farmstand green beans & polenta*

This is a recipe I adapted from Skinny Bitch in the Kitch, one of my favorite vegan cookbooks. There are only 6 ingredients and it's super easy. The original recipe has you making your own polenta but Trader Joes sells a delicious organic version that cuts a lot of time off making this dish. Crusty french bread and a nice glass of red wine go really well with this.
A big bunch of organic green beans cleaned and prepped
1 organic red pepper diced
1/2 onion
2 vegan Italian style sausages cut into slices (I like TJ's brand)
1-2 cloves chopped garlic
1 pkg organic polenta
On a cast iron skillet or other heavy pan, brush lightly with olive oil and place sliced polenta on to brown. Polenta doesn't brown easily so do this step first and try to get as much color on the polenta as possible.
In another saute pan, begin browning the onion, pepper, garlic, green beans, s&p and sausage in olive oil. I will usually cover the pan in order for the veggies to steam a bit. Remove the cover and let them get good and crispy. When the polenta is as crispy as you can get it and the veggies are done place 3 slices of the polenta on a plate and arrange the veggies on top. Drizzle with a good balsamic vinegar.
*not a single animal was harmed in the making of this dish.

simply stopping shopping day 7

Whew! One week down. The reason I think this was such a hard week for me was because it hit me that maybe I should have gotten a few things before I started this experiment. Besides wanting a cute, new summer purse this week I also wanted a new white canvas market umbrella for the garden and while I was at it, a couple of summer lounge chairs/chaises. And new plants, I didn't think of those. Anyways, the week is over and I think I've put it all in perspective. For instance, I DO NOT need a new summer purse, my current red market umbrella will be fine and I am going to divide my perennials instead of buying new plants. I did find myself trying to figure out clever ways to acquire things w/o actually purchasing them myself. None of the ideas I came up with set well with me so I just rode out the feelings and they passed. I really feel a lot better today. Thanks for all your encouragement.

So on to the picture above. Maryann at Verbena Cottage and Jamilyn at Living it at Home have both tagged me with the same challenge. I'm to show my 6th picture that I ever posted. I think this picture is apropos for what's going on in my life right now. I entitled the post "a small indulgence." It's a photo of a wonderfully scented lemon verbena soap from Trader Joes that cost $4. This would be allowed in my shopping experience because soap is a necessity and it is not very expensive. Try it, it's perfect for your summer bathroom.
I'm supposed to tag 10 more bloggers with this challenge. The ten I've chosen inspire me to be a better blogger and I'd be interested to see your 6th photo and why you chose it.
1. A Country Farmhouse
2. Faux Fuchsia
3. Privilege
4. Semi-expat
5. Hostess of the Humble Bungalow
6. Windlost
7. An Urban Cottage
8. The Daily Connoisseur
9. My Yellow House
10. 65th Avenue
Lastly, if I am on your blog list and you are not on mine, please let me know. I'd like to update mine! Thanks.

what's better?

the anticipation?

or the event?

Honestly, I'm torn.


simply stopping shopping day 4

I was on Emersonmade last night and found myself wanting everything. Arghhh. Especially one of these. It's only day 4. This may be harder than I thought.
I got a couple of emails about how I prepared for this experience. One, I did not stock up on anything. I didn't go out on a shopping binge to get shopping out of my system. I don't think that would be have been possible. Two, I'm not doing this to get out of credit card or any other kind of debt. We accomplished that a while ago. Although I'm sure this would be a great way to do that. I will be happy to answer any other questions you have.


simply stopping shopping

Blue & white ginger jar recently found in basement

Lilac branches from the garden

Last weekend we cleaned out our small basement. I was mortified by the amount of stuff we had. It seems that if I have a place to put things - I will. You know my house is small. I have only one closet. I have a couple of shelves in the laundry room for towels and necessities. So my basement is where things wind up. But where did all this stuff come from and why have I kept it? I guess I like to shop more than I like to admit. Recently after a spring cleaning day I drove to PB and picked up a couple of pillow covers for the living room. Not a big deal really, but after cleaning out the basement I found at least 2 dozen pillow covers AND fabric to make at least a dozen more. I found dozens of vases, knickknacks and the like comfortably sitting in Rubbermaid tubs. I guess I couldn't let these things go when we moved here because they either had sentiment attached to them or they cost too much. There was also a big container that had clothes and shoes in it that I had forgotten about. So after a deep purge to charity the only things remaining in the basement are ski clothes, sporting equipment, family photo albums and garden tools. I kept one container with fabric for future projects and a few pillow covers that I know I will use again. So this brings me to the question, "when is enough, enough?" I know in my head I already have enough and truly do not want any more stuff around me. I will continue to take the 100 items challenge (removing 100 items a month from your home) and as of today I will be embarking on a "simply stopping shopping" experience. The rules for this experience are as follows:
1. No shopping for non-essentials for one year

2. No new clothes, handbags, shoes, jewelery

3. Nothing new for the house (knickknacks, kitchen tools, accessories, etc.)

4. No new beauty items (I have a ton of unused product b/c I work for Aveda)

5. Purchasing gifts for others will be allowed

What I hope to gain from this experience is a new appreciation for all I have, and a way to stop looking outside myself for happiness. I know this is not a new experiment. Lots of other people have done this and written about it. I don't consider myself a minimalist. And I'm not trying to get my belongings down to only a few so that I am free to travel whenever, wherever. I just want to see what it would be like to use what I have and see how creative I can get when I do feel that I need something. So wish me luck and maybe even join me!


garden chores

Mowing, feeding, raking, looking for nuts

Happy Weekend!

vanishing threshold

"When you look out the window of your home, at your garden (vanishing threshold), does it steal your heart?"

The poor quality of the interior shot illuminated my Vanishing Threshold! I read Tara Dillards blog every chance I can get. She talks a lot about the Vanishing Threshold. A term she coined to describe the lack of boundaries between the inside of your home and the outside garden. Because my house is on such a high foundation it has been difficult for me to capture that on film. But the other day I did! The tree/shrub is a huge Japanese Photenia that explodes in huge white flowers each spring. The white interior and white flowers creates my Vanishing Threshold.

Edited Note: I forgot to mention the beautiful roses came from #3 son and his beautiful girlfriend!



Our cottage is across the street from a 39 acre citrus and botanical garden known as Prospect Park.

The aroma from the orange blossoms is very intense this time of year.

When I open the front door the whole house is infused with this heavenly scent.

You can see our cottage peeking through the groves.


tea and cherry blossoms

Yesterday I was invited for tea. I got there early to take pictures to share with you and take you on a virtual tea party. You know my friend Melissa. This is how she does tea...

The cherry blossom tree is spectacular! She dressed it with an old chandelier and paper lanterns.

Have a seat

Can you hear the birds singing? They were.

The table is nestled amid freshly blooming lilacs, roses and fragrant rosemary

The table is dressed in thrifted linens and vintage tea cups

Her potting bench in the background

A beautiful afternoon


pb mansion

my first day

Who knew that anyone would find this so fact about my life so fascinating. Especially FF .
It was 1996 and I was getting ready to graduate from culinary school, I was chosen by my instructors to create the chocolate centerpieces for the Chef of the Year awards banquet held every year in Beverly Hills. They were quite happy with the way the centerpieces came out so I was invited to attend the event. When the event was over and I was leaving, I was in the elevator with a gentleman that said he really liked what I had done and wondered if I would like to come work for him. I honestly thought this was a pick-up line. He handed me his card and I thanked him. When I got to my car and read it I could hardly believe it. It read William Carter, Executive Chef, Playboy Mansion. Well, I was in a state of shock. I could hardly sleep that night. So the next day at school I gave the card to my instructor and he called and arranged the whole thing. I can tell you that he was probably more excited than I was.

the grotto

I was a hired as a banquet chef. A lot of very fancy charity functions are held at the PB mansion throughout the year. Several hundred people attend these events. They are usually at least $1k per person events. So they are a big deal. I usually had to pass hors doeurves after having worked in the kitchen all day long. I was always happy to do this because I got to see lots of movie stars and politicians. It was a lot of fun. None of the male chefs did this. While I was there, there was only one other woman chef. She was a pastry chef who just plated pre-made desserts. My duties regularly included marking meat (putting grill marks on so it could be baked off later) and trimming vegetables. The boxes of veggies were stacked as tall as me. Basically I would do whatever needed to be done. I never made HH's personal meals. I did see them be made. Very, very bland. Canned soups & sandwiches. Every afternoon at 3 he came into the kitchen (in black silk pj's) for cookies. He rarely made eye contact with anyone. The young male chefs worshipped him. Chef Carter knew that I was interested in starting my own catering business so he was always giving me work that aligned with that effort. He is an exacting chef and extremely particular about the quality of food he puts out. No fruit or vegetables could have even the slightest bruise. It was all top, top quality. Surprisingly the buffet tables were very simple. Always pink tablecloths with a very beautiful but simple menu. Everything is rented, all the way down to the silverware. Everyone wants a piece of the PB mansion for a souvenir. I thought menus and centerpieces would be very elaborate, but they never were. Always the very best but simple. I still try to create menus like this. He taught me that it's more important to do a few dishes very well instead of a bunch that are just so-so. That always stuck with me. He was extremely generous in sharing his knowledge. It was a fascinating experience working there. Huge, exotic birds just walk around the grounds like nothing. I would round a corner and there would be a couple of them and they always scared me. I did go in the zoo. Crazy. Also the grotto, even crazier. I saw and learned a lot. When I was ready to start my own business, I was so excited to tell potential clients where my experience was. But a lot of customers were not impressed. Quite a few said, "yuck!" So I really just excluded it from my speech/pitch. I catered for about ten years and quit before my back broke in two. I became an esthetician thinking it would be easier on my back but I was wrong about that. So there you have it, my year at the Playboy Mansion.

The newlywed diaries

my mailbox

Jennifer at The Newlywed Diaries sent me a message saying she had found pictures of my house on the internet and that her readers led her to me. She did a little profile on my cottage and I am so flattered by her comments about my house. She really nailed my decorating aesthetic without even knowing me. Her blog is fantastic! You must go see what she and her husband Wes are doing over there. Thank you again Jennifer.

the perfect table

Can you love a table? Is that just about the most shallow thing you have ever heard? I don't know the answer to the second question but I admit that I LOVE this little table. It is perfect for this little house. I bought it in the beautiful little town of Encinitas from Melissa of Seagrass Interiors who works at a darling shop called The Rustic Rooster. She is just about the sweetest thing ever. She told us where to eat, shop and even gave us directions to her amazing house that was built by Charlie Chaplin in the 1920's. Go visit her blog and and see where she works.

The Rustic Rooster has a strong Ralph Lauren/beachy feel. Gorgeous.

This is Melissa's house from Seagrass Interiors. You can't tell from the pic but looking through the windows all you see is ocean on the other side!
Edited Note: The little black table cost $150.
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