Thursday, January 29, 2009


If you went to Starbucks during the holidays, you may have received a Pass It On card. On it, they said a customer in a drive-thru in Riverside, CA paid for the drink of the customer behind him, which led to several dozen customers following suit. That little event happened to take place at my regular Starbucks! That domino-effect of kindness occurred shortly after the store opened and a friend of mine who was the manager told me about it.

I've participated in that little tradition once in a while over the years. How fun it is that I stumbled on this little gem today! Printable kindness cards to encourage others to pass your little act of kindness on! How sweet.

The kindness to our fellow man shouldn't be regulated to the holiday season. Why not buy a cup of coffee, pass along your coupons or help carry a heavy load for a stranger today?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Off-Topic Thursday- Palm Springs International Film Festival!

This past weekend I ventured out to the Palm Springs International Film Festival ( with my NRLP (Non-Romantic Life Partner- see Will & Grace). We saw some amazing films.

On Saturday he dragged me to "Under the Bombs"- a docu-film about the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel. That's really a poor explanation, though, which is probably why it didn't make my initial list of 48 (!) films I wanted to see at the festival. In actuality, the film is a beautiful, heart wrenching, funny, sweet, dark tale of love in it's many forms. This film was remarkable and it pains me to know not many people will see it, since it's in Arabic and therefore will probably not be widely distributed. If it does come out on dvd, I highly recommend you see it. It's absolutely the best film I've seen in a very long time.

In the evening we went to see "Alien Trespass"- a 50's style sci-fi alien flick that stops just short of spoof. This one starred none other than Eric McCormick of Will & Grace fame. The movie was cute and silly but nothing to write home about. Eric was there, along with the director, and seemed very nice and funny. Apparently his son came to the show and got scared by the alien in the movie and had to go back to the hotel. So cute.

On Sunday we were back in Palm Springs. First, we hit Hamburger Mary's for lunch. I love the Mary's in Palm Springs. It has a full bar but no dancefloor, so it has a much more family-friendly feel. It's kind of cool to see families of all sorts gather to chow down.

Then it was off to see Milk. This wasn't a festival screening- we hit a little movie theater in the mall. NRLP had never seen it, but this was my second time, and I cried even more than the first, I think. Sean Penn is incredible in this movie and the chemistry between him and James Franco really brings the movie to life. If you haven't seen it yet, I suggest you do.

Finally, we head off to the festival again to see "Skin". Yowzer! What a story! It is the life story of Sandra Laign, a black woman born to very white Afrikaners in apartheid South Africa. This is an incredible movie and has some real star power. Sandra is played by Academy Award winner Sophia Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda, Secret Life of Bees) who does a beautiful portrayal of the pain and confusion that this woman lived through. The children in the movie are also incredible. I hope with the stars in the film and the awesome story that this is a film that you'll be able to see in your local theater soon.

I'm off to the festival again this weekend! Hope you enjoy yours.

Friday, January 9, 2009

My 2009 Planner

Every year I have the same issue: no planner on the market fits all my needs.
Once upon a time I was a Franklin Covey girl. This was when my life was a series of meetings and classes and appointments. My employer was so big on the Franklin Covey "method" that we had classes AT WORK and were given our first planners for free.

I'm still a busy gal, but my life is a little less scheduled and a LOT more fun. I prefer a planner than has both monthly pages (so I can get a good look at what's ahead) and weekly pages (so I know what's coming RIGHT NOW). The big issue is that I want a good amount of room for both Saturday and Sunday. Every American planner company I've found likes to give a third of a page to each of the weekdays and split up the last third into tiny little squares for Saturday and Sunday. Now, I cherish my weekends and they are often more planned out than weekdays. Hello? 8 hours of each weekday is just office work!

For the third year in a row I spent way too much time going from store to store and website to website looking for the perfect planner and then finally gave up and went where I knew I'd end up... the Kawaii store.

Yes, apparently I have the same planner needs as Korean school girls because only Yellow Submarine carries a planner that has everything I'm looking for. Unfortunately, it also has this cover:

*le sigh*

I am going to have to do something about this. Ideas? I'm thinking some snazzy contact paper will fix it. That way, it's slightly water-resistant as well. We'll see.

In the meantime, I'm dealing with the girly pages because they DO have enough space for each day and are kinda cute:

See all the stuff on Saturday and Sunday? Yeah. Why can't American grown-up companies embrace the weekend?

The one modification I've already made is turning this little flap on the inside into a cute pocket! It was pretty easy. I just accordian folded a couple strips of coverstock and glued them to the flap with an adhesive runner.

The end result was this cute little pocket I can stick receipts and things into!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Mexican Wedding Cakes

I've been meaning to make Mexican Wedding Cakes for a couple years now. Lately, I get almost all my baking recipes from baking blogs and there seemed to be a million slightly-different versions for these simple little cookies. After fiddling around with some, I took what I believed to be the best aspects of each and created the recipe below.

There are three secrets that make these cookies better than the rest: High quality vanilla, high quality butter and salt in the coating. Also, a few recipes out there don't call for toasting the pecans- but you MUST! It takes all of 10 minutes but it makes a HUGE difference.

Vanilla: Do NOT use imitation vanilla. Get the real stuff. I buy vanilla extract anytime I'm in Mexico because it's so much cheaper there. If you happen to have a friend going to Tahiti- that would be an awesome thing to bring back. I bought some tahitian vanilla in Hawaii and it's to die for.

Butter: Unsalted grade AAA butter is the only thing I can recommend. Look on the front of the package. With so few ingredients, you've really got to use the good stuff to make your cookies special.

Salt: I know it's going to look like a mistake when I tell you to put salt into the powdered sugar used to coat the cookies. It is NOT a mistake. Do it. Salt brings out the flavor of anything you're making and in this case in particular, brings out the nutty flavor of the cookies. If you don't believe me, roll some cookies in just the sugar and then add some salt and roll others. You'll see.

Mexican Wedding Cakes
2/3 cup toasted pecans
1 cup quality butter (room temp.)
1 & 1/4 cup powdered sugar (divided)
1 tsp quality vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt (divided)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a baking sheet, lay out pecans in single layer. Toast in oven for 8 - 10 minutes, or until lightly browned and smelling of all their nutty goodness.

After pecans cool, chop them up. Some people grind them in a food processor until they are kind of a nut-flour but I prefer little tiny bits of nuts in the cookies. Your choice.

Beat butter, vanilla and 1/4 cup powdered sugar until light and fluffy.

In a separate bowl, combine flour and 1/4 tsp salt until well mixed.

Beat flour mixture into butter mixture. Fold in nuts. Cover batter and chill for approximately 1 hour.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll batter into 1 inch balls and place on prepared sheets 2 inches apart. Bake for 12 - 15 minutes, or until edges just start to brown.

Sift remaining powdered sugar and salt together a couple times to make sure they are well combined. While cookies are still quite warm, roll them in the mixture. Let cookies cool completely, then roll them again to give a nice powdery finish. (Unless, of course, you've eaten them already!)

I love these cookies. They are simple and I almost always have all the ingredients on-hand, so they're prefect for a quick treat to go with tea or cocoa. Enjoy!

It all started with a square piece of paper

I've been a crafty-sort of gal since I was pretty young. My first realization that crafting could be a way to make a living was when I was 8 years old. My parents took me to a museum (I think it was Norton Simon, but I can't be sure). The only thing I remember from the entire trip was the gift shop. I loved all the little amazing things for sale. I wandered into the book section and found a book on origami called "Paper Pandas and Jumping Frogs" by Florence Temko. I don't think I'd even heard of origami before that, but I knew I wanted that book. I begged my parents for it. $12.95 in 1986 was more than my parents were willing to spend out of nowhere for something they doubted I'd ever use after the first day.

"Are you SURE you're going to actually use this?" my dad asked.
"Yes. Yesyesyesyesyes. PLEASE can I have it?" I begged.

Luckily for me, I was the only child and a major daddy's girl. I learned every model in that book and could make them almost without looking. My parents started buying me beautiful packages of origami paper, which I would go through in a matter of hours. I'd then cut my own squares of plain copy paper, color one side and keep right on folding.

I started to realize I needed to do something with all these little animals and flowers and boats sitting around my desk. I started gluing them to note card and the corners of stationary. Pretty soon, I set up "Lia's Origami Shop" near the front door of my bedroom. I charged my (quite indulgent) parents 3-10 cents for my creations. My mother would use the cards and stationary to write to her friends and our relatives. I made all our Christmas cards and gift tags with models I learned from new books or the inserts inside the packages of origami paper. By the end of the year I'd saved an astonishing $65.00 from my origami sales to family and friends. This was enough to go to Disneyland!

Origami is still an art I have a passion for. It's so inexpensive and people are always really impressed with completed models. It's also easily combined with the "chic" crafts out there today: scrapbooking, card making, and even jewelery making. Tiny models covered with a good coat of Mod Podge are easily turned into earrings, pendents and broaches.

I use the gift box model I learned from "Paper Pandas.." for small gifts to this day and Dad brings up that day at the museum every time he sees one. "I was so sure I was wasting my money..." No, he was starting a passion that would lead to a lifetime of crafting.