Banana Chocolate Chip Cake

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My little sister celebrated her 26th birthday (26th!!!) last Friday and I so wish I could have been there with her in Virginia, where she’s currently attending med school. But not so much because I wanted to spend time with her…mostly because I just wanted to devour the Banana Chocolate Chip Cake she made from The Baker Chick. :P

True to form, my baking-obsessed sister—she used to intern at Sweet & Saucy Shop, the amazing Orange County bakery with hands down the best cupcakes, in my humble opinion—made her own birthday cake. And it also has a peanut butter frosting! She texted me photos of her creation just to torture me, of course.

“The cake was really moist and a perfect combination of all three flavors—the bananas tasted delicious and the chocolate and peanut butter complemented it perfectly without being too overpowering,” she said about the recipe. “The mini chocolate chips were also super cute and anything with buttermilk is bound to be amazing.”

Sigh. Now I have to add this recipe to my baking list. And did I mention she also made Magnolia Bakery’s Banana Pudding without me? She gets a birthday pass but just this once…happy 26th to my sis!!! :)

UPDATE: My sister says this recipe for Magnolia’s pudding is even better!

{photo via The Baker Chick}

73 Questions for SJP

Have you guys seen this Vogue interview with Sarah Jessica Parker? She powers through 73 questions fired off by a reporter at lightning speed and it’s so much fun to watch. I’m equally impressed by how the interviewer memorized (I imagine) all those questions and how quickly SJP answers them! Some of them would have stumped me for a bit for sure, such as “Can you write down your favorite word that starts and ends with the same vowel?” She thinks of a beautiful word in a flash! It’s also an unintentional mini-tour of her amazing apartment in NYC, a city she describes in the interview as “Symphonic, tiny, real.” She is quick with words, that one.

{via Vogue America}

Filmmakers For A Day

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Last Saturday, Stephen and I took a one-day course on 16mm filmmaking. I’ve always been fascinated by filmmaking and even wanted to major in it in college, but I was intimidated by the technical aspects of it and how unrealistic job prospects might be in the future—also, I have to admit, I was pretty into journalism back then and was sure my fate would be in the publishing world. But now, nearly 7 years out of college, I can’t stop thinking about the world of movie-making (helps to also live in Downtown LA and drive by a film set pretty much every day, which always gets my heart racing a bit). I’ve been reading up on independent filmmaking a lot but I think I just needed to start taking classes so this new pursuit/hobby/I-don’t-know-what-yet would feel a little more legitimate.

Stephen is personally fond of documentary filmmaking and loves cameras, so we signed up for the class together at Echo Park Film Center and it ended up being an awesome day learning the art of 16mm film and playing with a Bolex and a Scoopic (names I know now!).

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photo 2Our teacher, Cosmo, (in the cool hat) hand made our instruction booklets (top left photo). He wrote, illustrated, and bound all 9 copies for our class! In the top right photo, you can see an open 16mm Scoopic—apparently named because journalists often grabbed these handheld cameras when rushing out the door to get the “scoop” on a breaking story. In the bottom left photo, we also learned how to use a light meter, which, after fiddling with a few dials and holding it up in front of a camera lens, tells you what the proper exposure should be. I really loved using that instrument in particular because I’ve seen it in so many behind-the-scenes looks at photo shoots and movies! (I felt like I was truly “on set” for a few minutes there.)

The first part of our class was spent getting familiar with the cameras and learning how to put film in (which is actually pretty tricky), and then we walked over to Echo Park a few blocks down to film.

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Stephen going around the park with the Bolex, which was my choice camera over the Scoopic. It’s compact and the design just looks so classic. How Hollywood does Stephen look here with his camera, the blue skies, and the palm trees? ;)

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We needed a subject to film, and found our star of the day in the form of this adorable miniature poodle named Terry, whose owners kindly let us borrow her for a few scenes. We shot her frolicking around the park, running around trees, and then got a few close-ups of that furry face.

photo 1After some time at the park, we went back to the film center and hand processed all of the film. It was such a process indeed! There was a lot of measuring, mixing, waiting, hanging, and drying (even outdoors, as Stephen demonstrates). I have so much respect for films made the old-fashioned way now. We actually didn’t get to see our film at the end of the day because it was still drying when class ended, but we’re supposed to get DVD copies of it soon. I personally can’t wait to see all the cute footage of Terry!

The majority of the class felt a little over my head—as I suspected it might—and there were even a couple of students from USC’s graduate film school in attendance, but I’m so glad I took it. Whether this continues as a hobby or something more, it’s funny how when you’re really taken by something, it’s like you can’t get away from it…even years later, it finds you. And for now, I’m more than happy to be the novice in all of this, taking baby steps and learning as I go. I still have so much to learn, so I’ll be planning another trip to the library soon to check out a bunch of books. And filling up my Netflix queue with as many classic films as I can possibly find. And slowly saving up for a new camera. Kind of perfect timing for that tax refund, right? :)

Yurt Living is the Life for Me

The Yurt!

I think my next apartment might be a yurt.

This weekend, Matt and I took a road trip to Yosemite National Park to stay, for the first time in the ever-popular and ever-peculiar yurt village near the park. (For the uninitiated, a yurt is a traditional Mongolian dwelling — sort of like a teepee on steroids.) Yurt camping options have been popping up in scenic locales for a few years now and it seems there are always waiting lists for the things. I can see why after spending my first weekend in one. We were lucky enough to get one of the brand-new “Meadow Yurts” at Yosemite Lakes. It was stocked better than a hotel, with pots and pans and cooking utensils, a full-size bunk-bed and a futon. It even had a fireplace!

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We stocked up on wine and games, bought some groceries on the road and had a pretty fabulous home away from home.

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After traipsing around Yosemite on a 10-mile hike (2 miles of which was us getting lost and/or going around in circles), we built a decent fire in our yurt’s outdoor fire pit and made a nice dinner of kabobs and cous-cous. Then we topped it all off with some good ol’ smore-making — debating whether it’s best to toast or totally incinerate your marshmallow. (I go for the later.)

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Overall, it was a great way to be in the great outdoors without the commitment required of a camping trip. And both of us found ourselves saying, honestly, “I could live in a yurt!” by the end of it all.

Yosemite Evening

I, for one, have my eye on these ocean front properties in Big Sur.

Magical Butter Sauce

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My friend Jessica—a major foodie and cooking queen—swears by this magical butter sauce to pour over any protein. Just melt some butter with balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and your choice of fruit preserve such as apricot or blackberry (her secret weapon is Mick’s Hot Raspberry Pepper Jelly straight from Seattle) and you’re golden. She particularly loves it with salmon, roasted chicken drumsticks, or roasted chicken thighs. Microwave it in 30-second intervals and if it’s too sweet, just add a little more balsamic vinegar, she says. I’m actually planning to bake some chicken tomorrow night for dinner so this sauce is exactly what I’ll finish it off with!

Do you guys have any staple sauces you always turn to? As I’m starting to cook more, I’m really learning how valuable and life-saving a quick, delicious sauce can be!

{via Tasty Kitchen}

 

How You Glow

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I’ve become slightly addicted to How You Glow, a lovely new website dedicated to all things healthy, healing, nourishing, and beautiful by Tara and Jessie. It’s both a lifestyle how-to guide and a behind-the-scenes look at a standard of living that I only wish I could emulate: days filled with fresh pressed juices and homemade smoothie bowls, garden yoga at what’s called the “How You Glow Treehouse”, and dress-up adventures at vintage boutiques. And Tara and Jessie get to essentially live and breathe this lifestyle 24/7—Tara is a natural foods chef and holistic nutritionist, and Jessie is a certified yoga instructor and art therapist.  

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Through their site, you get to come along on private yoga sessions with instructors such as May Che…

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…into the kitchen to make these vegan and gluten-free Raspberry Crumb Bars

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…out and about town to profile equally fabulous women like Ali Kay and her backyard full of organic produce and fruit…

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…on a beauty date with braid extraordinaire Ashley Streicher

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…and of course model amazing pieces for new online vintage boutique The Neck Down.

What a life! You can peruse more stories, features, and tips on their site here. Plus, if their website isn’t envy-worthy enough, their Instagram feed will make you want to quit your job, do yoga all day, and just frolic around hip L.A. spots.

{photos via How You Glow}

San Diego!

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Two weekends ago, specifically Saturday, February 22nd, Stephen and I took a little road trip down to San Diego to celebrate our 6-month anniversary—also known as a relationship milestone that only high schoolers recognize. Thanks to my dear friend Jackie for reminding me of that!

We packed our suitcases into Stephen’s old red pick-up truck (I don’t think I’ve shared the fact that he drives an old red pick-up truck with you all…I say “old” affectionately because he’s had the truck since he was 15 and it was one of the many adorable details I loved learning about him when we first met) and drove straight to Balboa Park to start off our Saturday morning.

photo(1)The skies were hazy but the weather was warm enough, and the park looked beautiful. We wandered the grounds for a bit and checked out the California Bell Tower and the botanical gardens. There was even a South African carnivorous plant on display! Above, Stephen demonstrates what not to do around a carnivorous plant. Apparently, these plants live in jungles with very little light, so they evolved to trap flies on their own (see: Stephen trying to put his finger into the fly trap) and eat them. Carnivorous plants! I had no idea that’s how they came to exist.

photoThen there were birds. Quite a few birds. I’m not really a bird person…Stephen, on the other hand, is not afraid of birds. That little birdie climbed right onto his arm and seemed to really like him! And don’t be deceived by that smiling photo of me and that feathered fella. I was so creeped out by the warm, scaly feel of his birdie toes! But it was kind of fun to have him on my arm for those five seconds. And five seconds was plenty.

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Then this happened on Saturday night. We were walking to a trendy restaurant for dinner in the Gaslamp District when I suggested that we stop by Ralph’s to pick up some coconut water because we were both insanely thirsty. We walked into Ralph’s—and this was a really fancy Ralph’s, I must add—picked up the coconut water, turned around, and were suddenly confronted by an incredible display of sushi and deli food. I know it doesn’t look like much in the photo, but it was glorious in person. There was roast chicken, seafood, tons of sides, fresh cut fruit…I’ve been to Ralph’s a million times but this was by far the nicest Ralph’s either of us had ever seen. And suddenly I really wanted to eat that deli sushi. We both looked at each other. “Wanna just eat here?” “Yep!” (I think we both jinxed each other saying this.)

So we picked up a few items including a pear, hummus, and mashed sweet potatoes, and had ourselves a picnic dinner on the outdoor patio. This Ralph’s had patio seating! While we were eating, I said to Stephen, “Jess is going to kill us when she hears we ate at Ralph’s.” (Jess is my high school friend who lives in San Diego, and we also visited her during the trip. She’s also a bona fide foodie queen. And yes, she basically did want to kill us when she heard where we went for dinner.)

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But it’s OK, Jess! We were saving the best for last: the grand finale of the evening was to get dessert at the one and only Extraordinary Desserts. No matter how many times I’ve been to San Diego, this place is always an absolute must on my list. And the fact that Stephen admittedly has a sweet tooth as well? Let’s just say we both patiently waited almost an hour to be seated and neither of us complained a peep.

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So purty.

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We ordered: bread pudding with mascarpone ice-cream for me, peanut butter and jelly beignets with brown butter ice-cream for him, and a raspberry linzer torte cake to “share.” (I ate most of it.) Between the flickering candle and flower petals on everything, this turned into quite the romantic anniversary meal, huh?

Then on Sunday, we spent the day at the zoo!

But first, there was a minor incident with Stephen’s leg when we tried to picnic before going in…

photo 2It involved a medic, a zoo guard, and a lot of bandages…

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And an unseen rusty nail on this picnic table. Stephen was just sitting down when he cut his leg on it. Notice the picnic we were about to have? We might have gone back to Ralph’s to pick up lunch the next day (heh heh). Luckily, Stephen got fixed up real quick and also had his tetanus shots recently, too.

Then we spent the day at the zoo!

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photo 4I hadn’t been to the San Diego zoo in ages! It was pretty fitting that Stephen and I put the zoo on our itinerary because our mutual friends actually secretly set us up at the LA zoo and that’s how we met. :) Anyway, it was so fun and nostalgic getting to walk around and see all the animals. Well, we walked about 20% of the zoo…we took a two-decker bus tour first and pretty much saw about 80% of the grounds. ;) We got sightings of all the essentials: giraffes, koala bears, elephants, and then waited in line for that baby panda! Such a popular guy.

And then, after a long day, there was only one place good enough for dinner (not Ralph’s):

photo(3)Phil’s BBQ!

We ate our hearts out. That hour-long wait was worth every bite. It’s also worth a 2-hour drive down to San Diego, which I’m contemplating right about now. We drove home afterwards, stuffed and so, so happy. We actually said to each other after the meal, “I am so happy right now.” Phil’s will bring that out of people.

Phew, that was a much longer post than I was anticipating! If you read all the way here, thanks for indulging me. And thanks to my friend Jessica and to San Diego for having us for the weekend. Stephen and I kept joking we could easily move to San Diego because every day there would feel like a vacation. Maybe it won’t be a joke for long…