host a family event you probably should get something nicer than Ikea.  Unless both your families are totally casual and are fine with whatever.  In which case you may be in denial or have the perfect family. 
Q.4. This might be a hard question for the couple to answer together.  If your styles clash or have a tendency to fluctuate you might want to consider something classic and neutral like white that will go with everything.  
Q.5. If one or both of you have a perfectionist personality you might want to get matching sets as opposed to a more eclectic/boho style of mix and match dinnerware.  However, be warned that dishes do break and sets may not remain perfectly intact forever.     
Q.6. If one or both of you have already accumulated a lot of random dishes you might want consider donating them to a poor college student or to Goodwill.  But if after all the discussion you're happy to keep what you have in all it's mix and match glory you might consider running with that idea.  

It's not for everyone but if I had enough money and time I would go the mix and match route.  I'd probably stick to a color palette (like yellow and navy, for example) and to a shape (roundish), and a size (8"-8.5" or 10" are standards).  It would be no problem if one broke because it wouldn't have a set to disrupt and they'd still stack nicely in the cabinets.  

Zaine Plate from Crate & Barrel

Mum Plate from Crate & Barrel

Hamptons Yellow Salad Plate from Crate & Barrel

Natural World Dessert Plate, Hummingbird from Anthropolgie

From the Deep Salad Plate, Octopus from Anthropologie

Sen-Gaki Salad Plate from Anthropolgie

Petite Fille Plate from Anthropologie

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

zaru soba

Zaru soba is a Japanese cold noodle dish.  The noodles are made from buckwheat flour and topped with nori (Japanese seaweed).  Served with the noodles is a dipping sauce that can have grated daikon radish, chopped scallions, and wasabi added to it.  The soba noodles are served on a slotted bamboo mat called a 'zaru' but I didn't have one but I did have a bamboo sushi roller.  On a hot summer day zaru soba is very refreshing and I would think pretty healthy.

Zaru Soba, serves 2
2 bundles of buckwheat soba noodles
shredded nori (optional), I used scissors

Follow the cooking directions on the noodle package.  Rinse the cooked noodles with cold water and drain.  Wrap the cooled noodles around your fingers to create little "nests" of noodles.  Top with nori.

Soba Sauce (store bought, look in Asian food aisle or Asian market) **check to see if your sauce is concentrate or if it's ready to serve as is.  If the sauce is too salty add water to dilute.
grated daikon raidsh, grate on the small holes of your box grater
chopped scallions

When ready to eat combine all sauce condiments in the sauce dish.  Make sure the wasabi dissolves or you might get a spicy surprise!  Dip the soba noodles in the sauce and eat.

Monday, August 29, 2011

book review: the cookiepedia

Full disclosure I received a free copy of Stacy Adimando's new book published by Quirk Books, "The Cookiepedia" in order to do this review.  You can purchase it here.

First of all, how cool is Eric at Quirk Books for letting me review so many awesome books.  Thanks, Eric!

Ok, on with the review.  First impression:  I love the cover.  I'm a huge fan of kraft paper so whenever it gets applied in an unexpected way (like the cover of a cookbook) I love it!

"The Cookiepedia" contains what the author considers the top 50 classic cookie recipes.  The interior of the book is wire-bound and the cookie contents are divided by genre of cookie: Buttery, Chocolaty, Fancy, Fruity, Spicy, and finally Nutty and Seedy cookies.  I thought the interior design of the book was easy to follow, cool-looking with the hand-drawn elements, and I really like a section at the end of each recipe to write personal notes about the recipe.  I usually end up writing on the margins of my cookbooks so this was a nice touch.  One thing that I wasn't too impressed with was the photography.  The beginning of each cookie chapter as a collage of all the different cookies in that section and to me the design solution wasn't very appetizing.  I thought the photographs of each specific recipe was much better but that's just my opinion.  

I tried out Stacy's recipe for Lemon Chewies.  I'd never heard of these cookies before (maybe it's an Asian thing, lol) but from the list of ingredients it looked like a winner and for me I wasn't disappointed.  The cookies were lemony and chewy!  Go figure!  ;P  Now, of course, since I'm a meddlesome little twerp and as my father would say "a very stubborn and will-full person" (we have a normal dysfunctional relationship) I HAD to make my own adjustments to the original recipe.  My additions were made basically in hopes of boosting the lemon flavor.  I added lemon juice in the cookie and glaze and probably tripled the total amount of lemon zest used in the entire recipe.  

Lemon Chewies (adapted from The Cookiepedia), yields about 25 cookies
2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temp
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp lemon zest
1 egg
1/3 cup honey and lemon juice (fill 1/3 cup half with juice then finish off with honey)

1. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl and set aside.  Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add lemon zest and mix to incorporate.  

2. In a separate bowl, crack in the egg and stir in honey and lemon juice until fairly well mixed.  Add it to the butter mixture and beat until combined.  Add flour mixture a third at a time and let it mix in fully each time before adding the next third.  Don't forget to scrape the bowl as you go along.  

3. Scoop out a round Tbsp of dough and roll gently into a ball.  Place on a lined cookie sheet or on a Silpat 2 inches apart.  Flatten and shape with your fingers.  Bake for 13-15 min or until the cookies are set and the bottoms are golden brown.  Cool for 5 min before removing from baking sheet.  Cool for 15 min before glazing (should not feel warm at all).

Lemon Glaze
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice, add more as needed
1 Tbsp lemon zest

1. Mix the sugar and lemon juice together.  It'll take a while but keep at it.  Add more lemon juice if needed.  You want to get the consistency of shampoo or conditioner.  Once you get to this point mix in the lemon zest.  

2. Place the cooled cookie "face down" in the glaze and roll the "face" in the glace and lift out.  Let the extra glaze run off the cookie back in the glaze bowl.  Scrape any excess with a spoon.  Let the cookie drip off additional excess on a wire rack.  

3. Let the glaze dry until it's set (around an hour or so) and put cookies in an air tight container with parchment paper between each layer of cookie.  

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

unsolicited wedding advice wednesdays : what to register for


In the kitchen your best friend is your trusty knife.  Some people are more comfortable with chef's knives but I prefer a santoku style knife.  I find that I'm able to have more control with the smaller 6.5" santoku knife and sometimes the girth of an 8" chef's knife is more girth than what is necessary for the everyday jobs.  But at the end of the day you need to work with what you're used to or what you're comfortable with.  Above is the Victorinox 40520 Fibrox 8" Chef's Knife.  And below with the terrible picture is the MAC brand Santoku knife #SK65.

One tip for buying a knife is to try it out if you can.  Unfortunately most stores don't carry a wide variety of knives.  If you register with consider putting knives on your registry so that you can try out what you get and return what you don't like.  Another thing to remember is that it's important that the handle is such that when you grip it your knuckles don't hit the cutting surface.  Since all purpose knifes are more for chopping and not for butchering it's a good idea to have a blade that is not too wide but has a balanced weight to it when you hold it.  Knives are a big investment and if you find your match it'll last you for many years to come.  Remember, a dull knife in some ways more dangerous as a sharp one so keep them sharp!

Friday, August 19, 2011

some more s'mores

Have you seen s'mores all over the blogosphere as of late?  It's late summer and everyone is enjoying the last bits of the season as much as possible.  As you know I love my s'mores but sometimes it's just a s'mores table for one (That's right, pictured above is serving for one.  Don't judge me!).  

Have you seen these babies?  Stacker Mallows are made for s'mores.  Part of me feels like I'm only getting half (maybe even less) a true mallow but the cuteness factor was too much for me.  

If you have a toaster oven then s'mores for one is super easy and these Stacker Mallows actually work well with the toaster because it won't over brown thanks to their shallow size.  

Openface Toaster Oven S'mores, serving 1
2 graham crackers, broken in half (4 pieces total)
semi-sweet chocolate chips, as desired
4 Stacker Mallows

1.  Pre-heat the toaster oven to 400 degrees as you assemble your s'mores.  Top the half graham cracker with a layer of chocolate chips and finish with a Stacker Mallow.  

2.  Place the openface s'mores in the toaster oven.  Toast for a few minutes until the mallows begin to puff up, about 2-3 min.  Then crank up the toaster oven to "Broil" for a few seconds to brown the mallows.  The amount of time between "brown" and "burn" is only seconds so you want to keep an eye on these.  Remove s'mores once browned and serve immediately.  

**I haven't made these using regular marshmallows yet but I'd imagine that the size of regular mallows would up the burn risk factor during the "Broil" part so be careful!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

unsolicited wedding advice wednesdays : handkerchief

I wasn't supposed to cry at my wedding.  There were bets placed that Mark would cry and I would not.  Ok, bets were placed by me.  Everyone knows that Mark is the more emotional one and I was not supposed to cry.  I was supposed to be the happy smiley one all day.  And I was...until I cried.  

Nina, in her glorious wisdom, at the last minute suggested that I take a tissue with me before I walked down the aisle.  At this point I was still highly confident that the only tears that would be flowing would be from Mark.  The bridesmaids thought of subtle placement for the tissue...tucked in the bouquet (veto: it'll probably fall out), folded in my hand (veto: what do I do when I hand off my bouquet again and again), in my bust (veto: how am I supposed to retrieve it?  Put my hands in the cookie jar?!).  At the last moment I decided to go tissue-less and it turns out I needed it.  I had to strategically look at the ceiling during prayers or dab my eye with my finger.  Learn from my mistake.  You may or may not cry.  But if you DO you do not want to be tearing without something elegant to catch your tears.  Consider a sweet embroidered handkerchief.  

The one pictured above is from BeCreativeCrafts on, here.  The ones below are from The Irish Linen Company in the UK.  I'm not sure if we're able to order from the US but here are some lovely options if we can, here.  I think these would be lovely gifts for bridesmaids too.  

Ok, so I'm all about DIY or "value" options so if buying an embroidered handkerchief doesn't fit the budget then considering buy very inexpensive white handkerchiefs and the swap meet and dying them to match your wedding colors with Rit fabric dyes (find at any craft or fabric store).  I've even dyed fabric using acrylic paint.  It may come out blotchy but I kind of like that.  Check stores like Marshalls, TJ Maxx, or second hand stores for patterned handkerchiefs.  Or try raiding your mom's or grandmother's dresser drawers.  

Last issue: what do you do with the handkerchief when you hand off your bouquet at various points during the service?  Of course you could hold it in your hand but if it's during a time when you need both your hands (like a candle-lighting) my idea was to use those thin latex elastic hair ties (but not in neon colors haha) that are used for kids hair and wrap one near the top of your bouquet.  Tuck a corner of the handkerchief through the elastic to keep it attached to the bouquet when you hand it off.  This will allow you to pull it free with you need it and tuck it secure when you don't.  

***Update:  Another great site with affordable prices is  Check out their gift wraps (aka big handkerchiefs here).  I might buy one to wear as a scarf during the fall.  :P

Monday, August 15, 2011


Oops.  I broke something.  It was really dumb.  I was defrosting some chili in a bowl in the fridge overnight and instead of microwaving the chili in a room temperature bowl I got lazy and tried microwaving the chili in the cold bowl.  Yup, epic fail.

The bowl cracked and of course it was part of a discontinued set from Crate & Barrel.  I went online and saw that the bowl was still in stock with limited quantities but even though the damage was my fault I wondered if C&B had some kind of grace policy.  I was right about to email C&B's Customer Service when a little dialogue box opened.  It was their "Live Chat" Customer Service.  I chatted online to a customer rep and she was able to send me a replacement bowl for free.  How wonderful!  I love C&B.  My friend, Shelby (woot woot!), likes to say "It never hurts to ask."  Very true, very true indeed.

SO, rather than throw away the damaged bowl I decided to wash it, reuse it, and make it my new spoon rest!  Ta-dah!  Yes, I have issues.  

Thursday, August 11, 2011

mexican pizza? chalupa? taco?

I don't know what to to call this.  A Mexican pizza?  Well, if you're going by official "Taco Bell" (yeah, we're going for AUTHENTIC here) standards then I believe it needs to be on a corn tortilla.  Chalupa?  I don't think the shell is doughy enough to be a chalupa.  Taco?  Well, "taco" is so general, I guess that would work....

Last night 3pm rolled around and I had to think about dinner.  We eat dinner pretty early at about 5pm.  1.  Because that's when the hubby comes home and he's hungry most of the time  2. Because if you eat dinner there is a better chance for SECOND dinner later.  LOL  jk jk (or am I?!)

See, I had all this taco meat leftover and I wanted to get rid of it.  And I also happened to have a few flour tortillas but Mark is not a fan of soft tacos.  He hates them in fact.  He's a hard shell kind of a guy.  Only this is weird because he hates corn chips.  But anyway..... In a moment of zen I thought, "I wonder if it would be good if I fried the flour tortillas."  Because, as you know,  hard taco shells are nothing more than fried corn tortillas.  Maybe the same magical properties would apply to frying a flour tortilla.  Verdict?  It was a hit.  YES!  It's the little things in life that make me happy... like a hubby with a happy tum tum.

[Insert name here of what you think what is pictured above], serves 2
4 flour tortillas (soft taco size)
cooked taco meat (I used a combo of beef and al pastor pork)
your preferred toppings (I used diced red onion, sliced scallions, shredded lettuce)
shredded cheese
vegetable oil (don't use EVOO when frying)

1. Cover the bottom of a heavy-bottom skillet with oil.  Heat oil with high heat.  When the oil looks shimmery or just hot in general test by dropping a sliver of a tortilla to see if it will fry.  When ready use tongs and fry one tortilla at a time.  The tortilla may puff up so use the tongs to keep the side touching the oil.  Flip when brown and adjust temp if it's browning too fast.  Place on a paper towel.

2. Top your fried flour tortillas with meat and toppings plus some salt and pepper.  (**Optional: my cheese wasn't melting so I put the topped tortillas under the over broiler until the cheese melted and put the lettuce on AFTER. )  Serve immediately and with hot sauce or salsa.  Fold like a taco or eat flat like a "pizza."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

unsolicited wedding advice wednesdays : solemates

When my friend Eric got married it was a beautiful outdoor ceremony on a mansion property with beautiful green grass everywhere.  Because I had a small part in the ceremony I wore my heels to look nice for potential pictures.  Unfortunately the entire night my heels were sinking into the damp grass and the way it made me walk I probably looked pretty dumb.  Luckily my shoes were black otherwise my heels would've been stained a muddy brown.  What do you do about something like this?  Especially if you have to wear heels during the wedding?

Have you heard of SoleMates?  SoleMates cover the base of the heel to increase the surface area of the heel to prevent sinking yet it remains flexible for walking.  My first impression was that it's really ugly.  Haha but you've got to wonder, "How often do people look down at the back of your heels?"  SoleMates would be great for brides and bridesmaids in heels with outdoor ceremonies.  The length of a long dress or blades of grass would easily camouflage the heel of the shoe.  If it's within your budget consider having SoleMates for your guests to protect their shoes and their balance.

Update:  After reading Kristin's (hihi!) comment I was reminded of this chart.  Apparently SoleMates offers different sizes.  I don't know why but this info wasn't on their "Products" page but on bottom of their "How it Works" page, here.  Weird.  

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

omd : forlife q teapot

I have a hobby.  I like collecting teapots.  I don't particularly drink tons of tea but I just like the way they look.  To me they represent beauty, design, and connecting.  I have 5 in my collection so far and unfortunately only 2 were able to come with me to IL.  Here's a picture of one of my favorites, click here and see them in action, click here.

I'm usually more fond of older designs like the Hornsea design from the first previous post or like vintage Mikasa Cera Stone designs but recently I purchased a Japanese teapot from Mitsuwa here in IL to use for everyday tea service purposes.  It's really simple and lovely so it meets 2 out of 3 for my criteria save for one.   It drips.  There's nothing more annoying about a teapot than one that drips.  It makes you question yourself, "Is it me?  Is my pouring technique not demure enough?  Should I change into a kimono even though I'm not Japanese?"  No, no the failure is in the design.  Sometimes even the most pretty teapots suck at pouring because of poor design.  Often the culprit is the spout.  My advice when buying a teapot is to try it out before purchasing if you can (I wish I had done this).  Also, based on my current frustration, avoid horizontal spouts.  Look for ones that are downward pointing.

Pictured above is a Forlife Q teapot and it's the current "object of my desire (OMD)."  It's design is more modern than I usually am drawn to but I still think it's quite attractive and I love the color.  Although I don't own it I have read reviews praising it's pourability.

Monday, August 8, 2011

homemade pizza

Oh man I do love pizza.  I love a good sandwich, pizza, burger, fries, hmm maybe I just love FOOD.  :P  Well, I've been wanting to make homemade pizza for a while.  I never really had the chance to before until now.  I used a recipe for pizza dough from, here.  She has great tips for making pizza dough as well.  

When it comes to pizza it's all about the dough.  The dough has to be right and for my first try I'd have to give myself a 7 out of 10.  Satisfactory but not there yet.  But that's ok because that just gives me another reason to keep making pizza!

The dough was a variable that I had only limited control over but the toppings were completely controllable.  I had some scallions, onions, tomatoes, cremini mushrooms, minced garlic, bacon (not pictured) and of course sauce and cheese.  In addition to all these toppings I added two eggs.  This was inspired by the best pizza I ever had which was from Mario Batali's restaurant Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles, CA.  It was their pizza with egg, bacon, yukon gold potato and bermuda onions.  DELICIOUS!  Augh, the runny yolk was just perfect.  

I might have added too many toppings hahaha but you gotta love that runny yolk!

Friday, August 5, 2011

etsy love : kristiana parn

How cute are these?  These are prints of the original art so they're really affordable.  You can shop more at Kristiana Parn's shop here

[1] I love the bunnies snoozing on the branches.

[2] Mark claims that the panda is his "spirit animal" so I have a soft spot for panda bears.  

[3] Poppies have become my new favorite flower and this print reminds me of the wallpaper in my bathroom back in CA.

[4] + [5] And you know I LOVE my foxes from here and here.  

Thursday, August 4, 2011

where did my socks go?


A Silicon Valley startup company called Lytro is working on a new digital camera that would let you adjust the focus of an image AFTER you've shot the image.  AFTER!  *socks blown off*

This would be very exciting for amateur photographers but I wonder if professionals would shake their heads at this new technology.  Technology all too often has the unfortunate effect (affect? damn, I can never tell which one) of watering down time-honored skills, techniques, and traditions.  However, one comforting fact is that technology, for now, is still wheeled by a person so application of technology is still but a tool that is subject to the creativity and inspiration of the artist.  

If you want to play around with a simulation of the Lytro technology check it out, here.  

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

unsolicited wedding advice wednesdays : guests with cameras

Photo by Howard Min via Love & Lemonade

Where's Waldo?  Where's the real photographer in the shot above?  Oi, Asians and their cameras...even the friggin' kid has a camera.  LOL

Before my wedding my brother who has a DSLR emailed me and asked me to contact my photographer, Love & Lemonade (woot!), to see if it would be ok for him to take some shots during the wedding.  I had never heard of such a request before.  Initially I thought, "What's the big deal if you shoot during the wedding too?"

Later it was explained to me by Nina that sometimes flash photography can compete with the main photographer's camera and completely ruin shots.  GASP!  Wouldn't that be the WORST?!  Your photographer is paid a lot of money to take beautiful pictures and how crummy would it be to have their shots and in turn YOUR shots be ruined by a wedding guest's camera?

At the wedding in Maryland that Mark and I went to we witnessed a very trigger happy wedding guest.  He went ON STAGE to get his shots!  Whoa....balls of steel.  Mark and I kept looking at each other as the real photographer had to maneuver AROUND this wedding guest to get his shots!  Oh man...I really wanted to grab that guy by the collar.

Here's a blog post that Nina wrote regarding the subject of wedding guest cameras and the people who love to shoot them.  It's a very educational post for the wedding guest but also for the bride and groom.  I think if I could do it again I would have added a small blurb about flash photography on our wedding program asking our attendees to request guests to have no flash photography and explaining why as they signed in.
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