Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays & Comments for Cans!

I've had an incredible year! Among other things: I biked the island of Manhattan on a tandem, attended the Black & White Ball, went backpacking for the first time, threw a bridal shower, got married, went on a month-long honeymoon road trip and celebrated a historic election night.

Going through the archives of this wonderful year helped me to realize just how lucky I am. So lets spread the love!

Leave a comment on this post (one per person please) between now and January 7 and for each one I'll donate a can to the local food bank. Over 100 150 comments? I know you can do it! Let me know which was your favorite post of the year, recommend canned goods to buy or just wish me happy holidays.

I'm off for Christmas with my family down south and then to North Carolina for the week shortly after. I'll be back on the blog at the start of the New Year.

Urban Advent: December 23

I wish it wasn't nearly Christmas already. It seems like the city has just finally gotten into the swing of things. That, or my terrible cold has just lifted enough for me to notice.

Last night, I met some friends from high school passing through town for wine, hot chocolate and tarts at Cafe du Soleil. This adorable french cafe was decorate with lights and wreaths. And I always run into people I know there, which makes me feel like such a local.

I walked home after, through the deliciously empty streets. There was a glowing Christmas tree in every window and a wreath on every door.

Recipe: Vin Chaud

Oh, to be in Paris with a glass of warm mulled wine and a crepe...

Only a little more than 24 hours until my holiday vacation begins and I can spend the day making vin chaud. This recipe, with brown sugar, seems like a good blend.

Things I Love Today: Fido Jars

For last minute holiday treats, you could bake or buy something delicious and use one of these lovely Italian jars with a red bow as packaging.

They're called Bormioli Rocco Fido glass canning jars...which is a long name for a simple, functional and lovely thing.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Recipe: Savory Brunch Bread Pudding

This dish was a hit at the party. My cousin lovingly called it "breakfast stuffing" and it was a great match with the simple ham.

I made one vegetarian and the other loaded with applewood smoked bacon. Click here for the arugula, bacon and gruyere bread pudding recipe from Gourmet.

Party Recipe: Holiday Brunch

Such a fun party! I love the flexibility that a brunch allows. Here's our holiday party recipe:

Decorations: My new candelabras from Rob were the stars of the show. We had the blue and white runner from Ikea. Red Christmas bulbs. A big decorated tree and lots of shiny wedding presents on display.

Drinks: Coffee with warm milk. Pink champagne pomegranate mimosas. Sparkling apple cranberry cider.

Food: We started with an appetizer of breakfast canapes: cream cheese, capers and lox on melba toasts. Then the main buffet with a spiral cut ham, potato tarts and a savory Gruyere and spinach bread pudding. Citrus salad in festive champagne saucers (technique here). And wrapped up with a bundt coffee cake and fudge brought by my cousin.

Activities: Mostly just hearty conversation and cooing at adorable Moses. Toward the end of the party, Susan and I worked on making some beeswax candles.

Weekend Round-Up: Holidays

This weekend was all about the holiday parties. On Friday, we had our office party at an Italian restaurant in North Beach. It was fun to see all the restaurants in town with their twinkle lights and tents for parties like ours.

After the office party, we promised a co-worker from New York that we would go for karaoke. Which meant going across town to the worst bar. One friend put it best: "every jerk from high school I never wanted to see again is in this place." Our song (Rocket Man) went well at least. We managed to escape by cab at 2:30.

We slept in the next morning and spent the rest of the day running errands for Sunday's party: grocery shopping and ham gathering. And the rest of the evening was devoted to polishing silver, chopping and cooking. Whew! Holiday parties are a lot of work.

After dinner, I opened my Christmas present from Rob. Two incredible silver candelabras! The top unscrews to turn them into plain candlesticks. He certainly knows my taste!

Our brunch guests started to arrive the next morning in the rain. We welcomed them with hot coffee and pomegranate mimosas. We we're 14 altogether. I'll do a complete "party recipe" for the brunch separately. Great friends, great food and a great time! Things started to wind down at 1:30.

Rob and I went to the climbing gym after the party to burn off a few calories. And then ran some holiday errands and shopping across town in the pouring rain. Thank heavens for the miserable winter weather that gave us a great excuse for staying in with the dishes and beeswax candles.

Friday, December 19, 2008

What to Wear: Chicago Au Pair

Here's a good winter What to Wear from Lena, who is moving to Chicago:
In February I am moving to Chicago to be an au pair for two adorable children, a girl 13 and a boy 11. I will be driving them to school and hobbies. I live in Norway where we have all the seasons. 14 degrees in the winter, and up to 70 in the summer. I like classic clothes with a little boho inspired. Like Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon. I like to wear tights and tunics, dark straight jeans and loose tops. with ballerina flats. I shop a lot at H&M. I can only bring a limited amount of clothes and shoes and bags. I have a Prada ombre handbag I would like to bring... I have sold everything I own here, so I have some money to buy new clothes and supplies for the trip...What do I wear in chicago, and what do I bring?
Start by building a wardrobe of versatile pieces that match the bag; so blacks, grays, ivories and golds. Focus on basics that can survive the cold winter and the spring running around Chicago. Here's one outfit to get you going:

Denim - I'm in loooove with these black jeans. They're not cheap, $158, but you could wear them at least twice a week. Or try finding a different pair of black straight leg jeans for less.
Shirt - Start layering with a warm long sleeved shirt.
Sweater - Go loose with an inexpensive chunky sweater. Oops...so I just realized this is a poncho. No on the poncho...but something like this with the sleeves defined.
Scarf - The scarf is so key. It doesn't have to be this - somewhat overpriced - boho version. But find the right scarf that can go with almost anything.
Boots - I know...crocs? But they're low and probably very comfortable and on sale and you'll get frostbite wearing regular flats in February Chicago. You don't have to tell anyone.
Gloves - This tall version is my favorite.
Coat - You'll need some very warm layers. This coat from Target has some style. Of course, living in a snowy climate in Norway you probably already have some great winter layers to bring.
Hat - Another thing that could really help you in the cold. I like the wink at classic "nanny" style too.

Stay warm out there Lena!

Urban Advent: December 19

The Delancey Street Christmas tree lot moved to the corner of our street this year. I love it!

Not only did it make walking our tree home much easier, but it also makes the whole block smell amazing. It is intoxicating. I can't get enough of walking by all that great pine fragrance.

Things I Love Today: Clementines

Sweet California clementines...one of the best things about December. Rob and I survived our sick weekend on a box of these. I could eat them all day.

The "cutie" brand is the best of all.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Party Recipe: Holiday Dinner

Last night was a success! Rob and I jumped into action after work to set the table, cook, iron napkins, etc. Here's the party recipe:

Our new wedding china in blue and white. The red holiday napkins I embroidered a couple years ago. Centerpiece of a red bowl filled with walnuts and pomegranates. A blue and white ikea tablecloth as a runner and blue jute placemats. Red Christmas light bulbs and tea lights.

I had a brief moment of panic when I realized this was my first time cooking for a pregnant woman and made Rob google the list of banned foods. Whew! My menu turned out to be safe.

The baked brie, of whose success I was a little doubtful, was a hit. Just wrap a lump of brie, topped with jam (blackberry) and walnuts, in pie crust dough and bake until golden. It would be even better with camembert. The potatoes were creamy and garlicky. The chicken turned out deliciously with brown mushrooms and carrots adding a little flair to the purple-tinged gravy. And the tiramisu was just heavy enough to feel like the lux cherry on top.

What a fun time! And after our guests left, Rob and I abandoned the clean-up to watch the rest of the nutcracker ballet on TV. A lovely holiday evening.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Recipe: Coq Au Vin

We're having friends over for a holiday dinner tonight. Being so sick recently, I haven't done anything to plan or prepare yet. Luckily, our housekeeper came today and got her Christmas bonus...so the apartment will be super clean. And our guests are "meat and potato" types who are easy to cook for.

I went shopping and threw together this festive menu. We'll start with a baked brie, using leftover pie crust dough and homemade jam. Follow that with coq au vin and mashed klamath pearl potatoes. And tiramisu for dessert. Thank you Trader Joe's!

Here's my mom's recipe for easy coc au vin:

1 chicken in 8 pieces. Or 4 chicken breasts, bone in.
1 chopped onion (using pearl onions is fancier/harder)
Tops and leaves from 1 bunch of celery
1 bay leaf
1 cup of flour
1/3 cup olive oil
Ample red wine
Extra button mushrooms, bacon/lardon, carrots, etc optional.

Skin the chicken, cut breasts in half and drench in flour. Brown chicken pieces in a pan with olive oil. Add more flour to remaining juices to thicken. Add the chopped onion, celery and red wine (until covered) and simmer until tender (30-40 minutes). Remove the bay leaf and the celery. Serve in a big bowl poured with the mashed potatoes.

Make a lot, it's even better the next day.

December LAC: Cookie Exchange

The December Ladies Activity Club party was last night and we had our first ever cookie exchange. I forgot my camera in the rush to bundle up for my walk over in this 40 degree cold snap, so no photos.

We had lemon shortbread, peanut butter kiss cookies, chocolate chip meringues, turtle bars, almond peppermint cookies, butterscotch bars, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies and chocolate fudge along with my pretzel contribution. Yum! It was hard to stick to packing the boxes and not sampling each different kind.

Jill made a big pot of turkey chili to serve for our dinner and also had artichoke dip and lemon drops to drink. We sat by her giant Christmas tree and had all sorts of boxes, tissue paper and decorations to choose from.

To Do: Visit North Carolina

My office is having one of those slightly scary mandatory holiday closures this year thanks to the recession. We're off from Christmas to the Monday after the New Year.

So, when life hands you unwanted vacation time off....take a trip! Rob and I booked plane tickets to North Carolina for the week. We're meeting my sister and her boyfriend at the airport. They'll be freshly off the plane from Mexico - lucky dogs.

I'm sure they will have loads of activities and ideas for us. But I'm always open for tips from readers. Any ideas for things to see or do near around Chapel Hill that week?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

To Do: Nutcracker on TV

Lucky news for those of us who didn't manage to get tickets to the SF Ballet's Nutcracker this year: PBS's Great Performances is airing the show nationwide in HD on Wednesday at 8:00.

This recently revamped production, set in 1915 San Francisco, has been getting fantastic reviews. Put on your best velvet dress and grab an Irish coffee for the show!

Recipe: Rolo Treats

Thanks to the ladies over at Coveiter for this simple recipe for caramel chocolate pretzel treats.

I made them last night in preparation for this evening's LAC holiday cookie swap. Delicious and and easy enough for even a recovering sickie to manage.

Urban Advent: December 16

I'm almost finished writing our holiday cards. A little late - it seems like everyone is a bit behind on cards this year.

These envelopes represent A through R in my address book. They're waiting in a Navajo wedding basket we bought on our honeymoon.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Urban Advent: December 15

I remember being so impressed with this church back when I was just a tourist in San Francisco. It's in the heart of downtown, next to the new Contemporary Jewish Museum and surrounded by skyscrapers.

Even now, when I pass it, I'm always get that same old "cosmopolitan" feeling.

Weekend Round-up: Cabin Fever

Not much to report thanks to this damn cold. Rob and I stayed home all Friday and slept most of the day.

On Saturday, we expected to wake up feeling better...no dice. We stayed in bed until the last possible minute and then loaded up with tons of cold medicine.

We had to meet friends at 11:30 for SantaCon and our Christmas card photo. We walked from fisherman's wharf to North Beach with a group of a couple thousand people dressed in santa costumes. Oh, San Francisco!

Back in bed after that, we had RSVP'd to two holiday parties that night but we were too tired and contagious. I was so sad that we didn't get to go to these fun events.

Sunday, more sleeping and being sickly. This time with the rain from an "arctic storm" pouring outside. Rob briefly went to volunteer with the bike coalition, but they sent him back home pretty quickly.

At 3:00, we braved the outside world once more. This time, to watch a friend of ours perform in the Dance-Along Nutcracker. The downtown theater was packed with little kids in tutus, wands and crowns. During certain songs, the whole audience was invited to get up and dance in the aisles. There was a full band, a group of dancers of a certain age, some funny songs and a local celebrity cross-dresser playing Marley. The Wall Street Journal called it "...one of this city's most delightfully idiosyncratic events." Oh, San Francisco!

Back home in the rain for more couch time and clementine oranges. At 7, I decided I was tired of being sick and made Rob go to the Christmas tree lot with me during a break in the rain. Poor guy, he was still in his pajamas. Margaret came over shortly after with a batch of chicken soup. We decorated the tree and watched Spaceballs.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Sick Day Together

For seven years, Rob and I had a great system when it came to illness. Simply, we would never be sick at the same time. That way he could go for nyquil and soup at the store when I was tucked in bed and I could fetch him juice when he was sniffly.

Apparently, married people get sick together...on the same day. Insanity. The system is not set up for such a disaster. Who will make the soup?

All this to say, we're taking the day off. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Congrats to Thick Chick. She's our Giftybox giveaway winner selected with the help Random.org!
"Ummm....yeah, I'd definitely go naughty! Between working/travel/workouts/wedding planning and other commitments, this gal could use a massage!"
She sounds like one worn out chica. Enjoy the spa day and thanks to Giftybox.com!

Giveaway: Naughty or Nice?

I've got a fun giveaway for you this week! Giftybox.com has offered up a choice of experience gift certificates. The only question is will you be "nice" and give someone on your list an adventure or "naughty" and get a spa day for yourself?

The Adventure Giftybox

Choose from 100+ outdoor adventures on land, water & air. Examples of adventures: llama trekking, windsurfing, paragliding, Canope tour, etc... What you get: 1 all-inclusive Gift Pass for the Adventure of your choice, a 120-page color guidebook and $80 of additional savings for even more adventures. Price $89.

Spa & Well-Being for Women
Choose from 130+ venues nationwide for a full spa or well-being treatment. Examples of treatments: massages, facials, nutritional counseling, life coaching, etc... What you get: 1 all-inclusive Gift Pass for a full treatment, a 200-page color guidebook and 5, 2 for 1 specials so you can try additional treatments with a friend. Price $89.

To enter: comment about which Giftybox you'd like to win before 8:00pm PST today. I'll pick a winner at random and announce it tomorrow!

Inspired: Poster

Isn't this poster fun?

{Via ReadyMade's commission to reimagine populist art from the great depression.}

To Do: Balsam Incense

I have vivid memories of burning the pine incense sticks at the holidays when I was kid. I think my grandmother was a fan? I'm not sure of the exact history.

For $6 per adorable vintage-style box, it's an ideal little trip down memory lane and a great stocking stuffer idea.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Urban Advent: December 10

This photo is from last night. On our walk home from the movie party at 11pm, just beyond the Christmas tree lot on our block that smells so intoxicating.

Up in a round bay window, a single guy was putting layer after layer of white lights on an enormous pine tree. It was a bright beacon of holiday spirit in the dark night.

Things I Love Today: Rad Parties and Corsages

Rob and I were guests at Rebecca's birthday film festival last night. Lucky us! It was such an amazing party!

She commissioned short films by all her talented friends and rented out the 100-year old Victoria Theater for the showing. There was even a red carpet and two dolled-up "concession girls" offering up candy. I'm sure she'll have all sorts of details about the party on her blog soon.

Before the party, I stopped by Church Street Flowers and had them make Rebecca a corsage out of orchids and lilies. That's right...I'm single-handedly trying to bring back the corsage for common use. Not the cheesy elastic wristband corsage, but the elegant kind that you pin on or put up in your hair. I especially like the $1 gardenia corsages they sell downtown in San Francisco.

What could be more fun than having a gorgeous little bunch of flowers as part of your outfit?

What to Wear: Ruffled Blouse

Kelly's dilemma regarding an Anthropologie blouse is nothing new to me. The store's particular brand of clothing with "interesting character" has a tendency to vex me too. Everything they have is lovely, some of it simply doesn't like to be worn with anything else:
I just discovered your blog and I am very happy as I have a "what to wear dilemma". I was recently gifted the beautiful Scrollwork blouse from Anthropologie, shown here . It is a beautiful purple and parchment/deep ivory shade, however I'm at a loss at what to pair it with to pull it off on an average day during the week. I normally wear only jeans, but would like to pull away from that to a more feminine wardrobe. On the website, they pair it with a pretty ivory dotted skirt...but it looks more like something I'd wear to an event as opposed to a normal day just running around town. I'm open to any suggestions. I'm 5'2" with a long torso, so I usually wear petite sizes on bottom and regular sizes on top. I hope you can help.
Blouse - It would be so easy to dress this up and really show it off with a tweed skirt. Dressing down is a little trickier.
Sweater - A simple cashmere wrap from Boden still shows off the blouse.
Skirt - I have a similar gray corduroy skirt that I wear all the time. So perfect with black tights and flats for everyday. Have it tailored if it is too long.
Boots - Not cheap, but very nice and apt to last a long time. From Frye.
Tote Bag - A classic from LL Bean.
Necklace - Double branch in silver from Michelle Chang via Etsy.
Earrings - Red coral studs.
Cup - A porcelain "not a paper cup" for your tea on the go.

A very stylish way to run errands!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Man Gift Guide

It's that time again! I've wrangled Rob into helping me brainstorm the best gift ideas for the men on your Christmas list. From your significant other to brother-in-laws to teenage cousins, we've got the goods for you:

1. SteriPEN Adventurer Water Purifier - Sterilize any water in seconds with this little UV device. Perfect for campers, backpackers and outdoorsy men. $100.

2. Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 - Classic styling with sweet digital photo specs and a Leica lens. This camera is Rob's current favorite recommendation. $400.

3. Zipka Plus Backcountry Petzl Headlamp - Bright and compact, this little headlamp is great for everyday use and can easily double as a bike light. $35

4. Auto Adjusting Wrench - The hotest man-tool on the market and on sale for $20!

5. Transparent High Performance Duct Tape - Rob loves tape! This clear duct tape from 3M is top of the line. You could boost it with the addition of a 6 pack of different colored duct tape.

6. Manhunt - A very well written history of the 12 day chase for Lincoln's killer. Rob and I both liked this book. $11.

7. Puma Urban Mobility Bicycle - This one breaks the bank at $1,600. A folding, glow in the dark, city bike with loads of style. Perfect for an urban commuter.

8. Skullcandy Noise Cancelling Headphones - Rob has a pair and loves them. A great gift for frequent travelers and cubicle jockeys. $79.

9. Black Diamond Pavement Messenger Bag - Room for a laptop with a dash of bike messenger style. $79.

10. Smart Money Clip - A compact and streamlined way for the man in your life to carry cards and cash. $19.

Whew! There you have it. 10 man-gift ideas for the holiday season! You can see last year's Man Presents list here.

To Do: Beeswax Candles

It's become one of my favorite traditions: rolling beeswax candles for the holidays!

They're so easy to make and smell sweetly like honey when they burn. You can read my step-by step instructions here.

Resolution: Exfoliate

I've been good about sticking to my weekly resolutions thus far. I wore red lipstick, I baked up a storm and I repaired my clothes. Next up: exfoliation.

I have super dry skin, that only gets worse in winter. I would rather have shiny moisturized skin like in a lotion commercial. So Margaret bought me a Japanese wash cloth, that she swears by. Paired with some scrubby bath products, I should be on my way. Do you have an exfoliation secret?

Monday, December 08, 2008

Urban Advent: December 8

The city is so beautiful during the holidays. Every Victorian bay window is lit up with a tree. There are painted windows for every shop. All sorts of festive things to see. Each year, I share a photo a day on the blog to document San Francisco in December.

Today's picture is from the little shop down the street that used to be an art studio and is now a cooking school. The owner puts a different complex window display up each month. Once, he had everyone in the neighborhood send in baby photos of themselves for display. For the holidays, the window is full of tinsel trees and lights.

Weekend Round-up: Crepes and Community Service

What a fun and unusual weekend! We did all sorts of good deeds and community activities.

On Friday, Rob and I took the tandem bike out to Chrome Messenger Bags' holiday party. Free Prohibition Ale, good music from a band called In the Dust and a very diverse crowd. There were - I kid you not - at least nine 23-year old women in identical outfits: black tights, boots, black tunic top from Forever 21 and a vest. If you wanted to know what the kids are wearing, there you have it! Add to that a bunch of hard-core bike messengers with tattoos and shaved legs, at least one person dressed as Elvis, and some older bike advocate-types.

It was a great time...made only better by a late night stop at one of my favorite hidden SF spots. A mobile crepe wagon that is only open late at night and run by what I think are French-speaking Algerians. We first discovered this place back in 2006. Delicious and cheap. Rob had a cinnamon applesauce and I had honey with almond powder. Back home on the bike at 10:00.

Saturday, I got up early and took the train to Oakland to be a speaker at an all day conference for work/my own charitable purposes hosted by the YWCA. It was a lot of work, but rewarding too. I probably met 50 new people that day, which is about 45 over my normal tolerances as a fairly shy person at heart. The photo is from downtown Oakland on my way home. Back home at 5:00, I crashed and barely managed to get a few Christmas cards written before turning in.

On Sunday, another early start. Rob had signed us up to volunteer with the SF Bike Coalition. We met them downtown at their offices in a fun old art deco building. And then drove over to Somarts to set up for the big Winterfest fund raiser. By noon, we had moved all sorts of boxes and bike racks.

Fully exhausted, we ordered a pizza at home and watched old episodes of the Daily Show for a few hours. Margaret came up at 5:30 and we went to Winterfest. Free Fat Tire beers, cookies, food and some great silent auctions, all to support the Bike Coalition and its 10,000 members. A super fun event full of all kinds of San Francisco characters.

On the way home we stopped AGAIN for crepes on 11th street. Bliss! Two crepe stops in one weekend. I went for lemon and sugar this time. Back at home, we watched a cheesy Hallmark movie before getting ready for the week ahead.

Gift Idea: Snowflakes

I've started putting up a few decorations for the holidays. A silver bell here, a few red bows there. I'm waiting until after the 11th (my late grandmother's birthday) to get our tree, per family tradition.

I was given a set of these lovely wood snowflakes from Roost last week. I want to give them longer strings and hang them in a window somewhere.

Friday, December 05, 2008

What to Wear: Biking in December

I was particularly happy with my outfit yesterday. Rob and I rode our newly repaired bike to work and I had a chance to try out my new bright red blazer from last weekend.

Turtleneck - Oh, how I love a black turtleneck. When I become an eccentric old woman, I'll wear nothing but black turtlenecks.
Blazer - I'd been eying this blazer from J.Crew before it went on sale and found one almost exactly like it at H&M for $20.
Scarf - A bridge between the different colors in this outfit.
Jeans - A pair of straight leg Levi's I found for $40. They're skinny without being horrifying.
Boots - I have a vintage pair with a stacked heel that I love.
Sunglasses - Aviators.
Bag - Ha! I don't have a $1,600 purse. I have one that looks a lot like this borrowed from a friend.
Bike - Ours is red and much more handsome.

Rob said I looked like a model in this ensemble, which is about the best compliment.

Gift Idea: Jasmine Perfume

L'Occitane's new jasmine fragrance is lovely! Margaret and I got samples last weekend and walked around the rest of the day sniffing our wrists compulsively.

I already have the neroli perfume from this line and I love their cedar blend, too. There's always room for one more perfume!

Things I Love Today: Gingergbread Bars

I'm a sucker for the Christmas flavors of pretty much everything. Right now, I'm falling for the Cinnamon Dolce lattes at Starbucks and loving these Iced Gingerbread Clif Bars. There are chunks of crystallized ginger under the icing.

I eat a Clif Bar every morning and this flavor feels like a real holiday splurge.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Gift Idea: Chalkboard Candle

For $10, this chalkboard candle would be a fun present for an office mate or winter hostess. You could write your own message on the side before delivery. A great excuse to work on your French-style cursive!

{via: re-nest }

Coveting: Giant Archival Albums

Did your grandparents have those gigantic albums, the kind that you could fit a full newspaper page?

I'm considering one of those for our wedding album. We have so many photos and cards and scraps of paper from the wedding. I'm thinking a hodge podge on each page might be a fun way to share our story. I would also make a "cheat" book with just a few of our favorite shots for people who don't want to see the whole shebang.

I haven't been able to find one yet that is book-bound instead of posts. This one is a little too big probably.

Things I Love Today: Indoor Laundry

Drying our laundry inside - instead of at the laundromat - has been working out. Rob rigged up an auxiliary line to go along with our new Ikea rack. We haven't put a load in the dryer in 3 weeks.

Between the sun at that window and our warm radiators, the clothes dry in a few hours. It works well on everything but towels. And I think it looks sort of pretty to boot.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Wednesday Afternoon Dance Party

It's a cold and overcast Wednesday afternoon at work...time for a quick break to rock out with Brazilians.

What to Wear: Peacock

Winter party season brings with it plenty of chances to get dolled up. Dressing down is firmly not allowed! Cara wrote in with a request for the holidays:
Would something like this peacock headband be over the top or would it work for a formal New Year's party?
A feather headband certainly isn't for everyday, but how fun for a cocktail party or a night at the theater! You could easily go wild by pairing it with a bright blue or green dress, but here's an idea for a more subtle look:

Headband - $30 from Etsy.
Dress - A little black dress with enough "heft" and style to hold up against the headband. The bow detail on the back is perfectly festive for ringing in 2009.
Shoes - You could get really cute and replace that sparkle with a few feathers that match the headband.
Bracelet - A play off the headband button.
Clutch - Croc clutch from Forever 21.
Champagne Saucer - The perfect finishing touch to this vintage inspired outfit.

What a fun outfit! And FYI - We've already got six other requests in the queue since Monday.

Gift Idea: Neighborhood Puzzle

Working on a puzzle with a cup of tea is one of my favorite holiday activities. Over Thanksgiving, we did a custom puzzle of a map of my in-law's neighborhood. It was tough since there's no master image to work from but a lot of fun.

One of these custom puzzles would make a great Christmas present for a puzzle-fiend or for someone who is new to their area.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Things I Love Today: Civic Life

Well, that was a surprise! Reporting for jury duty turned out to be a quite pleasant experience. The waiting room was elegantly decorated. And when myself and 80 others were called into the courtroom to be whittled down to 12, everyone was well-dressed, rational, intelligent and efficient. There was one sophisticated woman who looked just like Katherine Hepburn with gray hair, an olive silk suit and tan heather cashmere sweater.

I would trust any one of that group to sit on my jury. Overall, it was sort of like attending a very well-acted and staged but rather boring six hour play.

Plus, we had an hour and half lunch break. Which I used to visit the main city library for the first time. All the free books you could want and a tidy cafe where you can enjoy a turkey sandwich and a coffee? That's civilization at its most developed!

I'm a happy taxpayer today.

Things I Love Today: Gold Ring

This ring seems like just the thing someone stylish at a design agency would wear. The sort of person who could really pull off a white blouse and has an extensive collection of sharpies. Plus, I like that the proportions are similar to my engagement ring.

It could be a great Christmas gift for a sister or friend for $50.

Crafty: Paper Wreaths

Margaret and I were inspired by the latest Paper Source catalog on Sunday night. We made our own versions of this paper holly wreath in about a half hour. Just some construction paper, wire ties and tape. I'm going to hang one on our apartment door and one on my computer at work.

Jury Duty

After all these years of calling and being automatically dismissed for jury duty, I have to show up in court this morning.

I'm tempted to dress like I imagine a "civil citizen" would: tweed skirt, opaque tights, pumps and silk blouse. But I don't think standing out from the crowd is necessarily my best strategy. I'll buy a tempting book tonight, charge up the iPod and bring some snacks.

Wish me luck!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Resolution: Clothing Rehab

This week's resolution: make the most of my existing clothes. I'm dedicating this week to repairing, darning and dry cleaning my benched clothing. This includes:
  • Sewing a missing button on a black cardigan.
  • Reattaching a loose bead on a pair of red flats.
  • Dry cleaning four dresses and a bunch of sweaters.
  • Organizing my closet.
  • Packing up my summer clothes and putting out the tweeds and wools.
It will be nice to have a full closet of options! Some of these projects have been waiting for months.

Oh, and one more thing: I'm going to start doing What to Wear's for free again. My favorite requests involve outfits for strange or unusual events, finding things to wear with tricky "statement" items and accessory challenges. You can email me your request here. My goal is to post one a week. If you want your question bumped to the top of the queue or want more than one outfit, I'll still be taking paid requests for $15 a pop.

Coveted: Paradis Vegetal China

You may want to steady yourself for this one: Royal Limoges, the French company that produced my lovely dishwasher safe wedding china, has come out with a new modern design. Paradis Vegetal is not cheap, but just look at that gold, pink, blue and red peony pattern.

Weekend Round-Up: Farm Life

Another Thanksgiving, another trip to Sanger to see Rob's family! It was a great, relaxing holiday full of good food and country life. While there:

We rode bikes.

Ate an amazing Thanksgiving dinner.

We hung out with goats. Including eight adorable newborn goat kids.

Rob learned to weld and we shopped for tools at Harbor Freight.

We went birdwatching by the San Joaquin River. I love the "open oak" forest in the sierra foothills.

We cut down an old mulberry tree on Granny's ranch. I enjoy this sort of hard labor once in a while. But, during the course of the cutting, got too enthusiastic and took a big fall from about 6 feet up. I took most of the hit on my already bruised knee from the bike crash. Fortunate because I didn't get a new bruise, unfortunate because it hurt like heck.

And we came home with 20 lbs of pomegranates and another 10 of walnuts. On Sunday, Margaret and I fell off the no-shopping bandwagon. I supported the economies of Sweden (H&M), England (Ted Baker) and France (L'Occitane) and found some amazing sales. We had a nice turkey nacho dinner and made construction paper wreaths in the evening.