Sweet occasions

wedding cookies for a new customer

It’s been too long since my last post. (Wince). But that’s only because i’m having a blast baking this summer, minus the extra heat! While i won’t attempt to detail my excuses for not posting here, i thought i’d share a few recent cookie projects. Oh, and i fiiiiinally started a Sweet Violette page on Facebook, which is where you can find me for custom orders. ☺️

these little guys were recently mailed to the quilter, sewer, author & artistΒ i hope to one day be reborn as: Amy Sinibaldi. That gorgeous woman is a powerhouse of a talent and a loving mama who slays me with her photos and creations.
so, i have a new kitchen aid mixer. And im loving the size of it. A bigger motor, annnnd i can mix 2 batches of cookie dough at a time now. Hooray for that!
i might have said it already, but one of my most favorite things is mixing color. It’s almost like writing a story: You have the power to create any mood & story you want πŸ’•
these scarecrows were for a fellow mama in our local theater troupe. Her son was Scarecrow in Wizard of Oz, and he handed these out as cast gifts to some of his peers and young fans on closing day. πŸ‘πŸ»πŸŒˆ

A $10 lash booster that works!

This serum by No7 works slowly to keep lashes stronger. But it’s also a help to sparse eyebrows.

About a month ago, I read about this road-tested, $10 lash serum in InStyle, and decided to give it a try. I’ve used latisse in the past, but without a Kardashian bank account to match, $150 a month to keep up my lashes is a luxury i’ve had to do without. And lash extensions? I’ve done it, only to find my own lashes suffering and in need of TLC after the extensions grew out.

For $10, No7’s Fanomenal Lash Serum isnt what i’d call a miracle worker, but with one slick to lashes and eyebrows at bedtime, my lashes are stronger and longer, and a little fuller. I’ve also noticed that the tops of my eyebrows–where a few bad waxes left me lacking any kind of arch– are filling in. That alone made me a believer in this little money-saving product. I was told years ago by an esthetician that i had the unfortunate, genetic luck of not being able to regrow my eyebrows in the very spots that she’d waxed. (Insert my astonished and boiling-mad face when she told me!) But i swear that after trying a few other things to magically grow them back, nothing’s worked— except this. No, you won’t mistake me for Brooke Shields, but a miracle of sorts IS occurring. And for that alone, I will continue to repurchase this!

while you may not be accused of wearing falsies, this clear serum will help you keep the lashes you have, for longer, which gives them a healthier, fuller appearance

If you decide to give it a try, stop back to let me know what you think. πŸ’•

Destination: Silver Lake, home of the hip

sunday morning coffee drinkers at Intelligentsia in Silver Lake. Photo: @mysweetviolette
We were on our way one evening to Elf Cafe in Echo Park, and with some extra time before our reservation, we drove along Sunset Boulevard. One block in particular caught our attention, and we knew we wanted to come back another day to explore. That block turned out to be Silver Lake, recently topping Forbes’ list of America’s Best Hipster Neighborhoods, and an area of Los Angeles getting “cooler and cooler every month,” so says Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop City Guides app. (See below.)

a screenshot of the Goop City Guides tribute to Silver Lake. (For what it’s worth, i’ve seen the neighborhood spelled both Silver Lake and silverlake. Take your pick.)
This past sunday, we packed up the littles and left our drizzly city for a late-morning-til-early-evening intro to Silver Lake. We arrived hungry, though i wasted no time popping into the cutest little flower shop i’ve ever seen called Clementine (which yes, comes highly recommended by Goop). I think i went back in four times over the course of the day, no lie, totally geeking on the biggest peonies i’d seen to date, and the tiny arrangements up by the register. (Below.)

tiny arrangements with tons of heart, at Clementine Floral Works in Silver Lake. i kept admiring the little paper cones (made from book pages) encircling the mini bouquets, and decided to bring one home. Photo: @mysweetviolette
In no way is this post meant to be an exhaustive recap of Silver Lake’s offerings, and i’ll spare you the time it’d take to run you through every photo i snapped. But i hope i can at least tempt your interest to make a day trip to this hip town. Great places to eat, cool, artsy shops to explore, coffee at your fingertips, children and adults toting the occasional musical instrument (a conservatory is among the storefronts), a used record store, organic juices… The.  List. Goes. On … Some of my own highlights are captured here, but you’ll definitely want a repeat visit to this eclectic enclave to experience what you can’t the first time. We’re already looking forward to it!

Clementine Floral Works in Silver Lake, here and below. Photos: @mysweetviolette

peonies & dahlias to die for…

the outdoor patio at french bistro Cafe Stella. We had a great meal inside, and our kids cleaned their plates.

A bistro that looks lived in and very European, where the pictures intentionally hang crooked on the wall, but i didnt have the usual urge to straighten them. Loved everything about it, including the menu. We ordered the avocado toast, pomme frites, baked eggs, french toast, sausage, a bloody mary, and an almond milk latte, which was sourced next door at Intelligentsia. All photos: @mysweetviolette

Guess where this pretty little black dahlia on our table came from? Next door, at Clementine. Love how the businesses here support one another…

The Cheese Store of Silver Lake (below) was a great discovery, and we left with a baguette, some cheese (of course, right?) two free lollipops for the littles, and a couple of caramels for moi. It’s also a great place for high end olive oil.

 

Say cheese. 😊 The Cheese Store of Silver Lake. Photos: @mysweetviolette

the cutest message from a very young customer at The Cheese Store. Photo: @mysweetviolette

Bar Keeper in Silver Lake is loaded with goodies for your next party.  Photo: @mysweetviolette

Bucks and Does boutique in Silver Lake, for the coolest, breeziest, hippest of hipster clothes. Even in my skinny jeans and sweater, i felt a tad bit too casual. Photos: @mysweetviolette

Bucks and Does

 

Moon Juice in Silver Lake. Photos: @mysweetviolette

Cleanse your body with fresh-pressed concoctions at Moon Juice in Silver Lake, where they also sell skincare

cute cuddle friends in the back of Le Pink & Co. apothecary

another purchase, this one from Le Pink & Co. apothecary in Silver Lake, because i’m a sucker for sweet packaging. Definitely has a rich, chamomile scent but rinses squeaky clean without drying your skin.  Photo: @mysweetviolette

First impressions: Neutrogena Hydro Boost water gel with hyaluronic acid Β  Β 

  
After using the Dr. Jart+  Vital Hydra Solution sheet mask (and immediately loving its results), I shopped for a budget-friendly hyaluronic acid product I could use daily, with similar, skin-plumping results. Great reviews pointed me in the direction of Neutrogena’s new-ish Hydro Boost water gel, which I bought at Target for $17.99. (The Dr. Jart+ sheet masks are $6 each at Sephora, but a little less when ordered through amazon: $28.75 for 5).

When it comes to color and packaging, the Neutrogena Hydro Boost was clean and beautiful, and the color of the gel? Serene. ☺️

if i had to rate this product strictly on color? A+

But after three applications, i’m sadly returning it, and here’s why:

  1. Fragrance. My sensitive skin is better off without it, and Hydro Boost smells more like a leave-in hair conditioner than a subtly fragranced gel. (I should note i also saw a similar unfragranced version!)
  2. Texture. I have to say this gel slips ok beautifully at first– like a water-based pudding, if you can imagine. It disappears quickly and is lightweight. However, after a couple of hours, my skin felt slightly more greasy than plumped, like i needed a good powder. I’m not sure how it went from water-like to a tad greasy, but for me personally, it did.
  3. By comparison, the Dr. Jart+ sheet mask feels like water and doesnt change texture on my skin after application. My skin feels hydrated, not greasy, and even better: no fragrance.

I’m still on the hunt for a good hyaluronic acid product. I have tried Renee Rouleau’s oil-free Skin Drink version for $40 (i would call myself a very devoted R/R follower!), but wondered if the Neutrogena might be an affordable fill-in. Maybe for some, just not for me.

love this Dr. Jart+ sheet mask, which apparently uses hyaluronic acid, algae extract, plus something called aquaxyl technology (from plant glucose) and xylitol for hydration.

Shop Up Pops Up in L.A.

A peek at just part of Shop Up, pop-up boutique, held for the first time in Los Angeles, April 10-11. (Photo by @mysweetviolette)

With much affection for the insta-kinships formed on #instagram, our little family headed into Los Angeles yesterday for the first-ever Shop Up boutique held on the West Coast. I’d not heard of the previous Shop Ups in London and New York, but with thanks to my talented instagram friend Eva (evashouse.com) for tagging me in a photo, I found out about the L.A. event just in time.

This collaborative event was held at the gorgeous Lombardi House, a property i’ve been wanting to see for more than a year now. So here was the perfect venue to check it out, and i’m so, so, SO glad we did. From the moment we were greeted with free fruit pops from Chloe’s, to the final bite of a Sprinkles cupcake as we completed our shopping haul, i’d never seen a sweeter, more entrepreneurially-infectious display of independent clothing labels, accessories, and decor from a number of vendors already familiar to me on– yep– instagram. 

I was a happy camper roaming from one beautiful booth to another, including the Tortoise and the Hare, offering heirloom-quality clothings, blankets and accessories for babies and children. (I snapped some close-ups as well. Such beautiful simplicity in fabrics you want to keep touching.) Photo by @mysweetviolette
 

I was happy i bought the super-sturdy canvas Shop Up tote bag for $10 at the door (not required; in fact admission is free) because i came home with free issues of Babiekins magazine, gorgeous business cards, samples, and all kinds of stuff i’m still sorting through, not to mention an adoooorable new dress for my sweet Violet from the French label Les Petits Carreaux. It was also a thrill to meet and chat with some really wonderful, talented vendors, including several who’d flown from New York to sell here. Truth is, i could gush on and on about this unique event, and i took way too many photos for my own good. I’m posting some of those here (and invariably in random order), with the hope of spreading the Shop Up word, and wishing for its West Coast return next year!

(My husband also took this fun video, which gives you the full flavor of Shop Up in under a minute. Watch it!)

sweet, gingham bunny ears sold by Tortoise and the Hare
 
 
one sight of these beautifully crafted burp cloths & blankets and i wanted another baby ; available from Tortoise and the Hare. (Photo by @mysweetviolette)
   
 
this “mischievous goddess” was as sweet as can be and painted my Violet’s nails a sparkly gold when we walked in. Her “royal goddess party” goodies include lovely glass goblets and trinkets that she’ll ship to your own little goddess for parties and creative play.
 
 
The Makers Mess booth, where children could decorate cards and pound leaves and flowers into paper for nature-inspired art
 
 
loved the quality that went into so many of the garments and goodies at Shop Up, including these from Noble Carriage (Photo by @mysweetviolette)
 
 
alice + aimes had a steady line …

 
simple bonnets from Noble Carriage , which specializes in organic, sustainable handmades. (she ships gift bundles, too!)
 
 
i HAD to throw this in , the dress we went home with, from les petites carreaux. (Does it scream “Madeline” or what?! And that classic, Peter Pan collar. sigh)
 
 
meeting these two gals was such a treat. Alexis Spadaro Thalhauser (right) started LexyPexy when she couldnt find safe, ecofriendly teethers for her own baby. I took home the one that looks like a cookie-biscuit because it was just too sweet not to gift. (Photo by @mysweetviolette)
 
 
an example of a gift bundle you can order from Noble Carriage (apologies some images are out of order) ☺️
 
 
mildly sweetened iced coffee in a box from Blue Bottle. Yum-ness.
 
 
i LOVED these neck bows for children, by Crew & Lu, and saw several children sporting them by the time we left. What a sweeeet way to dress up plain collars! (Photo by @mysweetviolette)
 
 
pretty hair bows by Lululuvs
 
 
French company Omy makes these giant coloring posters of some of the biggest cities around the world. Sure to keep kids busy for long stretches (ours were here for 45 minutes!) while nurturing early interests in history and exploration. (Photo by @mysweetviolette)
 
 
don’t know these cute guests, but a few minutes later, they were sharing Sprinkles cupcakes. 😊
 

Review: Luxury Lip Balms

 

Luxury balms by, from left, Bobbi Brown , Nuxe and Rodan + Fields

At a recent skincare event/party, i fell prey to the hostess’s suggestion– admittedly, however farfetched– that the little capsules of lip renewing serum she was touting could actually revive some of the pink pigment that comes with youth, but fades by middle age. I’m very familiar with lip plumpers that temporarily agitate the mouth to create a poutier pout, but a product that will win back some of our natural, baby rosey-ness AND hydrate like crazy? Sign me up!

$54 later, not including tax and shipping (wince), I hoped to be truly impressed when my single order of Rodan + Fields Redefine Lip Renewing Serum arrived.

 

Rodan + Fields Redefine Lip Treament capsules. Inside each is a mild, vanilla-scented mix of antioxidants & peptides in a consistency much like vitamin e oil. After three weeks of use, i agree this is a hydrating lip treatment, but I personally haven’t seen an improvement in lip texture or color.

I’ve been using the treatment as directed for three weeks, morning and evening, and can get two applications from one capsule. And although i notice my lips still feel comfortably hydrated first thing in the morning, I can’t say my lip texture and color is any smoother or youthful, as claimed by the maker. In essence, this luxury product isnt’t doing anything my most favorite lip balms don’t.

By comparison, i still love my unscented “luxury” Bobbi Brown balm for $20. And because of its thinner, smoother texture (the Rodan treatment is slightly tacky to the touch), I’ve used the Bobbi balm on the highpoint of my cheekbones for glow and added moisture, and to gently groom my eyebrows into place.

The Nuxe Reve de Miel balm is about the same price point as the Bobbi Brown, and has the slightest bit of exfoliant in it. It’s waxier in texture than the Bobbi balm, but very soothing and hydrating. Because of its delicious citrus fragrance, however, i’ve refrained from using it around eyes or elsewhere on my face— whereas the Bobbi balm seems more all-purpose. (I’ve rubbed it into cuticles as well.)

I hope this review helps you in your own search for a really great lip product. And full disclosure, my absolute favorite “must have” lip product of all time is Blistex’s Five Star Lip Protection in the gold tube. But more on that in an upcoming review on pocket lip balms. ☺️

Peonies in Southern California

 

this Peony Moonstone just opened this morning. It was a bare-root gift from my handsome, who ordered from John Scheepers.

 

When i planted my bare root peonies in the fall, it wasn’t without mounds of doubt and wishful thinking. Nearly all of the reading i’ve done points to the impossible (and right here i should pause to quote Audrey Hepburn, who said we should remember that “impossible” is spelled “i’m possible” πŸ’•) … and, well, that reading left me to think i was wasting my time and money. Nurseries here in SoCal don’t like to sell peonies, i’d learned, so as to avoid unhappy customers when their gorgeous purchases don’t take root.

I think my husband took that into account, and was good enough to order them from a reputable grower— a Connecticut-based company called John Scheepers. Months after he ordered them, they came, and I carefully followed the growing guidelines for my two varieties: Moonstone #8938 (a dreamy-creamy white/pink) and Riches & Fame #8950 (a solid hot pink that fades beautifully). I should note that because these must be planted seasonally for best results, all of the Scheepers peonies have since sold out til next fall.

While i currently have just three flower buds out of all of the bare roots i planted (i wouldn’t swear to it, but think i received three or four roots of each?), it’s practically a miracle i have ANY buds. That’s because numerous message boards said not only do peonies dislike our SoCal climate, i should also prepare myself for the likely chance that IF theyΒ grow, budding won’t occur the first year. So, yes, i’ll happily take the single Moonstone bud, and the two Riches & Fame buds, that have graced our backyard.

 

my bare root peonies as they first emerged in early winter. You can spot them by their reddish hue. Moonstone (left) was the first of the bunch to introduce herself. ☺️

I’m afraid to take these little miracles for granted, and am already praying they’ll come back next year, too. Meanwhile, here are a few of the tips i followed to get these babies going:

  1. Plant the bare roots no more than 2″ (inches) below the soil. Anymore than that, and you may never see them.
  2. They love rich, organic soil. At time of planting, i mixed dirt with a homemade compost i keep of egg shells, coffee grounds, old leaves, and mushy greens discarded from my juicer.
  3. They like water and cool weather. No doubt, recent rainy spells & unexpected chilly, spring mornings have tricked these cuties into thinking theyre growing on the East Coast πŸ˜‰
  4. Make sure they get at least partial sun. Mine have morning shade from trees, but they get warm, bright sunshine by midday.
  5. It’s no fun waiting for the visual payoff of a bare root, but i would advise not planting peonies from blooming container pots. I did that once with two pots from Costco. The flowers faded, and so did the plants. The key is getting these gals to root healthily below the soil, so i strongly encourage the bare root process.
  6. Love them with all your heart. This last tip is cheesy, yes, but positive thinking sure cant hurt. Full disclosure: i’ve even talked to mine (eek!)

 

a view of the peonies, Moonstone on left, and Riches & Fame. In retrospect, i shouldve spaced them out a bit more, but im so happy theyre even growing!

 

Bewitching Bottega Louie

 

Easter pastels come easy for the soft-colored sweets at Bottega Louie in downtown Los Angeles. (Photo: @mysweetviolette)

 

“I’ll take one of those, and one of those, and one of those, and one of those…” said the little boy standing next to me. He pointed to every single macaron in the display case, pretending he and his brother were ordering. Many years his senior, i was feeling the same giddiness, but in a severely dorky i-shouldn’t-be-this-excited-but-am/adult way, and my iPhone camera was getting a workout.

I’m not alone in my new Bottega Louie crush. If its Wikipedia page is correct, i was in fact beholding the most photographed AND photogenic restaurant on #instagram. (Seriously. Scroll Bottega’s list of awards on wiki and it just. keeps. going.) Not since last March in a London Laduree had i seen a prettier, more perfectly colored lineup of silver dollar-sized cookies. And until a friend nudged me to fit this place into our weekend anniversary plans, i had no idea this beautiful bit of bliss was just 45 minutes from home.

 

Macarons in their Bottega Louie finery. (I dare you to throw the box away.) Photo: @mysweetviolette

The fact that 15,000 people dine here a week seems a little dizzying, but i believe it. The patisserie is just part of this bustling business; the other half of its golden success is the restaurant– a spacious, light-filled dining room that seats 255 and makes you think “Paris cafe.” It was Easter morning, but we were seated immediately, and when the guests next to us left, four employees worked efficiently fast to clear the space for another couple. (This particularly impressed my husband, who has spent the past seven months managing a hotel and restaurant.) Β At Bottega, brunch is a big draw, but its heartier Italian fare makes it a lunchtime favorite among downtown employees. I’ve seen it ranked for best pizza, as well as lasagna, and after observing both firsthand– as well as the gourmet burgers– i can only nod my head in agreement.

For what it’s worth, i’m also going to throw in some love for its restrooms. Clean. Bright. Well-lit. Fresh flowers. Restaurants should take pride in these little spaces, too, and Bottega Louie does.

 

The ladies room at Bottega Louie (Photo: @mysweetviolette.com)


As my friend nudged me, so i would nudge L.A. visitors to put Bottega Louie on their “must visit” restaurant list. Save room for dessert– and pictures!

 

Our Easter morning selection included green juice, lattes (almond milk available) and a bellini. (Photo: @mysweetviolette)

 

Bottega Louie’s does gorgeous well. (Photo: @mysweetviolette)

 

I couldn’t leave without the macarons, either. (Photo: @mysweetviolette)

 

Pretty (easy!) packaging

  

small, glassine (waxed) bags are an easy way to pack up a couple of iced treats. The ribbon was a dollar at Wal-Mart, and the tag was a freebie download that i printed.

Yesterday was the official launch of spring, and for me personally, any excuse to include flowers, birds and happy colors in packaging and cookies. Those closest to me know i’m a paper and ribbon addict, and putting those two elements together is a sweet high.

It’s easy to spend more than you intend on packaging up treats for any occasion, and i swear i have to hold myself back from stockpiling (like the addict i am). But i also love a bargain, and forcing myself to work at times with what i have. The past few days, i’ve been bagging cookies left and right, both for shipping and for gifting local friends. With the  exception of shipping boxes, i used supplies i had on hand, and hope these pictures may inspire you to sort through your own supplies and get creative (while saving your money for something else!).

I also have some simple tips:

  1. Don’t discount brown sack lunch bags. Trimmed down, paper-punched, painted or folded over and secured with twine, they’re cheaper than kraft paper, and so much easier to handle. 
  2. Recycle ribbons & tissue. A no-brainer, i know, but don’t be embarassed to re-use & re-gift elements of pretty packaging!
  3. Use Pinterest & Google to help you find free, downloadable graphics for tags. You’ll have to invest in cardstock (and obviously a printer), but it makes your packaging so much more unique.
  4. Invest in paper-punches, found in the paper-crafting aisles at Hobby Lobby & Michael’s. They’re almost always on sale and if not, use a 40% off coupon. With a paper punch, you can make your own tags.
  5. Package using your favorite colors. Trying to follow trends can be a waste of time if what’s hot (e.g. chevron stripes) isn’t really your style. Be true to the textures and colors you love— they’ll inspire you to put more “you” in your gifts.

 

frosted bunnies for treat bags
 
 
remember tip No. 1? These brown paper lunch sacks were scalloped with a paper cutter, then stamped with a Cinderella quote. They were a gift from my sister, who bought them at an antique store.
 
 
Here’s the full view. I added a scalloped tag i bought in the dollar bin at Target. I think it complements the ruffled texture of the paper bag.
 
 
glassine bags with my bargain ribbon and handmade tags
 
  
happy baking/crafting!
 
 

Cookie Giveaway!

 

Find me on instagram for a chance to win a dozen Easter cookies! I’ve made it super easy. Visit @mysweetviolette to get your name in before midnight (PST) tomorrow, Friday, March 11.
 
It’s one of those bright, blue mornings with birds singing out back, and a nest of babies chirping above our front porch. Spring sounds, mixed with cool breezes after rain. The parks are greening-up, and the bare-root peonies my handsome bought me have actually found their way above soil; a huge, happy, beautiful surprise after all the reading i’ve done about peonies and California’s climate not getting along. So what’s this have to do with sugar cookies? Not much, except to say that i’m feeling thankful and grateful, and wanted to share some spring. I’m donating a dozen, assorted cookies to one lucky winner. All you have to do to enter is: follow me on instagram [@mysweetviolette], leave me your favorite color, and tag a friend. Easy. But please do so by midnight tomorrow (march 11). Good luck!

Can we please just take a moment to appreciate the sweetness of baby cookie- carrots? ☺️