Celebrating 24

This past Saturday I turned thirty-five twenty-four and despite my wish to be about ten years older, it was a wonderful birthday weekend!

 

Friday evening I threw a big birthday party at my house. I absolutely love having parties. They don’t need to be formal or a lot of work to be fun! I did most of my party prep on Thursday evening after work so Friday I had plenty time to do the last few things before my guests arrived. Lucky me, I had some wonderful helpers on Friday who helped get everything ready to go in the last few minutes so I had time to shower!

 

I’ll be sharing a few recipes the next couple of weeks, but I wanted to give you a little preview. We prepped quite a spread. My personal food mantra is there is never too much. I’ve inherited a love of food and feeding people from my father’s side of the family. I simply am not comfortable when I have visitors unless there is a drink in their hand and a snack in their mouth. I have aunts who simply will not rest when you come over, unless you’ve eaten a post-dinner snack and have a bowl of ice cream with homemade fudge sauce in your hand. It’s one of the most endearing qualities of my extended family. These are definitely traits that have been passed on from my parent’s generation to my cousins and I. My food table was quickly full!

 

Party Food | Land of Laurel

 

So at the party I wanted to do a few simple things. I prepped a quick version of my delicious, thick, vegan Butternut Squash Soup on Thursday evening. On Friday I quickly heated up a veggie broth, added everything I’d roasted the day before, and pureed it all together. Then my three helpers (my darling sister Bronwyn, and two of my best friends, Hannah & Nicole) put together a small army of crostini, the toppings of which I’d also prepped on Thursday. Now I love a good crostini, they’re delicious! I’ve already shared my favorite fall appetizer, a Pomegranate, Butternut Squash, Lemon Ricotta crostini and these spring versions were just as easy! They came out just gorgeous and oh so colorful! I promise they also tasted as good as they looked. Other foods I served? A delicious (but small) Mango-Mint Salad, a cheese plate, and a Spring Veggie Couscous salad. Yum!  To top off the entire evening of eating, my sister made an absolutely gorgeous chocolate raspberry cake. It was beautiful! Chocolate raspberry is my dream cake so I was in dessert heaven.

 

For my actual birthday on Saturday, I went out to brunch with my parents and sister at a place in North Berkeley called Cafe Leila. The food was alright. I think the pastries are the way to go at that place, but I ordered pancakes. They were a bit undercooked. Oops! Their selection of teas and lattes is pretty amazing though. We all shared one of their cronuts as well. That was flakey and delicious! My parents gifted me an amazing sewing machine that does an amazing number of awesome stitches so look forward to some sewing tutorials in the future! First step? Hemming some curtains for my bedroom!

 

After brunch my parents left and my friend Hannah arrived. My sister, Hannah, and I then all headed down the California coast towards Santa Cruz! We got a super late start, leaving shortly after 1:00pm. We took 92 over the San Mateo Bridge and over into Half Moon Bay. Before we got to the cute town, we stopped at some of the nurseries to see the amazing array of plants. The greenhouses were humid and simple signs reading “Orchids for Sale” did nothing to disclose the amazing sites within. Orchids as far as you could see in every direction. In every color! It was beautiful!

 

Orchids to Die For | Land of Laurel

 

In another greenhouse, there were amazing carnivorous plants (many of which I wanted to buy considering our summer fly problem!) and nestled among them tiny fairy houses. It was so cute! And these carnivorous plants were so interesting and unusual.

 

Carnivorous Plants & Fairy Houses | Land of Laurel

 

Lastly there were the succulents and cacti! Plants to die for! I wanted to take all of them home and slowly kill them (my go-to method for succulent care). They were so beautiful though!

 

Cacti & Succulent Nursery | Land of Laurel

 

After I’d died and gone to heaven at the nurseries we continued the little ways down Highway 92 into Half Moon Bay where we stopped briefly for sandwich snacks at a small deli and creeped on adorable chicks at the cute hay and feed store on Main Street. Some day I will get to go in and buy those baby chicks rather than just looking! Seriously, there is nothing cuter, y’all!

 

Baby Chicks | Land of Laurel

 

After our pit stop, we hopped onto Highway One and continued down the beautiful coast, stopping occasionally to take in the ocean views. At one point we found what seemed to be a wind surfing convention. Literally dozens of windsurfers were winding their way around in the water by this one beach. It was beautiful and so colorful! All the colors of the sails seemed so joyful against the backdrop of the blue ocean and sky.

 

Windsurfers | Land of Laurel

 

By the time we got into Santa Cruz it was already pretty late. We stopped first at Penny Ice Creamery for Bitter Carmel cones topped with toasted marshmallow fluff. If you haven’t tried this yet, do it! It’s the most amazing combination! The only Penny Ice Creamery to have this combo, seemingly, is the one on 41st Street, so be sure to plan accordingly! We walked with our cones down to Pleasure Point where we found a nice bench to finish devouring them. We spotted a pod of dolphins in the distance which made it even more lovely. We walked down East Cliff for a little while, watching the surfers and beach-goers.

 

Santa Cruz East Cliff | Land of Laurel

 

After our short walk, we headed to Pacific Ave for some window shopping before finishing the evening with dinner at I Love Sushi (we got four of the five Vegetarian Special Rolls and split them) and a bowl of soul at Verve Coffee. All too soon it was time to hit the road, but it had been a truly lovely birthday!

 

What do you like to do for your birthdays? Celebrate with a big party? A few friends? Just spend time with your family?

Silver Succulents

I mentioned here that while Nicole and I visited in Portland, Oregon we stopped in at the Goodwill Superstore on the Southeast side. Wowza! If you live in Portland, go there! It was amazing! Huge! There were rows and rows of clothes and entire section devoted to books. Books organized by genre! I’ve never been to a thrift store with a) so many books or b) books this well organized! Only United Airlines strict carry-on baggage allowances kept me from buying a large stack. That and the fact that I recently spent $40 on used books (that’s like 30+ books!) at the Blackoak Books moving sale in Berkeley. Hello my name is Laurel and I am a book-aholic.

 

This Goodwill Superstore had an entire aisle full of sterling silver, priced extremely low. This is where Nicole and I got truly excited. I had the idea of buying one of the smaller silver pieces and filling it with succulents. Because how adorable would that be? The answer is extremely adorable! We both decided to get small, packable, objects. Nicole ended up with a creamer and I found this fantastic sugar bowl which was missing it’s top. Perfect, since I needed it to be topless for the succulents anyways. We were ready for our friendship succulent planters now.

 

Goodwill Sugar Bowl | Land of Laurel

 

At home, I unpacked my sugar bowl. It was still adorable. Yay! This was such a great way to upcycle something sad and unwanted into something cute and happy. Here it is next to Fred for comparison sake. The little sugar bowl is  about 5 inches wide from tip of handle to tip of handle and only about 3 inches high.

 

Fred and the Silver Sugar Bowl

 

I didn’t want to go out and buy succulents, because, why spend the dough when I can get them for free? Plus I need teensy tiny succulents. What did I do? I raided the driveway, which is lined with three varieties of succulents. I sliced off a few of the smallest off shoots from each variety and was ready to go!

 

I quickly popped a few small pieces of gravel into the bottom of the sugar bowl, added some potting soil, and gently stuck in the succulents. The sterling silver sugar bowl ended up being everything I imagined!

 

Sterling Silver Sugar Bowl Succulent Planter | Land of Laurel

 

Not only was it super cute, but it was somehow playful and sophisticated. It makes makes me want to sip a hot cup of tea and speak in a British accent. Or should I say, “Ahhcksent?” Yes, maybe the latter is best.

 

I thought about polishing the sterling silver, but ended up deciding against it. Partially, because I am truly lazy, partially because I don’t have any silver polish lying around, but mostly because I love the patina it already has. The tarnishing is kind of beautiful and I love it, just the way it is.

 

As for the little mini-succulents– they were a perfect fit! I tried to find sprouts that varied both in height and size so there would be some movement. It worked out pretty dang well! My favorite variety are the little guys at the top that are tinged with purple at the tips. Anyone know what they’re called? I have planted several of them (there is even one in Fred). I’m a bit worried that they’ll grow crazy tall (like the one in Fred did), but until it happens, I’m not going to stress about it! I’m not sure why they grow so tall inside (maybe lack of sun?!), outside they get much larger and wider rather than growing straight up all skinny. I ended up bending the one in Fred underneath one of the leaves of the aloe vera, because it got so tall it started falling over. Crazytown!

 

Sterling Silver Sugar Bowl Mini-Succulent Planter | Land of Laurel

 

Overall, I’m pretty psyched about this guy. My only issue is that now I want like fifteen more! I initially thought they’d look awesome on the window ledge above my bed. Then I tried to stick this little guy up there and realized that the window ledge in that room is shallower than elsewhere in the house. The little legs on the sugar bowl basically make it instantly attempt to catapult off the ledge. Don’t worry, I drop things so frequently that I am now fantastic at catching them. Some of the time. The sugar bowl is safe! RIP glass mason jar completely full of apple cider (I missed the fridge shelf yesterday afternoon…).

 

But clearly, I need to hit up Goodwill a few more times and pick up a few more sterling silver pieces to use as succulent planters. I can see them scattered everywhere in a house, sitting on top of stacks of books. Very English countryside. Very me. Especially the part about the books. Have you read Living History by Hilary Clinton? I read it several months ago and ironically what struck me the most about the book was a few simple paragraphs describing the interiors of Jackie Kennedy Onassis’ home. Filled with books! You got it people, if Jackie O did it, then it is beautiful, timeless, and oh so classic. Or at least that’s what I plan on telling anyone who asks if I need as many books as I own. Because, yes, yes I do. They make me happy.

 

Anyways, my new little sugar bowl is too cute and I am excited to make a whole bunch more! They would make fantastic little gifts, don’t you think? Party favors, wedding favors, birthday gifts, I can think of so much more!

 

Sterling Silver Sugar Bowl Succulent Planter | Land of Laurel

 

 

I’ve decided to stick this little guy on my nightstand for now. We’ll see if that’s enough light to keep him happy. Hopefully so, because who doesn’t want to wake up next to something that dang cute?!

 

Have you ever upcycled something into a planter? Have any advice on raising succulents? Know what varieties of succulent I’ve found from my driveway?

Little Bathroom Jungle

When I first moved in, my bathroom (okay, okay, the downstairs bathroom) had great bones, but not much going on. I added a new shower curtain, some storage containers, and a painted gold plant stand.  I wanted the room to be full of life though, and as those of you who know about my addiction have already guessed, I wanted some plants! I wanted a bathroom jungle! I’ve been so inspired by pictures like this and this. I admire their bohemian flair, but mostly the liveliness the plants add to the space. Black and white rooms can so often be stark, but the addition of plants makes them feel much more natural. Since I always hit up the garden section of IKEA,  I had lots of things on hand. I picked up several of my favorite containers and a few plants on one of my last IKEA trips. I brought them home and decided to see what I could do to start my own little bathroom jungle. After all, one of my Oma’s plants was already living on the plant stand in there!

 

Because I bought so many, I stuck four of the small IKEA containers in the kitchen window. Now I need plants for here too!

 

Kitchen Window Plants | Land of Laurel

 

Then I went into the bathroom (the original purpose for the pots!) and stuck four more on the back of the toilet. I had plants for these ones! I instantly loved it. Look at all that life! All that greenery! Think of their ability to regulate indoor air-quality! Sold. Now I wanted even more plants.

 

Mini-Bathroom Jungle | Land of Laurel

 

I had just plopped the plants in their little plastic containers into the pots at this point. They looked pretty great there on the back of the toilet, definitely more exciting than a lot of the things I’ve store on here in the past!

 

Plants in the Bathroom | Land of Laurel

 

While I loved the plants themselves, the white pots on the white toilet was a little blah for me. The look was clean, totally fine for some people, but I wanted more contrast, more excitement. You know me, never one for simple! And since I’ve recently embraced gold on an extreme level, I went for it once again.

 

I painted these guys way back when I worked on the Paint it Pink Challenge. It’s easy to spray paint things all at once. Here they are, upside down, in their original state (I decided to paint two of the kitchen pots too!).

 

Spray Painting All the Pots

 

And, after absolutely no prep and my favorite gold spray paint, they started looking much more fun!

 

Painting IKEA Pots Gold | Land of Laurel

 

The plants were still dashing even in their plastic containers! I’m no gardner, so I can’t tell you their exact types, but I chose them because they were all different. The long spider plant on the far right with it’s droopy leaves was perfectly different from the tall round leaved plant on the far left. I made sure it mix it up when I picked these guys out.

 

Picking Plants | Land of Laurel

 

I added gravel to the bottom of the newly golden containers for drainage. Because bathrooms are so moist, I wanted be sure the plant roots would never be soaking.

 

Gravel as Drainage | Land of Laurel

 

Then I just pulled the plants from their plastic containers and plopped them into the pots. Simple, easy, quick.

 

Plants Potted Gold | Land of Laurel

 

I brought them back into the bathroom and put them on the toilet. But four gold pots suddenly looked too stuffed on top of the toilet. So I ended up just using three there and stuck the Spider on the window ledge. Then I faced another problem. While I liked the gold on the toilet top, the gold blended into the window ledge too much for me. Plus, I didn’t like the look of the single plant up there. It looked lonely!

 

Three Pots | Land of Laurel

 

That’s how I ended up repotting the white stripey spider plant, stealing  the white pots I planned on using in the kitchen, and propagating one of the spider plant offshoots from my grandmother’s spider plant.  There. That’s much more balanced looking, don’t you think? I got that little candle from my cousin over the holidays and it made friends with the spider plants, so I think he’s going to live there now too.

 

Repotted Spider Plant | Land of Laurel

 

It’s difficult to photograph the plants on the toilet and the plants on the window sill together because of the crazy light that pours in the window, but below is my best attempt. At least you can see that it’s an improvement from no plants, right?

 

Plants in the Bathroom | Land of Laurel

 

Here is where the bathroom started, no plants, no love. Now, at least it’s starting to get somewhere, cat box and all.

 

Move in Bathroom

 

A bit grainy from the crazy lighting, but moving slowly in the direction of bathroom jungle… One step at a time, people, one step at a time. Now I just need more plants. Or help with my addiction. Is there a twelve step program for plant addictions? I should enroll…

 

Happy Bathroom Plants | Land of Laurel

 

So here I am, making strides in my bathroom jungle. Up next? Plants for the vanity counter! Plants hanging from the ceiling! Plants growing in the bathtub! Just kidding, I need the bathtub to shower… 🙂 These guys here are still alive, but I managed to kill the happy Paint it Pink plant… overwatering? Sad Laurel.What do you think of plants in the bathroom? Do you have any in your bathrooms? Or do you have a black thumb?