How to Throw a Pickling Party


The lovely Sarah of Ardent Magazine reached out to me a couple months ago about writing some stories for the magazine, and I of course said an honored yes. Here’s the first one–a watercolored poster of how to throw a pickling party, inspired by my birthday pickling party not too long ago. 

How to Throw a Pickling Party - irenekly

How to Throw a Pickling Party - irenekly

Snap up the last of that glorious summer abundance and do some quick pickling! Make sure tasty beer and a most excellent playlist is involved. And friends! The most important part of any party. Read the detailed how-to here

Still Here


Just thinking for a bit. A whole long bit, about who, why, what, how a lot of things. But I am inspired and convicted. I feel that in-between, of wanting to keep going forward but needing to also look back. Life is full, and I’m trying to figure out how blogging comes into play in all the fullness. 


Thanks for sticking with me!

Little Families

Oh, the joys of little families! I had the privilege of photographing some really sweet moments of these two families this past summer and wanted to share some of my favorite photos.

Ali, Pete, and Cormac are a really good-lookin’ family, which made my job easy peasy. We shot this session at the SF Conservatory of Flowers and were gifted with nice overcast skies, making good lighting for portraits. Also, I seriously can’t get over Cormac. All his adorable pudge and hilarious expressions!



And next, the Lums! Brian and Irene are expecting their first baby, and have been endearingly calling him Baby Lummy (in her tummy). We traversed all over Oakland for their shoot and had a jolly time together. Irene was a trooper–it was 80 degrees out and we did quite a bit of walking! I’ll be doing another session with them when the baby is born and I am so excited. Brian and Irene will be such great parents!



Hope you enjoy!

Hey There, Summer

Summer is here and it is great

I know we’re well into summer, but it’s not too late to revel in it, right? Noticed my Instagram‘s had some unintentional patterns going on (lots of leafy greens and bright whites), so thought I’d attempt a quick poster-ish thing. I’m headed off to Kauai this Thursday and am so excited to roll around in warm sand and become bffls with sea turtles. More summery posts to come!

PS. One of those photos up there is a finalist in this Need Supply contest. If you feel inclined to vote for some stairs + legs, I would not mind at all.

The Gift That’s Really Giving | Roasted Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream

An ice cream machine. So wonderful.

Some terrific friends birthday gifted me one and it’s been too much fun making ice cream at a slightly crazed rate. There are just too many recipes to try! And many eager ice cream tasters. Be warned that you may be seeing many more ice cream related blog posts in the future.

Roasted Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream Roasted Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream

The ice cream pictured here was actually my second baby (yeah. All of them are my babies). The first was this magnificent honey thyme blackberry goat cheese ice cream, recipe courtesy of the genius that is Reclaiming Provincial. It was so, so good and flavorful, save my rookie mistake of not straining out the blackberry seeds.

This strawberry balsamic beauty really took the prize for its texture: superbly creamy, perfect for balancing out the acidity of the strawberries and balsamic. Roasting the strawberries made these summer treasures only sweeter and richer, and I was tempted to shake in some pepper in true Italian fashion but decided against it in the end.

Roasted Strawberry and Balsamic Ice Cream 
I combined the custard base from Reclaiming Provincial with a hybrid of multiple roasted strawberry balsamic vinegar recipes from a motley of sources.  

2 cups strawberries
2 tablespoons good balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
4 egg yolks

Toss strawberries, balsamic vinegar, and sugar together in a bowl and let them happily macerate for 20 minutes. Pour onto baking sheet covered in parchment paper and roast at 425F until they start carmelizing, 10-15 minutes. Make sure to stir in between so they roast evenly. Using an immersion blender, puree strawberry balsamic mixture.

Combine milk and heavy cream in a saucepan and bring to boil. Remove from heat.

Whisk egg yolks together. Temper by whisking in the milk + cream mixture a spoonful at a time until you’ve added about a cup of the cream. Pour in egg mixture back into the pan slowly and cook over low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Stir in strawberry puree and refrigerate mixture until chilled.

Then, do as your ice cream machine says and you should be good to go! To avoid that icicle-y texture unfortunately typical to homemade ice cream, I freeze my ice cream mixture once churned in the frozen thingie that the machine comes with. A faster freeze = less ice particles. Also, sealing everything air tight is very important!


L’espirit de la Mer and Subsequently, Some Olive Oil Cake

Crickets were making quite the ruckus on the blog frontier, but I’m back! May truly was one of those crazy months; it could very well be described as fantastically frenzied. I entered, somewhat clumsily, into my mid-early-twenties, threw a successful pickling party (more on both those things later), and traveled to NYC to visit my dearest friend Diane. It was a lot of nonstop everything, but hey, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Kinfolk’s L’espirit de la Mer dinner in Brooklyn happened to land right in the middle of my NYC trip, and when I saw that it was to be hosted by Karen from Sunday Suppers  my decision to attend was pretty much made. I’ve been an ardent fan of her vision for inspiring community through shared food for a long time, so I thoroughly enjoyed her beautiful space, carefully thought out menu, and our short but lovely conversation together!

Kinfolk - Sunday Suppers
We had a mediterranean-inspired dinner that was a refreshingly simple tribute to the sea. The beet and herbed yogurt purée stole my heart, the striped bass was gloriously fresh, and the olive oil cakes with rose cream demanded to make a reappearance in my own kitchen.

Kinfolk - Sunday Suppers   Sunday Suppers - Kinfolk dinner

Kinfolk Dinners - Sunday Suppers

Talk about gorgeous! I loved watching the warm light slowly trickle out throughout the night as the bellies got fuller and the words more lingering.

Sunday Suppers - Kinfolk dinner
The best part of everything was sharing it with my one and only frangipane, Diane. She’s such a beaut! How I miss her so already!

So remember how the olive oil cakes were demanding? Here they are, happily gracing my marble slab. Seriously so delicious – the salty pistachios complement the sweetness of the rose and cake super well.

Olive Oil Cake with Rose Frosting and Salted Pistachios    Olive Oil Cake with Rose Frosting and Salted Pistachios

Olive Oil Cake with Rose Icing and Salted Pistachios

Karen made these with freshly whipped cream scented with rose, but I only had powdered sugar on hand and thus this icing was born. Happy serendipity, cause I like the way they look! Kinda like they’re dressed for a party. 

For the cake –

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup mild-flavored olive oil

Preheat oven to 325F. Oil mini-bundt pan (make sure to get all the little cracks!). Whisk first 5 ingredients in large bowl and the rest in another. Gradually whisk the wet into the dry. Scoop batter until it barely comes up to the where the grooves of the bundt ends.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until tester comes out clean. Let completely cool.

For the icing –

1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tsbp warm water
1 tsp rose extract
crushed salted pistachios

Mix powdered sugar with water one tablespoon at a time. Add the extract at the end. Ice each cake and sprinkle with pistachios.

More, peas!

Irenekly - Peas on Toast

Peas! So delicious. My New Roots told me that peas are chock full of vitamins and minerals, which is really great because I secretly always liked them but avoided buying them cause I believed otherwise. Add that to the fact that I’m a big fan of open-face anything, and this simple dinner was born. Let’s call it… Peas on Toast with Other Good Stuff.

General how-to:

Semi-mash peas with a squeeze of lemon juice, pinch of salt, and pepper. Start soft-boiling an egg (6 minutes tops at a low boil). Take the ricotta and add good olive oil, salt, pepper, and caramelized shallots. Spread ricotta on nice toasty bread, top with some peas, prosciutto, greens, and egg.

I foresee this dish happening in many different variations for dinners to come! Let’s never stop, peas.

Flower Festooning

Irenekly - Flower Festooning

Add flowers to any equation and I am a happy camper. We had way too much fun figuring out this festoon business from one of our new books, Decorate with Flowers, and also had some real struggles with Vine-making. Ex: Clogs are really loud and should be taken off when making a stop motion video. But everything was still so much fun to be a part of, and especially photograph!

Irenekly - Flower Festooning 2

Here’s Guinevere masterfully tying on a dusty miller to some twine. Also, those are excerpts from Pride & Prejudice pasted onto hang tags. Literature and beauty–we like those two things.

Check out the rest on Chronicle Books’ fabulouso blog!

Reads, Lately | 01

This post is about a month late, but better now than never! It’s intimidating, attempting to write a post that looks something like a book review. The immediate expectation created when expressing opinions on literature kept me hemming and hawing on giving 4 out of 5 stars to this or that, or on extending furrowed brows of critique to the internets. But I’ve decided to soften the blow by combining my thoughts with a small vignette of where I was when reading the book, so hopefully creating a more experiential review of sorts. Also, working at a book publisher definitely helps in making my love for all things bookish extra public and wordy.

I should also mention that everything I seem to be reading these days is by female authors! Not too surprising, but still delightful. I’m enjoying the dive and subsequent swimming into the voices of these fabulous women and learning more about my own voice in the meantime.

Irenekly - Goldfinch
The Goldfinch, by Donna Tart.

The where: 2014 had just begun, everyone and everywhere was telling me that this was the book to read. Because of how hefty it is (784 pages!), I only read it in the comfort of home and as this picture connotes, had tons of distractions keeping me from finishing it more quickly.

The what: continuing from that last thought – I was surprised that I wasn’t more drawn to the main character or even the story. Perhaps the expectations were too high? The sheer length was daunting, considering I wasn’t loving it from the start. But gripping at parts it was, as were the masterful character portraits. Overall, I am glad to have read it but won’t be putting it on my favorites of the year list.

Irenekly - My Life in Middlemarch

My Life in Middlemarch, by Rebecca Mead

The where: after feasting my eyes upon the gorgeous cover for too long, I finally had the chance to crack this book open whilst home sick and stuffing myself with rice porridge. (Put a coddled quail egg in that porridge and I guarantee an expedited recovery!) I did wish my surroundings were a bit more provincial or pastoral, however comfy my futon + sweatpant combo may be.

The what: I’m actually still in the middle of Middlemarch, though it’s past March–sorry, terrible pun–and am seriously contemplating bookmarking my page until I actually read George Eliot’s Middlemarch. I know, it’s embarrassing and shocking. I haven’t read one of the greatest novels written for grown-ups, as touted by Mrs. Woolf, and I call myself an English major. But books on how books change you are so compelling! And Rebecca Mead’s lovely writing! I couldn’t help but start reading. Anyway, what I’ve read so far is excellent and I can’t wait to resume.

Irenekly - Mr. Fox

Mr. Fox, by Helen Oyeyemi

The where: now here was a book I easily brought along to wherever! The airport, the train, the cafe–I loved finishing each chapter in a different surrounding.

The what: ooh, I really enjoyed this one. Helen Oyeyemi is an author to watch/read! Her clever and violently vivid prose successfully paints a range of inter-connected stories all depicting the complexity, danger, and beauty of love. So satisfying, that feeling of being pulled in many small directions to ultimately be led to one big destination. I’m also surprised at how much I ended up liking Daphne Fox!

If you are looking for a new book to read, I hope this small roundup proves somewhat helpful! I’d also love to hear your thoughts if you’ve already read any of these books.

Next up, books by more powerhouse ladies: Maira Kalman, Flannery O’Connor, and either Margaret Atwood or Zadie Smith. Let’s see how long I can keep this homage to women authors going.

On Gifts

It’s no secret: I pride myself on being a terrific gift-giver. Now whether that is actually true, or whether the recipients of my gifts are just stupendously generous in flattering my ego, who knows! Either way, gift-giving and receiving as one of my biggest love languages can get quite tricky.

Irenekly - On Gifts

Take this vase for example. Gifted to my momma for her 50th birthday, I was confident she would totally love it. She loves flowers, loves pretty things, and loves me – there was no room for failure. But that last bit, the loving me part, is what makes my gifts to her the most precious. More than the fact that she now had a hand-crafted Heath ceramics vase, she was ecstatic to receive this gift and every single one of my gifts to her because they were an extension of myself. This open-arms reception is something I am just barely beginning to understand as I realize the skewed ways in which I receive gifts from others.

Without going into the nitty gritty, a certain gentleman made an extravagant gesture to celebrate our two years of dating, and it was so difficult for me to fully receive it. Here he was, with an extremely thoughtful and sweet gift, and I could only say, “Oh dear me no, it’s too much!” In a subtle but real way, my inability to receive at that point became an inability to receive him – which is the last thing I intended, but sadly inflicted. Thankfully, Garrett keeps his heart and ears open, even when my flaws rear their ugly heads.

Turning gift-giving and receiving into celebrating me, twice over, rather than being able to celebrate the other and receiving the other’s love is so terrible! Though stated to be a love language, it’s not impervious to perilous selfishness that quickly shades it to become something other than love. Oh, to learn from more selfless givers and receivers like my momma (and Garrett, and wait, all my inspirational beloveds), and be willing to receive graciously and freely outside my own agenda! Conclusion: love the gift because of the giver.