Pretty Things

For Mother's Day this year, my husband and I spent the first half of the day at my parents house with my mom, dad, and grandma. I have a tiny family and I always cherish our traditions and being at home with them. 

I wrote in a card to my mom that I am most grateful for some of the traits that I know I got from her. For instance, going the extra mile to make something pretty and presentable. If you're serving jam with your homemade scones, you best put that jam into an appropriate little porcelain dish. If you're serving a veggie platter with dinner, it better be nicely arranged and ready to be presented. Baking something? Make sure you level out each cup of flour with a knife as well as any other ingredients measured using measuring spoons/cups - it needs to be exact! 

I truly think some of my best designer quirks come from paying attention to the little things. I'm not satisfied unless it's my version of perfect and I'll be quick to critique.

I've become a bit of a quiche expert these days. I love how you can throw just about anything into a quiche and with a quick homemade crust, you've got a delicious breakfast, lunch or dinner. I am used to making this quick quiche crust , but I'm the first to admit it is only half-decent, at best. It comes out crispy on the edges but has an overwhelming olive oil flavor that I'm not a huge fan of. 

So for Mother's Day, we thought we'd try Martha Stewart's quiche crust. It did not disappoint! The result was flaky, crisp, golden delicate buttery crust. Bonus: it made two crusts so I was able to freeze one for later. We made a luscious filling containing caramelized onions, bacon and Gruyere. My general rule of thumb with making a quiche is 4 eggs to 1 cup of half and half. Everything else is up to you!

Here's my favorite quiche that I've put together. The little bits of brie baked into the egg make for a delicious surprise. Let me know if you try it! 

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Creative Competition

Something you might not know about me? Well, I'm a little competitive! But not outwardly so. In fact, you might never know this about me unless you challenge me to a competition or question my capabilities.

I just read this great article by Jessica Knoll titled "I Want to Be Rich and I'm Not Sorry." One bit in particular really resonated with me:

"A dozen years later, when my first book became the best-selling debut of 2015, when my financial adviser urged me to quit my day job, when Lionsgate optioned the film rights and when I delivered a bang-up script in seven weeks, a guy friend from college believed he was complimenting me by musing, “Who would have thought Jess Knoll would have been the success story from our class?”

Who would have thought? Me. I did."

 

 Art by Kaye Blegvad as featured in  NYT article  by Jessica Knoll.

Art by Kaye Blegvad as featured in NYT article by Jessica Knoll.

It has been a frustrating but also thrilling last year and a half for me. For so long, I felt so confused about my path. And now, I am so certain of my path but am struggling to have others see my worth. I am a very introspective person. I try to pick apart my weaknesses and my strengths and I feel that I am particularly analytical about everything I do so that I can better myself - or at least be aware of my own shortcomings and accept them. 

Ever since I joined my K-12 yearbook staff in 2007, I had this ridiculously strong fire within me. I feel it is necessary to mention that this was no ordinary yearbook. Before the beginning of each school year, we spent a few days at yearbook camp that was hosted at Long Beach State University. We stayed in dorms, we took classes on how to enhance our knowledge of the Adobe programs, and we spent tens of hours developing our theme for the year. Picking your theme was the most important part of the whole process! It would dictate what your layouts looked like, what your fonts would be, what the content would look like and how the copy would read. 

Just before the beginning of my senior year in 2008, I was selected to be the editor-in-chief. It truly was one of my proudest moments and I took on the role with an extreme level of responsibility and pride. It was my job to lead the class of 15 students 2-3 times a week and to invigorate them with the same level of passion that I had about this beautiful book. I wanted our year to be the BEST the school had ever seen. I wanted the theme to be particularly thrilling and unique. With my team of senior editors, we sat at a lunch table inside the cafeteria, trying to come up something special. At one point, we were looking at our school's crest and noticed the banner under the two lions wielding shields and swords there was a Latin phrase: Ne Obliviscaris. What does that mean? Never Forget. NEVER FORGET! Could there be a more perfect and relevant theme for a yearbook? I think not! 

In my two previous years on the yearbook team as a normal staffer in 10th and 11th grade, I so longed to be just like the seniors who could walk over to your station, lean over and quickly maneuver InDesign or Photoshop with just a quick, light tap of a dozen keys on the keyboard. They knew all of the shortcuts and how to manipulate the program in whichever way they needed. I wanted to be like that! And sure enough, when it was my time to shine as EIC, you bet I was able to do that. 

My teacher and I would spend hours after class sifting through Martha Stewart magazines and other school's yearbooks - we'd laugh about some of the ridiculous themes other schools had chosen in past years and we'd pine over the delicate, consistent, stunning qualities of Martha Living. My mom would regularly call me, angry, because I was either late for dinner or missed dinner entirely. I would often be the last car in the parking lot - after all the sports folks had left - because I was either staying late to edit spreads, plan for the next class, or muse over design with my teacher. I was the kind of enthusiastic asshole who would spot spacing errors in her shampoo bottles and bring them into class for the rest of the students to ponder and identify. Yep, that was me. 

And then I graduated from high school.

I went on to be a psychology major at the University of Colorado at Boulder. I completely neglected all signs that were pointing me to graphic design - something I innately knew I was good at. I always thought to myself that I wanted to one day design and edit the layout and spreads of the Martha Stewart Living magazine. For whatever reason, I shelved that and dismissed it as far-reaching and improbable. 

I graduated from college in 2013, moved back to LA, and stepped right into an administrative temp role at Cedars-Sinai. 9 months later, I was made permanent. 3 years later, I was promoted to a supervisory role. And yet, absolutely none of this excites me. I've been so purposeless in that way - what the heck am I doing here? I'm a creative person working in a hospital environment, where the standard PowerPoint presentation includes an array of stretched photos and typography and pixelated graphics. Don't get me wrong, I've learned so much from my incredible boss and her team of dedicated leaders. She's been beyond wonderful to me and treats me like a daughter. I am grateful for this time to have discovered even more about myself and become a polished professional.

The 3.5 years between graduation and when I began this second bit of my journey are now behind me. I am very thankful for the ability to have recognized where I needed to be and to have the resources to jump right in and start taking classes. It really isn't easy on top of a 9-5, plus 12 hours of class, plus another 5-10 hours of homework each week. But it hardly feels like any added work because I am loving every single minute of it. I am continuously surprised by what I am able to learn from each teacher and each class - I leave each class with new knowledge that drastically improves my design skills. I'm like a sponge and it's just so exciting. 

I was recently flat-out denied the chance for a 2nd interview at a company for a position that I was not only qualified for, but believe I would have truly excelled in. I poured my heart and soul into the skills test and interview and I thought there was no way I wouldn't be called back for a 2nd interview. And you know what my first thought was after my surprisingly emotional reaction to being rejected? It's their loss. That's right. They missed out on someone who has more passion and potential than any level of experience can replace. As detailed by Jessica Knoll in her essay, sometimes I I feel my zest for my own talents can be seen as cocky or overly confident. I don't believe that to be true. I'm plenty insecure in other ways. I simply know my creative worth and am incredibly hungry for someone else to see it as well. 

I started this post intending to detail my entry to the 2018 Communication Arts Competition, but I'll have to save that for another time. I'll circle back to my favorite quote from Jessica Knoll's article that I mentioned above. While I may feel a sense of defeat with every ignored job application, I know within my heart and soul when I find the right position, nothing will stop me from being my best and I won't be surprised when I get there. 

Welcoming Hank to the Family!

If you can't tell by now, we are a big Golden Retriever family. 

My husband grew up with Newfoundlands and I grew up with Collies. Somehow, when we decided to get a dog in 2014, we landed on Golden Retrievers and I don't think we'll ever look back.

We are both volunteers at the Golden Retriever Club of Greater Los Angeles Area Rescue and I am the graphic designer for Golden Bond Rescue in Portland, OR. We rescued Mac, who passed in December, when he was a ripe 10 years old in 2014. He seriously was the best. If you haven't seen it yet - check out my post below. It forever changed my view on adopting a senior dog and when we have a house that has 1 floor (we currently live on the 2nd floor of a duplex), I plan to always rescue a senior. I don't understand how people can ditch their beloved family pets just because they're aging! 

Golden Bond has a special place in my heart because of their dedication to rescuing Goldens from China slaughterhouses. They've rescued nearly 200 Goldens from China and brought them back to the USA for adoption. This cause makes my heart shatter into a million pieces and I am just grateful to be able to help them. If you feel so inclined, you can donate here.

Anyway, back to the main gist of this post!

A couple weeks after Mac passed, GRCGLAR reached out to us to see if we were ready to foster a sweet 2 year old who was scared and alone in a kennel awaiting foster placement. We definitely were NOT ready but we felt terrible that this pup was so scared and not eating. So, we said yes and our area rep brought him right over.

He was renamed by the rescue to...wait for it...Mr. Bojangles! As much character as that name has, we knew he would need a new name. After weeks of deliberation, we settled on Hank.

He is 90 pounds of puppy eyes and love. He has no idea how big he is and wants to plop right on your lap. When you walk through the door, he scrambles to find a toy to bring you. He's just the best! It took me a while to connect with him because I was still so brokenhearted over losing Mac, but now that is in the past and he is just part of the family.

Welcome, Hank! 

Saying Goodbye

With broken hearts we announce the passing of the Best Dog in the Universe, our sweet Mac, just before Christmas.

There are so many things I want the world to know about this incredible dog. He was the best bathroom attendant, the smooshiest bed hog/foot warmer, the best cure for any heartache. He had the softest ears and the most beautiful coat. His eyebrows were the most expressive and he had these incredible golden eyelashes. He was the stretchiest dog I've ever met and would stretch all of his limbs as farrrr as he could, as often as he could. He LOVED rolling around on the grass and scratching his chin against the blades of grass or carpet fibers.

He was also a Tripawd Hero. Nearly 3 years ago, he lost his leg to osteosarcoma. With only a 20% chance of living longer than 6 months, he put those odds to shame and kicked cancer's butt for 2.5 years. He would have been 14 this month. Nothing stopped him on on 3 legs - he ran, he played, he went up and down our stairs 3-5x every day, he gave us his paw and stood on his hind legs. He never wanted help and never needed help - not even at the end.

We will always miss him following us into every room, jumping on our bed and snuggling all night, demanding belly rubs at all hours, being unable to open anything in a plastic bag without him suddenly appearing, hoping for a treat. His super squishy face and those droopy jowls. We yearn for the "thump thump thump" of his tail on the wooden floors in the morning (we know our downstairs neighbors, Fadi and Karina, will especially miss this). I will always miss how deeply excited he was to see us as we came through the door after being gone.

He was instantly everyone's best friend. Our friends and family - even coworkers - have cried over this loss. While nothing can soothe the pain of Mac being gone, we have much peace over the full life he lived with us and how much pure joy he has brought us over the last nearly 4 years.

We are incredibly grateful to our friends and family, who have been so supportive through this sad time. It helps immensely knowing how many people loved him and experienced his special personality. There really are no words to express how much we have loved this dog.

Rest in peace, my forever baby boy, Tripawd Hero, Mr. Piddlepants, and Big Mac. I can't believe you're gone <3

Christmas Tea

If you know anything about me, you know I love to host. I love elaborate, delicate, precise dinner parties that require way too much thought and preparation. But none of it would be possible or even FUN without my army of lady friends who spend hours prepping with me beforehand. 

This Christmas Tea has been on my mind for well over a year. I received my grandmother's silver for our wedding last September, and I also received her china. I have always been a huge fan of afternoon tea! Tiny, beautiful tea sandwiches - flavorful little scones with lemon curd and clotted cream - Earl Grey tea with honey and a "spot" of cream...I'm getting hungry again just thinking about it!

This event took quite a bit of prep, and I'll tell ya why. 

  1. Setting the Table (Friday night)
    • This took me 2 long hours! Not only removing each piece of china from its carefully padded storing container, but unwrapping each piece of silver from the individual soft fabric wrap and figuring out the proper way to set the table. I also had to take both leaves out of the table, rearrange some things so that it would actually fit in the room (service for 12), put the pads on the table, find the right size table cloth, and then actually set the damn thing. When I set up for a dinner party, I always like to label each platter with what will be going on it so I don't get lost and crazed during the final rush. I did not do this on this occasion because I wasn't exactly sure what was going to fit! 
  2. Grocery Shopping (Saturday mid-afternoon)
    • Usually I don't struggle so much with this, but it took me over 2 hours to go grocery shopping. It was difficult to find a handful of things (clotted cream, mango chutney, CAPERS!) and to be honest, I really wasn't feeling well.
  3. Prepping (Saturday night)
    • I am a big proponent of prep work. For too long did my poor guests wait until 11:30pm to eat their dinner because we simply weren't done yet! I've made huge strides in serving food at the promised time, mostly because I prep as much as I can beforehand.
    • Even though I wasn't feeling well, I was able to prep the 4 different cream cheeses and make the brownies. Karina, one of my amazing friends and cooking buddies, made the Russian tea cookies beforehand. 
  4. The Big Day (Sunday morning - starting at 8am)
    • 8:30am: I started by making the egg salad so it had time to chill
    • 9:30am: I moved on to the scones, which I had never made before but were actually quite simple! The recipe said it only made 4 scones, but since I obviously needed many more, I just cut them into tiny triangles and ended up with about 15 little scones. I made 2 batches of currant tea scones and 1 batch of the plain sugar scones. I also prepared Grandma Dora's shortbread cookie dough so that it could chill for a couple hours. 
    • 10:00am: Cece arrived and Karina came up to start helping. We knew by 12:30pm we would need to start cleaning, slicing and preparing the veggie crudites so by 1pm we could begin the sandwich assembly. At this point we started making the desserts - cutting out the brownies that I made the night prior and dusting with powdered sugar and rolling out Grandma Dora's cookies and getting those in the oven. 
    • 10:30am: While Karina and I were preparing the cookies and brownies, Cece started on the punches so they could sit for a few hours. 
    • Everything was taking a bit longer than anticipated so we started on the veggies around noon. They took way longer than we thought, because even though we let the cream cheese come to room temp so that it was easier to pipe, it really wasn't sticking well to the wet veggies. We made due but it did take longer than we thought.
    • 1pm: Sandwich assembly time! We made an assembly line: Cece spread cream cheese on the bread, Karina put toppings, and I cut and plated the sandwiches. 
    • We ended up sitting down and eating at around 3pm. This was in part due to the sandwiches taking longer than planned, and part due to one lovely guest being a bit late. 
    • Every single thing ended up being delicious and I would make it all again!

Here was yesterday's menu (click for recipe!):

Currant Tea Scones

Plain Sugar Scones

Cucumber Sandwiches with Dill Cream Cheese

Smoked Salmon Sandwiches with Caper Cream Cheese

Ham and Gouda Sandwiches with Dijon

Curried Egg Salad with Mango Chutney

Vegetable Crudites with Beet Horseradish Cream Cheese or Wasabi Cream Cheese

Outrageous Brownies

Grandma Norma's Cold Cucumber Soup

Russian Tea Cookies

Grandma Dora's Shortbread Cookies

Champagne Punch (note: 1 bottle of champagne didn't seem to nearly cut it; we added another bottle of champagne, 1 bottle of rose, and a bottle of gin)

Bourbon Amaretto Punch

Assorted Teas