Friday, July 30, 2010

Shabby Chic Spa

Every year, the women on my Mom's side of the family get together for a fun-filled spa weekend we lovingly refer to as, Shabby Chic Spa. The tradition started in the mid 80's when my Grandma and her sister, Bailey, took their daughters (and daughters-in-law) to Lake Austin Spa. Over the years, as our family has grown and matured, we have evolved the tradition into a more rustic and homemade all-gal-getaway. There are 22 eligible members and this year we had a record 18 in attendance! Our weekend has its fair share of traditions including massages on Saturday by professional massage therapists, regular happy hours featuring strawberry daquiris and soul searching evening programs designed to look inward and share (optionally) with your "spa sisters!"

The weekend always begins with a Happy Hour that seems to continue throughout the course of the weekend. "It's five o'clock somewhere!"

Barbara (my Mom's first cousin) and Erica braiding Barbara's famous Challah. Her Challah is so famous, it became the theme for this year's t-shirts! This year's slogan:

Shabby Chic Spa
"One Challah'v A Time!"

... get it? :)

Jennifer (married to my Mom's second cousin), Jill (my Mom's first cousin and Barbara's sister), Emily (my first cousin), Sarah (my first cousin and Emily's sister) and my Mom all working on this year's craft project - decorating wine glasses!

These are the two wine glasses I decorated! The glass on the left is entitled, "Ode to an Aquarium." The glass on the right is a sophisticated nod to New Orleans.

Here are some of the glasses decorated by all - we had everything from dots to hearts to glue on jewels to animal print to patriotic themes!

Our Matriarchs
from left to right:
Grandma (my Mom's mom), Mimi (my Dad's mom),
Leslie (my Grandma's first cousin), and Bailey (my Grandma's sister).

We are a first name family. We call everyone (except for our Moms and grandmothers) by their first names. So Leslie is Leslie, not "Aunt Leslie" and so on. This all started with Grandma and Bailey's mother, Stella. She asked that her grandchildren call her Stella because that was her name. Stella, my great-grandmother, lived well into her late 80's and had a huge impact on my life for the brief time our lives overlapped. I loved her, and her name, and hope that if I am ever lucky enough to have a daughter, I will keep her name in mind. :)

My "generation:" Erica (my first cousin), Emily (Erica and Sarah's sister), me, Jamie (my sister) and Callie (our second cousin, Barbara's daughter). We made dinner on Saturday night. It was delicious, but way too labor intensive. Next year we'll opt for make-your-own pizza instead of grilled veggie pita pockets!

The Spa Sisters
top row: Emily, Callie, Sarah, Alex
2nd row: Karen, Tracy, Erica, Leslie, Jill, Mimi
couch: Jamie, Me, Grandma, Bailey
floor: Polly, Stephanie, Jennifer, Barbara

We bought a new sectional couch for the Ranch because the old couches had literally died. They were over 20 years old and had no life left in them. This luxurious leather sectional was awesome for our large group. (Large in numbers, not in physical size, ladies!) Every other seat had a lever that when pulled extended a foot rest for your reclining pleasure. The above picture is what happens when you are seated between two fully extended seats. Best picture of the weekend? I think so! :)

The gang sitting around our long dinner table. It is important that we are all at one table, so we push two tables together diagonally across the room and voila! Another tradition of the weekend is our version of Iron Chef. We divide into three teams (this year we were paired with our immediate family members) and are given a bag with several ingredients. Each team gets the same ingredients, but always come up with vastly differently ideas. This year's ingredients were: frozen pie crust, cream cheese, strawberries, powdered sugar, and a Heath Bar. Anything else you find in the pantry is fair game!

The above dessert was my team's creation. We took the pie crust and made braided dipping cookies and accompanied them with three different fondue-style dipping sauces. We also added the strawberry and some ginger snaps for extra dunking vehicles. The first sauce was a dark chocolate ganache with cinnamon, the second sauce featured milk chocolate and heath bar crumble and the final sauce was a lime frosting with lime zest and green sprinkles!

This year's Shabby Chic Spa was another huge success. The weekend was full of eating, laughing, bonding, crafting, baking, relaxing and more laughing. As our group grows and as I get older, I am more and more aware of how important it is to not only have a strong familial bond, but to have strong women in my life. When we are at Shabby Chic, we are not mothers, daughters, aunts and cousins - we are sisters; equals in what is expected of us and we take away from the weekend.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Well, as you may notice, The Santa Monica Luskey Family Blog has a new background. I awoke to a disturbing notice that my chosen background had 48 hours of life remaining so I had to scramble to find a new blog background that would convey the same vibe as my previous choice. Thoughts?

Now, I know I claimed to be a fan of change, but here's the thing: I only like change on my own terms. I know, I'm so picky. I like to change things when I am the one deciding when and how they will change - not when I have to - see? (Noticing a trend with me and control?)

The timing of this near-blog-background-catastrophe is perfect. I am in Houston preparing to go on our annual Shabby Chic Spa Weekend with the female Alexander decendants; a time that always reminds me of my true priorities - family, love, and baked goods. I say the timing is perfect because it is the weekend of Shabby Chic when I realize an entire year has passed. A time when I check in with myself and note any progress on the personal goals I set the previous year. And the funny thing is, despite how I plan and wish and dream and hope, the one thing I can count on, year after year, is change.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sunday Summer Barbecue

Sunday afternoon we were invited to our good friends' (Dan & Angel) apartment for a final barbecue before they move into their new place. Dan and Brian are fraternity brothers and Angel and I immediately bonded over our love for wedding planning. There were 10 guests and everyone brought something to contribute or throw on the grill. We brought a Mediterranean Layer Dip which was a huge hit and SO easy! It was such a crowd pleaser (if I do say so myself) that it was demolished before I had a chance to get out my camera.

Mediterranean Layer Dip
  • Choose a nice dish
  • Spread a generous layer of hummus (we're partial to Sabra brand)
  • Chiffonade fresh spinach leaves
  • Slice some cherry tomatoes
  • Sprinkle with Trader Joe's feta with Mediterranean herbs over the top
  • Bon appetite!
The above chicken legs were soaking in a homemade marinade created by Angel (she's an incredible hostess and chef) and looked so delicious when they came off the grill, I couldn't resist snapping a shot!

No, I didn't make this pie. I know it looks like I'm proudly showing off my hard work, but I got so excited when I saw this - and even MORE excited when I learned it was made (from scratch) by one of the bachelors in attendance - I just had to have a picture with it too.

I know I've said this before, but we are so lucky to have such special friends!

Saturday, July 17, 2010


We attended our first Trufflepalooza today; an event organized by Brian's co-worker, Erika (shown in the background of the above picture), designed to highlight the magical power of the black summer truffles from Italy. Truffles, as many of you know, grow underground and are harvested with the help of pigs. The chocolate truffle got it's name because of it's likeness to the truffle found in the earth.

Trufflepalooza Menu
Corn Veloute with Freshly Grated Truffles
Radish and Truffle Butter Tartines
Crostini with Ricotta and Truffle Honey*
Truffled Egg Salad
Chilled Green Beans with Porcini Mushroom Truffle Dip
Emery's Salad with Truffle Vinaigrette and Pancetta
Traditional Risotto with Freshly Grated Truffle
Roasted Baby Potatoes with Truffle Butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano
Truffled Macaroni and Cheese
Grilled Fontina and Truffle on Brioche
Open-Faced Filet Mignon Sandwiches with Truffle Butter
Truffled Chocolate Truffles**

*The above crostinis were my favorite. I think I had roughly 20 of them.

**The above chocolate truffles have truffle (the mushroom) in them!

Brian feeding me about $300 worth of truffle. No big deal.

The Santa Monica Luskeys with
Franco De Gaetano (of Sabatino L.A.), the "Truffle Dealer."

We are so thankful to Erika for including us in Trufflepalooza! What a perfect way to experience such a unique ingredient on a beautiful Santa Monica summer afternoon with some wonderful Santa Monica friends.

Check out Erika's blog for more pictures and stories from Trufflepalooza!

Friday, July 16, 2010


Tonight we went to Drago, an Italian restaurant in Santa Monica known for it's authentic Italian cuisine and modern decor. We ordered the burrata with heirloom tomato, aged balsamic and basil to start - DELISH! I would even go as far as to say the burrata rivaled that of the likes of a little restaurant called Mozza. That's right, I said it.

We then shared the tortelloni filled with pumpkin sage, butter and parmesan cheese. There were huge fried sage leaves in the dish which were delish. I am a glutton for anything creamy and terrible for me. Basically, if it looks like a stomach ache, I'll love it.

Brian always accuses me of liking various fowl-like pheasant and duck because they taste like red meat. This is funny to him because I haven't (knowingly) eaten red meat (or pork) since the 7th grade. That's 13 years, thank you very much. He says I secretly love red meat and eat it "by accident" whenever I can. This is a total fallacy. My twelve-year-old self gave up red meat/pork as a political statement and although the reasoning has changed to more of a health conscious/semi-religious inspired decision, the dietary self-restrictions remain the same.

All in all our evening was awesome. Another romantic date night for the Santa Monica Luskeys!

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

This may look like an ordinary file cabinet...

...but it's a sign of things to come! Amazing, organized, systematic, efficient things. My mission this week at work has been just this and I'm proud to report it's going beautifully! It feels good to create a system and watch how it helps the office run more smoothly.

Looking forward to seeing what else I can transform. :)

Monday, July 12, 2010


This is just a friendly reminder to myself (and all who need it) to breathe. Sometimes I'm in such a hurry to get to the next step, I don't fully experience the present. So, self, be aware and thankful of what you have now. Look forward to the future, but know that you can't have tomorrow without today. I don't think anyone has ever regretted being present. So my new goal is to appreciate where I am in life every day. And when I get the to the next step - whatever that might be - I'll be that much more ready and appreciative because that will be the present then.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Santa Monica Farmer's Market

Today we went on a Santa Monica food tour organized by a company called Six Taste. The tour began in the Santa Monica Farmer's Market where I noticed these gorgeous pastel roses in galvanized planter tins. Aren't they amazing? The Santa Monica Farmer's Market is filled organic treats from seasonal fruit to fresh meats and seafoods to honey, soaps and flowers.

Although we've lived in Santa Monica for a year now, we still love discovering new places right in our own backyard. The food tour helped introduce us to some new favorites:

  • Tudor House (famous for their high tea and authentic imported British fare)
  • Real Food Daily (known for their "Not-chos" that contain imitation everything)
  • Bar Pinxto (specializing in pinxtos - bites - and tapas)
  • Hot Dog on a Stick (indulged in fried cheese balls. Yes, please!)
  • Bay Cities Deli (featured on Food Networks show The Best Thing I Ever Ate)
  • Leonidas (imported Belgian chocolates - salted caramel... YUM!)
  • Angelato's (creates over 100 specialty gelato flavors; I got blood orange and Brian go cherry & custard)
Brian is better at describing a lot of these places so hopefully he'll post his thoughts soon.

Hint, hint! :)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

"Go to Rose's... on me!"

Today I got a phone call from Jamie at precisely 8:30am. I could tell she was waiting until a somewhat reasonable hour in California to call which I appreciated. Luckily, I was on my way out the door and could chat during my morning commute. I love talking to Jamie for many reasons, one of which being the conversation jumps from topic to mid-topic so quickly that I have to be on my toes and actually listen, but the main reason being Jamie always brings me back to reality. Her sweet voice and innocent nature are not lost in the phone lines and when I am talking to her, I can see her little face in my mind; thinking and smiling and slapping her leg with excitement.

The other day when approaching the airport security line (she has a knack for calling in the most inopportune times) she said to me,

"Kimberly, I need to ask your advice about something serious."

I braced myself, "Yes, what is it?"

"Well, I wanted to ask your opinion about something...

(wait for it... wait for it...)

...I thought it might be time for me to get a new updated wardrobe and so maybe we could do this while we're both home for Shabby Chic."

"Sure, this sounds like a great idea!" I said, relieved that what was introduced as a serious heart to heart is incidentally a lighthearted chat about clothing.

"Maybe you could ask Mom to help us? Do you think that's a good idea?"

"Absolutely!" I said for two reasons: 1.) our Mom has exquisite taste and 2.) she will most likely be paying for this shopping spree.

"Alright. I gotta go. Love you!"

"I love you, too, Jamie."

This morning, as we wrapped up our morning conversation, Jamie added, "Go to Rose's... on me!" I couldn't help but smile all over as this statement was just so sweet. Rose's is about 345 miles away in Saratoga, California where Brian's family lives. Jamie has visited Saratoga (for Thanksgiving when we were all there together) but has not yet been to Santa Monica to see where we live. I think because she was in California she thinks she was where we live and often suggests activities in that area for us to do on weekends. This confusion, mixed with the fact that I don't think she knew what "on me" actually meant lead to the most adorable well-wishing. I knew what she was trying to say was, "Have fun! And think of me!"

So I will. And I always do.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

33.417°N, 116.483°W

The above coordinates mark the epicenter of most recent Los Angeles earthquake - it occured at 4:53pm, precisesly 27 minutes ago. My feelings about earthquakes have been a source of banter between me and my family, but all I can see is this: when the big one hits and I am armed with cases of Costco water bottles, small denomination bills for emergency get-out-of-town provisions (including a remarkable number of $10 quarter rolls) and a full tank of gas the joke will not be on me. So, there. :)

Monday, July 5, 2010

There's No Place Like (a Second) Home

One of our favorite wedding gifts we received (we didn't mean to play favorites, but get a load o' this) was a weekend getaway at our close family friends' - The Lovgrens - second home in Ashland, Oregon.

The Lovgren Home

The house is actually located about 20 minutes outside of Ashland, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF), in a town called Talent. Oregon is simply breathtaking this time of year and we couldn't have picked a better weekend to stage our cottage takeover. This year's 4th of July weekend marked the 75th Anniversary of OSF and we even attended the Saturday evening performance of Twelfth Night - the first play to be presented during the festival's inaugural weekend 75 years prior. The weather stayed in the mid 70's and dipped to the high 50's in the evenings giving us a perfect excuse to have that second (oh, who am I kidding, third and fourth...) glass of wine.

The back porch - where we spent most of our time.

The Lovgren's home is picturesque - it's a 3 bedroom, 2 bath wooden masterpiece overflowing with charm and character. I loved every detail of the house. The theme of the home, if I had to assign one, would probably be Enchanted Autumn Forest - filled with acorns, squirrel figurines, leaf and pine cone accented mirrors and art. From the handwritten labels on the baking ingredient filled mason jars to the upstair guest suite furnished with a desk/reading nook, movie watching den and magazine-cover-shoot-ready bathroom; I was in heaven.

The reading nook.

Under the sink guest goodies!

We invited our dear friends Alice and Dave to join us for the weekend - a decision that proved to be the best of the weekend! Dave and Brian had actually frequented OSF during the summers between '98-'02 and, Dave later admitted, had promised to one day take their future wives back to the place that had meant so much to them and had been such a special part of their friendship.

We all arrived late Friday evening - Alice from San Francisco, Brian and I from Santa Monica, and Dave from China. (He was there on business, but we thanked him tirelessly for his commitment to keeping the dream alive and making it back in time for the weekend they had set in motion a decade prior.) We rented a car and drove from Medford to Ashland (about 30 minutes) where we were greeted by the magic of the Lovgren home as well as some mood-setting music playing on an antique record player when we entered.

Brian in front of our Comfortably Greener, Q400 Horizon prop plane.

Saturday morning, we were early to rise as Dave had organized for us to attend the backstage tour of all three of the OSF stages. After learning about the history of the festival and seeing a set change, the wig shop and Green Room, we were off to lunch! Morning Glory was everything it promised - a local cafe specializing in all things breakfast and coffee. After stuffing ourselves with shrimp cakes, lemon poppyseed and ricotta french toast, biscuits and gravy, and southwestern hash, we decided a little window shopping was in order. Afterwards, we went back to the house to relax, swing, play horse shoes, nap (my personal favorite), and freshen up for the evening.

The Santa Monica Luskeys in Ashland, OR. the Elizabethan Theatre in Ashland, OR.

Saturday evening, we dined at Tabu - a tapas bar that was neither tapas, nor bar. The nachos, crab quesadilla, coconut shrimp and empanada tapas all came on enormous plates with portions large enough to feed a small family. We knew we were in for an adventure when our waitress gave us the hairy eyeball when we ordered more than 3 tapas and suggested we all make our drinks "doubles." We opted out of their lame-o dessert in order to indulge at MIX; a sweetshop specializing in salted caramel gelato. YUM. After an impressive rendition of Twelfth Night performed in the open-air Elizabethan Theatre, we headed back to the Lovgren cottage to hit the hay.

The team in front of MIX in downtown Ashland, OR.

Sunday morning we all slept until a record 10:30am. (This was a huge victory for the Santa Monica Luskeys, who, in our old age, have difficulty sleeping past 7:55am.) Being the 4th of July, we made coffee and enjoyed some of our freedoms on the back porch; freedom to assemble, freedom of speech and other various civil liberties we were sure to appreciate. After a quick run into Walmart (so American of us, I know) we caught the final performance of Cat On a Hot Tin Roof. A-MA-ZING: maybe the best performance(s) I have ever seen. Post-show it was time to get back to the house and get cookin'. And by cookin' I mean heat up the Velveta and RO*TEL tomatoes and get that queso a'flowin'! Dave christened the Lovgren's brand new grill with some delicious chicken and shrimp kabobs which we proceeded to dunk into the queso. Oops! :)


Sunday night was the best. We sat and talked for hours about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Dave and Alice were so wonderful to be with - I hope they were as serious as we were when we promised to make this an annual tradition. It's so nice to find another couple who you really enjoy the company of both members of the couple. How lucky we are that Dave and Brian have maintained such a special and close bond after all these years and that Alice and I seem to be long lost sisters.

Brian opening a wine bottle... :)

Playing Bananagrams - so much fun!

This weekend was a getaway I didn't realize I needed. A welcomed break from my ever planning brain and a time to relax and listen to the birds - literally. I knew I would enjoy my time in Ashland because of how special it was for Brian, but I had no idea the place it would quickly occupy in my heart and how returning would immediately be on my mind upon pulling out of the driveway.

So, as they say every year, "Next year in Ashland!"