It's still hard for me to consider myself a real knitter.

Despite the fact that I first learned a few years ago, it's still an activity that kinda scares me. There are so many styles, so many techniques to learn, so many many many ways to make a mistake. It's a lot like life that knitting. It requires patience, focus, attentiveness, a slow, but steady pace. Rush it and mistakes happen. Letting your mind wander too far away and mistakes happen. And if you have any sort of perfectionistic nature as I do, you will start something, make a mistake, rip it out, start it again, make a mistake, rip it out and start again more times than you can stand. If you leave a mistake in there, it's all you can see once it's done. Trust me. But when something's finished and it comes off those needles, man is it satisfying. It's what keeps me coming back for more.

While I'm still getting my knitting legs, I've managed to finish a few projects that are actually useful and one that is simply very nice to look at. All were basic patterns that didn't take too long to finish. 


Everyone needs a hat in winter. And a baby needs a blanket.




A scarf-loving mama needs something to keep her neck warm.




And while not exactly knitting, more weaving perhaps, this is a very cool project found on one of my favorite blogs 3191 Miles Apart. I just love how unique it is. It's made me look out for lots more y-shaped branches. I think they would also make a lovely, unexpected gift for someone special.


Happy Friday!

Hat pattern: Purl Bee

Cowl pattern: Quince & Co.

Branch weaving: 3191 Miles Apart


 A great tune to lead us into this (rainy for us) weekend. You can hear all of Jose James' new album No Beginning No End right here

It's winter here in Southern California, believe it or not. A few mornings this week, when we awoke to temperatures in the low 40s, there were the requisite bowls of steamy spiced oatmeal and mugs of herbal tea passed around the breakfast table. And as the temperatures dipped again as the sun went down, a pot of soup was usually simmering on the stove for dinner. 

I believe our skin deserves just as much attention during these cold spells. And this here balm is the perfect antidote to dry lips, hands, elbows, knees, wherever. Even my moisturizing-averse children ask for it after their baths when they realize how much better it feels not to have dry, itchy skin all the time. 

What I also love about it is it's simplicity and how well it does what it's supposed to. There are just a handful of ingredients and a handful of steps.


There's cocoa butter





coconut butter


a hot stove




a jar (or tin)


a few drops of essential oil



And that's it. I made this one with vanilla oil, which with the cocoa and coconut butters is as lucious and delicious smelling as it sounds. 

Winter Balm (makes about 1 cup)

1/2 cup sweet almond oil

1/4 cup coconut oil

2 Tbsp. cocoa butter

2 Tbsp. coconut butter

2 Tbsp. shea butter

2 Tbsp. beeswax

20 drops essential oil of your choice. Sweet orange, bergamot or lavendar are also nice.

Place all the ingredients into a heat-proof glass measuring cup or use a bowl set into a pot of water. Heat the water to a simmer (not boiling) and stir oil and butter mixture until it dissolves. Remove cup or bowl from the stove and immediately pour into your jar or tin. Drop in your essential oils, and stir again to incorporate. Cover with a clean dishtowel and let cool at room temperature. You can also place the jar in a shallow ice bath to speed up the process. 

For body care ingredients, I usually turn to Mountain Rose Herbs. But most health food stores have similar products. Just take care to use organic and raw if possible.








This year’s Christmas cookie explosion has come and gone, and all that’s left for me is a month-long hiatus from sugar. No sugar at all. Not even any fruit. I’m on day 11 to be exact.  Usually I barely consume any of what I make for these gifts, not only to make sure I have enough to give away, but also because I just don’t like all that temptation around. But this year something got me. The peppermint bark. It got me big time. I had no idea I liked it so much. And because there were dozens of little pieces left from breaking off the larger pieces for the cookie jars, I kind of lost my mind. For my health’s sake, I vow not to repeat that recipe for another decade or so. Anyway, moving on.

The rest of the cookies came out pretty well, I think. There were toasted pecan turtle bars, some traditional Italian lemon ricotta cookies, and speculoos which came out a nice decent spice cookie rimmed in pink sugar crystals. As always, I enjoy hearing back just which became someone’s favorite. And luckily it seemed there was at least a few fans of each one.

This time I’ve included two of the easiest recipes as I don’t think most folks would want to go through the complicated steps of making the perfect caramel sauce for the turtle bars on a weekend afternoon. I know I wouldn’t. Not unless it was for the most special people in my life, of course.

Peppermint Bark

{adapted from the Food Network}

12 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

1 1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract

1 pound good-quality white chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

3 candy canes or 12 round hard peppermint candies, crushed

Line a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with aluminum foil, shiny-side up; smooth out any wrinkles. Heat 1 inch of water in a saucepan over low heat until steaming.

Put all but 3/4 cup of the semisweet chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over the saucepan of steaming water (do not let the bowl touch the water) and stir until one-third of the chocolate is melted. Remove the bowl from the saucepan; keep the steaming water over low heat. Gradually stir the reserved 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate into the bowl, a few pieces at a time, until all of the chocolate is melted. Return the bowl to the saucepan, 5 to 10 seconds at a time, to help melt the chocolate, if needed. Do not rush this step: It may take up to 10 minutes to melt the chocolate.

Wipe off any moisture from the bottom of the bowl. Stir 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract into the chocolate, then quickly pour into the prepared baking dish and spread in an even layer. Firmly tap the dish against the counter to remove any air bubbles. Set aside at room temperature until almost set, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, put all but 1 cup of the white chocolate in a large heatproof bowl and repeat the melting process over the steaming water; dry off the bottom of the bowl. Stir in the remaining 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract; pour over the semisweet chocolate and spread in an even layer. Sprinkle immediately with the crushed candy canes, gently pressing them into the white chocolate. Set aside at room temperature until firm, about 1 hour. Lift the bark out of the pan using the foil and break it into pieces. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

Italian Lemon Ricotta Cookies

{adapted from Giada De Laurentiis’ Everyday Italian}

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 lemon, zested


1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 lemon, zested

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.


In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the large bowl combine the butter and the sugar. Using an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until incorporated. Add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Beat to combine. Stir in the dry ingredients.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon the dough (about 2 tablespoons for each cookie) onto the baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes.


Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Spoon about 1/2-teaspoon onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon to gently spread. Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours. Pack the cookies into a decorative container.















My family and I waved goodbye to 2012 at Elysian Park with a wide open view of Los Angeles in all directions. It was a fitting spot for me to step back and try to see the bigger picture of the year. Most of the people in my life would say it was a pretty tough one. I wouldn't necessarily disagree. Call it the global "tranformation" predicted by the Mayans that caused all the tumult, or not. I'm not sure myself. And while there were certainly moments of doubt, fear, frustration, even anger at times, there were usually grateful moments of resolution just waiting around the corner. It was the space between those bad to good moments that taught me the most about myself. I take the most momentous event of my year as an example, the birth of our youngest baby boy. It began with worry at his prematurity, then moved to elation that he seemed perfectly fine, to a heartbreaking separation from him as he was whisked to the NICU, to frustration at the hours that never seemed to end while he was in there. Then once we got him safely at home, my postpartum health, which I guess I had taken for granted at my other births, suddenly took a dive into some very painful depths. Difficult times indeed.

But looking back on it now, dare I say I'd go through it all again if it assured that this beautiful bumdle of pure light would be here among us. Bad to good, dark to light, silence to music, white to color. I'm still not sure why it all had to go down like that. I may never understand. But as I sit here writing this on a chilly, early January night with all three of my children fed, warm in their beds asleep, none of the why really matters. Only what's here and what's now, and that I'm here despite the obstacles. 

So for 2013, I wish for myself a gentler year. As generic as it may sound, I'd like to improve upon the things I enjoy: learning to cook better, photograph things better, garden better, write better…and of course mother better. I'd also like to read more books, be outdoors more, discover more music, travel more. And lastly, find the courage needed to make my big ideas/dreams come to reality.

It all needs to happen. 






















Some scenes from the last few days. We celebrated the night of the solstice in tradition with fire, hot chocolate, some painting and lots of candles. There was Christmas with lots ripping, smiling, enjoying. Lots of handmade gifts this year, and there was lots to be eaten, of course.

I am always grateful for this span of days–after the crush and busy-ness of all our holiday preparations and activities, when all of life around us seems to simply slow down. The streets are emptier, the air in LA is cleaner, and we are able to detach from our usual routines and settle into a slower, more relaxed rhythm. It may be, I dare say, my favorite time of the year. Hope you are also able to savor it closely with those you love. 








Just a few of the projects we've all got in the works around here. There's lots of furtive activity, and stuffing of projects under pillows should someone walk in. It's shaping up to be a sweet season of giving indeed. 



…and all the joy/excitement/craziness/busy-ness that you bring. It seems as if the dishes had barely cooled from Thanksgiving that I found myself needing to get organized around Christmas fast. First up, our advent calendar. 








As each Christmas approaches, I've found myself with more and more on my to-do list. A list on top of a non-Holiday list that always seems to keep growing. Perpetually. Part of it is my seizing the season to give, to create, to watch my children enjoy the process of making and giving of themselves. And for anyone with a DIY spirit, as I believe I have, it's very hard to resist just making it yourself. Husband need a new hat? I'll just knit it myself. Would friends back East love some rich hand cream? Just whip some up. And on. And on. 

I don't make every gift of course. And I do believe it's true that what will be remembered most by my young ones is not how fancy something is (handmade or not) but how our time was spent together in the doing.



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I will tell myself this over and over the next few weeks. Keep it simple. Simple and special. Some years not all will be crossed off my Holiday list. Some years, as in those where I have an infant on my hip, a reality check will be in order. If I'm able to do that, perhaps my boys will also take heed and look beyond the enticement of any new stuff that may or may not be coming their way come Christmas Day. And they'll realize that for us, this is a time of creation, but also of being together, present and thankful. 




















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Another Fall, another season of apple picking in Oak Glen; and another chance to realize just how fast a year goes. A storm brewed in the clouds above us bringing moments of dark sky and brilliant sun. The air was just cold and crisp enough that the picking needed to be fast to protect little fingers. But as is tradition, after all that furious picking there is hot cider and hot donuts to look forward to as soon as the “work” is done.

And with a new babe in the house, what better use for all those apples than…applesauce of course. With about 10 pounds of Braeburns and Granny Smiths at hand, I was able to boil it down to four cute little jars, properly canned for longevity. A baby boy can only have but so much applesauce at a time.