Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Summer Chowder

We are really in the sweet spot of summer, when the corn is sweet, and squash and tomatoes are ripe and full of flavor.  Here's a pretty summer chowder chalk full of everything summer with a simple corn stock, salty Canadian bacon and sweet shrimp.

Summer Corn Chowder
6 servings

5 Ears of corn
12 cups water
2 Small zucchini or other summer squash, diced
2 4 small potatoes(yukon gold, white), chopped
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
3 slices Canadian bacon, diced
1 lb medium uncooked, deveined shrimp, chopped into 1" pieces
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tbsp peppercorns
1/4 fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and Coarse pepper

Shave the uncooked corn from the cob, reserving kernels in a bowl, and place the cobs into a pot with the water, 2 of the 4 potatoes, the celery, 1/2 of the onion, thyme sprigs, peppercorns and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat, and simmer for about 45 minutes. 

While the stock is building, warm olive oil over medium flame in a large saute pan or cast iron skillet. Add in the remaining potatoes, zucchini, other half of onion, garlic, and Canadian bacon. Saute until onions become translucent and potatoes begin to soften.  Add in the corn kernels, and ladle in two cups of stock (you may wish to strain the whole ingredients from the broth). Simmer in the pan until liquid begins to reduce, stirring frequently.  Add in two more cups of stock, reduce heat to medium, and cover for 15 minutes.  Add in shrimp, folding into the chowder, adding in another 2 cups of stock.  Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes until shrimp is pink and plump.  

Portion into bowls and garnish with cilantro and tomatoes, sea salt and red pepper flakes.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Sticks and Stones

You've got to tear it down to build it up.  This has been my mantra for the last few months, and it applies to more than just my new house.  I've taken a break from regular blogging to focus more on the redesign of our top floor and outside space, and to work on the next big thing for Poppy Haus, something I'll be announcing very soon... Another reason I've backed off is that since moving here I've struggled to find a way to decorate. It seems pointless when I know that so many of the walls will be coming down. I hesitate to paint, because I want to see the new space before deciding on colors. I want this new home to feel open, and I want to bring the outside in. I've found myself collecting little bits of inspiration and putting them in bowls and jars strewn about the house. Just last weekend when we were hiking in the Russian River, I gathered a bunch of lichen covered sticks that somehow made their way here. I love having flora tucked on bookshelves, pinned to the walls, mingling with books and art. So for now I'm keeping it simple and white, and I'm letting the plants take over while I work it out. And today I'm sharing a little ditty on how to make an air plant wall piece from some freshly gathered lichen covered sticks. xo

Spritz the air plants with water once a week to keep them happy...

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Yard Part 3- People with Dark Houses

Over the next few months we'll be knee deep into the exterior projects.  First off we'll be replacing the deck off the back of the house, a major undertaking, it will wrap around the side of the house and connect to the front yard gate, allowing us to bypass the existing stairs which are dangerous and pretty ugly. I'll be sharing that project when it begins in a couple of weeks, but for now, I need some advice.  After the deck goes up the painters come in, and I need to make some decisions.  We're going dark, really dark, I want the house to recede and pop at the same time. Here are the inspiration photos ranging from dull gray to navy to almost black (believe me, I'd paint it black if I wasn't afraid of the neighbors). I like the hint of blue that you see in many of the options.  Let me know which is your favorite.  I'll post another before picture of the current paint job at the end.

Here's our house, new fence, we'll be losing the shutters, and the color blocking...

And here are my favorites from the Benjamin Moore color decks. 

 All photos sourced from Houzz , with the exception of the photo of my house and the swatches.

Monday, June 30, 2014

What Makes Them Extraordinary

Every parent knows those little things about their child that make them extraordinary.  I'm no exception, but I usually don't talk about that kind of thing on my blog. Today I'm indulging my mama side and I'm going to share with you a few secrets about why, in fact, my boys are extraordinary. They are different from each other, but they share something very profound in common, the courage to get out there and truly live life.

For Wylie it's his ability to connect with any living being around him. He looks deeply into peoples eyes and tells them everything he knows.  He asks lots of questions.  He likes to be close, leaning up against you close.  When he laughs you can see all of his teeth, and his eyes squint closed, and the freckles on his nose dance.  He is quite simply full of light, and he has been since the day we met him.  Because of this people are magnetically attracted to him.  He is smart as a whip, and kind, and he brings out in other kids what comes so easily to him, a confidence and ease that tells the world they have a friend...

And Jasper. He is effusive, confident, and reserved all at once. He will try hard at everything. He puts himself out there. He is almost refined... he sits with one leg crossed over the other in JFK repose while watching cartoons. He eats the most incredible things for a person so young...he slurps oysters, eats daring sushi, game meat, Brussels sprouts, and prefers coconut water and dark chocolate. He is as complicated as his palate and he always has been, since the moment we met him. He is emotionally charged, sporty, and dramatic. He loves a stage, and he loves quiet time alone. His favorite person is Wylie. And at 8 years old, he still climbs into bed with us most mornings to cuddle. 

I'm letting you in on their extraordinary lives, as part of an amazing campaign by Stanford Children’s Health and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. Stanford Children’s Health and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford has been the top-ranked children’s hospital in Northern California for over a decade, and are the largest Bay Area healthcare provider with an exclusive focus on children and expectant women. They know that what makes your kid extraordinary isn’t just the epic stuff. It’s the little things. The small moments that maybe only you see — and quietly celebrate every day.

Did you click on the boys names to see the special videos I made for each of them? Your kids are extraordinary too. Show them how much you enjoy every moment together by creating a special video of your own!

And thank you for indulging me today...

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Win This Art Collection!

The gang is back together for another round of 14 days of Love. For this summer edition I curated a little art collection inspired by the flowers and sky in summertime. The work is by some of my absolute favorites and I am going to give it all away to one lucky reader! Enter to win below. Here's a little bit more about the artists in the collection...

The beautiful green print in the middle is called "Spring Dress" by the amazing Clare Elsaesser. You've no doubt seen her work, often featuring a girl turned away, sometimes draped in flowers. When I saw this one I fell in love. 
Print size 16x20

The endless sky of blues is a print called "Sundown" by modern impressionist painter Emily Jeffords.  I met Emily last year and was immediately captivated by her work. It's so dreamy and soothing. Emily works out of the White Whale Studios in Greenville South Carolina, alongside her  two little girls, painting in oil on canvas., and follow her lovely instagram feed @emily_jeffords. 
Print size 11x14

The collection also has two originals from my good friend Jennifer Daily, who makes the most striking small scale paintings.  I somehow hoodwinked her into giving away a beautiful floral impressionistic still life, and an abstract. You can see more of her tiny paintings in her etsy shop. 
Paintings (2) size 6x6

a Rafflecopter giveaway

June 22 Dream Green DIY - 8 B by Brandie Plates of Choice ($250 Value)CLOSED

June 23  Design Improvised - $200 Home Decorator's Gift Card CLOSED

June 24 Handmade Mood - Instax Camera and Film CLOSED

June 25 Squirrelly Minds - $150 Wayfair Giftcard CLOSED

June 28 Jade and Fern - 2 Simple Peace Bags, ($120 value)

June 29 Everyday Reading - $100 Wrenn Jewelry Giveaway

July 1 Poppy Haus - Curated Art Wall from: Emily JeffordsClare Elsaesser, and Jennifer Daily (4 pieces valued at $350)

July 2 A Girl Named PJ - Lo & Sons Catalina weekender ($120 value) 

July 3 The Flair Exchange - $100 gift card to Pier One Imports

July 4 Melissa Creates - Prize Package including products from Shop Melissa Creates and a Target Gift Card (total value of $100)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Front Yard- Part 2

I thought I'd give a little update on our front yard project.  We've made some serious headway!  Gone is the icky chain link fence, and dead grass patch, we've replaced it with drought resistant landscaping and a set of new side fences. Remember this?

Granted it looks extra bad, because I took the before picture on an overcast day, but really, it was sad even in the sunshine.  We hired a landscaper to come in and they knocked it out in 3 days. We opted to have the yard done by a pro this time for the sake of time and ease, and also to make sure it was done right, as we needed to install irrigation and put in a lot of plants. Now that we have a a grasp on landscaping and access to the soil vendor, we plan to work on the massive backyard ourselves over the next few years. But in three days here's how they did it:

I LOVE the fences.  They did exactly what I hoped they would do. The horizontal slats lengthen the the line of the house, and add privacy to the backyard.  I'm planning on letting them gray out naturally, then sealing them when they get to the right hue. The garden is designed to be big and wild, low maintenance and drought tolerant. We planted in groupings, varying in height and shape to give it a truly natural look. The landscape cowboy, Owen, has assured me that the plants will double in size in the next year, and be full grown in 2 seasons. All of those low lying puffs of chartreuse lemon and lavender thyme will spread along the path to soften the lines and cover the vineyard mulch.  The feather grasses will shoot up and create a natural border, the artichoke will fruit, the lavender, yarrow and grasses will start to dome and fill out, and the olive bushes will form a soft hedge. Most importantly, the Japanese maple will get taller and fuller to block our neighbor's side yard. I'm incredibly impatient watching plants grow, so I'm glad we moved on this project first. 

We still have a lot to do, but the exterior already looks so much better.  Right now I'm focusing on switching out the outdated finishes like the mailbox and the house number, and I'm on the hunt for the perfect wall sconces.  I want the house to feel clean and modern, but it must also blend well with the other houses on our street, because we are on the curve of a cul-de-sac and therefore a bit more exposed in the front. As we only have one house number I went big, no Neutra numbers for me. Both pieces are from CB2, the house number is substantial at 7.5" tall in modern Arial font, and only cost $10. Like Neutra numbers it's made from polished aluminum, but it's got some texture to it, which I like. The mailbox is heavy duty, made from powder coated iron, with exposed welding lines. I like the idea of doing mixed metals outside to keep it casual.

The next big project is painting.  Adam and I evaluated how much time and effort it would take to paint this place ourselves and had to admit that it wouldn't be worth it.  I've met with a few local painters and we've hired one to come do the honors late July/early August.  Stay tuned for the great color debate.  Let's just say, it's going to be deep and dark, to make the garden pop and the house recede.  The weird color blocking is going away, as are the out of proportion decorative shutters. 

I'll leave you with a pretty picture of my favorite flower in the garden, Romneya, a poppy varietal which grows several feet high in a grove of paper petals and pom poms. When I pull up to our house and see it, I smile. Grow garden, grow.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Le Parker

If you've been reading this blog over the years then you know I have a fondness for The Parker in Palm Springs.  There's just something a little magical about it for me, as if Wes Anderson and Jonathan Adler got together and had a hotel. It's a place that is dedicated to the art of  lounging, decked out a bit like Megan Draper's Laurel Canyon home, a mix of boho textiles, mid century furnishings and amazing mood lighting. This past weekend I finally got to spend a few days on hotel grounds to really take it in when we celebrated our 10 year anniversary. The magic of The Parker is the way its cut into several different secret environments, paths lined with overgrown mimosa trees, palms and grasses carve out hidden passages to swaying fields of hammocks and circles of butterfly chairs. Inside it's cut into conversational spaces framed by hanging rattan seating and womb chair nooks. At night it is enchanted, lamp lit and mysterious. I took notes. Lots of notes.  We have our own groovy project to design, and an ever growing collection of vintage chairs, and lamps to weave into the mix.  Now if I could just get my hands on a wall hanging like this...

Look at all this lighting.  I'm such a sucker for a dimly lit room. Which reminds me of this hilarious essay by David Sedaris.  

I'm also a sucker for this guy.  Happy Anniversary Adam Jennings, you handsome devil.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Decade Later

Last week Adam and I celebrated our ten year wedding anniversary.  It hardly seems possible that a decade has gone by since we gathered our family and friends together in a redwood grove in Berkeley and traded vows and rings. Yet here we are. He with silver in his hair, and I with a little more laugh in my lines. We have our two wild haired boys, our now 15 year old cat, and the shelter and promise of our new home. As it turns out, a lot can happen in ten years. We managed to sneak away for a long relaxing weekend in Palm Springs, where we slept in, laid by the pool, and ate late night dinners, but before we left we celebrated with the boys.  At our wedding Adam and I served a family style paella at each table, so we thought it would be the perfect way to recreate the memory. As we sat together in our new backyard, pink peonies on the table like my bouquet, telling bad knock knock jokes, squabbling, sneaking kisses, talking about the big day, we ate our wedding food; our family complete.  


I shared a paella a few years ago, here's an updated recipe using little neck clams and a fish stock for cooking. Garnished with green olives for a salty bite, I like this version for it's true seafood flavor, and upping the saffron gives a stronger mineral taste. A chilly Albarino is the perfect wine pairing.

Wedding Paella

12 oz linguisa, cut into 1/2" slices
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 cups arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
5 cups fish stock (found in frozen section at whole foods)
1 tbsp paprika (smokey spanish variety)
1/2 tsp saffron threads, crumbled
Salt and pepper
8 oz boned, skinned firm white fish (halibut) 
1 lb shelled, deveined shrimp, tails on
8 oz clams, soaked and rinsed, in their shells  

12 cup pitted green olives, cut in half
Lemon wedges 

1. In a 15" paella pan or cast iron skillet (with at least 2 1/4" tall sides) over high heat, turn sausages occasionally until browned on both sides.

2. Reduce heat to medium-high and add olive oil to pan; when hot, add onion, bell pepper and garlic and stir often until onion is limp.  Add rice and stir until it begins to turn opaque, 2-3 minutes.  Stir in wine, fish stock, paprika, and saffron.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered, stirring once of twice, until rice is almost tender to bite, 15-18 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

3. Meanwhile, rinse and drain fish and shrimp; cut fish into 1" pieces, scrub soaked clams, discarding any gaping ones that don't close when you tap their shells.

4. Gently stir olives, fish, shrimp and sausages into rice mixture; arrange clams on top.  Cover pan with foil or lid and cook until the rice is tender to bite, fish and shrimp are opaque but still moist looking in center of thickest part, and mussel shells have popped, about 7-8 minutes. Garnish with lemon wedges.

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