… oh hi there!

Wow. This must be 33 – you blink and before you know it, 6 months has gone by and your goal of creating and maintaining a blog in 2017 is 50% toast!

So let’s start again.

Hi. I’m Kulali. I worked freelance in TV for 10 years and have been burned out on it for around the last year or 2. I like to think of myself as the logistical, methodical person who can bring organization to creatives. I don’t tend to think of myself as particularly creative, despite almost always having a project or 2 in the works.

 

This year was slow in the freelance world and I found myself searching for something new. I started moonlighting as an assistant wedding coordinator, which is delightful and fun, but not consistent or lucrative enough to stand on its own. I dallied in events, which again, was a joy, but can’t even begin to pay the bills living in a city like Los Angeles. I returned to TV briefly, which was cathartic as it involved both the very best (greatest people ever) and the very worst (high stress, long hours, crazy schedules) of that world, and solidified the niggling gotta-get-out feeling into necessity. And now I have taken a full-time position in order to try to have dinner with my husband every once in a while, and reclaim some sanity and consistency in my life.

Because guess what?! In amongst all of this, we bought a house. In LA… in a highly inflated housing market… in my worst financial year since my mid-20s. Never mind all of that – this house makes me absurdly happy. I genuinely wish I could be home all of the time. I am yet to get bored in this house and we moved in in early May. I love it. SO. MUCH.

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I love our new dining room! Also that we actually have a dining room!

So I guess it’s the buying-a-house and starting-a-new-job-with-an-excess-of-computer-time, and much more recently the adopting-a-dog (Sophie!) that have slowed me down from writing in this blog. But I do have things to say. So let’s see if I can get this train back on the tracks.

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Here’s a picture of Sophie, because surely nobody can be mad at this face?

I’m going to optimistically say… I’ll see you soon. 🙂

on a whim…

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Who knew “volunteer” was such a low-scoring Scrabble word?!

I’ve spent the last 10 years working in reality television, a job that my high school friends think is glamorous, but definitely manages to make me crazy sometimes. After a wonderfully busy year last year I was ready to take a break and try something new. I decided to reach out to Artisanal LA, an amazing female-driven, local-business-supporting lifestyle marketplace that I have volunteered with in the past. Much to my surprise and delight, they welcomed me aboard to help helm their Spring Marketplace, which is this coming weekend.

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I’ve been put in charge of volunteers and am excited to help this incredible show come to life from the ground up. I don’t know that anyone even sees this blog, but on the off-chance that somebody does… do you want to volunteer? If so, email volunteerALA@gmail.com and I’ll get to meet you in person!

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sugar-free muesli

Like most people, in the year leading up to my wedding I was on a major health kick. I became obsessed with my Fitbit, joined a gym for the first time in years, and most effectively, cut out sugar entirely. No fruit, no sauces, nada. I even cut down on bread, one of my favorite foods in the world. For some reason this was so easy that year! I didn’t miss anything, didn’t slip up, and saw some pretty great results in my health – lost a little weight, stopped experiencing that 3pm slump, and had a ton of energy.

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Fast forward a year plus and it’s such a different story. I’m back on the sweet stuff, and it’s so much harder when you don’t have the motivation of having spent a fortune on a photographer and needing to look good in timeless photos! Nevertheless, I’m still intrigued by sugar-free recipes, so when my sister-in-law introduced me to this amazing sugar-free muesli from Well Nourished, I knew it was destined to become a staple in my kitchen. It’s delicious, with just the hint of sweetness from the brown rice syrup, and so simple to customize with whatever you love and have on hand. For me, it’s all about the nuts – hazelnuts, pecans, macadamias and almonds are so tasty and filling. I could – and do – eat this stuff for every meal of the day. I don’t vary too widely from her recipe, but here is how I’ve found I love it best:

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Sugar-Free Muesli

  • 1kg / 2lbs of rolled oats (I’m always “close” with this measurement)
  • 1 cup flaky coconut
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 3/4 cup chopped macadamias
  • 3/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup flax seeds
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds
  • 1 heaped Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 heaped Tbsp vanilla powder
  • 1/2 cup macadamia or hazelnut oil (I usually use a combination depending on how much I have. In a pinch, I’ve used olive oil too, but I prefer the flavor of the nut oils)
  • 1/2 cup brown rice syrup

 

1. Preheat oven to 300F / 150C.

2. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon to mix.

3. Combine oil and brown rice syrup in a small saucepan. Over low heat, stir together until warm and all one consistency. I find they never “mix” per se, but they kind of move together, enough to know that the next step will work.

4. Drizzle liquids over dry ingredients. Stir with your wooden spoon until evenly distributed – the mix will be damp but not wet, and look consistent.

5. Divide the mix between deep baking dishes – I find that metal ones work better than glass – and place in oven. Bake for around 60 to 90 minutes, checking and stirring every 15 minutes to make sure nothing is burning or is staying uncooked.

6. When muesli seems golden and crispy, turn the heat off and leave the trays sitting in the oven to cool down.

7. When muesli is cool, transfer to airtight jars. It’ll keep for months… just not if you’re anything like me and eat it for every meal! I like combining it with milk, with yogurt and berries, or with coconut milk, but it’s a great snacking trail mix all by itself too.

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oscar night 2017

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I was one of those kids who was obsessed with Hollywood glamour. I spent my childhood dreaming of becoming a famous actress, auditioning for every possible school play, reading biographies of Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn, and waiting every year to watch the most glamorous night of all, the Academy Awards.

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When I moved to LA, I thought it would be fun to start a tradition of having people over to watch the Oscars. I like to think that one day, this will be our big annual party that we throw, and we’ll rent a red carpet and moving spotlights for the grand entrance… but for now, we’re going on 4 years of having people cram into our 1-bedroom apartment, and it’s pretty wonderful.

For me, an event that involves watching TV should (1) be comfortable and (2) involve good snacks, and also (3) include some activity that will keep people interested, and not checking their phones. We try to achieve the first by making sure there is plenty of comfortable seating and a table to have drinks in reach. Our living room is set up this way anyway, but we make sure there is a pile of cushions for people to sit on the floor on, that the coffee table is uncluttered and that every possible seat has a view of the TV.

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The snacks are the most important! I’ve made these caramel corn cupcakes from Annie’s Eats for the last 3 years and they are definitely the star of the show. They’re whimsical, on-theme and so tasty. I make them as mini-cupcakes so they’re a little more bite-size. I also always have a cheese platter, dips and pita chips/veggies, and plenty of extra popcorn for everyone to munch on.

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This year I also tried my hand at chocolate-dipped strawberries, which were extremely cute and way more delicious than I had anticipated (thank you farmer’s market berries!)

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We set up a small bar in our kitchen and had a prosecco sangria (totally made up on the spot – fruits, prosecco, sparkling white grape juice and a little peach schnapps! So yummy! We had cute retro-inspired sodas to go with the retro-look movie candy we used to decorate the table with.

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The activity we usually set up is a ballot – before the movie, everyone buys in with $5, and makes their selections for who they think will win each award. We track them as the show plays out and the winner takes all. I’ve been using the ballots that Sugar and Charm puts together – they’re just the prettiest and have all the info on one page.

I have so much fun putting this day together – hopefully one day when we have a house, it can be bigger and bigger each year. I’d love to have it on a projector in our backyard, and for everyone to come all dressed up! But for now, snuggling on our couches and floor with a few good friends is pretty great.

 

 

 

car camping in anza borrego

A couple of weeks ago we finally tested out our new mini-camper! I’m a total scaredy-cat when it comes to cold weather, so we’d been waiting for a few days that looked warm enough. I have almost every possible camping location within a 3-hour radius loaded up in the weather app on my phone, and am stalking them incessantly, so when we saw a 3-day window in Anza Borrego State Park with days in the 70s, we finally took Ellie on her inaugural voyage!

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En route to Anza Borrego!

Lily came with us as she was in town. We took much longer than planned to pack up the car, but finally hit the road (after turning back twice for a forgotten phone, then forgotten pillows!) and made it to the park around 4pm. We had decided to stay in Borrego Palm Canyon Campground because it looked like the Palm Canyon hike nearby was pretty, and because we liked the idea of staying somewhere a little nicer and more organized (ie decent bathrooms and a designated fire pit!) for our first trip with the e-camper. I was definitely inspired by this blog post to check out Anza Borrego, and we were so glad we went (thanks for the inspiration!!).

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Spot our site, right in the middle!

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At first we were a little disappointed with the campsite (112) we got – we arrived pretty late, a lot of the best sites were already taken and ours felt like it was right in the middle of a ton of other people. But it’s amazing how secluded it felt once the sun set – we couldn’t hear anyone and really felt like we were much further from the other campers than we were. We cooked dinner (hot dogs / veggie dogs with peppers & onions) and got the fire going, and sat around drinking box wine and talking until it was time to crash.

The next morning after a leisurely breakfast we set out on the Palm Canyon hike. It’s a relatively short hike but took us a long time as we kept stopping to look for the bighorn sheep that Anza Borrego is famous for, take photos and dip our feet in the stream. We also definitely veered off-course several times. It was easy to lose the “official” trail but also easy to keep traveling in the right direction.

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The palm canyon for which the trail is named was so lovely. A little oasis in the middle of the rocky, hilly desert. We stopped in the shade for a snack and a little rest before heading back to camp.

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The second night was windy and we had to make sure to secure all of our gear before going to sleep, but I was so grateful to be sleeping in the e-camper and not a tent! I can’t believe how well I slept that night. I don’t think I’ve ever been reluctant to get up while camping before, but I was so cozy that I wanted to stay in bed as long as possible! Fortunately, we spotted a group of bighorn sheep up high on the mountain behind our campsite, so I could watch them from where I lay as Ezra got his camera out and took some photos.

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We packed up to leave, but decided to stop and see the rust sculptures just outside the town of Borrego Springs before we left the park. Really cool  and impressive! And a little eerie to see stuff like this in the middle of nowhere.

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Driving home took so much longer than expected because of the crazy rain storm across Southern California… and it was really weird to come home from warm, dry desert days to a flooding Los Angeles! But it saved us on getting the car washed, so there’s always that silver lining. We had such a great time trying out our e-camper for the first time, and can’t wait to go again soon!

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ellie camper

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How great is camping? There’s something so refreshing about even the most uncomfortable camping trip… spending all that quality outdoor time, focusing on the important things like cooking, reading, walking, talking for hours with good company around a fire, and staring for hours at the stars.

Ezra and I love camping but historically we haven’t gone very often. It tends to be a lot of effort – load the car with all those specialty items that are only used for camping, buy groceries, drive several hours, having left early enough that you arrive in daylight with plenty of time to figure out (for the 20th time) how exactly to pitch your tent and get a fire going, before it gets dark and chilly and all you want to do is snuggle in your sleeping bag with a belly full of s’mores.

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I like to call the car Ellie Camper, because it’s Element + Camper, and also Ellie Kemper of Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt fame. Ezra is less excited about this!

It was with dread of this huge effort in mind that we decided to purchase a Honda Element and get it converted into a mini camper. Theory being that if we had a vehicle that also served as our bed, perhaps we would go more often. Ezra researched and found Ursa Minor Vehicles, which converted our Element and turned it into our newest adventure vehicle. We’ve been waiting for the weather to get warmer so we could head out on our maiden voyage, and we finally had our opportunity 2 weeks ago. I’ll write more on that soon, but here are the initial thoughts on the Element as E-Camper itself:

  • The boxy shape of the Element makes it relatively easy to pack, even with one of the back seats down. We’re hoping to get better at this,  but for a first try, we were pretty pleased with how much room we had.
  • It still seems like a regular car when you’re moving around – the e-camper only adds 6 inches of height to the car, so it doesn’t feel like you’re dragging around a whole RV or anything crazy like that.
  • Oh-so-much easier than setting up a tent! All we had to do was park, pop the top up, and throw our sleeping bags and pillows up top. More time for setting up the fire, cooking a delicious alfresco meal and drinking allllll the box wine.
  • The sides zip completely open, and I had romantic ideas about sleeping with only the night sky above me, but the first night was a little scary when I woke up with my whole head and shoulders hanging off the edge! The second night I zipped it closed, just leaving the mesh windows open. I felt way more secure and still had plenty of air circulation – it was a super comfy night’s sleep.
  • Ezra bought insulated window panels for the Element, which kept the car temperate – not too hot during the sunny warm days and not too freezing at night, when the desert temperatures got low.

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All in all, we were pretty happy with our first camping adventure (more on that soon)! Excited for it to keep getting warmer so we can go again!

 

beets by k

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I’m a big fan of dips as a go-to snack. They’re delicious (big flavor in a small bite!) easy (grab dip + dipping apparatus and you’re ready to snack!) and versatile (chips! bread! crackers! veggie sticks!). This is a dip I invented as a twist on a much blander version from one of my mother’s old handwritten recipe books. My husband, king of puns, named it “Beets By K”.

Beets By K – Chipotle Beet Dip

(makes about 2 cups of dip)

  • 3 medium to large beets
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 medium chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, plus 1-2 Tbsp adobo sauce
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil (plus more to taste)
  • 1 Tbsp coriander seed
  • 1 Tbsp cumin seed
  • 3 Tbsp Greek yogurt (Wallaby is my favorite)
  • Salt to taste

First, scrub the beets clean and rub them with a little olive oil. Put them in an ovenproof baking dish and bake at 350 F for around 90 minutes – 2 hours. You’ll know they’re ready when you can easily pierce them with a fork. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool completely. I like to roast the beets at night and then put them in the refrigerator overnight, and complete the dip the following day.

Use a paper towel or clean kitchen rag to rub the outer skin off the cooked beets. It should come off easily, but be warned! Everything they touch will turn bright pink – your hands, your paper towel, maybe even your bench top. Beets are dangerous!

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Why yes, my nail polish does match the beets. Totally planned it that way.

Loosely chop the beets into quarters and place in a food processor fitted with a regular blade. Peel and roughly chop garlic and add to food processor, along with chipotle chillis, adobo sauce and olive oil.

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Put the coriander seed and cumin seeds into a pan over low heat and toast them, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and lightly browned. Once ready, remove from heat and grind spices, either with a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder. Add ground spices to food processor bowl.

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Blend ingredients together in food processor until smooth and combined. Once uniform, add Greek yogurt and salt to taste and blend again until fully combined and a beautiful bright color. Eat now or refrigerate and eat later, and then immediately regret not making more!

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NOTES:

  • If you’re sensitive to chilli flavor, start smaller with the chipotle peppers. Perhaps use one, then taste and see if you prefer more.
  • You can leave the yogurt out to make a very similar vegan version (double check the ingredients in your chipotles’ adobo sauce if this is you). I like adding it for a little added creaminess, but mostly because it makes the color pop!

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let’s get organized

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I don’t know about you, but for me, January always brings with it the need to get my life together. I want to clean closets and de-clutter a la Konmari, I want to meal plan and book appointments and generally organize everything around me.

I dreamed up this planner as a solution to a few organizational holes in our apartment. We have annexed part of our oddly L-shaped living room to function as Ezra’s office, and he makes great use of that space, but I don’t have a desk or office in our apartment. This is OK most of the time – I’m rarely working from home and when I am, laptop on the couch is a treat – but I end up with a bunch of paper piled up on our coffee table, my never ending “to deal with” pile. I really wanted a small pinboard where I can display the most pressing of those items.

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Umbra Puzzler Cork Board from The Container Store

I also wanted a big calendar so that Ezra and I can keep track of what’s coming up in the month to come. I’d seen this amazing calendar on Oh Happy Day and followed their link to a wonderful step-by-step tutorial on A Beautiful Mess. I wanted to see if I could create something similar, but have it be moveable without drilling more holes in the wall. It also occurred to me that I could combine both of these desires and create one control center, including hooks for our house keys.

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Plywood, spray paint, electrical paint, vinyl letters, bolts, hooks and nuts, all from Home Depot.

I got most everything at Home Depot. I had them cut a piece of thick plywood to the right size (24″ x 30″). When I got home, I sanded it and sprayed it with 2 coats of Rust-Oleum Hammered Paint & Primer in White (note – I didn’t buy a whole case!) and let it dry. While it was drying, I created the calendar. I followed the Beautiful Mess tutorial to drill holes through the acrylic sheet and then used black electrical tape and a tape measure and level to create the calendar grid on the acrylic. I wish I’d been able to find thinner tape but this was the best I could find.

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I found these Hillman Group Vinyl Letters and bought them in both 1-inch and 2-inch sizes, deciding ultimately that the 1-inch looked best. I realized too late that they were actually square stickers with a white background, so I painstakingly cut the letters out and stuck them down.

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Then it was time to put it together! I used the Everbilt 1/4 inch Connecting Bolt and 3 Everbilt 1/4 inch Brass Machine Screw Nuts for each corner of the calendar. I then drilled the calendar into place on the plywood and secured it on the back with another nut.

Adding the cork board was simple, since it came with attached sticky strips on the back. I just peeled them and stuck it on! The last thing I did was measure spacing for 3 hooks and screw them in. I used a tiny drill bit to make a small hole in the plywood to get them started, then screwed them in by hand, using pliers when I needed to.

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Ready to hang!

To hang my command station, I just drilled some screws into the back in 4 places, since we wanted to hang it from the side of our shelving unit which has a lot of holes. Add a plant above and some pretty fabric and I must say, I’m pretty pleased with it! Now I just need some better whiteboard markers to use on my new calendar!

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it’s the getting started that’s difficult!

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

It’s advice I keep coming back to in so many areas of life. While I’m not your most extreme perfectionist, I definitely self-identify as type-A, and my standards for myself are high. I decided to start this blog, and I want it to be flawless from the inception. I want high-res, beautiful photos with every post. I want every word I write to be meaningful, and every image adorable, and every idea new and exciting.

And instead, all thoughts – good, bad, boring, wonderful, original, funny, clichéd – go unpublished, and this blog remains empty, because I’m unable to compose anything to my inner perfectionist’s satisfaction.I’m letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

You know what’s better than never going to the gym? Going once, for even 15 minutes. You know what’s better than never reading Tolstoy? Reading something, anything, instead of clicking “refresh” on Facebook and shopping online all night.You know what’s better than feeling guilty for not having written years of wonderful long emails to your best friends who live far away? Just sending a text, right now, to say that you love them.

And you know what’s better than not publishing any blog posts, because I don’t have finished projects or beautiful photographs or the perfect, timely insights?

Just publishing this, this self-indulgent, diary-ish, only-words-no-photos rant, right now. Not letting the perfect (well-written, hand-illustrated, insightful blog post) be the enemy of the good (just fucking publishing it!).

 

 

 

first hello!

The start of a new year is pretty arbitrary in the grand scheme of things, but man, is it ever effective in motivating me to make life changes. Something about that January 1 date on the calendar makes me reminisce, plan, daydream about the good that can come out of a new year, and remember the good times of the past year. It’s such a time of positivity. I’m excited about what’s to come to pass in 2017, and I’m excited at the chance to record it here.