Friday, August 01, 2014

Shopping for Estate Jewelry in Pacific Grove

No trip to Pacific Grove would be complete without going to the historic downtown to shop for estate jewelry! Beach towns always seem to have great finds, must be something about a retiree population trading in their old gems for comfy chinos. Even compared to other beach towns, I've found Pacific Grove to have some of the best and most affordable antique and vintage jewelry for sale. Jean and I picked up iced coffees one afternoon on our trip to browse through the various antique stores.
Our best finds were at a shop called "A Niche in Tyme" that had a massive collection. Most of the display space was dedicated to cheapy silver stone and charm pieces for $5-$20 and old coins, but hidden among those were some great antique items.
Jean picked up a pair of platinum diamond stud earrings for $90. I brought home a Victorian buckle bracelet in rose gold for $95. For years, I'd been eyeing similar pieces for five times the price in San Francisco estate jewelry stores.
Here's the buckle bracelet in action along with a friendship bracelet I made and the evil eye bracelet I bought in Greece.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Beach House Activity: Finger Painting

We had two toddlers and a four year old with us at the beach house last week. They loved playing in the sand, swimming and going to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. In the evenings, I put together a couple craft projects for the kiddos to do before dinner. First up: beach-themed finger painting.
In my imagination it was to be an orderly finger painting in blues and greens that we could then top with construction paper shells and starfish.. Voila: pinterest-ready and theme-appropriate craft!
Of course, the reality was a bit more chaotic. Little Ev went with a Picasso-style, full-body paint technique. Thankfully, the paint is super washable.
The final results were so lovely. Ev's included footprints and handprints in a sort-of fish shape.
My niece went with a more tropical color scheme and used the fish to soak up extra paint. Also very pretty!
So, maybe not exactly what I had planned...but even better! We taped the paintings up in the beach house window to enjoy over the next few days.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Weekly Dinner Party: Beach House Style

This week's dinner party is a bit different than our standard affair. With the whole family in Pacific Grove at the beach, I took on making a spread of cold salads for dinner. There's a lot of tradition here: we used to visit a gourmet deli called Tutti's in Montecito and each pick out a salad to bring home for a big buffet.

  • Black olive pesto pasta salad
  • Tabouli salad
  • Cold cheese and carved ham
  • Classic potato salad
  • Green salad with almonds and green beans
  • Warm cheese herb rolls with butter and soft cheese
I made all three salads the Friday before we left for the beach. The potato salad is your standard potato, celery, onion affair. 
The black olive pesto is a Tutti's recipe I've been trying to recreate for years. This time, I made the pesto with chopped black olives, pumpkin seeds, red chili flakes, garlic, black pepper, olive oil and parmesan cheese. The chili flakes are a key ingredient to keep it from being bland. 
Finally, a tabouli salad I made for the first time. That lemon dressing combined with fresh herbs is so delicious. 
The final spread had a little something for everyone. 
Perfect no-prep meal for 10 adults and 3 little ones after a long day at the beach. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Feast of Lanterns in Pacific Grove, CA

By chance, we planned our family weekend in Pacific Grove on the day of the annual Feast of Lanterns. I hadn't known anything about this celebration before we arrived - it's exactly the kind of thing I like. Started in 1905, the city celebrates a Chinese legend each summer with a boat parade, performance and fireworks show.
We saw people carrying lanterns on the path down to the beach. Most of the beach houses here were decorated with bright paper lanterns and a few were having parties.
A very festive sight along the coast.
Above Lover's Point beach, they had stands selling different kinds of asian food and battery powered lanterns shaped like fish. 
A floating dragon with red eyes and nostrils that breathed smoke swam around the bay as 7,000 people watched a pageant with Japanese drumming and belly dancing on the pier.
At 9pm, the pageant concluded with a big fireworks show. It went on for 45 minutes as - what looked like a crew of volunteers - lit one firework at a time with a flare from the shore.
So much fun!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Welcome to Pacific Grove!

Pacific Grove sits at the furthest point of a peninsula beyond Monterey and Pebble Beach. Its famously-rocky coast is packed full of kelp, otters, seals, birds and whales and the town has an adorable victorian charm, with a few small hotels and a municipal golf course. It is the ideal setting for a murder mystery book series or for our family weekend at the beach.
80% of the time, the weather is a cool gray overcast, but once in a while you can catch a bright warm day and head to Lover's Point beach.
When we first arrived at the beach, it was raining, but quickly the last of the overcast burned off and the hot sun came out. Kayakers, scuba divers and a water polo match set up in the water.
Behind the beach is a tiny swimming pool built in the 1930's, a sand volleyball court and a snack stand - where we had lunch of veggie burgers, calamari and french fries. After lunch, I finally worked up the courage to jump off the pier, something I've wanted to do for years. We walked over...
...and jumped into the deep, clear water.
It was definitely cold, but refreshing! The locals are right that jumping in is better than wading.
That water!

Friday, July 25, 2014

5 Step Dinner Party: Rustic Italian Summer

Thanks to reader Cari's suggestion, I tackled an entirely new theme for this week's party: rustic Italian. I don't know if my menu meets authenticity standards; it's mostly the rustic Italian of my imagination. I was excited to try two things I'd never cooked before: polenta and whole trout.

  • Appetizer of seeded bread and dipping olive oil topped with truffle salt
  • Tuscan kale with cannellini beans, lemon, garlic
  • Grilled basil polenta
  • Tomato and mozzarella salad with kale pesto
  • Baked trout in paper with lemon, garlic and fennel
  • Dessert of three kinds of gelato
Step 1: Shop
I didn't need to buy much for this dinner. I picked up a few more tomatoes and lemons from farmer's market ($2). At the grocery store, I bought two whole trout ($15), along bag of pre-cut Tuscan kale,  a tube of polenta and a fennel bulb ($10). Parsley, mozzarella, pesto, olive oil, cannellini beans, truffle salt and garlic were already on hand.

Step 2: Set the Table
I used a yellow linen tablecloth from Ikea that rustically defies ironing as the base. Then, made a runner from straw placemats. The pretty napkins were a project from a Ladies Activity Club party a few years ago. Quickly painted a few yellow tomatoes on placecards to boost the theme.
Instead of flowers I put basil, parsley and fennel into a mix of vases and jars for the centerpiece. I put out candles, but it ended up being too hot for them at dinner.
Step 3: Prep
Since this menu was so easy, there wasn't much to prepare the night before. I chopped the lemon, fennel, parsley and garlic for the baked trout recipe in advance.
Step 4: Last Minute Prep
I bought a seeded baguette on the way home from working and started to prep the rest of the dinner. I've been getting amazing tomatoes at Farmer's market and they're my secret weapon for impressing guests. I leave them on the sunny counter of our kitchen where they get even more ripe and delicious throughout the week.
I've never cooked whole trout before and was a bit nervous about stuffing them.
Tied up the paper parcel with a bow and it was ready for the oven.
Finally, I cut up some bread and put out a dish of olive oil topped with a bit of truffle salt. Turned on an Italian playlist on Spotify and had an hour to relax before the party.
Step 5: Party
Rebecca and Derek arrived at 7:00 with their adorable baby, Emerson. I put the fish in the 350 degree oven to bake for 20 minutes and sat down to enjoy the bread together.  5 minutes before dinner, I cooked the polenta on a grill pan, sauteed the kale with lemon juice, garlic, salt and the beans, and topped the tomato salad with pesto and a sprinkling of sea salt. Time to eat!
To my surprise, the trout turned out perfectly! The recipe could have used a tiny bit more seasoning but the fish was delicious.
The kale was a last minute addition to the menu and SO good. I'd make than anytime for a quick lunch.
I think the baby liked it, too!
For dessert, Rebecca brought gelato from Holy Gelato here in the city. Strawberry in one pint and a mix of hazelnut and chocolate in the other.
Next week, I'm cooking at the beach. But what should we make for the week after? Tacos and hawaiian are two recommendations from readers already.  You can follow-along with the planning on Pinterest here

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What to Wear: Summer Errands in San Francisco

Busy, busy getting ready for tomorrow's dinner party and the beach weekend ahead. While I work to prepare a rustic Italian meal, here's a look at a quick running-around-town outfit. Layers are a must in our breezy San Francisco summers:
Sunglasses - I love buying men's sunglasses. Usually cheaper and a bit more stylish. I found these at H&M in Chicago.
Striped Shirt - Does H&M still sell these in ever color imaginable? I have two with navy stripes like this and one with orange for baseball games.
Cardigan - I steal this lightweight sweater from Rob's closet - a real "boyfriend" cardigan! Similar to this from Old Navy.
Jeans - Levi's 524 jeans are the perfect cut in-between skinny and straight. Only $40 and they wear out well.
Boots - I got my natural leather booties with a stacked wood heel on sale from Anthropologie a few years ago. The trick to wearing with jeans is to roll up your cuffs to right above the boot - barista-style.
Purse - My trusty Coach carryall bag that somehow fits my laptop, charger, camera and phone.