Friday, February 19, 2010

Valentine's Day Dinner

I admire people who brave the crowds and venture out to eat on Valentine's Day. I am not one of them. For the past few years, I've prepared dinner for Kalon on the 14th, and then he takes me out later in the week. It's a tradition I hope to continue for a very long time! Here is our rustic, very low key Valentine's dinner:

Cutting the fettucine. I love my KitchenAid pasta roller!

Creamy carbonara sauce

Aren't steamed asparagus beautiful?

I think you have to serve a chocolate dessert on Valentine's day. These individual lava cakes are so easy to make and bake in eight minutes.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day! I hope you all have something fun and romantic planned. I realize not everyone enjoys this "Hallmark holiday", but I've always loved it! When I was little, I looked forward to cards from mom and flowers from dad. And, when I was older, silly gifts and gestures from boyfriends made me feel special. Today Kalon and I set aside work and schedules to just enjoy each other's company.

I love making handmade cards, especially Valentines for my friends and family. Here is the one I sent out this year:

I used my Cricut machine to cut the circles for the front, and then stamped the heart design in the center.

I used the Valentine as an opportunity to debut the logo for my new company, "Little Partridge". More information on that to come!

Friday, February 5, 2010

One Small Step

When I look at the sprawling backyard in our new home, I choose to see the future. The future grass is green and without weeds. The future fruit trees provide shade and abundance. And the future flower beds are lush and colorful. In reality, the yard needs some love. I'm not sure the last owners did a thing besides water, and, as a result, there are about a million weeds that need eradicating. In order to create a good environment for our future garden, we'll be doing this by hand, without chemicals. It's hard work but I don't mind at all, because all I see is the future.

This is the very first cleared section of flower beds! After pulling out all of the weeds and roots, I worked compost into the soil. Until I'm ready to plant, I'll protect the surface from new seedlings with a water permeable barrier and mulch. The little stick in coming out of the mulch is our fig tree, a cutting from the Morris fig tree in San Clemente. Thank you to the city of Oceanside for providing unlimited free compost and mulch to residents!

I didn't take a "before" picture of the exact spot we cleared, but the entire perimeter of the yard looks similar to this. Not for long!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Winter Menu #5

I've started a new tradition where once a month I cook a complete meal from the Martha Stewart's Dinner at Home cookbook. I can't say enough how much I adore this book. I love how it is based on seasonal ingredients; there are 52 menus, 13 each for spring, summer, fall and winter. Each four-course meal can be prepared from scratch in about one hour. The photographs (there is a picture for every dish) are beautiful, emphasizing the freshness of the key ingredients. It doesn't hurt that my copy is signed by Martha herself!

By no means is it a perfect cookbook. Sure, the meal takes an hour to prepare - if you have superior knife skills and everything is pre-washed, peeled and chopped. And since each menu calls for at least a few unique ingredients (what, you don't have Bosc pears just sitting in your pantry right now?), dinner at home can get expensive. This is why I'm choosing to use this cookbook as a special treat - a perfect monthly tradition.

Here are the results from my first dinner of 2010 - Winter Menu #5

Artichokes on Toast: love when raw garlic melts into hot toast

Wilted Chicory Salad: delicious, even though I forgot the splash of balsamic vinegar at the end

Spaghetti with Clams: is pasta con vongole ever a bad idea? These were the biggest little neck clams I'd ever seen!

Grapefruit in Moscato: I definitely need to work on my segmenting skills! But it was still a sweet and bubbly end to the meal.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Meg's Baby Shower

Last weekend I hosted my first ever baby shower! My girlfriend Meg was the guest of honor, as she will be debuting baby Whitney any day now. We had about a dozen girls over the house, while the boys played golf in Oceanside.

I used my new Cricut machine for the first time to create the personalized banner. I've wanted one for the last several years, and I finally broke down and made the investment. It works wonderfully, and I'm sure you'll be seeing many Cricut creations from me in the future!

Meg requested my chocolate butterfly cupcakes for dessert. They are actually quite simple to make. The wings are hand-piped on to wax paper, then propped up on M&M's.

Here is my twist on onesie decorating (I wanted to improve on the traditional puff-paint and glitter combo). Everyone chose their favorite template to trace and cut out. We then adhered the shapes with iron-on fusing. They looked so beautiful displayed around the dining room!

It was a pleasure to host Meg's shower. I can't wait to meet baby Whitney!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! Well, it is a few weeks late, but today truly feels like January 1st. I'm back in California and my own house after an amazing month visiting Colorado and Mexico. A new year and a new decade set the perfect stage for inspiration, organization, and resolutions. I've been toying with the idea of starting a blog for quite some time, but something else has always jumped in the way. My biggest roadblock was myself, constantly forcing a focus on only one topic. Do I want to write about cooking? Travel? Crafts and projects? Healthy living? On the plane back from Denver I realized I didn't have to choose. I have many passions, and together they make me a well-rounded person. I've decided to write about all of them.

Not too long ago my sister and brother started calling me "Jessica Stewart", especially when my ideas border on the grandiose. I take the teasing as a compliment, because few people will live life with as much enthusiasm and inspiration to others as Martha. My hope is that through this blog, I can focus some of my many ideas and projects into completed Good Things that can be shared with you, con amore.