Friday, December 28, 2007

Happy New Year!


















Enjoy your long weekend and have a great time ringing in the New Year.
I'll be back on Wednesday!

Party Recipe: New Year's Day Brunch

It's not so much that I've forgotten about Tuesday's party...it's just that I haven't really given any thought to it lately. Time to get cracking!

After ringing in the New Year at Bottom of the Hill watching our friend's band play (if you're in the city, you should come too!), we're having 10 or so friends over for brunch the next morning. The party starts at 11.

Food
Mini Salmon Bagels - These were a big hit at a previous brunch dinner. Toast up mini bagels and then top with cream cheese, smoked salmon and capers as an appetizer.
Gingerbread Pancakes - Based on the pancakes at Zazie. Possibly made the day before and warmed in the oven. Served with lemon curd or maple syrup.
Bacon and Sausage - Kept warm in my silver chafing dish. I'm not making eggs because they're impossible to keep hot enough.
Fruit Salad - Served in my new crystal champagne saucers.

Drinks
Coffee - And lots of it, served in my silver heated pot.
Orange Juice - Straight up or with champagne.
Bloody Mary's - I love them with pepper vodka, celery and olives.

Decorations
White tablecloth, charcoal gray napkins, green and white bouquet. If we take down the tree this weekend, I may keep out the pear green glass balls for table decorations. New Year's Resolution mad libs (you can download my templates here, here and here to use at your own party if you'd like).

Favors
If I have time (and with the terrible weather, it looks like I'll have plenty) I'd like to try making a batch of Tartine Bakery rochers. They'd be pretty wrapped in tulle with a bow.

What to Wear: Vail

I'm not much of a skier myself, but I do find the apre-ski part appealing. Here is Faith's request:
I'm heading to Vail with friends for New Year's Eve and I need help figuring out what wear out at night. I'd like to stay warm and dry (what type of shoe do I wear in snow?) and look charming without putting it all out on display! I can't really pull off the skinny jean tucked into a boot, but most other looks work well on me.
Have a little fun with your outfits while on vacation! I recommend playing up the ski resort style a bit with pieces you can mix and match later:

Dress - Cozy knit turtleneck dress on super sale from Macy's.
Boots - Lace up rubber boots are an adorable and affordable (only $24) alternative to more ridiculous furry apre-ski styles. Pair them with cute socks like these sparkly angoras.
Parka - This wooly bully is only $39 from La Redoute.
Scarf - Extra flair and warmth.
Mittens - They're lined with Thinsulate for extra warmth.
Earrings - In wood instead of metal to prevent frost-related discomfort.
Beret - Cozy and cute.

Stay warm, Faith!

Things I Love Today: Spicchi Candy

From all the office gift baskets (dubbed "Christmas nasties" in my family) this year emerged one favorite: Italian Perugina Spicchi candies. Shaped like real citrus slices, they come in not-too-sweet lemon, orange and tangerine. Yum!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

What to Wear: Gray Boots

Boots! I love them, wish I had more of them to wear everyday. Here is Wendy's request:
I just broke down and "invested" in a gorgeous pair of grey winter boots. They work with a few things I have (jeans, black skirts) but I'm looking for other ideas on how to get mileage out of them (i.e. I want to wear them everyday!) Any ideas? Gray was tricker than I realized!
What a cute pair! Is there anything you couldn't wear them with? Here's one idea:

Boots - In charcoal suede.
Sweater - My friend Margaret works at Anthropologie and has this in black.
Skirt - A dark denim pencil skirt is always versatile.
Jacket - Super pretty and only $88.
Earrings - Wood hoops from Forever 21.

I'm jealous, Wendy! Rock those boots with style for me.

Recipe: Saffron Risotto

It's really cold in San Francisco today (in the 40's, with a chance of snow!) and I'm inspired to make something from my new Chez Panisse cookbook.

Creamy saffron risotto should do the trick. At least it is a good excuse to spend 20 minutes near the warm stove. I think the cookbook's recipe is close to this one, but with a few dried mushrooms.

What to Wear: Brown Dress

It's so frustrating to buy something you like, take it home, and then hit a dead end. Julia recently found a dress that fits perfectly but that she can't figure out what to wear with:
I absolutely love your blog. I am a horrible, terrible shopper and reading it has changed the way I think about shopping for clothes. I am a little difficult to fit...a size 10-12 on the bottom and 6-8 on top. In the past, when I would find something that fit and looked good, I bought it, without any regard to how it worked into my wardrobe. Then, these items would sit in my closet and sometimes never even be worn because I couldn't figure out what to wear them with.

Which is the case with this dress. I bought it last year to wear to a party, couldn't figure out what shoes/jewelry etc to wear with it, and it's been sitting in my closet for a whole year (no returns after a week at the store where I purchased it!).

Now, it's party season again and I would love to wear this thing. It's a Dervish dress (made here in Portland--I tried to find a better picture online of a similar dervish dress but couldn't) and works well on my figure because the fabric does not cling at all. But it's boring and needs some serious help, which is why I am emailing you.
I would wear this dress to work all the time with boots, grey tights and some bright accessories. But that's not very creative and brown can serve as a fun base for blues and corals, especially. Here's one way to liven it up:

Dress - From Dervish in Portland.
Cardigan - In a lovely color with flower details on the shoulder. It would be like wearing a corsage all the time!
Shoes - Flirty peep toes in blue.
Necklace - A statement piece with tiger's eye beads.
Clutch - In platinum from Forever21.

This combo is a little feminine and a little vintage, perfect for a house party or book club meeting.

Christmas Photos!

The photos from Christmas this year really capture the warmth of our celebration. Lots of light, kids, dogs, legos and food! Click here to see them all.

This photo is of the centerpiece I made for Christmas dinner. I thought the mix of fir branches, sage, lambs ear, tea roses and red maple leaves - all from the garden - in a silver urn came out quite well.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

What to Wear: New York Vacation

Traveling in the winter can be so nice. But it does require a little more planning in the packing department. Here is Cyndi's request:
My big fashion challenge right now is that my husband and I will be celebrating my birthday in NYC in early January and I have absolutely no idea what to wear! We'll be there for four days and our plan is to attend two Broadway shows, eat at some great restaurants, do some sightseeing (Top of the Rock, Central Park, Rockefeller Center, etc.) and shopping. Seeing as how it will be quite cold in NYC at that time of year, I truly don't know what to take.

To make things even more challenging, my husband and I are currently living in Shreveport, LA where it doesn't get all that cold in the winter so my wardrobe is quite lacking in the "warm clothes" department.
I'm 5'7" and usually wear a size 6; have dark hair, blue eyes and skin on the pale side (pastels are not a good color for me). I'm hoping that you can work your magic and give me some ideas on what I can take that will make the most of our trip.
I like to pack a lot of black when going to visit a big city. Not only is it stain-proof but it is an easy way to look sophisticated with only a few mix and match options. My suggestion is based off an outfit that I loved in Paris. It was warm enough for walking around and fancy enough when stripped down inside of a nice restaurant:

Sweater - A nice warm turtleneck. Perfectly matched with a skirt or with jeans. You can add another sweater or fleece jacket on top of this under the coat if needed for warmth.
Skirt - A tweed skirt is surprisingly warm with opaque tights and is impossible to wrinkle.
Boots - Find a pair that is really comfortable for walking and that you can fit thick socks under. This pair is Ecco for extra cushion.
Coat - Because you can't do a proper Audrey impersonation without a trench.
Gloves - So helpful.
Scarf - In cashmere and on major sale.
Dog Sweater - Adorable souvenir! But for $50? Maybe not quite that adorable.

You should also take a warm cap and a headband (for recovering your post-cap hair). And lots of moisturizer and chapstick to guard against the cold wind. All you need to add is a couple more sweaters, a pair of jeans and a pair of tweed trousers and you're ready to go!

What to Wear: Tech Job

I've worked for dot-com's for the past six years. I bought all kinds of suits for my first job and quickly learned that they didn't really match the tech dress code. Here is Hanna's request:
I am a college student and I have an internship at a big tech company next semester (Spring). The dress code is very casual, and is dominated by men. Men usually wear shorts, a t-shirt, and sneakers. From the few women that I have seen, they too also wear t-shirts and jeans. I will probably move around a lot, so comfortable shoes are a must.

I really want to be noticed at work by looking well put together without breaking the bank. I look very young for my age, and people still think I am in high school. I want to update my wardrobe to look more grown up.


It is also in Austin, and I'm from Chicago (my wardrobe is a lot of fall/winter pieces)! I am 5'2 and have a bit of an apple figure (short torso, not flat tummy) and have somewhat pale skin despite being Asian.
Dress up for the first couple days, and then migrate to a uniform of jeans, structured shirts and jackets. Pretty much every woman in San Francisco wears a variation of the following to work at their tech jobs. And there's a good reason why, you're comfortable and put together looking. Sort of a hybrid between the corporate and the coding worlds.

Jeans - A nice dark pair that looks tailored and crisp. You can also do trousers or a pencil skirt to mix it up.
Shirt - A collared shirt is always right for the office. This J.Crew version is loose, feminine and bright. Yellow is extra nice when paired with a berry lipstick.
Jacket - Some sort of blazer or small jacket will add structure and help to keep you warm (men like their offices cold)
Bracelet - Purple and gold adds an extra bit of flair.
Flats - So nice for running around the office all day.
Handbag - I have a navy bag that I love.
Glasses - A quick and easy way to look more "serious."

Good luck with the internship!

Holiday Round-Up: Yum!

This was a pretty perfect Christmas. We arrived late on Friday night and had Chinese food with the family. My brother and his son were in town for the weekend, so we pushed up Christmas to Sunday morning. On Saturday, we went out for breakfast, fed the ducks at the lake, read, played music and had a big dungeness crab dinner for Christmas eve I.

Sunday morning was Christmas I. A big fire in the fireplace, cranberry orange bread, pajamas, tea, stockings, all the traditions. I received some nice presents, including a set of crystal water and champagne glasses that my grandmother got for a wedding present and my mom's charm bracelet. Also, a really nice binder my mom put together with photos and stories about my different Stockton, Godwin, Bemis and Williams ancestors.

My brother left for Sacramento around lunch and we lounged about until Rob's sister and nephews came over at 3:00. Lots of legos before a dinner of jacket potatoes (Isn't the british term for baked potatoes fun?) and barbecued sausages. After dinner, we baked and decorated sugar cookies. Such cute kids!

Monday was a very lazy day. We spent most of it in our pajamas reading around the fire. I dashed through The Lady and the Unicorn (not very good, almost the same as her other book). Family friend, Yvette, dropped by for a visit in the afternoon. Christmas service at church at 6:00. Big fondue dinner for Christmas eve II with champagne.

Christmas morning II was mellow on Tuesday. Family friend, Sue, dropped by for a visit at eight. Rob and I went to visit his sister's family at nine. She had smartly purchased a windfall of legos from another family for her kids, at least 7 gallons worth. We all dove in, Rob making a "space car" and me operating a lego hospital to reassemble amputees.

Back home in the afternoon to open Jean's presents and prepare for Christmas dinner. We were eight in total for a dinner of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, pearl onion gratin (my favorite), pumpkin pie and apple pie. Our holiday cracker tradition had us all festively sitting around the table in gold paper crowns.

Rob and I left early this morning to drive back to the city.

PS: I'll have photos tomorrow, my camera is somewhere in the car.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas!















Best wishes for a Christmas filled with traditions, family, fireplaces, stockings, friends, sweets, relaxation and reflection! I'll be back on Wednesday, trying to clear out my What to Wear request queue before the New Year.

Things I Love Today: Desert Rose Blush

I think I'm coming down solidly in the "naughty" category this holiday season. I've been pretty royally lazy the past month. Attended six Christmas parties without throwing one of my own. Barely got the house decorated. Baked only one batch of cookies (from a mix!). And I've spent easily $500 on clothes and make-up for myself at the holiday sales.

It's worth the lump of coal in my stocking for the discovery of my new magic blush! It's the blush that made me look half-way awake at 4am yesterday. M.A.C.'s desert rose is a shade I never would have picked for myself, it's a heavy rose/burgundy, but it really works.

Advent Calendar: December 21

It's the final advent calendar post and time to reveal this year's holiday card photo! It's tradition each year for Rob to stage a picture of to send out with our Christmas cards. We took the picture this year in front of the Ferry Building downtown. This was actually the very last shot on the roll of film.

Last year's card was pretty cute too. Next year, we'll be married and he'll make his first holiday card appearance!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

It's a Christmas Miracle!

"The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and "The Colbert Report" will resume production on Jan. 7.

Yay!

What to Wear: Christmas and New Year's Parties

Brrr....it's mighty cold outside today. And I believe those areas outside of the California coast are even colder. So how do you dress cute when you need to stay warm? Here is Anne's question from Reno:
I love all your what to wear posts and I was hoping you could do a post on new year's parties. It will be freezing where I am and I am not motivated to wear a dress as we will be outside watching fireworks for at least part of the party. But this will also probably be the trendiest party that I will attend this year and I don't want to be underdressed. How can I still look cool without freezing? I'm 5'10" with broad shoulders and wide hips and the party is on the 14th floor of a fancy downtown apt. building (which means a great view of the fireworks!)
I think the trick is layering and accessories! You don't want to overdo it, though, and end up sweating while inside. Here's my recommendation:

Dress - Start with a dress that has long sleeves for an extra bit of warmth. Also, aim for silk. It's good at keeping your warm when it's cold and cool when it's warm.
Tights - Black opaque tights are super fashionable and keep your legs cozy.
Coat - A nice thick one that you can bury in the closet and pull out when you need to go outside.
Shoes - You can do pumps, but boots would be warmer. I love the retro cut of this pair, not necessarily cheap.
Beanie - Yes, really. Hide it in your coat pocket and pull it on for the fireworks show or other outdoor fun. You'll be so much warmer with it on. Plus, I think it's cute.
Gloves - Same goes for gloves. You can hide them in a pocket and you'll be so glad to have them. This pair is kicky in red.
Ring - A disco ball design is perfect for New Year's Eve.
Clutch - Adorable and $14.

Toss in some red lipstick and you'll be ready to have fun in any winter wonderland!

Advent Calendar: December 20

I'm in a bit of haze from my busy night. So I don't have any cute advent calendar photos of the city to share. Instead, you get a screen shot of me looking cheezy at 4am in front of a poster board backdrop of San Francisco. At least my outfit's cute :)

Superstar!

Well...that was interesting. I'd forgotten how fun it can be to be up and around when the rest of the city is asleep. It was just me, a giant rainstorm, a few taxis and TV news trucks on the streets of San Francisco at 3:40 am this morning.

With Rob's help, I picked out a grey and white blazer from J.Crew and a red blouse from Express last night (I couldn't believe that they were the only one in the entire mall carrying basic button up shirts). Then I went to the MAC counter to load up on pancake make-up.

Sleeping from 11 to 2:30 didn't go so well, but I was pretty awake when it came time to get dressed and go at 3:30. Straight to the studio, in the chair, earpiece plugged in and then live on TV. All this work for what amounted to about 2 minutes of airtime! I was back in bed and asleep by 4:45.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What to Wear: Cable News Appearance

Ahhk! I just got scheduled for a 4 am live TV interview for work tomorrow morning. I haven't done much TV lately and I need to buy something new to wear on the air. Yikes. There are so many rules: no white, no black, no pattern. And they would like something bright. I'm going to leave work soon to go shopping. Here's what I have in mind:

Blazer - In dark brown from J.Crew.
Shirt - I'll have to see it in person, but I want something in bright blue or a festive red.
Earrings - Margaret gave me a pair similar to these for Christmas last night.
Pants - Don't really matter. I'll probably wear trousers.
Make-Up - Since it's at 4am, there's not going to be a make-up artist on hand and I'll have to do my own.

PS: Sorry, you're not invited to watch even if you would be up at 7am EST. That would make me just that much more nervous.

Ladies Activity Club: Paper Trees

When I finally did wake up yesterday, it was to get dressed and attend the December Ladies Activity Club party. My friend Margaret came up from the peninsula to go with me :)

We broke from the gingerbread tradition this year and made paper and wire Christmas trees. It was pretty easy: basically you buy cute scrapbooking paper and cut out circles in four increasing sizes from 3 to 6 inches across. Then you make the circles into cones, sealing the end with a glue gun. Using 3 pieces of 18" floral wire, you stack the cones using the glue gun to set them into place. Twist the ends of the wire on the top and the bottom to finish the trees.












There was a great turnout for this party, about 12 people. Jill, our hostess, served cheese fondue, meatballs, mini quiches and cheesecake. So fun!

Advent Calendar: December 19

I feel so much better today! Sleeping 25 hours out of the last 36 will do that, I suppose. My boss thinks my "hibernation" sick-day method is intense, but you can't beat the results. My throat is barely sore and I can breathe out my nose again.

For the few hours I was awake yesterday, I enjoyed the little fireplace set-up we have in the living room. That beaded garland is from the November LAC felting project.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sick Day

All this holiday fun has caught up with me. I came down with a nasty cold last night after returning from a dinner party.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Hostess Gift Idea

What could be more festive than showing up at a party, bundled up against the cold, carrying a 12" tall chocolate toy soldier or santa?

Joseph Schmidt is a small truffle shop in my neighborhood that specializes in handmade chocolate figurines for the holidays. And they're not just for show, the dark chocolate is really delicious!

Advent Calendar: December 17

I love that moment right before a party. You're dressed up, you have a great hostess gift, you know as soon as you ring the doorbell it's going to be non-stop hugs and cheer.

Right before we went in to Jill and Peter's party on Saturday, I took a photo with a long shutter of Rob and I standing on their stoop. We didn't really come out, but I think it captured that pre-holiday-party feeling quite well.

Weekend Round-Up: Party Animals

This weekend was a great combination of fun parties and sheer laziness! On Friday, we went straight from work to our office party at a Portero Hill sports bar. Solidarity with co-workers, excellent buffalo wings, a salsa band and a taxi home after midnight.

Saturday morning was dedicated toward my Christmas cards straight after breakfast. I watched movies and managed to finish 80 cards in a single shot. By lunch we were feeling beat, so I made the best recovery sandwiches:

Morning After Bagel Cure
- 1 toasted jalapeƱo cheese bagel
- Cream cheese (thin layer on each side)
- 2 pieces of turkey bacon (microwaved to a crisp for 5 minutes)
- As much fresh lettuce as you fit

We felt a lot better after the bagels and ran some errands in the neighborhood. It was super chilly and everyone was busy with holiday chores in the Castro. At 6:30, we dressed up and walked to a Christmas party at our friend Jill and Peter's. To bed around 1 am.









Rob and I slept in on Sunday, finally motivating for another great recovery meal:

Breakfast Tacos for Two
- 4 eggs, whisked with 2 teaspoons of Sriracha hot sauce and fresh pepper, and scrambled
- 2 tablespoons of pico de gallo salsa, cooked into the eggs during the last minute.
- Shredded cheese, added on top of the eggs when you're ready to serve.
- 4 corn tortillas cooked on the gas stovetop.

I baked a batch of gingerbread cookies before bundling up to walk to my cousin's holiday party, she lives about 3 miles away on Guerrero. We had a nice time drinking Mitchell's egg nog and eating Tartine cookies with her and her friends.

We walked back home at dusk, stopping at the produce market for dinner supplies. Once again, it was delightful to see all the decorated homes and cheery bundled-up crowds. Even the outdoor cafes were full:









We had spicy olives, artichokes and a giant salad for dinner while it started to rain outside and I watched Meet me in St. Louis for the second time in two days.

Friday, December 14, 2007

To Do: Give

Update: We've passed the $1,000 mark already! Keep it up!

Here's my only request of you this weekend: donate. The holidays are the perfect time to reflect on how fortunate you are and how far even a small donation can go to helping others. I'm pledging to donate $300 this weekend to charities. Will you join me?

I've gathered some charity ideas if you're not sure where to start. When you do donate, I'd love to hear how much you gave. An anonymous comment below will help to keep track of how much we have contributed!

General:
United Way - Does amazing things for communities around the country.
Red Cross - Always there when needed the most.

Women & Children:

UNICEF - Donate to help children around the world.
Women for Women - Support women in war-torn areas to support their families, get an education and build communities.

San Francisco:
Glide - This San Francisco charity serves over 1 million meals a year.
San Francisco Parks Trust - Promote green spaces and resources in the city.

Animals:
SPCA - Support your local animal shelter or help bring dogs home from Baghdad.
WWF - Adopt something a little more exotic, like an Emperor Tamarin, and you get a certificate, photo and matching stuffed animal.

Of course, this is just a very short list of the available options. Political groups, medical groups, religious groups, museums, schools, technology groups are all great choices. You can browse Charity Navigator to find the group that is especially close to your heart.

I really hope that EmilyStyle readers will come through in force on this special project!

Urban Girl Almanac: Nippy

Brrr. It's a cold day in San Francisco, in the 40's on my walk to work this morning. It really feels like Christmas now. Here's what I've learned this week:
  • I'd rather never go through a series of business meetings like this week's ever again.
  • Gordon Biersch has good garlic fries.
  • When needed, it's important to just let go of all those holiday "to-dos" and relax.
  • I like shopping at Flax, but it's a little infuriating that the cards and envelopes aren't better organized or matched. It felt a bit like a reality show competition trying to pick out our set.
  • The fig and tobacco leaf Botanicus candles my hairstylist gave me for Christmas smell nice.
  • Loving my new Voyager phone.
  • I'm against this new trend of automatically printed, addressed and drop-shipped holiday cards. There should be some sort of hand-done gesture in there.
  • 30 Rock's brilliant Christmas episode last night made me briefly forget the writer's strike.
  • Guilty pleasure: methodically chipping off all my nail polish.
  • I'm copying Nicole Richie's pashmina-around-coat-collar look today.
  • Hooray for fat babies! My co-worker's son has these glorious creased wrists.
This is holiday party weekend for Rob and me. We've got an office event tonight, two parties tomorrow and another on Sunday. How fun!

Advent Calendar: December 14

It's so fun to walk around San Francisco at night during the holidays. All those bay windows in Victorian apartment buildings get put to work displaying Christmas trees. This particularly festive tree can be found near the laundromat on 14th.

We don't have a bay window at our place, but the tree is finally decorated and on display for the few back neighbors who have a view of our living room.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

What to Wear: Sunday Outfit for Mom

Karly wrote in a few weeks ago with the following request:
I was wondering if I could get some help. My mom wants to buy a new Sunday outfit, but she always buys pencil skirts and blazers and I want to get her away from that. She is pretty frugal, so the pieces would have to be something she could wear with other things and have to be on the moderate side as far as price. She has a good figure, so I wanted to show that off. She is fifty-something, though, so it would also have to be age appropriate. Do you have any suggestions?
Why not treat Mom to the new outfit as a Christmas present. Here's my suggestion:

Dress - UK company Boden makes quality, fun clothes for women. This wrap dress in Slate Leaf Collage is on sale for $64. The color pallate is flexible enough to be worn all year round. Brighten it up with a yellow cardigan in spring. Pair with dark blue or brown in winter.
Cardigan - Adds a little extra warmth.
Earrings - Simple pearl studs from Anthropologie for $22.
Shoes - Mid-heel pumps with a little buckle flair in front.

Things I Love Today: Mulling

I'm running a little late this holiday season. I have a tree up, but it isn't decorated yet. I haven't baked anything. And I just started on my Christmas cards last night.

It's only in the consumption of spiced and mulled beverages that I've managed to excel so far. Mulled wine, mulled cider, mulled brandy, mulled anything. Here's a couple tips:

Spices: I prefer the Martinelli's mulling spice tea bags for convenience. You can also use chai tea bags in a pinch. For larger quantities, it's best to use loose spices. You can either buy them prepared or combine whole cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice with some orange peel. I advise against the instant dissolving powdered kind.

Recipes: The basic recipe is pretty easy. Simmer cider, juice or alcohol of your choice with spices until your house smells lovely (about 20 minutes). Or you can get creative: I recently tried an "eskimo kiss" that included hot spiced cider with pomegranate juice. Cranberry juice is supposed to be good mulled too. Hot cider does well with a dash of butterscotch schnapps. An apple toddy also sounds fun.

Advent Calendar: December 13

Our neighbors across the back driveway have a really nice garden. During the summer, it's full of fruit trees and daffodils and in the winter their giant poinsettia really goes to town. The bush must be more than 12 feet high and about 20 feet wide. Impressive for a plant that was probably purchased at Safeway as a hostess gift. Paired with the bougainvillea on the other fence, it's quite a show.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Gift Ideas: Man Presents

Shopping for men is quite often hard. Things they want usually fall into two categories: inexpensive items (that they've already gone ahead and purchased for themselves) and unfeasibly expensive items (boats, planes, jet skis, dump trucks etc.). There's a third category of lame things they don't want at all, and that's what they usually get.

Here are some gift ideas I've gathered from my experiences living with a champion man-shopper:






















1. Paste Magazine - Magazine subscriptions are usually a cop-out but this one comes with a CD of hot songs each month. To be honest, I usually tear it out and throw the rest away. Great for the music loving brother, BF or SO.
2. Total Trolley
- It's a step ladder! A hand truck! A dolly! A source of incredible joy to Rob and I'm sure many others like him. They're hard to find online right now, though.
3. Archery Set - I can't vouch for the quality of this set, but archery in general is a great hobby to introduce to a man in your life. Especially if they have an outdoor range or a large backyard nearby.
4. Sperry's
- Sperry Top-Sider is a shoe company with 72 years of serious boat cred. Rob likes the slip-on's pictured here (you can find them at Nordstrom Rack sometimes). Dads might like the traditional boat shoe design more.
5. Camp Axe - For the outdoorsman on your list. This portable axe and saw combo is another item that has brought Rob hours of joy. Perfect for making kindling around a campfire or sawing the base off a Christmas tree.
6. Dangerous Book for Boys
- Everyone and their brother is getting this for the holidays, and there's a reason why. The SAS Survival Handbook is another good choice.
7. Dremel Tool - Most men love Dremels, it seems to be part of their DNA. A starter set or an accessory pack is always welcome.
8. Sweater - Nothing something they necessarily want, but they'll definitely appreciate and use. Rob and many others I know are addicted to these half-zip sweaters.
9. Headlamp - Another great outdoorsy gift, and affordable enough for that hard to shop for brother-in-law or cousin.

Advent Calendar: December 12

(Update: It's the 12th not the 13th, sorry to throw you off) Picture this...It's 9-ish and I'm dragging home from a very long day. 12+ hours of the hardest business meetings I've ever been in. Meetings consisting of me, 17 men in suits and one other woman who compensated for her lack of a Y chromosome by being tougher than all the rest combined. I felt like I've been through 10 rounds of UFC's best and the dirty martini I had with dinner wasn't helping.

I get home to find a wrapped package balancing on the doorknob. It's a rental movie that we've been trying to get for a few days (Superbad) and there's a note to check the fridge. In the refrigerator, I find a wrapped can of ice cold Guinness with a note to check my voicemail. I use Rob's phone to call my number, just to discover one last package under the tree!

Rob decided to give me my big Christmas present early! A super cool Voyager touch-screen, iPhone-competitor, folding keypad gadget! It's so cool! Isn't he the best?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Be Right Back

I'm in strenuous business meetings in Chinatown (of all places) all day. Back soon!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Things I Love Today: Capriccio Silk Dress

I've found my Nanette Lepore dress online. Isn't it gorgeous? It's called "Capriccio " and fits me like a glove. With black tights and pumps, it will be perfect for my office holiday party on Friday. And I love it even more because I got it for about half off the posted discount price.

Weekend Round-Up: Cozy

Our weekend started Friday night with a cheese and meat platter and a rental, Angel-a, from Blockbuster. This French black and white film is pretty incredible. Later that night, we had a nice Italian dinner at a place I've always wanted to try down the street called Capri.

On Saturday, it was bright and sunny out so we went for a round of archery in the park with Matt. An hour or so of top shooting before lunch at Park Chalet. In the afternoon, I met up with Amber downtown to take advantage of the sales.

At Saks, I bought a gorgeous silk Nanette Lepore dress for 75% off. At Neimans, I picked up a blue tweed, high waisted, pencil skirt from the same designer and a comparable discount. Banana Republic, Zara, Old Navy, Club Monaco, BCBG, J.Crew and Nordstrom were all next. At the last stop at the Gap, I found a cute and inexpensive pair of jeans (straight leg, low rise stretch, pictured). We had Ethiopian for dinner following all this shopping and it's-it's for dessert.

Sunday morning, Rob was sweet to get me a Sunday Times before dropping by the archery field early in the morning. Around lunch, we met Matt at the climbing gym for a marathon bouldering session. Taco wagon for lunch. Back at home, we worked on our Christmas cards and bought our tree. The whole neighborhood is decorated now and so festive! We had a relaxing night of fish tacos and Christmas music rehearsal on the ukulele and bass.

I'm going to be super busy with work the next few days, so expect reduced posting!

Advent Calendar: December 10

I love our annual tradition of going to get a Christmas tree. First, we rearrange all the furniture in the living room to make a spot. Then, we walk our trolley (good holiday gift idea for dads and significant others) down the street to the Delancey lot on Market and Church Street. This sunken lot used to house a church a few decades ago and now only comes alive during the holidays.

Rob and I ask for a 6 foot tree still bound up from the Oregon. It's easier to carry home this way, fresher and has the added fun of not seeing the tree in full until it's place. Once we get the tree home, Rob saws off the base out on the sidewalk in front of our apartment (he loves sawing).

Our tree this year is especially fresh and vibrant, even a little muddy. It smells divine!

Friday, December 07, 2007

What to Wear: Gray and Red Shoes

I seem to have struck a nerve with yesterday's post about "statement" shoes that you love, but can't figure out what to wear with. It's a common problem and I've got a few more requests. Here is Megan's dilemma:
I love that you give style advice, because I (always) need it badly. My ability to buy clothes usually ends at my waist. I have lots of bottoms, but no tops to go with them. This time however, my problem starts at the very bottom.

I just bought the cutest pair of shoes, and typically for me, I can't even begin to decide what to wear with them. I got as far as a pair of colored opaque tights and then floundered. When I put these babies on, I feel like learning the Charleston, so anything vintage -inspired would be welcome. Can you help??


I'm 5'10", dark blonde hair, pale skin, blue eyes and I love the color green. I have a high waist, broad shoulders and a straight silhouette (small bust, narrow hips) so I can't pull off any cute belted looks. My best feature is
my legs, they're long and despite the awful things I do to them (like skip yoga) always earn my compliments.

Any tips would be welcome. I love these shoes and desperately want to show them off to their best advantage - outside of the box they came in.
These shoes would be great as a hidden treat under menswear style trousers or when paired with a sleek pencil skirt and blouse. The trick is to dress away from the vintage styling to bring the shoes into the 21st century. Oh, and to avoid green, which could tip you into holiday elf-ville:

Shoes - Megan's own. Click here for a close up.
Dress - Navy blue really "soothes" the shoe color palate.
Jacket - A modern little corduroy jacket ties in with the ivory in the shoes. Order two sizes up, they run really small.
Clutch - Gray leather to match the shoes.
Necklace - With a hint of red.

Enjoy, Megan!

Advent Calendar: December 7

Rob and I braved the rainstorm last night to attend the ReadyMade winter ball. Loads of crafters with tables set up, a tamale lady, a DJ, and full bar...all the ingredients for a successful San Francisco event!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

What to Wear: Green Shoes

Isn't it tricky when you get a pair of shoes you love and then can't think what to wear them with. Here is Nicole's request:
I love your blog! I was hoping you could help me with a fall shoe dilemma. I love these green shoes, but I don't know what to wear with them. I would like my outfit to coordinate, without appearing matchy-matchy. Casual and/or dressy ideas would be great. I am student with limited funds; however, I am willing to invest on a few nice items. Please help! I really want to wear these and look good doing it!
I think these shoes are best with a work outfit. Hopefully, Nicole has someplace she can wear the following suggestion:

Shoes - Green patent leather, bow-decked babies.
Skirt - A well fitted black pencil skirt is a must have for any wardrobe.
Shirt - White with a few ruffles from Old Navy.
Sweater- Green argyle is fun dressed up or with jeans. Put it on your holiday wish list. You could add a skinny belt, but that always feels like a little much to me.
Coat - From J.Crew as well.
Bag - This site vexes me. So lovely, so expensive.

I just realized this is a true "Jean outfit", aka something green that my sister would wear in a New York minute. Enjoy, Nicole!

Advent Calendar: December 6

No festive holiday activities to report from last night, unless you count going to the climbing gym and getting Mediterranean take-out as a holiday tradition. So today's advent calender photo comes from my walk to work instead.

This Mexican restaurant is on on the corner of 14th and Mission. They optimistically open around 8 am everyday even though there's not much demand for enchiladas at that hour. And it always smells really good. One of these days, Rob and I need to get dinner there. I love the charm of their not-in-anyway-professional window paint job for Christmas.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Wish List: Boots

I have a pair of "martha" green gardening boots that were given to me for my birthday a few years ago and that I wear in public with slightly alarming regularity. (do you remember the incredible Martha Stewart catalog?) The rubber is getting tired but they're still perfect for rainy weekends and trips to the muddy archery field.

It might just be time to upgrade to a new pair. I think these Hunter Wellington boots in navy or black, size 7, would be ideal. (Thanks for the inspiration, Laura) Santa?

What to Wear: Winter Wedding

Winter weddings and cocktail parties call for a new surge of dress finding this month. Here is Jessica's request:
I'm trying to find a dress for the wedding of my husband's friend on December 16, 2007. I just got the invitation in the mail today, and I'm feeling perplexed about what to wear. It's a Sunday wedding, ceremony starting at 4:30 with the reception immediately after. It's not in a church, and in fact is in the historic building that my husband and I got married in just over a year ago.

The combination of Sunday, early afternoon, and likely cold weather leaves me puzzled as to what would be an appropriate look.
I'm 5' 3" and 110 pounds- short torso and wide hips though. Medium-long hair that is currently a muddled reddish brown (in between dye jobs, ha), and am quite pale. I'd like to spend under $100 on the dress. Thanks for any advice you can offer. Oh- and their color scheme is red & black, if that helps at all.
As a fellow "twiggy" person, I also love a dress with a little bit of coverage. Something to take the edge off bony elbows.

Dress - I know that black is a socially acceptable color to wear to weddings these days...but I just can't bring myself to recommend it. This brown and gray number from the Gap is modern, covering and only $60. Pair it with a gray wool coat or a trench.
Shoes - If the weather is really cold, you can wear brown boots with this dress. Otherwise, show some leg with some nude fishnets and gray suede pumps.
Earrings - Tie the whole thing together and give it a little more of a festive look.
Clutch - From Forever21.

Have fun at the wedding!

Things I Love Today: Meet Me in St. Louis

I love the holidays, but there is one Christmas song that instantly puts me in a bit of a funk. Every version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" - no matter how fast or how perky - is to me very depressing. I just can't stop picturing Judy Garland and Tootie being so sad about having to move from St. Louis and leaving John behind...

What a great movie. I really need to rent it again. Anywho, all this came up because there is a great version of the song on the latest Paste CD by Bebo Norman.

Advent Calendar: December 5

Rob and I made pomanders last night with clovers and tiny Clementine oranges. They may be small, but their festive scent is mighty.

Did you know that cloves are really the dried flower buds of a tree that grows in Indonesia? And that the name derives from the French word for "nails?"

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Holiday Wish List

By popular demand, here are a few things that I've got on my wish list for the holiday season. I'll try to keep the ideas coming :)






















Scissors - Fair trade, handmade scissors are a thing of beauty (thanks Jordan! You're singlehandedly creating international demand for these). I'm of the opinion that one can't have too many nice combs or scissors.
Bracelets - A pretty little set with enamel beads and gold detail. I'm all about bracelets and earrings this year.
Cookbook - I'm intrigued to read what super-foodie Alice Waters recommends.
Planner - I've been hooked since Jordan gave me one from Kate Spade last year.
Umbrella - In Kiku Blue from Marimekko.
Candlesticks - Because I don't have any and I wish I did. I'm not particularly in love with this pair. More creative applicants, please apply.
Ribbon Box - Is an explanation of this necessary?
Cardigan - It's a luxury item that I really need and will wear forever.
Bakeware - I love using French porcelain pans for cooking.

And, same as since I was seven years old, I appreciate stationary, candles, perfume, estate jewelry, table linens, little antique-y things, books and candy too. If you would like to "claim" something from the list you can do so with an anonymous comment below.

Party Recipe: Christmas Card Addressing Brunch

My vintage entertaining books are chock-full with fun holiday ideas. A particular favorite comes from Brunches and Coffees (1960). You may remember this book of chicken wire carnation arrangement prestige. Here's an excerpt:

Bring your Christmas Cards to Brunch
Set the date for this brunch at the end of November or no later than the first week in December. Have your guests bring their Christmas cards to address and inject a little gaiety into that tiresome, nagging job. Ask as many as you can fit around your dining room table -- with the extension leaves of course. Card tables may be used, but they take up lots of room and can only accommodate two people with their cards. Remind your guests to bring pens, but have extra ones on hand for those who forget. You will also want telephone books for addresses, ink, and little damp sponges in sauces to take care of the stamping and sealing.

At one end of the buffet place an arrangement of flocked greens with canceled postage stamps tied on with fine gold cord. White flocking can be bought in spray cans at your hardware store.


Menu: Honeydew melon wedge with thin slice of prosciutto ham. Mushroom souffle. Cheese sauce. Caramel pecan rolls. Toasted English muffins. Jam or jelly. Coffee.

Advent Calendar: December 4

Yum. Those candy cane oreos really did the trick. I came home last night motivated to wrap all my Christmas goodies from France.

All I had was tissue paper left over from last year and fun snowflake and reindeer felt ribbon I bought in Paris. I think the final results have a festive, old fashioned feel. They're on display on the window sill until we get a tree this weekend.