Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Birthday Sisters!

Jean: Have a great birthday today, turkey-girl! You were a fantastic maid of honor and an even better dance partner this year! Even though you wear Uggs, you're still my favorite stylish scientist.

Skye: My newest sister, and what a great addition to the flock! You raise four lively, kind and generous boys with real panache. We're so excited to see the whole family for Thanksgiving this year.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My Christmas Wish List






















I don't have many wants for Christmas this year. We're still dealing with the avalanche of wedding presents! But here's my official wish list:

1. Pajamas - I'm a bit of a granny on this one, I know. I like full pajama sets in solid colors. Either soft cotton or satin (brushed on the inside). They're weirdly hard to find. All of my pairs self-destructed about 6 months ago.

2. See's Candy - Dark chocolate molasses chips, nuts and chews and scotchmallows are my favorites.

3. China - We're still a bit off from finishing our wedding pattern. Mostly we need dinner plates. I'll finish the rest myself after the holidays.

4. Wellies - I've wanted a pair for at least a full year. I'd wear them to walk to work on rainy days or explore Golden Gate Park on soggy weekends. Size 7 tall.

Recipe: Cheese on Toast

You can't go wrong with crusty bread and melty cheese. The classic French combination Croque Monsieur brings ham to the party. And the British Welsh Rarebit adds beer and Worcestershire to the mix.

Either way, when paired with a big green salad they make for a perfect winter dinner.

Giving Thanks

Where do I even start? There are so many things I am thankful for this year. 2008 has been a year of gratitude. Here are just a few:
  • My darling husband.
  • Our wedding, that went so well and was so fun.
  • Each of our friends and family who chipped in to make the wedding amazing.
  • America's national parks.
  • Being able to take four weeks off for our honeymoon.
  • President Elect Barack Obama. (even after three weeks, typing that makes me weepy)
  • Still having my job.
  • A full, healthy year without any weird medical issues.
  • The internet and wonderful blogging community.
  • The Ladies Activity Club, going strong after 3 years.
  • Having everything I need in life and so much more.
How many things are you grateful for this year? I'm donating $10 for each of my "thanks" to the United Way. Want to join me?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Recipe: Glazed Gingerbread

The Tartine Bakery cookbook would be a great gift for the exceptionally talented baker on your holiday gift list. For me, an exceptionally non-talented baker, it presents a mighty challenge. Remember the 3-day, $100 dollar lemon creme tart incident last year?

I braved the book again this fall to make soft glazed gingerbread. And, boy did it work out. The secret to these sophisticated treats is cocoa powder and black pepper. They're sweet with a little kick.

And the cookies are not hard to make at all; even if you - like me - don't have a stand mixer or other fancy supplies. I also don't have a patterned rolling pin, so I used leaf cookie cutters and a butter knife to score the top. The glaze soaks in well to the creases.

Party Recipe: Holiday Brunch

We're officially on for hosting a holiday breakfast party the weekend before Christmas. Time to start thinking about menus!

Gourmet Magazine has had two amazing holiday breakfast menus in this year's issue and last year's. Last year's was a southern brunch with a modern twist. The recipes missing from that link are mostly online here.

This year's is called "Merry Morning" and features such delights as oven browned potatoes and maple and black pepper bacon. Oh, and this savory bread pudding from another section of the magazine. This sort of baked dish is a great alternative to trying to keep eggs warm all morning.

A hybrid of the two magazines gives me a great head start!

Things I Love Today: Monarchy

The PBS's special on life with the Royal Family is one of my favorite things. I love all the behind the scenes work, pomp and fuss.

So far, I've deduced that the best part of being the Queen is - not the jewels and palaces - but the fact that people offer you flowers wherever you go.

Can you imagine!? At the gas station...here are some tulips. At a staff meeting...would you like a few peonies? Hello random small child...I will take some chrysanthemums, thank you.

Awesome.

She & Him

Does anyone have this album (did I just reveal myself to be nearly 30 by calling it an "album?)

I love Zooey Deschanel and the snippets I've heard so far seem pretty great.

Update: I love the internet! I'm being sent a copy from a lovely reader.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Recipe: Mushroom, Gruyere and Lemon Quiche

Quiche! Such a simple thing to make for a weekend lunch party. I used this recipe as a starting point last Sunday.

I cheated with a pre-made crust instead of their instructions. And I added truffle oil and lemon zest for a little extra flair. Mushrooms and lemon are a strangely perfect match.

Very elegant paired with a green salad and a glass of rose.

Wedding Present: Wool Blanket

We received a lovely wedding gift on Friday from a family friend back east: a blanket from MacAusland's woolen mills in Canada. It's raw wool, undyed, in black and ivory. An elegant, simple thing to keep us warm for many years.

Weekend Round-Up: Baking Up a Storm

Apparently, the recession is exactly the stress motivation I needed to become a better baker. I reached critical-worry about all things money related on Friday. I'm concerned about my job in the financial industry. I can't even look at my investments these days after having lost what roughly translates to a full year of pre-tax income in value. Almost everyone I know in the city has had major layoffs at their companies.

On Friday, I tried to combat this stress at the climbing gym. When that didn't work I made Rob eat eat chocolate chip cookies in bed with me while watching laptop TV reruns.

On Saturday, Margaret came over and we went super-domestic. I picked up a wedding present from the post office and a small loaf of Tuscan bruschetta at AG Ferrari for lunch.













We took a hike to Randall Museum in the afternoon and had a great view of the city.













After that, we committed the rest of the day to cooking up a storm. First, we made Bake and Shake's hefty meat lasagna for dinner. Quite the process, even with two people, but we all loved the results. I have enough leftovers for a few days.

After that, I prepared a tart shell for a quiche the next day. And then, we made two loaves of Shutterbean's cranberry bread. With Margaret there to keep me honest, I reluctantly "spooned and leveled" all four cups of flour (who came up with this ludicrous method?) and the bread came out perfectly!













The next morning, we had the cranberry bread and coffee for breakfast. I cleaned house and made a mushroom quiche for lunch with Meg. She came over at noon and we shared wedding planning frustrations over glasses of rosé and tea.

Errands and chores in the afternoon. A clean house also helps me feel better about the economy. I worked on the site a bit, too. I added a "Topics" bar on the right, per request, so that you can browse old posts by subject. Enjoy!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Weekly Resolution: Be a Better Baker

How did it go with the red lipstick this week? I had a great time glamming it up through the heat wave, cold snap and misty day we had this week.

Resolution for next week: Be a better baker.

I'm on the hook for making cranberry bread and apple pie for Thanksgiving. Trouble is: I'm not that good with an oven. I'm a great cook but baking doesn't come easy. I've ruined countless recipes with measurement mix ups.

Over the weekend and next week, I'm going to do my best to follow recipes exactly and bake like a regular Betty Crocker.

Recipe: Plum Merlot Sorbet

When life gives you too much fruit, make sorbet! I broke out the ice cream maker last Sunday to make use of some frozen pureed plums I had leftover from the summer. It was simple, healthy and gorgeous.

Plum Merlot Sorbet

About 6-10 plums depending on size, enough to make about 4 cups of puree
1/4 cup Merlot or other red wine
Sugar to taste

Cut the plums into small pieces. Underripe and overripe fruit both work well with this recipe. Puree the fruit with a hand mixer or blender. Thanks to the skin it should turn a gorgeous dark red color. If you want, you can freeze this mixture and save it for later.

Mix in the wine (or ginger, or mint, or honey, or almonds, or almost anything else that suits your fancy) in with the fruit. Add sugar to taste. I like it pretty tart myself and only used a few tablespoons of sugar.

Pour the mixture into the ice cream maker and let it run for about 30 minutes. If you wanted to get fancy, a little sweet whipped cream on top would be a good addition.

The Best Way to Start a Friday


Jump ahead to 1:30 if you want to skip straight to the singing and tap dancing.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ladies Activity Club: Charity

















We had the Ladies Activity Club party last night. November's activity usually something charitable, it is a great lead in to the holidays.

Amber hosted us this year for making shoebox gifts for children in impoverished countries. We each brought a variety of gifts - crayons, pencils, gum, toys, toothpaste, marbles, stickers, modeling clay, etc - and split them up in to boxes for girls and boys of different age groups. We then decorated our boxes (I used extra postcards leftover from the wedding) and wrote notes to include.

I think the kids who get our boxes are going to be very excited! This was a fun and easy bit of holiday cheer.

Things I Love Today: The Palace

I love the holidays in the city! There are so many opportunities to be festive. If my sister were in town or if I had a niece nearby, I would spluge for lunch or tea at the Palace Garden Court during a day of Christmas shopping.

It is such an elegant space and I love that dungeness salad with green goddess dressing. Yum!

Pueblo Advent Calendar

Advent calendars are an annual tradition in my family. When I found these Taos pueblo advent calendars in Santa Fe, I immediately snapped them up to send to my mother and aunt. I love a well-spotted souvenir!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Things I Love Today: Tights

Such an easy way to glam up some of your winter clothes from last year! These peacock tights would be so amazing with a salt & pepper tweed skirt and black pumps. Does anyone own a pair?

PS: They still haven't fixed the J.Crew site? I recently ordered from them and the coupon code made the total go up instead of down! So wobbly.

To Do: Christmas Cards

This weekend is going to be all about our Christmas cards. We're already a bit behind schedule. Each year, we stage a fun photo. This will be the first year with Rob in the shot too!

My grandmother always made her own Christmas cards. She was a talented artist and usually would draw a holiday scene in ink. She photocopied the drawing and went through each card to add watercolors on top. They were so lovely! Especially the times she painted in white paint on blue paper.

This gocco-printed card I found on Flickr reminds me of those elegant designs. Here's the detailed tutorial to go along with it if you're interested in trying it for yourself.

Persuasion

I love the Masterpiece Theater versions of Jane Austen, but I may need to stop watching them. No matter how many times I've seen them, I always get stressed about the outcome.

Watching Persuasion on Monday night, my blood pressure must have gone through the roof. There was simply no way that Anne and Wentworth could be together! Jane is the true master of suspense.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Things I Love Today: Green Coat

Dear weather,

Please cut it out with this heat wave business so that I can justify buying this quite reasonably priced emerald green coat.

Best wishes,

Emily

Bargain: Vintage Loving Cups

I resisted temptation to buy an antique trophy on Sunday. I fell in love with the muted silver color and mysterious 1921 honor for "Tent Inspection." However, I need another silver-hued vessel like a hole in the head and wasn't ready to spend $80.

A quick eBay search at revealed that you can find these vintage "loving cups" for much, much cheaper. This and this were two favorite examples.

Wouldn't they be fun filled with big peonies and chrysanthemums? You could design a whole party around it and make your guests wear ribbon awards and sashes.

Recipe: Easy Pork Chops with Apples

With the economic uncertainty, I've been cooking at home a lot recently. Between stocking up on frozen fish and meat at Trader Joe's and fresh produce from the cheapest green grocer on the planet (at Divisidero and Pierce), we have lots of choices each night.

Rob loves pork chops with applesauce, but it's a little mild for my taste. I made this variation recently and loved it:

Pork Chops with Apples

4 thin-cut boneless pork chops
2 apples
1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Cut the apples into small chunks, skin on. Warm two pans. Toss the apple chunks with the cider vinegar, a dash of olive oil, salt and pepper. Sprinkle the pork chops with the spices of your choice, I usually reach for a cajun mix. Put both in their pans. The pork chops will need about 3 minutes on each side, no turning. Meanwhile, cook the apples on high so they get a nice brown on one side (think hashbrowns). Top the finished chops with the browned apples.

Yum! This with a big green salad on the side is a great everyday fall dinner. The cider and pepper with the apples makes all the difference.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Weekly Resolution: Go Red

I find it easiest to set and stick to resolutions one week at a time. The good ones last beyond seven days. So, I've decided to share my weekly resolutions with you. We can all play along!

This week: I'm wearing bright lipstick every day. Red lipstick is an easy way to liven up any workday morning. And if you have blue eyes, they really shine with a touch of red.

I use CoverGirl Outlast #525. I bought it for the wedding and have become a fan. Watch out though, it can be pretty drying so you'll want to have chapstick on hand at night.

Things I Love Today: Drying Rack

As I've said, I love Ikea and the opportunity it provides me to pretend that I'm a Swede for a few hours. Those Sweedes! With their bikes, tiny homes, calmness and adorable children...love them.

We were caught up in that fever last time and bought a clothes drying rack for our apartment. We installed on the back of the coat closet door and have used it twice now instead of paying $1.25 for the laundromat dryer. Easy and good for the environment.

Weekend Round-up: Black Knees and Blue Skies

On Friday, Rob and I crashed our tandem bike during a lunch ride. What a bummer. We both escaped with bruises and scrapes, but otherwise fine. The bike fared worse and needs a lot of repairs. It put a bit of a damper on the weekend. We spent Friday night at home with ice packs and a nice salmon, potato and asparagus dinner.

Saturday, Nicole came over to catch up. We decided to take advantage of the gorgeous weather (80 degrees in November?!) and hiked in Marin to the German Tourist Club. Mmm...nothing like beer and pickles in the woods.

Back at home, I prepped for a night at the theater. Margaret and her friend invited me to join them at Gershwin's Girl Crazy in North Beach. Lots of singing, dancing and corny jokes from the 1930's that only people with hearing aids and I laughed at. Fun! We went to Gordon Biersch after for garlic fries.

Sunday morning, up early to help set Rob off on his mountain biking trip. I had a nice breakfast of chai tea and political news shows. Then off in the heat to run errands. I walked down to the Mission to stock up on crayons and other supplies for the LAC party this week. And then up to Divisidero for a stop at the green grocers. I stopped in at an estate sale in the neighborhood on the way home...what a great motivation to declutter my life!

Margaret and Rob were around for lunch, we had an enormous salad and with buttered baguette. Margaret and I took the bus over to the marina for some shopping. I fell in love with some antique trophies at Past Perfect. We met Nicole on Chestnut and saw the latest Bond film, pretty good but sadly no Daniel Craig in a speedo. We made a great dinner of fish tacos and plum merlot sorbet.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Honeymoon: The End (The Beginning)

















So there you have it: One wedding. One honeymoon. One happily ever after!

I hope you enjoyed hearing all about the details. It was a tremendous two months and the best start to our marriage I could have hoped for. I have so, so much to be grateful for at Thanksgiving this year.

If you have any questions about any of it, just ask. I'd be glad to share. You can see all our honeymoon photos here. Have a great weekend!

Honeymoon: Getty Museum

















The Getty was the perfect, romantic place to end our honeymoon. We got free parking and a shower of wishes from the parking attendant who saw our decorated - and now mud encrusted - car. We rode the tram up to the museum at dusk.

The grounds and gardens are the best part of this museum (the art and food are pretty great too). The way the central garden unfolds and guides you forward is just amazing. It balances modern and ancient, formal and natural. It is officially one of my all time favorite things!

The next morning, we made the drive back to San Francisco and real life.

Honeymoon: Biking Long Beach

















Our first LA activity after a huge breakfast was a trip along the beach bike path in Long Beach. We borrowed two bikes (I loved mine!) and rode from Belmont Shores to the Los Angeles River and back.

Honeymoon: California

















We drove all day through the empty Mojave Desert from the Grand Canyon to California. We planned to spend our last day of vacation in Long Beach with a friend. We didn't expect more than just catching up from this part, but it turned out to be a perfect cap to the trip!

We arrived on the coast right at sunset. It was so nice to see the ocean and drink in the humid, non-high altitude air. Rob and I walked up and down the beach before meeting our friend, going to sushi and taking his boat out for a night harbor cruise.

As a side note: I'm sure I'm not the only one who finds LA intimidating. All that make-up and driving. It seems so "grown up" to me.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Honeymoon: Grand Canyon

















From our quick stop in Sedona, we drove North to the Grand Canyon. We set up camp at Mather straight away and started walking toward the canyon. It's an amazing experience to "happen" on the Grand Canyon vista while hiking through the woods. I'd never been to the Grand Canyon before and was properly wowed.

We hiked along the Canyon Rim trail for a few miles down to the El Tovar Lodge. I seem to have a knack for finding the fanciest hotel within any given 10 mile radius! We shared prickly pear margaritas in the lounge and bought a silver feather bracelet in the shop for my birthday. That night, we sat in the car listening to the last Presidential debate on the radio.

The next day, we woke up very early to hike six miles into the canyon to Skeleton Point. A fun and very steep hike. Luckily, by this time we were in great shape and ready for the high altitude trek. In fact, we finished two hours early and spent the afternoon driving east along the canyon and having another evening cocktail at El Tovar.

Click here to see all our photos from Arizona.

The next day, we packed up our tent for the last time and headed across the vast Mohave Desert toward Los Angeles. Tomorrow: our last days of vacation!

Honeymoon: Sedona


















We left Chaco Canyon and drove to Sedona, Arizona the next day. On the way, we stopped at Petrified Forest National Park to see the old Painted Desert Inn. What a fun old resort. I wish they'd re-open it!

We checked into the Southwest Inn in Sedona after dark. We had a great room with a fireplace, king sized bed, bathrobes and nearby spa. Being dark the night before, the brilliant red rocks of Sedona were a nice surprise in the morning!

Instead of the typical Pink Jeep tours, we decided to take an ATV after seing a rental sign in town. What a riot! We instantly turned into huge rednecks (literally! that red dust is pervasive), rambling all over the red rock off-road trails. I don't know the last time I laughed so hard for so long! It was such a fun way to explore the area's canyons.


















After finishing our ride and cleaning the red dust off our faces, we spent the rest of the day exploring the touristy downtown. At a little shop, we found an interesting instrument to give unorthodox friends for their wedding present.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Honeymoon: Chaco Canyon

















Based on a friend's recommendation, we drove to the Northwest corner of New Mexico and out on a 20 mile dirt road to Chaco Canyon. There are a massive amount of 1,000 year old pueblo ruins at this isolated site. It's basically the Machu Picchu of North America. And also super harsh, isolated, dry and cold (so cold! our tent froze overnight). Why would they have chosen this place to build a 600 room, four story ancient pueblo "convention center?"

We spent two days here, hiking the almost deserted park and exploring the ruins. At one unexcavated pueblo far out on the 6 mile Pueblo Alto trail, we even identified a shard of Chaco coil-style pottery. Our campsite was on top of the what had been the last occupied area and was full of petroglyphs on the rock walls. An amazing and strange place.

















You can see all our photos from New Mexico here
. Tomorrow: Arizona and our brief conversion to rednecks.

Honeymoon: Santa Fe

















Thank heavens that our time in New Mexico improved vastly after our first night. We drove to the square in Taos and had great coffee at a little cafe. We spent a lovely morning at Taos Pueblo; taking a tour with a local guide, buying from the artists and sitting by the creek. The adobe villas there have been occupied continuously for 1,000 years.

Onward to Santa Fe from there. We booked two nights at the Sage Inn in the new Railroad District and settled in. We walked around town and had a green-chili-filled dinner at The Plaza Cafe. The brightly lit churches downtown made for a romantic stroll.

The next day, we bought freshly made red and green chili powder at the farmer's market, saw the Georgia O'Keeffe Musuem and visited the pueblo-style home of my fancy great aunt and uncle for lunch. By this time, dark clouds were rolling in. While we were at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, a huge hail storm passed through. Chinese for dinner that night.

Honeymoon: Welcome to New Mexico

















New Mexico! Only two more states to go on our trip.

After leaving Gunnison, we drove down through Colorado for the rest of the day. Things started getting weirder and weirder as we approached New Mexico (above). We reached the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge at sunset and walked across the scary span.

Running out of light and with no reservations, we did a quick iPhone search and headed toward a place called The Abominal Snowmansion. The website seemed cute enough. Big mistake. It turned out to be "hippie hell." We spent a long night in what I suspected was a converted stable on a what had been a mattress a few decades ago. Rob took a cell photo of me trying to be a good sport. I refused to sleep with all the bugs around and stayed up with my anthology of Jane Austen most of the night.

Like lemon juice making apple pie sweeter, a little bad balances all the good we had on this trip. It is much easier to say that, now that we're far removed from the terribleness. We checked out at first light, practically throwing our key across the desk as we burned out the gravel driveway.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Honeymoon: Paonia

















I had too much fun staying with our friends in Paonia to remember to take many photos. We arrived the night of the second Presidential debate and were treated to elk chili and a warm welcome from their dogs.

The next day, they took us to Black Canyon, an amazing place that I had never even heard of before. We hiked to Exclamation Point (get it) to have a picnic with eagles flying overhead and freshly picked pine nuts. At its deepest, this canyon is 2,700 feet down. Pretty spooky!

We had dinner that night at the very good Flying Fork Cafe & Bakery in Paonia. And were loaded up with maps and tips for New Mexico.

The next day was not the finest of our trip. I had been fighting a small infection in my nose for about 6 weeks by this time; ignoring it with all the wedding madness. When it started to swell outside of Paonia, I finally agreed to go to a doctor. In Gunnison Colorado, we walked into the local family practice and I was seen right away by the excellent Dr. Talbert. So much for the health care crisis! With two perscriptions for antibiotics, we spent some time waiting at the Wal-Mart pharmacy and walking the tiny downtown.

You can see all our photos from Colorado here.

Tomorrow: on to New Mexico and the disaster that was the Abominable Snowmansion.

Honeymoon: McClure Pass

















Yawn, just another amazing vista in Colorado! This time from McClure Pass on our way south to Paonia to visit friends.

This was right after our quick stop in Marble. This town of 100 people was once a booming quarry that provided all the stone for the Lincoln Memorial and other famous buildings. We walked the ruins of the old factory and made a donation to bring home a chunk of marble for our own. It was a fun little history detour.

Honeymoon: Steamboat Springs

















We spent two nights in Steamboat Springs at the historic Hotel Bristol (another place where we got a great mud-season rate). We loved this fun little ski town. Mmm...one of our favorite things about Steamboat was Winona's for breakfast. Loved the eggs benedict so much that we went two days in a row.

While in Steamboat we also had a nice spicy dinner at Rio Grande, rented a tandem bike to cruise the Yampa river trail and watched a movie at the local downtown theater. Our last night, thanks to a tip from Abbie, we trecked out to the amazing Strawberry Hot Springs for a nice hot soak.

Honeymoon: Trail Ridge Pass

















We took Trail Ridge Road from the park over to the other side. The summit is at 11,500 feet, quite a feat for our tiny little car. I've never even hiked that high!

Amazing views from the snowy top and lovely vistas of the Colorado River on the other side. A great drive!

Honeymoon: Rocky Mountain National Park

















Our first morning in Colorado we visited Elk Fest in downtown Estes Park. This community fair was packed with tepees, pioneer crafts, live wolves, lots of things made of antlers and bison jerky. We bought our first real "souvenirs" of the trip at this festival.

From there, we entered Rocky Mountain National Park and hiked out to Cub Lake. We didn't have many expectations of this park but it was lovely! We hiked through yellow aspen groves to a lagoon filled with lily pads. On the way out, there was a herd of elk drinking from the river.