Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Maple seed necklace

Do you remember watching maple seeds flutter down to the ground as a kid? For some reason, watching these seeds fall is one my most vivid memories of being a kid in Davis during late summer. These seeds are so aerodynamic that they can be used to study physics and calculus.

Thanks to E. Amey and Calliope, you can also use the design of these seeds to look fabulous. Calliope is selling a silver necklace with a maple seed design for $130. It's a nice balance of unique design and delicate silver work. I also like the sea crescent ring by this designer.

Things I love today: Brie

When you are having a bad day, you sometimes just need to spoil yourself in order to break out of the funk. After missing the bus and breaking my sunglasses this morning, the rest of my day has been rather sour.

Chocolates and lattes would be nice, but for me it's all about the cheese. For lunch, I had a huge baguette and brie sandwhich from a French restaurant down the street. Carbalicious! I'm feeling better already.

Domino Magazine

I can't be the only one who feels this way...I am a Domino Magazine subscriber and, although I like this mag's design ideas and tips, I am starting to hate it.

You see, Domino loves to feature the same breed of wealthy and fabulous young women in each issue. 27 year old interior designers, business owners, socialites and VP's. They each have their own remodeled huge house or deluxe apartment and they all have dogs and big yards. For example, their recent profile of a carpet heiresses with a two bedroom apartment in Manhattan with big closets full of designer purses. And it's not like Vogue, that is admitedly unrealistic. Domino touts itself as completely reasonable!

For a city girl who rents, has no yard, no dogs, no self-made millions and takes the bus to work, these profiles can be quite depressing. It makes you think that if you were just more motivated, you too could have a three bedroom apartment decorated by Jonathan Adler, a lot of modern art and two pugs . I think the best solution is to just stop reading Domino Magazine!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Recipe: My favorite cobb salad

One of my most frequent cravings is for a cobb salad. It's the thing I always order on a menu in a strange restaurant! Mmm. I could go for a cobb salad and an iced tea right now!

For dinner this weekend, I made a huge cobb salad following my "secret recipe." I'm not sure if it technically counts as a cobb since it doesn't include egg, tomato or french dressing, but here it is:

1 bag or 1 head of lettuce (preferable mixed greens)
1 avocado
1/2 can of black olives
5 pieces of turkey bacon
1/2 cup of crumbled gorgonzola
3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 teaspoons of onion salt

Microwave the turkey bacon for 4 minutes covered with a paper towel. Once the bacon cools, break it into "bits." Cube the avocado and roughly chop the olives. Toss the greens with olive oil, onion salt and vinegar. Layer the avocado, olives, turkey bacon and gorgonzola on top. Toss the salad together right before serving.

I like the Louis Rich brand of turkey bacon the best. Oddly, you can buy it on Amazon. This salad is also really great with chicken if you have some left over. I find that this recipe is much better tasting with a vinaigrette than with a creamy dressing, but feel free to experiment if you're not a fan of balsamic.

PS: Did you know that the cobb salad was invented by Bob Cobb, the owner of the Brown Derby in LA? Poor guy, he should have gone by "Robert" instead!

Vote for Mojito

My friend Nicole has recently entered her dog in the Old Navy mascot contest. Almost 120,000 dogs are entered in this contest already. Mojito should have a good chance at winning. He is the cutest long-haired chihuhua I know! Here's a link to his Old Navy profile. Go Mojito!

Things I love today: Summer clothes

Bliss is spending the weekend in a bikini, sweater and pair of jeans! I bought this featherweight cotton sweater in honeydew from J. Crew on Saturday and wore in Sausalito on Monday (remember your student ID for a discount at J. Crew). Paired with a bright bikini, a white tank, comfy old jeans, big sunglasses and flip flops, this was a perfect outfit. Even my crazy, salty red hair was a great accessory. The lovely weather is supposed to continue all week. Enjoy!

Monday, May 29, 2006

Weekend round-up: Memorable memorial day

I didn't think this city could be more fun that Bay to Breakers last weekend. Boy, was I wrong! Memorial Day weekend was by far the best weekend we've had so far!

Saturday morning, Jean and I went on a shopping extravaganza downtown. Zara, Macy's, Club Monaco, Nordstrom and lunch at Boudin before heading over to Gumps. I seriously love this store! A nice gentleman in the silver department helped me pick out a perfect wedding present. I am an official patron of the Gump's silver wing! As Jean said, I can die happy now!

On Saturday night, Rob and I went to the free simulcast of Madama Butterfly in the Civic Center. The plaza looked beautiful with the capital dome lit up and the trees decorated with red Japanese lanterns. We enjoyed a picnic dinner under the stars and bundled up in sleeping bags and heavy coats. So freezing, so romantic! The opera was magnificent, yet another must-see!

Sunday morning, we headed down to the Mission to watch the Carnival parade. It was so colorful with troops of Peruvians, Colombians, Brazilian, Bolivians, Mexicans, Asians and local schools drumming and dancing. Costumes ranged from the traditional to the risque! During the parade we were interviewed by KTVU, but I didn't see if we made it on the evening news. We spent the rest of the day relaxing at home and cooking a delicious dinner.

Rob treated me to breakfast in bed on Monday morning before heading out to Sausalito on his bike. Our friend Matt, came to pick me up an hour later and we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge to meet him. Altogether we rented two kayaks and paddled around sunny Sausalito for an hour. Once we were done, it was back to the city for fish tacos from Nick's and beer on the roof of Matt's apartment building in Russian Hill. Check out the view! Can you imagine a better place to spend a warm Monday afternoon?

What an amazing weekend! I hope your Memorial Day was as fun and relaxing as mine!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Things I love today: Victorian brooch

Isn't this pin just lovely? It's about an inch wide and on sale for $400 from FayCullen.com According to the site, it was "made in England circa 1880-1890."

I know, brooches are technically so very "fall 2004." But how can something so perfect be out of fashion. I love the idea of this broach on a white summer dress for an evening party, maybe on the sash. A dress like this or this. It could add just a tiny bit of mystery to a super feminine outfit. Combined with a little ruffle, it would be very nouveau-Victorian.

Urban girl almanac

The windy weather in San Francisco this week has kicked up a big allergy storm. Along with sneezing, I've also been rocking some new spring outfits and having a lot of fun. Here are some of the lessons I learned this week:
  • It takes a few days to recover from Bay to Breakers.
  • Vintage style pumps with a wide heel are really comfortable for 10 hours...and not a minute more.
  • Dinner at Jean and Trent's house are always delicious but usually incorporate more vegetables than can be humanly consumed.
  • Ruffled blouses with cap sleeves are perfect for skinny-minnies.
  • Putting fresh sheets on the bed always makes me sleep better.
  • Lost is such a good show! I can't wait for next season.
  • Straightening your hair is worth the extra effort once in a while.
  • Craigslist.com is a really fast place to sell a bike.
  • Kickball is so much more fun when your team wins 11 to 6.
  • Parting your hair differently than normal can result in a painful "hair-ache."
  • Baking a batch of cookies is very relaxing and makes the apartment smell nice.
  • Belts! My new accessory obsession.
I've got a busy weekend ahead. Tonight is rock climbing after work and a trip to my favorite Thai restaurant. Tomorrow I'm going shopping with Jean and to the free opera on Saturday. Sunday is carnival and the rest of the weekend is hopefully devoted to rest. Have a great weekend!

To Do: Free opera on Saturday

The San Francisco Opera is hosting a free simulacast of Madame Butterfly on Saturday night. It's opening night for their summer season. It's not as fun as getting dressed up for the real opening night, but it is certainly much cheaper. There is something very "bohemian" about watching from outside the opera house! Bring a low chair, a bottle of wine and a warm coat!

Update: Is the Civic Center not your scene? You can also check out a free selection of opera at Yerba Buena Park on Sunday at 2:00.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Sale Alert: PB Teen

You've got to love Pottery Barn Teen. It's like the perfect offspring of Pottery Barn and Urban Outfitters. Fun and quirky, but with quality. Por ejemplo: this lovely carved wood mirror with a shelf. It comes in green and white.

At $29, I think it would be a great item to put outside your house or in a bathroom. It's cheap enough that you wouldn't have to worry about exposing it to the elements. Imagine it in on a patio wall or near your front door. Perfectly delightful!

Hair fix

I rarely wear my hair straight these days. It's naturally curly and usually takes advantge of the wind and humidity in San Francisco to become completelty unrully. However, this morning I was feeling brave and straightened my hair for the first time in months!

It's so much longer than I remembered! It looks very "Nicole Richie" but in red. I love it! And it's managed to hold up against today's gail force winds due largely to the Aveda control paste and shine serum I put in this morning after curling. I love everything about this product except for the domineering "Aveda" smell. Yay for pomade!

Things I love today: Artichokes

Is it possible to overdose on artichokes? I am in about the third week of my all-consuming obsession with this vegetable (flower?). About four days a week, I run down to the produce market to pick up a handful of these lovelies to go along with dinner. This week's menu: salad and artichokes, pasta and artichokes, panzanella with artichokes, gnocchi and...wait for it...artichokes.

If this obsession is going to continue, maybe I should try mixing up my recipes. Right now, I just cut the bottom stem, chop off an inch from the top and boil them in a big pot of water with lemons and olive oil for about 30 minutes. Rob likes his with a mayo and soy sauce dip (better than it sounds) and I like mine with balsamic vinaigrette. Here are some great recipe ideas:
Yum! I'm drooling already! We have a kickball game tonight, so I'll probably skip a dose of artichokes. But this weekend is going to be and artichoke extravaganza!

Update: It may actually be possible to die from an overdose of artichokes?! According to The Two Fat Ladies, Catherine de Medici may have nearly died from an overdose of artichokes on her wedding day! I'm in trouble now!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Bracelet of desire

The Met catalog always has the coolest stuff. I remember drooling over the jewelry sections growing up. And my first real pair of dangly earrings? Purchased from The Met when I was 13 (and rediscovered a few years ago as still being remarkably cute).

Check out this Parisian Buckle Bracelet from their current site. According to the description, the design is based on the jewelry of Jean-Paul Robin who revolutionized French fashion in the 1820's by creating simple casual pieces. Having exceptionally tiny wrist myself, I am not sure that I could pull off this bracelet. But I'd sure like to try!

Volunteering with the Girl Scouts

I finally heard back from the Girl Scouts today! I applied to be a volunteer a few months ago and passed my background screening in March but hadn't heard anything. Now it looks like I may get to start volunteering with a troop in the next few weeks. How exciting! Which badges should I pick first?

I am a bit nervous about the kind of girls that will be in my troop. What if they are mean or don't like me? Keep your fingers crossed!

Things I love today: Lavender candle

Late last night, I was picking up the house in preparation for the housekeeper's visit today. With the windows wide open and a lavender candle from L'Occitane burning, it all felt very provencal. All I needed was a set of fancy French tea towels and a batch of pastries in the oven.

This lavender candle is amazing and even better because I got it for free as part of their 30th anniversary. It has just the right amount of scent without being overwhelming (as lavender often can be). I also have a candle in gingerbread that smells wonderful.

Of course, L'Occitane is very expensive and I'm no millionaire. I keep my addiction funded by cashing in my Amex rewards points for L'Occitane gift certificates. Go L'Occitane!

Book report: Our hearts were young and gay

This is only of my all time favorite summer reads. Our Hearts Were Young and Gay follows the hilarious adventures of two young women in the 1920's on their first independent trip around Europe.

Anyone who has ever traveled with a close friend will love reading about Emily and Cornelia's adventures. They get bed bugs, buy ridiculous fur coats in Paris, accidentally stay in a brothel and barely avoid quarantine in Germany. This book is so funny that I find myself laughing out loud even though I've read before many times. Our Hearts Were Young and Gay is no longer in print but you can easily buy used copies through Amazon or Powell's.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Flower of the week: Hibiscus

I had a vivid dream last night about being on vacation in southern California. Maybe it's all those Miramar memories bubbling up to the surface. Anyway, my dream was full of big bougainvillea and hibiscus bushes. The kind of bright, tropicals that don't live here in San Francisco outside of the conservatory. Here are a few facts about this week's flower:

There are over 300 varieties of hibiscus across the world. Hibiscus is edible and a great source of vitamin C. When used as a tea, hibiscus produces an organic cooling sensation. The hibiscus is also knows as a Rosemallow and is the native flower of Malaysia. Hibiscus is also commonly used to make paper, grass skirts and as a digestive medicine. Hibiscus flowers are depicted in the common "hawaiian surfer" patterns used today. The Victorians used hibiscus flowers as a symbol for "delicate beauty."

Need some tropical flair in your life? You can buy a Japanese print featuring hibiscus flowers from The Met, a hibiscus ring or a gold hibiscus purse online.

Things I love today: Vintage style pumps

I'm wearing my brand new pair of Franco Sarto pumps today. I bought them on sale at Macy's last weekend and I adore their thick vintage heel. It's very 1940's. Plus, they are way more comfortable than the clunky wedges that are in style. Shoes with substance are back in style this summer and a perfect match with spring dresses. Here are few of my picks:
  • Aspen Pump - From Linea Paolo. I love the version in blue suede.
  • Palm Beach Pump - Michael Kors produces yet another gorgeous shoe with sass.
  • Memory Lane Pump - This one may be a bit too much. You'd have to try it on first.
  • Seraide Pump - A wacky yellow suede option from Aldo.
  • Jersey Pump - I could do without the strap but I love the price.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Urban obsession: Gumps!

Oh my! How can I even describe how much I love visiting Gump's? The art! The perfumes! The stationary! The china! The silver wing! My heart palptitates just thinking about it. Gump's is the kind of store that stocks perfect things of all variety, no matter the price. You're as likely to find a $40 set of porcelain bowls as you are a $3,000 oak bowl in their store.

Residents and visitors to San Francisco, I beg you to visit Gump's instead of Saks, the hellishly-large Banana Republic or William-Sonoma on your next visit to Union Square. You have no idea what you are missing. Plus, Gump's has one of the only public restrooms on the block. Keep it in mind!

I dragged a famished Nicole through Gump's during our shopping trip Saturday. I even forced her to pick out her favorite China pattern and silverware in the registry department upstairs. I'm so cruel! If I were more organized I would make it a policy of only buying gifts at Gump's. Wouldn't you love a 14 inch porcelain bowl for your birthday? Or a sterling silver rattle for the new baby? Of course you would!

Things I love today: Ruffled blouses

When you have pale bony shoulders and a small chest, it can be a challenge finding summer tops that don't make you look terminally skinny. Classic tanks and other skimpy tops can leave you looking like you need a blood transfusion. My new favorite top for summer is the short-sleeved, ruffled blouse. I bought three at Zara's on Saturday!

This Bergdorf example is a prime specimen. Although, at $790, I would actually need a blood transfusions after having sold my kidneys to afford it. I am wearing my favorite Zara's top today. It's white silk with pink and orange flowers and little tuxedo ruffles on the front. Definitely makes my red hair "pop." Yay for being girly!

Weekend Round-up: Bay to Breakers

What a weekend! I feel like I've been gone for about a week, not just two days. Let's see... Friday night, Rob and stayed home for an artichoke and gnocchi feast. It was raining outside and we weren't feeling motivated to leave the house.

On Saturday, I met up with Nicole on the N Train at 9:30 to go the Denim Underground sale. What a waste! We got to the sale right at 10:00 and proceeded to wait in a long line. We only got halfway to the door in an hour and decided to head downtown instead. I went a bit crazy at Zara's, H&M and Macy's! When we were done shopping, I met up with Rob, Matt and Amber to see The Da Vinci Code at the Metreon. Since I am the only one left who hasn't read the book, the movie had a surprise ending for me. Overall, worth the $10.00 and better than the reviews.

On Sunday, Rob and I woke up at 6:30 am to get ready for our first Bay to Breakers. We took the subway downtown (For which MUNI charged us $3 each even though we have a fast pass, grrr) and met Matt. We were about five blocks behind the starting line and in the thick of the tortilla toss. For our costumes, we dressed as "caped crusaders." It was raining lightly on and off during the start of the race but didn't dampen our spirits. It was so much fun seeing everyone's costumes and just enjoying the city with 62,000 others. Check out this photo of the painted ladies and downtown. By the time we got to the finish line, we were all feeling pretty beat from our 7.5 mile walk. I came in 23,295th place with a time of 3 hours and 31 minutes. Hooray! After a brief rest at Footstock, we walked up to Judah and caught the N Train home. It started to pour just as we got off the train. The rest of the day was spent recovering with long naps and lots of aspirin. My legs are still sore today!

Friday, May 19, 2006

A letter to Hermes

Dear Mr. Hermes,

On the occasion of visiting your distinguished website this afternoon, I developed a concern. Could you please explain to me how a Hermes beach towel costs more than nearly 90% of the items offered by your company?

Do you really have darling customers willing to fork over $450 for a towel? Why wouldn't said customers spend their money on your lovely tea cups ($320) or silk scarves ($350) instead? Are these magic beach towels? I would most genuinely like to know.

Thank you sincerely for your attention to this matter.

Devotedly,

Emily

Rain?

I can't believe it is raining outside right now. It feels like January through April all over again! And the forecast for the weekend? Even worse. Google broke out the "angry thunderstorm clouds" for the weather through Monday.

What's a girl to do? I think I'll buy some spring coats. Such as this adorable dotted coat from Nicole Miller or this wool coat from Kenneth Cole. A denim jacket would be a cute pairing with a skirt and a pair of rain boots.

Oh drat! Not even shopping for coats can make me feel better about the return of the rain.

Urban girl almanac:

Another week, another set of urban girl lessons learned. This week the weather has gone from unseasonably warm (Sunday) to unseasonably cold (today). This changing weather kind of throws a kink in the wardrobe and I've been wearing spring outfits under my winter down jacket. Ick! Luckily, there is a huge outlet sale on Saturday where I can stock up on some transition pieces.

Here's what I learned this week:
  • Under Glass Framing on Church Street does an excellent job.
  • Safeway has a "buy one get one free" deal on the super sweet honeydew melons this week.
  • I love going to the hair salon. Nikki at G-Squared is the best.
  • Embroidery is good for the soul.
  • The day you wear your puffy skirt to work will always be extremely windy.
  • One lunch at a Brazilian steakhouse will fill you up for about two and a half days.
  • I have somehow become the worst bowler in the world. I think my score at the LAC party on Wednesday was 26.
  • The free Bike to Work Day tote bags smell very strongly of shredded wheat. (What is with me and smelly purses lately?)
  • Kickball is all about the bunting. Master the line drive bunt and you will rule the field.
  • The Will & Grace finale was good, but a little dependent on stage make-up.
  • When your boyfriend spends a large amount on a bike, you get to spend an equally large amount on something for yourself.
  • Shalom in the Home is my favorite new show.
We've got a busy weekend coming up. Rob and I are going rock climbing tonight. I'm going to the big denim sale tomorrow and Sunday is Bay to Breakers! Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Sale Alert: Dandelion

Twice a year, Dandelion has a huge three day clearance sale on the corner of 15th and Utah. They fill a store with all kinds of goodies and mark everything 50% off. I bought too much back at this sale in October and I am on my way to buying too much this year too. Visit the sale for Japanese ceramics, glassware, vases, books and wedding presents.

New Scissors for Lefty tracks are online!

Scissors for Lefty, everyone's favorite San Francisco band, has just posted four new songs on their MySpace profile. Click here to listen to the hotness. These songs are straight off their new album with Rough Trade records. I especially love "Next to Argyle" which was featured on The OC a few months back.

The band is currently touring the U.K. and will back in the U.S. briefly in June. Yay for the Krimmel brothers! I heart Scissors for Lefty!

Bike to work day

Jean gave me a hard time at bowling last night because I didn't know that Bike to Work Day was coming up. She promised mobs of happy riders and, most importantly, snacks. I totally fell for the promise of snacks. I feel just like the Herdmans in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

So Rob and I rode our tandem bike to work this morning...on the deserted, cold streets of SF. Not only were there not more bikes out today, there were actually fewer than normal. And the snacks? There were no snacks. But it's not a total wash just yet. If I play my cards right, I may be able to swing by Duboce and Market for a few treats after work. Happy Bike to Work Day!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Things I love today: Brazilian steakhouse

Our office went out to lunch to Espetus today. After three hours of all-you-can-eat Brazilian food, I feel like I am going to explode. I highly recommend this place for any carnivorous San Franciscans.

For about $20 a person you get access to a huge buffet of delicious salads (Mango with onion, potato salad, couscous, etc) and hot dishes (beans, rice, salisbury steak). The table is served cheese rolls and fried bananas before the parade of meat begins. Huge swords of steak, roast beef, chicken legs, sausage, pork loin and chicken hearts are paraded around constantly. And dessert is fabulous too. I don't even eat beef and I left completely stuffed.

Trend watch: Modern kamon designs

Japanese patterns and designs are everywhere these days. From my chrysanthemum earrings to this necklace, Japanese-inspired botanical patterns are hot. Let's investigate this trend a bit.

Turns out that many of these designs are derived from Japanese Kamon images. Kamon are family emblems that originated as early as the 6th century (Asuka Period). The designs are most commonly designed with abstract plant or bird motifs. Click here to view a sampling of some of the most popular images or here to read more about the history of Kamon.

If you want to add some traditional kamon images to your wardrobe, try this hawaiian ring, this scarf or order custom printed Kamon goods from cafepress.

Flower of the week: Hydrangea

This week's flower is a lovely spring blossom, the hydrangea. I love buying a few stems of hydrangeas from the flower market for the dining room table. In a big vase they have a nice old fashioned, yet simple feel. Here are some more facts about this week's flower:

You can change the color of your hydrangea shrub's blossoms by changing the pH and mineral content of the soil. Hydrangeas do well in wet soil and are named after the Greek word for "water vessel." Hydrangea blossoms can easily be preserved to create dried flower arrangements. These shrubs are native to North and South American as well as China and Japan. Hydrangea are semi-toxic if eaten but can be used medicinally as a diuretic. Victorians considered hydrangeas to be a symbol of "Thank you for understanding me."

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Tokyo Dress

What a beauty! At $48 this is a perfect summer weekend top. Imagine it paired with skiny jeans or over a bikini. It would even be lovely with leggings or capris (both of which I refuse to wear, but suit yourself).

I love that this dress is so closed to being so wrong, yet is amazingly just right. The delicate strap, subtle shirring and pattern distinguish it from Britney Spears territory. Go online to pick it up for yourself before the weather gets warm again.

Things I love today: Cherry pitter

Growing up in Davis, we had two huge bing cherry trees in our backyard. These trees produced wheelbarrows full of delicious cherries each summer.

Of course, with great amounts of cherries comes great amounts of cherry pits. This cherry pitting tool is the solution and a summer must-have! One quick movement is all it takes to push the pit and make cherries ready for pies, ice cream, salads or jams. Plus, the tool can also be used to pit olives or mark where buttons need to be sewn on fabric.

Crafty: Embroidering pillowcases

Inspired by this vintage white-on-pink embroidery and my recent antique tiara obsession, I have taken on a new embroidery project. I bought two dark coral Ralph Lauren pillowcases from Ross (the best place to buy these kinds of things) and designed a Greek inspired pattern based on a Chaumet tiara design. The design blends a five inch long Greek key pattern with a simple floral bough running across. I've only completed about a quarter of one pillowcase, but I already love the results.

To find inspiration for your own project, look online at antique linens or tiara designs. Andrew Prince has some fabulous crystal tiara designs. I would love to own that seven star tiara! Maybe I could justify it for the 2007 Black and White Ball?

What to wear bowling

The San Francisco Ladies Activity Club is meeting this Wednesday for our May party. This month's activity? Bowling! Betsy is the hostess and she is apparently a very good bowler. Since I have no hopes of winning, I'm going to focus on wardrobe instead of technique. Here's my pick for the perfect bowling outfit:
  • Pumas - My trusty pink and brown pumas are the perfect shoe to wear to and from the bowling alley.
  • Dark jeans - Preferably rolled up a few inches.
  • Western inspired shirt - I have a black button up shirt with puffy sleeves from Beijing that has the perfect rockabily flair for bowling. Here's another cute option.
  • Wide headband - Keeps the hair back.
  • Big earrings - Adds some girly to the outfit.
  • Bowling bag - Of course! This 80's bowling bag is big enough to store the Pumas while I play.
With this outfit, I'm sure to get some strikes! (Is that the right term, strikes? I only managed to get through "F" in the bowling glossary before going cross-eyed.)

Monday, May 15, 2006

Spring cleaning: Update your knobs

Along with replacing the ceiling fixtures, apartment dwellers can spruce things up by replacing their cabinet knobs. My kitchen has a huge wall-o-cabinets with white plastic knobs. I've been thinking about replacing these with something more colorful.

Anthropologie has some cute ideas but I can't afford to buy 19 knobs at $6 to $12 a pop. Time to look elsewhere! Maybe these blue milk glass knobs for $2.45 each or these clear glass knobs.

Things I love today: Best mascara ever

I have tried all kinds of mascara, and nothing beats Lancome's Flextencils. Why Lancome insists on giving all their products bizarre, unmemorable names is another post for another time. This mascara is just perfect: think enough to do the trick without looking like Tammy Faye. Plus, it is water-resistant, curls your lashes, never runs and doesn't irritate sensitive eyes.

Before you buy, sign up for the Lancome email list and wait for a good promotion. You'll get great sample offers weekly, much better than the in-store or Sephora deals. Every cosmetic company should offer online deals as good as Lancome's. Why do Clinique, etc. require you to visit a department store to get the goods? Philosophy is another great email list and Stila's is almost there. Any other email list suggestions? Share them in the comments section below.

Recipe: Panzanella

I love making panzanella for dinner on a hot night. This "bruschetta salad" requires no cooking and is deliciously hearty. It's also a great thing to take to a potluck or picnic. It's easy to make different variations based on what you have in the fridge or what veggies are currently in season. Here's my recipe:

Panzanella
Serves at least four very hungry people

1 small loaf of crusty artisan bread, cubed
5 roma tomatoes, diced
2 cups of mixed greens
1 cup of diced cheddar
1/2 cup of green olives, chopped
1/2 cup of marinated artichoke hearts, chopped
1/4 cup diced basil
2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
1/4 cup of olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing
1/4 shaved Parmesan cheese
Onion salt to taste

Combine the tomatoes, garlic, olives, artichoke hearts and basil and combine in a bowl with the balsamic dressing to marinate about a half hour before serving. Cube the bread and prepare the cheddar cheese. When ready to serve, combine the marinated veggies and dressing with the bread, cheese and lettuce in a large bowl. Toss with onion salt until fully blended. Top with Parmesan cheese and serve.

You may need to adjust the balance of ingredients depending on how much bread you are using. The final mixture should look something like this.

Weekend Round-Up: Vitamin D

I can't get over the fabulous weather we had this weekend. Summer is here! Let's see...what happened this weekend?

On Friday, we had a quiet night at home. I ironed all my linen napkins and watched Mrs. Henderson Presents while waiting for Margaret to arrive. Margaret was flying in from San Luis Obispo to drive up to Molly's bridal shower with me on Saturday. She took BART into the city and we stayed up for a while catching up while watching "Hogan Knows Best."

On Sunday morning, we slept in until 9:00 before getting dressed and heading out to Sacramento for the shower. Quick pit stop in Old Sacramento for some bacon cheese fries before arriving at Molly's Aunt's home in Elk Grove. Her uncle is a landscape architect and the party was held in a lovely back patio by the pool. It was about 95 degrees. I mostly sat very still in the shade while drinking one of my 17 glasses of iced tea. Margaret and I won the toilet paper wedding dress competition! After a quick dip in the pool, we drove over to Nordstrom to get Molly a make-over for the wedding in July. After a big purchase at the MAC counter, she was looking positively bridal. I dropped Margaret off in Davis and arrived home around midnight.

Slept in even later on Sunday morning and woke to a gorgeous, unseasonably warm day in San Francisco. Rob and I went for a walk around our neighborhood and had brunch at the Bagdad Cafe. We sat next to the flower vendor and watched people buying Mother's Day bouquets. We then met up with Jean and Trent on our tandem bike for a ride through Golden Gate Park to Ocean Beach. 99% of the year, Ocean Beach is cold, miserable and deserted. With the hot weather yesterday it looked like Rio! We sat by the beach for about an hour before riding back home, racing a few other tandems along the way. Safeway was full of sunburned San Franciscans. Dinner of too many margaritas, five layer bean dip and panzanella (I'll share the recipe later) before crashing into bed at 10:00!

Notes: Margaret, you left your book at our apartment. Mom, I tried calling last night but you were out with Penney. I'll call tonight! Molly, I just remembered that I left my prize at the shower. Sorry!

Friday, May 12, 2006

I like Brooks Brothers? Really?

Oh the shame! I was joking with a friend this afternoon about picking up the perfect outfit at Brooks Brothers for an upcoming wedding. He's the type that if I saw him wearing a double breasted blue blazer, I would die laughing. Before closing the site, I decided to peek around. Here's where it gets scary...I actually like some of their clothes! Am I secretly turning into a republican?! Do I have a summer home in Nantucket that I don't know about?! See for yourself:
  • Pleated seesucker skirt - In pink or blue, this could be nice with a pair of pumps, a cute top, white headband and a white leather bag.
  • Madras dress - I may like it in an ironic way, but I still like it.
  • Pearl drop earrings - They're nice, right?!
  • Chunky turtleneck sweater - Everyone knows turtlenecks are my weakness, epecially in white cableknit. Imagine it at the beach with rolled up jeans and a glass of wine.
  • Pajamas - White pajamas with pink striping, embroidery and a matching case? You're killing me!
Darn you Brooks Brothers! Why do you have to have such alluring affordable preppy clothes and scarf tying tutorials. I will resist! I will use this photo to remind myself that it is wrong. I will not move to the Marina! I will not take up golf!

Things I love today: Ginger lemon cookies

Best cookies ever! I always try to keep a box of Carr's Ginger Lemon Creme Cookies at home for unexpected guests. The ginger cookie is just the right amount of spicy and the lemon filing isn't too sweet. You can buy these cookies at Trader Joe's or Amazon.com.

Urban girl almanac:

The weather is great here in San Francisco and city's mood has improved significantly. People are so much happier when it stops raining. It's been a great week in the city. Here are some things I learned:
  • A bright coral manicure from Dolci is a lot of fun.
  • I heart Jill Bliss.
  • Headbands! Week two of my obsession. I am now fixated on their root-covering function.
  • Trent and I made the world's best nachos on Monday. Soo delicious.
  • Men should never wear shorts to Yoga.
  • Construction paper is one of my favorite things.
  • They sell fragrance and dye free dryer sheets at Safeway.
  • A big painted flower pot is a great base for a bridal shower gift basket.
  • The fruit market on Divisidero and Page closes at 7:00 pm.
  • The Wishy Washy on Page Street has the worst change machines imaginable.
  • I heart Ross.
  • Don't underestimate the power of a homemade thank you note.
  • The bus is the best place to read the New Yorker.
  • I really should start using Next Bus again as a way to reduce my blood pressure.
  • Andouille bagel dogs from Noah's are really, really tasty.
  • Eat first, then play flip cup.
Happy end of the week to you! Enjoy the sunny weather this weekend!

Flip Cup Fog

After our kickball game last night, the whole team headed down to Bar None on Union Street. We definitely didn't blend in with the usual Marina crowd wearing our "safety orange" t-shirts!

After too many rounds of flip cup (Jean and Shelly are the MVP's) and a Kamikaze shot, I'm feeling a little icky and grumpy today. I probably should have had something other than chicken strips and garlic fries for dinner. Go team!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Frenchie

For some reason I am feeling an extreme desire to be French today. Maybe it is the silk scarf in my hair or the fact that French people don't miss their MUNI bus to work...every...single...day. Anyways, I think the only way I can satiate my French addiction today is to do a little shopping. Jean's going to place an order at La Redoute with a few things for me. It's a good start, but it's going to take more than that:
  • Cuvettes - Look at these divine cafe au lait bowls. Don't they remind you of that scene from Amelie? Do you like them even more now that you know they are much cheaper than the ones from Anthropologie?
  • Savon - A big block of soap made with olive oil and lavender is a must.
  • Patisserie - Tartine is not too far from my house.
  • Musique - Edith Piaf, Yann Tierson and anything involving a perky accordion.
  • Hermes - I'll take it all, please. Especially the peony tea set and a handful of silk scarves.
  • Ruban - Maybe this French-addiction is related to the fact I was using imported wire ribbon from the Ribbonerie last night.
Au revoir mon petites!

Crafty: Make your own cards

Jean and I worked on homemade cards last night at her apartment. I love nothing more than getting down-n-dirty with construction paper and glue sticks! Using these pre-packaged blank note cards, we made Mother's Day cards and thank you notes. I wish I had taken a photo before mailing them off!

Simple cut outs of tulips, birds or skylines have a surprisingly modern effect. Use minimal shapes and bright colors for the best results. Try channeling your inner Matisse and cut out organic leaf patterns, squiggles or nudes. Get creative! It's much better than sending someone a boring pre-printed card.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Spring cleaning: Boxes!

Both Hold Everything and The Container Store are having big spring cleaning sales right now. I recommend that you pick up some storage boxes to keep things organized in your closets. I use these boxes from the Container Store to stash art supplies, stationary, tools and photos in my tiny hall closet. If I were more organized, my huge living room closet would also be full of boxes.

I especially like this file cabinet offered by Hold Everything, but it would take a major remodel to find a place for it in the house. It's time to shake out those dust bunnies and get organized!

Things I love today: Crazy shoes

I think all that sun and warm weather outside is really messing with my head. I just adore these shoes from gojane.com (thanks BudgetDiva!). They are totally impractical and I will probably wear them approximately twice, but for $19 I had to go with my gut. Wouldn't they be so cute with pair of dark jeans for a trip down to Union Street? As a bonus, they bear some resemblance to these Linea Paolo Sasha pumps in red that I came really close to buying a few months ago.

Flower of the week: Gardenia

One of my favorite things about San Francisco is the flower vendors downtown who sell gardenia corsages on the street for $1. When I used to visit the city, I always made a habit of buying one to pin on my sweater. On my way to the Supperclub party last weekend, I picked up a gardenia for my hair and all those lovely memories came flooding back. It's a bit wilted now, but still floating in some water and making the house smell divine. Here are some more facts about this week's flower:

The gardenia is a native of China, Japan, Africa and Taiwan. It is named after Alexander Garden, a Scottish botanist in South Carolina in the 1700's. Victorians used gardenias as a sign of "joy" or a way to say "you are lovely." There are over 250 varieties of gardenia including bonsai. In Asia, gardenia flowers are used to create a yellow die for food and clothes. In the 1920's, Chanel created a wildly popular gardenia perfume.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Spring cleaning: Need some art?

This week's theme is apparently "spring cleaning." With the weather taking a turn for the best (finally), I have been feeling ambitious about getting my apartment in order. We talked about freshening up your light fixtures yesterday, today we're going to talk about adding some art to your walls.

I received the Mixed Greens catalog in the mail yesterday. This New York art gallery specializes in selling the works of up-and-coming artists at reasonable prices. They have some really nice pieces to suit every kind of taste. For example, these abstract sketches or these tiny chicken skulls (trust me, that description doesn't really do it justice).

If you're not quite ready to invest in artwork, look for other inspiration. Antique prints can be surprisingly affordable and fun. Visit estate sales for smaller pieces at low prices. Take some those old drawings and posters you have lying around to the frame shop. Make your photos into pop-art. You can also follow in Jill and Peter's footsteps and make your own art with a few oil canvasses and some acrylic paint.

Summer must-have: Pull over poplin shirt

This adorable summer basic is currently on sale at La Redoute for only $14.95. With a belt and a pair of jeans, it's the perfect thing for a weekend trip to the park, the hardware store or the crepe restaurant around the corner. It also comes in stripes, which could be cute for a nautical ensemble. Embrace your inner Diane Keaton!