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?

Advertisements

5 Minute Cat Haven

Remember that time I found cherry crates at a fruit stand on the side of 101? And it was pretty much the most exciting thing ever? I took them home and filled them with magazines and placed them under the glass top of the coffee and side tables in my living room. They looked pretty awesome and helped prevent incredibly clumsy people like myself from running into the glass table top so frequently. As they were sitting there I soon realized I wasn’t the only one who loved the crates. Malary could frequently be found sitting in them, on top of the magazines, or stretching out resting her paws on the crates. She seemed to prefer the coffee table crates and occasionally surprised visitors with her presence.

 

Cherry Crates Under Coffee Table | Land of Laurel

 

Well, lately, I’ve been trying to purge all the excess crap I have in my life. I took two laundry baskets full of clothes to Goodwill; I organized my bathroom medicine cabinet and under-sink cabinet, tossing the excess products I no longer use; I organized my shoe/jackets closet, got rid of several coats and pairs of shoes; and I went through my magazines tossing everything I no longer wanted (don’t worry, I kept every issue of House Beautiful).

 

I used four of these cherry crates in my living room. Two under the coffee table and one under each side table. One side table is sitting below the ivy plant in the middle of the photo above. I ended up tossing every single magazine I had in that crate. I have no idea why I’ve held on to so many magazines, I never flip through the non-house/home related ones.

 

Anyways, I was left with an empty crate! Now… I just love my cat. I know, I know, I’m a cat-lady, but whatever. #catladyandproud I decided that in this little tucked away crate I could make Malary a little spot of her own.

 

I hopped over to IKEA in Emeryville (holla ten minute drive! #entirereasonImovedhere) intending to buy two small throw pillows or a stand bed pillow to stick into the crate. Well, IKEA doesn’t sell standard pillowcases by themselves from most of their bedding lines. You can get the plain solid color ones, but that seemed too plebeian for my little kitty queen. I looked through the throw pillows and almost sprang for two of the faux sheep skin ones, but then I stumbled upon the red version of this guy, the Annbritt pillow. Apparently this is from the winter collection and they’re no longer shown online. IKEA still had a whole bunch of these sweater pillows in grey, cream, and red. Of course, I had to go for the red. The funky dimensions (approximately 15×30″) made it a perfect fit for the wooden crates. I was a little nervous Malary would be off put by the buttons, but I decided to go for it anyways. And at $13 buckaroos, really, how could I not?

 

I brought the pillow home and immediately stuck it into the empty crate. I sprinkled it with cat nip to get Malary’s attention right before snapping this picture.

 

5 Minute Cat Bed | Land of Laurel

 

The cat nip worked pretty much instantly, because as soon as I snapped that last picture, Malary was all, “Hmmm, excuse me, what are this?”

 

Malary's Cat Bed | Land of Laurel

 

After she spent a few minutes exploring the new bed, I stuck it back on the shelf on the side table. She hopped on in and pretty much hasn’t left it since. Although she normally spends most of her mornings napping on the back of the couch by the big windows, the last couple of days I’ve found her curled up down here.

 

Sleeping Cat in Bed | Land of Laurel

 

It’s pretty freaking cute, y’all. And I’m not just talking about the cat. This is a pretty attractive cat bed in my opinion. The crate? Vintage and cool, textural with the wood. The pillow? Happy, bright, red, and the sweater texture is just so cozy! By tucking it under the side table, not only is it more isolated and cave-like for Malary, it also doesn’t scream “CAT BED!!” to anyone hanging out in this room. By placing it beneath a glass top, I can also stalk my cat while she’s sleeping. Yes I am a complete creeper, but she’s just so cute!

 

Hidden Cat Bed | Land of Laurel

 

Ignore the bits of pollen the ivy decided to dump all over the table. Thanks!

 

Eventually she clued up to my cat-stalking and gave me her pissed off face.

 

Malary | Land of Laurel

 

…so I had to stop watching her curled up on her new cat bed. She is the boss after all…

 

 

 

 

 

Just kidding! She then started cleaning herself and it was ADORABLE.

 

Cat Tongue | Land of Laurel

 

I mean, seriously, can you believe this little girl is sixteen years old?! She is still my cute baby girl. Gah!

 

Cat Bed | Land of Laurel

 

Okay, okay, enough fan-girling over my cat. I told you I was a #catladyandproud, right? Who else out there is a self admitting cat lady? Made any cat beds lately? Or found one that fit in with your home decor?

 

Other Design Fails

Guess what guys? It’s Christmas. Yup, Christmas! You thought Christmas was in December? Nope. You’ve maybe heard of Christmas in July? Also wrong! It’s Christmas right now, today. Still confused? Here’s the 411.

 

When I moved into my house in Berkeley, I bought a lot of my existing furnishings and bedding with the idea of slowly updating a lot of it. It soon became clear that this might need to happen sooner rather than later for my bedding. Why? My comforter, barely warm enough during California winters in other rooms I’ve slept in, was excruciatingly hot in this 10 year old, properly insulated home. I woke up sweating almost every night and this was with the window left open in winter! Time for a change!

 

I went to IKEA and bought a new down comforter, one of their “coolest” models. This is it, I thought. This comforter weighs one third of my old one. It will be so much cooler. I will no longer get sweaty. I will sleep blissfully. Like an angel. This was right around when I bought my new West Elm duvet cover. I had high hopes for my new bedroom look!

 

A few nights in, I realized, although this new comforter was significantly cooler than my original one, it wasn’t cool enough. At all. I like to sleep snuggled up in warm bedding in a cool room and this was just too hot, even with the window open! Maybe I’m wearing the wrong pajamas, I thought. I tried long pants, I wore no pants, I tried tank tops. I wore just underwear, I tried nightgowns, I wore leggings, I wore REI moisture-wicking base layers. Nothing worked. Okay, fine, I thought, I can come up with another solution, this is so much better than having the opposite problem. And I’ve lived through that too. 

 

I started looking for quilts. A thin quilt would surely be cool enough! Now, I just need to find one in a great green color to match everything else in my room. Months past… I looked on every site and in every store I could think of. I found… nothing in green. Eventually, I stumbled on this quilt from West Elm. It didn’t come in green. At this point, I was sleep deprived from being too warm. I started to care less about green. I started to rely on my primitive lizard brain. My primitive lizard brain likes the color red. So does my frontal lobe, actually, but my frontal lobe is much better about regulating the amount of red. It’s good at mixing red with neutrals. My lizard brain doesn’t give a flying @!$&. My lizard brain wanted to sleep in a cool environment and not wake up sweating.

 

Then the quilt went on sale. My lizard brain just loves a good sale. It was definitely in control when I hopped on those nightstands I posted about Monday like they were big, juicy, lizard-food bugs. What happened next? I’m sure you can guess. I bought the quilt in the paprika color and the matching standard shams. When these came in the mail, I love them. They’re a beautiful red, my absolute favorite shade of red! I was excited. These will look fantastic, I thought.

 

Then I washed them and made up my bed…

 

West Elm Duvet and Quilt | Land of Laurel

 

Merry Christmas! Don’t you just love decorating with red and green? OOPS.

 

I’d convinced myself before pushing the “Place Order” button, that the red quilt would look fine in my bedroom. After all, the duvet had plenty of red in it!  In reality? Happy Christmas. My pale green walls, green throw, and even the floral duvet met up with the red quilt and started celebrating the birth of Jesus. Throw in some gold sequined throw pillows and you’ve really got a Christmas party! Doggoneit. Switching up the nightstands with the blue and green books was also an attempt to help with my new holiday inspired space.

 

Nightstands and Red Quilt | Land of Laurel

 

 

… it didn’t really help much.

 

The red completely dominated the other colors in my duvet. The shades of white, blue, green– they all disappeared. All I see now is red. And it’s not because I’m angry. Let’s call this learning. Let’s call this evolving.

 

Even Malary wasn’t happy with the new look.

 

New Bedding | Land of Laurel

 

Here’s the thing though, the quilt did solve some of my problems. It is the perfect weight. I am no longer super hot at night. I can even sleep with the window closed now! I don’t wake up all hot and sweaty. I no longer sing Nelly’s Hot in Herre at 2:00am. My roommates are much appreciative! So in some ways, this quilt is the best thing ever! Now, if only I had bought it in that pretty Natural/Flax color rather than Paprika… But, I am no good at keeping light neutrals, oh, how should I say it? Light and neutral. They usually become spotted and dark. Quickly. Nope, white and lights don’t mix well with clumsy ole me! Slate might have worked… but it was so dark!

 

So what am I going to do? Live with it for now. Maybe switch up the shams and get some different throw pillows. Or! Move to a place with a guest bedroom and split up the bedding, since I love them both so dearly. That’s not happening anytime soon though… And I do love throw pillows. Until I move forward with a new plan, I’ll just be over here celebrating Christmas. All day. Everyday. Good thing I love holidays!! I would like a design win though… I’m over failing!