Blog / Creativity

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 ( 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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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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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:[/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:[/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:[/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:[/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[/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:[/caption]   [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] broccolini, in a delicious bed of melted feta (or yogurt?). Either way, sure to please. (photo:[/caption]   [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] the Fattayer puff pastry is made at Elf Café by scratch and, wow, can you tell (photo:[/caption]   [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] vegan chocolate mousse at Elf Café (photo:[/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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(Mis)adventures in swiss meringue

 [caption width="480" align="alignnone"] piping my first-ever rosettes w this huge star tip last night. i should have stopped there! But no...[/caption]  First lesson learned: Do not refrigerate homemade swiss meringue buttercream, even if you read somewhere online that you can, in an airtight container. For now on, i will leave that to the pros, who probably know how to salvage the buttercream when you do this. For moi, my plan to continue practicing rosettes for a cake i baked went down the tubes. The butter in the frosting had somewhat re-solidified, something i had a gut feeling about as i was packing it into plasticware last night. And when youre talking six egg whites and sugar (all organic) and a box of butter (four sticks), that's an expensive lesson to learn! The result when i took the frosting out of the fridge was a cold clumpish icing, too sturdy to go back into a pastry bag. Even after some time on the counter to "thaw," no luck. You can see below that my flowers broke, some of the food coloring had separated, and once or twice, a spot of liquified frosting appeared, looking like gel. I'm thinking maybe that's egg white and sugar, separated.(?)  [caption width="414" align="alignnone"] in addition to the cold icing breaking when piped, you can see a drop of liquified separation. [/caption]Rather than toss the whole batch (insert teary eyes), i decided to use it for my crumb coat. Using a knife heated under hot water (and wiped dry), i verrrrry carefully slid the frosting between and around the layers. And while it wasnt pretty (some patchy spots and color separation included), i'm hoping my rosettes-- when i do get them attached! -- will make up for that.   [caption width="480" align="alignnone"] you can see knife marks where i shaved the frosting for cake application[/caption] [caption width="480" align="alignnone"] the splotchy, refrigerated buttercream[/caption]    [caption width="480" align="alignnone"] all things considered, it couldve been so much worse. (if only the pros didnt make it look so easy!)[/caption]   
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winter greetings

A super quick check-in to say sweet friends have passed along their recycled spice and food jars. Which in turn feeds my bottle brush tree appetite, because it means i get to make more #diy snow globes. (*Happy place.*) Most will be returned to them as little tokens of the season, though i plan to keep a few in sight for myself, all year long. 
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Frosted little trees

Took just a few minutes to assemble my first-ever snowglobe kind of thingy. This follows a late evening of ooh'ing online over the twisted, bottle brush trees that Anthropologie stores are stocking this holiday. I bought these babies for half price during a sale at Jo-Ann Fabrics & Crafts, because i freely admit to having a slight bottle brush tree obsession. And i'm forever recycling jars for flowers and other things. (Found that a little WD-40 gets rid of stubborn glue on the glass.) For a snowy effect, a little scoop of epsom salt works great.
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Painting pine cones 

  As the paint dries on these little cones, im still thinking of ways to display them, besides a garland that i'll try. But mostly i wanted to offer a few tips to any nature lovers thinking of painting pine cones by hand (as opposed to spray painting them, which i did a couple of posts, below). This was my first attempt, and though it's embarrassingly easy, i do suggest these tips:
  1. Wash or wipe pine cones with a damp paper towel to remove debris, pine needles & in some cases, little bugs, before painting
  2. Dilute your paint. Adding a few teaspoons of water to your small puddle of paint will really help with application!
  3. Use decent paint brushes. I bought the cheapest ones at the hardware store & within a few minutes, the bristles frayed and were coming off on the cones.
  4. If they start to close, you can bake pine cones at a low temp after theyre painted, to help reopen them. But wait until paint is fully dry before popping them in the oven.
Hope this helps!         
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Pretty, messy glitter 

 It was a good morning to get outside and tackle a box of pine cones gathered at a nearby park. Oh, and yesterday, me and my sweet violet found the cutest, tiniest baby pine cones that also drop from trees, though im sure they have a more proper, official name. With a quick spray of gold paint, some spray adhesive, and a dust of gold glitter, we dressed up nature's little offerings for the holidays. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] at first blush, these itsy-bitsy pine cones reminded me of mascara spoolies[/caption]   [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] i love the little pine tree ornaments at Hobby Lobby this year. the glittered tree decoration also is from there.[/caption]  
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Not so hot, but quite alright

 The sickies. The buggies. The germies. Whatever theyre called at your house, we have 'em, too. It's been a month (and counting) of birthdays on weekends, sports games, dance practices and rehearsals and performances. (And school, let's not forget that.) What it makes for is a giant petri dish breeding new kinds of ick that get passed from little hands to little hands, and before ya know it, you're at the doctor's and your living room looks like an infirmary. But i like it. Well, not the sick part, but the downtime-- the pause that comes with fevers and coughs and tissue boxes, even vomiting. Yep, i said that. As a longtime working mama, Ive waited plenty to be where i am now, which is home, running the sickie clinic and stripping beds. We can sneak in hot chocolate, stories in bed, painting and coloring. We can watch a movie together, play with dinosaurs and plan a trip to see the real ones at the museum this Christmas. And that's what we're doing today. The hot chocolate's ready, and so are we...     
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