Friday, November 8, 2013

Breaking with burlap

Last Saturday I helped a friend host a baby blessing.  One of my duties was to bring flowers and to make favors. I ended up making "vases" using empty food jars, burlap, lace and ribbon. I also came up with the idea of making burlap satchels stuffed with teabags as the favor. I squeezed in this crafting time during bébé's nap time or during her bedtime. Thus all my break time the week before the baby blessing I spent working with burlap.

Voilà the fruit of my breaking with burlap time:

The food table:

The drink table:
The hostess made a cute banner using felt with the baby's name on it which you can see in the background.

I love how she used quilted mason jars as the drink cups. It gives me an idea of using (DIY decorated) jars as drinking cups for future parties. 

Here is an example of one (of the better) favors that I made:
It was my first time sewing with burlap and lace so some of the favors definitely did not turn out as well.

Overall I enjoyed working with burlap (though my sewing machine did jam up a couple of times until I figured out how to appropriately adjust the stitch length and thread tension). I think I am going to use the leftover burlap and lace to sew a little pouch in which I can keep some items that always get lost in my abyss of a purse.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

"Mantel" Makeover

Trying to decorate a new home, especially with a toddler, takes an interminably long time. We have already been in our new place for about 6 months now and we are still trying to find the right pieces at the right price for the living room and our bedroom. At least the office is looking better.  It was really important for me to get into better shape especially since as a teacher I do a lot of work from home. I also work from home for my other part-time job which I  started a couple months ago.

In terms of decorating, I love how our "mantel" turned out. We actually don't have a fireplace, so "mantel" is a bit of a misnomer but we placed a floating shelf above a console table to give the feeling of a mantel.

Voilà this is how it turned out:

The Tiffany candlestick holders were a wedding present as were the Japanese tea cups and tea pitcher which I am using a vase. The "window" was actually a picture frame but I took it a part into two pieces (the rectangle in the very back is the other piece) and re-used the glass elsewhere in the house. I love the whitewash of the walnut wood on the "window" and the mirror which gives a rustic feel.  I originally wanted to use the mirror in our downstairs bathroom but it wasn't big enough so now I am on the hunt for a nice and affordable mirror.

Other items we are looking for include an oval shaped coffee table made of distressed wood or a weathered looking trunk that could double as storage and a coffee table. I have been going to second-hand stores since I like the more vintage look. I found the perfect trunk that could have been rehabbed but unfortunately when I called about it later on, it was already sold. 

Once I have a chance I will try to take some pics of the office in order to show the before and after transformation.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sayonara Shampoo

I no longer use shampoo in order to cleanse my hair. I know that must sound really repulsive but actually I have found an alternative that is much more natural, without all the chemicals found in shampoo.  So what is it? Just a simple mix of baking soda and water that I put into an old shampoo bottle. I squirt it all over my scalp and rub each section a bit and then wash it out. Then I spray a mixture of vinegar and water as a conditioner.  It actually works as a de-tangler and I can run a comb through my hair fairly easily once I am out of the shower.

One reason I wanted to try this baking soda "shampoo" is because I wanted to avoid chemicals as much as possible (which is still pretty hard to do considering unnatural stuff is obviously pretty much found everywhere) but also because normal shampoos are like a detergent, they not only get rid of dirt and muck but they also strip your hair of the natural oils. So for me what happens is that my scalp overcompensates and thus produces even more oil and so the hair on top is always so oily and my bottom hair is always more dry.

I was originally hoping that with the baking soda and water, I wouldn't have to still wash my hair everyday but I still do. At least now however, my hair is a lot more balanced. Since the baking soda doesn't strip my hair of the natural oils, my scalp is not longer overproducing oil. My top hair is no longer as oily as it used to be when I used shampoo.  I wouldn't say that I have the beautiful luscious locks of models in magazines and tv ads but at least overall unctous-ness has decreased by a lot.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Bébé's backpack

I know some moms are totally against using a harness/"leash" on their toddlers. I never really thought much about them and was pretty much ambivalent towards them until bébé started not just walking but running! I blogged about how one time I was in the parking lot somewhere, trying to dig into my bottomless pit of a bag for my keys while at the same time trying to keep bébé from running into moving cars.  It was nearly impossible but fortunately we survived that incident.

Then I took her to the mall one time. We had been sick that week so we hadn't had play dates much less really been out of our complex so I had thought the mall would be a good place for us to go. It would be a change of scenery with people to whom we wouldn't be in close contact and thus would unlikely spread germs. Well, when we arrived bébé wouldn't really hold my hand, nor would she stay close to me. She kept wanting to run around (surprise, surprise) especially into stores to hide. She was also quite interested in the escalator which we rode up and down a couple of times together but I was still worried that she would make a mad dash for it and I wouldn't be able to catch up with her in time.

We also had an incident at Target where she would scream while she was in the shopping cart. But when I let her down to help me push the shopping cart (which she likes to do), she would also take off. She thought it was hilarious when I had to chase her down the aisles to try to get to her all the while pushing the shopping cart.

That is when I decided to get the harness for her.  It is not like I don't pay attention to her and where she is at all times but it just gives me a little peace of mind that she can't run/hide too far from me.  The one I decided to get her also doubles as a backpack which I like a lot. Now that she is a little older I don't feel like I have to bring my diaper bag with me EVERYWHERE like I did when she was younger,  since she doesn't need to be changed as often now. So it is nice that I can stick some of her food and water bottle in the backpack and have her carry it.

 Some pics of her with the harness while we were walking around our complex last month.

What do you think? To harness or not to harness?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Hot like a jalapeno

One great thing about living in SoCal is the abundance of Mexican ingredients, food, restaurants etc.  We never get tired of the flavors but I do like to mix things up once in awhile.  I am always searching for new recipes and ways to cook.  So I was happy to have found a really easy recipe for stuffed jalapenos that someone had posted on Facebook.

1 lb ground sausage (HOT if ya like! )
22 jalapeños
1- 8 oz block cream cheese, softened
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat over 425. Cook sausage until browned. Set aside. Mix cream cheese with Parmesan cheese. Add cooked sausage and mix well. Rinse jalapeños. Cut each jalapeño lengthwise and remove seeds. Stuff jalapeños with sausage mixture. Cook for 20 minutes until tops are golden brown (cook on a large baking pan).

I had made it already once last week when I decided to make it again a few days later (at hubby's request). The first time I used all the same ingredients according to the recipe.  The second time I decided to use ground beef with homemade taco seasonings instead of the sausage.  It turned out okay but I think I liked it better with the sausage (I used the all natural Trader Joe's kind). How the stuffed jalapenos turned out was not the only thing that was different from before.

The first time I was making the recipe and cutting up the jalapenos I must have been more careful with not rubbing too many of the seeds on my hands.  The second time I must have somehow gotten the seeds/oil on my hands (though I thought I was being careful) because my hands burned for several hours afterwards!  I googled what one should do in such a situation. I tried all the different remedies but none offered immediate relief.  In the end the burning sensation did go away on its own but only after I had endured a lot of pain and discomfort.

Lesson learned: Always wear gloves when cutting up jalapenos (or any hot peppers for that matter)!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Birthday Bonanza

As an extremely practical person, I don't need to receive a present just for the sake of getting it.  I like getting things really only when I really need them or I like to just pick things (especially clothes) out for myself since I can be particular (although usually when friends/my sister get me clothes I do really like them and thankful for the gift). So most of the time when an occasion arises for which most people expect gifts (like birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas), I actually would prefer that hubby and I (and bébé too, now that we are a family) go out and do something.  Growing up my parents didn't really give us gifts so that probably is also a huge factor for me not being as into gifts as other people. 

So for this year's birthday, hubby took off a couple of days last week so that we could all enjoy my birthday long weekend.  One of the days we took a day trip to Malibu (which actually distance-wise is not too far from where we live but traffic-wise seems far away). I had been wanting to visit Malibu for awhile, in particular Adamson House a beautiful home right on the beach owned by a wealthy tile making family. I took a tour (while hubby hung out with bébé on the beach) during which I learned a bit of Southern Californian history while admiring all the beautiful tile around the house. No pictures were allowed in the house but below are some pics we took while waiting for the tour to start.

Some examples of the tile:

Hubby and bébé hanging out in the courtyard:

 Examples of the tile made by the factory owned by the family:

I took the next few pics while on the second floor of the house looking out.

A view of the Malibu pier not too far from Adamson House.

The facade of the house: 

One thing I learned from the tour was that because of the efforts of the matriarch of the family who owned this house, there is no railway that runs through Malibu.  She also fought (unsuccessfully) against a highway from going through Malibu as well.

Later that evening we went to grab dinner at some food trucks which are all parked at a high school near us every Thursday night.  One food truck that had been listed was going to be there which I was looking forward to, didn't show up. I didn't get to eat what I had wanted but I still was happy to have had a chance to make it out to there especially since we got 2 free $10 debit cards just for "test" driving the Dodge Dart. I write it in quotes because normally you had to test drive it to get the debit cards but since we had bébé they just had us listen to spiel about the vehicle and take a look inside.

On the day of my actual birthday we went to a restaurant in a resort located a few towns from where we live to take advantage of the free surf and turf that they offer to people on their birthday.  Hubby got the seafood buffet which was a little pricey but totally worth it.  It wasn't just seafood, there was a huge selection of delicious cheese, prime rib, chicken etc.   The surf and turf was good but I also snuck in a few bites of his food.  We plan to go back from our anniversary next month for the seafood buffet. I can't wait.

A pic of me and bébé running around after dinner.

The resort is located next to some cliffs.

The view while we were walking back to our car.

Another day we went to a fair in the next county over.  Bébé is still a little too young to enjoy all the rides. I saw some toddlers around her age crying while on the pony ride and the carousel so we decided to not put her on any of them this year. We think she will have a grand old time next year.  We did enjoy seeing a lot of different livestock.

Some pics we took in the tent for the horses:

We also saw chickens, cows, goats, camels, birds etc.

Goat pic:

 Camel pic:
Apparently camel milk is the most similar to breastmilk. At least that is what was written on a sign that gave information about camels. Also, the droopier a camel's lips are, the more dominant they are.  Thus younger camels don't droop their lips much since to do so would be to challenge an older camel's role.

I had wanted to see the pig races but we missed them because we were getting something to eat. We didn't realize that they would be so popular and that we had to actually wait in line to be let in. By the time we finished eating and made it back, the stands were all full and so many people were milling around that we couldn't even see the races from the side lines. Lesson learned- Next year pick up lunch, then eat it while standing in line in order to guarantee a space in the stands to see the pig races.

Celebrating my birthday didn't end last weekend. This weekend my closest friends also took me out. I went out with one friend for Indian champagne lunch buffet (yum).  I also loved the cute orange lace cami she got me as a present.  I also had coffee, cupcakes and good conversation with another good friend. Now I can start planning what I want to do for my birthday next year!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Wedding Win

Bébé is a really easy bébé.  She pretty much sleeps through the night every night, usually from 6PM-6AM.  Even as a toddler she still takes at least 2 naps a day. Sometimes for more than an hour, sometimes even close to 3 hours for one of the naps.  Though we did co-sleep for several months, I did eventually sleep train her (using the graduated cry it out method) which I definitely think helped with her learning how to fall asleep on her own.

So pretty much every evening I can start getting her ready for bed around 5:30 or so and by the time 6PM rolls around I am on the couch resting a bit before I head into the kitchen to start making dinner.  It is really nice since in the evening (when I am already worn out from the day) I don't have to do the balancing act of trying to entertain a baby while also prepping and cooking food.

On special occasions, however, we do keep her up later than her normal bedtime. Sometimes we might go to friends for a potluck dinner which will last till about 10PM.  On 4th of July we went to the beach and watched the fireworks and din't get home until around 11PM. On the weekends we will sometimes stay out a little bit later if we are already out doing something as a family. Even though she has pretty much always done well, I was still a little worried about keeping her up too late for an evening wedding that we had been invited to.  It turned out that I was worried for nothing.

We went to the wedding a couple weekends ago and she did fine in the sense that she did not have a meltdown even though she didn't end up falling asleep until around midnight. The ceremony was outdoors (and very short) so she was able to run around to keep herself amused. The reception was at a church that had a playground.  She loved being on the swing so we kept her on that for awhile. Once we made it inside, she was kind of a zombie. She also didn't like it when other people other than me or my husband tried to interact with her but she didn't have a tantrum or cry at all.

Overall the entire evening was a win! We got to enjoy a night out and bébé did fine. She even had fun running around and enjoyed being pushed on the swings. She slept in a little later the next day which was good for her to catch up on sleep and it was nice for us too.

See below for some pics from the photo booth that the bride had arranged to have at the wedding. We had a ton of fun wearing all the different props and posing for the camera.

Family pic :

Group pic with some of our cooking club friends: