Wednesday, June 30, 2010

summer night picnic

Tonight our friends hosted dinner at their house. Aside from the delicious BBQ and the homemade strawberry popsicles (I love summer), the most impressive thing was their handmade redwood picnic table and two unattached redwood benches. Kevin built them over 2.5 weekends! They are VERY nice. Maybe I could get him to share what resources he used to plan the pieces if any of you are interested. Sorry the picture isn't great, I didn't think to take one until it was pretty dark.
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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

birthday girl!

My sweet niece Cecilia turns 3 today!  This morning we had a video chat call with her - but cartoons were more interesting than talking with her aunt and uncle about what it felt like to be 3!  It is okay though - we had a lot to discuss with her parents.  Today my brother (her dad) leaves for Chad, Africa for two weeks.  He is starting a new role at his company and will be on rotations through Chad for the next year or two.  He will be there 3 weeks straight, and then off for 3 weeks.  Safe travels to Tommy and a very happy birthday to sweet Cecilia (shown here after her first haircut a few weeks ago).

tar balls?

Weekend before last I spent some time in Mississippi with my parents and youngest brother. We had a condo on the beach that was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. However, over the last four years it was rebuilt and it reopened right before the gulf oil spill. While I was there we did see some black balls on the beach that were the consistency of a Tootsie Roll. I am not sure if these were tar balls. They didn't smell oily and the residue washed off in water. A coworker asked if I tried to burn it to see if it was oil. I didn't think of that. Anyone know? Is it just dark clay?

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Friday, June 25, 2010

catching up

This weekend I look forward to relaxing.  It's the first weekend in a while that I will be home for the entire weekend - feels like a luxury!

My 6'4" 17 year old brother catching up on sleep in Mississippi last weekend...

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

grilled cheese

A few years ago Elizabeth got me a book on grilled cheeses for my birthday.  The other day I got home from work and was inspired to make a killer grilled cheese.  Maybe because it is summer and our entire house turns into an oven when we turn on the oven. Anyway, I walked to Whole Foods and came back with warm crusty bread, fig spread, prosciutto, and burrata cheese (a type of raw mozzarella).  

The finished product was so good that we ate it two nights in a row with a simple salad. The first night we put in in a panini grill and I grilled them normally with the cheese in there - but I lost the buttery nature of the raw cheese due to the heat.  So the second night I grilled the two halves open face style on a skillet and put the cheese in after the bread was grilled as not to kill the delicate texture of the cheese with heat.  Both nights I crisped up the prosciutto first.  Also, now that fig season is approaching - I will get to use fresh figs instead of the jarred fig jam.  

The finished product on the second night.  Delicious!  Thanks again to Lizard for the awesome book!  Still using it years later.  

shrimp and grits

While I was in Atlanta last week, Tyler, Lindsey, and I went to one of my favorite Atlanta restaurants - JCT - and I ate one of my favorite meals in the entire world - shrimp and grits.  I have been lucky enough to have shrimp and grits from all over the place, but JCT wins hands down.  The addition of a perfectly poached egg and a buttery piece of bread is genius.  The photo was taken with my camera phone and really doesn't do it justice.  I was proud that I could resist digging in long enough to take a photo!

I last had shrimp and grits in Charleston, SC at the Hominy Grill.  Also very good, but not as good at JCT.  The shrimp were a little more greasy and the grits weren't as creamy. The mushrooms were very good though...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

blushing pink peonies

I have been lucky enough to attend three weddings since our own - and each one has been so beautiful for so many reasons.  I thought I would share my favorite photos over the next couple of posts.

Lindsey and Tyler got married in Atlanta, Georgia in a beautiful ceremony followed by a gorgeous reception at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.  As you might know from the blog, I am OBSESSED with flowers and the flowers at this wedding - amongst the backdrop of a stunning botanical garden in the late afternoon - were perfect.

The photo below shoes the flowers that ringed the bar - there were peonies, roses, hydrangeas, and blue berries to name a few of the elements.  The flowers had a very romantic garden feel to them - like you just plucked the most luscious flowers from your countryside garden.

I thought that the boutonnieres were also very lovely with the hot pink ranunculuses.  Very crisp against the black tuxedos worn by the groomsmen.  I didn't enhance the color in the photo below at all - that is the color that they actually were!  So beautiful!

The cake was gorgeous.  Loved the swiss dot pattern and the black ribbon with the fresh peonies on top. Peonies are such a tease for me because there is SUCH a small window where they are available and they are so hard to grow - they were so lucky to have that option!  Gorgeous!

Overall the details of this wedding were beautiful and so special because they reflected the bride and groom.  Congratulations!!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Macaroon Monday

I was lucky enough to be in Napa for Amy and Michael's wedding a few weeks ago.  I was thrilled when my hubby reminded me what else was in Napa - Bouchon macaroons!  Behold their colorful beauty!

Since giant macaroons are best shared, we brought them to a friends house for dessert and promptly encouraged their 2 year old daughter to consume sugar before bed.  What else are honorary aunties and uncles for??

If only I could start my Monday mornings with a French macaroon instead of oatmeal from a pouch!

p.s. my favorite macaroon flavor is vanilla...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day!

This father's day I wanted to celebrate all the qualities I love about my dad.  

1. My dad is very generous with his time and with his things.  He was essentially the coordinator of our wedding a few months back.  I am not sure many people could handle a few hundred people in their home with such grace. A big thank you to him (and my mom) for making it possible to have such a special wedding! 

He is there to support our endeavors - well except when that involves eating fruit of any kind.  Anyway, here he is boldly tasting the beer that Patrick "home brewed" in his squirrels nest of a room.  I was not getting anywhere near it.  The reviews came back as "hoppy."

While on the subject of eating habits, it would be a great time to mention some of my dad's favorite foods  (tomatoes will never make this list by the way) - many of which became my favorite foods.  He loves grilled cheeses, bacon, and particularly ham, turkey, or chicken leftovers on little toasted buns.  I inherited my love of grilled cheeses right from him.  I particularly love the photo below, because it demonstrates how my dad reuses disposable cups at home - even though we have glass ones and a dishwasher. :)

So thank you for being a great dad! And cheers to my mom as well!  As Mrs. Cahn puts it - she definitely wears a halo for putting up with some of my dad's antics.  ;)

Love you and happy Father's Day to my dad and my new father-in-law!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Terptastic wedding

Over Memorial Day - Laurie, the littlest Terp, got married in Cape Cod.  The details were SO them - everything from the location to the color palette that reminded me of Laurie's summer home in Mashpee, MA.  They got PERFECT weather for their wedding and it was so much fun - gotta love a wedding that starts at 1:30 and goes until midnight!   Here are some of my favorite details and moments. 

 The cocktail reception tables were reserved with little adirondack chairs.  

The seating cards were in a box of sand and shells. 

Beautifully dramatic flower arrangements. 

The wedding cake!  I love the swiss dots and the cascading flowers!  So gorgeous!

My man getting a workout on the dance floor!

The view from the New Seabury Country Club where the ceremony and reception were held.  Insane views of the Cape (this photo doesn't do it justice). 

Best in-room goodie bag ever!  Excellent post-wedding food. 

Last, but not least, Kelly wore some fantastic party shoes and I couldn't resist sharing the photo. :)

What a wonderful weekend!  Such a great time to catch up with my college friends - we are lucky that this year we will see each other many times as there is a lot to celebrate.  Congratulations!!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Aunt Sunny

Yesterday morning, my Aunt Sunny died.  She was living in Montana with her husband and had end stage lung disease.  For most of my childhood, she lived in New Orleans and spent a lot of time with us.  I thought I would share some of my most vivid memories:
  • When I was 14, she took me to see the Nutty Professor at the Uptown Square movie theater.  After the movie, she let me practice driving her sedan all around the parking lot (something my parents wouldn't have the stomach to do for a year or so).
  • At some point after I started wearing bras (and long before I actually needed to), she brought to my family party a racy red padded lace bra (the kind that makes a 14 year old blush).   I thought she was so cool.  It was definitely an upgrade from cotton Jockey triangles. 
  • In 6th grade, it was determined that I would need to get glasses and I was very upset about this (I also had braces at the time and it wasn't going to be a good look at 5'10" and 110lbs).  My Aunt Sunny came over and showed me that she wore glasses even though she didn't need them!  She was a law librarian and liked the way they looked - sure enough there was no prescription in the pair she had with her.  It made me feel better.  There was hope.
  • Her first husband DJ made me a little wooden bench a LONG time ago that I still have in my bedroom at home.
  • I used to do her taxes when I was in middle school.  She had a big jeweled calculator that I used.  At the time, I really liked filling out forms and all she needed was the 1040EZ - so easy a 5th grader could do it.  
  • I was always trying to earn more money - so I had little businesses to sell things to people (Christmas ornaments, lemonade and cookies, bath salts).  I had babysitting business cards (I was CPR certified by the Junior League).  However, Aunt Sunny hooked me up with a seamstress job for her friend Lenor - I made linen curtains for the back of her SUV that could velcro on and off (I had been to sewing camp).  That brought in a 3 digit lump sum and I was very appreciative for the reference. 
  • Sometimes she wore lavender color contacts.
  • She had a pink and blue heart tattoo on her ankle and had a pet iguana. 
  • She volunteered at the Angola Louisiana State Prison and played chess with the prisoners.  On a few occasions I got very sweet birthday cards from the people she worked with there. 
  • She had a really great, and very distinguishable, laugh. 
I believe that I shared many good (and bad) qualities with her.  Aunt Sunny was a lifetime learner - she was always working on some degree or another - law degree at night, masters in library science at night.  She loved to learn.  It is something I see in myself as well (I just took a week long training class - case in point).  However, we both (along with my mom) have a mild obsession with paper products and office supplies.  When she moved away - I inherited a giant basket of post-it notes which was pretty awesome (minus the Cathy comic ones).   

She breathing easy with our ancestors and I wish her a peaceful rest.  

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Importance of community

Photo from
I was recently reading about Sheryl Sandberg in my April (or May?) issue of Vogue (she is the COO of Facebook and former Google executive).  Anyway, she talked about how her frequent get togethers of women in silicon valley (of all backgrounds) were a great source of happiness and support over the years.  It has gotten me thinking about community and the importance of community.  Living in California, I have realized that community isn't the same as it is in the South.  What makes it different?  So how can I replicate that here?  I don't have any thesis yet, but she has inspired me to think about and appreciate the fantastic women I am lucky enough to know - classmates, family, friends, coworkers, friend of friends.  As my mother-in-law reminded me once, it is the women in the family that go a long way in keeping a family close.  

Interesting articles about Sheryl Sandberg:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Anita Borg Women of Vision Awards

Last month I was fortunate enough to attend the Anita Borg Women of Vision dinner.  I have gone every year for the last few years and I always find it SO inspirational. The dinner was to honor three women kicking ass and taking names in innovation, leadership, and social impact. Arianna Huffington was the keynote speaker and was really engaging and funny.

The line up
One thing that struck me was that of the 3 winners - all three had fathers that were engineers/scientists and 2 of the 3 had mother's who were also scientist/engineers.

I have posted the two talks I found most inspiring, along with the bio video on one of the winners (seriously - where did she find the time to do so much)!

Seriously - watch them!!

Arianna Huffington's Keynote 

Kristina Johnson's Acceptance Speach
(Under Secretary of Energy) 

Kristina Johnson's Bio

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

This one's for JF

Today I had the opportunity to visit The Varsity in Atlanta with Tyler.  I haven't been there since my dad took me when I was a junior in high school before the Georgia Tech vs. Clemson game.  We were in Atlanta at that time to see if I wanted to apply to Georgia Tech for college - since my grandfather (class of 37) and my dad (briefly) went there.  You know I'll love any place where a chili dog is standard!

Of course I thought of Joe, who was so impressed that he titled his blog after their famous slogan "what'll ya have." 

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sew crafty

My friend Audrey recently got a sewing machine and has been whipping up adorable baby outfits for her friends having kids.  Check out the cute little (fully-lined) dresses below!  Some serious talent!  

Audrey even sewed matching bloomers.  Pretty incredible.

Here is the little dress in pink.

She is inspiring me to get back to sewing! I received a lovely sewing machine as a wedding gift from my Aunt Beth.  I think it is really sweet to give a handmade item as a shower gift.  I went to sewing camp as a kid, so I won't be totally lost if I make the attempt (Mrs. Kostmayer would be proud).  Plus I have the ever-talented Audrey to be my guide should my needle break and my pedal jam. 

Update #1:  My friend (and also co-worker) Rachel is an excellent seamstress - check out her many awesome projects on her blog.

Update #2: Some additional details from Audrey:

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Somewhere I stumbled across this cool slideshow of bookplates from the Yale Alumni Magazine.  I was thinking - how cool to have personalized bookplates made, I had never thought about it before.  How cool to think that as books wonder through second hand shops and get given to friends, that your bookplate might provide humor or be interesting to other readers. I particularly liked the little poem that came with the one pictured below.
Photo from the Yale Alumni Magazine
What is your take?  In modern times - is it cool or over the top?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Amy + Michael

Today two good friends are getting married in Napa!  Congratulations to the two of you!

Amy's planning photo book
Since Amy works at Shutterfly, she has documented the wedding planning process on the Shutterfly community blog. Check out her articles:

Hopefully she will have a post soon on her fabulous honeymoon to Fiji! 

Friday, June 4, 2010

Honeymoon Day 9

On our first full day in Blanket Bay - we took a helicopter ride to Milford Sound.  When we had arrived the previous day, one of the hotel staff suggested that we book the ride for the following day as the weather was supposed to be perfect.  Apparently there are often weeks when the sound is too cloudy to allow for safe flying.  We took her advice - and sure enough - the rest of our trip was too cloudy and no other trips went out.  We were very lucky.

Milford Sound is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the South Island of New Zealand.  Were we to drive there - it would have taken several hours.  We figured that a helicopter ride would be a fun way to see it in a morning.  I worked at a helicopter research lab when I was in undergrad, but I had never actually been in a helicoper!  It was a big day for many reason.

The helicopter picked us up on the front lawn of our hotel!  Seriously!  We got to sit in the front seat with the pilot, and three other passengers sat in the back.  Our first stop was a glacier at the top of a mountain.
My first up close look at a glacier
Stop #2: The Tasman Sea.
The rocky coast of the Tasman Sea
Instead of stopping in Milford Sound, we flew around and traded that stop for another stop at a glacial mountain lake.  I should say that Milford Sound isn't actually a sound - it is a fjord.

Flying through the fjord!
Stop #3: a mountain lake with incredibly cold water
The helicopter perched right to the left of the waterfall on what looks like a tiny little lip! 
This last stop was incredible.  We were so high up!
The high mountain lake
It was an amazing adventure.  When we got back to the hotel - we just couldn't believe this trip!  And all before lunch!  We decided to walk into Glenorchy (about 3 miles away) to have lunch and walk through the marsh on an elevated boardwalk.

Bench on the boardwalk
We ended the night with our complimentary bottle of honeymoon champagne!

African Violets

A lovely wedding gift from my wonderful mentor Leslie.  

She got it for us a few weeks ago and I am very happy to report that it is still happy and healthy looking. What I love most are its furry, yet glossy deep green leaves.  Very beautiful.  I remember my mom growing African Violets when I was a kid.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Honeymoon Day 8

After a quick night in Auckland - we headed to Queenstown, New Zealand.  The first thing that we noticed was the soaring, massive mountains that surround the lake.  The next thing was the reminder that we would be renting a car and driving on the wrong side of the road for almost a week.

The steering wheel is on the wrong side!
We spent the early part of the afternoon walking around Queenstown - enjoying a huge burger and some ice cream by the water.  It was fall in New Zealand, so the air was crispy and cool - a lot like northern California in the fall.

We arrived to our hotel around 3pm or so.  It was about 45 minutes from downtown Queenstown near a small town called Glenorchy.  We were staying at a hotel called Blanket Bay - a truly spectacular place owned by a California couple.   It was incredibly beautiful.

View of the lake from the hotel
View of Blanket Bay from the front lawn
Blanket Bay was named for the fact that back in the day, sheep were sheared here and it was laid out to dry on blankets - thus giving the field the look of one big blanket (or something like that).
There were a lot of sheep
And a lot of stones perfect for skipping
It is a very beautiful property!  We felt so lucky to be staying there!

Taste Test

Last Thursday, my husband and I had some friends over for wine, cheese, and pizza.  Eight of us were planning to go to a local wine bar for mystery wine night - but the strange, rainy California weather forced us indoors.  We spent most of the night drinking wine from paper bags (to disguise their varietal so we could guess) - but then my hubby thought of a blind beer tasting.

The line up
We still had A TON of beer in our fridge from his bachelor party (it is taking forever to get rid of) - so we pulled out 6 kinds and randomly lined them up in the kitchen for the participants to consume in the living room. Of the 4 people that participated - only one person got 3 right not knowing what the six brands were.  Once we revealed the brands at the end and had them re-guess - the highest score was a 4.  Everyone got Blue Moon and Fat Tire - but surprisingly it was very hard to pick between Bud, Bud Light, and Coors Light.  It was really funny in the end - although I think some egos were bruised...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

hokey pokey!

In New Zealand - I fell in love.  I fell in love with hokey pokey ice cream.  Hokey Pokey is a candy that many people seem to know as honeycomb (although it doesn't contain any honey).  It is also what is in a Cadbury Crunchie bar for those of you who have had that.  Anyway, Hokey Pokey ice cream is vanilla ice cream with bits of broken hokey pokey candy mixed in.

While we were in Blanket Bay, I had it several nights for dessert.  By the end of our stay, they shared their recipe which I was all to happy to accept.  However, I noticed an unfamiliar ingredient - golden syrup.  Turns out we don't really have anything like it in the states.  It is like a caramel thick simple syrup, made from sugar (not corn syrup).  Anyway, on our last day - the staff at Blanket Bay presented us with a bottle of the real New Zealand stuff - it was SO sweet.

To make the candy...

The recipe calls for ingredients by weight rather than volume!
Thanks to the Teetzel's for this scale!  We use it ALL the time.  
We put sugar and golden syrup in a big pot with light corn syrup (the recipe calls for liquid glucose, but they don't sell that in the states).  Thanks to Katie for the cool spatula!
Getting started
 Once the sugar is bubbling, you add in the baking soda and it fizzes and foams and doubles in volume.  If it weren't for the boiling sugar aspect of this - I would say it would be really fun for kids.
It is like a science experiment!
Then you pour it out on a cooking sheet (thanks to Emma for the silpat liner and the Bullock's for the half sheet pan).  As you can tell - we are definitely putting our wedding gifts to good use!!   When you pick up the hardened piece of hokey pokey and tap it against the pan - it shatters like glass.  It is very cool.

We then made ice cream using the Blanket Bay recipe (although we cut it in half because our ice cream maker is smaller - thanks to Peggy for the ice cream maker)!
Ice cream in process
 We then mixed in the pieces and voila!!

It was soooo delicious!  We have since made it a couple times and have yet to be disappointed.  It sort of tastes like a caramel ice cream, but there is also something a little bit reminiscent of a golden graham or a graham cracker.  It was is very fun to make and even more fun to eat with friends!
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