Once you paint black...

Not long ago I saw a photo on pinterest of a gray bathroom with a black mirror. I was mesmerized. I may have commented, "That's it, I'm painting my mirror black."

This weekend I found some black paint.
I should mention that it needed to be painted anyway, as Bee found a dental scraper thingie and scratched wolverine lines into the white paint.

As usual, I've created more work for myself as now the back of the door and the trim will be painted black.

It looks a little harsh in the photo, but in person it looks more chic than sharp and a lot cleaner.

Which makes the bulbs in that lame-o light fixture look hideous and old. If I replace those, I bet I'll want to spray paint the fixture a more modern color, white maybe.

If you give a Courtney some black paint...

Mobius strip designaturgy, my favorite.

Did you say, "orecchiette?"

Ever since watching Gordon Ramsay on the UK version of Kitchen Nightmares, I have been obsessed with the simple looking pasta dishes. They always looked so fresh and delicious! And Gordon would always say how easy it was.

Cut to Trader Joe's carrying the orecchiette, or me suddenly noticing it sitting on the shelf. I googled a recipe in the store and and found this magical gastronomical delight! It became John's favorite and I make it once a week.

Sausage and Spinach Orecchiette
(adapted from Sunset Magazine)

I pkg. orecchiette  pasta*
2Tbsp butter
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 lb. chicken sausage removed from casings
1 lb. cherry tomatoes, halved (we used an heirloom cherry tomato!)
1 bag (8oz) spinach leaves
crumbled feta

Put the orecchiette on to boil, then: saute the onion in the butter, delicious! Add the garlic and sausage, yum! When the sausage is cooked through, add the tomatoes and spinach. Stir until the spinach is wilted. Add the cooked pasta.

Use the feta as a garnish on your plate.

*the orecchiette tends to stick to themselves in the form of a stack of bowls. Stir as soon as you add to the boiling water and keep stirring occasionally. Or just use farfalle.
It's so simple and delicious, especially when made with our free compost tomatoes that just showed up in the artichokes. 



Business in the front, party also in the front.

Hartwell just started kindergarten and I am meeting a ton of new people. Mostly moms who want playdates or just a way to email another mom with a question. Add to that the etsy shop and this lady is in need of some business cards! Although they should be called something else. I like "calling cards," but perhaps, "texting cards" would be more appropriate. 

I've always wanted the ones from Oceans 11 that Danny Ocean carries. They just read,"Danny Ocean." So impractical. And yet...

I looked around etsy and there are so many! Round cards, flower cards and of course cards with birds on them. I couldn't decide and I didn't really want to spend a bunch of money on, like, 50 cards in a design I only kind of  like.

A listing on etsy sent me to moo.com, which has some amazing cards and designs. They also print designs you submit. Which inspired me to create that little number. Usually, it's the layout that stops me in my tracks. I can spend hours moving and re-fonting. When really, simple is best. Which is hard for me.

I tried to think of an object that immediately says "vintage" without it being a car or something. And a jar seemed to be the thing. I tried to find a drawing of a jar, but they were so cutesy. So I thought to make my own. Often, when I have something in my head, I can't translate it to paper. Which is to say, I ain't a good drawer. Enter Sketchbook pro for iPad. I just found an image of a jar and traced it on a new layer.  It's slightly more complicated because I was learning as I drew. Which lead to a lot of badness, and not the good kind. But I think it's my new best friend. So, thanks, Lynn!

I also updated my notecards. Here's a pic of the set. It's the best I can do for free, but not too shabby. 
I think a new paper cutter is in order. The edges are a little shaggy. 

Now, I just need friends. Takers?

YOU need a craze-cation!

For John's birthday we went on a crazy, last-minute vacation. We drove up to Refugio Beach, which is north of Santa Barbara, for a crazy picnic and some fishing. 

Waaay before kids John and I would take Barkley up to Malibu really early in the morning. He would kayak, (John not Barkley. Basset hounds can't swim!) and I would sit on the beach and read terrible magazines. Then he'd come back and we'd cook out sausages and eat homemade pasta salads and cake. Pineapple upside-down cake, to be specific. 

Usually, because we were so early, it was overcast and sometimes drizzling. So it became Crazy Picnic. Because anyone else would just stay home.

Back to the latest Crazy Picnic, we arrived at the beach around 9 and it was capital "c" Cold! Some kind of freak storm must've been pushing through because it's early September and we were freezing!

To warm up, John helped the boys build a river from the stream to the ocean:
Then he went fishing for a while and we sat at the picnic table and had snacks and shivered.
Bee was the coldest:
After sausages and chocolate cake, we drove to our hotel. The only available room in the area was in Lompoc. What to say about Lompoc? There are a lot of murals. Their downtown area is probably pretty nice when things are open. John coined it Radiator Springs. I think it needs a little love.

We ate at the China Bowl, which has been around since 1946.
It was pretty amazing. Food not too shabby for the middle of nowhere. We actually over ordered and still paid under $40. Mostly I liked the decor and colors. Here is a fountain-ie shrine deal with a giant cherry tree:
Orange curved wall with pink rook tiles? Thank you.
Our most favorite thing was the jukebox. It had Patsy Cline, Rod Stewart and Sisco. Because nothing says "Chinese food," like the Thong Song. Hartwell had fun picking songs and even found fifty cents in the coin return! Yay for free songs! 
I know you want to know how you get $7 of free food. If you spend $40, you get eggroll. We fell for it. Deliciously.

We returned to the hotel and the boys swan while I nearly passed out in the amazing bed while watching Tom Hanks chase Ewan McGregor. That thing was like mama bear's bed. A little too soft, but also just right.

The next morning we went to breakfast in Solvang. Danish pancakes and sausages. 
I went to a Christmas store and bought some Russian ornaments, hung out in a used bookstore, and found a delicious craft store full of dreams!

Oh, and this happened:
and this:
"Would you like a glitter tattoo?"
"What would you like? A skull?"
"Yes! Wait. A rose! A rose!"
"What colors do you like?"
"Pink and purple. And red!"

The lady never asked us. We just sort of sat while the kids were made beautiful.  It made them so happy. 

After that, lunch and aebelskiver. I went native and had a crazy danish open faced sandwich, which I knew would be the thing my Norwegian dad would have ordered.
Then we drove home. Hartwell kept saying stuff like, "Next time we stay at that hotel..."
I think Lompoc is a one time town, sorry Hartwell. But it did remind me of how much fun we would have if we vacationed up the coast with a little trailer. All the awesome California towns with crazy restaurants waiting for spider man and Lydia, the tattooed Hartwell.

Caramel Whisper

For John's birthday extravaganza, I decided to make his cake. I almost always plan on making everyone's cake and then there are kids everywhere and I get overwhelmed and then buy a cake.

But this year, I saw a chocolate cake with salted caramel frosting, and, well, it's over.

I had a list of everything I needed to make the Ina Garten style chocolate cake, but then decided to make a cake from a box.  I ended up with a fancy cake mix that came with a separate packet of ingredients to swirl into the batter. Whatever, cake mix.  I sort of adapted that cake mix into the Ina one by simply substituting brewed coffee for some of the water. I'm hoping it'll add a bit of depth to the chocolate flavor. We'll see. The cake is currently within my reach, but not within my mouth until John gets home.

Did I mention I made 3 eight inch cake layers? No? Well, so, I did. I just divided the batter into three bowls and then baked two, washed a pan, baked the third. I really wanted to use the 6" cake rounds, but I didn't want to have to buy the pans. I liked the way 3 thin layers worked better anyway. So there.

Then I started making the salted caramel. It was waaaaay easier than I thought it would be even if the recipe was written by someone who made it all the time. "Amber color" can mean many things. My first batch had a distinct burnt sugar flavor, which works, but it came from waiting until the sugar was amber. I would say wait until the sugar starts to color a little bit, a light amber, then take it off the heat. In my mind it needed to be as amber in color as that dude's walking stick in Jurassic Park.  And I remembered it being a rich, brownie-yellowish color. And then I remembered the door handle slowly moving up and down. Clever girl.
This is the light amber color:
It also told me to be careful when adding the cream to the hot sugar mixture because it will bubble up. Ah. I prepared for that with a terrific pot. But the steam that shot up as I tried to stir, I was not prepared for. So, yeah, hot, bubbling steam tries to attack you like that goo in Ghostbusters 2 as soon as you add the cream to the blazing hot sugar. And no amount of Jackie Wilson is gonna stop it.

After all that you kind of stir and stir until it cools. Then you put it in a jar and give some to Deborah.
The icing was kind of magic. It started like any other frosting and then WHAM! caramel. So delicious. I'm trying to think of something better than caramel and cream cheese together and I just can't.
Speaking of waking up before you go-go, the coffee really came through in the final cake.  Hartwell took a bite and exclaimed, "Coffee cake?!" I asked him how much coffee he's been drinking and he said, "Two. But on the weekend."

The cake was delicious and we still have a bit of the caramel left for ice cream next week. It worked out perfectly because John didn't get a cake at work today. So the cake overload will be tomorrow. Morning, probably.