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A Spotlight On: Holly Yashi Designs

July 29, 2010

I’m a sucker for jewelry (I even learned how to do my own beading and wire-work, including hammering!), and my all-time favorite jewelry line is that of Holly Yashi.  Based in Arcata, California, between the Redwoods and Pacific coastline, Holly Hosterman and Paul “Yashi” Lubitz make one talented team.  Just look at the creations below…see why I adore their designs?

Beyond beautiful, right?  I love all the little details.  The more you study these earrings, the more they stand out.  And these are just the earrings…Holly Yashi makes spectacular and truly one-of-a-kind necklaces and bracelets, too.

Some of the jewelry is simply beyond my budget (the above bracelet is $225), but most items are very reasonably priced.  The above necklace is $88, and you can buy earrings for as little as $30 (although many items price higher).  While some pieces are costly, keep an eye out for sales, because they do happen!  And of course look to see if there is a retailer in your area who sells Holly Yashi designs, because then you can look at these pieces up close and see the kind of astonishing detail I’m talking about!  They look beautiful on this page, but in real life, the small etchings and detailed metals really stand out.  I’ve never come across another jewelry line like this, and year after year Holly Yashi designs remain some of the most beautiful pieces of jewelry I’ve ever seen.

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Homemade Champagne Mango-Lime Sorbet

July 28, 2010

One great thing about living at home with parents as a recent graduate?  I get to test out the goods and use my mom’s new Cuisinart Ice-Cream/Frozen Yogurt/Sorbet maker.  Move over store-bought ice cream…I may never go back.  Or at least, until I move out, that is.  Unfortunately, my first attempt at making something in the machine failed as a result of pure impatience (you need to let the freezer bowl  freeze completely, which takes around 6-22 hours!).  But the second time around was golden!  I bring you home-made mango lime sorbet. This recipe is so easy, I am almost ashamed to take credit for it.

I used fresh champagne mangos (my favorite!), but you could always use a different variety or even frozen!  Tip: Trader Joes sells cheap bags of frozen champagne mango halves and regular mango chunks!

This sorbet would be a great choice for a light dessert in the summer–which is especially needed in a place like DC, where we’ve been experiencing a serious heat wave with temperatures over 100 degrees.  It’s simple, refreshing, and low calorie.  You could also add fresh fruit, such as raspberries, chopped strawberries, or even blueberries toward the end of the freezing process for a pretty fruit add-in.  Enjoy!

Home-Made Mango Lime Sorbet

4 mangos, pureed

1 cup simple syrup (3/4 cup sugar, 3/4 cup water)

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

2 teaspoons freshly grated lime zest

Makes 6 1/2 cup servings

Directions: To make simple syrup, add sugar and water to saucepan and turn to medium heat until just boiled.  Turn down to low heat, simmering for 3-5 minutes until sugar is completely dissolved.  Let cool.  Meanwhile, pureé mango (in blender, food processor, or using an immersion blender).  Mix all ingredients together and add to ice-cream maker.  Follow machine instructions.

If You  Don’t Have a Machine!: Follow David Lebovitz’s instructions, which you can find by clicking here.

Any favorite homemade sorbet or ice cream flavors among our readers?  Or, better yet, have a link to a blog post with them?  Leave a comment below with a link or email us, we’d love to hear all about ’em–and try them out ourselves.  Stay cool!

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Travel 101–Suitcase Basics

July 27, 2010

Any vacation or business trip begins with a suitcase, and how you pack and label your suitcase can determine the outcome of your trip.  There are few people out there who don’t suffer from the impulse to over-pack (if you’re one of those lucky few, then please share your secrets!), but this isn’t your only potential suitcase-related problem…what if you lose your luggage all-together?  It’s rare, but it does happen—just ask Laura, who has suffered through many lost and re-routed luggage issues.  I’ve lucked out and haven’t lost a bag yet.  Well, except for that one time when I was eight or so, and my entire family (grandparents and pets included) piled into cars to head down to Ocean Isle Beach.  In all of the hustle, somehow my poor little suitcase got left behind, right on the back stoop of the house.  Luckily this was a quiet neighborhood in Yorktown, VA, and my suitcase was right there when we came back a week later!  My grandparents were glad to know they had such a safe neighborhood.  Although I wouldn’t recommend testing out the safety of your house this way.

Read on for tips and tricks on how to pack Goldilocks-style (not too heavy, and not too light, but just right) and how to protect your luggage from woeful mishaps in the airport.

Don’t Be The Victim of Misplaced/Lost Baggage

  • To protect your luggage, air on the side of paranoia and double-check that the airline attendant has put the correct baggage claim label (with your name) on your checked bag.  This once happened to Laura and they had no way of being able to search the database system for her lost bag.  Also fill out an address tag to keep your bags extra safe and sound.
  • Always fill out the airline’s ID card (unless you already have your own) to lessen your chances of having your suitcase misplaced, or even picked up by a fellow passenger.
  • Tie a colorful ribbon to your suitcase to make it easier to identify (again, it is amazing how people in a hurry can so easily grab the wrong suitcase, especially when it is a standard color and size)
  • Buy distinctive luggage, but don’t buy expensive looking luggage.  People’s bags do get stolen.  And, chances are, a nice set of Louis Vuitton bags will get a lot more attention than average-looking beaten up suitcases will.  Expensive looking suitcases make people assume there are expensive items inside them!

Packing Tips and Tricks:

  • To save room, roll up your clothes  instead of folding them.  You’ll be amazed how much room you save by packing this way.  To prevent wrinkles, roll each item in tissue paper.
  • Stuff shoes in socks to keep them scuff-free and further save r00m (why let a few bundles of socks take up precious suitcase space?)
  • For suitcases without a fabric divider, a strip of cardboard will do the trick.
  • Take as many valuables as you can with you on the plane, including a fresh change of clothes in case they misplace your suitcase (or worse, lose it!)
  • Pack toiletries in plastic bags to prevent them from spilling all over your clothes due to air pressure.
  • Pack extra ziploc bags while you’re at it!  Better to be prepared than find your last ziploc bag ripped and wish you had an extra for the return flight.

What to Bring, and What to Leave at Home:

  • If on any given trip you end up bringing clothes you never wear, take this to heart, and ruthlessly take clothes out next time you pack!  A lighter bag is a hassle-free bag.  Plus, it leaves room for purchases.  So always pack even lighter than you think is light enough!
  • Check for your destination’s forecast, and be prepared for irregular weather.  Some cities (like London) are notorious for unpredictable weather—it can be sunny one minute and pouring the next.  Consider carrying a travel-sized umbrella, sunglasses, or a light scarf, depending on your destination.
  • If in doubt about the weather, think in terms of layers—thin tank tops are ideal as a base layer, then layer long-sleeves, cardigans, and thicker sweaters on top.  When you get hot, you can just strip away layers, and when you’re cold, you can pull a scarf out of your bag to keep you warmer.  You’ll always be prepared for warmer days and chilly nights if you think in terms of layers of clothing.
  • If you’re concerned about style, pack clothes in similar colors so that you need fewer accessories, or at least be selective in what accessories you bring.  One pair of cute neutral-colored flats may work with the majority of your outfits, and in the end you’ll be glad you aren’t lugging around more shoes than that!

Happy traveling!

Stay tuned tomorrow for another one of Laura’s new summer frozen dessert recipes!  An ice cream maker may or may not be involved…

Scenes of DC: Nature’s Best

July 26, 2010

Hope everyone had a fabulous weekend!  Ours went by way too fast, as usual.   DC also had one of the hottest weekends on record, with heat indexes of 115 and 105 degrees, both Saturday and Sunday.  Needless to say, neither of us spent much time outside “enjoying” the heat.  Thank you all for providing us with feedback on our most recent poll (for those who haven’t gotten the chance to vote, it is still open!).  We are excited to hear that most of you already like what we’re doing so far with our blog, but we’re also excited to mix things up and add more content on certain subjects, such as more DC-related posts, more personalized day-to-day posts, as well as more travel posts too!  Hopefully we’ll end up with a good balance of them all.

On that note, we thought it would be fun to bring back our recently added “Scenes of DC” series, posts dedicated to our own photography taken throughout the DC area.  For our most recent post, click here or head on over to our “DC Living” page, where you can view all the photograph thumbnails (all of which are linked to the original post itself).  This week our theme is Nature’s Best.  Enjoy!

Scroll over photographs for more information…

Any eventful weekend stories from your end?  Be sure to share them!  Stay tuned the rest of the week for our daily posts!  Or you can check out some of our most recent posts by clicking through the calendar archive or RSS feed, both of which you can find on your right…

July 25th: Download of the Week

July 25, 2010

I can’t believe the summer’s already half-way over and it’s about to be August!  Summers always go by much too fast.

Our download of the week is by the band Guster, which was formed by three guys while they were in college at Tufts University, just outside of Boston.  Some of my favorite songs by them are “Fa Fa” (their first big hit), “What You Wish For”, “I Spy”, and “Center of Attention”, which are all on their album Lost and Gone Forever.

Our download of the week, though, is what I think is my favorite song by Guster— “Happier.”  It has great lyrics, as do all of their songs!  Take a listen:

And for an added bonus, if you like what you hear, listen to this clip as well, which gives you nice snippets of all of their songs off of the Lost and Gone Forever album (which was their breakthrough album).

Have a great week!

Upside-Down Berry Peach Skillet Cake

July 23, 2010

This upside-down berry peach skillet cake was originally adapted from a Cooking Light magazine recipe and is one of my favorite summer desserts.  Not only is it beautiful to look at, but it’s healthy and easy to make. The entire cake is cooked in an iron cast skillet, just like classic cornbread recipes.  I know it doesn’t look simple, but I swear it is.  It’s the perfect dessert for company or even an everyday nice meal.  All in all, it probably takes a total of 20 minutes prep time, the rest is all done in the oven folks.  The combination of the spongy cake with cooked berry and peach mixture is delicious–especially with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

Essentially the baking process includes layering the fruit (any design you choose!) on the bottom of the skillet and adding the cake batter directly on top.  Pop it in the oven and you’re done!  Be sure not to cut back on any of the butter for the bottom of the skillet, as this will ensure you will be able to flip it and have it come out cleanly.  A well-seasoned skillet (some people put aside a baking vs. savory one for this exact reason) helps too!

It is also fun to make because you don’t know how the design will turn out or look until after you flip it over!  It reminds me of those fun art painting projects from kindergarten.  Anyone else remember those?

Upside-Down Berry Peach Skillet Cake

Adapted from Cooking Light

2 tablespoons, softened and divided

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 peaches (any other stone fruit would work!)

3/4 cup fresh berries (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries)

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest

2 teaspoons lemon juice

2 large egg whites

1 egg

1 1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup Kefir (or low-fat buttermilk)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees!


  1. Melt 1 tablespoon butter into cast iron skillet over medium heat; sprinkle brown sugar evenly throughout the pan.  Remove from heat.
  2. Arrange fruit slices (however you wish!), one option is to arrange the peach in a circle in the center.  Scatter the berries around the sides so that the bottom of the skillet is covered with a layer of fruit.  Set aside.
  3. Place remaining tablespoon butter, oil, and granulated sugar into a bowl; beat with mixer until well blended.  Add rind, lemon juice, egg, and egg whites and beat well.
  4. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl with a whisk (no sifting required).
  5. Add flour mixture and Kefir (buttermilk) alternatively to the liquid mixture beginning and ending with flour until just mixed.  The resulting batter should have a sticky, dough-like consistency.
  6. Carefully spoon over cake mixture onto the top of the fruit in the skillet.  Cook at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes until wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Run thin knife along edge of skillet and let cool completely on rack (important!)
  7. Getting Out of the Pan: Once cooled (slightly lukewarm is OK, if you’re getting impatient), take a large round plate and place on the top of the skillet, carefully inverting it and turning it upside down.  It should come straight out.  If it doesn’t, tap the skillet lightly and this should do the trick.

This is what the cake will look like after baking!  The pretty part comes later…

See?  What did I tell you.  These photos are exactly how it looked, in all their unedited glory.  Slice it up and serve to your drooling friends and family!  If you are lucky enough to have leftovers, this is even delicious as a breakfast or brunch cake.

Speaking of berry and peach inspired recipes, I submitted my Summertime Very Berry Peach Smoothie recipe to Taste Spotting the other day and it was accepted!  Since the website is constantly being updated, it is no longer on the home page, but you can see it here or by clicking back through a few pages of archives.  If you haven’t checked it out before, this website is a lot of fun!

I think I may submit one of the photographs from this recipe as well!  Leave a comment and let me know which one is your favorite (#1-#4)!  Have a great weekend!  Look out for our “Download of the Week” post on Sunday–my birthday!

Travel 101–Beating Jet Lag

July 22, 2010

Jet Lag—we all know how horrible it feels.  You are so tired that you feel like a walking zombie, and that random park bench looks awfully tempting for a nap, even though it’s the middle of the day, and you have no idea where you are.  You are disoriented enough that when an immigration officer asks about the nature and duration of your stay, your answer is so incoherent and muddled that he laughs at you and says “Here, just show me your papers” (yes, that happened to me, embarrassingly enough).  Sleep deprivation is brutal and can ruin the first few days of your trip, but there are a few things you can do to ease the pain.  None are full-proof, but different people will swear by different methods, so try a few and see what works best for you!  I’m sure you’ll strike gold with one of them.

Begin to Fight Jet Lag Before You Leave, And On the Plane:

  • Get plenty of sleep before you leave, and if possible, try to adjust your sleep pattern by a few hours to come closer to matching the time zone of your destination.  Some people even fully take on their new sleep schedule 48 hours before they leave!  You’ll feel kind of out of it those two days before you leave, but on the bright side, you won’t miss out on your first two days of vacation.
  • Change your watch to the new time—if you tell yourself it is no longer 4pm, but is nearly midnight, your body will catch on to the new time sooner as well.
  • Drink one or two caffeinated beverages (coffee and soda) because the caffeine adjusts your circadian rhythm and will make you less sleepy (man, I love biology…”circadian rhythm”…so cool).  Don’t have too many caffeinated drinks, though, especially if you are very sensitive to caffeine, because you may have trouble falling asleep later.
  • Drink every single non-alcoholic beverage you can get your hands on during the flight.  You automatically become dehydrated when you fly, and exhaustion + dehydration = massive crummy feeling.
  • However, even though you are bound to become dehydrated on the plane, I know people who swear that the one and ONLY way to bet jet lag is to down the alcoholic beverages.  I’ve never tried this, so I can’t say if it works (I think I would personally just feel a million times worse!), but some people stand by this and insist that it is the best cure for preventing jet lag.  Still sounds terrible to me though.  Try with caution!
  • Nap on the plane if it’s nighttime at your destination, but if it’s daytime there, then try your hardest to stay awake.

Once You Land:

  • Walk around, and breathe the fresh air, and soak up the sun!  Seriously, sometimes the best remedy for jet lag is the most natural one—get outside and move around and your body will naturally sync with the time zone.  Some people even switch into sports-wear to go on a jog.  The more you’re outside and fight sleep, the better you’ll feel later.
  • Whatever you do, DON’T NAP!  Try to stay awake until the time when locals go to bed, or at least try to stay up as close to that time as possible.  If you nap, your body will stay confused, and you’ll regret that nap come day 2 of jet lag.  You may even catch a cold if your body stays stressed and struggles to reset its internal body clock.  And that is a terrible way to start any trip!

While there is no one way to beat let lag, there are many tricks of the trade people swear by, so hopefully one of these tidbits will be of help!  What are your methods of beating jet lag?  Do you have a trick you live by?  Please share your secrets!