Tuesday, April 21, 2020

You're invited to a Virtual Dinner Party!

Hello friends.


After all these long weeks sheltering down... can we all just release a big deep exhale, pop those corks off some bottles of wine and have a little pretend break?


I don't know bout you. But I'm seriously beyond ready for a good old-fashioned dinner party with loud voices and a bright, crowded kitchen and lots of good conversation going on...

Oh. And-of-course we have to have some delicious food, right? 

Well, this is the fun part. 
Because You are invited to participate in a Virtual Progressive Dinner Party organized by none other than everyone's favorite blogger-party-planners, Annie of Most Lovely Things, Cindy of Rough Luxe and MaryAnn of Classic Casual Home. And the best part is that you don't need to bring anything! Just yourself. We've got the food handled. 

This is the menu:

So welcome-and-please-come-in.
I'm just finishing up a few more items for my Cheese board. And this is where I should probably tell you that this course is going to be light on the 'charcuterie' because honestly, I'm not really a meat eater and since I like to pretend that everyone likes what I like, I decided at the grocery store to pick up mostly cheese and fruit. 

If you're curious, this is what I have on my platter:

Grocery list

Fresh Medool Dates

Goat Cheese

organic baby tomatoes
fresh basil and garlic
Fresh fruit: grapes and strawberries, cantaloupe
Stilton Blue Cheese
Marinated Fresh Mozzarella Balls-Trader Joes
french baquette
Crackers and Nuts: Roasted and Salted Truffle Marcona Almonds and Walnuts
Olive Tapenade
a few slices of prosciutto
Fig Jelly & honey

And here's what I made for you:

It's not your typical cheeseboard.

But I decided to make a different version since--to be honest--it's only Jim and I here right now, and let's see--how should I say this nicely...neither of us needs a lot of decadent cheese leftover in the here's what I did:

I brought home a fresh baguette with the idea of having brushetta on the board ...because it's a favorite of mine. 

(Ok, are you starting to see how I made my cheeseboard selections?)

I sliced it, rubbed it down with fresh garlic and baked one side in the oven. Turned it over and rubbed other side with garlic and finished baking on this side until it was nice and slightly toasted.
And that smell! Yum....

There's a cute little vegetable stand near my house where I buy the sweetest organic tomatoes.

At the last minute I saw this interesting video  
on Half Baked Harvest and I decided to switch from fresh tomatoes to roasted, so I popped this into the oven.

Roasted tomatoes, fresh garlic and basil drenched in olive oil and served next to marinated mozzarella balls and bread slices.
Olive tapenade on the side because it's so easy and yummy.

These fresh marinated mozzarella balls from Trader Joes, marinated in basil, herbs and olive oil are ranked in PopSugar's best cheeses from Trader Joes.

I'm a big fan of Caprese salad, made with great olive oil, and I'll often order one for my dinner, nothing better to me--than these flavors together.

Is this more of a California thing?

Side note: If you have to have toothpicks on the table I think putting them inside a vintage cordial glass is a cute touch.

Crispy prosciutto and cantaloupe touch of charcuterie on the board :)

Oh-here's a delicious old William Sonoma recipe that's always a hit with guests. And it's so simple to make.
 Stuffed Medjool dates with goat cheese.

Put a slit in each date. Remove pits. Fill with goat cheese.

Heat a small pan with a generous amount of olive oil and brown the bread crumbs. I prefer to use my favorite seasoned croutons (crushed of course) instead of plain bread crumbs for added flavor. 
When cool, dip each top of date into crumbs. Pre-heat oven at 375 degrees. 

Place dates on lightly oil baking dish, for 10-12 min until warmed through. Soooo decadent!

Is there anything better than fig jelly and Stilton blue cheese on warm slices of French bread?

Don't worry if you're not a fan there's some honey too, for a light drizzle.

I'm also happy making this my whole dinner. With my glass of wine of course. Are you a sweet and salty person too?

Well, I hope you enjoyed your visit here and I truly wish I could open my front door and have you standing right there. I'd just love to do this in person. 

But hopefully, I gave you a few ideas for your own cheese board.

And now it's time to check out all the delicious courses ahead:

Sheri Silver -White Bean Salad in Radicchio Leaves
Rough Luxe - Kale and Brussel Sprout Salad
Most Lovely Things- Caramelized Shallot Pasta
Stone Gable - Asparagus in Puff Pastry with Brie
Classic Casual Home- Lemon Tart w/Shortbread Crust and Berries

Thank you Cindy and MaryAnn and Annie for inviting me to host this party--it was such a fun idea.

And thank you everyone for stopping by today,


Friday, April 17, 2020

being a witness to your life

I've been wanting to ask you, "How are you doing?"

And no, I don't mean, Hi! how ya doing?---like in the old days. Before Covid-19.

I mean How-are-you....really

And specifically,

How are you handling all this uncertainty?

The other day I heard Bill Gates say that every morning he wakes up, he wonders if this is some kind of nightmare. Yes, Bill Gates, one of the wealthiest men in the world is watching the same heartbreaking stories unfolding all over the globe, and experiencing the same isolation from others as we are.

And despite being insulated from the daily worries of the average person, he admits to waking up with the same kind of disbelief we all have, at how swiftly we lost the busy lives we were all living only a few months ago.

The other day Jim and I walked to the beach and we both felt a bit stunned by the quiet solitude; on a popular SoCal beach during a April weekend that would typically be flooded with tanners and bikers and volleyball players, it was mostly empty. And we were astonished to have this majestic lushness all to ourselves.

But in that same moment, we felt the strangeness of these times.

Suddenly in the blue-green expansiveness of the ocean, we could see for miles, the gray distinct outlines of distant ships and the Catalina Island emerging like a crusty sea creature against a clean blue sky.

And it hit me. Is anyone else seeing the irony in this surprising windfall of glorious pollution-free air, as a result of this deadly virus? 

I don't know why this seems so profound to me.

But suddenly, courtesy of Mother Nature, we each have the chance to see what's right in front of us with a renewed clarity --both literally as a result of the lack of toxic pollutants in the atmosphere but also metaphorically--because of the sudden PAUSE we're all experiencing together.

A deep, collective pause. An interruption from our frenetic-paced lives in order to save ourselves and our fellow man. But like the sudden lifting of the smoggy clouds, we've also been offered a clearer, unobstructed view of ourselves too, and this life we've been busy creating.

Are you feeling it too? That layer of uncertainty that's settled over our days like a global fog, connecting us to distant lands. 

Do you feel that strangeness in the air when you go outside? 

I keep thinking it has something to do with living without the skin-to-skin contact with other humans. It's surreal, this kind of detachment. Don't you agree?

Yes, these are unprecedented times. But I also see what appears to be a unifying time in our history--certainly in our own lives--because we're all experiencing the same kinds of losses right now. 

Think about that.

We're all having the same worries and questions about our jobs and finances and our plans for the future. 

Can you think of another time when we'll be able to look into the eyes of strangers and recognize our Self?

Recently, I was listening to a spiritual discussion about the layer of fear that is covering the globe right now and I see that fear when I look down the grocery store aisle and find empty shelves where the paper towels, toilet paper and canned goods usually are, and I can feel how afraid people were in that moment, the way they grabbed their goods and turned away, and how having a perspective that sees things in scarcity as opposed to abundance, might intensify these worries even more.

And it makes me feel compassion. Being a type-A control person is a common mask for our fears and anxieties and I know both those worlds well. But that's a post for another day.

During this global pandemic I prefer to see the possibilities for what the inherently-wise grade-schooler calls, a do-over.

I like to think of it has Humanity having a chance for a fresh start. Only this time, without so many fuck-ups  crazy distractions from what really matters, like how we care for our planet and our animals and people who may look different from us. 

Except of course, humanity is Me. And you. And everyone else. And any transformation has to involve all of us collectively becoming more self-aware. 

And I believe that comes from slowing down. And noticing things. 

The other evening Jim and I were walking Stella when we saw a big, burly man come out of the dark branches of a tree and cross the street toward us. He was talking but we couldn't hear him, and our first reaction was caution. 

Then as he moved closer we heard him joke about Stella and the dog barking inside the house we had just passed. 

"Yeah. I gotta go help Mary'" he said, pointing to her house as he walked by us, "she's not getting around too good and her dog might need to go outside." 

As we waved and said a few friendly words to him, we heard him yell back from the sidewalk and lift his shoulders, with both palms out, 

 "Hey. Gotta help our neighbors, right?"

I don't know why. Maybe my insides are more raw and exposed after losing Patrick. But I found something so endearing about his clumsy approach to us in the dark and his kindhearted intentions that I got tears in my eyes. It was a moment out of dystopian novel when the bad guy is really the hero all along.

These are the moments that make me realize, I never want to forget certain parts of this self-quarantine, not because it's a good thing of course-- but because there's truth and love being exposed amid all this fear and sickness.

I know you're seeing it too.

It's the reason I flinch at some of the blog posts on my feed lately. 

Look, if I'm lucky enough to remain healthy, I'm all about expressing creativity.  But one thing I don't want is for this sheltering period to be remembered only as some manic rush to fill up every waking moment with incessant cleaning projects or organizing every room in my house, or going from one project to another as if there's some deadline to be met. 

For me, that feels like a version of distracting myself from important feelings.

But hey, just my opinion. Catastrophic loss has taught me I know nothing. Although I will say this. 

The older I get, the one thing I'm learning is that life is a constant balance of Being and Doing. And the only way I know how to get through difficult times in my life is by being fully present. 

Which is the opposite of running away from pain, right? 

Does it sound crazy? Because since September 2018, I've never experienced more suffering and heartache. But this is my life and I don't want to miss out on any of it, you know what I'm saying? I like to think of it as being a witness to my whole life. And that means--not just the good parts. 

Consider this. If we don't care enough to value what we're going through, who else will? Right?


Back to you my friend.

How are you doing?

  • How are you handling all of these questions and loss of control?
  • What layers are you shedding lately?
  • Have you lost anyone to Covid-19?
  • Did you know that losses--even little ones--can bring about mourning?



Thursday, April 2, 2020

Blue and White Linen Closet: My latest DIY

Hello my friend. Can I tell you something personal?

I had a hard time typing out the title for this post. 

I worry that it sounds shallow and that it conveys a staggering insensitivity about all the deaths happening right now around the world. Especially after I got an email from a dear friend in Italy who let me know that Italy has been going through hell.

Can we all agree that there is profound strangeness about life right now?

Even if Covid-19 hasn't reached your life in a personal way yet, I think we all feel connected to this crisis by the ominous drip of daily news that's reminding us of our humanity. Our connection to each other as loving citizens, irregardless of race or political party or any of the other labels that separate us in normal times. 

Personally, when I see all these health care professionals on the front lines overworked and risking their lives on our behalf, it's hard. There's a feeling of being stuck on the sidelines, of wanting to help them is some way. 

And yet--at least right now--the biggest impact we can have is to stay home and isolate ourselves which is the opposite of what we do in times of crisis which is, seek out people who make us feel safe and connected and yes, useful.

See what I mean? 
It's a strange--but very serious time. As of this morning--- experts are telling us the next few weeks are critical. What we do today will literally have a direct effect on how many people die out there in our community. 

It's hard to fathom, right?

But then I got this email that reminded me of something else that's also important right now. Taking care of our spirit. Making time for those things that replenish us, for the sake our emotional health. And for me--- this means tapping into my creative side to find peaceful distractions. 

This was from Hometalk, reminding me of a long ago DIY post that had apparently gotten some views. And I thought--hey, maybe it's time to share another DIY post, you a way of spreading a few cheerful vibes out into the world. 

Don't we all love a good Before and After? So here it goes.

This is a project I started in January when I was really struggling and lucky I remembered to take a few pictures for you.

So here's the BEFORE picture of my linen closet.

Michael says I should have taken a 'real' BEFORE picture when the floor was full of plastic bins and you could barely get inside 
(ah..maybe because a certain hoarder of unmatched towels and old bed linens was in charge)

But she's better now.

And here it is dark and empty.

Odd wires coming from the walls. No baseboards but we did have the wood flooring extended inside here when we moved in.

Wallpaper vs. Stencil

My first plan was to try a peel and stick wallpaper mostly because I wasn't in the mood to paint, but also because I was seeing some great choices out there. 

But in the end I was worried about the stucco finish on our walls being a problem. And I didn't want to go through all that work, only to have it drooping in spots.

So I ordered this very cool Batik stencil and decided to use two shades of blue on the pattern, and another shade of blue on the shelves.

I repainted the whole space a bright white. Installed baseboards. And painted the shelves this sapphire blue.

 At this point Jim popped his head in and thought I was done.
(Silly man)

Once I got started I didn't want to stop for pictures. But stenciling is pretty basic. Once you line the pattern up, taping it in place is the key. After that you just dab dab dab that paint on.

The part of the project when you think,
 "it's all in the details"

I ordered some gold French style upholstery nails from Amazon. 

Finally on the second trip to Home Depot I found a drill bit that was the right teeny-weeny size for the nail.

If you're curious, here's the drill gun I use.

I drilled holes into the front of the shelves.

Then I used a hammer to pop them gently into the holes.

Ta daaaaa

Because the pattern was so busy I stopped at the ceiling.

 And yes, I decided to purge all my colored towels and go with white from here out.

I ordered this quilted floral ironing board cover from Etsy (#StandWithSmall) and Jim hung it on the wall.
And as you can see, I still haven't repainted the closet doors and put them back on yet. So that's a peek at my bathroom.

Drum roll please. One last time...



And that's it.

I sure hope you enjoyed seeing my little closet project and most importantly, that it got your mind off the sober reality we're all facing now. 

We're all in this together friends. 

But we have to stay home for awhile. That's all. And it's such an easy sacrifice compared to all those health workers who are risking their lives for us every day.

We got this.

Sending you a virtual hug glass of wine right now,



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