Friday, August 31, 2007

Inspired: Simply Anna China

It's not often that you find a china pattern that hits just the right note. Simply Anna is pretty darn close. It's ornate enough (imprinted porcelain, gold detail, scalloped rim) to be special. And simple enough to work for all sorts of occasions and still be dishwasher safe.

Designer Anna Weatherley is known more for her intricate, hand painted botanical dishes. Which are lovely, but a little much. This "Simply" pattern is much lighter, both on the wallet and the eye.

Urban Girl Almanac: Summer!

This has been a really busy, fun week. Work has been nuts and San Francisco has finally hit summer. The city is in full bloom! Here's what I learned:
  • I'm so glad that the post office still gives stamps in wax envelopes.
  • Why do sandwiches taste so good. I think it's the pickles.
  • Everyone in the city dresses cutely when it's warm.
  • My new hair salon is lovely.
  • Plans for the LAC anniversary party are coming along.
  • I'm surprised to discover that I really enjoy playing music. Playing bass guitar with Rob leaves me feeling almost euphoric. A far different experience than my junior high clarinet career.
  • I have a talent for picking sweet honeydew.
  • A big salad with mushrooms, carrots, pistachios and cheddar cheese is an ideal summer dinner.
  • Live Sushi isn't much to write home about.
  • A good blowout is an incredible thing.
  • Negative people are a drag.
  • Wedding planning: I'm in the process of choosing a caterer and finding a seamstress for my dress.
  • Cities are all about change. New restaurants, stores and friends arrive. And, unfortunately, they also leave. I'm so sad that Ben and Stacey are moving away.
  • I wish I could move up to being a certifiable V1 boulderer.
  • I'm kind of obsessed with the Mandy Moore song "All Good Things." And Sara Bareilles' "Love Song" has been stuck in my head for a couple days.
  • Rob's noted that I've been hyper this week. It's true and has led to some funny moments. Must be all the sun.
Have a fantastic Labor Day weekend! Eat a lot of potato salad for me!

Things I Love Today: Dekko Salon

My hair stylist, Nikki, has changed locations again. This time to a beautiful loft salon called Dekko. They say they're in Portrero Hill, but it's really Dog Patch.

If you go, and I recommend you do, make sure to get a shampoo from Dax. Perfect water temperature, great smelling shampoo and a killer head massage. It's a life-changing shampoo experience!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

What to Wear: Vintage Cocktail

Christine in Canada (I seem to be getting a lot of Canadian readers lately, which is lovely because I used to have a co-worker who was Canadian and I ardently celebrated Canada Day for many years. Anywho) wrote in with a request for an upcoming wedding:
I have a wedding to attend in September and would like to create an outfit around a 1960s dress I purchased recently. I am at a loss for hair, jewelery and shoes.

I'm the plus-one of a former and possibly once-again boyfriend at his friend's wedding, for which he is a groomsman. The wedding will be large and traditional and in a hall or hotel.

The dress (very amateur rendering here) is black, with an empire waist, and hits an inch or two above the knee. Both front and back of the boat neck collar are covered in silver sequins, which have a lovely, slightly tarnished patina. The back has a diamond-shaped cut-out, also bordered in sequins, and a bow with long, drapey tails.

I'm 25, 5'6" and about 110 lbs, slender but curvy (boobs and a butt, skinny arms and not-so-slender athletic legs). My skin is olive, eyes are dark brown, hair is dark brown in a shoulder-length bob. I love heels. I, obviously, love sparkle. And, I'd love your suggestions.
I love wearing vintage! I made an approximation of her dress in PhotoShop and came up with a two sets of accessory options. For either option, she should pull her hair up a la Audrey and rock some 1960's style eyeliner:

Plan A: Play it Down
Let the dress take center stage with some complimentary accessories. This is a wedding after all, don't go crazy.
Clutch - Basic black clutch you can find anywhere.
Ring - So, so perfect for this dress!
Shoes - Dark silver satin pumps with a small rhinestone buckle.

Plan B: Play it Up
If you're going to be fabulously vintage, might as well work it all the way. This is a wedding after all, live it up!
Clutch - Silk and rhinestone clutch from Nordstrom.
Earrings - Big studs.
Shoes - These are so fun! And only $32 on sale right now.

What's your vote? Plan A or plan B for Christine?

Things I Love Today: Summer Weekend

I'm so excited for the upcoming labor day weekend! The city is fun when it's hot, but it gets really smelly after a couple days of heat (how do New Yorker's manage all summer long?).

So Rob and I are off to the "country" tomorrow afternoon. We're spending the weekend in SLO and here's my list of favorites in no particular order:
  • Watermelon
  • Watermelon lemonade
  • Honeydew so sweet that it must be bad for you
  • Barbecue
  • Flip flops
  • Ample parking
  • Cheap movie tickets
  • Mineral spring hot tubs by the hour
  • Good Mexican food
  • My parents
  • Old Port Beach
  • Penney, the wet wonder dog
  • Quiet nights
  • Big Sky Cafe
  • Shopping at SF stores, like Ambiance and Therapy, without the crowds
  • Potato salad
  • Chicken salad
  • Linnaea's Cafe
  • Relaxed wine tasting
  • Drive in movie theater
  • Quirky Morro Bay
Fun! It's so nice to go visit San Luis Obispo for a few days, but at the end I'm always glad to come back to my foggy, smelly San Francisco.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What to Wear: Meetings

Meena wrote in this week with a request for an upcoming busy day:
I am a freelance food writer and have a bit of a fashion dilemma for an upcoming meeting. I’m meeting with the coordinator of a cooking school to discuss the possibly of an opportunity for me to teach. Two hours after that, I have a lunch meeting with the editor of a lifestyle magazine. I’m so confused as to what I should wear.

I prefer wearing pants since it would be easier from me to jump from one train to the other while commuting from both places. Also, I’m quite short in height with a large chest. This makes it hard for me to put together a smart business casual outfit. Please help!
I love putting together professional outfits for creative types; designs, writers, etc. The rules are just a little more flexible.

Blazer - $98 in versatile brown from Anthropologie. Also would be great with jeans.
Shirt - Dark teal is so flattering and appropriate for a chef. Plus, casual enough so that you can ditch the coat and jump in the kitchen if needed.
Trousers - A light brown tweed always looks sharp. Get a nice, lined pair tailored and you'll wear them for years.
Pumps - The blue suede pumps look super comfortable and add a little height and fun.
Bracelet - From Forever 21.
Bag - A big tote to fit all your supplies and writing samples for the day.
Good luck with your meetings!

Inspired: Grand Hotel

Summer has officially arrived in San Francisco, right on schedule. It's a sweltering 75 degrees out today.

Now that it's summer, I'm all about sweet honeydew, iced tea, a juicy read and resort daydreams. My latest resort obsession is the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in Michigan. Opened in 1887, it seems like just the place for me. I'll take my pimm's cup out on the rocking chair veranda please.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Wedding: The Dress

I received my great grandmother's wedding dress from my cousin over the weekend! This turn-of-the century dress is linen lace said to be handmade by nuns outside of Paris. It's one complete piece of lace with a soft empire waist and a small train in back. My great grandmother was known for her exquisite taste and this dress doesn't disappoint.

The dress also happens to fit me perfectly. Those skinny Bemis/Stockton/Williams genes are pretty dedicated through the generations. Now I just need to book a good seamstress to have a new satin lining made and to do something with the neckline (currently wide strap v-neck that isn't particularly flattering with my toothpick arms). How exciting!

Disc Golf Photos

I remembered my camera today and have photos from our thrilling round of frisbee golf to share. First, Rob and me proudly showing off our finest golf costumes:

Matt, dressed in the real disc golf uniform, was not super impressed with our ensembles:

Matt in action at the tee.

Hole 16. We're worn out and ready to get to the après golf part.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Passport Sale: Feud Boots

We're t-minus 25 days to the my favorite sale of the year: The Macy's Passport Sale. This bay area-only event is held every year in late September. And it's become quite the tradition for my friend Nicole and me. We get an early start, dress comfortably, hit every department and basically spend 8 hours straight inside Macy's. Last year was a big success.

A $10 donation to AIDS research gets you 10-20% off everything in the store; including sale items, designer jeans and things not normally included in discounts. Plus, free snacks and promotions throughout the store.

I need to start compiling a list of things to buy now. First off, a new pair of boots. I love the stacked heel and toe of these grey Steve Maddens. Not so sure about the lacing in the back. What do you think?

Inspired: Book Art

I saw a link to this on Apartment Therapy SF last week and it literally blew my mind. Sculpture made entirely of books! Brilliant!

Click here to look at more of Jonathan Callan's work.

Weekend Round-Up: Nerdapalooza

I'm not sure exactly why, but this weekend was so nerdy! Friday night wasn't too bad. We did laundry & had dinner at our local sushi restaurant. Back at home I did a spa night.

Saturday morning, I woke up late and made a breakfast of coffee, oatmeal and turkey bacon. And then we watched Dune in HD, which I had never seen and which is awesomely bad (Sting in a speedo! Superfluous inner-dialog narration!)

After the movie, Rob and I took the train out to Golden Gate park to visit the de Young Museum. All the new exhibits were fascinating. Shi Guorui's pinhole camera exhibit inspired me to buy my own kit, similar to this. From the museum, we walked back home along Haight Street. We stopped at the insanely cheap green grocer on Divisadero. Honeydew, 9 artichokes, red potatoes, carrots, limes, late harvest grapes, mint, garlic and nectarines for under $10!

Back at home, I worked on my camera and made turkey soup. Our nerd movie marathon continued with War Games, which I had also not seen before.

We had another big healthy breakfast at home on Sunday before driving out to the park to meet Matt for some disc golf. Rob and I dressed as traditional golfers - polo shirts, gloves, tweed caps - much to Matt's chagrin (I have photos but forgot my camera).

My inability to throw more than 30 feet at a time led to an average triple bogey on each hole. Mini golf turned out to be a lot more strenuous than I expected. We ran up and down the park and all through the bushes in search of wayward frisbees. Two hours and 18 holes later, it was time to pack it up.

Exhausted, Rob and I stopped for a late lunch at Green Chile Kitchen. Back at home, we only had a half hour to recover and prepare for my cousin's engagement photo shoot. They picked us up at 4:30 and we drove over to Crissy Field for the pictures. Back at home again at 6:00. I worked on my paper camera some more.

The nerdapalooza clincher: I watched High School Musical for the first time on Sunday night. Wow. That is one perky movie. It reminded me of my brief infatuation with S Club 7. Did you know that Zac Efron is from my hometown? (Great, now I'm a nerd and 16 years old).

Friday, August 24, 2007

Urban Girl Almanac: Short Week

This week has gone by so fast. Probably because I slept through Tuesday entirely. Still, things were done and lessons were learned:
  • Being overly excited that you didn't catch your fiance's cold almost always leads to ironically catching said cold.
  • The smell of a fresh mint bouquet is lovely.
  • Hooray for brooding love interests.
  • Still completely obsessed with Coupling.
  • The worst part of being sick is getting sweaty when you sleep. Yuck!
  • Congratulations to our newest Ladies Activity Club chapter in Denver, Colorado. We're now in three states!
  • I'm really frustrated by not having sold my Miata yet.
  • Squash tacos...who would have thought!?
  • It can get annoying working in an office full of men and being one of only a few women. I could use a vacation.
  • My favorite part of Easter Parade is when Judy Garland manages to call a taxi with just a small flick of her wrist and a whisper. Oh, and all the dancing.
  • Rob organized our closet this week. Isn't he wonderful!
  • I really need a new pair of jeans. Good thing the Macy's Passport Sale is coming soon.
  • "A nice simple wedding" is my new mantra.
It looks like the weather is going to be perfect in San Francisco these next few days! Hopefully we'll have a weekend full of kayaking, biking, friends and other fun.

Ladies Activity Club: Scherenschnitte

I missed my first ever Ladies Activity Club party this week :( Until this nasty cold came along, I had perfect attendance. And it looks like I skipped a really good one, too.

Rebecca hosted everyone for a night of Scherenschnitte, aka German paper cutting. Very impressive work, ladies! You can see her whole party round up online.

In the meantime, I'm gearing up for the LAC's 2-year anniversary party in September! Last year, we painted picture frames and I gave out pencils as party favors. What should I do to celebrate this year?

What to Wear: White Shoes

Sara, our favorite resident of Geneva and Garden Room lunch companion, wrote in with a request based around shoes:
I thought of an outfit question for you, I just ordered two pairs of white shoes. Aside from one dress, I don't know what to wear them with. I'm trying to branch out from always wearing black and I thought these were both cute (and a good deal, the Bloomies ones were an additional half off, so only $32, although I had to call in to get the code to work. Maybe an outfit with a dark jeans skirt would work? I just ordered this one. I'm starting to doubt my venture into owning white shoes :)
White shoes are so versatile once you get used to them. They're lovely with floral-type skirts and flouncy things...but even better with darker colors. Here are two outfits, one for summer and one for fall:

Shirt - Pretty and ruffled from Anthropologie. (who is apparently still killing all external links, drats)
Skirt - Excellent choice Sara! I love this dark denim pencil skirt from J Crew.
Messenger Bag - From Old Navy. Really, you don't need to match your bag to the shoes. Any outfit-matching bag will do just fine.
Earrings - An extra splash of color.

Sweater - This J Crew cardigan has a bit of white detail to match the shoes.
Pants - They look odd in this photo, however, there's nothing quite as nice as a good pair of wool trousers.
Purse - Again, matching isn't necessary. I have an off-white bag myself and love that it goes with nearly everything.
Jacket - From Tulle with a great mod collar.
Earrings - Basic studs.

Enjoy your new shoes, Sara!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bargain Finder: Sheik Shoes

Sheik is an "urban teen" brand that specializes in things like Baby Phat and rainbow skull cargo shorts. Not the place you might expect to find a killer pair of shoes.

I picked up a pair of these "Segment Wedges" at a shop in Berkeley. So far, they've turned out to be one of my most comfortable and durable favorites. The heels have barely worn at all after a couple months of my city walking. And at only $40 with free shipping, they're not too hard on the wallet either.

Inspired: Jamali Garden

Thank you Domino Magazine for including a link to Jamali Garden in your latest issue! (remember the bronze urn from the dark flower article?) This online floral supply store has all the good prices of a floral wholesaler but without all the ugly options.

Plus, way less expensive than the other centerpiece options I've found. I just can't decide which I like best for my yellow and white flowers. These planters? This nickel bowl? Antique copper urns? What a great resource!

Recipe: Rustic Tacos

Rob and I got home late from work last night, leaving little time or enthusiasm for cooking. So I made a new favorite standby with some leftovers we had in the fridge. It's got a great yucatan peninsula sort of flavor. Very easy and tasty!

Rustic Turkey and Squash Tacos
2 1/2 cups cubed yellow acorn squash
2 cups leftover turkey or chicken cubed
1/4 of an onion, diced
2 tablespoons pico de gallo salsa
1 tablespoon olive oil
Juice from half a lemon or lime
Big pinch of mexican oregano
Two pinches of dark chili powder
Dash of salt

Put squash, olive oil, oregano and chili powder in a skillet and turn stove to high. Let squash cook until slightly browned, about 5 minutes, before adding turkey and onion. Cook on medium heat until hot, about 5 minutes. Add lemon and salsa, season to taste. Keep on low heat until ready to serve.

Cook corn tortillas on the burner and serve tacos with shredded cheese, lettuce, black olives, etc. Make sure the turkey mixture is nice and hot, the squash is best that way. Serves 2.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

What to Wear: Husband's Reunion

My dislike of reunions is well documented. But any reunion that's not actually yours, is really just a party. And I'm a big fan of anything party related. Here is Katie's request:
Do I have a what to wear question for you!?! Next month is my husband’s 10 year high school reunion and I would love to look FABULOUS for it. He grew up in the Laguna area of Southern California where in my mind everyone is tan and beautiful. I’m in need of an outfit STAT. I’m sure the whole thing won’t be too dressy, and will probably have a cool, laid back California vibe. Still, I’d like to look a little grown-up and really well put together.

I think the event will be leaning towards cocktails, but still pretty casual, beachy kind of event. Also, lest I forget to mention, the top needs to cover my shoulders and the bottom go at least to my knees.My budget is probably around $250-$300 or so. I’m gonna splurge a bit because I got a raise today.
The nice thing about California-casual, is that you can basically wear anything. A nice, flattering dress is the perfect easy choice for this type of event.

Dress - A kimono style dress is covering, flattering and very SoCal. This pick from Anthropologie toes the line between cocktail and beach. (ed: this link keeps on breaking, apologies. The dress is called Chabana)
Clutch - A bold choice in bright orange.
Shoes - I struggled with this pick. You really need a wedge if sand is going to be involved, but it's not my absolute favorite. If no sand, find a very cute black dressy sandal.
Earrings - Nice and dangly to compliment your blown out hair. A blow out is really absolutely necessary for any event in the L.A. vicinity, in my mind.

Some bronzer or fake tan will also be a help as you prepare for this big day. And eyeliner...lots of eyeliner. Think MAC counter and The Hills, you'll fit right in!

Inspired: Simple Weddings

The more I've been wedding planning, the more I've been envying those old fashioned simple weddings. Like my parent's wedding in San Francisco, planned in a week. My mom wore a gunny sax lace dress my grandmother bought her, my dad wore a suit. They didn't have a professional photographer but the photos are lovely. Or my grandmother's wedding, held at her parent's house in the winter in Minnesota.

In this age of mandatory groom's cakes, teeth bleaching, $5,000 floral budgets, it still possible to have a simple wedding? The wedding photos from my blog friend (and actual friend of a friend), A History of Architecture, say yes. I'm so inspired by her simple vintage style!

Things I Love Today: Foul Tempered Love Interests

I watched The English Patient for the first time yesterday. It's a perfect sick day movie - long, slow and full of ill people.

Also, it contains one of the great archetypes of romantic films: the brooding, foul tempered, romantic hero. A sort of Byronic character that is somehow so appealing to all women. I had a whole list of examples yesterday, now I can only come up with three:
  • Darcy - The king of the brooders and so well portrayed by Colin Firth. Absolutely disagreeable until the moment of love's confession.
  • Count Laszlo de Almásy - Moody gentleman explorer of the desert. Knows only two emotions: resentment and undying love.
  • George Emerson - Awkwardly lacking in social graces or good humor. Excels in catching fainting women and romantic meadow scenes.
There must be a million more to add to this list. Who have I forgotten?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Sick Day

Rob's cold has become my cold. I'm in bed for the day. See you tomorrow!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Things I love Today: New Shoes

I've recently begun to hate all my shoes. The high heeled pairs are uncomfortable and the flats are unattractive. Boring...too fancy...worn out...even the pairs that have served me well are suddenly blister inducing.

Time for some shopping! I bought this pair of Calvin Klein "Sherry" flats at Shoe Pavilion for well over half off. Sparkly! Red! Comfortable! Be-jeweled! They're the perfect antidote to a case of the shoe blues.

To Do: Fresh Mint

It's gorgeous outside today. Sunny and warm all across San Francisco. Me? Trapped inside an air conditioned office. Make that a nearly abandoned office, everyone is on vacation.

What to do? Buy a big bunch of fresh mint at the store and put it in a vase on your desk. It smells so fresh and summery, just like mojitos and iced tea. And if it can get a little sun, the roots will grow and it will last a couple weeks.

Weekend Round-Up: Committment and Canoes

I'm exhausted from our long, busy weekend. On Friday, we met Matt at the climbing gym for an hour of bouldering. As usual, I went a little nuts and did about 20 climbs. Rob calls my bouldering technique "crazed squirrel."

From there, we drove home and had a jam session with Rob on uke, Matt on guitar and me on bass. After an hour or so, we had a passable rendition of "C C Rider." We all grabbed a late dinner at La Med on Noe. I love all the flavors this mediterranean/middle eastern cafe uses: dill, cinnamon, pomegranate, saffron.

Up early on Saturday morning to pack the car and drive to Sacramento. There is always, always terrible traffic on this drive. We had to be there at 1:30 to photograph a wedding (Rob does a couple weddings a year for friends and family). The whole wedding went by as a lovely blur, I'll do a separate post on it later. The one semi-downside was that I went college with the groom and it turned into a bit of a UOP reunion. Reunions always make me nervous, I was a huge nerd in college, and especially when I'm frazzled from working all night.

We spent Saturday night with our friend Seth in Fair Oaks. After breakfast on Sunday morning, it was time to hit the river. Rob and I loaded into an old canoe and Seth into a river kayak and we paddled five miles down the American River. It was all wonderful and nice...until we got to the class 2 rapids. We managed to paddle about halfway through fine. And then the canoe promptly filled with water and sunk.

Being expertly trained at ditch and retrieval from my boating childhood, I immeditately grabbed both oars, my pants, two jugs of water and the sunblock while Rob grabbed the waterlogged boat. Wearing life jackets made it easier to paddle out of the strong current and on to the beach. Soaking wet and laughing, Seth joined us for a snack while things dried out a bit.

Back in the boat to paddle the rest of the way without event. We loaded up the truck, went back to Seth's to change and had a delicious Mexican lunch at a local taqueria. We drove back home in the traffic at 4:00 and got back to our fair, foggy city right before 7. A quiet evening of unpacking and watching Freedom Writers (I didn't really like it, still cried at all the sad parts.)

Friday, August 17, 2007

What to Wear: Back-to-School

Emily sent in a what to wear request for a wedding outfit back in April. I recently heard from her again, with a new request and a photo of her wearing pretty much exactly what I'd picked out (I love when that happens). Here's her request:
I'll be starting the new school year in about a month and would like to spruce up my working wardrobe a bit. I'll be teaching third grade and while I don't need business suits, I would like to present a professional front (i.e. no denim jumpers with schoolhouses!!) I don't need a whole wardrobe, perhaps just some mix/match pieces. I'm petite so I don't mind heels, but I'm on my feet all day so something comfortable is in order. Any help would be appreciated!
What a great opportunity for some back-to-school shopping. I've put together some basic pieces along the same color scheme that Emily can mix and match:

Cardigan - From American Eagle in "academic aubergine."
Shirt - A basic ivory henley.
Skirt - A corduroy skirt seems like it would be just right for school. On colder days, wear with opaque tights.
Flats - These gold flats from Nine West seem like they'd be really comfortable.
Necklace - Make good use of the fact that teachers seem to get much more accessory lee-way. Replace an apple/macaroni necklace with this bauble from Forever21.

Jacket - Modern without being intimidating or too weird. Equally cute with long or short sleeves underneath.
Shirt - This type of collar is so flattering and sort of romantic. Makes your neck appear extra long!
Trouser Jeans - Seriously, trouser jeans and wrap dresses are my two favorite things. I love that these are a little dressy but still very machine washable.
Flats - Comfy and stylish in dark leather with a buckle.
Bracelet - Also from Forever21.
Purse - A brand new brown leather and snake print bag from Kenneth Cole is a great splurge. These bags last forever.

It looks like Emily will be teaching her third graders some valuable fashion lessons!

Things I Love Today: My New Hobby

It was really just a matter of time before I got sucked into Rob's new musical fixation. He's been taking ukulele lessons for the past four months and has become pretty good. Now he needs backup for his renditions of Something and that's where I come in.

Last night, I became the proud owner of a gigantic acoustic bass guitar. Honestly, it's about 4 1/2 feet long.

I think I may have uncovered my secret musical talent with this instrument. After 15 minutes in the store, I figured out how to play the opening bit from Smoke on the Water with no music or instruction. I'm a musical rock star genius!

Happy Blogiversary!

It's been two years since I moved to San Francisco and started this blog! Hopefully, my blogging skills have gotten significantly better since then. In that time:
  • I have eaten at 80 restaurants in San Francisco, excluding national chains. (I made a list to settle a bet with Rob.) That averages to almost a new restaurant every week.
  • I started the Ladies Activity Club, also coming up on it's 2-year anniversary.
  • I got engaged!
  • I posted 1,414 times.
  • I created over 150 what to wear ensembles (another one is coming).
  • I met and made friends with a some great bloggers.
  • I have received 110,000 visitors since I turned on site meter about a year ago.
I can't believe it's been two years already. I guess time does really fly when you are having fun!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Books on Blog: Back to Glamour Coffee

It's time for our third and final (for now) installment from the 1960 book Brunches and Coffees. And it's a doozie:
The end of summer has arrived; and females of the species, young and old, are tan, healthy but probably no trimmer than three months ago. Permanents have grown out, skin is dry. It's time to repair the ravages of wind and sun. Your college or high school daughters and her friends would love to have a "Back to Glamour" Party given for them before they return to school.

The place for this coffee party will have to be the kitchen, recreation room, or bedroom with it's handy mirrors and dressing table. Have your daughter hie herself down to five and ten for extra combs, bobby pins, wave set, nail polish and beauty preparations that might be forgotten by the would-be glamor girl guests. if she has or can borrow several hair dryers, so much the better. And be sure she includes a few of her father's old shirts for cover-ups.

Start this party bright and early in the morning - some of the gals have a lot of re-glamorizing to do! And be sure that there are no brothers, friends, or male relatives arriving at any time!

Have non-caloric beverages - lots of them- and non-fattening foods. The guests will be grateful for the omission of those tempting sweet rolls and coffee cakes.

Menu: Fruit juices in tray of ice, plate of assorted fruit, bacon bran muffins, melba toast - slightly buttered, hot rye crisp, cinnamon sugar, marmalade, non-caloric beverages.
Oh lordy! If only I could convince my friends to do this sort of thing. Unfortunately, I think they'll have none of it. I'll be stuck doing my permanent and eating bacon muffins alone at home! Here's the recipe for that "non-fattening" muffin:
4 slices bacon, cooked crisp, diced
1 cup ready to eat bran
3/4 cup milk
1 cup flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1.2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg, slightly beaten
3 tbl. bacon fat

Combine bran and milk. Sift dry ingredients and add to bran. Add molasses, egg and bacon fat. Stir until just barely blended. Fold in crisp bacon. Bake in greased muffin pans at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.
A recipe like this has either got to be truly delicious (like pancakes and sausage?) or just absolutely horrid. Who wants to give it a try?

New Sunblock Rating Guide

Oh, the challenges of being extremely pale! I've grown weary of the Lancome Mexoryl "super-sunblock." It's so thick and pore clogging.

A new guide to sunblock from the Environmental Working Group backs up my dissatisfaction. They gave it a 7 on a scale from 0 (good) to 10 (health hazard) for being not very effective and chock full of carcinogens.

According to their rankings, I should switch to Keys Soap vegan, chemical free, broad spectrum, nano-zinc, SPF 30 Solar Rx sunblock. It actually looks pretty good...and it's cheaper than my old sunblock. I'll keep you posted.

Things I Love Today: Plaid

Fall! I can't wait. I tried on this plaid shirt at Gap last weekend and got a major dose of fall fever. Actually, it's quite adorable in person. Cute with jeans or with a black pencil skirt for work.

Being Gap, they still managed to throw a wrench in it. The shirt is only available online in limited tall and petite sizes and hasn't been discounted yet. But still, fall! cute!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Books on Blog: Baby Shower Brunch

Another day another exciting installment from the 1960 entertainment book, Brunches and Coffees. Today, we're learning how to throw a baby shower:
Everyone loves a baby shower. However, only good friends of the guest of honor should be invited. Most people are embarrassed to receive gifts from mere acquaintances. Your own dearest friend, if not a close friend of the lady-in-waiting, shouldn't be miffed if she is not invited.

This is no time for sophisticated table decorations. Your arrangements should be as tenderly executed as a delicately pink and blue as you can make it. Place a "Rock-a-Bye Baby" doll in a tiny cradle and swing it in a make believe tree, easily fashioned from a branch from your garden. Anchor the branch in a sturdy pin holder and camouflage the base with sweetheart roses.

Another clever centerpiece can be made in a baby's warming dish
[ed: what on earth?!] - the kind with a base to be filled with hot water. Anchor carnations and baby's breath into chicken wire fixed in the dish. This arrangement, container and all, can be given to the guest of honor to take home afterwards, a lovely gift an one sure to be useful later.

Make the place mats from juvenile wall paper
[ed: great idea!] and scallop them around the edges. Choose napkins which match the background color.

Menu: Melon balls in parfait glasses, chicken mushroom casserole, english muffins, marmalade, currant jelly, coffee.
More fun with carnations and chicken wire! Next: A Back to Glamor Coffee (for teenagers!) including a recipe for "non-fattening" bacon bran muffins.

Things I Love Today: Driving

Walking everywhere, everyday is great exercise. I get 3+ miles a day in on average. But even an urban girl can occasionally get tired of constantly schlepping around town by foot. Luckily, Rob and I have a new four seater car that has opened up a new world of car-based city fun!

Last night, Rob and I picked Matt up from the Caltrain station and drove to the climbing gym. We bouldered for an hour; until our arms were totally dead. Back in the car to drive to Guitar Center on Van Ness. We bought ukelele strings and Rob tried to get me to buy an enormous bass guitar:

From there we drove up to Russian Hill and down Lombard Street - the twisted, touristy part - for dinner at In-N-Out.

Mmm...grilled cheese, fries and a chocolate milkshake! After dinner, we dropped off Matt and drove home on Market Street with the radio up loud.

I'm so glad we bought the Honda Fit; it has turned out to be perfect!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Wedding Planning: Make-up

Here's the question: Do I need a make-up artist for my wedding day?

I'm already planning to have my hair done (my hair being impossibly fine and curly and in much need of a professional taming). I think I'm pretty good at doing my own make-up. Do I need a $150 make-up pro to come in before the wedding? Or could I put half that toward new cosmetics to just apply myself?

What do you think? What were your experiences with wedding make-up?

Books on Blog: Brunches and Coffees

Thanks to my close family friend, Kate Riggins, I am starting to build up quite the collection of vintage entertaining books. The latest addition is Brunches and Coffees by Marion Courtney.

Included in the book are ideas, decorating tips and recipes for 33 different kinds of brunch and coffee parties for the hip hostess circa 1960. A favorite so far is the Bridal Brunch. Here's the excerpt:
The daughter of a best friend will be married at four. Take the pressure off the mother of the bride and entertain the family and wedding party at an eleven o'clock brunch.

Choose a pastel color scheme, thus saving the traditional white for the wedding reception. If the bride is a blond, choose blue; or if she is a dark-eyed brunet, use petal pink. Carry this color into the linens and even into the aprons and caps of the maids, and the ties of the bartenders or bus boys.

Serve champagne punch and Catawba grape juice icy cold to give the party a glamorous beginning. Ring the punch bowls with camellia leaves and carnations, and float a flower or two in each bowl.

Make fifteen-inch tiered cakes on chicken wire frames of pink and blue carnations interspersed with huckleberry leaves. If you plan to serve buffet style, a pink or blue taffeta cloth with an overskirt of white net at the corners with small bouquets of the same carnations would be charming.

Menu: eggs benedict, blueberry muffins, pickled peach, strawberries richelieu, coffee.
Now you know how to throw a bridal brunch, complete with carnation cakes! Next up: Baby shower brunch.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sale Alert: Denim Trench

This dark denim trench from Tulle seems to be just the right thing. Forget boxy jean jackets, last season's blazers and easy-to-stain white trenches, this coat would be ideal in San Francisco all year round. Especially lovely paired with a bright dress or trousers I'm sure.

Plus, it's on sale for only $42 (xs and s only)!

PS: This coral dress from a What to Wear in June is also on sale.

Things I Love Today: Champaca Bloom & Fern

Anthropologie....why are you always equal parts amazing and frustrating? The best dressing rooms in the city & always a line. The coolest clothes & so, so many of the oddest. The massive number of scented candles you keep burning at all times (honestly, is it one person's dedicated job? do you have to keep a candlemaster on staff?).

I bought this enormous Voluspa candle at Anthropologie on Saturday. The scent is "Chapaca Blossom & Fern." Champaca being a sort of tropical magnolia and ferns...being without scent last time I checked. Anyway, it smells really nice, fresh and not too floral.

Weekend Round-Up: Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous (for Cable TV)

This was such a perfect weekend! I feel like I've been gone from work for a week. Let's see...Friday night was quiet. Rob and I blew off going to the gym in exchange for a quiet evening at home. We ate the last of the coq au vin, watched Survivorman and went to bed early.

We got up early the next morning to prepare for my friend's arrival. Breakfast of wheat toast, turkey bacon and french press coffee. Nicole drove in at 10 am and we quickly turned around to visit the ferry building farmer's market (it really is a spectacular display of produce). We were given free astropops by a Giant's promoter and walked back downtown on Market with our popsicles.

We shopped at Gap, Gump's and Kenneth Cole before lunch of clam chowder breadbowls in the Macy's Basement. More shopping at Macy's, Anthropologie and the Westfield before taking the train back home at 3:00. Nicole rested while I took more photos of the Miata for my potential buyer. Pretty soon it was time to get dressed for the evening.

First stop, Pacific Catch on Chestnut (of iPhone commercial fame). Pretty good food, too bad about the long wait for a table. After dinner, we had time to stop at a bar quickly before cabbing it up to The Fillmore to meet Matt and Amber for Old Crow Medicine Show. It was an excellent - and long - performance! I grabbed one of the Fillmore's famous red apples on my way out after the show. Such a perfect snack after three hours of intense bluegrass. Back home in a cab a little after midnight to crash into our beds.

Nicole, Rob and I all managed to sleep in until 10am on Sunday. Quite a feat with our neighborhood fire station running their drills at 9:00 each morning. We got dressed and took the N-train out to Cole Valley for brunch. After a long wait for a table, we got a seat in the patio at Zazie.

As soon as we ordered, we had a celebrity sighting: Tory Belleci from Mythbusters grabbed a table right behind ours. Awesome!

Breakfast was delicious! I had the gingerbread pancakes with lemon curd and poached pears. The sun even came out halfway through. We rode the train back home and Nicole left for Napa shortly thereafter. I had an hour to read the Sunday Times (I actually like the new skinnier pages) before Margaret showed up at 2:00!

We walked around Castro for a while in the sun. It is so nice to just hang out and talk with old friends! At 4:00, Rob and I had to get dressed for Matt's birthday dinner and say goodbye to Margaret. We took the bus up to Lombard Street for dinner at Boboquivari's. This steakhouse has an old fashioned charm and tiny steaks that are worth their hefty price tags. It was a great meal and Matt seemed to love the harmonica we gave him.

Back home again on the bus at 8:30. I quickly changed into pajamas and spent the rest of the night reading the paper in bed. Whew! Wasn't that a perfect weekend?!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Urban Girl Almanac: Winter, Summer

It's been another very busy week in San Francisco. We went to the movies, hosted a dinner party, played ukulele and got a lot of sleep. Pretty much perfect! Here's what I learned:
  • Everyone should visit San Francisco!
  • Go see Live Free or Die Hard, it's fun.
  • If you love fall, and it feels like fall, why not just pretend it really is fall.
  • Weather is such a unifying topic.
  • Skinning chicken makes me feel sort of tough and French-like.
  • Coq au vin: Easy and delicious. Even better the next day.
  • It's much easier to walk 1.5 miles to work and back in sneakers than low heels.
  • Still enjoying Coupling.
  • Black licorice scotty dogs are a good work snack.
  • I might have found a buyer for the Miata, keep your fingers crossed.
  • I can sort of play Clementine and Amazing Grace on the ukulele with Rob.
  • I kind of like washing dishes (we don't have a dishwasher and Rob usually does them).
  • Any city dweller should appreciate this version of Aesop's fables from the New Yorker.
  • Jean and I also love this column on urban botany clubs from the latest issue. Jean, because of the ferns. Me, because I like anything involving "founded in Victorian times."
  • The New Yorker is so great.
Rob and I are going to the climbing gym and then picking up the apartment tonight. Tomorrow, Nicole is coming into the city early, Rob's friend Seth is coming for a visit and Margaret will be joining us on Sunday. I love a full house!

Things I Love Today: Sun!

Hooray! The sun is out today!

Something seemed different early this morning. There was this strange light coming in around the bedroom curtains. A closer look outside the window revealed blue sky with no marine layer for the first time in ages.

The forecast is for sun and partial clouds all weekend long. Highs in the 68's will feel practically sweltering! And we have friends coming to visit, a full house actually. This weekend is shaping up quite nicely!

Photo from an adorable looking children's book, Sunny.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

What to Wear: Red Shirtdress for All Seasons

Depending on where you live, you're either dealing with incredible heat or overcast cold this week. Luckily, there are a lot of clothes that can handle both summer and winter weather (no matter what time of year it really is). Cynthia wrote in with this request:
I just bought a cute shirtdress and was wondering whether you could come up with some outfit ideas around it. It's red, hits slightly above the knee, has short sleeves, and came with a wide black belt. I'd like to be able to wear it in spring, summer, and fall if possible; I'm thinking layering, but not sure how best to go about it. Your help would be greatly appreciated.
I'm such a fan of shirtdresses! Here's my recommendation:

Dress - An approximation of Cynthia's. $100 from Nordstrom. In her case, she'll need two belts to replace the sash: one summery in light leather and one in dark brown for fall.
Shoes - Summery espadrilles.
Straw tote - From Spiegel for $20.
Headband - From J.Crew in bright silk.

Cropped jacket
- Houndstooth is fun for fall. This little jacket would also be nice with jeans and a sweater.
Boots - A good pair of boots is priceless. This pair from J.Crew will go with anything, in this case a red dress and a pair of tights.
Handbag - From Target.

Okay, that's it. Bring it on, cold weather. I know summer is on the way here in SF, but I'm really tempted to unpack the tweeds. My ideal outfit today would be a pair of wool trousers, a thick cableknit sweater, bright wool coat and leather boots!

Party Round-Up: French Rustic

Last night's dinner went pretty well! Especially for cooking a new recipe (always a risk).

The coq au vin came out this wonderful dark burgundy color with the meat almost falling off the bone. I ended up using free range breasts, thighs and drumsticks because apparently they don't sell non-boneless chicken breasts anymore. This gave the dish a little more of a rustic feeling and a lot more flavor. I started browning the chicken at 6:00 and the stew was perfectly simmered around 7:45. I forgot to mention in the recipe yesterday that you'll want to take the celery out before serving.

I did have a couple timing problems. The artichokes went in a little too early (needing exactly 40 minutes) and the potatoes a little too late (needing more than the 15 minutes stated). Neither was a disaster, though. Our guests, Calie and Kevin, we're wonderful conversation and we had no trouble with an extra wait.

What fun! Rob and I have some dishes to do tonight. We also have leftover coq au vin waiting for our dinner. Like lasagna and potato salad, it just gets better the second day. I can't wait!