Project Bake: Boeuf Bourguignon (a la Julia Child)

"[Boeuf Bourguignon] is certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man".
~ Julia Child
Starting right off, since this involved some oven time, I'm sort of claiming this Project Bake as redemption from the Cherpumple Disaster. Where that was an utter calamity, the Boeuf was total success.
I decided to cook Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon for Christmas Dinner. I have never cooked Boeuf Bourguignon before. Attempting to cook something for the first time for other people is a serious no-no in some cooking circles. Since it was for my immediate family, I figured they would give me a reprieve if it went horribly. But again, I was risking Christmas Dinner. Eek! 
Holy ambitious recipe, Julia! She seriously knows how to complicate a recipe. Where the same dish was a single column on the back of the beef stock carton, she took up three whole pages in her cookbook. 

There are so many little steps involved {I have to admit I skipped a couple things} in what is basically just a peasant dish of red wine-based Beef Stew! Composed of what was the cheapest/easiest to find ingredients, it had to be slow-cooked for several hours in order to make the beef tender enough to eat.

The meat and veggies we get today are, of course, much better quality, and makes a darn good dinner. Heavenly, in fact. Just make sure you set aside at least 5 hours to make it. I'm not kidding.

Some thanks to my Mom for helping out a bit {especially peeling those 20 tiny onions for me}. When all you hear is munching and sighs of happiness around the dinner table, you know you've done a good job.

Find her recipe here

Happy Holidays!

Seriously, Christmas has snuck up on me. Poof! Here it is!
I'm off to spend the weekend with the family and I wanted to send everyone warm wishes.
Hope all your Holidays are merry and bright!

Mom's Garden | Flower Mart: Narcissus Papyraceus

Another reason why I love the end of the year is because it signals the appearance of one of my favorite flowers. Narcissus (or, Paperwhites). Yes, I know you can force them in a jar all year, but there's something so much fun about having paperwhites when it's cold and gloomy outside.
Of course, they smell ah-mazing. 
And, did you know? Put them in the sun. They sparkle... how awesome is that?
I snagged some paperwhites from the Flower Mart as well and thought I'd share. 

And being a kind of Greek Mythology geek, there is of course a version of the tale of Narcissus. A vain boy who was very beautiful, spurned many women. One woman prayed to the goddess Nemesis so that he may always know unrequited love. The goddess cursed Narcissus so that when he was out hunting one day, he saw his reflection in a pool and fell in love with himself. He stayed staring along the waters edge and wasted away. Narcissus flowers are said to have grown where he died.
There's your Greek Mythology lesson for the day. 
Moral? Keep your ego in check, otherwise, keep away from mirrored objects. 

Project Adventure: LA Flower Mart

Round about this time of year, Mom & Dad venture out to Downtown LA to get tons & tons of poinsettias to decorate for the holidays. Every year Mom invites me to go, but inevitably I don't because getting up at 5am never, ever, sounds like a good idea. This year I agreed to go one day because, hey, it may be early but how can I resist warehouses full of flowers?
 I didn't know this, but apparently the LA Flower District has been around for almost 100 years! It is also the largest flower district in the country! Wow! Back in the 1900's, local flower growers used to drive their horse-drawn carts downtown to sell at the product market. Can you imagine heaps of flowers on a horse-drawn carriage? So cool. Can you imagine what time they had to get up in the morning?
Find out more here

Project 365: Milestone Day 162!

One hundred and sixty-two days of adventures.
It's kinda hard to believe that I started Project 365 so long ago! 
Honestly, it only feels like a week... well, maybe a month. Surely not 162! Wow.
And, a lot of you have been along for the ride too. Thanks for an awesome 162 days everyone.
You can catch up on my daily pictures here.

Project Bake: Cherpumple Disaster

A week ago, I would have considered myself a pretty adept baker. 'Give me a recipe and I can make it,' I used to say. Suffice to say, I have been thoroughly humbled. I have been knocked down a few rungs by a recipe that is entirely from a box. Yes. I have failed a boxed recipe. Granted it's a very ambitious, creative, utterly rad box recipe {and I encourage all of you out there to attempt it}. I could go through all the different things we did wrong, but that would just take too long. But, I can tell you that if it ends up looking like a big pile of you-know-what, it'll still taste pretty darn good. 
{drum roll}
I give you.... 
The baking equivalent to the Turduken.
The Cherpumple Challenge was suggested to me by my brother, who wanted to make it for an early Thanksgiving dinner hosted by his friends. He wanted to make something utterly ridiculously awesome. So, I said, lets give it a try.

The Anatomy of a Cherpumple 
A three-layer confection consisting of:
Bottom layer: A pumpkin pie inside a spice cake
Middle layer: an apple pie inside a yellow cake
Top layer: a cherry pie inside a white cake
All smothered in cream cheese frosting
Note: the Heineken were strictly for baker hydration purposes. 
We should have noticed things were turning south when the first layer decided to erupt like Mt. Vesuvius.

Our masterpiece SHOULD have ended up like this:

INSTEAD, we got this:
See? FAIL on an EPIC scale. 
Luckily, everyone was laughing so hysterically, no one really seemed to care. 
And, yes, it tasted pretty awesome.  
Find out how to make your very own Cherpumple here

Afternoon on the Moon

Today is one of those days out of the year when we get crazy winds that last all day. They create clouds of sand and dust that float over PCH. They erase footprints & smooth out the sand into perfect ribbon patterns. Feels like you're on the moon... a sand-colored moon... or, maybe the Arabian Desert. Anyway. It's cool.

Project Bake: Pumpkin Seeds

After Halloween had come and gone, I had a whole load of uncarved pumpkins on my hands. When my brother asked "So, are we gonna smash some pumpkins?"... my first thought was - Yeah! But I haven't toasted any pumpkin seeds yet! How silly is that? 
So, I figured, yes it is November, but it's never too late for pumpkin seeds! So, out comes the knife and on goes the oven. 
Now, if any of you have cooked or baked with my Mother, you know that she is not the best when it comes to toasting seeds. Inevitably, she burns the first batch and has to toast a brand new batch. Apparently, on this occasion, I followed in Mom's footsteps. I burned the sh** out of them.
Yes, I could grab another one of the pumpkins and do all of this over again... naaaaaaah. I'll just munch on the crispy buggers and it'll be just fine.

Scenes from the Weekend

I had a great Halloween weekend. Thanks to everyone who came out to our little shindig - I hope you all had a blast!
Seriously, tho' - if and when I decide to host another party, I probably need an over-achiever monitor on my shoulder to keep me from going overboard. 
Either that or I need to have more parties so I don't try to cram all my ideas into one event.
Two things I really wanted to try were Old Lady Fingers and Boo! Cake Pops. Another thing I found later was the cute Ghostly Pretzels. Since I already had the white chocolate, I figured why not?
I definitely need to fine tune the technique {the chocolate wouldn't melt thin enough} and rethink my tool usage {I was late in purchasing the edible markers}.
But, overall, they were fun to try out.

New Views

I'm finally getting a bit more settled out here on the West Coast. I've relocated to Orange County and despite the fact that it has been rainy, it's pretty awesome. 
I'm super excited to get my life going out here, but it's a bit strange after living in NYC for 8 years {all the space! No carrying groceries 5 blocks!}
I'm excited but a bit anxious. I know it'll all pan out well in time.
PS. The photo above is my first sunset at my new place. No color correcting. None. Not kidding.

Mom's Garden | Pretty in Pink

Flowers from Mom's Garden. Have I ever told you about Moms Amazingly Incredible Garden? 
Well, it's just awesome.  Every time I come home to visit, I ransack all the plants and make the most gorgeous arrangements. So, now that I'm back in L.A. the ransacking will become a regular thing. 
And I will share them with you.
Roses, Zinnia, Verbena, Gomphrena and a dried artichoke for puffiness.

Project Adventure: Road Trip Vol. 2

Things I learned on this road trip:
1) Extra pillows and free breakfast (even powdered eggs) makes all the difference.
2) Mall of America isn't as big as expected. Go early in the morning, it'll seem smaller.
3) It's not a rumor, people in the middle of the country actually do prefer to watch Fox News.
4) Unless you're a parched, dehydrated and shriveled traveller, Wall Drug's free water tastes disgusting. 
5) Standing underneath Niagara Falls is like getting an amazing deep-tissue massage.


Project Adventure: Road Trip Vol. 1

I apologize for not posting in some time... as most of you know {probably all of you, since I doubt I have any strangers reading this blog} I have relocated from The Big Apple to La La Land. Moms and I made a fabulous road trip adventure out of it. {if you want to see the map of our trip, click here}
I'll be doing a few postings from the Great Adventure: Cross Country. Over the 11 days and 4200 miles traveled, there were lots of little stops along the way, it would take me 10 posts to get through it all... so, I'm doing a sampling of a few.
I have to say, if you are a fan of road trips, you have to go cross-country at least once... well, maybe twice. You have to experience both the "northern route" and the "southern route". Totally different samplings of the good 'ol US of A. {I have to warn you tho' Texas and northern Nevada is suuuuuper boring}
Hello! How adorable is this photo of Moms getting pummeled by Niagara Falls?!?

While we were in Cleveland, we just had to stop by the house where they filmed A Christmas Story.

Just outside of Chicago is Frank L. Wright's Home & Studio. Breathtaking if you love his work.

Monthly Obsession - Succulents & Carnivorous Pants

This edition of Monthly Obsession goes to Succulents & Carnivorous Plants!
It's sad that these plants sometimes get overlooked because they don't usually have big, over the top flowers or are just plain weird/creepy. Both succulents & carnivorous plants are pretty remarkable, evolving out of stressful environments: the need to retain water & moisture or supplementing lack of nutrients in soil. These are seriously determined plants.

Succulent Plants
These guys {I think} have gotten a bit more popular because of the rise in eco-mindedness {is that even a word?} due to their drought-tolerant nature. For those of us apartment dwellers without gardens, they are great windowsill additions and are pretty low maintenance!
Succulents, most native to dry, arid conditions {cacti are also included in the succulent category, the difference is that they have spines}, store water in their leaves and/or stems (resulting in that more "fleshy" appearance and the goo that comes out if broken in half, like the Aloe plant) and have an overall structure that is engineered specifically to absorb and retain water. It's quite brilliant when you think of it... leaf shape & growth pattern to better catch water, some succulents even have tiny hairs that harness moisture to create little sub-climates! Some succulents even look like rocks.
There is an enormous variety available in every shape and size you can imagine. They have amazing texture and color when clustered together in little vignettes.
pics above 1, 2, 3, 4

Carnivorous Plants
Some people may get really creeped out when thinking about carnivorous plants. {insert Rick Moranis joke here} But, in reality they are pretty darn awesome. Not only can they be quite pretty, but when you think about it, they are seriously inventive! Booby traps, disguises, lures, trip wires, you name it. See? Cool. It's like something out of James Bond movie... or, maybe The Goonies. The only problem with these plants is they can be a bit finicky if not taken care of properly, so be sure to read up on them if you're thinking of adopting any of these little dudes.
Check out a seriously extensive gallery of carnivorous plant images here
Watch this totally awesome episode of Discovery Life on Venus Flytraps here
pics above 1, 2, 3

When paired together, succulents and carnivorous plants can be really beautiful, not to mention a conversation starter! Here's some cool products featuring this Monthly Obsession:
Top images via here & here

Project Adventure: The Little Red Lighthouse

This edition of Project Adventure was accomplished before the blogging began, but I thought I'd share it with you anyway because it was just so cool.
Within a few months of my moving to New York, Mom (in California) read an article about The Little Red Lighthouse that sits on the Hudson River, perched just below the George Washington Bridge in Manhattan. The lighthouse was made famous in 1942 by the children's book The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Grey Bridge. A cute story of a little lighthouse who thought he was no longer useful when the huge grey bridge was built next to him, only to realize later that he is more important than he thinks. The lighthouse was almost dismantled in 1951, but was saved by the public and was landmarked by NYC Preservation Committee. You can now go visit and {when it's open} climb up to the top into the lantern room.
So, almost 8 years later, when Mom was out for a visit, we finally decided to make the trek and see it for ourselves. Lots of walking, but it was a great afternoon!
It's a rather nice subway ride up to 181st Street, then a jaunt up and down hills to a footbridge over the Parkway and then a steep walk down and around Fort Washington Park, underneath the George Washington Bridge. Watch out for cyclists - those guys haul down the hill!
We went on a rather cool day in the spring, but in the summer, this little adventure may be a bit steamy with all the walking up and down hills. Go check it out!

Project 365: Milestone Day 22

So, I've been at it for 22 days now... it's actually pretty fun, trying to find interesting pics from my day. If anything, it's an amazing way to get you to look at your daily life in an entirely different way. Often, you realize that your life is a lot more beautiful than you think.
Lets hope I can keep it going!    See all of them here

Project Adventure: My Backyard

Yesterday I went out around my neighborhood to find a couple of the Pianos that are in my area as a part of an art project called "Play Me I'm Yours". It was a beautiful evening, so I brought my fancy-dan new camera with me to experiment! {I love birthdays. Thanks Mom & Dad!}
It was such an utterly wonderful sunset and big-white-puffy-cloud-lighted moment! Thought I'd share a few cool photos from my afternoon.