Saturday, March 31, 2012

When Chocolate is a Passion

Yesterday I went back to grocery-shop at Epicure Imports, the gourmet-French-food warehouse. Located in the heart of gritty North Hollywood, Epicure opens its doors to the public a couple times a year. This time Lovely Daughter #1 came with me. She's a very good cook and experienced foodie, so I knew she'd love the place.

The pattern is now becoming familiar: Declare to your partner that there's really nothing much you need, "let's just go up and down the aisles and look at the wonderful packaging," and then feign surprise when suddenly your shopping cart is full-to-heaping with cheeses, butters, duck "prosciutto," flavored grainy mustards, dried fruits, shelled hazelnuts, and bars of chocolates.

Oh, those chocolates! I passed these beauties up the first time I visited, several months back. (How could I have done that?) I've been dreaming of them ever since. Just look at the gorgeous packaging:

These bars are so beautiful, I don't know whether to eat them or wallpaper a powder room with them. And such glorious flavors. Praline:

 ...and raspberry. This one is for Lovely Daughter #2, who adores chocolate-raspberry pairings. (And who just happens to have gotten in to Harvard for grad school.)

Sorry; I can't help but boast a little bit, we are all so proud of her! She deserves a chocolate bar for that, dontcha think? Anyhow, hazelnut:

...and my personal favorite, salted caramel, round out the haul:

The little town square on the label intrigues me so. I want to live here! I want to sit in that plaza and drink teensy cups of espresso. I want my little flat to be just across the way from that building with the Gothic windows on the right side. Is it a church? I miss European church bells....

The back side of the chocolate bars all have this saying: "When chocolate is a Passion!"

That's every day, around here.

Friday, March 30, 2012

House Repairs

We have painters all over the outside of our house this week. They have a lot of work to do: Trim is blistering. Shutters are looking shabby. Wood pillars are sprouting mushrooms (seriously!).  Here's the one of the French doors that lead to our backdoor patio:

Euww! Most of that chewed-up wood is the painters' work. They're digging out rotten wood so they can fill it in with new bits and epoxy sealer.

Won Ton is making sure they do a good job:

Some of the wood is so far gone, you can see right through to the inside. The painters had to remove a LOT:

But in a few days, all this will be beautifully filled in, sanded, and repainted:

Don't worry, Won Ton! These guys are good. They know what they're doing.

Even so, Won Ton intends to stick close by, to be sure "his" French doors are done properly.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


When I was a kid, my mother would take me every Saturday morning to the local library, where I'd check out the limit on children's books--20 titles. Week after week, I'd plow through 20 books. Almost nothing made me happier than a fat stack of new books.

Not much has changed since then. Here's why I'm happy right now:

A big pile of books, all ready to dive into! I began reading this one, below, already. My Lovely Eldest Sister gave it to me. It is fantastic. I highly recommend it:

In "The Mindful Woman," the author mentions this book, below. Can't wait to start this one, because I've got a suspicion I'm one of these people. Can't stand loud noises, busy places, too much hubbub. When I had to go to Las Vegas for The Boy's basketball tournaments, I'd practically get a migraine just walking through the casino. The Hubby always thought I wast nuts. Or weird. Or both. But maybe, I'm just one of these:

When I asked for "The Highly Sensitive Person" at my local bookstore, the savvy gal behind the counter said, "Oh, then you'd probably enjoy 'Quiet.'" Yup! That puppy was the next one on my list to buy. Isn't it wonderful when a salesperson knows exactly what you want? Love that:

This one, below, also intrigues me. I read about this in some magazine. But even if I hadn't, the subtitle would've caught my eye: "Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun." Genius!

I've been on a memoir kick lately. This one came highly recommended:

As did this one. Love love LOVE the title. Hysterical!:

Lastly, I am plowing through this one, below. I met Kate and her hubby 10 years ago on a hiking trip in the Canadian Rockies. They were a fun couple. Then we met up again, purely by chance, when we hiked New Zealand together last fall. Kate is one of my favorite people, ever. She's hysterically funny, absolutely brilliant, humble (even though she needn't be), and sharp as a tack.

I am loving this book, although I have a rotten feeling I am reading it about seven years too late. Where were you and this book, Kate, when The Boy decided I was to be avoided at all costs?

Anyhow, here's my new stack of books.

 Instant happy.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Heavenly Ojai Pixies

When I was in Ojai a week ago, the markets were flooded with a citrus fruit I'd never heard of: Ojai Pixies. I am not the biggest fan of anything orange, so I didn't pay the Pixie much mind.

Then I got home and read in the Los Angeles Times an article praising the Pixie's excellent worth. A mysterious cross between a mandarin and an orange, Pixies are small, fantastically sweet, and ridiculously easy to peel. They have, apparently, an almost-cult following.. Kids have been known to pass up plates of home-made cookies over the intoxicating taste and seedless allure of Pixies.

And it's High Pixie Season, right now.

Oh, great. I was just there; the farmers' market was piled high with Pixies, and I had no idea what I was passing up.

(Hand model: my pug-sitter, M. Thank you, M, for wearing orange nail polish this week!)

But sometimes Fortune grants a second act. On a hunch, I went to my local, best grocery store today, and they had them! A pile of Pixies. A mountain of Pixies. A...well, there were a lot. I grabbed what I thought was a generous amount (eight) and brought them home.

I ate one for dessert tonight. Followed, almost immediately, by another. (There may have been moaning involved; I'm not telling.)

I'll just say that, except for the lovely things you can do with limes (Gin and Tonics!) and lemons (Lemon Meringue Pie! Lemon Curd!), I'm still not a huge citrus lover. But Pixies? They are another story. They are a chapter unto themselves. They are the closest thing to candy in a citrus form that I have ever eaten.

And tomorrow, I'm going back to the grocery store for a whooooole lot more of them.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Tomato Time

Hello! It's the first weekend in Spring, and The Hubby and I were feelin' it. We ran to the local garden shop and picked out ten little plants for a tomato garden: 

Before we left, we spent all of 10 seconds, mapping out the plant placement in the garden:
He: "Eight, 10, or 12 plants?"
Me: "Ten sounds about right."
He: "Okay; let's go!"

We bought two of each variety. Why? I dunno! It just seemed like the thing to do.

"Hey, these look good!"
"Okay; load 'em up."
Oh, we were decisive.

Some of these little plants, only eight or so inches high, are already setting up blooms:

Overachievers. You gotta like that, in a tomato plant. Just for fun, we bought a couple of red peppers:

To mix things up a little, we got some yellow cherry tomatoes:

And when we paid, we were invited to take a free packet of ladybugs. 

Sure; why not? They fit right into our non-plan plan. They're cute, they might work to eat up some aphids, or they might all fly off and leave us high and dry.

Speaking of dry, here's where the plants are going. It's the barest, hottest part of our garden. We know it's perfect for tomatoes, because once long ago, we had a 'mater garden here:

Then three (wonderful) kids overtook our lives, and it was time to tend to other things for a while.

But now, we're back to plants!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Happy Spring!

Happy first day of Spring! Here's what's going on around here.

I went to a lovely retreat in Ojai, California, over the past weekend with a gaggle of gal friends--some old, some brand new. We all had a great time, but I decided not to take photos or blog about it. "Sometimes, Juli," a friend once told me, "You just have to put the camera down and imprint things on the camcorder of your mind." But I did bring some things back.

While in Ojai, I visited the local farmers' market and bought some goodies. This buttery-tasting olive oil has a spicy finish I loved:

And it's in a blue bottle. How could I resist? I also bought this unusual garlic. Its open-clove formation intrigues me:

The same farmer who sold the garlic, above, sold this one, below. He said it's called "Spring garlic," and that it cooks up sort of like a small leek.

In honor of the new season, I had to try it!

Closer to home, I found this intriguing chair out by the trash cans today. It had a horribly stained cushion, which I immediately tossed back in the trash, but the frame is in perfect condition, and I love its chair-and-a-half proportions:

Usually caning on chairs like this is the first thing to go, because it is somewhat delicate. But this is in great shape:

I think this chair would be adorable if all the dark brown were glossy white. But Mu Shu and I agree: the horrible print has to go.

Here he is, pondering his fabric choices. He suggests polka dots, but I think I'll have to override his vote.

Last, to celebrate Spring, I bought five bunches of daffodils, at $2 per bunch. I divided them in two different vases:

I love how daffodils bring the outdoors in.

Aaaand, sometimes the occasional pug.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Line (or Two or Five) About Eyeliners

Last December, I got all fancified for The Hubby's office party. You may remember this look, which featured an updo from my local, lovely hair salon and some seriously dense eyeliner:

I was surprised by how much I liked the the fairly heavy application of eyeliner. Usually my makeup routine hovers in the "slim-to-none" region. But I decided that maybe I should investigate wearing a bolder liner, and  on a daily basis. So, since December, I've been trying to find a good one. Because this is what I had been working with: 

A positively decrepit Estee Lauder palette, ca. early 1990s. I have IRAs younger than this! As you can see from the brown and black pans, I was trying to mix up something blackish-brown. Or maybe brownish-black.

 All the while using an eyeliner brush that is getting very, very tired.

But in the quest to find Mr. Perfect Eyeliner, I didn't want to make a lot of expensive mistakes by beginning at the cosmetics counter of my local, high-end department store. So I started my search at the drug store. First up, Wet 'n' Wild H20 Proof Liquid Eyeliner, at about $4 a pop.

Ugh. Let's just say it was so bad, I tossed it in the trash can before I even thought to take a photo of it. But if you insist, here's an image from

Next I tried Revlon's ColorStay Liquid Liner in a skinny bottle, also about $4, with a brush in the handle.

It goes on easily enough, but good golly, look how much it bleeds! This is unacceptable. Anybody on the plus side of 39 knows that cosmetics that bleed are No Frickin' Good:

It took me a little while to track these puppies down (below), but I had high hopes. Revlon ColorStay Gel Eyeliner is about $10 each, at your local drug store. I got a little silly and bought Brown and Plum.

 Bad idea, that. The plum one is such a pretty color:

But neither shade is much better than the liquid liner. True, the gel liner doesn't bleed. But it covers unevenly, has a tendency to clump, and dries up too fast, making it hard to go back and fill in the less-than-solid parts left after you first swipe this along your eyelashes. The gel liner is on the bottom, in the photo below:

At this point, I'd had enough of drug-store eyeliners. Next step: the beauty-supply stores. The lovely young lady behind the counter swore this would do the trick:

Smashbox Jet Set Waterproof Gel Eyeliner.  At first, I was skeptical. It looked a lot like the not-so-great Revlon gel liners:

But it went on much better, with a smooth, even coat that didn't require a second or third application to fill in the patchy parts (the Smashbox liner is the bottom one in the picture below):

I think I found my best option. So I bought a new liner brush to celebrate.

And how does it look? It looks pretty good.

And it only takes direct sunlight, a 5x magnifying mirror, and a pair of trifocals for me to put it on properly!


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