Thursday, December 18, 2014

What to Wear: Jury Duty

'Tis the season...for criminal court! I was called in to jury duty last week and spent multiple days in the Hall of Justice coming this close to having to serve as a juror on an serious multi-week trial. So happy to be dismissed, especially since I didn't lie or pretend to act bizarre in an attempt to get off the case. I don't know why I was sent home, but I think it might have had to with being dressed up for court each day (like the weirdo I actually am in real life).

Here's what to wear to jury duty:
Skirt - I picked up a high-waisted a-line skirt similar to this on sale at Bloomingdales a few years ago - it even has pockets!
Sweater - Tucked in to the skirt: a camel sweater with zipper detailing at the neck from J.Crew.
Belt - Black and gold skinny belt.
Shoes - Black patent leather flats with a gold heel. Comfortable for walking the 1.5 miles to and from the courthouse.
Coat - My trusty camel coat from Zara might be having its last winter. Need to find a replacement!
Purse - A pretty red bag for the holidays.
Scarf - Oversized plaid wool scarf.
Earrings - Just because you're in court doesn't mean you can't wear festive snowflake-inspired earrings.
Bracelet - My favorite vintage buckle bracelet and an estate watch.

Monday, December 15, 2014

5 Places to Shop Local for Christmas in San Francisco

Rob and I have been sticking close to home for our holiday shopping this year. As much as I love the bustle of Union Square and the kittens in Macy's windows - these holiday crowds are a bit too much for even an urbanophile like me. Instead, we're rediscovering the adorable boutiques in Hayes Valley, Lower Haight and the Mission.  Plus, it feels nice to support our neighborhoods for the season. Here are a five shops for your last-minute gift giving:
Lucca Ravioli (Mission) - Bottles of unfiltered olive oil, squid ink pasta and gorgeous cheeses all make for lovely hostess gifts from this classic Italian deli. In business for nearly 100 years, it even offers parking in the back.

Xapno (Lower Haight) -
I've been going to this little floral shop for almost 10 years (back when it was called Zuzu's Petals). A small, but exceptionally curated collection of cards, jewelry, glassware, ceramics and other gifts.

Lavish (Hayes Valley) -
It's impossible to not find a gift here for even the hardest-to-shop-for woman on your list.  Adorable stationary, candles, jewelry, picture frames and sweets from local sources arranged in color-coordinated towers of sparkle.

Upper Playground DSF (Lower Haight) -
Outstanding urban artists go way beyond graffiti to create t-shirts, sweatshirts, stickers, hats and art prints at these (and a handful of similar other) shops on the north side of Fillmore Street in Lower Haight. A great place to find something unique and reflective of San Francisco for the fashionable younger men and teens on your list.

Gump's (Union Square) -
If you're downtown, stop in to this classic San Francisco department store for a dizzying array of ornaments, soaps, and pre-wrapped gifts. Since 1861, Gump's has defined the city's unique style of elegance with an asian flair. Locals head straight upstairs past the gold buddha for Japanese tea sets, crystal votive holders, serving dishes and cashmere throws.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Easy Holiday Party Activity: Deck Your Hairdo

At this year's brunch, I had a lot of extra flowers left over from making arrangements and set up a "Deck Your Hairdo" contest for our guests. A small table held all the flowers, scissors, bobby pins and a small mirror.  Everyone got into the spirit! Jordan's son helped to get guests to participate:
Jean decorated my hair with roses and eucalyptus.
And I hooked her up with a floral barrette.
Pretty floral crowns for all the girls in velvet and sparkly party dresses.
As the party was winding down, each guest was asked to tell the group about their hair and we gave out prizes for the best creations!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

5 Step Party: Christmas Brunch for 20 Guests

What could be more festive than a 17-pound roast ham? For the last nine years, Rob and I have hosted a Christmas brunch for our friends featuring a locally-cured delicious ham. The menu is so simple and so fun. It's one of my favorite parties of the year.

Roasted ham with spices, brown sugar and mustard
Savory bread pudding with Italian kale and shallots
Fresh fruit plate
Dried fruit and nuts
Two party butters: dill pepper and cinnamon orange
Truffle mustard
Coffee with eggnog
Pomegranate mimosas

Step 1: Shop
I pick up a local "deli" (aka: boneless) ham from Roberts Corned Meats here in San Francisco a few days in advance. The ham comes from across the bay at Oakland's Prime Smoked Meats and is a thing of majestic deliciousness.  Margaret came with me this year to the San Francisco Wholesale Flower Mart to buy wreaths and flowers. We also made a stop at Ikea for linens and other supplies. Bought bread, kale, cream, cheese, eggnog, champagne, fruit, butter and olives at the local Safeway the night before.
Step 2: Decorate
A brightly-lit Christmas tree would have been fine - but of course Margaret and I went nuts at the Flower Mart and ended up with decorations everywhere.
We made small arrangements with eucalyptus, berries, pine, garden roses and the fluffiest baby's breath I've ever seen.
Rearranged the furniture in the living room to open up space and add seating. Added a lovely wreath to the wall.
Rolled out a fresh Ikea rug in the living room and the house was ready to go.
Step 3: Morning-of Prep
Rob set an alarm for 4:30 am to put the ham in the oven - it has to cook for 6+ hours. When we all woke up at 8:00 the whole house smelled divine. He and Shane went to Acme Bread in the Ferry Building the morning to buy loaves of my favorite "pain epi" bread.
I put together the savory bread pudding to be ready to bake 30 minutes before the party, sliced fruit and put out olives.
Made pots of coffee in advance and set out a pretty station with cream, eggnog and sugar cubes. That pretty silver sugar cube tong is something I picked up in France last winter.
Step 4: Party!
Guests arrived at 11:00 am with adorably-dressed children in tow. Drinks were served and then the buffet opened up. This year's ham was especially good - I'm drooling just thinking about it.
With such a simple menu, I had plenty of time for mingling with guests and chatting. I just needed to put the second bread pudding in the oven and replenish the olives half-way through.

I'll tell you about the fun hair-decorating activity we had during the brunch in a separate post. So festive to celebrate with friends and family!
Step 5: Relax
The party wrapped up about 3:30 and it took a half hour to load the dishwasher and put away the food with the help of Shane and Rob. We had a break for leftovers and tea in the afternoon and then went out to dinner in Japantown that evening. With the house decorated and the fridge stocked with leftover ham - the holiday celebrations are just getting started!

Monday, December 08, 2014

Dinner Recipe: Crab and Fondue for the Night Before a Party

A big holiday party draws helpers and overnight visitors for the weekend. The result is that you'll need to throw a dinner party the night before the big party. So fun! The house is already decorated, you just need something festive...something delicious...something with only a few dishes...something everyone can chip in to prepare:
We were going to serve cheese fondue with trimmings, but local dungeness crab was on sale at the market. I picked up two cracked and cleaned crabs to add to the mix. For the fondue, we chopped up bread, broccoli, apples, pears and cornichons.
Stripped the table of the brunch linens and put out woven placemats. Melted salted butter for dipping the crab.
Voila! An easy and special menu for celebrating with visiting friends the night before our big annual brunch party.

Stay Tuned: Two Holiday Party Recaps

What a lovely, festive weekend! From a crab and fondue feast on Saturday to a big brunch with the best ham yet and lots of cute kids with flowers in their hair, I've got some really fun photos to share with you later this week!

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

How to Get a Christmas Tree in San Francisco

There are few Christmas traditions in San Francisco I like more than the process of picking out our tree. We've been lucky to have Jean, Trent and the baby with us for the last couple years. First step is to walk down to the nearest lot to our neighborhood - usually just a few blocks away.
Picking out the ideal tree starts with a quick conversation with the workers about which trees are the freshest and a bit of consultation with baby Ev.
We leave with a tree, still bundled up, straight from the last delivery. I was so pleased that the wonderful Delancey Street organization was back after a year's break.  They do incredible work with ex-convicts, drug addicts and homeless.
Rob carries the tree back home and uses whatever is his newest gadget to give the trunk a fresh cut.
Still bundled up, the tree is added to the stand and ready for a "big reveal." Will there be a wompus branch this year? A spider living inside? Snow?
A few snips and we shake out the loose pine needles and evaluate our pick. With Delancey, it always turns out to be a great tree!
Ev helped us test out the Christmas lights and replace burnt out bulbs.
Ready to decorate! Last year, a friend kindly offered to pack up our tree when we left on a last-minute trip to Hawaii - so it's been fun unpacking everything and adding all the new ornaments gathered on our travels this year.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Recipe: Hearty Lamb, Lentil and Split Pea Soup

After a long stretch of travel, an early Thanksgiving, entertaining an eight-year old for a week, more travel, a second Thanksgiving, more houseguests and decorating  for Christmas...Rob and I collapsed on the couch on Sunday night with apparently not a scrap to eat in the house for dinner.

I read somewhere that lentils are the place to start when you need a quick meal. So a cup of lentils and a cup of split peas went into a pot. Add to that a few scraps of high quality lamb frozen from the summer's Turkish dinner party and some fresh oregano. The result, a hearty and flavorful one-pot soup for a rainy winter night.

Lamb, Lentil and Split Pea Soup

  • 1 cup of dry lentils
  • 1 cup of dry split peas
  • 1/2 cup of high quality lamb scraps, trimmed lean and cut into small bits
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup of amber beer
  • 1 sprig fresh oregano
  • Hot paprika, salt, pepper
Combine everything in a heavy pot with lid. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover and simmer on low until the lentils are cooked through (about 45 minutes). If you'd like, use a submersible blender for a few whips to add texture and to blend in the cooked garlic. 

The resulting soup won't win any beauty contests. However, the peppery mix of lentils, lamb and oregano well makes up for the lack of visual appeal.