Thursday, March 05, 2015

Handpainted Olive Branch Save-the-Date Cards for Margaret's Wedding

My good friend Margaret is engaged to be married and the happy day is scheduled for this August! It's another very special wedding I get to help coordinate. The first project? Sending out save-the-date cards now that she had the date, venue and caterer set.
Margaret asked a friend to make a design with an olive branch illustration and had them printed at Kinkos on to watercolor postcards.
The morning after her enchanted under-the-sea birthday party, we made tea and cake for breakfast (leftover cake is the real breakfast of champions) and sat down to paint. Mixed up some pretty blues and greens using my Japanese watercolor paint set.
It only took about an hour for the three of us to paint the cards, with lots of chatting and goofing off.
Margaret added a personal note and a pretty stamp to each one before mailing them out to guests. A lovely handpainted way to kick off what is going to be a really great wedding!

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

What to Wear: Engagement Photos in Rome, Italy

Today's What to Wear request comes to us all the way from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Eleanor wrote in to ask:
I’m a California transplant living abroad. My fiancĂ© and I live in Ethiopia but are heading to Italy in a few weeks. We are planning on having engagement photos taken in Rome and I’m at a loss for what to wear. I really want to order something online to wear there as I won’t have much time to shop and have a hard time locating stuff I like in my size here. As for stores- my parents are meeting up with us in Rome (for their 40th wedding anniversary) and so I’ll just have them carry whatever (along with my wedding dress!). However, stores with generous return policies, namely Nordstrom, are easiest. 
I’m a size six, slightly busty, and have shorter legs and a longer torso. We’re planning an urban photo shoot- I’d like something that bridges the line between casual and dressy - he will probably wear jeans and some kind of button down shirt - but if you do have recommendations for what he should wear, that’d be great as well!
Rome has those beautiful shades of yellow and gray in the architecture, and teal blue water in all those fountains. Here's an outfit for Eleanor that is classic, not too matchy and will look right at home on the streets of Rome.

For her:
Shirt - Eleanor reports already having a vast collection of favorite chambray blouses. The classic cut and deep blue color will look so pretty in photos.
Skirt - A midi skirt in eye catching yellow with a full, but not too full cut from Nordstrom is a classic pairing with the chambray shirt and gives a somewhat-subtle nod to Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. Higher-waisted skirts help balance out a longer torso.
Sandals - It should be in the low 60's and warm enough for sandals. A pair of navy sandals from Nordstrom with only the smallest wedge heel to make them actually comfortable while running around all those fountains. Nordstrom has a bunch of similar sandal options in different heel heights and colors to choose from. If it is colder, switch to flats or booties.
Belt - A mint green belt for $24.
Scarf - A beautiful Ethiopian scarf - of which I'm sure Eleanor has many - with mint green details ties together the look. It will also be handy for sitting on carrara marble steps, around her hair while riding on vespas or will just look pretty in her hand.
Sunglasses - Buy an inexpensive pair of sunglasses off a street vendor in Rome.

For him:
Pants - A pair of basic navy chinos are just a small step up from jeans.
Sweater - A gray cardigan from Nordstrom is more casual than a blazer.
Shirt - Any blue shirt would do, but this shirt in mint ties in nicely with Eleanor's belt.
Shoes - A pair in a shade of natural "saddle" leather.

Monday, March 02, 2015

A Winter Weekend Adventure in Shasta, California

California is SO big that sometimes I forget about the areas to the furthest North and South of the state. Way up, almost at the Oregon border, is the 14,000 foot high Mount Shasta, surrounded by miles and miles of forest. Rob, Nicole and I drove up on Friday night for a weekend of skiing, hiking and lots of cute country children.
We stayed in a spacious family home in Mount Shasta that Nicole's friend Taryn (a local photographer) arranged for us. It looked straight out of those I Love Lucy episodes when they've moved to Connecticut - complete with braided rag rugs and framed cross-stitch.

On Saturday, we had breakfast at the Black Bear Diner before driving up to Bunny Flat for the first - and maybe last - glimpse of actual powder snow we'll have this season. (Apologies to those of you who have been inundated with snow this winter - basically, the entire US minus California - it has been so dry and sunny here that we were excited to see even a few inches.) 
The trail starts at almost 7,000 feet of elevation and then five adults, two kids and a dog all headed up to about 8,500 along Avalanche Gulch. The tiny kids with us were good troopers about being towed up behind their parents. They were so fast on the downhill!
I alternatively skied and tumbled my way down the mountain in the fresh snow on my skinny cross-country skis. Really fun despite the falls.
A lovely tailgate lunch waited for us back in the Bunny Flat parking lot.
The storm cleared enough for us to get a few glimpses of Mount Shasta from the base.

Such a fun day in the snow! After a quick break to return home and shower - we all met up again for dinner at the Wayside Grill in Mount Shasta. Definitely get the lobster bisque and a glass of a locally-brewed beer.
On Sunday, we woke up early for another adventure in the mountains with an adorable family. This time at Castle Crag State Park with our friends Rich, Molly and their three kids. It took about an hour to hike from the parking lot up to the base of the towering crags.
Brr, it was very cold when we started out. If you're going in the winter/spring - be sure to pack lots of warm layers. By the time we hiked down it had started to warm up a bit more.
We drove to the adorable town of Dunsmuir for lunch after the hike and stopped Dogwood Diner. This tiny cafe features gourmet food made with local, seasonal ingredients. I had a lovely pasta with butternut squash, pecorino, rainbow chard and olives. Dessert was even better - especially the warm cherry pie and the blackberry ice cream brownie sundae with fresh whipped cream.
The kids loved watching freight trains go by from inside the restaurant and out in the railyard across the street.
While you're there, stop in next door at Brown Trout Vintage. This boutique has cut-outs in the floor to show a stream running beneath and a fish pond.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

What to Wear: Guest at a San Francisco City Hall Wedding (while Nursing)

Your wedding season requests keep coming! Laura recently wrote in for help dressing for  a wedding at San Francisco's City Hall: 
I've been reading your blog forever and never had a thing to write in about until now!
I'm 34, have two kids (4 and a 7 month old nursing baby) and am going to be attending a family wedding in San Francisco at the end of March. Wedding is at City Hall, and then the reception/dinner is in Napa at a restaurant, so we'll all drive up there afterwards. We is me, husband and children. I need something to wear that is event and venue appropriate, that I can nurse in - so needs to be a top and pants or a skirt, and won't wrinkle horribly in the car.  
I'm tiny-ish but bigger on top at the moment because I'm nursing. And I would say my style is somewhere in between preppy and badass. I'm going to see a bunch of family I don't often see, so I want to look good and not like a frumpy mom of two. I don't really want to wear work clothes, because that won't be very festive, but I also don't want to buy any super fancy cocktail clothing I won't be able to get good cost per wear out of. 
Any suggestions? I'd be so excited if you did a What to Wear for me. I love your blog and always am excited to see it pop up in my feed!

Blouse  - I hate wearing silk because the fussy fabric instantly gets ruined the first time I even look at a potato chip. These chiffon blouses from H&M are so versatile - and infinitely machine-washable. I took one on our Turkey-Greece-Croatia trip and wore it constantly.  This version in sage green has a quick snap closure on the front.
Skirt - The zipper on this coral pencil skirt from J. Crew is a nice nod to Laura's badass style.  The fabric is a heavier bonded twill that will avoid wrinkling. I like wearing a pair of nude fishnet tights with this kind of skirt.
Coat - A light sage green coat feels so right for spring. This one is on super sale at Nordstrom Rack and here's another coat at a similar price from Asos. Either one would look lovely draped on your shoulders over the outfit at City Hall. You can never tell what the weather will be like in San Francisco in March.
Shoes - Gray suede kitten heels from Calvin Klein should be comfortable for chasing after kiddos.
Purse - A gray French Connection tote big enough for all the diapers and wipes you'll need on hand.
Earrings - Turquoise and coral drop earrings on sale for $63.
Sunglasses - A vintage-style pair from Forever 21.

All these pieces transition easily into a more casual work wardrobe. The orange skirt looks nice with white in the summer and gray in the winter. The coat would be so cute with white jeans and a navy sweater. Best of luck, Laura!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

EmilyStyle is Going to Spain!

It's early in the planning stages, but it looks like Rob and I will be in Europe for five weeks this summer! He has a business meeting in Barcelona in mid-May and another in Geneva in mid-June - so we're hoping to stay "on the continent" for the four weeks in between and maybe dash over to Morocco for a bit.

We'll be traveling EmilyStyle again - as we did in Turkey, Greece and Croatia last year - with small carryon bags, airbnb apartments, working remotely via wifi and staying at least a week in each city.

As always, I would love your recommendations on the best things to see and do in Spain, Morocco and Switzerland!  (Barcelona poster by the talented Peter Emmerich)

Monday, February 23, 2015

An Enchanted Under the Sea Birthday Dinner with Shrimp, Mussels and Salmon

A four-foot-tall pink jellyfish chandelier...three courses of delicious ridiculous plastic crab hat...nothing less would do for the birthday celebration of my great friend Margaret!  The night's menu included Spanish and Moroccan flavors - two of her favorite places to travel.
Enchantment Under the Sea Menu 
Castelvetrano olives
Black rice tabouli salad with cranberry bean hummus and grilled jumbo prawns
Mussels with chorizo, tomato and cranberry beans
Parchment baked salmon with herb red potatoes and asparagus
Flourless chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream
Step 1: Decorate
The enormous tissue paper jellyfish hanging from our crystal chandelier came together a few days before the party. Bold and goofy - it set the tone for everything else. The center of the table was a "coral reef" of tissue paper, ranunculus, Italian kale, rocks and urchin-like Japanese porcelain dishes. No candles because I was sure the whole tissue paper affair would go up in a blaze of glory at the first thought of fire.
Place cards in the shapes of fish and shells were made from bright watercolored paper.
With the table set and ready to go - it was time to start on the food!
Step 2: Shop
I did all the shopping the morning of the party at the neighborhood Safeway. At this point, I still only had a vague idea of what I wanted to cook: some kind of shrimp salad, mussels and maybe a big piece of fish? I had a pot of cranberry beans waiting in the fridge for a good idea.

The nice man at the fish counter helped me select 10 raw jumbo prawns, a 2 lb bag of mussels and a massive 3 lb filet of salmon. The Spanish- Moroccan theme started to come together in my imagination.  I also picked up cilantro, parsley, mint, tomatoes, asparagus, red potatoes, cucumbers, chorizo, tahini, baguettes. And had meyer lemons, onions, garlic, olive oil and white wine at home. Total cost came out to less than $100 in supplies for nine guests.
Step 3: Prep
This was entirely a make-ahead menu - which makes a party so much more fun to host and attend.

For the salads, I made a batch of hummus with the cranberry beans and spooned a bit into the bottom of small glasses. On top of that: a version of tabouli salad with black rice instead of bulgar wheat and a few pieces of cucumber. I shelled the prawns and marinated them in olive oil, onion, garlic, hot paprika, salt, pepper and lemon juice before a quick grill. The salad course was done and into the fridge!
Next, the chorizo, tomato, onion, wine and cranberry bean broth for the mussels. I first tried this mussel recipe in July and it is one of my all-time favorites. That simmered while I cut up red potatoes and gave them a quick boil on the stove. Cleaned the asparagus and tossed it in a pan for later. Finally, that massive salmon filet got lightly seasoned with wine, lemon and herbs and folded up into a pretty parchment envelope for cooking later.
I used the rest of the fresh herbs to make a sort of chimichurri with Moroccan preserved lemons. Tossed that on the boiled and drained potatoes and put them in a baking pan for later too. By 2:00 - all the cooking was done and out of town visitors had arrived for the evening's party.

Step 4: Get in Costume
"Crab hat" has a long and storied history in our house - and usually only makes an appearance at Christmas - but I couldn't resist. Shane wore his best Hawaiian shirt, Rob dressed as a fisherman. Sailor hats and nautical stripes all around.
Kevin and Greg even brought their own fish to the party. With everyone here and a first round of drinks distributed - it was time to sit down to eat.
Step 5: Party!
Getting the timing right with all these courses is the real trick - but thankfully seafood cooks so quickly. The oven should be preheated to 400 before the dinner starts. Set out the cold tabouli and shrimp salads on the table and fire up the chorizo broth on the stove. Put the salmon in to bake for 20 minutes along with the potatoes and a sliced baguette and call everyone to the table.
The salad course goes fast. Toss the mussels in the - now boiling - broth when you're done eating and put a lid on. By the time the salad plates are cleared - the mussels will be cooked and the bread will be toasty warm. Boil kettle of water for the asparagus before sitting down to eat the delicious mussels with chorizo!
When everyone is finished with the mussels, the fish should be done baking (I started mine after the salad - which slowed us down a bit). Pour the boiling water over the asparagus to cook it lightly. Remove the fish from the parchment and give it a few minutes under the broiler if needed. Serve up all three on a massive platter to be carved at the table.
Finally, dessert - which I always try to have someone else bring to a dinner party. Jackie made a delicious flourless chocolate cake and served it with vanilla ice cream. Amazingly...we weren't totally bursting at the seams by this point. For all the excesses of this menu - it's actually quite healthy. No cheese or cream at all. Only the tiniest bit of butter on the salmon. Practically health food ;)

The conversation continued long into the night. I caught Jackie toasting the jellyfish on her way to join the group in the living room for the rest of the celebration. Happy birthday Margaret!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

What to Wear: Newsies

Newsies opened last night with SHN at the Orpheum in San Francisco! Our awesome friends Greg and Kevin gave us tickets to come along with them as a belated birthday present.  In case your memory of the 1992 movie starring Christian Bale is rusty - the show is about a bunch of extremely energetic starving street urchins who unionize against the wealthy tyrants of the newspaper industry. Similar to You've Got Mail (but with a fair bit more tap dancing) which came out just a few years later and railed against the wealthy tyrants of the bookstore industry...oh, how times have changed!
We did our best to dress in turn-of-the-century street urchin chic! The gentlemen rocked plaid, wool and the newsboy caps. I wore a bouclé tweed dress with flared pockets - which is cute in person but seems to photograph more like a burlap sack.
Three hours of excellent singing with non-stop gymnastics and leaps. Watching it was the mood-raising equivalent of doing Zumba while blasted on amphetamines. We all walked home with the chorus to "I'm the King of New York" stuck in our heads (and still stuck there today).  There will be eight shows a week through March 15th in San Francisco if you want to get in on the tweed action yourself!