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. ☺️
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!
If you decide to give it a try, stop back to let me know what you think. 💕
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.)
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.)
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!
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.
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. ☺️
But after three applications, i’m sadly returning it, and here’s why:
- 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!)
- 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.
- 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.
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 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!)
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!
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. ☺️
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” 💕) … 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 they 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.
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:
- Plant the bare roots no more than 2″ (inches) below the soil. Anymore than that, and you may never see them.
- 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.
- 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 😉
- Make sure they get at least partial sun. Mine have morning shade from trees, but they get warm, bright sunshine by midday.
- 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.
- 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!)
“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.
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.) 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.
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!
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:
- 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.
- Recycle ribbons & tissue. A no-brainer, i know, but don’t be embarassed to re-use & re-gift elements of pretty packaging!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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!