Monday, June 30, 2008

To Do: Make your Own Butter

Yes, I was a little bored last weekend. So along with roasting a chicken and making crepes, I also took on making butter from scratch. That sounds more impressive than it really is. All it takes is some heavy cream, a sealed jar and 20 minutes of shaking. It's a great arm workout.

I had no idea that you could make such a large amount of butter from one pint of whipping cream, it's almost two sticks. I may never eat whipped cream again...but the butter is tasty!

Little Dress...Big Trouble

Here's the Dolce and Gabbana dress that cost me 4 hours of sleep last night. Despite the description, it does have straps. I've pretty much decided not to buy it (sort of, maybe). Here are the pros and cons that have been flopping around my head:

Pro - Gorgeous. Literally, the only thing I've found that has worked well. Fits like a dream.
Con - $800?!
Pro - Originally $2,800 (!) and currently 75% off. The bargain factor is cruelly motivating.
Con - $800 :(
Pro - Pockets!
Con - Kind of funny looking when seated.
Pro - Dolce and Gabbana!
Con - I could probably get something similar from J.Crew for $300.
Pro - I could sell the cool logo belt it comes with on eBay and get even a little bit more money back?
Con - The zipper than runs down the whole back is a little weird.
Pro - I'm not spending that much money on my other wedding dress, so I could splurge a bit. I have the money.
Con - I'm so cheap. Buying it will give me heartburn for a week.
Pro - Love it.
Con - $800.

I've bribed Margaret with a ticket to Wall-E tonight to see the dress in person and help me decide. They'll ring it up first thing tomorrow morning unless I cancel. Which I will...maybe.

Weekend Round-Up: Pride

This felt like a very long weekend. With Rob gone, time seemed to stretch on and on. Let's get to it.

Rob dropped me off at home after work on Friday and headed to Fresno to see his parents. I made a small dinner, picked up and watched Ghost Whisperer for the first time. At 9:30, Jackie and Margaret arrived and we shared some wine. We walked to It's Tops at 10:30 for a late dinner. Margaret had a burger, Jackie had a bacon-in-waffle and I had onion rings. We finished up with a giant banana split. The neighborhood was already getting nuts for Pride Weekend as we walked home around midnight. Another glass of wine before calling it a night at 2:00 am.

Up at 9:00 the next morning, we had some tea and went to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. Foodie mecca! Especially now that the summer fruits are in. We shared two egg & bacon baguettes from the Hayes Street Grill booth and sampled our weight in apricots, plums and cheese. Jackie bought curry mix, I bought a cornbread pizza for later and Margaret bought plums. We took the subway back home and Margaret had to leave for work.

Jackie's ride back to Davis was delayed, so we took the train out to the de Young Museum for a few hours. Soup and coffee in the cafe (did I mention it was freezing cold most of the weekend?) before taking the train back and saying goodbye.

Now 4:30, I went to the grocery store for some supplies. Back at home, I made butter, crepes and a roast chicken from scratch. I watched a little of the old George Carlin SNL episode and then went to sleep.

I slept until 9:45 the next morning, something I never do! Quick crepe breakfast with the McLaughlin Group. At 11:00, I took a subway packed with Pride Parade revelers downtown (everyone from adorable families with little kids to six foot tall men in full make-up, platform boots and feather hats). I shopped at Zara, BCBG (sale!), Bloomingdales and Club Monaco, pretty unsuccessfully. I didn't find any options for my second wedding dress.

....And then I went to Nordstrom and they were having a couture clearance pre-sale...that's trouble with a capital T. I tried on white dresses from Versace, Valentino, Tracy Reese, etc. I was about to get away scot-free when the sales girl brought in a Dolce & Gabbana number that was 75% off. Le sigh. I'll do a separate post about this particular dress dilemma later.

A little more shopping and then Rob called to say he was home. I took the subway back and made chicken quesadillas for a late lunch. We did five loads of laundry, watched the last episode of John Adams, went to the grocery store and relaxed.

I turned in for bed at 10:30...and didn't manage to fall asleep until 2:00 am with my mind racing about the D&G dress.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Urban Girl Almanac: Smoked Emily

Ugg...all this smoke is starting to get annoying. 1,100 wildfires in California have rendered the city's normally crisp air into a thick pudding of smoke and ash. Yuck. Aside from smoke inhalation, here's what I learned this week:
  • Going home after work is overrated? I haven't been home before 7:30 any day this week. Two trips to the gym, one LAC party, six bars and restaurants. I'm tired.
  • The Patrice Wedding Fund received a few more donations and passed the $100 mark. Well done everyone!
  • $4-for-3 peonies from Safeway are one of the great joys of summer.
  • The internet somehow knows just exactly the right time to deliver a wonderful note or a thoughtful gift when you're feeling down.
  • I still haven't put the bedroom all the way back together. Hopefully this weekend.
  • I'm very happy with my skills as a climber right now.
  • Minor cosmetic dental procedures aren't too bad. I had some enamel added to the back of my somewhat-translucent front teeth. It didn't take that long and looks natural.
  • I confess, I'm addicted to So You Think You Can Dance. I love cheesy summer TV.
  • This week's painting of clearer skies in the city is from Heidi Wyckoff.
Rob is off to visit his parents this weekend. I have friends coming to stay tonight and tomorrow morning. The rest of the weekend I'll be by myself, something that rarely happens. I'm planning to make crepes, shop for the wedding, catch some marriages at City Hall and take lots of bubble baths. It will be nice to decompress a bit.

Party Recipe: Outdoorsy Shower

I'm throwing a shower in August for a friend who is getting married a couple weeks before us. She's very outdoorsy; a great climber, kayaker, hiker, etc.

So I've been toying with the idea of a shower that is 2 parts elegant tea party with 1 part camp flair:

Flowers - "Wildflowers" in tomato cans or something else low key.
Favors - A red carabiner would be a handy party favor. She's marrying into a Chinese family, so I want to incorporate the lucky red color as an accent.
Food - Lots of delicious tea sandwiches. Served with little cups of homemade tomato soup.
Activity - Pub quiz! Related to a traditional shower game, but more fun. I could customize the questions to be about camping, etc.
Gifts - Encourage people to bring "gear" gifts from REI.
Dessert - A gourmet version of dirt cake could be fun. I could make chocolate ice cream from scratch.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sale Alert: Navy Trench

My favorite blue trench coat from Tulle is 50% off! I wore mine last night to the LAC party and dressed my partner in one from the store for the fashion challenge. It's a fairly lightweight coat with a pretty coral tulip lining. Hard to wrinkle and easy to wear. Unlike most Tulle coats, this one is true to size.

PS: Doesn't this illustration make you want to wear a trench with the collar up all the time?

Ladies Activity Club: Retail Therapy

Our club party this month was really fun! Margaret hosted us at the San Francisco branch of Therapy, the store where she works. She set up a spread of five different kinds of cheeses, cookies, veggies, juice and wine on one of the counters.

After a few snacks, we were paired off in to teams for a 45 minute challenge to dress your partner head to toe in an outfit. It was tricky shopping for someone else with such limited time. Everyone was so creative!

I dressed my partner in a blue, peach and black jersey dress, a wide black belt, blue trench coat, black wedges, black handbag, two necklaces and sunglasses. She dressed me in gray skinny jeans, a pink and black jersey top, a pink belt, gray booties and a turquoise purse. Here's a photo of our two creations.

Once everyone was dressed, we had a runway walk and the three shop girls were judges. My partner and I won 1st and 2nd place (I think, it might have been 3rd and 4th place instead?). The manager gave out boxes of Joseph Schmidt truffles to everyone while we used our 10% discount to buy a few goodies.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wedding Wednesday: Inspired

Proving once again that Austrailian's have the best wedding style, I found this lovely album on Flickr last night. Jess and Nathan were married outside of Melbourne in 2005.

Here are some details in particular to love:
  • Converse sneakers on the gents
  • Polaroid photos
  • Bride arrives in an Australian postal van, as she always dreamed
  • Simple wings on the flower girl all dressed in white
  • Cool vintage car
  • No fuss hair and makeup
  • Basic daisy bouquets and no boutteniers
  • Photos in the deep grass by the ocean
Just exactly right. Not too perfect. Very authentic. Click here to see all the photos.

Wedding Wednesday: Cake Server

I'd splurge a bit if I could find a really lovely cake serving set for the wedding that I could keep using after (My economic stimulus rebate check is starting to smolder). I haven't had any luck in my search. Most sets are so plain and not at all designed to be used for general entertaining.

What I've found so far in antiques have been very ornate and expensive. Or in new pieces, mostly boring. Have you run across any pretty cake servers?

Wedding Wednesday: Wine

Wouldn't it be festive to serve your wedding champagne or wine from one large magnum instead of a few bottles? It might be tricky for the servers, but so fun!

The idea came to me when I was looking at an old issue of Country Living Magazine in Idaho. One of the homes had a vintage magnum bottles in the dinning room as decorations. They're instantly celebratory. And the label on this Dom Perignon example is a classic.

I'll have to have my wine-expert bridesmaid give me some advice about this.

Tagged

Before we get to Wedding Wednesday, Jora from Domestic Reflections tagged me yesterday with a six questions. Here we go:

What did you do 10 years ago?
I was in my senior year of high school and enjoying a brief taste of popularity. I was social chair for student government, competing in auto shop troubleshooting and being a geeky prankster. My long hair was chopped over the summer into a pixie cut. It was a good year.

Five items on your to-do list:
  1. Put the bedroom back together after last weekend's painting.
  2. Plan a vegetarian dinner party for next week.
  3. Write thank you notes.
  4. Teach a co-worker to climb at the gym tonight.
  5. Buy cheesecakes and lingerie for the wedding.
Snacks I enjoy:
A cup of tea with milk, frozen grapes, honey ice cream, olives, raw almonds, carrots, salt and pepper potato chips, half an avocado with balsamic vinegar, dark chocolate, cheeze-its, radishes with salt, blue cheese

What would you do if you were a billionaire?
Have a nice apartment in the city with a garden and a big historic ranch near the beach where we could throw parties and people could come to stay all the time. Breakfast of coffee with hot milk brought to me in bed everyday. Dress exquisitely. Work for a charity and give art lessons to children in my spare time. Speak French. Estate jewelry.

Places I would live:
San Francisco, Paris, San Simeon, Montecito, Tomales Bay, Scotland, Cape Cod, Dublin, New York, Yucatan peninsula, the Legion of Honor, the Musee Rodin.

Jobs I have had:
  • Shipping clerk
  • Library volunteer
  • Docent at a historic home
  • Clerk at an Italian deli
  • Graphic designer
  • College newspaper sports editor
  • University relations office intern
  • Newspaper sports stringer (twice)
  • Irish political magazine intern
  • Classical music festival intern
  • Communications associate
  • Communications director
12 jobs in about 15 years...overachiever much? I tag Stephanie, Jean and Amber.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

What to Wear: Simple Summer

Our Ladies Activity Club party tonight is at a great clothing store where my friend works. The special member discount is going to be too tempting, even in the middle of my de-clutter challenge. So it's good to go in with some ideas of the things I'm coveting for summer:

Jacket - Linen jacket on sale from J.Crew. Good for cold evenings or overly air conditioned offices.
Tee - A simple striped tee brings relaxed Frenchie style.
Jeans - I need a new pair of basics like this.
Belt - A belt is a great way to liven up a simple silhouette.
Sandals - In my dreams...too expensive and surely uncomfortable for my city walking routine.
Bag - Navy patent tote for $30.
Necklace - A little color.
Sunglasses - Aviators of course.

Inspired: Typewriter

I'm solidly a computer girl. But I do love the sounds and textures of a typewriter. Back in my intern days, I spent many an hour addressing envelopes with an 1980's electric typewriter and wishing it came with a Ctrl-Z function.

This beauty is from Sundance's new collection of refurbished vintage typewriters available for $700 a pop. It comes with the original manual and a roll of ribbon.

(PS: Not that I was an intern in the 80's, it was circa Y2K but an old fashioned office)

To Do: Crepes

We had a crazy city food day yesterday. Japanese ramen for lunch. Coffee from Pete's for a break. Cheap tacos from the Mexican wagon across from the gym after work. Pints at Elixer Saloon. And finally, crepes and fries at Frijtz on Valencia Street.

This new Belgian spot has earned its popularity with 20 kinds of dips for fries, mussels, sandwiches and really good crepes. We shared the "rothko" crepe with butter and sugar. Yum!

But $6.50 for what accounts to a pinch of flour, egg and sugar? I need to learn to make my own crepes at home. Julia Child's recipe doesn't seem too hard. I'll test it out this weekend.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Things I Love Today: Brown Rice Tea

A simple cup of tea at home is such a luxury. I love being in the apartment relaxing on a lazy afternoon with the sun and breeze coming in through the windows.

My new favorite is this brown rice tea that I bought in Japantown a couple months ago. Yum! It's apparently good as an ice cream topping too.

Best Readers Ever!

Thank you to everyone who donated to the Patrice Wedding Fund over the weekend! You did a great job, raising $95 in total to go toward her wedding dress. That's almost twice our goal.

Patrice sent some photos with her thank you. On the left, her adorable grandparents and style inspiration for the 1940's wedding. On the right, the soon-to-be newlyweds Patrice and Jason. I can't wait to see photos of her wedding in August.

Donations poured in from across the country and even Canada. Locations included: Wyoming, California, Washington, Oregon, Montana, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Texas. I'm blown away. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Weekend Round-Up: Idaho

Our trip to Idaho this weekend was a blast. As I mentioned, this is the furthest in from the US coast that I've ever been. It was an experience to say the least! You can see all my photos here.

On Friday, Rob and I had a nice breakfast at home and then called a cab to the airport. The flight was about an hour and we landed in Boise at 1:30. Picked up our rental PT Cruiser ($17 a day!), grabbed my parents from their hotel and headed to Glenns Ferry, population 1,300. At her house, we caught up with my nephews and brother for a bit before heading to our cabin. My sister is marrying a really nice guy named Kenny and they'll move to Boise shortly.











We stayed the weekend at the River Ranch Retreat along the Snake River in Kings Hill. A cute little place with a tire swing, a love of Mexican art and a dock. At 5:30, it was time to drive to the rehearsal dinner at Carmella Winery. This little slice of Sonoma has a 9 hole golf course and RV park and is pretty much the only thing going for the tiny potato factory town.

The rehearsal dinner in the wine cellar included salads, wine, prime rib and cobbler for 50 relatives on both sides. My sister, Kate, arrived from Oregon just in time. Funnily, all six of the "California-folk" were assumed to want halibut instead of steak for dinner by the restaurant staff. It was delicious and a developed into new nickname for our family. We called each other "halibut-eaters" for the rest of the weekend!

Perhaps also proving that we didn't quite blend in with the locals, we got pulled over by the sheriff on our way home from the dinner for looking suspicious. I haven't been pulled over in 10 years. A genuine Idaho run-in with the law! After he ran my license, he decided to let us off the hook and we called it a night.

Up a little late the next morning for a breakfast we threw together of coffee, cantaloupe, cottage cheese and toast. With a couple hours to kill before we had to be at the winery again, mom, Rob and I decided to go on an adventure. We headed through Kings Hill and Bliss to the Hagerman Fossil Beds and National Monument. A long name for a small, but neat, ranger station. We dutifully looked at all the fossil exhibits and watched the 45 minute film about geology in Idaho.









After the museum, we drove along the river and spotted some of the waterfalls that run along the river. It's nice in these green valleys. A tasty (but slow) lunch at Papa Kelsey's Pizza and Subs in Hagerman before heading back to the cabin where we dressed up for the wedding.

We arrived at the winery at 2:00 to help make flower arrangements (blue delphinium, pink gerber daisies and regular daisies) and soak up the air conditioning while we could. The wedding started at 6:00 outside on the lawn. Luckily, big clouds appeared to shelter us from the 95 degree heat. A great ceremony followed by a great buffet (pasta salad, potato salad, fruit, cheeses, meats, veggies, thai spring rolls and stuffed mushrooms).











We were just finishing dinner when someone pointed out the ominous wall of brown clouds coming down the valley. I overhead someone else mention something about 80 mile an hour winds and a couple guests disappeared suddenly. A couple minutes later a HUGE dust storm blew in and we all scrambled to save the tablecloths, tent and presents from the lawn. It was straight out of Little House on the Prairie/Wizard of Oz and like nothing I had seen before! The halibut-eaters were spooked!









We all moved on the porch to watch the crazy wind until the dust drove us into the banquet hall. A fun band played 1960's rock and they cut the rescued carrot cake around 9:30. The wind died down a bit and we hit the road back the cabin while we could. No run in with the sheriff this time.

Up at 7:00 the next morning to pack up and have another breakfast. Running a little late and getting mixed messages about our flight time, we dashed 60 miles back to Boise. Turns out that the airline itself wasn't sure about flight. When we checked in, the computer said it was due late at 10:45, my parents ticket said 10:30, our ticket said 10:05, the hotline said 10:04 and the sign at the gate plaintively said just "10:__" We had a cup of tea and waited for it to be sorted out.

Finally, one of the clerks announced that the flight was late and would be arriving in about 10 minuets or so and taking off around 10:30 or 10:45...things are very relaxed at Boise airport ;) We boarded the plane as planned and flew back to SF. My parents continued on from the airport and we took BART home. It was gloriously brisk and cold after our hot weekend.

Back at the apartment at 1:30, we talked to my cousin as she finished up the painting project, went grocery shopping (peonies and artichokes) and took long, hot baths to prepare for the week ahead.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

See ya!

Rob and I are going to Idaho tomorrow morning for my sister's wedding weekend. We're staying in a cabin along the Snake River with my parents. This is my furthest ever trip inland from the various U.S. coasts. It should be a real adventure!

While we're away, our newly cleaned-out bedroom is being painted. I'll have before and after photos to share on Monday.

Have a great weekend and don't forget to donate to the Patrice Wedding Fund if you're so inclined (we need a few more generous readers to meet the goal!)

Update: Yay! We met our $50 goal. Thank you to Susan, Veronica, Jennifer, Ashley, Amy, Chelsea, Kristin and Patrick! If you still want to contribute, I'm sure Patrice would appreciate it. Amazing job everyone :)

Dontate to Patrice's Wedding

I love my readers! Generous feedback so far about Patrice's vintage style wedding. The bride is on a very tight budget for her marriage in August.

If you want to chip in a couple dollars to help Patrice, click on the donate button below. Our goals is to raise $50 to help her get the wedding outfit of her dreams.




Or, send me an email if you want to mail a check. I'll keep you posted on the total as we go along. I'll transfer your donations to Patrice on Monday. Thank you!

Here's a note from Patrice:
I just thought I'd tell you the history behind why I want this 1940's theme. My fiance (Jason) and I have a relationship a lot like the Notebook and I absolutely love that movie, my favorite. I sob when I watch it and it would mean everything to me to be able to have this wedding inspiration.
PS: I fixed the button, sorry for the delay!

What to Wear: 1940's Inspired Wedding

Patrice wrote in recently with a very tricky request:
HELP!! I have been looking everywhere for 40's vintage wedding attire and I can't find anything. I went to the Thrift Store and had no luck. My fiance is already in the Navy so it won't be hard for him but for me I need a dress or suit that matches. The budget is $40 to $50 dollars max and the deadline is the end of August. I want to dress post World War II any suggestions?
Yikes, that budget doesn't leave a lot of wiggle room. She sent this photo for inspiration. I suggest Patrice pursues a couple different options to see what works out best:

















1. DIY - With a little creativity, you can pull something together that looks relatively 1940's from Target, Forever 21, etc. This fun jacket is from Forever 21 for $24, the shirt is also from there for $22. You can get a white pencil skirt from Victoria's Secret for $39. Those pumps are vintage style from Target for $32.

2. Vintage - Scour the internet, eBay and local vintage stores for something that might work. Vintage shopping can be frustrating when you have something specific in mind. Nice suits from the 1940's and 50's often run $100+, but maybe you can find something less expensive. This example is from ebay and sold for $80. Adorable t-strap pumps from Target for $24.95.

3. Vintage Inspired - The internet is perfect for this. There are a bunch of stores online that specialize in new vintage-inspired clothing. Revamp Vintage and ModCloth are two examples. This lovely ivory dress is from RedDressShoppe for $95. Beaded pumps from Target for $29.95.

4. Custom - There are also a lot of places online where you can have outfits custom sewn for you with vintage patterns. Through eBay you can order this white vintage inspired suit custom sewn from China for $88. Or, if you want to avoid the dubiousness of international ebay, Our Dancing Daughters will make you a skirt for $60 and a shirt for $55 in a color of your choice.

Whichever Patrice chooses, its probably going to be over her $50 mark in total. I've decided to waive the $15 What to Wear fee for her request. Maybe, we could pool $50 in donations from EmilyStyle readers to help her with her wedding costs? Comment below or email me if you're interested in chipping in a few dollars. Just pledges for now, if we move forward I'll set it up through PayPal.

Recipe: Leaf Wrapped Appetizers

Isn't this a pretty idea for a summer cocktail party? The recipe from Gourmet uses sorrel with goat cheese. Basil around some marinated mozzarella would be good too. Or endive around blue cheese.

With the unseasonably hot weather in San Francisco, these cool apps would be ideal with an icy drink.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wedding Wednesday: To Do

The wedding stress has been gone the past few weeks but made a big comeback this morning. I had to listen to AC/DC loud for a half hour to recover my moxie. A checklist always helps, too. Here's what I need to do:
  • Design the map and shuttle cards that I forgot about until just now Done!
  • Sign off on the invitation designs. Almost there
  • Order paper and envelopes for the invitations
  • Figure out what to do about stamps
  • Try on the muslin test Tracy made for my wedding dress slip on Sunday night
  • Get Rob's suit tailored
  • Put in the cheesecake order for September
  • Have minor (very minor) cosmetic dentistry next Thursday
  • Book the hair stylist
  • Research vows and wedding ceremonies
  • Find a second dress for the reception and shoes
  • Help plan the bachelorette party in August
  • Figure out placecards and table numbers
  • Find some more hotels for the honeymoon
  • Work on the acts and order of the after dinner show
  • Buy red and sparkling wine
  • Plan a visit to the venue for measurements and planning
  • Plan the photobooth
  • Draft a detailed timeline
  • Do something to help myself feel "bridal," maybe a facial?
That list is a tiny bit longer than I expected...yikes!

Wedding Wednesday: Another Inspiration

I found this photo when I was looking through stock for work. Isn't it cute? I like the simplicity and style of the whole thing.

Wedding Wednesday: Statement Hair

I saw a preview for Feast of Love over the weekend and noticed the wedding detail. I like the two giant (fabric? paper?) flowers in her hair from this scene. What a great way to make a bold and feminine statement with a simple dress.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Things I Love Today: California

The whole city is abuzz with weddings right now. It feels like something out of a musical about a royal marriage; all the townspeople are gossiping and preparing for the big events. I wouldn't be surprised to see some pigeons fly by with a swath of tulle in their beaks.

Cakes are being baked, invitations are being mailed, flowers are being arranged. Even the weather cleared up and jumped 15 degrees for the day. My dental hygienist today couldn't stop talking about all the weddings he's going to in the next few weeks. You can't watch the evening news without tearing up as these excited couples say their vows after 10, 20, 50 years together. It's a really special time.

This isn't a political blog, but it is one about San Francisco and about weddings. I just thought I'd share a first hand report of the joy that has swept the city. Go marriage!

Simplify: Hall Closet

Day one of the simplify challenge went well. We stopped at the Mexican produce market for cheap veggies on the way home from the gym. Dinner was another taco night, this time with homemade refried beans and guacamole. Dessert of fresh bing cherries.

After dinner, I tackled the hall closet. This tiny little niche serves as linen closet, workshop, garage, gift wrap room, sewing room and gift stash. I cleaned out four bags of junk ( 2 donation, 1 recycling, 1 trash) and organized what was left. I wish I could make myself get rid of more. The whole project only took 40 minutes. The first thing I did this morning was open up the closet and bask in the organization. Here's the before and after.

Next up: The bedroom. Those bedside table drawers are a mess and who knows what's under the bed right now.

Inspired: Bedroom

My cousin is going to paint our bedroom this weekend. I just have to pick the color first. I've been going for a blue and white color scheme for a while but it doesn't go with the weird ivory paint that came with the apartment.

I like this ivory, brown, white, green and dark color palate from House Beautiful. I've got the brown furniture and some white linens. Maybe I could replace the black with blue to keep the dark blue velvet curtains we put up? The color is Sherwin Williams Bagel.

Monday, June 16, 2008

To Do: Simplify

I suppose it is the side effect of watching The Pianist, John Adams, the Story of Stuff and Darjeeling Limited all within 48 hours combined with the general US economic melancholy and the apartment being cluttered...I want to simplify. I keep thinking of that quote from Say Anything:

I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed.

Those largely empty rooms in John Adams looked so appealing. Just a sofa, a chair, a book and a fire. A nice garden outside. A warm blanket. Cooking with eggs. Wine in a handmade glass. Its all about the quality of a few good items, not the quantity.

We do fairly well already; with only one car and a small apartment. We have too many books and too many clothes. I have too many art supplies (can you have too many art supplies?) and too many vases. Pretty soon we'll have all the wedding presents to contend with too. Although, they'll go solidly in the quality column.

I'm embarking on a de-crapola mission this week. Maybe you want to join me? I'm cooking lunch and dinner from scratch, avoiding buying stuff I don't really want and cleaning out the stuff I already have and don't want.

I'm going to start tonight with the center of it all: the hall closet. This closet is full of linens, cleaning potions, old tablecloths, random tools and wires, parasols, scraps of wrapping paper, etc. Everything I don't throw away will go to the charity thrift store. I'll take before and after photos to share.

Team Abigail!

I'm hooked on HBO's John Adams series. We rented the first and second disc from Blockbuster this weekend.

Laura Linney is fantastic as the smart and strong-willed Abigail Adams. She's the star of the show, which is amazing considering how good the actors are playing Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, etc, etc. It's a must rent!

Weekend Round-Up: R&R

This was a pretty lazy weekend. Ideal, since we were so worn out and are facing a non-stop stream of packed weekends coming up. The weather nicely cooperated by being just a bit too cold and windy for it to be alluring outdoors.

On Friday, we went to a baseball game downtown after work. A quick stop at Pete's Tavern for a beer before the game. Once in the stadium, we loaded up with hot dogs and nachos. We had nearly the worst seats in the house. Luckily, even those aren't too bad at AT&T park. We cheered on the Giants in the freezing cold until their eventual loss to Oakland. Rob and I walked up along the embarcadero to catch the subway home around 11 and called it a night.

We slept in on Saturday morning and did some reading. Eventually, I made coffee and oatmeal for breakfast and we watched the rest of The Pianist. What a beautiful and disturbing film.

For lunch, we took the subway downtown and had clam chowder at a Boudin's sidewalk table. It's fun to watch the tourists in the summer, almost all dressed in matching souvenir fleece jackets. They must sell a thousand of those a day to people who don't expect it to be quite so cold here in the summer!

After lunch, we went to Macy's to look at suits for Rob. They were having a very good sale on tuxedos (only $180!) but I couldn't convince Rob he needed one. We found a black Calvin Klein suit on the 3rd floor that fit perfectly and was affordable. A couple more errand stops downtown and then back home.

We lazed about for a while in the afternoon and practiced music. At 8:00, I threw on a DVF dress and took the subway downtown for a fancy business dinner at Morton's. Way too much food! I had the iceberg salad, king crab legs, lyonnaise potatoes and hot chocolate cake. Dinner ended around 10:30. With a co-worker, we went for a drink at Amber's. Before we knew it, it was past 1:30 am and time for bed.

Another nice sleep in on Sunday. I eventually got up for a breakfast of coffee and orange milano cookies (my diet this weekend was horrible!) along with the Sunday political news shows. We watched Darjeeling Limited in our pajamas. Around lunch, we walked around the neighborhood for some errands. Rob found cute clothes at Crossroads and a couple book at Aardvarks. We had nachos for lunch at the corner taqueria.

Back at home to lounge about more, clean house and call home for Father's day. We ran to the grocery store at 8:00 to load up for the week ahead. Margaret came up shortly after and we had turkey tacos for dinner. She left after dinner to meet a guy she's dating and we turned in.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Urban Girl Almanac: Long Week

Maybe it's all the extra summer daylight we had or maybe it had to do with the Friday the 13th voodoo, it certainly felt like a really long week. Here's what I learned:
  • I have such a hard time deciding what to wear when it is warm.
  • The frozen cioppino at Trader Joe's is a tasty dinner, especially with garlic naan on the side.
  • My measurements are 32-26-36.
  • I'm addicted to the new full episodes of the Daily Show online.
  • I went crazy at the gym on Wednesday and climbed harder than I ever have. It was awesome!
  • Belts and scarves make nearly any outfit better.
  • Pigs in boots! Adorable. (thanks Chelsea)
  • I signed up for my first ever blog swap.
  • Movies in Dolores Park are great for picnicking, but not really movie watching.
  • This was interesting.
  • Martha Stewart's SF guide was also interesting, she was practically in my neighborhood.
  • I'm sad about Tim Russert, I loved him on Meet the Press and election night.
  • I just finished the Yiddish Policemen's Union.
  • I wish I was on a beach vacation with a big hat and a corona with lime right now.
  • This week's San Francisco art is from Edward Sherman.
We're off to a baseball game tonight, go Giants! The rest of the weekend is gloriously unplanned. Have a great weekend.

What to Wear: Casual Friday

Every morning this week I've stood in front of my closet and wished this outfit was inside. My white rice obsession is crossing over to white shirts? Maybe I should remedy the situation this weekend:

Jacket - Bright and yellow.
Shirt - A crisp white shirt with lots of volume.
Trousers - Denim with a little bit of wide leg. They always look better on others and not yourself, but are undeniably cute in practice. I think heels are the key to making them work.
Shoes - T-straps for summer!
Clutch - Positively cute from Forever 21.
Bag - We have about 6 of these Trader Joe's reusable grocery bags. They're durable and easy to carry.

Things I Love Today: 1930's Music

One of my new favorite songs to play is "I Can't Give you Anything but Love." The cheesy, easy lyrics are hysterical. Woolworth's doesn't sell diamond bracelets...so true. The best part is singing "baaaay-bee" at the top of your lungs. Here's an old video clip of it. I hope our performance at the wedding is exactly like this:

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Things I Love Today: Jazz-Age Lawn Party

If you read the Sartorialist, you were probably wondering this week: "What is a Jazz-Age Lawn Party and how can I get one?" I was intrigued.

Every June, the Dreamland Orchestra holds an outdoor concert and event that includes dancing contests, croquet and a pie baking challenge. It looks like a free event aside from the ferry you to take to Governors Island. Love it in concept and in execution. I found more photos of the event on Flickr and a video clip of people dancing.

There's a similar event in England in August at a beautiful estate that includes a proper English tea on the lawn.

If I had any sort of lawn to my name, I would host my own Jazz-Age Lawn Party in a second. I don't know anything about dancing the Charleston, but I have the beanpole figure and taste for champagne punch!

To Do: Dolores Park Movie Night

We're going to see It Came from Outer Space tonight at the outdoor movie in Dolores Park with some friends. Hopefully, the warm weather will stick around so we don't have to bundle up too much!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Wedding Wednesday: Showers

I have my first bridal shower coming up next month. The hostess is a family friend who is gracious and elegant entertainer. Even though, I'm admittedly a tiny bit nervous about it. I'm used to running the show, not being the star of it. Eeek.

Looking at the shower that Kate F and her mom recently threw for a friend made me feel more relaxed. What a thoughtful event! I'll have to use some of their ideas when I throw my first bridal shower for a friend in August.

Wedding Wednesday: Photo Checklist

Working as Rob's assistant when he photographs a handful of weddings each year has taught me a lot. Including, of course, the mental list of all the shots you have to get. Depending on your photographer, you might want to give them a checklist along these lines:

Before the wedding:
_ Bride having her hair done
_ Action in the dressing room
_ Mom helping button the dress
_ Details shot of the dress, veil or shoes
_ Groomsmen tying their ties or putting on boutteniers (it helps a lot to have the two dressing areas near each other)
_ Group portraits of the bride with family and bridesmaids and/or the groom with the same before the wedding if there's time. This really helps cut back on your portrait time after the ceremony
_ If there's travel to the ceremony, a couple shots of the trip

Ceremony:
_ Bride entering
_ Look on the groom's face
_ Wide view of the service and guests
_ Ring exchange
_ First kiss
_ Exit (after the exit, it's a good idea for the bride and groom to "hide" until the guests move to cocktail hour so they're not mobbed and can quickly get the portraits done)

Portraits:
_
Full bridal party and family shot (it's easiest to start with everyone and whittle it down)
_ Couple with both families
_ Couple with bride's family for the Christmas card
_ Couple with groom's family for the Christmas card (families are now excused)
_ Full bridal party
_ Any bridesmaid or groomsmen photos you didn't get before the ceremony (bridal party is excused)
_ Bride with flower girls
_ Groom with ring bearers (kids are excused - you can do these first if the kids are squirmy)
_ Lots of shots of the couple together

Reception:
_ Tables and room before everyone sits down
_ Place cards and other small detail shots
_ Entrance of bride and groom
_ Action shots of hugs and conversations (don't photograph while people are eating)
_ Toasts
_ First dance
_ Dance with parents
_ Action shots of dancing
_ Cutting the cake
_ Garter toss and bouquet toss (these always seem to go way too fast)

Exit:
_ Shot of dramatic exit with bubbles, birdseed toss, sparklers, whatever is planned. This makes for a good ending to your night and your wedding album.

That's around 30 key photographs and equates to about 15-25 rolls of film. I aim for 20-40 pages when I put together the album of the final photos, some pages with single photos and some with two photos. That usually covers the best shots and is all you need to tell the story.

Wedding Wednesday: Shoes

I'm saving a lot on my dress and other parts of the wedding, so I'm thinking about splurging a bit on shoes. I want to make sure that the pair I pick will really stand out if I'm spending gobs of money. Until my cheap nature kicks in again, let's drool over some shoe options:

1. Zanotti Satin Pumps - Very bridal and currently half off.
2. Prada Bow Pump - Love the little bow and also on big discount.
3. Louboutin Biba Pumps - Not in the right color for my dress, but very appealing. Bluefly has some really good deals. Apparently, you can order Louboutin's with blue soles instead of red for your wedding.
4. Loeffler Randall Pumps - I love the saucy vintage cut of these pumps. This would be my favorite if they weren't so pink.
5. Kate Spade Monarch - Oohh, ankle strap would be nice. Or a bow on the heel?
6. Fendi Sandals - Gold would be easy to wear again. I like the vintage feel of this design too. I so wish they had them in my size.
7. Zanotti Suede Pumps - So perfect for a modern urban loft wedding in the fall or winter.
8. J.Crew Twyla Heels - Cute and not outrageously expensive. Or I could do yellow to match the theme?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Things I Love Today: Violets

My african violet in the kitchen has finally bloomed again, I think I'm on pace for once every 2 years. It's lovely in a Chinese bonsai pot that I inherited from my grandmother. I wonder if violets will come back into style? They're sort of "granny" but look nice in a modern pot.

It would be fun to dress a table for a tea party or shower with potted violets. You could pair it with favors of french violet pastilles that have an anise seed tucked inside each candy.

PS: Bay area readers, especially around Sonoma: My friend has a fish tank and supplies for sale. It's the same style as the tank we keep our fancy goldfish in seen here.

Things I Love Today: Cereal Bowls

The last thing I need is more bowls. But these rodanthe cereal bowls are so pretty and on sale to boot. The scalloped detail at the bottom tugs at my heart strings.

Maybe just one? To keep rubber bands in on my desk?

Monday, June 09, 2008

Party Recipe: Casual Japanese

Last night's dinner party was a big success. It was so easy and relaxed. I'm motivated to catch up on the rest of my social obligations now. Here's the recipe:

Decoration:
Appetizers:
Drinks:
Dinner:
Dessert:
I put together the crisp and beets well in advance and kept them in the fridge. The fish was marinating and the green beans were in the pan when the guests arrived. All I had to do was throw the fish in the oven a few minutes before salads were served and turn on the heat under the beans. I threw the crisp in right when I took the fish out. I had also planned to make rice, but I forgot to turn on the cooker and skipped it. Everything was good, but the simple crisp was the star of the show!

Weekend Round-Up: Mountain Play

Another classic San Francisco weekend!

On Friday, Rob and I went to the climbing gym after work. Margaret arrived later once we were back at home and helped me make a batch of oatmeal cookies while playing lego Indiana Jones. To bed around midnight.

Up at 9 the next morning to prepare for Mountain Play. I decided to make a last minute orzo pasta salad. We packed the car up with blankets and picnic baskets and drove over to Russian Hill to pick up Matt and Amber. We parked at Tamalpais High to wait for the school bus shuttle to Mt. Tam. In line, Margaret and I thought of old camp songs with a nice grandmother who had been a girl scout leader.

Once at the top, we found a spot at the very back underneath a big oak tree to set up our picnic. Altogether we had: orzo salad, salami, baguettes, blue cheese, truffle mustard, potato chips, beets, carrots, cookies, wine, sparkling water and raspberries. A feast!











The Wizard of Oz was darling. The perfect blend of community theater (the good witch "flew" in on a rented cherry picker, volunteers dressed in black whirled around the stage to be the tornado) and the pros (the dog playing Toto was amazing, good choreography and staging). At one point they had a small plane fly by the open theater with a banner warning "surrender Dorothy." Everyone in the audience was cheering, booing and waving along with the show. There's one more show next Sunday, I recommend going!











After the play ended, we dropped off some of our bags at a bus and headed down the 6 mile hike back to Mill Valley....of course, we started off on the wrong trail and got about a mile off track in Muir Woods. With the help of a GPS and map, we found our way back to the well marked Dispea trail and to the shuttle. A much desired stop at 7-11 on the way home helped us rehydrate with slurpees and big gulps of water.

Back in the city, we dropped off Matt and Amber around 7:00 and found a parking spot on Chestnut Street. Our friends who recently had a baby were in town and we joined them for a long dinner. Lots of holding the darling sleeping baby. Back at home at 11, we washed the trail dirt off our feet sitting on the edge of the bathtub and crashed into bed.

Up at 8:30 the next morning so Rob could go to disc golf with Matt at 9:00. Breakfast of oatmeal, mango and coffee. Margaret left to go to work around 10:00. I picked up the house, planned the dinner menu and did a massive amount of dishes.











Rob returned before lunch, just in time for Tracy to come by and talk about my wedding dress. She found some gorgeous silk for the new liner and took my measurements. It's almost creepy how well the current slip (last worn by grandmother and great aunt in the 1940's) fits me.

After Tracy left, we went to the grocery store to load up on dinner party supplies. A nice lunch at home of leftover vegetarian chili and a big salad. Pretty soon, it was time to set the table and get dinner started.











Inspired by the Japanese art nouveau vase I bought at The Met, I decided to make a casual Japanese dinner. I'll share all the details in a separate post. It was a fun party! Our guests left at 9:00 and we picked up a bit before turning in.