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September 26, 2010

Baby Shower for Chloe

The date for Cathy Ballenger's baby shower for incubating Chloe finally came this weekend! I had a great time throwing the party along with Cathy's friends Jamie, Ronnell, and Marilyn. There was about a dozen guests to fete the baby. I so enjoyed meeting the special friends in Cathy's life.

(the full spread)

Background music was a channel of lullabies courtesy of Pandora. It was just loud enough to be pleasant without being overwhelming.

Hostess Ronnell made a darling diaper cake that she gifted to the mom and baby. She also made game prizes with Starbucks cards in them!

In honor of the dad's Argentinian citizenship, hostess Jamie made a banner sign reading "Bienvenido Chloe" in the party's colors of brown and dusty rose that was the focal point for the decorations. She then gifted all the onesies to the baby.

I got several copies of The Real Mother Goose off Paperback Swap to use as decorations or placemats. We ended up hanging a couple illustrations from a mirror in the room where we gathered. I also made nametags from Avery labels to coordinate with the nursery rhyme theme decor using a graphic off paperback swap, the cover of the book "The Real Mother Goose" with the black and white checked cover that you remember from childhood.

Couscous with Pineapple, Mango and Maraschino Cherries: Canned pineapple and prepared mango were time-savers for this recipe, though fresh and/or grilled fruit plated atop a bed of the couscous would step up the sophistication for a fancier event. I used half water-half orange juice for the liquid in cooking the couscous to add to the sweet fruit flavor.

Quinoa and Corn salad with Cucumber and Cashews: to cook the quinoa, I used vegetable broth for the liquid rather than water. That added a ton of flavor and turned the dish into more of a savory one.

My cousin Rachel brought this grape salad to a family reunion and is now not allowed to attend without it--it's so yummy! For the party, I simplified by using raw walnuts, not sugared, and mixed the salad rather than layering it in a baking pan.

Rachel Walker Baker's Grape Salad

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place 1 stick of butter and 1 1/2 cup chopped nuts in pan, bake for 10 min, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven, add 1/2 cup brown sugar, and cool.

Wash 2-3 lbs red seedless grapes, pat dry and place in 9x13 inch pan.

Mix 8 oz cream cheese, 8 oz sour cream, 1 tsp. vanilla, and 1/2 cup powdered sugar in a bowl. Recipe calls for pouring this mixture over grapes; I mix it in with the grapes.

Sprinkle nut mixture on top and refrigerate. Enjoy!

Jicama Salad with Mint & Grapefruit Segments: I used prepared grapefruit segments to save time in this dish. The jicama can be peeled pretty quickly using a carrot peeler, then cut into sticks for a different look.

The recipe from a local Salt Lake deli was an inspiration for the Italian Bread Salad pictured above. I simplified, leaving out the cucumbers, capers and olives, and used freshly picked tomatoes straight from my garden. To strech the expensive mozzarella further, I sliced each ball in half.

Caputo's Bread Salad

1 Loaf French bread, in pieces
1-1 1/2 cups Mozarella cheese, in balls or cut into chunks
3 cucumbers, cut in chunks
1 pkg Cherry tomatoes, small or halved
1 jar medium whole green olives (I omit this)
1 Tbsp. Capers
Olive Oil & Vinegar salad dressing

A last minute addition as guests were arriving was a platter of cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches garnished with cherry tomatoes.

Jamie served a lovely chocolate fondue with all kinds of fruit and pound cake as dippers, a couple different kinds of hummus, and a tray of shrimp. Jamie also made a really yummy virgin punch with sherbet in it, and a lovely champagne-cranberry juice spritzer with raspberries dotting the glasses.

Finally got to taste the Pumpkin Cheesecake bars I baked last weekend! The recipe's in this separate post.

(the hostesses, with the mom-to-be in the center
L-R Ronnell, Ellen, Cathy, Jamie, Marilyn)

Jamie and Ronnell had made colorful candy boxes as party favors. Unfortunately I couldn't wait to crack it open, so I don't have a photo.

Thanks again to the rest of the co-hosts. This party wouldn't have happened but for the team effort!

What baby shower ideas have you used in the past, or remember from parties you've attended? Please leave a comment on the blog.

September 24, 2010

Free Night of Theater

Free Night of Theater Ovation TV Spot from Theatre Communications Group on Vimeo.

Enjoy a free theater performance during the month of October as part of an arts promotion called Free Night of Theater. Make your reservation now for shows between Oct. 1 and Oct. 31, 2010. Tickets for some shows might not yet be available as release dates vary by region. Start by finding free performances near you.

Free performances are happening across the country. The free performances are a way for theaters to reach out to people who may become regular patrons. It is organized by the Theatre Communications Group, an advocate of not-for-profit professional theaters.

September 23, 2010

Blogger Prom 2010

On the scale of glam, Blogger Prom 2010 was at least a twelve out of ten. An invite-only event, I didn't get to go to last year's inaugural. But this year's theme of "Hollywood Confidential, "held high above the Hollywood hills at the infamous Yamashiro restaurant, was my moment to shine. I've been looking forward to meeting and learning from other bloggers in the know about food, Los Angeles events, and lifestyle for weeks.

(myself and Marni Landes of Happy Go Marni)

I had the ideal dress on hand for the event, a backless silk chocolate-brown floor-length number with a scooped neckline in front and a small train at back. I've waited four years for the right event to wear this to, and it fit the period to a "T." My friends from work kindly fixed me up with shoes, a bag, and a wrap, as well as doing my hair and makeup, so I felt like an absolute queen for a day.

(Beryl Cohen of Cinemon Girl,
who graciously joined me as my guest for the evening)

The costume-atmosphere gave me the confidence to make the most of the opportunity, and I mingled for hours, asking other bloggers what they do, and what makes their site work. I met a range of folks, from the serious bloggers with cards to hand out, to those that had an unpublished site in planning stages, and the few who were a guest of someone on the committee. What I took away from the experience: almost all have used twitter to build their blog's followers. Perhaps I should get serious about tweeting more than a forwarded blog post.

(the evening's signature drink, a Pinky Confidential)

(ChocolateBox Cafe's sample table)

The structure of the evening was basically a mini-food and drink fest treating bloggers like Very Important People. There was a signature drink, Yamashiro appetizer trays circulating, a taco bar, a wonderful cheese sampling, Cool Haus ice cream sandwiches, and chocolate.

Door Prize winners were tweeted on a live screen, and the gift bag of Hollywood-schwag was not to be forgotten.

(a Cool Haus special with Chocolate-Choc Chip
Cookies and Salted Caramel Ice Cream)

A big thanks to all the event's sponsors, and especially to the committee who put in so much time planning. Can't wait for next year!

Follow Your Heart Cafe

One fallish, overcast and misty afternoon this week I used a Living Social deal to try out a new cafe with a friend. We went to the Follow Your Heart Cafe in Canoga Park. They're one of SoCal's oldest natural food eateries and the makers of the original Vegenaise.

We liked the Nutburger Supreme but were most impressed with the Grilled "Chicken" Sandwich made with wheatmeat. The sides were fresh, and everything was both healthy and yummy. I loved the little market too for the variety of products I can't find elsewhere. This market will be a prime source for me in my quest to experiment with veggie meats.

I had no idea this little nugget was nestled in the valley. It'll be a regular stop for me anytime I go through Topanga canyon.

If You Go:
Follow Your Heart
21825 Sherman Way
Canoga Park, CA 91303

What's your favorite natural foods market? Do they offer a deli as well? Please leave a comment on the blog with your hidden spot.

September 19, 2010

Recipe Corner: Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

(the finished product)

I'm all about cooking from scratch, but sometimes a little bit of convenience goes a long way. I've heard about The Cake Doctor for years but never had one of her cookbooks. Recently my sister gave me a similar cookbook for my birthday--Taste of Home Cake Mix Creations. Its premise is that each recipe uses a boxed cake mix as part of the ingredients. Today I had to try it out by making Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars. I won't get to taste these for a week, as I'm freezing them for next week's baby shower, but I thought I'd share the recipe and pics anyway. Can you smell them in the oven? Mmmm, Fall!

The bars called for pumpkin pie spice as one of the ingredients. Although I had all the components, I was out of that mix. So I looked up a recipe from the internet and broke it down into its parts.

Pumpkin Pie Spice

* 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
* 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
* 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

Pumpkin Cheesecake Dessert
from Taste of Home Cake Mix Creations

1 pkg (16 oz.) pound cake mix
3 eggs
2 Tbsp butter, melted
4 tsp pumpkin pie spice, divided
1 pkg (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 can (15 oz.) solid-pack pumpkin
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chopped walnuts
whipped cream, optional

(cake mix, egg, and melted butter)

In large bowl, combine the cake mix, 1 egg, butter, and 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice until crumbly. Press into a 13-in. x 9-in. x 2-in. baking dish; set aside.

(crust layer, patted into pan)

In a separate large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add remaining eggs; beat on low speed just until combined. Stir in the pumpkin, milk, cinnamon, salt, and remaining pie spice. Pour into crust; sprinkle with nuts. Place pan on a baking sheet.

(prepared bars just before baking)

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes or until set. Cool. Refrigerate until serving. Cut into squares; garnish with whipped cream if desired.

My modifications: I used a smaller pan to make deeper bars because I'm going to a small group function and I didn't want a ton of portions left over. Because I had such a deep-set tray I left them in the oven on the long side to make sure they were cooked through. And as I said, I froze the pan for a week before serving, so I hope the consistency will hold up to that. I'll have to let you know in a follow-up.

What's your favorite bar cookie? Do you often use Cake Doctor-type recipes? Please leave a comment on the blog if you try out this recipe.

Car Door Magnets for Longaberger Business

I designed car door magnets at Vista Print to advertise myself as a Longaberger consultant. It cost less to design myself than to buy the company's version, and I actually like them better. What do you think of the image and design that I chose? Does this type of advertising ever catch your eye just when you're looking for that service, like a handyman or gardener? Would you ever follow up on such a lead if you'd not been looking for that service beforehand? I'm hoping it will be a subtle way to get the word out. Let me know your opinions in a blog comment.

September 16, 2010

4-H Arts & Crafts for Back to School Month

SFV 4-H Club is holding the first Arts & Crafts project meeting of the new year!

Since September is Back to School Month we'll be making
Needlepoint Bookmarkers shaped like Cats, Giraffes, or Frogs
(pictured above).

We'll meet Sunday Sept. 26th from 2-4 PM
at the DeYoung's home,
9623 Wystone Ave
Northridge CA 91324

Materials fee this month is $4/person (payable to leader).
All who participate will help clean up the last 15 minutes of work time.

Please RSVP to "" if you can come.

And remember this completed project can be shown
at the next county fair for a ribbon!

September 14, 2010

BabyCakes NYC Downtown LA Location

I spent a wonderful afternoon at BabyCakes NYC's downtown LA location with the Los Angeles Cupcake Meetup group. Now I understand all the fuss about the mini desserts!

I've never been a cake fan, but I am a fan of any icing containing cream cheese. BabyCakes is a uniquely vegan bakery that sweetens primarily with agave nectar, so I wasn't sure what to expect. But the Carrot Cake Cupcake with Salted Caramel Icing (pictured here) stole my heart!

And since it was Claire's adoption anniversary, she got to run all my errands with me, including this one. The LA location has a lovely small patio out front that is just in front of but removed from the sidewalk, so it makes for great people watching without feeling like you'll be tripped over, or have your dog trampled by a bike.

The happy pink-and-white interior matches the friendliness of the employees, though the place was constantly packed. I had a great time meeting about five ladies through the meetup group. Tara, the organizer, did a nice job of making everyone feel welcome. This is definitely a great place for those on food-restricted diets.

Do you have a favorite cupcake bakery? Are you a cake person or an icing person? Please leave a comment on the blog!

September 13, 2010

Hair Bow Holders from Limepetal

Here's a really cute craft idea from a friend I met at the church boutique over the weekend. These adorable hair bow holders from Limepetal's Etsy shop keep your little girl's barrettes organized in one central place. It's like organizational jewelry for your nursery or child's room! There are nicer photos on the Etsy page, but I took a good wide shot that shows how to construct these. They start with a balsa-wood circle (perhaps a xmas ornament form?), with a one-inch wide grosgrain ribbon hanging down, to which the barrettes can be clipped. This is masked by a decorative felt circle at top and bottom. A narrow ribbon at top allows the organizer to be hung in a convenient place.

Sometimes acknowledging when you need help can make you a smart parent. This is one easy craft to make if you have the time, but if you're like me, and would procrastinate endlessly, you might be smarter to purchase from Limepetal. At least it's handmade!

What organizational tools do you find most convenient in a child's room? Please leave a note on my blog.

September 12, 2010

An Important Day

Today is Claire's 4th Adoption Anniversary! Here's a little slide show of some of my favorite pictures of her. Can't believe it's been four years since she came into my life and became Chance's sister.

I hope everyone considering bringing a pet into their lives looks seriously into adoption. I know Claire's the best possible addition to my home. Thanks to the Carson shelter here in Los Angeles County.

And Happy 46th Wedding Anniversary to my folks as well.

September 11, 2010

Church Craft Boutique

By chance I found out about a one-day craft boutique at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Winnetka. I called within the vendor registration deadline, but it was already full, so I was put on a waiting list. Last night I was rush called on a cancellation, and today I was set up to sell! Here's my table, all set up.

I took my vintage Pyrex, some crafty stuff I had on hand like my zipper pulls, button pins, matchbooks and handmade cards. And since I've officially signed up as a consultant as of this week, I took a Longaberger catalog and business cards, both to solicit orders and to encourage folks to schedule a home demo party.

There were about twenty five booths at the event. They did a good job of diversifying the products--from jewelry, to candles, t-shirts, baby/kid stuff, stained glass, knitters, Mary Kay, to Christmas ornaments, and cards/paper crafters. It was only the second year of the boutique, so they're still adjusting the format. Overall it was well organized. There was a flat table fee, and vendors then kept all their sales.

The day wasn't very successful for me financially, but I did meet a few other crafters I'd like to stay in contact with, and I gave out a lot of my own business cards for the Longaberger idea and for future Pyrex orders. The booth fee went directly to the church, so I'm considering it a donation of sorts. I've heard recently that people are 150% more likely to buy if the item is tangible, so I was testing that theory today vs just selling through my Etsy store, and I have my answer. As research, the experience was productive.

What kind of items are you looking for as a customer at fall boutiques? Please leave a comment on the blog.

September 9, 2010

LA Greek Fest

The L.A. Greek Fest is this coming weekend, Friday-Sunday! Follow the link above to their site for details--I just wanted to post a quick reminder as it's a great affair and always a fun time.

Knockoffs: Pro or Con?

On the left are the pants from Melodia Designs that I have been lusting after for my hula hooping classes. They're available in five sizes, and are priced at $85 per pair. A company based in the U.S., the website doesn't say where they are made.

On the right are the pants I found today on ebay, shipping from Hong Kong, for only $20, including shipping. They come in one-size-fits-all sizing, so I'd expect some alterations to be made, at least in my case in the length.

But for such a deep discount, would you pass up the knock off for the real thing to stay with a local product of possible better quality? I had to test the theory so I ordered just one pair of the Asian pants (instead of one in every color made, which I could have for about the same price as a pair of the Melodia pants). I'll do an update when they arrive, but for now, I'd love to hear your opinion. Please leave a comment on the blog with your reasoning.

September 8, 2010

Recipe Corner: Mrs. Danbom's Cheeseburger Pie

My mom is downsizing in a major way, in preparation for their retirement next summer. So I'm occasionally receiving boxes of miscellaneous "stuff" from my former life. It's considerate of my mom to try to spread this out and not overwhelm me with the massiveness of our home all at once, and I'm glad to be doing this with my parents, while they're still alive--but I find it disruptive to have to deal with this in chunks out of the blue. And fun too. The other day I received some cookbooks from my childhood, beginner ones. In Better Homes and Gardens Junior Cookbook were a couple of handwritten recipe cards. One of them, marked "Ellen's from Mrs. Danbom" was from the mother of my best friend. I didn't eat meat as a child, either, so I don't know if she ever got me to eat this--maybe my mom requested it from her. But it'll be fun to try now, with some veggie crumbles substituted for the ground beef. It may even become my entry for next year's Good Food Pie Contest.

Mrs. Danbom's Cheeseburger Pie

1 lb. ground beef or veggie substitute
1/2 cup chopped onion

brown and drain the above together.

1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 cups Jiffy Mix or Bisquick
3 eggs

Grease 10 in. pie pan. Cook meat & onions and drain. Spread in pie pan. Add salt and pepper and grated cheese. Beat remaining ingredients until smooth. Pour into pie pan. Bake 30 minutes at 400 degrees or till golden brown.

Good Canned Pasta Sauces

Canned pasta sauces are a great shortcut for a busy cook in making a casserole or other assembled meal. I never turn to this option because so many look similar, but don't taste the same, or even any good! I was grocery shopping today and spent at least ten minutes in this aisle trying to decide which to get. Because I can never remember which ones I liked or didn't, I decided to post a couple that I have enjoyed as a bookmark for next time.

September 7, 2010

Big Picture Night at the Bowl Featuring 20th Century Fox

My last night of the season at the Hollywood Bowl was The Big Picture: Films of 20th Century Fox. This is the yearly night where the Bowl orchestra plays along to clips from films of one designated studio.

The opener was a montage of all the great Fox pictures, from the Sound of Music to Big.

Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend was my favorite segment of the evening.

There was a dedicated montage to Slumdog Millionaire.

And one set to Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge.

A neat highlight was that of Edward Scissorhands.

The second half of the show had several segments dedicated to sci fi. That's really not my genre, but I appreciated the historic moments.

It was really cool to see the clips from Planet of the Apes. The pace was so quick I had trouble catching a clear frame with my camera.

I had only budgeted for a few concerts this year, but I had a lot of fun at the ones I chose. Hopefully next year I can go to more than I did this summer.
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