Thursday, May 30, 2013

DIY: Serving Trays

Trays are great to have around the house.  They're perfect for serving drinks, entertaining, breakfast in bed, and displaying all your quirky knick knacks.  We wanted to bring some fun to a couple of unfinished wooden trays by jazzing them up with a fresh coat of white paint and a colorful decoupaged fabric bottom.  

Oh the drama...we encountered so many challenges and made a ton of rookie mistakes in the production of these trays.  First, we spray-painted the trays without priming them first.  BIG mistake!  The unfinished wood just soaked up the paint, giving the trays a white-washed appearance and not the glossy white look we were going for.  Next, the spray adhesive we purchased was missing a nozzle, which we discovered a little too late.  Always check your merchandise before you leave the store...lesson learned!  Without the spray adhesive, we struggled with getting the fabric to lay flat and stay put while we were decoupaging them, resulting in some lumps and bumps.  However, despite these blunders, we're pretty pleased with the end result!

Materials needed:
Tray (can be an inexpensive new unfinished wood tray like ours or can be an old tray that needs some TLC)
Mod Podge (we opted for the 'Gloss-Lustre' version) decoupage
Spray paint
Spray adhesive (this would have been helpful) or rubber cement
Fabric of your choice
Multimedia art board (you can also use plexiglass or plywood cut to size)
Sponge brushes

Prep the trays.  We lightly sanded our trays and spray-painted them (see mistake #1 above).  We went back and "primed" the trays with a layer of Mod Podge and then spray-painted them again (much better).  Meanwhile, measure the inside of the tray and cut the multimedia board to size for the lining, about 1/8" smaller in each dimension to leave room for the fabric that will be folded over.  Cut the fabric about 1 inch larger than the tray size.  Use adhesive spray to glue the fabric to the board, and fold over the unfinished edges.  Using a sponge brush, apply several thin coats of the Mod Podge, stretching the fabric to lay flat.  Allow both the tray and decoupaged fabric lining to dry completely.

After both the tray and lining are dry, apply an adhesive (we used rubber cement, but you could use spray adhesive) to the inside of the tray and slide in the lining.  Fill the tray with some weights (we used books) while the adhesive dries.  Apply more Mod Podge to fill in any edges and gaps until the inside of the tray is smooth and seamless.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Graduation Weekend in the Bay

I spent this past weekend up in the San Francisco Bay area, celebrating my little brother Peter's graduation from business school.  I'm so proud of what he's accomplished thus far in life, especially managing to find a fantastic job in a still-tough job market.  While he's grown up to be a generous, kind, intelligent, confident man, he'll always be my baby brother in my heart.

Bay area weather is notoriously finicky, so I thought I would play it safe for the graduation ceremony in a maxi dress.  I figured I could throw on a jacket should it get chilly, but if it were warm, at least I had some ventilation.  Unfortunately, we ended up sitting in the direct sun for two hours, and we roasted, despite the balmy 70 degrees had predicted.  After the ceremony and the reception, we had an absolutely delicious four course dinner at Quince, a Michelin starred restaurant located in the Financial District of SF.  I highly highly recommend it as it was one of my most favorite meals ever!  All in all, it was a beautiful weekend, and I was one proud big sister.    

I convinced Peter to take some shots for the blog!  He often says he's more stylish than me, and I'd have to agree!

Blue maxi dress: old from Konrad & Joseph - Anthropologie (similar here).  Coral beaded tassel necklace: from the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey (similar here).  Yellow clutch: Kate Spade - Post Street Madison.  
Mirrored wedges: Christian Louboutin via Decades.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Casual Sequins

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!!  Oh how I love long weekends...and this one couldn't have come at a better time.  Work has been super busy lately, and I have a long to-do list that I need to get through before I go on my 3 week vacation and move to NorCal this summer.

I don't know about you, but I have a bunch of "going out" skirts and dresses that just hang in my closet.  I like my pieces to have multiple purposes and I often swap items between work wear and casual wear.  But a sequin skirt is hard to re-purpose.  I decided to dress it down by pairing it with a casually knotted button down shirt and flat ankle boots.  Speaking of ankle boots, they are a short-legged girl's nightmare.  Not everyone can have mile long legs like Aimee, and I struggled with whether or not I should keep these leg-truncating shoes, but I was seduced by the buttery soft leather and comfortable soles.  There are things you just can't change, so I am embracing my short legs!

Polka dot blouse: J. Crew (old) (solid version here). Black sequin skirt: Eight Sixty from Anthropologie (old) (similar here). 
Cut-out booties: Jeffrey Campbell 'Everly'. Bracelets: Stella and Dot and DIY.  Rose gold watch: Marc by Marc Jacobs. Ostrich wallet on chain: Rebecca Minkoff (here in other colors...with studs!)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Salted Caramel Ice Cream

As the weather heats up, there's one dessert we will always have room cream!  We love the salted caramel ice cream from Sweet Rose Creamery, so we decided to try our hand at making it at home.  We followed David Lebovitz's recipe as we loved the extra decadence the bits of praline added.  The end result?  A perfect combination of salty, sweet, and creamy.   

Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream
(Original recipe here)

Caramel Praline 
½ cup sugar
¾ teaspoon sea salt

To make the caramel praline, spread the ½ cup of sugar in an even layer in a medium-sized, unlined heavy duty saucepan. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat.  

Heat the sugar over moderate heat until the edges begin to melt. Use a heatproof utensil to gently stir the liquefied sugar from the bottom and edges towards the center, stirring, until all the sugar is dissolved.  There may be some lumps, but don't worry, they'll melt!  

Continue to cook stirring until the caramel starts smoking and begins to smell like it’s just about to burn.  Without hesitation, sprinkle in the ¾ teaspoon salt without stirring, then pour the caramel onto the prepared baking sheet and lift up the baking sheet immediately, tilting and swirling it almost vertically to encourage the caramel to form as thin a layer as possible. Set aside to harden and cool.

Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream Custard
2 cups (500 ml) whole milk
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 tablespoons salted butter
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make an ice bath by filling a large bowl about a third full with ice cubes and adding a cup or so of water so they’re floating. Nest a smaller metal bowl (at least 2 quarts/liters) over the ice, pour 1 cup (250 ml) of the milk into the inner bowl, and rest a mesh strainer on top of it.
Spread 1½ cups sugar in the saucepan in an even layer. Cook over moderate heat, until caramelized, using the same method described for the caramel praline.  Once caramelized, remove from heat and stir in the butter and salt, until butter is melted, then gradually whisk in the cream, stirring as you go.  The caramel may harden and seize, but return it to the heat and continue to stir over low heat until any hard caramel is melted. Stir in the remaining 1 cup of the milk.
Whisk the yolks in a small bowl and gradually pour some of the warm caramel mixture over the yolks, stirring constantly. Scrape the warmed yolks back into the saucepan and cook the custard, stirring constantly (scraping the bottom as you stir) until the mixture thickens and reaches 160-170 F (71-77 C).
Pour the custard through the strainer into the milk set over the ice bath, add the vanilla, then stir frequently until the mixture is cooled down.  Refrigerate at least 8 hours or until thoroughly chilled.
Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions (we used the KitchenAid stand mixer ice cream attachment).  While the ice cream is churning, crumble the hardened caramel praline into very little bits.  Once your caramel ice cream is churned, quickly stir in the crushed caramel, then chill in the freezer until firm.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


The little back dress should be a quintessential element in every woman's wardrobe.  It's the perfect go-to for when you're stumped as to what to wear, or you're just plain uninspired by what's in your closet.  My husband Dr. S would argue that I should never feel uninspired, since my closet is literally overflowing and bursting at the seams.  But I could recall a good number of moments where I rifled back and forth through my clothing, eventually settling on an LBD knowing I would instantly feel polished and uplifted after I put it on. 

This particular LBD has a panel of silk down the front, and comfy jersey fabric down the back.  I wore it to our anniversary dinner last week at Osteria Mozza.  Service was a bit lacking, but I highly recommend the cold(!) squid ink pasta with Dungeness crab and sea urchin.  Smooth sea-urchiny goodness!   

Little black dress: Lanvin via Wasteland.  Patent slingback pumps: Manolo Blahnik (old, similar here and love these).  Handbag: Chanel medium flap bag in black caviar.  Rings: Banana Republic, Forever 21, mom's college ring.  
Sparked agate collar necklace: Anthropologie (similar here).

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Lady in Red

When Mr. J and I first started dating, he told me that he liked red doubt influenced by the Chris de Burgh song that was popular at school dances when we were teenagers.  For the first fraternity formal that we attended together, I wore a biased-cut satin red dress that I found at Filene's Basement with some black platform sandals.  The entire look was hideous but I felt beautiful because of the way Mr. J looked at me.  I don't think I've owned a red dress since that fashion failure but when I saw this dress on the sale rack, I just knew it would be perfect for our anniversary dinner.

We celebrated last weekend with a delicious dinner at Melisse.  It was one of the most extravagant meals I've ever had.  It's definitely a splurge but if you live in LA and have a special occasion to celebrate, I highly recommend it!

 Ruffled silk dress: Anthropologie. Beaded ribbon belt: Anthropologie. Clutch: Banana Republic (old. Borrowed from Sarah). Pave link bracelet: J. Crew. Nude patent pumps: Christian Louboutin

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Happy Three Year Anniversary

On this day three years ago, I married my soul mate, Dr. S.  We met on a blind date over 10.5 years ago in Boston (thanks for setting us up Leslie and Sophia!).  I'm usually not one to gush, but I'll just say I couldn't imagine my life without Dr. S and he truly makes me a better person.  Here are some photos from our engagement shoot in Philly 4 years ago, and from our wedding day in Pasadena, all taken by the ever-so-talented Jerry and Ingrid from Jerry Yoon Photography.  

Happy three year anniversary, Dr. S!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

6 Year Anniversary

Today is Mr. J's and my 6 year wedding anniversary (and our 13.5 year + 2 days dating anniversary).  We met early in my freshman year of college and I feel so fortunate to have met my best friend and soul mate at such a young age.  We essentially grew up together and have been each other's biggest cheerleaders and confidants as we transitioned from childhood to adulthood.  Not everyone understood our devotion when we were so young, especially when we were long distance.  During medical school, he would drive roughly 300 miles every other weekend to see me and patiently sit in a coffee shop with me while I studied.  Now if that isn't love, then I don't know what is.  We've been long distance on and off for far too long and I cannot wait for it to end once and for all this summer.

Mr. J is fiercely private and was pretty adamant about not appearing on the blog.  The original version of this post included some of my favorite shots by the lovely and super-talented Vero for our 5 year anniversary shoot last year.  Unfortunately, Mr. J vetoed every picture except for this one.  Aside from this, he has been amazingly supportive throughout my long medical training and with the start of this blog.  With his love, I feel invincible.

Happy 6 year anniversary Mr. J!

Today is also Mother's Day so don't forget to shower your mommas with lots and lots of love!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Yellow Mums in Blue Jars

There's nothing like fresh flowers to brighten up a small space and put a smile on your face.  We tried to go to the Los Angeles Flower District but got there too late on a Saturday and they were already closed.  Fortunately, we were still able to pick up some beautiful fresh flowers at a small market across the street.  We picked up some bright yellow China mums and some green pom poms and white peonies for our summery arrangement.  Unfortunately, due to our work schedules, we only had a chance to throw them in a bucket of water and then left them to fend for themselves until the following Monday evening.  By then, our beautiful bright yellow China mums were looking pretty sad and droopy.  In hindsight, we probably should have done more.

We looked up some rumored tricks to help make flowers last a bit longer.  Some suggested wrapping the stems in moist paper towels and placing the flowers in a refrigerator or cool place until you're ready to arrange them.  As for when to cut the stems, we saw suggestions for cutting the flowers immediately, while others suggested placing the stems in water for a few hours before cutting, or cutting under water.   When it comes to flower food, we saw ideas for adding crushed aspirin, vinegar, bleach, soda, and/or a copper penny to the water, all thought to minimize bacteria growth.

Two tips that came up over and over again...always trim off any leaves that may become immersed under water and cut the stems at an angle to maximize water absorption.

Readers - Do you have any tips to make fresh flowers last longer?

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