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Come visit me at 75 Degrees and Sunny! http://www.seventyfivedegrees.wordpress.com

I’m burnt out in the kitchen and looking to talk about more than just food. Hope to see you there!

I was so relieved to make it home to the Jersey Shore last week. Flight prices were absolutely insane ($700+), so when I finally found something doable I jumped on it. New Jersey really is best in the summer. Think hot temperatures, fierce thunderstorms, lots of greenery, and of course, the beach. I was back for a quick four days and managed to squeeze in three trips to the beach, four movies (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, To Rome with Love, Celebrity and You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger), three fabulous dinners out on the town (one each with my mom, dad and little sister), two trips to Strollo’s for the best Italian ice (!!), and a bike ride in Thompson Park. I ate a ton of fresh fish — sushi, crab-stuffed flounder, mahi mahi and tempura cod tacos. I swam in the ocean and even got caught on a beach rainstorm. Growing up, beach days were sacred, so we’d always wait out a storm and play on the rain-speckled sand once the sun came out again. We waited out the rain again and after a brief mini downpour, were treated to clear skies and an emptied-out beach.

I had such a good time, I left feeling a bit nostalgic. I hope that one day I can create summer memories for my kids that are half as good as my own.

I packed my camera but I didn’t use it once. Not because I didn’t want to document the weekend, but because I was just having too much fun sunning, swimming, gabbing, eating, drinking, gaming, dancing, cooking and singing with a big group of lovely ladies in Palm Springs. Katie Jo’s bachelorette turned into a mini vacation for us all. Some of my favorite moments? Cooking dinner with “Team Saturday Night” while wearing aprons hand-sewn by Kate’s mom; waking up to early morning lattes topped with ground sugar cubes, espresso beans and chocolate (we take coffee very seriously); floating around the pool for hours with my sister and very best friends; sharing stories of the first time we each met the bride-to-be; seeing KJ looking gorgeous in white and thinking about her wedding day; singing “Call Me, Maybe” at a karaoke bar. It was a special weekend fitting for a special friend.

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I’ve really been neglecting my camera lately and it shows in the lack of pictures I have to share. Luckily my phone makes photos-on-the-go possible! Here are some of the more recent highlights, which feature lots of friends, family, and summer fun (quite possibly my three favorite things).

A hippie-themed birthday party. We celebrated Courtstock (the Courtney-inspired version of Woodstock) with a backyard party and lots of fabulous costumes. I made my daisy headdress in the movie theater parking lot just before going to see Snow White and the Huntsman the afternoon of the party; only my boyfriend would have a wire cutter in the car — thank goodness. It made my last minute DIY project a hundred times easier.

An amazing brunch in Venice. This breakfast happened post-party and was much needed. Rosemary toast, lox, medium-poached eggs, green cilantro salsa…and an unpictured side of potatoes. I’d love to repeat this meal soon.

Rose Cafe, home of said amazing brunch. My sister lives nearby but it was a first visit for all of us. I was happy that our particular selections really lived up to the hype. Even the lattes were delicious.

Book and green juice at the beach. I wish I could skip the celery, but love the ginger and lemon in this mix. I’ve been craving these drinks regularly. Really wish they weren’t so pricey…I’d steal my juicer back from my sister, but I was too lazy to use it before. Not sure anything’s changed in that department. Also, where would I put it?! Juicers are huge! 

A birthday message for my littlest sister. I was at the beach for a big chunk of the day, watching the boy in a paddle board race off the Santa Monica pier. The two of us talk a lot through Instagram, so this picture was the perfect way to wish her a happy day. She never answers her phone; Instagram: 1, Voicemail: 0.

A spicy lunchtime drink with an old friend. Speaking of things I’ve been craving lately, in addition to fresh juice, I’ve fallen a little bit in love with spicy, jalapeno drinks. This one made with dark rum was also flecked with crushed red pepper and had a great bite.

Sprinkles cupcakes on a Friday afternoon. I had half red velvet, half double chocolate. Out of the dozens of places I’ve tried, Sprinkles remains my favorite. I can turn down just about any office treat but this one.

My college roommate with a beautiful, albeit gloomy, backdrop. Lauren came to visit LA and spent the weekend with me. We had two days full of good food, long talks, shopping, socializing…and little sunshine. Still, we didn’t let the hazy weather keep us from a scenic drive up the coast!

One more “happy” — a belated one to my dad for Father’s Day! Unlike my sister, he does answer his phone and doesn’t use Instagram, but he also reads this blog. I got him a food mill as a gift and he’s already put it to use! Dad, I’m counting on some extra fabulous mashed potatoes next time I see you.

Living across from the beach is pretty special. I realized yesterday that sitting down for a half hour after getting home, watching the boy surf, reading a good book and snacking on dark chocolate-covered ginger bites is a really nice way to cap off a stressful day at work. Just because I can.

Over Memorial Day weekend, Marissa and Dan tied the knot. More than just a ceremony and reception, their wedding brought together a group of family and friends for a long weekend of fun and adventures. We kicked off the festivities on Saturday morning with a big group sound bathing session at the Integratron. Yes, sound bathing in the middle of the Mojave Desert, where quartz crystal singing bowls are played while you lay with your eyes closed and your mind open. Apparently aliens gave the builder his plans for the structure; I’m not sure we were able to open our minds enough to believe that, but there was some hand tinging, heavy limbs and dancing visions of the color purple. Kicking off the weekend in such a unique and relaxing way was the perfect way to start.

After a day of listening to music, drinking wine and talking nonstop, we headed to the rehearsal dinner. Since all of the guests were invited, the rehearsal dinner was really just BBQ, drinks and an amazing peach cobbler all enjoyed under the stars. Not one of us planned for the freezing weather and after five minutes of pictures in our party clothes, we all donned blankets and beach towels and gathered around the fireplace. Smokey hair for the next three days was totally worth it.

The next day we joined the groom in a wedding day hike throughout Joshua Tree National Park. In case you’ve never seen a Joshua Tree before (and can’t quite make them out properly in the photo above), here’s what they look like:

What I didn’t know about Joshua Tree is that the park is full of huge boulders! We started on a trail and then veered off to climb and explore. I can get a little nervous when hiking/climbing (crouching low to the ground is my trick), but I managed to get pretty high up with the boy’s help.

After running around for a few hours, we had just enough time to grab lunch before getting ready for the wedding. Luckily the ceremony and reception were held right next to where we were staying, so we were able to race back and forth to help the coordinators while beautifying. I might have still been wearing my hiking clothes while everyone was getting seated, but all the hard work really paid off and the wedding looked professional, charming and so personal. The succulent centerpieces were created by a girl Marissa found on Etsy, and she did an amazing job (so glad we didn’t try to finish these ourselves!). We also replicated the adorable “P.S. I love you” mailbox for cards and decorated colorful signage and names for the seating chart, while old mirrors got new life with chalkboard paint.

There was a photo booth in lieu of a guest book, decorated with homemade signs in yellow and white. Everyone wrote the bride and groom messages on a chalkboard, then snapped Polaroids and hung them for everyone to see.

Marissa’s friend Angela made 80 yellow and white chevron place mats for the tables; the bright pop of color looked stunning and I’m so happy to now have a few for my own table at home! Marissa also hand painted some wood signs that added to the whole rustic chic vibe.

For other little special touches, we made yellow heart fans for every seat at the ceremony. Place settings were green apples with a leaf for every guest.

Our friend India made a carrot cake wedding cake. Yes, from scratch…with fondant…including that flower on top. It tasted even better than it looks, if you can imagine that!

Of course, what really made the wedding was the bride and groom. They were both so happy, so in love…it was really special to be a part of their day.

I have to sign off with one of my favorite pictures of the weekend. There’s something about candid joy that turns a beautiful photo into a captured moment in time. Mazel tov to Marissa and Dan!

I would be embarrassed by how long it’s been since my last post, but I’ve been out of town every single weekend since then and just as busy during the week so it’s understandable I guess. Spring has sprung in Los Angeles — finally! I’ve been lazy about carrying around my big camera but luckily the iPhone has kept me snapping away. Below are some of my favorite recent shots: Beverly Hills, Marissa’s porch and my office courtyard.

I’m just starting to hit that magic age where my friends are beginning to get married, and I’ve discovered that there’s actually a fifth season each year — wedding season! In California, that spans from May to August and it’s in full swing. Just four weeks after Marissa’s bachelorette in Vegas, I traveled to Sin City again to celebrate with Coley. Even though we stayed in the same hotel, the weekend was totally different and uniquely Nicole. Everyone had so much fun and I got some quality time with Nicole when she joined me on the drive back to LA. The drive out to Vegas was not nearly as fun (ahem! blown tire, I’m talking to you) but on the way home, we talked for five hours and played Bon Iver on repeat the entire time — my dream. Since we live so far apart, I’m grateful that her wedding is bringing us together not just once but three times this year! Here we are all decked out to celebrate. Thanks to my sister for the super sparkly shorts!

The first wedding is Marissa’s and coming up this weekend! Rather than just one big event, we have a 3-day weekend packed with fun things, including a sound meditation hour, hiking, BBQ and pool time in addition to the outdoor ceremony and dinner/dancing. The resort is small, but every single guest will be there for this wedding. I think it will be a great bonding experience with both old and new friends. Marissa and I have been DIY fiends the past few weeks. We’ve had a couple of crafting nights to churn out place settings, banners, welcome bags and other custom touches. I can’t wait to see everything come together at the reception! It’s been really cool getting to help Marissa; it’s left me feeling even more invested in the wedding weekend. Luckily we’re of the same mind when it comes to decor and style.  As a sneak peak, here are a few of our inspirations…I can’t wait to share the actual photos!

Every single time I bake banana bread, I wind up using a new recipe. This time, I only had two bananas, so I added pumpkin in lieu of a third. From there, I made it up as I went along…brown sugar, walnuts and even espresso made it into the batter. The only thing missing was chocolate chips — otherwise, this recipe is definitely a keeper!

  • 2 large ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 shot espresso (optional)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Simply add all the ingredients in the order listed, mix and pour into a loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour and ta da! Delicious, moist (yup, I went there) banana bread that’s worth repeating.

Here’s a little Friday lunchtime entertainment for myself…which would you pick?

Coke or Pepsi: Diet Pepsi. My favorite vice.

Lemonade or Fruit Punch:  Lemonade, especially if it’s fresh and more tart than sweet. 

Carmel Apple or Cotton Candy: Caramel apple!

Butterfingers or Snickers: Snickers, no question.

Pudding or Jell-O: Pudding. Again, no question. Although, I couldn’t swallow pills until I was a senior in high school. Up until then, my mom would crush pills and put them in a bit of chocolate pudding for me to take. To this day, pudding tastes a bit medicinal to me. I guess that tells you how little I like Jell-O! 

Ice Cream or Cookies: Ice cream!

Turkey or Chicken: Neither.

American or Provolone Cheese: American. When I was growing up, I only had pre-sliced cheese when visiting our family friend’s house (my mom was an original food purist). I think I was in middle school before learning that American cheese is not really called “Jane cheese.” No joke.

Crackers or Cookies: Cookies, especially homemade chocolate chip.


Pretzels or Chips: Chips.

Chinese Food or Italian Food: Italian

Pie or Cake: Pie, unless it’s ice cream cake. Or flour-less chocolate cake! 

Soda or Juice: Soda. Diet only. I know…aspartame…it’s my vice, remember?

Pasta or Pizza: Pizza. I’m already excited for Friday night pizza night and thinking I’ll do tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, basil, eggplant and mushrooms on my homemade pie tonight. 

Apples or Bananas: The most difficult choice so far…I guess bananas, since I eat one every single day.

Salad or Soup: Salads, as long as they’re not boring.

Cauliflower or Broccoli: Broccoli.

Onion Rings or French Fries: French fries.

Blizzard or McFlurry: Blizzard. My favorite is chocolate with Reese’s peanut butter cups.

Fried or Poached Eggs: Poached. I love runny yolks! My favorite way to eat eggs is on toast with avocado, salt and pepper. 

Mexican Food or Japanese Food: Oh, tough call. I love guacamole, vegetable burritos, fish tacos and mole sauce. But sushi wins!

Crepes or Pancakes: Pancakes, if they’re made with chocolate chips.

Hash Browns or Roasted Potatoes: Roasted potatoes. I’m not really a hash brown fan. Don’t even get me started on the hash brown puck from McDonald’s!

Chocolate Bars or Chocolate Truffles: Truffles or bars, as long as it’s dark chocolate.

Oatmeal or Cereal: I guess I’d have to say cereal. But I do eat oatmeal more — 5x per week!

Red or White Wine: Red. It tastes more complex to me.

I stayed in the apartment relaxing this weekend. Sure, I still got up at 7:30am on Saturday and started the day by cleaning my kitchen, but as long as I am 1) at home and 2) in sweats, I consider that a lazy morning. I *deserved* a boring weekend after the last one…

Rachel turned 25!

Marissa had her Vegas bachelorette party. There was a scavenger hunt, drinking, group serenades and dancing involved. Until 4am. We had a very giggly, girly fun time together, and I know Marissa had a blast, which is the most important part.

My littlest sister visited LA, and we went to Palm Springs for the day! It was a first for us both — pure 95 degree palm-tree-and-pool perfection.

I did get out of the house Saturday night for Rachel’s performance at the Cirque School LA student showcase. She’s been taking classes for about a year learning aerial silk skills, and she was incredible. I can’t even imagine being able to pull myself up the fabrics, let alone do all the wraps and drops. In case you aren’t familiar with aerial silks, here’s the Wikipedia 101:

Aerial silk is a type of performance in which one or more artists perform aerial acrobatics while hanging from a special fabric. Performers climb the suspended fabric without the use of safety lines, and rely only on their training and skill to ensure safety. They use the fabric to wrap, suspend, fall, swing, and spiral their bodies into and out of various positions. Aerial silks may be used to fly through the air, striking poses and figures while flying.

There was a sexy space bombshell theme, which was weird enough to work. In addition to the silks, we saw trapeze and aerial hoops, along with tumbling and hand balancing. It was so cool watching Cirque de Soleil-type skills being performed by “regular” people like my sister. Here she is in action!

Rachel is a gymnast and has been a little lost since giving up the sport after college. I am so happy that she’s found something new to learn and love. It was seriously impressive!

My exercise for the weekend included a beach walk with Julia, which was lovely as always. I also baked some killer banana bread, polished off a few loads of laundry, …and am not ready for work tomorrow. What else is new?!

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