Kitchen Before and After

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Well the kitchen is finally clean enough for pictures. The kitchen was sort of completed before the holidays '08. I say sort of because the kitchen folks have recently come by to replace a door and reinforce the drawers with better hinges. When we thought we were rid of them they yet again made a mistake on the we're still waiting for fix a few doors. Geesh.

Anyway, here are the before, during and after pictures of our kitchen remodel. We are so very happy with the way it turned out. It all came together. I saw the marble slab in a showroom and instantly knew it was the one. I would never have thought of selecting green marble, but I fell in love with it at first sight.

I forgot how awful the kitchen was before. The cabinets were the worst kind of wood (style and treatment) ever!!! The floors were impossible to keep clean. The kitchen had a drop ceiling for no reason at all. And everything was dark, depressing and small.

We blew open every wall in the kitchen and dining room. It now is an open floor plan. We added tons of windows and made the existing ones larger. We opened up the ceiling to reveal the vaulted ceiling. We added beams. We ripped up the floor in both the kitchen and dining room to match the hardwood everywhere else. All plumbing and gas lines were moved to new locations. Nothing in the entire kitchen is original. I found this beautiful limestone range hood made by Francois and Co. The store didn't have the exact model I was looking for but they were remodeling their showroom and needed to get rid of their floor models. We purchased this one from them at a much lower cost. I love it. While in Vegas looking at prospective commercial real estate locations, Ed found the pendants at a Baccarat store. He did good. He was also in charge of pretty much the entire remodel...from construction to picking out appliances and fixtures. We both worked on the design and layout. I love my kitchen. It inspires me to cook it in almost everyday. If only I could keep it clean. Surprisingly, the kitchen storage is not as big as I'd like. I'm still missing a box of kitchen tools and I've already run out of space. Not a lot of cabinet storage with the open design and all the darn appliances.

Granted, I love it today, but I don't recommend trying to design a kitchen and then live in a remodel while pregnant. There were many times I wanted to check into a hotel...without Ed.

Ethan's Stats

Yesterday was Ethan's nine month appointment (even though he's 10 months old now). Here are his stats:

Weight: 20 lbs (30th percentile)
Height: 27.8 inches (20th percentile)

He's short and round. Poor guy. Thank god he's got a great personality already budding.

Other developments:

  • Claps his hands
  • Picks up objects
  • Pinches really, really hard
  • Grabs everything in reach
  • Eats really well (we've moved on to homemade pureed chicken; doc says he's ready for small finger foods)
  • Says "da-da", but mostly speaks jibberish
  • Loves, loves, loves to talk to Isabella. She can get him going. It's the best!
He's not quite crawling yet. Mostly scoots backwards or does the swimming in the air thing. His teeth haven't come in yet either. He's taking his time. In the meantime, he's just playing it up with his open mouth smiles.

Drinks at the Roosevelt

I took some random pictures at the Roosevelt from our date night two weeks ago.

We literally just met this woman minutes before the picture was taken.

This picture reminds me of Ethan.

Happy Father's Day

On Sunday I got Izzy up and immediately she asked to see daddy. (With a little coaching) she went downstairs and said "Happy Daddy's Day!"

We all got ready and went out for brunch at the Little Next Door on 3rd Street in West Hollywood. I had a very yummy and sinful Croque Madame. It was so good.

We took a drive and wound up at Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills. Ed's been telling me about the beautiful gardens. There's quite an interesting story behind it. What I found interesting was the cost to build this estate. Would you believe it cost $3 million back in the 20s! Yes, it is about 46,000 square feet on 12 acres of land. Ha!

When we got home Ed had to go on a scavenger hunt to find his father's day gift. I left little notes with "cryptic" messages to find the present...okay, so they were pretty easy to figure out, but it was fun for us all. "We" surprised Ed with a new computer bag. A nice, stylish leather computer bag. Ed decided to exchange it for another style...which is great as long as he's happy...but does the bag have to look like it came out of the Indiana Jones set?

Again, as long as he's happy that's all that matters.
Happy Father's Day!

Date Night

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ed and I went out to dinner on a Friday night without the kids...the first in a very long time. It would have been a perfect date night if Ed's boss weren't also with us. Although, it wouldn't have been as good without his boss picking up the bill! Nice! We had a delicious dinner at Il Ristorante di Giorgio Baldi - a real Italian restaurant with real Italian waiters. The food was mouthwatering, the wine was smooth (and a nice pretty penny) and the sightseeing pretty spectacular. I can still taste the butternut squash ravioli. Hmm...and I ordered the lemon butter Dover sole. It was so good I had to make it this week! The restaurant is quaint and a small space so the tables are nestled close together. We sat next to some random celebrities...Bob Newhart, Don Rickles, Larry David and Chris Robinson (from the Black Crowes). After dinner we did the Hollywood thing and had drinks at the Roosevelt. It was a fun, fun night.

So who looked after the kids? Auntie Ann to the rescue. My sister Ann has been a 3rd grade teacher for about 10 years. So she's got energy to make it through the day...after day...after day. When I came to pick up the kids, she looked relieved. I forget how much work it is when you don't have them with you everyday.

This is one of their conversations:

Ann: Izzy
Isabella: My name not Izzy, it Bella
Ann: Bella, what do you want for lunch?
Isabella: Cupcakes

~ ~ ~ ~

Ann: Bella, what do you want for dinner?
Isabella: Cupcakes

Too funny. No, I don't feed her cupcakes for breakfast, lunch or dinner. She does refer to herself as "Bella" or "Isbella", but she's never corrected us when we call her other nicknames (Izzy, Bella, Isbobella, Isbolicious).

Thanks Ann for babysitting!

"What is your specialty in life?"

Friday, June 12, 2009

Since moving to LA we've been moving a mile a minute. I've been more and more disconnected from the things that make me feel good (other than my hubby and kids). We've been working on a project at work and have been designing questions to profile people. One question read, "What's your specialty in life?" Odd question, I thought. I interpreted it to mean "what am I good at?" I immediately thought of crafty things and things that require working with my hands. It had been a long time since I've carved out time to do these things. And this is when I began to question what makes me happy.

I love building things. I get great satisfaction and serenity with transforming things into something new. Be it cooking, baking, e-scrapbooking (which I hardly do), working on puzzles, decorating, or trying to design and redesign my blog. This is not to say that I'm great at anyone of these things, but that I enjoy doing it.

As I was redesigning my blog, I stumbled onto a few sites that have brought me inspiration and have become my muse to get me back on track.

Some sites to visit:
And my secret pleasure is reading NieNie Dialogues. Stories from the uplifting and crafty mother of four.

Fresh Face

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

I got inspired to change the face of our blog and I'm loving it! I found the background from Aqua Poppy Designs. You can check out her site for free or affordable custom designs. I made the banner myself through Scrapblog.

Cabo Over Memorial Weekend

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Ed and I went to San Jose del Cabo for Memorial Weekend while his parents watched the kids. I hadn't been to Mexico in a while now so I was surprised at how clean the city was. There was hardly any trash along side the road and it smelled nice. We weren't surprised to find both San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas empty. There weren't any guests. But we did feel safe with all the federales with their M16s. I should have taken picture of that. On our way in we stopped at Mega, which the name appropriate describes the type of grocery store. It had everything. We purchased some snacks and lots of good beer. It was perfect.

We stayed at the Westin Los Cabos and upgraded ourselves to the mack daddy suite with a private hot tub on the balcony. The hotel said they were at 40% capacity, but it looked more like 20% if that. But it was all kind of nice to have the place to yourself. As you can imagine, you can stay pretty much anywhere and get a good rate. We mostly stayed in the pool the entire time. We went into town occassionally for dinner and jet skiing. We played minature golf at the resort to which I beat Ed big time! The only thing I don't like about Cabo is the course sand...ouch.

It was a nice getaway for us and we're definitely going to come back San Jose and bring the kids. The pools were awesome and perfect for Isabella when it's not overcrowded. We checked out Club Regina, the condos at the Westin, and they looked good for the family.

We stayed on the first floor, right in the middle of the bridge section. The view was insane.

Play Time

Saturday, June 06, 2009

While I'm cooking dinner I hear Izzy playing with Ethan. It was so cute to see her playing with him when we're not initiating it.

We recorded a new milestone of Ethan clapping his hands and on command. No crawling or first word yet. **I apologize for my shrill voice. I was so excited and didn't realize how annoying I sound!

I've posted Izzy singing her bumble bee song, but this time it was funny. As she sings she randomly comments on different things.

Lemon Cupcakes

I had to get this cupcake thing out of my system. I found a lemon cupcake recipe, but made a lemon cream cheese frosting instead. I halved the recipe so it's always difficult to know what to do when the whole recipe calls for three eggs. It was yummy, but little drier than I like. Half the recipe still made 48 mini cupcakes! I wanted to try this recipe from Indira Weigand who won the 2008 Brooklyn Cupcake Cookoff, but I didn't have all the ingredients on hand (who keeps almond flour in their pantry?) and I was intrigued by the use of sour cream in the first recipe.

I've never decorated with fondant, but there's no time like the present. So I made some simple design. Mainly because I usually bake mini cupcakes (regular and extra large - my other fav - are too big to eat without feeling like you've over indulged) and I don't have any cookie cutter designs small enough to fit on the mini size. I'm on the hunt though...

Fondant is surprisingly easy to work with. I colored and flavored it and am happy with my first attempt. I can't wait until the next time I make some.

Saltado de Pollo Recipe

I have been craving Saltado de Pollo from Inka Mama's recently so I made it at home several times now and love the recipes I've found. If you've never had Peruvian food this is one of my favorite dishes. Saltado is a Peruvian stir fry with a spicy kick to it. It's so good, but it's all in the Aji sauce (the green sauce usually found in the sqeeze bottles).

I've pieced several together to make it work. One of my biggest frustrations with stir frying chicken is my chicken tends to turn out dry so it finally dawned on me to brine the chicken breast. I've brined turkeys and chicken (with bones), but never breast meat. Duh! OMG, I will never make chicken again without brining it. The chicken came out so tender and moist and was a beautiful color (bizarre, I know, but apparently the sugars help to carmelize the surface giving it a nice golden brown color).

Brining Chicken Breast
Enough for four chicken breasts

  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 8 cups water
  1. Pound the chicken breast to even it out (I put the chicken between layers of wax paper to eliminate a mess and use a large rolling pin)
  2. Dissolve the sugar and salt in hot water (I usually boil a few cups of water to dissolve. Once dissolved I put the salt/sugar water in a new bowl and add tons of ice to cool it down. The water must be cool before adding the chicken)
  3. Cover the bowl or transfer to a large ziplock bag and brine for 30 minutes (Time it well so you're ready to cook the chicken after the 30 minutes. You don't want to over brine the chicken)

Saltado de Pollo
  • 1 lb of chicken breasts, sliced into strips about 1 1/2 inches long
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and cut into eighths or wedges (separate the layers)
  • 1 lb potatoes, peeled and cut for French fries or 1 package of frozen Yukon gold French fries (Regular size fries, not shoestring)
  • 2 tsp Aji sauce (see recipe below)
  • 3-4 firm tomatoes, cut into eighths (I've tried both Roma and beefsteak and I prefer the way beefsteak holds up)
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tbsp balsalmic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt to taste (I don't add any because the aji sauce and soy sauce have plenty, not to mention I use brined chicken)
  • pepper to taste
  • vegetable oil for stir-frying
  • 4 servings rice
  1. The key with stir-fry is to start with all ingredients ready - cut and measured out - before you start cooking.
  2. Start the rice when you starting cutting up the chicken and let it stand covered until everything is ready. Cook the fries first and then do the stir-fry. I usually pop frozen fries in the oven while I'm stir-frying the chicken.
  3. Cook the rice
  4. Cook the french fries and set aside
  5. Heal the oil in a large skillet or wok over high heat. Add chicken and stir-fry until chicken is cooked on all sides. Remove chicken and set aside. (The chicken cooks better when I stir-fry in small batches at a time. My pan turns into a black mess so I'll clean up or use another pan before I move on to the veggies)
  6. Lower heat to medium-high setting and add some oil to the pan. Add onions and saute until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes
  7. Add the aji, tomatoes, some of the parsley, soy sauce, balsalmic vinegar, salt and pepper. Cook until tomatoes have softened, about 2 minutes. Then add the lemon juice.
  8. Add chicken and toss gently. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  9. Add french fries and toss gently.
  10. Serve over rice and sprinkle with parlsey. I put the aji sauce in to a squeeze bottle and add more to my liking.
Variations: I add steamed cut green beans after I add the tomatoes. Hmm hmm.

Aji Sauce
This stuff is delicious with bread or pretty much anything. It's so yummy
  • 1/4 head of lettuce, torn into pieces (I've only used iceberg, but romaine is another choice. Iceberg will mellow out the spice)
  • 3 jalapeno chiles, seeds and veins removed
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 5 green onions
  • 1/2 bunch of cilantro leaves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 5 garlic cloves or 1 tsp garlic (I prefer fresh garlic, but I love garlic so adjust to your taste)

  1. Put all ingredients into a blender and process until smooth. Add a little chicken broth (about 1/4 cup to get the ingredients to blend well).

I hope you make it because it is absolutely delicious and really easy to make.

Long Walk

We needed to get out of the house today so we went for a walk. The weather was perfect for our walk - a little cloudy with a cool breeze. It had drizzle yesterday which must have cleared up the sky because it was so clear. At the highest point of our walk we could see complete ocean view, Century City and Downtown LA.

There's this house on Mulholland Drive that has a unique garage door that I had to capture.

We ended up pushing the stroller around a little over 3 miles in our windy neighborhood. If I did this walk every day I would be in great shape. Most of the walk is uphill and some are pretty steep. Pushing the stroller uphill is a total workout. Ed and I had to take turns after feeling the burn.

Cupcake Obsessions

Friday, June 05, 2009

I have a secret obsession with cupcakes. It's not so much to eating of the cupcakes, but the appreciation of beautiful pieces of art of tiny, delicate delights. A old high school classmate posted pictures of her recent works of art and it fed right into my obsession.

Aren't they delightful?

Now, I feel inspired to start decorating cupcakes. I'm sure once I get into it I will lose my passion for decorating as I do most "hobbies", but I'll always appreciate looking (and eating) them!

I found some more awesome cupcake designs that have given more inspiration. Check out Hello Naomi. Here are my favorites of her work. You can find more of her work through Flickr.

And yet more cupcakes from Pink Cake Box.


Video: Ring-Around-the-Rosies

Noah's Ark

Last month Ed had to go away on a trip so I took the kids to the Noah's Ark exhibit. If you're in the area and you have kids it's definitely worth going. It's better for kids three and up. There's this section the kids have to climb a rope bridge to get to the second level. The bridge is extremely steep. Isabella really wanted to go up it. I had Ethan in my arms and I waited behind her. Other kids with their parents came behind me and asked if I was going up so I kind of got prodded along. Midway Izzy got scared and said she couldn't go up it anymore. I had to pull her up with Ethan in my arms. Not a good decision. Bad mommy. I could have easily slipped and dropped Ethan. I was sweating the whole way up. We finally go up there and it was fun. Only I didn't have my camera to take pictures of us.