Month: April 2014

Cooking Stories and a Chilli Recipe: Wisdom from Steph’s Mom

Emily and I went up to our hometown a while ago and had lunch with my parents. It was a cloudy, rainy day and a mist was blanketing the redwoods in the Santa Cruz mountains. It can be so magical when it rains there. It truly is a rain forest, and you feel like everything kind of just stops and all you need to do is curl up with a good book and stare out a window.

DSC01067 My mom seemed to read our minds and made us chilli and cornbread for lunch. It was THE PERFECT meal for that day. We chatted and watched the rain- their house, the one I grew up in, has windows covering almost every inch of the living and dining rooms. When you live somewhere like that, you want to always feel like you’re outside.

While we ate we asked my mom about cooking and how she got so good at it. She also gave us the recipe for the bomb chilli she made us. Enjoy!

What got you into cooking? Did someone teach you?

I was living over here as an undergraduate and I had been in the dorms up until then, you know, the dining hall and everything. I moved into a place by myself here and Mary Lou [her sister] came over one day (she was living in Felton here too with her husband) and she said “You have nothing in your refrigerator, how do you eat?” I’m like, “Oh, I don’t know. Taco Bell.” And she said “No, no no… I forgot, we never taught you to cook.” All of my other sisters got like, taught, to cook. I never got taught to cook. They were all getting married so they had to learn. DSC01049

So Mary Lou came over and she brought all these ingredients and these little empty tubs of margarine. We used to eat margarine in plastic tubs and she’d saved a bunch of them. So she brought those over and we spent all day cooking and freezing single-serving amounts in  these tubs. And we literally filled my freezer with 3 or 4 different kinds of food. For a while she had to call me in the morning and say, “Go get the thing out of the freezer so you’ll have something to eat this evening.”

“Oh ya…”

“You won’t have to stop at Taco Bell.”

“Oh ya…Okay.”

So that’s how I started. She taught me how to make those three things. Then she decided that she wanted to take a Spanish class on Wednesday nights. She was of course working full time as an accountant at the time, for O’Neill downtown. And she said “I won’t be able to take these Spanish lessons, Jerry [her husband at the time] won’t let me go to class if I don’t set it up so you come over and cook. So you take care of him- he comes home from work and you can cook him dinner.” So every Wednesday night I would go over there and cook Jerry dinner. I had the three recipes that she taught me that I had learned, but then she would leave me exact directions on how to make pork chops with peaches and white rice…every step, what pan to use, everything. So I would learn that way. How to make Swedish meatballs, tuna casserole, beef stroganoff, and macaroni and cheese… one of my favorites at the time. And Jerry liked it, too, so I would make macaroni and cheese and a salad. And so I learned that way- you know, the basics.

If you had the president coming over for dinner, and you wanted to impress him, what would be your go-to recipe? (This was Em’s question haha) DSC01061  

I would probably start with hors d’ oeuvres or something, and then I might do a cream of asparagus soup with a nice rustic bread, just to you know… fill him up before (laughs). Then I might make something kind of different… you know… quinoa with prawns and spices, you know? With naan bread. Something like that to make him think I was, you know… hip.

But my go-to recipe for anybody but the president, (laughs) is… Forget the soup. You get no soup. It is chicken cordon bleu (at least it has a French name) and it’s sliced open chicken breast with ham and cheese in it, and you bread the whole thing, and then you bake it. And you serve it with broccoli or asparagus or sliced heirloom tomatoes with mozzarella and basil. And maybe biscuits.

Super Easy Chili Recipe (from Steph’s grandmother):


  • 1 lb extra lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 (15 -16 ounce) can of corn
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • Finely sliced celery
  • 1 (14 1/2 ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • “Lots of” garlic salt with parsley
  • 1 (15 -16 ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained or 1 (15 -16 ounce) can pinto beans, if desired


  • Cook beef, onion and garlic in 3 qt saucepan until beef is brown.
  • Stir in remaining ingredients except beans.
  • Heat to boiling, reduce heat to low.
  • Cover and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  • Stir in beans.
  • Heat to boiling, reduce heat to low.
  • Simmer uncovered about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until desired thickness.

Serve with cornbread and enjoy!




Online window shop with me…

It’s my first week of work and I feel both exhausted and pumped at the same time. I love it so far, but getting up at six every day to bike and ride the bus is taking it out of me. Plus I haven’t worked in 4 months… I’m definitely still transitioning. Hang out with me as I lay in bed and obsess over things online!

I am loving this trend of a black and white gingham as a table runner. For some reason it is so much better than a color, in my opinion- makes everything pop.

2014-04-14_0001 (images found here and here)

I am now obsessed with The Everygirl. Emily told me I had to read it because it is our ultimate blog crush (although it seems more like a magazine than a blog). I am obsessed with their financenews, and house tours sections (that’s where I found the gingham thing! In two separate house tours…).


(image found here)

Now that I am working again, I really want to save up for a scooter. Anthony has a car and I don’t (haven’t had one since I sold my breaking-down-Honda on Craigslist in 2012 and went to Vegas- lol) and I need to transport myself somehow without depending on him. And I don’t really need a car- you can get everywhere in Santa Barbara without going on the freeway, so I can go to work, downtown, the beach, wherever. Then we can use Anthony’s car for road trips. Everyone I have talked to who has had a scooter just raves about it. Such a more affordable option for me right now. I can’t. wait.

I’m trying to get work wardrobe inspiration…


(image found here)

I have a grey t-shirt, orange bubble necklace, and a navy blazer…yet everything I have is slightly less cool than this… I’ll have to try it out. Maybe with my black pencil skirt?


(image found here)

I REALLY want slacks like this. I want to wear slacks and look sharp but also have them feel a little more fashionable. And show off my heels. Plus baggy-at-the-feet-slacks is not a flattering look on short me.

Does anyone know where to find affordable slacks? I have a feeling I’ll strike out at my usual thrift store…

Hope you are having a great week!

Wedding Wednesday Bonus: Pretty Photos and a Wedding Package Giveaway!

We have a little something extra for you today. One of our wonderful sponsors, Open Arms Photography, paired with Blush Hair & Makeup Design to offer an amazing giveaway! open arms 1  The winner will receive:

FREE 2014 Wedding Photography by Open Arms Photography!

Which Includes a FREE Engagement Photo Session

(albums and prints priced separately–see our pricing page for details)


FREE Bridal Hair and Makeup


Includes “The Blushing Bride Bundle” and Hair and Makeup Styling for up to 3 bridesmaids!

In order to be eligible for this giveaway, your wedding must be in the Bay Area. If your wedding is in another location but you still want to apply, you must pay for travel costs. Depending on where you live though, that’s still an amazing deal!

open arms 2 All the photos in the post were taken by the amazing Open Arms Photography team, and the hair and makeup was done by the Blush Hair & Makeup Design stylists. They are such an amazing and talented group of people who are fun and easy to work with. They would be sure to make your wedding day unforgettable. open arms 3 open arms 4 This giveaway really is huge, so please share this with your friends and family! If I had won this when I was engaged, I would have freaked out! It’s seriously the ultimate wedding giveaway.  open arms 6 open arms 7 open arms 9 To apply, go to Open Arms Photography and follow the instructions :) Good luck! And if you’re not getting married or having your wedding in the Bay Area, we thought you would still enjoy these gorgeous pictures. Nothing wrong with a little inspiration, right? Have an amazing day and Happy Wedding Wednesday!

{How To:} Write Your Own Vows

Wedding Vows Header_0012 Kirby and I talked a lot about our ceremony during the year and a half leading up to our wedding. We said the whole time that we wanted it to be special and to represent us. As much as we were excited about the reception, the dancing, the dress, and our favorite people in all the world being at our wedding, we knew the reason we were celebrating was because we were getting married. We didn’t want to breeze through the ceremony and just get on with it. We wanted to tell each other and our friends and family who surrounded us how much we meant to each other. We wanted it to mean something, to be special.

I think the most compliments we received were about our ceremony, and I couldn’t believe it! I knew that it was perfectly tailored to Kirby and I and what we wanted, but it made me so happy to know that everyone saw how much we put into it. I compiled a few tips about how to write your own vows because when we first started we felt a little lost. RZ7A6306 1.) Create a relaxing environment  I finalized my vows two days before the wedding after I got a massage. I was relaxed and excited about the wedding, and it was the perfect time to collect my thoughts. They let me sit in front of the fire and have tea, and I actually got teary while I finished writing. I know not everyone can do this, but if possible try writing your vows when you’re calm. Maybe have tea in bed and put on some calming music or pour yourself a glass of wine and sit on your balcony (I don’t have a balcony, but you might!) Point is, try to avoid writing your vows during your stressful wedding week. It takes all the fun out of it. You want to be able to enjoy the process as much as possible.

2.) Get a feel for the tone and length of your partners vows We wanted ours to be a surprise to each other, but some couples decide to write them together, which is totally fine!  However, I felt the same way about our vows as I did about our first look; I wanted it to be a complete surprise during the ceremony. We went back and fourth about how long our vows would be. We wanted to make sure they weren’t completely different lengths (ie one of us going on for half and hour and the other one simply saying ‘I love you’). Being that Kirby and I are both kinda wordy, we agreed upon about one page single spaced in order to keep us from going on too long. Also, ask yourselves this: Do you want your vows to be funny, serious, light hearted, or a mix of all three?  Discussing tone is important because you don’t want it to seem like you’re on completely different pages. It’s good to know what your partner has in mind.


3.) Don’t worry about what other people think This is for you, not anyone else. Yes, your family and friends are there to support you, but this moment is about you and your soon to be spouse. Once we realized we both had a lot to say, we kept worrying that we would bore people and go on for way too long. Eventually we decided to just not care about what other people thought and just go for it. The ceremony was for us and about committing our lives to each other; it’s not a time to rush and worry about what other people think. Because we stopped worrying about other people, our ceremony came out exactly how we wanted it, and we had no regrets.

4.) Take your time! I added sentences and ideas to my vows for months and months. I didn’t end up using half of them, but I didn’t want to look back on the ceremony and wish I had said something else. Sometimes I would be sitting at work and a random thought would pop into my head and I would immediately add it to my list of ideas so I wouldn’t forget. It was so nice to have so much material to work with once I was finalizing my vows.

5.) Read other vows and get to know what you like and dislike. Even if you’re a good writer, you (most likely) don’t write a declaration of your love for your partner everyday. It’s a different style of writing and it takes some thought. Give yourself enough time to make sure you’re really saying what you want to say. Both Kirby and I read a bunch of other vows to get an idea for how we wanted to put ours together. I realized there are so many different styles! Some people read famous poems, some people turn it into a comedy act, some people say a few simple sentences. Find out what you like best and what seems the most ‘you’.

6.) Practice. After you’ve written your vows, practice them several times. Just because what you’ve written comes across well on paper doesn’t mean it will feel natural once you’re reading them out loud. I made quite a few edits once I started reading my vows to myself and imagining saying them to Kirby. I wanted it to feel like I was talking just to him, not making some fancy speech.

Also, decide if you want to memorize them or not. I practiced enough to where I was really familiar with my vows, but there was no way I was gonna try to memorize them and hope my nerves didn’t take over. We both read from our vows, but we knew them well enough so we could make plenty of eye contact with each other. You want to be able to look into your partner’s eyes, not just down at a piece of paper. Also, read through them several times so you know where to pause and take a breath. There were several parts where I knew I just wanted to pause, look into Kirby’s eyes and take in the moment.


7.) Have them written out and give them to your officiant. Even if you think you have them memorized, have them there just in case. Our officiant had asked for them the day before the wedding so he could have them ready for us. It was really nice not having to run around saying “Who has my vows? I don’t want to forget them!!!”

8.) Read them again! One of the most memorable things I’ve ever done was reading our vows to each other again on our honeymoon. We made sure to bring them with us, and we were able to truly soak them in and say them to each other without feeling any pressure. I cried through the whole thing! We vowed to read them to each other every year on our anniversary.



Here are our vows so you can see what we came up with:

Kirby- Our wedding day is finally here, and as we stand up together in front of our closest friends and family, I want to tell you how thankful I am to be marrying you today. You are my best friend, confidant, teammate, and my one true love. I think often about how lucky and blessed I am to have a man like you.  You are the same person behind closed doors that the rest of the world sees, and you are a good, honorable, ethical man. You have so much integrity and you live your life with such honesty. I love the way you treat your friends and family and how you always have everyone’s backs. You are truly an incredible person, and there is never a doubt in my mind if this is meant to be. Ever since I was a little girl my mom told me again and again, “to thine own self be true.” I really took her advice to heart, and I know I can truly be myself when I am with you. I am able to be authentic with you, and I love that we can be silly together and we laugh with each other, not at each other (at least most of the time.) I take so much comfort and honor in the fact that you honestly and whole heartedly love me for who I am. Kirby, you, more than anyone, know my vulnerabilities, insecurities, and weaknesses, and yet you have never made me feel judged or inadequate, and you love me without reservations. You have helped me become the person I am today, and I look forward to growing with you, learning with you, and doing our very best to live fulfilling, happy lives. I adore how you always want to find new and exciting things to do whether it being trying a new food or seeing a new place. You make me laugh in all situations, and you help me keep perspective on the important things in life.

When I look back to before we were together, I realize I have always loved you. I respected the person that you were, you made me laugh harder than anyone else, you gave me butterflies that wouldn’t go away, and I trusted you like a dear friend. Now, 9 years later, our love has grown and now I get to tell you how I feel instead of just writing about it in my high school journal. We have been through a lot. We have grown close to each other’s families, gained many amazing friendships, and have traveled far and wide. You have held me up, encouraged me and coached me through some of my most difficult times, and I am so thankful to you for that support. I am aware that life will be full of ups and downs, but I feel we have already shown each other that we have each other’s backs, that we know how to work things out, how to forgive, how to laugh things off and how to support each other when life gets challenging. I look forward to many more nights of cooking dinner with you, days spent on the beach, riding bikes, and travelling to new places. I can’t wait for more inside jokes, times spent with family and friends, and making a family of our own. I wouldn’t want to grow old with anyone else.

Today Kirby, I join my life to yours. The decision to commit to sharing my life with you is one I make joyfully, easily and with total confidence in our love, and one that I’ve been looking forward to for a really long time. I promise to always make sure our relationship is strong, healthy, and fun. I promise to live life to the fullest with you, and always do my best to keep you happy, to have fun with you, to laugh with you, cry with you, protect you and love you with all of my heart. I promise to mix things up, try new things, and always do whatever it takes to keep our love as strong as it is on this day. I promise to stand with you in the good times and the bad, including rough Sharks, Giants, and 49er seasons. I believe in us, the people we will grow to be and the couple we will be together. With my whole heart, I take you as my husband, acknowledging and accepting your faults and strengths, as you do mine. I promise to be faithful and supportive and to always make our family’s love and happiness my priority. Kirby St. John, I am so excited and thankful that today I have the honor of becoming your wife. You are my best friend — my love and my life, today and always. I love you



Emily- An actress named Loretta Young once said, “Love isn’t something you find. Love is something that finds you.” And when I heard that, it really stuck with me because I can’t think of a better way to describe how all of THIS came to be.

I met you on your first day at Soquel High. You hadn’t even walked all the way through the door of Mr. Myers’ class when I first saw you. I was struck by your beauty, of course, but there was also something about your presence that felt different and special to me. You chose a seat right next to me, so really, you found me. I didn’t do a thing. As we’ve talked and joked about many times, there was an instant chemistry between the two of us. Never dull, always engaging, and often hilarious. If someone would have told me five minutes after I met you that I was going to commit my life to you in marriage, my answer would have simply been, “Ya, okay!”  Now, it wasn’t just all downhill from there. We’ve had other relationships and experiences, partly because you kind of avoided me after our first date and you turned me down for the winter formal, but our friendship kept us close and that chemistry we had from day one always seemed to gravitate us to each other. When we first started “officially” dating in college, I remember having this sense of comfort and of my mind being at ease. It probably sounds a little intense to a lot of people, but you and I started talking about sharing our lives together pretty much from day one. And the beautiful thing was that there was never any doubt or fear in either of us. We weren’t searching for a sign or a feeling. We knew love had found us.

The most amazing years of my life have been the last six. We’ve shared a home together, traveled together, grown together, grieved together, dreamed together, and been pieces together. Being engaged has been fun and exciting, and using the word “fiancé” has even grown on me a little, but now, I am sooo ready to call you my wife. You are so stunningly beautiful today, and every day, and when I think about the way you brighten my world with your smile, your laughter and your love, I know how lucky I am and how happy you will make me throughout our life together. I promise to forever do my best to return the favor. I will always be not just your partner, but your best friend. I promise to hold your hand whenever you want, even if you squeeze a little too tight. I vow to help shoulder your challenges and nurture your dreams. I will always strive to better your life, whether that means tickling your arm when you’re falling asleep, or taking you to every corner of the world. I will always cherish what makes you you, like your made-up songs and your impromptu dances around the house. I will never stop trying to make you smile or laugh. I promise to always enjoy the little things in life with you. I will always be honest and trust your honesty with me. I promise to treasure the experience of growing old with you, because you are the love of my life, and I know that a love like ours will only find us once.

And last but not least, our ceremony video!

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