Thank you SO much for the incredible outpouring of love and support following my last post.  I was overwhelmed, frankly, by the number of texts, emails, messages and comments I received from friends and strangers alike.  A lot of the messages came from my current and past clients going back 8+ years and that really blew me away.  I want to thank each of you for taking the time to reach out in love and support.  It means so much to me and I truly appreciate it.  I have made it over the hump, so to speak, and my heart and body are healing everyday.  I continue to remain hopeful for the future.

Mother’s Day was a little bittersweet this year — celebrating my blessing on earth but mourning those in heaven — but I still had a wonderful day with my family.  We went to church, had In-N-Out for lunch (just like every Sunday!), and put Olive down for a nap.  Our plan was to leave right after her nap for Cambria — our “traditional” destination for Mother’s Day.  As we began driving that afternoon, however, I realized that we would get there after all of my favorite antique shops had closed.  So, we made a detour and simply enjoyed the beach, a park, and some takeout for dinner.  We have plans to get to Cambria this week so I’ll share about those forthcoming adventures soon.  :)

Love this pic of us.  I’m wearing my new fav dress from LuLaRoe — so comfy and feminine; I’m obsessed!

Our simple little afternoon and evening together reminded me to be thankful for the little moments that we often take for granted.  I loved having Erik with us at the park since he is usually working when I take Olive to play.  He got to hear her say, “Whee!!” two dozen times as she rode down the slide.  He helped her hang from the monkey bars and chased her around in the sand.  We laughed with each other as we admired her quirks, her energy, her silly and playful nature.  We had strangers take our picture so we could get a group shot.  Unfortunately hey turned out horrible but I’m glad we have them.  :)

Erik wrote me the most beautiful card and of course, it made me cry.  I am so thankful for him in times of joy and sorrow; he is always a source of wisdom, strength and unconditional love.  It is so crazy to think we met when I was 19 and look at us now, being adults and raising a daughter and what not.  ;-)  Love you, babe.

oh Olive!

And Olive.  I gave her a pass this year but expect a card or something next year.  ;-)  She is amazing and I thank God everyday for her.  After years of praying and crying and pleading for a child, she was the one who arrived in our arms.  I She surprises me everyday with her thoughtfulness, her natural affection, her tender heart.  If the Lord only gives us one child, I am grateful it is her.  I cherish every moment with her knowing that this life is fleeting.

Olive — I am so blessed to be your mama.  You are my favorite gift and the perfect addition to our family.  You have changed my life in every way for the better; I can barely remember what it was like before you arrived.  Every Mother’s Day I will be reminded of how my prayers were answered in you.  And everyday that I am on this earth, I will be loving you with all my heart.  xoxo, Mama

On a final note, I want to send lots of love to the two moms in my life…

  • my mother-in-law, Delores, who raised an amazing son and is someone I could sit and chat with for hours (and I often do!).  She’s a friend to everyone she meets and is so devoted to her family.
  • my umma, Grace.  She epitomizes sacrificial love and she would do anything for her children (and now grandchild).  When she was a single mom raising two daughters, she slept on the floor and I slept on a bed.  She worked three jobs to send me to the programs and events I wanted to attend and always found a way to be generous with us when we had so little.  If I tell her I like something she’s wearing, it frequently goes home with me (haha I promise I don’t take advantage of this!).  After Olive was born, we stayed with her for a week so I could rest and recover.  When I stay with her now, she still makes me a gourmet breakfast and packs me a snack for the car.  :)  Staying with her is better than staying at a 5-star hotel.  She also sent me a big box of han yak today (Chinese/Korean herbs) to take post-miscarriage.  If you know you know — it’s a big deal, even if it’s the nastiest stuff on the planet.  We are opposites in many ways but one thing that is clear is that she loves her children passionately.  I will always be indebted to my Umma and am so grateful for all that she has done, and continues to do, for me.

Hope you all are having a great start to your week!

It happened.  Again.  I got pregnant and we lost the baby, this time at 8 weeks.  This  makes 3 miscarriages for me, with the last two in a row.

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pregnant with Olive, 2011 // photo by Jose Villa

The first time I had a miscarriage, in May of 2011, I was unprepared for the grief.  I had never been pregnant before and was actually amidst a very intense journey with infertility.  There were doubts as to whether or not I even *could* get pregnant, medically speaking.  So when I saw those 2 lines for the first time and received the good news from the doctor’s office via blood test, I was on cloud 9.  It was inconceivable to me that I might not make it to full-term.  I felt like my prayers had finally been answered and I was invincible.  So when I received the crushing news that my HCG levels were plummeting and I would soon miscarry, I was devastated.  I got the news at the worst possible time: while driving to San Diego for a party I was working on.  I was going to have to see dozens of people that night and put on a smile and try to socialize.  I ended up crying with many friends that evening as I couldn’t hold back the grief.  I cried all the way home (probably not that smart to drive in that state, looking back…).  It was a dark time.

But after that time of sorrow, an immense joy came into our lives when I got pregnant shortly thereafter with the baby who became Olive Iris.  I had a perfect pregnancy.  It wasn’t just normal, it was amazing.  I felt great, she thrived, the delivery was smooth and we ended up with our miracle.  Although the pain of my miscarriage was still somewhere deep down inside, Olive’s arrival healed so much in me.

With our fertility struggles in mind, we never planned to ‘wait’ to get pregnant again.  To the contrary, we hoped and prayed we would get pregnant again somehow, anytime.  When I was checked out of the hospital with a 2-day old baby the nurse asked incredulously, “Are you SURE you don’t want the pill?  What if you were to get pregnant right away??”  I laughed and said, “I would gladly take another baby right away.”  I meant it.  I still mean it.

Time passed by but we had the sweet distraction of watching our daughter grow and flourish.  Last fall, however, I learned I was pregnant again.  You couldn’t imagine our excitement.  But once again, just a few weeks later, we learned I was going to miscarry a second time.  I ended up having my miscarriage the week before Christmas and I began the emotional & physically-painful process at a wedding, of all places.  I remember the night before the wedding, crying on the floor of our hotel bathroom and mourning the loss of that child.  Once again, however, God gave me the strength and grace to lean on Him through the painful ordeal.

The first time you have a miscarriage, you are devastated by the unexpected nature of it.  No one thinks that it will happen to them.  No one could prepare themselves for it.  But I soon learned (from sharing my experience with friends) that many around me had suffered a loss as well.  Although this did not diminish my own pain, it served to encourage me that there were others who had walked in the same valley and found healing on the other side.  I felt hopeful.

The second time I had a miscarriage, I was confused.  What did this  mean?  Why was this happening to me again??  Was there something wrong with me?  Would I ever be able to carry another child?  With time, the fears faded away.  I remained hopeful.

But now, three.  The third time.  I honestly cannot explain how it felt to get the news a third time.  This time was different.  We found out I was pregnant and I had concerns right away.  The levels were low so we had repeated blood tests (four over the course of a week).  We were amazed (BLOWN AWAY) by how the levels begin rapidly and miraculously rising.  I went from having alarmingly low levels to having above average numbers.  I thought I just had a slow starter in there!  I felt like that week *was* my test.  I felt like in some way, God was showing me that I had a fighter in there and that we would make it with this baby.

At my first ultrasound, we saw the gestational sac.  And it was small.  It was actually really small, but the doctor suggested I could be earlier than we thought.  I could tell, though… I could tell by her voice and her very intentional phrasing that she already saw it coming.  When she left the room, hot tears started flowing down my cheeks and I just stared at the screen, staring at that tiny black sac and prayed that somewhere in there was a healthy tiny baby.  I hadn’t had any cramping or spotting or any other worrisome symptoms to make me suspect miscarriage.  Erik had packed our ‘good camera’ for this visit and was prepared to shoot video of our baby’s blinking heartbeat.  But instead, he slipped the camera back into his bag and prayed with me as I laid there, weeping on the table.  We scheduled another ultrasound and went on our knees, praying desperately that week.  I told a few close friends about the situation so I could ask for their prayers as well.  We all had a glimmer of hope.  We all wanted that miracle.

We told Olive about the baby in my tummy and at nightly prayers, she would say in her tiny voice, “Dear Jesus, Thank you for Mommy.  Thank you for Daddy.  Thank you for baby brother.”  I don’t know why she always insisted that the baby was a boy but she did.  Thinking back on these prayers is bittersweet.  I know Olive would make a wonderful big sister.

On the morning of my last ultrasound, Erik and I prayed in the car and we prayed again before the doctor came in.  He still brought the good camera, hopeful in his heart.  I knew the moment that the screen went up that it was over.  I could see the sac right away and while it had grown, it was far too small.  No yolk sac, no visible fetal pole, no heartbeat.  The doctor gently explained my options and discussed genetic testing and offered words of comfort about how young I still was, and how she felt like I still would be able to have another child.  I just nodded politely, the tears streaming down my cheeks and hitting the crinkly paper cover on the table.  I remember the doctor’s look of horror when she accidentally said “baby” instead of “fetal tissue” while discussing genetic testing.  Although Erik and I would call my loss a baby, I know most in the medical community would not use such a personal, emotionally charged word when it comes to a first trimester loss.  She offered her condolences and left us alone in the room.  I laid there for 5, 10 minutes, not saying a word.  Erik prayed for us again.  We left the building quietly and drove home in mostly silence.  I cried on and off.  I didn’t make a sound.  It was actually very reminiscent of my labor with Olive (one day I’ll share her birth story), when I just wanted to be silent and alone.  The tears seemed to come without any effort, spilling down my cheeks in constant rivulets.  I looked out the window as the landscapes whizzed by and I said farewell in my heart to the hope and the dream of this second child.  My fourth pregnancy, my third miscarriage.  I said goodbye to the baby who was going to be due the week before Christmas, who was going to be due right around the time I miscarried the last pregnancy.  It seemed so poetic when we thought about the timing.  Still poignant now, but in a painful way.

You would think that the third time you go through a painful experience, it might hurt a little less.  Grief has no such familiarity.  It is a new grief each time.  In fact, with this third miscarriage, it is a little more terrifying.  I have now entered the 1%, the extremely rare group of people diagnosed with recurrent pregnancy loss.  I take the best prescription prenatal vitamins on the market, I had daily omega 3 supplements and organic food and no caffeine or alcohol or smoking and plenty of vitamin D and rest.  I have a perfectly normal uterus and am “only” 30 years old.  It is sort of baffling.

But then, it isn’t.  Because I believe that everything, including these painful miscarriages, are part of a plan: God’s plan for my life.  I know that the pain, the experience, the growing that has occurred because of these miscarriages, has been for good.  That sounds crazy, right?  How could losing 3 babies be good?  I know all 3 babies are safely in heaven, where there is no pain and no suffering.  I know that I will see them there one day.  I know that I have become stronger, more resilient, more dependent on Christ, more trusting in His will, through these experiences.  I know that I love and cherish Olive more because of these experiences.  I know that Erik and I have been strengthened in our marriage through these experiences.  I have even been blessed to see some others around me say they have been blessed and encouraged watching us walk through this trial.  That is so humbling because I do not handle things perfectly but I know that anything I am able to do, it is because Christ strengthens me.

I also want to remind those who may not share my beliefs that prayer is not a magical incantation or spell.  Some might wonder how or why I would go through these painful experiences when I prayed so hard for the babies.  Why weren’t my prayers answered?  Well the short version is because God is sovereign and His will is perfect.  Sometimes prayers are not answered the way we want them to be, but God is always there and His plan is perfect.  I want His will and not my own.  I am grateful for all the prayers that went “unanswered” in my life that ultimately were demonstrated to be answered later, in much greater ways.

So now.  I am still going through this miscarriage.  It took Olive a few days of our gentle reminders that there was no longer a baby brother on the way.  She looked confused, but has now phased that phrase out of her evening prayers.  Erik is giving me incredible support and love and encouragement.  My friends and family have been amazing as well, checking in on me and sending their prayers on our behalf.  I know it will be a while before I can think on this without fresh tears, but I know that time will come.  Writing this post helped, even if a few new tears were shed.  :)

I want to thank each of you for taking the time to read this post.  I know it may seem oddly placed here, amongst happy photos of Olive and gorgeous images from weddings.  But this is a part of me and my story.  I pray that none of you will suffer the same loss but if anyone reading this has gone through the trial of miscarriage, I pray you know that there is hope on the other side.  I am assured of this with everything I am.

A simple Friday was just what I needed.  Today I woke up, took a refreshing shower, gave Olive a bath (her absolute favorite thing lately — she’d stay in for an hour if we let her) and made us breakfast.  She sat in my lap patiently while I braided her hair into two fishtail plaits.  I let her watch an episode of Super Why and I annoyed her the entire time by staring at her beautiful profile and snapping dozens of photos of her.  Because, well, she is ridiculously beautiful.  I could totally see her as a teen rolling her eyes and saying, “Ugh Mooooooom — no more pictures!”  ;-)

first fishtail braids

cozy feet on the couch

We played on the floor of the sunroom and sang silly songs.  We went to the children’s museum and played for over an hour in the marvelous air-conditioned facility.  It was the perfect way to escape the heat.  Olive made friends with everyone she met, excitedly delivered the mail to all the mailboxes in the pretend city, prepared a dozen imaginary meals for me in the diner, and became obsessed with the shadow wall (she finally “got it” this time and started posing and kicking her legs to create funny silhouettes).  No photos to show for it, though.

After spotting a young mom on her phone in the museum, completely ignoring her adorable 2 year-old son, I just had that pang of guilt.  How many times have I been glued to my phone while Olive pulls on my leg or asks for something, even if it was in the privacy of my own home?  In this case, the boy kept trying to show his mama something, asking for her attention, hoping to interact with her.  He noticed me chatting excitedly with Olive and came over to play with us.    We made a 7 tier plastic cake and dined on imaginary pizza and swept the play kitchen and his mom didn’t even raise her eyes to glance at us.  I tried to speak to her myself, asking about her son, and she barely looked at me while returning one word answers.  Before we left, the little boy hugged my leg and said, “I like you” and kissed my knee.  I told her how sweet he was and she said, “Yeah, he does that a lot lately.”  Now let me say this: I have no judgment for this mama; I have no idea what she was going through, what kind of day or week or month she is having, or who she is.  I only witnessed a brief snippet of their lives today.  But, what I saw was enough to impact me and make me reflect on my own presence in Olive’s life.  I want to always be engaged with Olive when I am with her; I don’t want to be too busy to play and sing and dance and be silly.  I don’t need to take a photo of everything we do; the experience and memory is enough.  Maybe it’s even better, without the pressure and need to capture it.  So the phone stayed in my purse all afternoon, and the only photos I have from this perfect day are from this morning.

love this photo… even the thrashed floors the previous owners left for us. (to be refinished this summer) But in this photo, all I see is my magical Olive.

Olive hugged and kissed me more than 5x during lunch (out of nowhere) just saying, “Mama, I love you.”  It’s as if she knows exactly what I need and when I need it.  It blows me away, how God has blessed me with this little one.  Oh Olive, I love you too.  More than you know.

A simple Friday was just what I needed today and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.

Have a great weekend, loves!

Hey everyone!  Okay… so this post might seem a bit odd but in the past, I’ve enjoyed sharing my random “fab finds” with you.  Hope you don’t mind me picking up the series here with an installment on foundation!  As a teenager, I never really wore makeup.  Aside from special occasions when I had my makeup done (e.g. prom), I went happily barefaced.  Clear mascara and softlips were my go-tos!

In college, I played with some tinted moisturizers (love Laura Mercier) and used Bare Minerals for a while.  I remember someone taking me to a Stila warehouse sale and I went crazy, purchasing my first professional brush kit.  Still, it wasn’t until after I was married that I really got into makeup.  Now I am certainly no beauty guru and I still struggle to apply eyeliner without a shaky hand, but I think I have enough experience and YouTube hours logged to share the bit of knowledge I have.  ;-)

These days I wear foundation about 4-5 days a week, depending on my schedule.  Sometimes I will put on foundation even when my only plans are to clean house and read books with Olive; it just makes me feel fresh and polished.  I have tried quite a few foundations and have discovered that my favorites have medium coverage with a youthful, dewy finish.  I definitely don’t favor a matte face, so I rarely powder (unless it’s a long, hot day and I desperately need a touch-up).  My ideal face looks youthful and glowing but not shiny.

When it comes to luxury foundations, Chanel is my ultimate favorite hands-down.  I’ve tried others including YSL and Nars, but I always come back to Chanel.  Within the brand, I’ve tried Pro Lumière (now discontinued), Mat Lumière, Perfection Lumière and Vitalumière Aqua.  The two latter are my current favorites and are in regular rotation.  For both foundations I wear the shade beige 30 — my skin is light to medium with yellow undertones (half-Asian) and I have a good amount of freckles on my face.  ;-)  I favor Perfection Lumière (retails for $57) for special occasions and evenings since the coverage is better and the finish is slightly more matte (but not flat), which looks great in photos.  Vitalumière Aqua (retails for $45) is an easy everyday foundation, feels very light on the skin, and has a very natural finish.  It’s a “my skin but better” look that I love!  I also love that the packaging is plastic which, while less luxe than the typical glass Chanel bottles, makes for easy traveling and tossing into my handbag.

Although I love me some fancy foundation, I don’t want to use it every single day and constantly need to replace them.  So, I change out regularly with two great drugstore foundations.  Both were lucky accidents; I stumbled into a CVS and guessed my shade in the aisle and it worked (both times).  The two drugstore foundations in rotation (both around $8/ea) are Maybelline Dream Smooth Mousse Foundation in Creamy Natural and Maybelline Fit Me Foundation in 120.  The former is a cream formula, and the latter is liquid.

For all of my foundations, I prefer to apply with clean fingers and blend well.  I do use a stippling brush on occasion if I need a really perfect and thorough application but let’s be real… what mom has time to leisurely apply makeup??  I have been complimented on my skin while wearing all 4 of these foundations so I continue to repurchase each of them.  My mom even asked me to get her the two Maybelline foundations for her (that’s a big deal if you know my fancy mom).

If and when I need powder, I reach for the sheer Porefessional powder by Benefit (retails for $30).  It keeps shine at bay and I love the built in brush.

Ultimately I think my luxury foundations are worth the splurge (and I usually get a new one at Christmas from my mother-in-law!) but I’m grateful for my drugstore faithfuls for the everyday.

Do you have favorite foundations, either high or low end?  I’d love to hear your picks, too!  xoxo

I know time is always whizzing past us but seriously… is it really May in a few days??  May is the calm before the storm around here, as I prepare for a very busy summer of weddings.  I’m on top of my inbox (thank you Lord!) but still feel like I could use 3 extra days just to pause and reset.  Anyone else with me?  While I gather my bearings and prepare for the month ahead, I thought I’d share some recent “everyday moments.”

menu tasting at Bacara Resort.  I need chèvre crostini, stat.

we had sweet friends staying with us a few weeks ago, and they brought us homemade challah!

a fresh initial mock-up for a summer wedding client!

Olive and that scrunch nose!

always exploring.

We are grilling multiple times a week and I love it!  These simply grilled clams were amazing.

antiquing alone on a Sunday afternoon = such a delight.

endless park days.

Today.  I really needed this today.

I napped Olive early today so I could prep for a Skype meeting (Hi R!) so I’m about to wake her up and run to the market for a few last-minute items for dinner.  I’m going to whir up a frothy banana milk for some natural energy first, though!  Yummm.  I hope you’re all having a great week.  See you soon.  ;-)

In most years, I’ll start my wedding season in March or April, with a few scattered events until peak season between June and October.  This year, however, we got off to a running start in January with the special wedding of my precious high school friend, Teresa.  Our last wedding of 2013 was in late December so we never really took a breath around here!  Teresa has been a treasured pal for 15+ years and it was an honor to work with her on her wedding at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Downtown Los Angeles.

Can I just kick off the post with this engagement photo?  It instantly brings a smile to my face!

If you’ve ever been to The Music Center, you’ll know that it features lots of natural light, towering walls of windows and stunning architecture and design.  Upon entering the lobby, you are transported to a classically elegant, timeless and luxurious setting.  The marble floors, golden columns and my favorite, the gigantic Bavarian crystal chandeliers, make a dramatic statement.  To top it off, you have scrumptious in-house catering by Patina Group!

Teresa opted for a feminine and romantic look for her wedding, embracing shades of blush, sage green and creamy ivories, paired with gold accents.  Everything was ladylike and dreamy and soft and lovely.  What a sweet, sweet day to see such a long-standing and cherished friend get married to a wonderful man.  Congratulations, Teresa and James!!

Enjoy these beautiful photos from Erin Hearts Court.  They always knock it out of the park and I love working with them.

Teresa’s bouquet featured a locket with photos of her late Halmunee (grandmother).

First look!

Teresa and her maids, which included her sister (whose wedding we also did!) and five sweet gals from high school.

bright, airy, refreshing.

scenes from their traditional Korean paebaek ceremony

One of my favorite images of Teresa from that day — love the lighting and her expression.

framed engagement photos and gilded votive holders were placed near the elevators

Teresa and I found the perfect peachy blush silk dupioni and beaded trim for these boxes on half of the guest tables.  I loved how they turned out!

{ Vendor Team }

Ceremony and Reception Venue: Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Music Center | Catering: Patina Group | Planning and Coordination: Love and Splendor | Photography: Erin Hearts Court | Linens: La Tavola Fine Linen | Flowers: Flower Allie | Desserts: The Scootabaker | Draping and Lighting: Amber Event Production | DJ/MC: Thousand Words Events | Bride’s hair and makeup and bridesmaids’ hair: Kelly Zhang | Bridesmaids’ makeup: Jen Wang | Ceremony musicians: Fiddlestix | Calligraphy: Jane Park

I hope you all are having a great Thursday!  While Olive is napping, I’m going to speed-clean the house and marinate some skirt steak for dinner — yum!  See you again soon.

Hello everyone!  I hope your week is off to a lovely start.  I am taking a break from invitation assembly (Hi J&C!!) to catch you all up on my favorite two year old (gasp!!), Olive.  I wrote her a 2nd birthday letter but never posted an official 24 month update here.  I decided that since so many of you enjoy the updates, I would continue sharing them here but perhaps slightly less often.  ;-)  So, here is the latest in the world of Olive from February 12-April 12, 2014:

  • We celebrated Valentine’s Day as a family — first with a toddler/mama party and then with a dinner out in San Luis Obispo
  • Olive spent a few days with her Halmunee (my mom) while I went on a wedding planner escape!  They visited the Santa Barbara Zoo, took walks on the beach, and just enjoyed one another.  I am so grateful for their sweet relationship!
  • We enjoyed many great park days.  Olive still can’t get enough of the “baby slide.”  She also loves climbing the nets and the curved monkey bars.  She is brave and persistent and I love watching her try new things at the playground.
  • Olive encountered the magic of Disneyland and hasn’t been the same since.  She still talks about her meeting with the Mouse.
  • We celebrated my 30th birthday with some dear friends and Olive spent most of her time sharing snacks with the puppy, Ruby!
  • Olive turned TWO and we celebrated with a simple home party with family and friends.
  • We had a joint March birthday celebration with two of our friends: Blake and J5 (and mommies Melody and Christina).  It was  a great time of getting all our favorite families together for açai bowls and a bounce house.
  • We have been enjoying our backyard and sideyard and all the new vegetables and fruits we’ve planted.  (Garden update coming soon!)  Olive is always eager to go outside with Daddy and help pick arugula and kale for a salad, or check on the “wiggly worms” in the raised beds.  I still can’t stomach the sight of a caterpillar so we’ll leave that task to the two of them.  Ugh!
  • The Kaisers came to stay for a weekend and we had a blast.  Olive loved playing with Grace and Jasper — she is always so quick to make new friends.
  • We visited the San Luis Obispo Firehouse and Olive went NUTS for the “fiyah en-jun.”  She was so eager to put on her little fire helmet and buckle herself into the truck.  It was hard tearing her away from the station!!
  • Funny phrases: “That’s right, Mama!  Very good!” (when I answer one of her questions correctly) // “No no no!” while waving a finger at us // “It’s baby turn!  That’s baby shoes.  It’s baby Mickey!” (her form of possessive) // “Mama come back!  I miss you Mama.” (when I get her in the morning or after a nap) // “Washin’ da booty” (sung while I put her into the bath… oh brother.)

Whew!  I tried to be as concise as possible in summing up two busy months.  Here is a little photomosaic of our fun:

Olive — Everyday with you is an adventure.  You are so hilarious, playful, tender-hearted, sympathetic, affectionate, and kind.  You also have a passionate and stubborn streak when it comes to things you want really badly (Dole Whip at Disneyland, haha) or things you absolutely don’t want (like a bite of grilled trout last night).  You are chatty all day long, asking questions and pointing things out or just telling us what you like, love, need, and want.  We are grateful everyday for the joy you bring to our lives.  A part of me wishes you could stay this age forever but as each day gets better and better, I know the best is yet to come.  Love you to the moon and back.  xoxo, Mama

Have a great afternoon and see you again soon!

This past Sunday, I had the pleasure of checking out the brand new Santa Barbara Public Market for their Friends & Family Preview Day.  It has been a long time coming so I was excited to finally see the plans come to fruition.  I have always loved Public Markets… a cross between a farmer’s market and a gourmet food court.  From Oxbow in Napa to Granville Island in Vancouver to Quincy Market in Boston, I have visited quite a few of them.  I love the stacks of stunning produce, the exotic scents, the stalls with unique food purveyors and the energy!  A public market also reminds me a lot of depachika in Japan: the basement of a department store, lined with stalls offering bento lunchboxes, fresh fish, delicate mochi and more…

The beautiful new SB Public Market is conveniently located in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara, just a block off of busy State Street.  The beautiful white building seems quiet and calm until you push through the doors into the bright and bustling activity inside. Natural light streams in through the windows, the ceilings are tall with exposed pipes for a modern industrial feel, and reclaimed wood is used prominently throughout the design of individual shops.

My invitation to visit the SBPM was courtesy of my dear friends Amber and Kevin of Enjoy Cupcakes.  They are one of the shop owners at the SBPM and I am so excited for them!!  Clearly, my first stop was at their stall to pick up a strawberry basil chardonnay cuppie and give my congratulations.  If you ever wanted to try Enjoy Cupcakes but haven’t had the occasion to drive out to Los Olivos, I hope you make sure to visit them in SB.

I also sampled some incredible pistachio ice cream from Rori’s (a Montecito favorite), cold pressed juice from JuiceWell and organic olive oils from Il Fustino.  I could have roamed around all day, just taking in the sights and tastes.  I can’t wait to return later today to pick out some special gourmet gifts for the foodies in my life, as well as local treats for Santa Barbara wedding welcome bags!

If you find yourself in SB, make sure to swing by and visit; they officially opened on Monday!

Enjoy your evening and see you all again soon!

Happy Monday, everyone!  Thank you SO much for all the love and encouragement you shared regarding my new logo/blog/site launch last week.  I was so overwhelmed with gratitude for everyone who took the time to take a look and send some support.  I’m sending out big virtual hugs!

I used random.org to select a winner for the giveaway and CONGRATULATIONS goes out to Jennifer Anne Merrett of Stick Girl Jam.  Woohoo!  I will be emailing you to send you your prize.  :)

Today I thought I’d kick off the week with something sweet.  Something decadently, indulgently sweet.  I mentioned in a recent post that one of my favorite activities of my weekend with the Kaisers was making homemade ice cream.  There is nothing like a rich and creamy batch of fresh ice cream, is there??  I let Grace choose the flavor we made and she was quick to suggest caramel.  That’s my kind of girl!  This creamy and buttery ice cream is mind-blowing.  When Nate took his first spoonful he said, “WHOA.  This stuff is legit.”  And I don’t know if I can put it much better than that.  It rivals any premium ice cream I’ve had anywhere else, and trust me when I say I’m quite the ice cream connoisseur.  I can’t take credit for the phenomenal outcome since I used a recipe from who else — David Lebovitz aka the King of Ice Cream.  But, I can tell you that it is worth the time it takes to make homemade caramel as your silky base.  Grace and I had a Monopoly game to get to so we skipped the caramel praline mix-in (little caramel chips).  I’m sure they would add some scrumptious texture but you won’t miss a thing without them.  If you try it out, let me know.  I bet you’ll love it as much as we did.

Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream // makes a generous quart
**Adapted from David Lebovitz

  • 2 cups of whole milk, divided
  • 1.5 cups of sugar
  • 4 TBS of good salted butter
  • scant 1/2 tsp sea salt (the best salt you have in the pantry)
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice cubes (about halfway) and a bit of water so they are floating.  Then placing a metal bowl on top of that so it is surrounded by the ice cubes.  You want an extra cold bowl to add your ingredients later.  *A key to successful ice cream making is having a completely cold custard (un-churned ice cream) before pouring into your machine.

Pour 1 cup of the milk into the metal bowl and put a mesh strainer on top of it.  (You need a mesh strainer.  Invest in one).

Spread the 1.5 cups of sugar in a large saucepan in an even layer.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof utensil (such as a silicone spatula).  Gently stir the liquefied sugar from the edges toward the center until it is completely dissolved.

Continue to stir and cook the caramel until it begins to start smoking and begins to smell like it’s just about to burn. (I know that sounds scary but it wasn’t that dramatic.  I saw the tiniest wisp of smoke rise and noted the distinct caramel scent in the air.)

Immediately remove from heat and stir in the butter and salt, continuing to stir.  Once the butter is melted, whisk in the cream.

At this point your caramel may harden (because you are adding cold/room temp ingredients to a hot melted caramel), but retirun it to low heat and continue to stir until it is amber liquid once again.  Stir in the other 1 cup of milk.

Whisk your 5 yolks in a separate bowl and then “temper” the eggs.  This means you very slowly and gradually add in some of the warm caramel to the yolks, stirring them, and then add a bit more, stirring…  If you just added the eggs to the caramel right away, you’d end up with scrambled eggs (eww).  The goal of tempering is to bring the eggs up to the same temperature as the caramel in a very gentle way.  I add the warm caramel to the eggs a spoonful at a time, vigorously stirring the entire time.  When the yolks are warmed up, you can add (slowly) to the caramel and continue to stir.  You want to heat this mixture up until it reaches 170 deg F.

Pour the custard over the mesh strainer into the milk (in that metal bowl over the ice bath).  This helps in case you didn’t temper patiently and have some floating egg bits in your custard!  It also ensures that the final product is super silky smooth.  Add the vanilla and stir over the ice bath until the mixture is cool.  Then, put the custard into the fridge for at least 8 hours, or ideally overnight.  This is a KEY step — your custard must be thoroughly and completely chilled.  If not, it won’t freeze completely in the churner and you’ll end up with soupy ice cream.  Delicious, but soupy.

When your custard is fully chilled, freeze it in the ice cream maker according to instructions.  I use the Kitchen Aid ice cream maker attachment that works with my stand mixer.  I love it!

Once the ice cream is churned, remove to a freezer safe container and chill until firm.  (Fresh churned ice cream will have a softer texture since it doesn’t have any artificial stabilizers, but it will firm up nicely in the freezer.)

Enjoy!!

Have a sweet evening and chat again soon!

Happy Friday, everyone!  At this time one week ago, I was fluffing pillows and chopping veggies and preparing for a sweet little weekend with our dear friends, the Kaisers.  I met Nate and Jaclyn (photographers behind The Image is Found) in 2006 when we were all young and fresh-faced in the industry, as we worked with some amazing clients on a posh Hollywood Hills estate wedding.  We had an instant click that night and over the course of the last 8 years (!) we have made some awesome memories together.  They have photographed us multiple times, most notably for this bride & groom session we shot in a dried out lake bed in the rain in early 2007.  ;-)  My friendship with Nate and Jac has always been so natural and easy.  We just get each other.  We can go months without seeing each other and then boom — we get together and laugh until we cry like we never were apart.  Jac has also been such a loving and supportive friend to me through hard times.  When I had my first miscarriage in 2011, she was the first to send me a little love package, an encouraging book, and a heartfelt note.  To know the Kaisers is to love the Kaisers and I am so grateful they are in my life.

circa 2010??

When we used to live in LA and they lived in SD/Oceanside, we would meet in Orange County for catch up lunches.  Now that they live in the mountains and we live further up the coast, our visits have been fewer and farther between.  So, I was thrilled to have them stay with us for a few days while they shot a wedding in Paso Robles last weekend.  They arrived on Friday and we shared a scrumptious homemade vegetarian meal (butternut squash ravioli and sundried tomato soup!) together before staying up late giggling and catching up.  On Saturday, we had a delicious brunch at The Natural Cafe in SLO before Nate and Jac headed off to shoot their wedding.  Erik and I took the three kiddos (Grace, Jasper, and Olive) to Avila Valley Barn where we visited adorable animals (including alpacas and goats), enjoyed saltwater taffy and local honey, and took a requisite hayride.  Back at home, Erik took Jasper and Olive in the backyard to hunt for four-leafed clovers (we found 7 in under 15 minutes!  Isn’t that amazing?!  I don’t think I ever found one as a kid.) while Grace and I made a batch of homemade caramel ice cream.  You guys — it turned out to be the most decadent and luscious ice cream ever.  Recipe coming soon!!

While Olive napped, Erik and I played Monopoly with the Kaiser kiddos.  We had heard Jasper was a fierce competitor (and he was!), but Erik took no prisoners and destroyed us all (typical).  Around sunset, we headed to one of my favorite local parks (overlooking the vast Pacific) to run off some energy and explore the shores as the tide came in.  Then we picked up some delicious local pizza and ate it on a blanket spread out in the living room, picnic-style, while watching Frozen.  It was such a sweet and simple day.  The kids got along SO well.  I think I pinched Erik a few times throughout the day and whispered how much I’d love to have three kids one day.  ;-)

Nate and Jac got home after the kids were tucked in, and we sat up late (again), devouring caramel ice cream and cracking up over hilarious stories about our awkward teen years.  Oh geez!

They set off for Solvang on Sunday so I had Grace snap this quick photo on our steps before church.  I love hosting guests in our home but even more than that, I love nourishing enduring relationships with wonderful friends.  Thank you, Kaisers, for such a wonderful time!  We love you and can’t wait to come see you in the mountains!

I hope you all have a great weekend!  I’m speaking at the sold-out Enjoy Events Co. workshop on Sunday and will be up tonight putting the final touches on my presentation.  Yay!  If you haven’t entered our blog/site launch giveaway, make sure to do so before Sunday night!  Thanks for stopping by — see you again soon.  :)