Saturday, March 31, 2012

Saturday Smiles

I've been so immersed in work and other things this week that I've hardly had time to plan fun things for the weekend. That's okay, though. I've never had a hard time enjoying some good quality down time. With this movie in hand, I'll probably feel the urge to go run and jump in the ocean at some point.

Here are some of my favorite links from around the web this week.

This hilarious video making fun of people who post pictures of food on social media (Guilty!)

One of the funniest (and scariest) photo bombs I've seen.

Loving this bold make-up.

Fascinating photos of faraway places.

Stunning scenery.

Love these summer sandals.

How Mother Nature can turn trash into treasure.

Photo via

Friday, March 30, 2012

Wanderlust: Athens

Yesterday morning, I dropped my parents off at the airport for a big trip. Their first stop is Athens, Greece followed by Jerusalem, Israel and then Istanbul, Turkey. When I imagine Greece, I usually picture islands like Santorini with white/blue houses and cliffs that offer stunning views of the Mediterranean. But the capital city of Athens has always eluded me too. I would love to marvel at the ancient structures and pay homage to the birthplace of democracy. (Not to mention dine on some fabulous food!)

Image Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Lemon-Scented Pull-Apart Bread




A couple weeks ago, I made a visit to my grandmother's house in San Diego. She sent me home with a GIGANTIC lemon from her garden. This thing was huge! The only thing I can really think to compare it to is a baby's head.

I was very excited to make something delicious with this lemon, but truth be told, it sat in my kitchen for a couple weeks before I figured out what to do with it. Then, I discovered this heavenly recipe. While a bit time intensive, this bread is worth it! It is truly a sweet, rich treat so I suggest making it for something special: girl's night, a birthday breakfast, or for visiting guests. (It will surely impress them!)

Lemon Scented Pull-Apart Bread
From The Whimsical Cupcake
Yield one loaf of bread
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Rising Time: 90 minutes
Baking Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: about 2.5 hours

INGREDIENTS:

{for the dough}

About 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup whole milk (I used 1% milk)
2 oz. unsalted butter
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs

{for the lemon paste filling}

1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 Tablespoons grated lemon zest (about 3 reglar-sized lemons or 1 GIANT lemon*)
1 Tablespoon finely grated orange zest
2 oz. unsalted butter, melted

{for the cream cheese icing}

3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon whole milk (again, I just used 1% milk)
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract (I didn't have this so I left it out)

DIRECTIONS:


1. Stir together 2 cups flour, sugar, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside. In a small saucepan, heat the milk and butter over low heat just until the butter is melted. Remove from heat, add water, and set aside until warm (120 to 130°F [49 to 54°C]), about 1 minute. Add the vanilla extract.
2. Pour the milk mixture over the flour-yeast mixture and, using a rubber spatula, mix until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Using a mixer, beat on low speed, adding the eggs one at a time and mixing after each addition just until incorporated. Add 1/2 cup of the remaining flour, and resume mixing on low speed until the dough is smooth, 30 to 45 seconds. Add 2 more tablespoons flour and mix on medium speed until the dough is smooth, soft, and slightly sticky, about 45 seconds.
3. Sprinkle a work surface with 1 tablespoon flour and center the dough on the flour. Knead gently until smooth and no longer sticky, about 1 minute, adding an additional 1 to 2 tablespoons flour only if necessary to lessen the stickiness. Place the dough in a large bowl, cover the bowl securely with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 45 to 60 minutes. Press the dough gently with a fingertip. If the indentation remains, the dough is ready for the next step. While the dough is rising, make the filling.
4. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and the lemon and orange zests. Set aside.
5. Once the dough has risen, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan. Or, lightly coat the pan with nonstick spray.
6. Gently deflate the dough. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 20-by-12-inch rectangle. Using a pastry brush spread the melted butter generously over the dough. Cut the dough crosswise into 5 strips, each about 12 by 4 inches. (A pizza cutter is helpful here.) Sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons of the zest-sugar mixture over one of the buttered rectangles. Top with a second rectangle and sprinkle it with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the zest-sugar mixture. Repeat with the remaining dough rectangles and zest-sugar mixture, ending with a stack of 5 rectangles. Work carefully when adding the crumbly zest filling, or it will fall off when you have to lift the stacked pastry later.
7. Slice the stack crosswise through the 5 layers to create 6 equal strips, each about 4 by 2 inches. Fit these layered strips into the prepared loaf pan, cut edges up and side by side. (While there is plenty of space on either side of the 6 strips widthwise in the pan, fitting the strips lengthwise is tight. But that’s fine because the spaces between the dough and the sides of the pan fill in during baking.) Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place until puffy and almost doubled in size, 30 to 50 minutes. Press the dough gently with a fingertip. If the indentation remains, the dough is ready for baking.
8. Bake the bread until the top is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes.
9. Make the tangy cream cheese icing. In a medium bowl, using a rubber spatula, vigorously mix the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in the milk and lemon juice until the mixture is creamy and smooth.
10. To remove bread from the pan, tilt and rotate the pan while gently tapping it on a counter to release the cake sides. I find it helpful to use a knife to loosen up the bread on all sides. Invert a wire rack on top of the bread, invert the cake onto the rack, and carefully lift off the pan. Invert another rack on top, invert the cake so it is right side up, and remove the original rack.
11. Slip a sheet of waxed paper under the rack to catch any drips from the icing. Using a pastry brush, coat the top of the warm cake with the icing to glaze it.
12. Serve the coffee cake warm or at room temperature. To serve, you can pull apart the layers, or you can cut the cake into 1-inch-thick slices on a slight diagonal with a long, serrated knife. If you decide to cut the cake, don’t attempt to cut it until it is almost completely cool.
Enjoy to your heart's content and try not to eat it all in one sitting!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Showdown at the Ho-Down



Shirt: Zara, Skirt: Paul & Joe, Boots: Target, Scarf: H&M, Sunglasses: Jee Vice, Purse: H&M, Earrings: F21

Last Sunday it was very sunny but when you walked outside, it felt like a wind tunnel. Very deceptive, this LA weather, sometimes. To combat the cold, I threw on my favorite knitted skirt (it's like wearing a blanket!) and my ankle boots. Since I wanted to celebrate the start of spring, I added a floral scarf. Apparently this combination prompted my inner cowgirl to start dancing like I was at the county ho-down. Oh, dear. My first video. Now you all get to see how crazy I really am.


(To read more about my wardrobe challenge, click here and to see all 2012 wardrobe challenge outfits, click here.) 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What I Learned in the Middle East

by Jenna Finch of A Home Away From Home

Jenna is a Southern California girl who currently lives in Johannesburg, South Africa where she studies at the University of Johannesburg. At her blog, A Home Away From Home, Jenna records her many adventures in the Rainbow Nation. Her passion for life and love of travel radiate through her posts so if you're looking to feel inspired, head on over her way. Today, Jenna is sharing her experiences in the Middle East. 

In the Fall of 2006 I had the opportunity to go on Semester at Sea.  We departed from Mexico, made our way through Asia, stopped in India, and then headed for the Middle East with Croatia and Spain being our last stops of the semester before heading back to the United States.  India had been a wonderful, but physically and emotionally draining trip and I was quite worried that the Middle Eastern countries {Egypt and Turkey} would be no different.  I was worried that people wouldn't be friendly towards us due to the fact that we were a group of Americans and that locals wouldn't want to talk or engage with us since our skin color and accents gave us away as westerners.  I even remember considering the possibility that some people could be outright hostile towards us since the Iraq War was in full swing and our President wasn't known to be very popular in that part of the world.  

In other words, I hoped for the best, but braced myself for the worst.


But, once we arrived in Egypt all of my skepticism and uncertainty melted away instantaneously.  

The Egyptian people were amongst the friendliest I've ever met with locals volunteering to help us find our way around whenever they spotted us standing with a map or gathered on a street corner looking confused.  My time in both Egypt and Turkey was filled with kindness, generosity, and meaningful connections which crossed all language and cultural barriers.  A group of Egyptian women in Cairo even offered to take us into a Mosque one evening and showed us where and how we could pray.  It was a very special moment I will never forget - my friend and I, being allowed to practice our own faith in a Mosque in Egypt alongside Islamic women practicing their own faith - crossing all traditional boundaries and stereotypes.  

When it came time to leave it turned out that I really didn't want to go, in fact I felt like there was still so much more I needed to learn and experience.


What made my time in the Middle East so amazing wasn't seeing the Pyramids, or riding a camel, or browsing through the spice market (though all of these things were great). It turns out that what made my time amazing was the people - and getting to participate in their way of life and experience their culture in such a positive way.  I felt as though my eyes had been opened for the first time and that the world had suddenly become a much smaller and more inviting place.


In short, the Middle East taught me that the very fact that we are human is  powerful enough to create meaningful connections and relationships that transcend any barriers that language, politics, media, culture, or religion can create.  It taught me that stereotypes can be wrong and it lit a fire inside me to continue to learn and grow and take in the world around me.  It taught me that childlike curiosity should be valued and pushed me to become more open to new experiences.  But, more than anything else, it taught me that (in most cases) humans are innately good and that it is up to us to look for the goodness that exists around us and be willing to engage with those who are different that we are.

Thanks so much, Jenna! You've reminded us of a very important travel truth: to listen, learn from, and love the PEOPLE.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Pizza with Caramelized Onion, Feta & Avocado


I've been searching for new flavors to add another dimension to my home-made meals. I believe that one of the secrets to successful cooking at home is being able to cook many different flavors so you don't get bored eating the food that you make. One of my new favorite home-cooked flavors is caramelized onions. They take a bit of time to cook (about 30 minutes), but the dynamic, sweet flavor is SO GOOD!

I already use avocado and feta in much of my cooking and adding caramelized onions to the mix kicks everything up to a level that makes my mouth oh-so-happy.

Oh, and another great thing about this recipe? The pizza dough is 100% whole wheat! Now go and make it!

Pizza with Caramelized Onion, Feta & Avocado

Adapted from Sweet Paul Magazine
Yield: 1 large pizza
Total Prep Time: 30 minutes
Rise Time: 1 hour
Bake Time: 12 minutes
Total Time: about 1 hour, 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

{for the dough}

1 cup warm water
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon dry yeast
2.5 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons olive oil

{for the toppings}

1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons water
3 oz. crumbled feta cheese (or other crumbly cheese, such as gorgonzola or blue cheese)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and cubed
fresh parsley
salt & pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

To make the dough, mix water, honey and yeast in a bowl. Leave it for 5 minutes so that the yeast starts to work. Add flour, salt and oil. Work the dough well together. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise for about an hour.

While the dough rises, begin caramelizing the onions. Place onion, oil and water in a pan and sauté until the onion turns light brown and is soft. For me, this process takes about 30 minutes.

Once the dough has risen, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. On a baking tray, press the dough out with your fingers to form a large pizza. Sprinkle the pizza with caramelized onions and feta cheese, then drizzle with olive oil. Bake until golden, about 12 minutes. Take it out of the oven and add avocado, parsley and salt & pepper.

Enjoy!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Saturday Smiles

What are your plans this weekend? I'm attending a baby shower with a bunch of girlfriends, then I'm very much looking forward to the season premiere of Mad Men on Sunday. Also, this week my friends and I officially booked a campsite for our first summer camping trip. I can't wait!

Here are some of my favorite links from around the web this week.

So many delicious popsicles!

A harsh but important truth.

This chair made me laugh out loud. Would you buy it?

This breakfast treat (dessert?) looks AMAZING.

Which tomboy archetype are you?

What do you think about these pants? Hit or miss?

Photo via.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Style Crush: Joy Oelen

Today, I'm excited to be featuring Joy Oelen, fashion photographer and blogger over at Fashion Gamble. When I stumbled upon Joy's blog about a month ago, I immediately fell in love with her easy, fashion-forward and un-fussed style. Joy recently finished an apprenticeship as a fashion photographer which took her to fashion weeks in London, Paris, and Zurich. Her blog is full of behind-the-scenes access, awesome fashion recommendations and my favorite, outfit posts of Joy! 

Joy was kind enough to answer some questions for me. Read below to learn more about her job, her personal style and her love of London!
What is your profession? I did an apprenticeship as photographer and now I am pursuing further education in Film or Graphic design.

How did you get started? I wasn’t into photography until I started the apprenticeship, but now I am so happy I have the skill. And through photography I got to fashion, which is the reason I blog.
What is your favorite and least favorite thing about your job? I love it because I can be creative and it is nice to be on a set with many different people and just have fun. The bad part is that it’s really hard to gets jobs, especially in Fashion.

Describe your personal style. I guess I would say kind of undone, very simple and down to basics with a love for interesting details and tailoring.
What does sexy mean to you? Some one that is natural and feels good in her/his skin and makes you smile when you look at them.

Who do you dress for? Oh I love dressing up, and I’ll definitely use every occasion I can for that. I mean it’s not like I can wear 15 cm heels for work. So I dress up when I go out with friends, go to a party or any event. Sometimes even to just to go to the store next door.

If you could splurge on one thing right now, what would it be? Nothing I can think of right now.

What are your 3 favorite or most treasured pieces in your closet? Steve Madden Shoes, Sam Edelman Lorissa, and my camera (that’s in my closet too)
If you could only live with 5 items from your wardrobe, what would they be? I would go for my camel ankle boots, black jeans, simple white shirt, my chic Zara coat and black and white striped bag that a friend once gave me.

What is the most memorable city you ever traveled to and why was it so memorable? London!
I went to my first fashion week there and even after going to Paris and Berlin, London is and will stay my favorite! All the photographers and people I meet, all the celebs I saw, the amazing street styles and the shoes you can get in London! Amazing! I just love this city!

What is the best thing you ever ate and why did it taste so good? There are so many things I love to eat. I could never choose just one. I love the Burrito at the Mexican Restaurant in my city and I also love eating pancakes for breakfast (though I hardly do).

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Swinging Stripes


White Tee: Target, Skirt: Nordstrom Rack, Scarf: H&M, Purse: H&M

What do you wear on days that you "have nothing to wear"? My go-to is a plain white tee. It seems that when I begin with something simple as my starting point, it's easier to find accessories that add both punch and excitement. 

Jerusalem: The Biography

Before I traveled to Jerusalem, I searched far and wide for a comprehensive book that explained this important city's history. Every book I found seemed to have some sort of bias that made it difficult for me to form my own opinions. I never found "the one". Since that time, Simon Sebag Montefiore has completed the task of summarizing Jerusalem into a single book with the title "Jerusalem: The Biography". I have not read this yet, but after watching Montefiore interviewed on Charlie Rose (and reading review after good review), I am very excited to dive in. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My Belt Doubles as a Tourniquet


Tank Top: F21 (similar), White Jeans: Zara, Blazer: Hinge (purchased at Nordstrom), Shoes: Banana Republic, Belt: Boy Scout belt borrowed/stolen from the husband, Necklace: Rare Bird, Earrings: gifted

My belt is a Boy Scout belt. And for those who don't know, the Boy Scout organization designed their standard issue uniform belt to double as tourniquet. That way, if I ever stumble upon someone with a terrible, bleeding wound while I'm wearing this belt, I could prevent blood loss and save their life. Don't you feel safer just knowing that? Be prepared.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Cadbury Mini Eggs Cookies


It seemed that the minute Valentine's Day was over, grocery stores immediately started stocking their shelves with Easter candy. Sometimes it bugs me when stores jump so quickly to "the next holiday", but in this case, I was extremely happy. Why, you ask? I have three words for you: Cadbury Mini Eggs. If you have not delighted in this wonderful candy, I beg you to pick up a bag. Pronto. 

One night last week, after about an hour of those mini eggs somehow sneaking into my mouth, I started to feel guilty about the chocolate overload, so I decided to stretch the goodness of this candy by mixing it with some other ingredients and created this delicious dessert: Cadbury Mini Eggs Cookies! I started with this chocolate chip cookie recipe as a base, but used a different technique to mix in the chocolate.

The final result? A cookie with a firm yet chewy texture and the perfect amount of chocolate-y crunch in every bite. 

Cadbury Mini Eggs Cookies
Yield about 30 cookies
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: about 35 minutes

INGREDIENTS:


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 oz. Cadbury Mini Eggs, chopped into tiny little pieces, divided

DIRECTIONS:

Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment (or tin-foil).

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.

Put the butter and sugars in a large bowl. With electric beaters (or a stand mixer with paddle attachment) on low to medium speed, mix just until the butter and sugars are blended. (This may take a while depending on how cold the butter is.) Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. 

Add the flour mixture to the bowl and blend on low speed until the flour is just incorporated. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. 

Add about 3/4 of the chopped Cadbury Mini Eggs and use your hands to knead the dough a little, making sure everything is mixed well and all the flour is absorbed. Place the remaining chocolate in a small bowl. 

Scoop mounds of dough, about 2 tablespoons in size, and press the top of the dough into the chopped Cadbury Mini Eggs. Use your fingers to make sure the chopped bits are pressed firmly into the dough. Transfer dough ball, crushed chocolate-side up, onto the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches in between each cookie.

Bake the cookies for 16-20 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through, until the cookies are evenly browned. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Wanderlust: Portugal

Last week, I talked about my time in Spain. While I was in Spain, I developed a mild love affair with its neighboring country, Portugal. While I never made it over there, I heard so many wonderful things about this quiet, under-the-radar travel destination. A friend of mine lived there for three years as a child and she tells me that her memories of Portugal are "magical". Looking for another reason to love Portugal? How about this guy

Image Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Saturday Smiles

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Is it just me or does it feel odd that St. Patty's Day is on a weekend this year? I'm so used to walking into work and being scared all my co-workers are going to pinch me because the shade of my shirt looks more like yellow than green. Do you have any fun plans to celebrate this green holiday?

Below are some of my favorite links from around the web this week:

Refinery29 featured my ad agency with features of several of my team members.

29 ways to stay creative.

Very excited about this book which hits shelves on April 3.

A healthy shamrock shake (and other St. Patrick's Day recipes).

I love this idea for kitchen organization.

I would love to spend a summer day lounging on this.

These shoes would be great for summer walks.

Wow, this photo of Ireland is gorgeous.

photo via

Friday, March 16, 2012

I Really Love My Black Skinny Belt

One of my goals in starting this blog and attempting my wardrobe challenge was to identify key wardrobe staples that I find both functional and beautiful. I'd like to share these discoveries with you, so periodically I'll be posting about items from my wardrobe that I really love, along with links to where you can find similar items online.

The first item I'd like to feature is my black skinny belt. You may have noticed I wear this little accessory a lot. The obvious utility of a belt is great, but the beautiful way it ties an outfit together is what makes me coming back to this wardrobe staple just about every other day. Like a ribbon wrapped around a present, a good belt makes everything in an outfit look connected.

Below are some examples of ways that I’ve styled my black skinny belt. (Click on the picture to go to the original post.)



And below are some of my favorite online options for this timeless, functional, and classy accessory:


1. Patent leather skinny belt - J.Crew - $36.50
2. Skinny double-band belt - Gap - $29.95
3. BDG skinny braided leather belt - Urban Outfitters - $20.00
4. Bow skinny belt - ASOS - £8.00

P.S. My belt is from H&M (similar, off-white version can be found here). 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lemon Mint Chicken


Fresh herbs are such a great way to add natural and vibrant flavors to a meal without the calories. While it may be difficult to keep fresh herbs on hand, it is so worth it to gain that real and deep flavor in your meals. In this dish, mint is the star. Lemon and butter add some fresh and savory accompanying tastes, while couscous acts as a sponge to soak in the lemony-buttery-minty juices that run off the barely crispy pieces of chicken.

Lemon Mint Chicken
Source Unknown
Yield: 3 servings
Total Time: 20 minutes

INGREDIENTS: 

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup margarine
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1 cup couscous, cooked according to package directions

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium bowl, mix together chicken pieces and garlic. Toss with flour to coat and shake off excess. 

Heat the margarine in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken pieces. Cook and stir until browned. Add the mint leaves and lemon juice, cover and steam for about five minutes until chicken is just cooked through, being careful not to overcook. 

Serve with cooked couscous and enjoy!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

250-Follower Giveaway Announcement!




T-shirt: H&M, Pants: Level 99, Scarf: H&M, Sunglasses: H&M, Belt: H&M, Earrings: Charming Charlie, Sandals: Billabong

You like this scarf? And these sunglasses? Well, guess what? These two beauties from H&M can be yours! As soon as FEST reaches 250 followers OR when FEST reaches 100 "likes" on Facebook, these items will be available in a giveaway. The giveaway will go live as soon as one of these milestones is reached. So, if you're not a follower already, do so by clicking "Join this site" on the right-hand side of the page. And if you're not following FEST yet on Facebook, do so by going to FEST's Facebook page and clicking "LIKE". And then tell everyone you know to do the same. ;)