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First impressions: Neutrogena Hydro Boost water gel with hyaluronic acid    

   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. ☺️  [caption width="480" align="alignnone"] if i had to rate this product strictly on color? A+[/caption]  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.  [caption width="360" align="alignnone"] 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. [/caption] 
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Shop Up Pops Up in L.A.

 [caption width="480" align="alignnone"] 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)[/caption]  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. [caption width="480" align="alignnone"] 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[/caption]  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!) [caption width="360" align="alignnone"] sweet, gingham bunny ears sold by Tortoise and the Hare[/caption]   [caption width="1600" align="alignnone"] one sight of these beautifully crafted burp cloths & blankets and i wanted another baby ; available from Tortoise and the Hare. (Photo by @mysweetviolette)[/caption]     [caption width="480" align="alignnone"] 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. [/caption]   [caption width="480" align="alignnone"] The Makers Mess booth, where children could decorate cards and pound leaves and flowers into paper for nature-inspired art[/caption]   [caption width="480" align="alignnone"] loved the quality that went into so many of the garments and goodies at Shop Up, including these from Noble Carriage (Photo by @mysweetviolette)[/caption]   [caption width="480" align="alignnone"] alice + aimes had a steady line ...[/caption]  [caption width="480" align="alignnone"] simple bonnets from Noble Carriage , which specializes in organic, sustainable handmades. (she ships gift bundles, too!)[/caption]   [caption width="480" align="alignnone"] 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) [/caption]   [caption width="480" align="alignnone"] 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)[/caption]   [caption width="480" align="alignnone"] an example of a gift bundle you can order from Noble Carriage (apologies some images are out of order) ☺️[/caption]   [caption width="480" align="alignnone"] mildly sweetened iced coffee in a box from Blue Bottle. Yum-ness. [/caption]   [caption width="480" align="alignnone"] 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)[/caption]   [caption width="480" align="alignnone"] pretty hair bows by Lululuvs [/caption]   [caption width="360" align="alignnone"] 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)[/caption]   [caption width="480" align="alignnone"] don't know these cute guests, but a few minutes later, they were sharing Sprinkles cupcakes. 😊[/caption] 
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Review: Luxury Lip Balms

  [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="531"] Luxury balms by, from left, Bobbi Brown , Nuxe and Rodan + Fields[/caption] 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.   [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] 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.[/caption] 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. ☺️
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Peonies in Southern California

  [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] this Peony Moonstone just opened this morning. It was a bare-root gift from my handsome, who ordered from John Scheepers.[/caption]   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.   [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] 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. ☺️[/caption] 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 😉
  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!)
  [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="406"] 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![/caption]  
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Bewitching Bottega Louie

  [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] Easter pastels come easy for the soft-colored sweets at Bottega Louie in downtown Los Angeles. (Photo: @mysweetviolette)[/caption]   "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.   [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] Macarons in their Bottega Louie finery. (I dare you to throw the box away.) Photo: @mysweetviolette[/caption] 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.   [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] The ladies room at Bottega Louie (Photo: @mysweetviolette.com)[/caption] 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!   [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] Our Easter morning selection included green juice, lattes (almond milk available) and a bellini. (Photo: @mysweetviolette)[/caption]   [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] Bottega Louie's does gorgeous well. (Photo: @mysweetviolette)[/caption]   [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] I couldn't leave without the macarons, either. (Photo: @mysweetviolette)[/caption]  
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Pretty (easy!) packaging

   [caption width="480" align="alignnone"] 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. [/caption] 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.
 [caption width="480" align="alignnone"] frosted bunnies for treat bags [/caption]   [caption width="480" align="alignnone"] 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. [/caption]   [caption width="480" align="alignnone"] 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. [/caption]   [caption width="480" align="alignnone"] glassine bags with my bargain ribbon and handmade tags[/caption]    [caption width="480" align="alignnone"] happy baking/crafting![/caption]   
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Cookie Giveaway!

 [caption width="480" align="alignnone"] 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. [/caption]  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!  [caption width="480" align="alignnone"] Can we please just take a moment to appreciate the sweetness of baby cookie- carrots? ☺️ [/caption] 
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Bon Voyage baking: airplanes & luggage

  [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] I love the party invitation my sister picked for my niece, who starts flight attendant school in February. A going-away/ bon voyage party called for airplane- and luggage-shaped sugar cookies.[/caption] Baking for my niece's Bon Voyage was a fun chance to stretch my cookie cutter wings. My sister, "with a firm but gentle hand" (if I may quote Mary Poppins' Mr. Banks) challenged me to the task with nothing but sweet confidence that i would deliver cookies shaped like airplanes and luggage. Secondly, she insisted on paying me for them, which is always a game-changer, right? Gifting cookies vs. selling them = *Gulp* ... She made it so easy, though. We talked about keeping the icing colors in line with the invitation, which to me, also meant giving the planes a slightly modern-retro look, like the flight attendant on the invitation. (And i'm sorry, but can i just mention that "stewardess" is much easier to say?)   [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] The icing color palette was easy enough to choose[/caption] Knowing i would need to make, bake and decorate three dozen cookies, i took the great advice of sugar cookie guru Amber at sweetambs.com and divided the work over a week, rather than doing it all at once. So one day, i made the dough. The next, i rolled and cut the shapes, and stuck them in the freezer. (She has tips on that, too!) Another day, i baked. And the day after that-- you guessed it-- i decorated them. That still left ample time for the icing to set, and a day to bag and tag the finished cookies. (I packed them individually in cellophane bags and used a heat sealer to crimp them, which keeps the cookies fresh up to several weeks.) I hope there are some helpful tips tucked inside this post that may be useful in your own baking journey. I'm extremely grateful my sister gave me this fun opportunity, and so proud of her girl, who is going to make one heck of a stewar---- um, flight attendant.  :  ) Happy baking!   [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] Dividing the work over a week's time made the process so much easier[/caption]   [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] Airplane cookie (Photo: mysweetviolette.com)[/caption]   [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] Airplanes and suitcases, waiting to be packed for the Bon Voyage party (Photo: mysweetviolette.com)[/caption]  
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A gourmet, must-visit: The Packing House in downtown Anaheim

 [caption width="640" align="alignnone"] The center of the bi-level Packing House in Anaheim on a recent Sunday. Cool doesnt even begin to describe it. (Photo: mysweetviolette.com)[/caption]  You know that feeling when you've stumbled into a scene that's all at once inspiring, energetic, and entrepreneurially hip, and you can't wait to share it with people you know, and even those you don't? (Hint-hint: social media). That was me last weekend, discovering The Packing House in downtown Anaheim's Packing District, a split-level gourmet food hall that opened in 2014. (Where have i been? And more importantly, thank goodness for husbands who keep track of this stuff, and surprise you with lunch there.) If you're a fan of L.A.'s Grand Central Market, where a diverse menu of restaurants share the same roof-- giving diners lots of options-- then you'll love the layout and charm of the Packing House. What's cool is just how harmoniously eclectic it is. (Is that an oxymoron?) I had to browse quickly because it was a busy weekend with kids in tow, but i would categorize the downstairs as mostly a confluence of bars (open til midnight), with a few eating spots, including a Vietnamese restaurant with a good crowd, and an impressive, open-market kind of space where guests can buy spices, seasonings and various grocery items by weight. Back upstairs, the entire floor was one great eatery after another, with everything from ramen and noodles to Indian food, gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, fish 'n chips, artisan coffee, handcrafted gelato, yogurt, and sorbetto  (gluten-free and vegan options, too), ice cream, waffles and beer, chocolate, fresh pastries, salads and plenty more. The Packing House is a foodie's dream date, coupled with an inventive, urban atmosphere that chain restaurants greatly lack.    [caption width="360" align="alignnone"] Upcycled/recycled elements of styling, including this beautiful chandelier, give Anaheim's converted citrus barn a hip, "green" appeal. (Photo: mysweetviolette.com)[/caption]  [caption width="360" align="alignnone"] A table of recycled bits, in one of the Packing House's communal dining rooms. I wanted to take it home with me. (Photo: mysweetviolette.com)[/caption]       As with any bustling, downtown business, a word of caution that on weekends, parking at the Packing House may be a challenge. And for that reason, if you don't mind spending extra to do so, you can opt for valet parking (which we did), and avoid the hassle of circling or parking offsite. You can also drop in for breakfast on weekdays.  Restaurant hours vary, but the Packing House opens daily at 9 a.m. Location: 440 S. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim, CA Bars/drinks: Open til midnight Breakfast: Open daily at 9 a.m. ** For a complete list of vendors, visit the Packing House website. **  [caption width="480" align="alignnone"] A gourmet veggie, grilled-cheese[/caption]   [caption width="360" align="alignnone"] Buy 'n Bulk is located downstairs in the Packing House (Photo: mysweetviolette.com)[/caption] 
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Best vegetarian restaurant in L.A.

Despite being named Elf Cafe, don't expect Will Ferrell to be slurping spaghetti with syrup and mini marshmallows at this Los Angeles gem. Instead, plan to sit for the best vegetarian meal you've likely ever had-- in the coziest, most romantic dining room this side of the Atlantic. This was our third trip back, and i will continue thanking my handsome husband for even discovering it one day, after some online research for great vegetarian options. Why? Flavor. Texture. Art. All on your dish. Chef Dave Martinez makes sure your senses are completely satisfied with recipes that edify the natural-born flavors of the cafe's organic, locally sourced veggies. Vegan and gluten-free choices are available, too, and believe me when i say even meat-eaters won't feel cheated here. I'm eager to try Elf's new brunch (see Los Angeles Magazine write-up), but our favorite time to visit is dinner. By that time, its cafe windows are warmed by candlelight and its dark wooden tables, bricked walls, and clay tile floors are that much richer. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] The tiny but unforgettably impressive kitchen at Elf Cafe in Los Angeles, easily one of the best vegetarian restaurants in the city. Linger for the ambiance. (photo by mysweetviolette.com)[/caption] A full menu is available online, and reservations are required, which is half the charm. When the already-intimate dining room is operating at capacity, you're practically rubbing elbows with the guests next to you. There is a unifying, communal pleasure in that, like you're all in on a secret. We started our meal with the perfectly thinned (but not liquified) Avocado Puree, blended with tahini, garlic and spices, drizzled generously with olive oil, and paired with warm, lightly toasted pita. I'm pretty sure i could eat that every day of my life. (Wow. Just wow.) Next was another starter, the broccolini, slighty crisp stalks of broccoli with genuine, charbroiled taste. (More perfection.) Moving to entrees, we chose the Fattayer, a puff pastry made fresh, and filled with seasonal veggies (i would buy these by the dozen if i could). The pastry arrived to the table so hot that it steamed when cut. ("When was the last time you actually had hot food like this at a restaurant?"my husband gushed.) Then arrived the tagine, a Moroccan-inspired potato stew/curry, pooled in a broth flavored in part by lemon juice and sweetly stewed raisins. Dessert options that night were a saffron pudding or-- our choice-- the vegan chocolate mousse, which we made short work of. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] the avocado puree is my new favorite dish at Elf Cafe in L.A.'s Echo Park neighborhood; (photo: mysweetviolette.com)[/caption]   [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] broccolini, in a delicious bed of melted feta (or yogurt?). Either way, sure to please. (photo: mysweetviolette.com)[/caption]   [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] the Fattayer puff pastry is made at Elf Café by scratch and, wow, can you tell (photo: mysweetviolette.com)[/caption]   [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] vegan chocolate mousse at Elf Café (photo: mysweetviolette.com)[/caption] Brunch Hours: Sundays, 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. Dinner Hours: Wednesday - Sunday, 6 - 10:30 p.m. * Reservations are by email Corkage fee: $20    
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Sweetly stitched friendships

  [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] happy mail from author, designer, quilter, sewer, and super-mama-everything Amy Sinibaldi[/caption] It wasn't that long ago i found a community on #instagram of fellow cake lovers who shared a soft spot for vintage linens, ribbons and string, old movies, love-worn texture, and that icy-blue shabby chic/martha stewart color i still never know what to call, but consider my happy place. Where once i felt like an oddball admitting i shopped flea markets and thrift stores, i was now among kindred spirits, and super-duper talented ones at that: knitters, sewers, photographers, crafters, foodies, etc. I was clicking "follow" like crazy, going gaga over pics and talents, and sensing a crackling, creative force uniting these young wonders and their addicting feeds. Along this journey, i've made some friends, too, the same as you might meet a stranger and feel that instant spark of recognition and understanding. ("S/he just gets me.") Well, Amy Sinibaldi is one of those people. I can't even remember how i even stumbled upon her IG feed, or her blog, but i was blown away by her talent, and by the itty-bitty detail in her bio that she'd only been sewing since 2006 and was now an author of Sweetly Stiched Handmades (Tuva Publishing, 2015). I could go on and on about her mad skills, but better for you to grab some coffee and visit her blog nanaCompany for yourself. She's the real deal, and a very inspiring one. So the other day i get a package of goodies from Mrs. Sinibaldi, and i can't get over the sweetness and thoughtfulness behind every carefully considered gift. Namely, i zero in on a lilac box of ribbons she's been saving, and i'm reminded it's a crazy-small, fortuitous world. Because just a few days before, i'd been ooh'ing over spool after spool of ribbon in a downtown Los Angeles trimmings shop. The spools i lingered over longest were beautifully stitched jacquards. I adored their colors and details and wanted to bring all of them home with me. Well, lo and behold, Amy's collection of ribbons included a number of super-sweet jacquards she'd acquired. And now, here they were with me. I'll post some close-ups of these gentle tokens so you can see what treasures they are, and why i'm so lucky to call her a friend. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] even as a teenager i saved ribbons from presents and had boxes of them under my bed. Now i get to enjoy this special collection, too.[/caption]   [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] pretty little details on these flat spools for ribbon & yarn[/caption]   [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] her cross-stitching and hand-sewing on this little pin cushion are impeccable![/caption]   [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] gorgeous post cards include holiday well-wishes as well as images of the fabric collection, Paperie, that Amy recently designed for Art Gallery Fabrics. (just feeling the need to say my favorite in the collection is called Eponine. Smiley face because it's that icy blue color i (no, "we") love.[/caption]  
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Diy shine

Just an uber quick reminder how EASY it is to create your own glittered numbers and letters. So many free printables to be had online. (I google'd these, but have saved many others to #Pinterest.) Just download, print to card stock, cut, coat with glue (or spray adhesive) and sugar them with glitter like crazy. Too messy and no time? I know Hobby Lobby started carrying them recently for abt $3. But use your 40% coupon when possible, and you'll get them for a steal.
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