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A Holly Jolly Christmas

It’s no secret I love our house. But at Christmas time, it becomes even more special (although truth be told, anything looks better with a string of fairy lights adorning it).

Here are a few of my favorite things:
M H S Blocks


Christmas Tree






Hope your holidays are happy and bright! Love, Mick, Holly, & Stella

Pita Bread Made with Whole Wheat Pastry Flour

This post definitely falls into the “If I can do it, so can you” category.

Today I made something that seems kind of magical to me. Pita bread. Actually, baking in general, particularly if it’s bread, seems magical to me. I think it’s the yeast.

My mom recently made some pitas and ever since then I’ve thought that I should try it too. Especially since I recently learned about the wonders of baking with whole wheat pastry flour as opposed to whole wheat flour.

So I Googled a recipe and found this one. Of course, I substituted the all purpose flour with the whole wheat pastry flour, but other than that, I followed the instructions exactly. Here’s the result:

Home Made Pita Pockets

See? They have pockets and everything! And the texture is so much better than the whole wheat pitas I buy at the store.

I think I like this baking thing. What’s next?

Oven Fried Eggplant

What is it about this time of year that turns me into a domestic diva? Maybe because it’s finally cool enough to be able to turn the oven on? Whatever the reason, I have a sudden, uncontrollable urge to cook healthy, unprocessed stuff.

I haven’t been to Trader Joe’s in ages, but the last time I went they had frozen fried eggplant slices that I used to like to have in sandwiches and for eggplant parmesan. Lately, I’ve been craving them, so today I made a batch of oven fried eggplant, which serves the same purpose and is a lot healthier.

Granted, this isn’t any sort of cutting edge recipe. It’s more of an idea, I think. But wevs. Do with it what you will.

Behold, the ingredients:

Oven Fried Eggplant Ingredients

That’s it. Egg whites, eggplant, and bread crumbs. Of course, you’re also going to want to have some cooking spray and salt & pepper on hand.

Pre-heat your oven to 450.

I peeled the eggplant because sometimes the skin can be a little tough. But that’s up to you. After that, cut them into half-inch slices and dredge them in the egg whites and breadcrumbs.

Dredging the eggplant

Liberally spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and lay the slices on it. Salt and pepper to taste, then spray (again liberally–pretty much everything I do is liberal) the tops. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn them over, giving them one last spray for good measure. Bake for an additional 10 minutes.

Note: Another method (which is tastier, frankly) is to brush the cookie sheet with olive oil, then drizzle oil on the slices instead of using the cooking spray. Keep in mind that I wanted to keep mine as low-calorie as possible, so I used cooking spray instead.

This is what you end up with:

Oven Baked Eggplant


Let ‘em cool and then put them in a freezer bag and freeze for future use. Or, make yourself a vegetable sandwich or a a batch of eggplant parmesan as soon as they come out of the oven. This is my favorite eggplant parm recipe, which you should seriously consider making at your earliest convenience.

A Year of Living Thriftily?

So I have this idea and I’m not sure I can do it. But I’d really like to try.

Here it is: What if, for an entire year, I didn’t buy anything?

Ha ha ha ha ha!

Okay so that’s not exactly what I mean. What I’d like to attempt is to not buy anything at a retail store. By “anything” I mean clothes, furniture, household accessories… things that can be bought second hand.

I think I might be up to the challenge.

As a start, today I went to the BTS Thrift Boutique in Culver City. The only thing I was really looking for was a 20 x 16 frame for a painting I got for $1 at another thrift store. I didn’t find a frame, but I did get a set of four demitasse cups ($12) and a pretty decorative bowl ($2).

Realty Fine Porcelain Demitasse Cups

Espresso, anyone?

I’ve been wanting to get some espresso cups for awhile. I’ve got a maker, but nothing to put the finished espresso in. Hostess fail!

Here’s the bowl:

Love the color of the flowers!

Love the color of the flowers!

I just thought it was pretty.

So the parameters of the challenge would be I can only buy most items second hand. That includes furniture, clothing, home decor accessories, gifts, etc. An exemption can be made for items needed for DIY projects, but that needs to be pretty limited–I can buy supplies, but the bulk of the project should come from second hand items or items I already have on hand.

Items like underwear, sportswear, running shoes, and electronics are also exempted. Other things might also be, I just can’t think of them at the moment. But don’t worry, I plan to keep this as real as possible.

Where can I buy? Craigslist, thrift stores, garage sales, flea markets, Etsy vintage, private parties, consignment shops… anything second hand.

The purpose of this challenge is to be more mindful of my purchases and where they come from. I don’t like the idea that people are making cheap garments that I buy at Old Navy or Target for obscenely low wages. I need to consume less and more thoughtfully.

I also need to spend less money!

Can I do this?

Espresso cup


I’m not sure. But it might be fun to try.

Make Cork Garden Markers

The other day I was looking at my DIY board on Pinterest and realized I’ve pinned some really cool projects. I’d like to tackle one each week, but I’m not sure I have time to commit fully to that. Nevertheless, I present this week’s project: make cork garden markers.

Picture of an oregano garden marker

Possibly the easiest project ever.

Pics of what you need to make cork garden markers

You’ll need: Bamboo skewers, corks, and a sharpie.

Write "Grapes" on cork with sharpie

Write the name of your plant on the cork with the sharpie. I kind of wish I would’ve used more decorative lettering but maybe I’ll do that next season.

push cork into skewer

Push the cork into the pointed end of the skewer. I was surprised at how secure it was–I was thinking I’d have to glue it in place but no.

finished marker

Here’s your finished garden marker!

grapes garden marker

Push your finished marker into the soil in front of your plant and voila! You are done.

Here’s another one:

Chives garden marker

As simple as they are, they look so much better than the plastic markers that come in plants or the seed packets. It adds a rustic touch to the garden that I love. This is one project I’m glad I completed because let’s face it, it’s just too easy not to.

Building a Redwood Planter Raised Bed 8×3′

After we got rid of the hot tub we were left with an 8 foot square gravel patch bordered in the ground with 2×6 pressure treated lumber. The idea has always been to use the area for one or more raised beds, and so we immediately set to work. Here’s what we ended up with, a nice solid redwood planter:

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Make a Mid Century Stool

I never thought it would be easy to make a mid century stool, but I was wrong. I got the idea from this post on Salvage Love.

Chair and stool

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Tweaking the Living Room

I don’t think any room, or house for that matter, is ever done. I’m constantly changing things, moving furniture to other rooms, adjusting my decor to meet my current needs–tweaking, if you will (I will!). Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been tweaking the living room.

Here’s what it looked like when Mick took the photos for our house tour.

Picture of living room before

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CSA Box Challenge

Today our CSA box came. As you already know, that makes for a great day at Casa West, but now my challenge is to figure out what I’m gonna make with all the goodness. This is what I have to work with:

Picture of CSA Box ingredients

CSA box goodness: Garnet sweet potatoes, gravenstein apples, eureka lemon, shishito peppers, red plums, sweet peppers, zucchini, globe eggplant, bi-color corn, beets, and leaf lettuce. Not shown: cantaloupe. Read more

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili

Chili isn’t necessarily all that ground-breaking imagination-wise, but I created my own version of slow cooker turkey chili that Mick and I love. In the winter months I make this several times a month, and during the summer it’s a quick, easy meal that doesn’t require turning on the oven.

Picture of ingredients

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