In the dead of night just over a week ago, I found myself sleeping with an ice pack as our thermostat read 98 degrees. A temperature record was broken downtown and poor little Ruby needed ice cubes in her kitty water bowl. Come on, I thought. School has started, there are trees with reddening leaves, the sun has slumped further down in the sky. Surely Fall must be here. Fast forward a week later and now we have moody skies, the first rain in months, and perhaps a few other clues that a change of season, however mild in these parts, is among us:



The sand and the ocean, are suddenly alone again.


The contemplation of Halloween begins.



The lights of the neighborhood pumpkin patch hang in anticipation.



And in the kitchen, a new season's flavors are gathered, appreciated and savored with much more to come. 


Over the past few years I have been steadily trying to rid my bathroom of products with crazy chemicals. What goes on the body goes in the body, I reasoned, so maybe I should approach them as I do the food I eat. While it took a while to find products that were natural but still performed like their toxin-laden counterparts, I've found a shower soap I like (Dr. Bronner's unscented castille soap) , a facial cleanser I like (Toleraine's foaming cleanser, after using the chemical soup that is Cetaphil for about a dozen years), toothpaste (good ol' Tom's of Maine), toner, moisturizer (Juice Beauty), facial mask (royal jelly), body scrubs (my own), even shampoo (Fekkai's Au Naturel). In my recent foray into body care making, I've played with making body butters, and while they worked great, they could be a little greasy and I missed that creamy consistency. 

Enter in this little jar above. Armed with a list of ratios from Dina Falconi's Earthly Bodies, I tried different solid oils, liquid oils, essential oil combinations until I found one that felt right. It was amazing to pour the mixture out of the blender and have it look, feel and smell exactly like the stuff I've been spending a fortune on at Whole Foods. And even better, when I calculated that each jar only cost about $2. My boys seem to like their orange-scented one too. Since there are no preservatives, you have to be mindful of using the whole batch within 30 days, which is why I chose a smaller jar than I would have normally made. But it's so easy to make, I actually look forward to making it again. Yes I do. 

If you're also so inclined, I highly recommend you make it too. As I've always said, there is indeed something very satisfying about making something yourself that you use everyday. Maybe it's the love, I don't know…

For oils, butters, essential oils, and herbs, Mountain Rose Herbs is great. 

Jasmine Body Cream

6 oz. of liquid carrier oil (I used jojoba, although olive, apricot kernel, almond or macadamia nut oils are other options)

3 oz. solid oil (I used mango butter, but coconut, shea or cocoa butter also work)

9 oz. distilled water (it has to be distilled to keep it from spoiling)

1 oz. beeswax

15 drops of jasmine absolute oil (or whatever you like)

Pour the liquid oil into a heat-proof measuring cup. Add pieces of solid oil until the total volume reaches the 9 oz. mark on the measuring cup. Next, add pieces of beeswax until it reaches the 10-oz. mark. Put the cup into a pot partially filled with water and place over medium heat and stir with a chopstick or spoon until the oils melt and form a unified liquid.

Remove the cup from the water and allow the oils to cool until body temperature. While the oil is cooling, pour 9 oz. of distilled water into a measuring cup and heat to body temperature by placing it into the hot water bath that you used to melt the oils.

Once the water and oils are the right temperature, pour the water into a blender, food processor or mixing bowl. Process at high speed. Then slowly pour in a thin drizzle of the the oil mixture into the whirling water. Continue to process until the mixture is thick and creamy. With my VitaMix, it took about 20 seconds.

Pour cream into sterilized jars. This mixture yielded about 16 oz. total, poured into two 9-oz. jars. Store it away from light or intense heat or refrigerate for longer life. 

Oh so good!












For a boy who can speak so eloquently and has mastered the art of the precise Matchbox lineup, turning four just doesn't seem right. Certainly he's been here longer than four years! But no, my little Neek has paved his way so thoroughly in this world already that he's managed to do a lot in his short years. To celebrate, there was a trip to the Santa Monica Pier; where we ate some greasy, crispy, veggie corndogs, washed down with lemonade; rode the carousel and got a crystal clear view of Southern Cali from the top of the ferris wheel. Next it was onto some homemade pizza and a yellow cake with chocolate icing, mixed in of course with some Elvis glasses and ring-pop stained mouths. Also as part of the weekend, we made it back to the beach for Glow Santa Monica, the semi-annual, all-night collection of art installations where there were some weirdly interesting sights…such as a frothing, humming lifeguard stand. Oh yeah.

But for my boy, it is such a complete joy sharing my life with you. Here's to the many more years ahead of you.






It was a relatively mellow Sunday around here this weekend. There was the freezing of Darth Vader and his light sabers, some colorful watercolor interpretations of Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feelin,'" and some general laziness which is sometimes required on a Sunday afternoon. For lunch we had a late summer creamy heirlooom tomato soup with some crispy, cheddar grilled cheese sandwiches that also hit the spot. It was so good, it made me commit to preserving as many tomatoes as I can next summer. I used the Oaxacan Jewel variety which gives the soup it's bright orange color. But make no mistake, it's as full of tomato flavor as you can stand. Of course, if there are no heirlooms left, any good, in-season variety works perfectly too. 

Creamy Heirloom Tomato Soup

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 lbs. heirloom (or other in-season variety) tomatoes, peeled* and sliced in half with stems removed
3/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
A fresh sprig or two of thyme, oregano or rosemary
1 medium sized yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 medium sized carrots, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream

To peel the tomatoes, bring a few cups of water to boil in a a large pot. Cut a shallow X at the bottom of each tomato. Place the tomatoes into the boiling water for about 30 seconds. Remove tomatoes and place them in a bowl of ice water. The peels should slide right off. Place sliced tomatoes on a baking sheet. Cover with most of the olive oil (reserving 2 TBSP or so), and the salt and pepper.  Place in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes to roast.

Halfway through the roasting, melt the butter and remaining olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat. Add onion, celery, carrots, and garlic and cook until the vegetables begin to get soft (15 minutes or so). When the tomatoes are done, add those to the pot (removing the sprigs of herbs), along with the stock. Simmer on low until the vegetables are all tender (another 15 minutes or so).

Puree the soup either with a blender or an immersion blender. Once pureed, add cream and basil.
















I just spent a very lovely and indulgent birthday weekend in San Francisco. Besides the weather being practically perfect, there were a ridiculous amount of amazing meals, from the deep dish madness at at Little Star Pizza, to the curiously unique ice cream at Humphry Slocombe, to the thoughtful and deeply fulfilling goods at one of my all-time faves Millenium. And I finally checked off the vegetarian-must-go Greens from my list. 

But there was, of course, more to it than the food. It was a late, last summer escape with my little family as school and work kick back into high gear again. I watched Nico's face light up with each airplane, train, bus, trolley car ride and Mateo get a kick out of the (very) old school, slightly creepy arcade games at the Musee Mechanique down at the Fisherman's Wharf. We also made a fantastic discovery with The Exploratorium which was an interactive science explosion. It was great fun. It was a trip we were certainly lucky to have taken and there could not have been a better way to usher in another year. Thank you family of mine. 
















We are back from our longest camping excursion yet, and the first in an RV, which I must say was pretty sweet once we adjusted to it. There was Matt for one who had to learn to drive what was in essence a whale on wheels. Somehow we managed to return it unscathed which was not a minor miracle I tell you. The boys dug it big time of course as a rolling little home with its automatic step that popped out each time you opened the side door, and the plethora of snacks at their disposal in the cupboards. As for me, I fully appreciated the bed with our featherbed addition and my own pillows. It certainly cancelled out the idea of the well-used, though clean, toilet that was only inches away. That and we could never get the RV level at the campsite. Poor Nico rolled out of his bed almost every night. With RV's it's a give and take existence. 

Our two locations, Montana de Oro near Morro Bay, and Sunset State Beach near Santa Cruz, were beyond lovely. Craggy beaches, wind-blown pines, crispy clean air, beach bonfires, dozens of blackened marshmallows, and the errant pesky raccoon. It was a break into nature that we all need once in a while. The kind of trip where you're not sure you ever going to get that smoky, faintly bacon-y smell of campfire out of your clothes anytime soon. But this was the kind of trip I hope my children remember for all it's discovery and laughs, it's long languid days, and the huge strawberry farm only a few feet away that we couldn't help pilfer from. Just a few times.








It's going to be hard to type this because at this moment, our newest family member, a little red tabby kitten named Ruby, is chasing the cursor on my screen. Each time I sit down at the computer she insists that she must chase the cursor, or even better, the mouse arrow that to her darts just like a real mouse indeed. Miss Ruby was one of the little lost five that we helped foster back in the Spring that were all successfully adopted. Now of course it's hard to imagine that she once fit into my hand. Mateo is proud to say that he "chose her because she loves me." And in fact she does. She's got two little boys who laugh every chance they get when she chases her tail or jumps three feet in the air after her cat dancer. Nico still exclaims, "She's vibrating!" even though we've explained that it's a purr. Once we're home from a long day, Mateo bounds through the door, pats her on the head and says, "Hey Rube" as if she's his homegirl passing him in the street. Although she's deep into her own wild phase, she's really very sweet to put up with us and the abundance of noise that erupts out of here at times. For me, it's nice to have another girl around for a change….



















That's the question, at least to my children who've been battling major mucus the past week or so. People sometimes as ask me what I give to them when they're sick, and truthfully, other than getting rid of any refined sugar, and giving them lots of tea, and a chewable probiotic, that was pretty much it. Then I came across this funny, folksy little book called A Kids Herb Book by herbalist Lesley Tierra, and got a lot more ideas of how to use herbs and spices to help quell their symptoms. The drink above tastes mostly like warm lemonade, and I give them about a half a cup at a time, a couple of times a day. I just make sure to strain out the garlic after it's steeped in there for a few minutes. There are recipes for throat lozenges, and for making your own herbal pills (eek!), but mostly we've stayed with the teas, syrups and bath formulas. All of them smell amazing and seem to work their own little magic. Maybe someday I'll tape a umeboshi plum to my navel. The photo sure is amusing.