Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Running on Fumes

Sorry for the lack of posts these last few days. There have been some issues at my office related to one of our downstairs neighbors sealing their cement floors without proper ventilation. None of our windows open in the converted factory space so all the noxious fumes have been trapped inside. It was so bad on Monday that I had to go home. These are some serious fumes. After a childhood filled with bondo, fiberglass and varnish on the family boat, I'm no a wimp.

I moved my iMac to the conference room on Tuesday and have been working in these temporary headquarters ever since. Hence, the shortage :)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Inspiration: Sutro Heights Park

It's time to talk about one of my new favorite place in the city: Sutro Heights Park. Rob and I discovered this after our Point Lobos hike on Sunday.

First a quick background: the park was established by former Mayor Adolfo Sutro as a companion to the famous Sutro Baths in the late 1880's. Super ornate and lavish, these gardens featured intricate flower beds, lots of statues, a flower conservatory and a private home for Sutro. It was designed to be a "Victorian playground," and I pretty much love anything that comes with that description!

Over the years, the park fell into disrepair and only scraps of the former features remain. When you first walk in, there are two giant lions greeting you at the gate. The rest of the park is filled with hidden statues, giant pine trees, abandoned flower beds and gravel paths:

At the top of the park, you climb these steep rock staircases to get to a spectacular view of Ocean Beach.

As Jean said, "it is like Jane Austin was walking through it ten minutes before." Lovely, lovely!

Bargain Finder: Beaded Wrapover Sweater

My La Redoute order arrived in the mail today. I haven't tried anything on yet, but my favorite so far is this beaded gray sweater. it is much more delicate and less "beady" in person. And at only $24.99, you can't beat the price.

Update: The gray silk top I ordered is also awesome! This cardigan is a little tight. And lest I have too much faith in La Redoute, they sent me this instead of my cropped cardigan. Le sigh.

I'm Going to the "Shore!"

Isn't that what they call the beach on the east coast? Jean just booked us this vacation rental in North Carolina...somewhere called Hatteras Island-Rodanthe? The house is named "Catch a Wave" which reminds me of that chapter in Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim.

We're going to be there for nine days in March. This will be the first time I will have spent more than a 3 consecutive days in the east. I guess I'll need to stock up on madras, polo shirts and those bracelets made of rope? I'd love some tips and hints from east coasters!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Trash Can Extraordinaire

This two-story trash and recycling bin is the perfect option for a small city kitchen! Both drawers open in sync when you pull on the top and the removable bins have handles for easy carrying. However, at $149, I think I'll wait for this expensive "trash containment system" to go on sale.

For now, we have two of these decidedly less glamorous $20 garbage pails that work just fine!

What to Wear: Green!

How is it that I don't have anything green in my closet right now? That's a situation that needs to be remedied asap:
  • Sweater - Wrap sweaters are my favorite! This fine specimen is on sale to boot.
  • Shirt - I like the adorable green belt that comes with this top.
  • Jeans - Dark denim is a nice balance with the dark green.
  • Trench - Basic and classic.
  • Handbag - A nice compliment in olive and named "Emily," too!
  • Flats - Linea Paolo always creates something cute and feminine.
  • Earrings - Emerald cabochons are casual and modern.
  • Ring - Hello, gorgeous!
Oh no! I can feel fine jewelry fever creeping up already! I think we'll have to do a theme week on the blog leading up to the opening of the show at the Legion of Honor.

Weekend Round-up: Partly Cloudy

The weather this weekend was a perfect mix! I love days that are a bit rainy, a bit cloudy and a bit sunny. I guess it reminds me of the spring weather in Dublin. Let's see...where did this weekend start? Friday night was rainy so Rob and I stayed home for a quiet evening with a roast chicken and sweet potato fries.

The rain continued Saturday morning, allowing for a nice bit of sleeping in and being lazy! At noon, Rob and I drove out to the park for archery with Matt and his father-in-law. We had a great time, despite the occasional rain shower. After about two hours, we drove over to Eddie's archery shop to stock up on supplies and coaching. That evening, Rob and I met a visiting executive from our office at the Metreon for dinner and a movie. We ate a surprisingly good dinner at L.J.'s Martini Grill, their warm gingerbread cake is not to be missed, and saw The Last King of Scotland (graphic but good).

Rob and I woke up fairly early on Sunday and ran some errands around the neighborhood. We made a nice breakfast of coffee, turkey bacon, grapefruits and sourdough bread before setting out to enjoy the crisp weather with a hike. We walked down through the Sutro Baths and through the tunnel to the hidden beach first:

We then hiked along the coast trail. It was packed full with all the signs of spring: ferns, pussy willows and bulbs.

After a picnic lunch, we walked up to the Legion of Honor. I was so happy to see that they hung the signs for the Masterpieces of French Jewelry show. I've been excited for this show since it was first announced last summer! Only 13 days to go!

On the way back to the car, we decided to explore Sutro Park. This park was such a magnificent find, that it will get it's own separate post! At 3:30, it was time to drive back home. Rob and I walked to the library, visited a few open houses in the neighborhood (it's amazingly easy to fall for a $1 million, two bedroom apartment) and made a trip to the produce market. I used the rest of the roast chicken to make sopa de lima and paired it with a golden beet salad for dinner.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Urban Girl Almanac: Mixed Bag

This has been a crazy week. I can't believe my accidental date was just this last Monday. Here's the lessons I learned this week:
  • Foreign Cinema's lavender creme brulee is a thing of beauty.
  • My negative review of Smokin' Aces is almost identical to the New Yorker's.
  • Organizing the closet helps with rediscovering long lost clothing favorites.
  • Walking a mile and a half to work is great exercise and helps you wake up in the morning.
  • Trader Joe's cocoa almonds are so tasty.
  • If you are visiting San Francisco, you can rent this place near my neighborhood.
  • Physical therapist = sadist?
  • I can't believe I watched (and was really moved by) the CMT tribute to Reba.
  • I love everything about changing the sheets. The process is kind of meditative and you end up with a perfect, tightly made bed. Especially fun with thick thread counts and L'Occitane lavender water.
  • Jealousy of Tina Fey's perfect curly hair on 30 Rock will get you nowhere.
  • This site gets high rankings on the strangest google terms. Welcome searchers for Leslie Caron, tulipiers, tea at the garden court and lhasa apso embroidery patterns.
  • Daffodils!
  • I booked our tickets to North Carolina in March. Any hot tips from Carolinians?
  • Dark indigo blue shadow works really well as eyeliner for blue eyes and dark hair.
  • Listening to Radio Alice and Live 105 at work puts me in a good mood.
I'm kind of glad the rain has canceled a few of my weekend plans. All I have on deck is a night at the movies to see Catch and Release The Last King of Scotland on Saturday. I hope to spend a lot of time in bed with a cup of coffee, a book and Chris Isaak (the ideal January music) on the radio.

Raining Again

Just when it felt like we might have a dry winter and a drought year, it starts to rain!

Of course, I have no umbrella with me today and walked to work this morning. If only I had purchased one of these adorable Merimekko mini umbrellas for myself when I bought one for Jill a few weeks ago. They carry them at Sunhee Moon on 16th street here in the city.

What San Francisco is Reading

The bus is a great place for people watching and for getting reading recommendations! Here's a few of the top reads from the #22 bus this week:

Everville - By Clive Barker. The Publisher's Weekly review is really hard to decipher. Apparently the book has something to do with "Quiddity," "boschean images" and "celestial hierarchy." I don't think this one is for me.

Johnny Cash - By Michael Sreissguth. According to Booklist, this is an "admirably thorough" biography.

Textbook for Long Term Care Assistants
- By Sheila Sorrentino. The guy who was reading this on the bus seemed so excited about his new career.

Someone Else - By Tonino Benacquista. A novel about two men who meet in Paris and vow to change their identities. One becomes a private investigator and the other becomes an alcoholic.

Hmmm, that's a pretty odd combination of books!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

What to Wear: Feeling Like Spring

It's still not quite warm, but I am feeling very "spring" today. Here's an ideal outfit for that sort of mood:
  • Kimono top - Just one of the brilliant and perfect pieces available in the spring Boden catalog.
  • Corduroy Pants - I'm wearing my new pair of white corduroy Club Monaco pants today. I can't even remember the last time I wore corduroy, so it's kind of fun.
  • Shoes - I love these embroidered slippers in olive and lavender.
  • Coat - This light pink coat is more spring than the tulips themselves.
  • Bag - From Lotta Jansdotter in gray.
  • Necklace - Very pretty and organic.
  • Bracelet - A perfect match with the coat for only $10 from Old Navy.
  • Daffodils - $3 for six from Trader Joe's.

Must Have: Tulip Vase

I am in total shock over the number of Christmas trees that were just put out on the street for collection the last few days. How is it possible that someone still had their Christmas tree up this week?! It is already January 25th, people! Even if I give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you bought your tree on Christmas eve itself....that is still one old spruce.

For pete's sake, it is practically spring already. Safeway is carrying tulips and Trader Joe's has started selling their famously cheap daffodil bundles. It's time to move past the holidays and focus on finding a perfect rectangular bulb vase. There is just something so classic about a handful of tulips or other bulbs flopped over in a rectangular vase. This painting I found online by British artist, Karen Munck, is a lovely example.

So, I say: find yourself a rectangle vase today, fill it with bright tulips and embrace spring! Smith and Hawken is sold out of my favorite interpretation. But Pier 1 has a selection, as does Crate and Barrel and Pottery Barn.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

What to Wear: Grey Silk Blouse?

I love shopping online but it is sometimes hard to make that final call between "cute" and "what-was-I-thinking" solely based on a two inch photograph.

Last week I put in a La Redoute order that included a cropped cardigan, a pine green pullover sweater and some other basics. I also tossed in a grey silk crepe blouse with the order, but now I'm not sure how it will come out. I usually give La Redoute the benefit of the doubt for most questionable items and it has turned out well in several cases. What do you think?

5 Random Things About Me

Sara tagged me to post five random things about myself. This is hard because I feel like I've disclosed so many random things about myself on this blog already!

1. I attended language-immersion elementary school and learned to write in Spanish before English. I used to be fluent, now my skills are limited to eavesdropping on the bus.

2. I've been shipwrecked.

3. I was vice president of my junior high Future Homemakers of America club (now called the more politically correct: "Family, Career and Community Leaders of America") and Social Chair for student government in high school.

4. I don't eat beef...but I do eat pretty much everything else.

5. I've been to 10 foreign countries (China, Italy, France, Ireland, England, Spain, Greece, Argentina, Mexico and Costa Rica) but only seven American states (California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Louisiana, Georgia and New York).

Those are pretty random, right? I tag Love.Boxes, White Skinned Goddess and Rob to do this next.

Movie Review: Smokin' Aces

So much for the best laid plans! Instead of a quiet dinner at home, Rob and I went to a free advanced screening of Smokin' Aces at the Metreon.

This movie includes an all-star cast and has all the makings of a classic bloody gangster film...but falls short in the end. You could almost see it as being a parody of Quentin Tarantino. It's a little funny, but not that funny. A little mysterious, but not that mysterious. Super gory, but with the gore serving no real purpose. And there are some really fascinating characters, but they all get whacked before developing fully. I left the theater with shell-shock more than anything and even the men in our group gave it a thumbs down.

If you like bloodshed, wigs, drugs, celebrity cameos and dingy Tahoe hotels, this may be the film for you. If not, save your money for something better.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Recipe: Sweet Potato Fries

Tonight's Ladies Activity Club party is postponed due to the hostess having the flu. This is sad, but then again it give me a chance for a date with my actual boyfriend :) Along with a roast chicken a green salad and some fresh fruit for dessert, I really want to make sweet potato fries. I've had a mad craving for this yummy treat for a few days now.

The recipe seems super easy. Just cut up two sweet potatoes, toss with some olive oil and spices and bake for about 30 minutes. Yum!

Up Among Them

Last night was so bizarre! Around 4:30, a producer I worked with before from a cable news channel called up and invited me to dinner with a few other people from the network. Being that my job is, after all, media relations, I accepted despite my concerns that this seemed more like a date than a business dinner. I made a quick stop at Nordstrom to buy a pair of brown heels and met them down at The Clift Hotel for drinks. I thought we would eat at Asia de Cuba but we instead cabbed it over to Foreign Cinema.

At this point, I really should describe my dining companions: an overly tanned television personality from Miami, a fashionista TV producer, a double for Andre 3000, a vegan real estate agent, a designer for Old Navy and a cleavage-exposing interior decorator. It was an interesting crowd indeed and I felt more than a bit out of place wearing a turtleneck, being pale and not carrying a blackberry. The food made up for my discomfort: I had a glass of organic wine, warm olives, pasta with mushroom ragu and a divine lavender creme brulee for dessert.

My "date" concerns turned out to be pretty valid, but I kept talking about Rob and managed to eventually strong arm the evening over into the "business dinner" category and even pitched a few good stories! Of course, I am now completely exhausted again and I have the January LAC party tonight. Hopefully, Wednesday will let me have a quiet date at home with Rob and the TV!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Viva Mexico!

Ah, Mexico! It's been a while since my last fix. I'm booking our tickets to North Carolina this week, but after that trip I think it is time for a vacation down south. Imagine a palm filled painted walls...bowls full of fresh guacamole...strong margaritas...perfection!

Now I just need to find an ideal hotel. I want something that has a lot of history and is affordable (Something about paying $220+ a night in Mexico just seems so wrong to me). Rob is campaigning for something outside of Mexico City. I'm pushing for the Yucatan. Hotel Media Mundo in Merida is inspiring, as are most of the hotels on this list. It's so fun to daydream about this!

Weekend Round-Up: Cosmos

(Sorry for the delay, major computer foibles this morning.)

We were so lazy this weekend! Rob and I headed straight out to Ben and Stacey's after work on Friday. We were the first guests to arrive at their mission apartment and helped them finish the tapas. The other guests arrived over the next hour. There were a lot of Davis alumni and med students; overall a very fun crowd. The chocolate ice cream came out pretty well too! After a couple of Ben's super strong cosmos, Rob and I somehow helped start a clarinet and guitar sing-a-long. The last thing I remember clearly is demanding that Ben play 99 Luftballons. At 12:30, we called a cab and headed home.

My head was a little cloudy the next morning (Ben, those must have been strong drinks!). So I slept in and had a quiet breakfast. At noon, we drove out to the park to meet Matt for archery. This was one of our longest sessions yet, we stayed out for almost three hours. Back at home for more recovery with naps. We had a simple dinner of leftovers, tangerines and mangoes. A pretty quiet day, but one full of much needed relaxation.

Rob went down to the newsstand to get me the Times on Sunday morning. It was a good, thick one and I stayed in bed until noon with a pot of coffee reading straight through. At one, we met Matt at the gym. The boys climbed while I spent an hour on the bike and elliptical. It felt so good to be exercising again! It was too sunny and warm to go back home after the work out. So we bought some combo plates from Truly Med and sat out on the patio at Zeitgeist with a pitcher. We talked with Matt, an architect, about designing a cabin down in the hills above Saratoga. Lovely! I hope this warm weather stays with us a bit longer.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Recipe: Chocolate Ice Cream

Rob and I are going to to help Ben celebrate his birthday tonight! He's our favorite German by far and for the occasion I've made a huge batch of chocolate ice cream to bring to the party.

I followed this simple recipe from Cuisinart but upgraded it with organic heavy cream and Ghirardelli cocoa powder. It looks so good! For smaller occasions, I would recommend halving the ingredients.

Bargain Finder: Eyelet Dress

Hooray! The cold snap in California seems to have ended. It was a balmy 45 degrees on my walk to work this morning. While this is happy news, San Francisco's winter has really only just started and spring is still several rainy months away. Actual warm weather? It isn't expected until next September!

So all the new catalogs full of summer dresses and department stores full of spring blossoms seem a little premature. But, there is always room for hope. And this white eyelet dress is a fine embodiment of those breezy dreams. Can't you imagine wearing it with an upgraded ribbon belt and a bright cardigan on vacation somewhere balmy? At only $44, I'm tempted to buy it and hang it in the closet as an homage.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

What to Wear: Anything New

I am so tired of my current wardrobe. When I open my closet in the morning, all I see is a sea of turtlenecks. It's time for a little spring revamping:
  • Dress -I love the colors and length of this simple short sleeved wrap dress from Boden. Plus, it is a pretty reasonable $98.
  • Cardigan - I desperately need to put in an order for some new basics from La Redoute.
  • Boots - A nice low heel in a basic brown. I'm not sure if my tiny calves would fill out a 14'' circumference though.
  • Coat - The high belted waist on this coat makes it unique.
  • Handbag - My beloved Kors Woodside Hobo. I can't find it for sale, although Macy's has a hideous baby version for "evening."
  • Necklace - Hammered gold rings from Anthropologie.
  • Ring - Lotus blossom from Anthropologie.
I can feel my credit card burning a hole in my purse right now!

An Open Letter to Urban Outfitters

Urban Outfitters,

Hi guys, just a quick note to see if you are all okay. I am concerned because I just saw an email promoting these. Did you realize that you were selling neon teal skinny jeans? Since it is not the 80's, I have to assume that this is related to some sort of malicious plan to destroy America via ugly denim. The hipster thing was bad enough, now you really have gone too far.

I can say this because I myself am a survivor of the Wet-Seal colored jeans with matching shirt epidemic. My favorite pair were bubblegum pink bongos in size zero. I weighed about 90 pounds back then and those terrible jeans somehow managed to make me look hippy. Those were dark blinding days. Let's not go back.



MissEm: Criminal Mastermind

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a goodie two-shoes. I hate getting in trouble. That's why my criminal activities on Wednesday night were such a surprise!

Breaking & Entering - My first crime of the evening was sneaking into a private screening of Seraphim Falls hosted by Gen Art at the Westfield. We had heard that there was a free show through our connection. But, unlike the other shows, this one wasn't open to the public. Our connection managed to sneak us into the theater for the exclusive advanced screening. (BTW - The movie was sooo boring, unless you're Rob)

Traveling without Proof of Payment - Once the movie was over, it was time for my second crime of the night. Apparently, I've been taking buses around the city without my MUNI pass for a few days now. I only discovered this error after I had already snuck through the handicap entrance at the Powell Street station. Usually this is no big deal, I've never seen patrols asking for proof of payment on any train or bus....until the first train came into the station loaded with three police officers with tickets in hand for doling out fines up to $500. Luckily, I spotted the coppers and managed to avoid the train. The next train was fuzz free and this criminal mastermind made it home just fine.

This life of crime is exhausting!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

What to Wear: Winter White

On a cold, cold day at the end of a cold, cold snap you start to run out of options. Another day in wool pants and a black sweater? Boooring. Switching to winter white always makes me feel a little better about having to be bundled up:
  • Sweater - Dark camel is a perfect match for white in the winter.
  • White Pants - A must have. Look for a pair that is machine washable and either lined or made of thick enough fabric that it doesn't matter. In other words, a pair from Express or Club Monaco instead of this option.
  • Trench - Invest in one of these classic trenches from Banana Republic. I bought one in neutral from them a few years ago. It has a great "heft."
  • Shoes - I'm wearing my vintage boots today for extra warmth.
  • Purse - Cute and cheap from Urban Outfitters.
  • Wool scarf - So very cold outside.
  • Silk scarf - For a little color.
  • Bracelets - In red and white, perfect for this outfit and for spring.
  • Earrings - A fun alternative to pearls.
Now just throw on some long underwear underneath it all, a pair of lined gloves and an umbrella and you are set!

Recipe: Mango Sorbet

How do you counteract a freezing cold rainstorm in San Francisco? With a tropical dinner of fish tacos and mango sorbet, of course! This recipe couldn't be easier or more perfect:

Mango Sorbet
4 ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted and chopped
1 cup of simple syrup (1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of water boiled)
Juice from half a lime

Puree the mangoes using a blender or hand mixer. Add the syrup and lime to taste and pop the mixture into an ice cream maker for a half hour. Freeze it for a few hours to get a firm consistency. Jean, you are going to love this one!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

What to Wear: Northern Exposure

One of my favorite things about the new TV is being able to watch Northern Exposure reruns in high definition. I loved this show when it was first on in the 1990's and appreciate it even more now that I can see every pore on John Corbett in 1080i detail.

Northern Exposure is a little dangerous for me though. It makes me want to cut my hair short, wear flannel and move to a cabin in the woods. Maybe I could get it out of my system with an Alaska-inspired outfit for this city cold snap:
  • Sweater - If you are a size medium, I insist that you buy this beautiful red sweater with toggles on clearance.
  • Vest - Is there anyone in San Francisco who is not wearing one of these today?
  • Henley - Apparently winter is over as of January 1 according to J.Crew. This henley is featherweight for spring.
  • Boots - Please, please go on sale.
  • Quilt - Modern and perfect for my cabin in the woods.
  • Hat - Did I mention just how cold it is here today?
  • Gloves - An absolute must.
I really have "cabin fever" now. Maybe Rob and I should book at stay at the Hotel Healdsburg for a weekend. We have a friend who can get us a discounted rate at the Sonoma resort.

Weekend Round-Up: Hurricane Elfa and Other Events

Oh my...this was a funny weekend. It all started when Rob and I rushed home on foot in the freezing cold Friday (the buses were all jammed up), stopping at Sunhee Moon to buy a birthday present. Just a few frantic minutes at home changing before we dashed over to Jill and Peter's apartment for her birthday party.

We were rushing and a bit late, so Rob and I didn't notice right away the odd look Peter gave us when he opened the door. Turns out that not only were we not late, we were actually 24 hours early! Jill and Peter invited us in anyway and we joined them and Peter's brother for dinner of scrambled eggs, hash browns and cornbread in the kitchen. It's nice to have friends that will invite you in for eggs when you accidentally show up a day early!

On Saturday morning, Rob and I did two weeks worth of laundry and then embarked on the great Elfa adventure. It was all gay couples and new parents in line with us at the Container Store to get free closet planning sessions. We were going to turn our living room closet into a super-organized entertainment center...doesn't that sound exciting and easy!? After about an hour, we had ordered all our shelving and made the bad decision to carry it home via subway. My arms are still killing me! Here's Rob goofing off in the empty space:

Rob and I spent the rest of the day pulling everything out of this closet and installing the hardware. This is about the point when I started to hyperventilate. I'm hardly a neat freak, but I do get overwhelmed by "significant" messes. For the sake of science and humbleness, here is a photo of the apartment during those dark hours:

7:00 rolled around very quickly with little improvement on the mess. Rob and I got dressed and grabbed a bottle of wine for our second attempt at Jill's birthday party. What a fabulous time! I got to meet some of the LACers' husbands and we were introduced to some great new people. Super, super fun event!

I woke up to face the mess with trepidation in my heart on Sunday morning. I was pretty sure that the whole Elfa thing was just hopeless. But Rob and I launched in and started putting things away. We got the TV installed in its new home and threw out a ton of junk we really didn't need anymore. After a few hours, the closet (I'm calling it the "den") was looking really sharp and my blood pressure was back down. We had a nice dinner at home with The Devil Wears Prada and ripe mangoes from Safeway. Here's the new closet:

We got to sleep in late on Monday morning! And then once we were up, we had a leisurely breakfast of coffee, grapefruit and fig Newmans while watching The Guns of Navarone. Rob loved this movie because it involved World War II (he's been fighting Nazis on xbox all week) and rock climbing. Around noon, we headed out in the cold to the Conservatory of Flowers. This is one of my favorite botanical gardens; coming in third after Dublin's Palm House and Florence's Giardino dei Semplici. On a cold day in the city, it is heaven to sit next to the lily pond in the steam.

After an hour of defrosting, Rob and I decided to walk back home from the park. We stopped at an antique store and a very, very cheap produce market on Divisidero and then Doe on Haight for a few treats. I peeled off for an impromptu pedicure and then joined Rob at home for a tofu stir fry, more mangoes and Jack Bauer in HD.

I told you it was a funny weekend!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Hooray for Dr. King and hooray for having the day off! I hope you are all home from work today too. Rob and I have a relaxing day planned, including a trip to the Conservatory of Flowers to warm up a bit.

We've had a wild weekend so far; full of scheduling snafus, scrambled eggs, the temporary destruction of our apartment, a minor mental breakdown and a fabulous party. Expect a full update on Tuesday!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Maximizing Tiny Spaces

A reader commented today that her place is too small for hosting parties. People often mention this, especially in San Francisco with our high rents. To them I say, "Ha, I don't think so!" Rob and I lived for three years in a tiny, tiny apartment in San Luis Obispo. It was a shotgun style farm house, with four 100 square foot rooms linked together. I loved this house, even though it was minuscule, and was coincidentally reminiscing about it earlier today. Some of the best parties we've ever hosted were held in that itty-bitty living room.

Luckily, Rob took a series of photos of the house (with a fisheye lens because the rooms were too small to photograph even with him pressed against the opposite wall) when it was scrubbed for a dinner party one day. I love looking back on these pics of our "first apartment." The front door open to a 10x10 living room which doubled as a dining room with a folding table on the other side:

The living room led directly to a 10x10 bedroom with a impossibly small closet:

And the bedroom led to the kitchen:

Off the kitchen was a bathroom and an even tinier sun porch that we used as an office. The trick we found was to buy lots of tiny furniture so each room would look perfectly to scale for a normal sized house. And when entertaining, to invite enough people to fill the room and make it really fun. This photos is from our 2004 Sore Losers Inauguration Ball that had over 16 guests:

Other tips include only owning multi-functional furniture, like tables that fold or entertainment centers that roll. Tuck in a lot of small chairs wherever you can, they add character and can be used for all kinds of parties. And always make use of every resource you have available. Our house had a wrap-around porch and huge lawn that we used for parties that wouldn't fit inside. I love our current apartment in Duboce Triangle, and it is certainly a lot larger, but this old farm house will always have a special place in my heart.

Have you hosted parties in a tiny space? Share your tips and memories in the comments section below. (Jean, I know you have tips to share about hosting pumpkin carving for eight in your studio apartment)

Party Recipe: Movie Night

Our new television is so huge! Rob and I have had a 17 inch LCD tv for the last five years. It was great, but pretty tiny. Our new TV is 40 (!) inches and the difference is incredible. We're working on building it a new home in our living room closet (it used to house a murphy bed) using Elfa this weekend. Once it is all set up, I want to throw an occasional movie night party for a few friends. Here's the recipe:
  • Pick a good movie - A new DVD release would be good, but it would also be fun to choose something older so it wouldn't matter who had or hadn't seen it already. Rear Window (my favorite Hitchcock film) is a great choice.
  • Cook something easy - Fancy nachos with shredded chicken or hot dogs with gourmet sausages are a fun play on "movie food" and can be easily eaten in front of the TV. For Rear Window, you could recreate a 1950's TV dinner with fried chicken, homemade mashed potatoes, green beans and apple cobbler.
  • Serve casual drinks - Beer and soda in bottles will keep things easy and relaxed.
  • Offer gourmet caramel corn for dessert - Put out bowls of different types of sweet popcorn. I love this super fancy Dale and Thomas popcorn, but the Trader Joe's variety is perfect too.
  • Create a game - See who can spot Hitchcock's signature cameo in the film first.
Fun! I can't wait to throw our first movie night party!

Things I Love Today: Quake Alarm

I teased Rob endlessly when he bought an earthquake alarm system for our apartment a few months ago. Growing up along the coast of California, I knew that you couldn't "predict" earthquakes and that your only salvation was to duck and cover. But the little alarm has actually turned out to be pretty genius.

We've had a few earthquakes in the high 3's and 4's lately and each time the alarm has worked perfectly. The secret is that the alarm helps you with those first few seconds of asking yourself, "is this just a garbage truck rolling by or do I need to go stand in a doorway?" If the alarm is ringing, it is definitely an earthquake. Since we live in a house filled with heavy art and mirror hazards, this is an important distinction.

Anyway, I have the alarm on my brain because it woke us up at 3:30 am last night for the 3.8 Santa Rosa quake. I'm a really deep sleeper and probably wouldn't wake up for anything smaller than a 6.0 if it wasn't for the alarm.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

What to Wear: Down

A big cold front is arriving in San Francisco from Canada. Temperatures are expected to go down to the 20's and stay there. In San Francisco, this is cause for great panic. The paper even ran an article this morning that included tips for spotting hypothermia. I'm sure anyone living outside the coasts will find the story very amusing.

My embargo on down jackets (installed after wearing a black puffy everyday for four months last year's rainy winter) has lasted fairly well so far this year but I don't think I'll make it without some down over the weekend. This white bomber jacket from Martin + Osa (an American Eagle spinoff they have at the new Westfield mall) might be a good compromise.

Say Hello to My New Not-so-Little Friend

My office surprised me with a new computer this week. I'm replacing my basic PC and 19 inch LCD monitor with this behemoth of an iMac. I have the 24 inch model and the whole computer is built into the screen. I haven't regularly used a mac since back in my graphic design school days, so this will be an interesting transition!

Between this and Rob's huge new 40" TV that arrived in the mail today, I'm going through a major upgrade!