Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Inspired: Cousteau

Speaking of formal stationery - I recently watched a few episodes of the new Jean-Michel Cousteau adventures on PBS. Never mind that I'm generally not a fan of marine life, I adore the whole Cousteau "gestalt."

The tans, the obligatory matching clothes, the adventures on the open seas, the elegant team dinners around the kitchen table with glasses of wine. The relaxed formality is inspiring. Time to rent The Life Aquatic again.

To Do: New Name

I officially changed my name Wednesday last week. Romantically: I gave Rob my name for his birthday. Realistically: I made him spend part of his day off at the Chinatown Social Security office.

I would like to celebrate with some new stationery now that the paperwork is in (and I only have another fifty or so more accounts to change, being a teenage bride would have been so much simpler). Classic ivory Crane's correspondence cards with regent blue thermography and navy liners? Maybe a monogram? Too many choices.

What does my trusty 1975 edition of Emily Post have to say:

A Married Woman's Paper
White, cream, light blue, gray, or light green are the proper colors...The paper is smaller than a man's, approximately five and one-half by six and one-half inches...A married woman's social paper is engraved "Mrs. William Frost," rather than "Mrs. Mary Frost." A professional woman may use her professional name without title -"Jane Author" rather than "Mrs. Robert Author" - on paper used for business correspondence.

An Unmarried Woman's Paper
An unmarried woman's paper is the same as a married woman's in color and style. Her name at the top of the paper, however, is written without title. The envelope does, of course, include the "Miss." The envelopes of stationary used for business purposes may be printed "Ms." if she prefers that tile.

Well, there you have it! I also learned that some people have a map printed in the corner of their vacation-home paper to assist weekend visitors and that only young girls can have just their first name printed on their correspondence. Useful. I just need a good sale on personalized stationery to come along and I'm set.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Domino Giveaway Winner

Congratulations to Rebecca in North Carolina. Her comment was chosen by Random.org to win Domino's The Book of Decorating: A Room-by-Room Guide to Creating a Home That Makes You Happy.
"I have an amazing tapestry that hangs in front of the sliding door in my apartment. it does double duty--keeping heat in and brightening up the living room!"

Weekend Round-Up: Life in 3D

Sunny weather made this weekend quite nice. Despite not being all that warm, the whole city seemed to vote that summer had arrived and demanded that we act accordingly.

Not much to report on Friday: I went shopping at Ross after work for some embroidery project supplies while Rob went to Critical Mass for the first time. Quiet dinner at home and to bed early.

I slept in on Saturday and went straight from pajamas to bike clothes. Rob and I pedaled through the park on our tandem to breakfast at Velo Rouge. From there, we rode over the Golden Gate Bridge (my least favorite part, bridges freak me out) through Sausalito, Mill Valley, Corte Madera, and over to the water on the East side of Tiburon via Paradise Loop. From Tiburon you have a lovely view of the city framed by Angel Island on the left and the bridge on the right (click to enlarge the photo - it's worth it):

Got a bit lost in Tiburon and the Presideo on the way back. We made it home at 3:30, feeling fine with just a smidge under 50 miles as our total for the day. Not too shabby.

Almost exactly when we walked in the door, a friend from Sacramento called to ask if he and his girlfriend could stay at our apartment. Oh, and they were just crossing the Bay Bridge. A mad dash to clean before they came to get keys. They went straight off for dinner and the symphony.

Margaret came over as we were just finishing showering and getting dressed. We bought tickets online for Monsters vs. Aliens in IMAX 3D and took the subway downtown right before six. What a fun movie! The plot is decent enough, but it's the amazing 3D graphics on a 50 foot high screen that make it fun.

After the movie, the three of us walked over to farmerbrown, a trendy soul-food restaurant, for a cocktail. We ended up walking all the way home from there, enjoying the warm night. The friends from Sacramento got in around midnight.

The next morning, we played cards and had coffee while the full house woke up. Tangerine for brunch at ten. Mmm, eggs benedict. Our guests headed off to explore the city after brunch. Margaret, Rob and I went for a leisurely bike ride. I have a new bike from Rob and I'm trying to learn to be a better non-tandem rider. We pedaled throught the park and out to the Queen Wilhemina Tulip Garden.

A nice bit of rest in the sun surrounded by tulips. We rode back through the crowded park. I didn't crash once! Laundry, a video and dinner as we prepared for the week ahead.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Giveaway: Domino Book of Decorating

I have a fun Friday giveaway for you: Domino's The Book of Decorating: A Room-by-Room Guide to Creating a Home That Makes You Happy. Doesn't sound like just the thing for a little spring redecorating project?

Enter a comment below to enter. The topic: what's the favorite decor item in your home? I'll pick a winner at random on Sunday night!

What to Wear: Birthday Girl

Here's a fun idea: a couple girls requested a What to Wear for their friend's birthday!
Our friend is a fun creative woman; wife and mother of two. She is turning 30, and we want to surprise her with an 'out on the town' outfit as well as an evening...you got it...out on the town!

We live in DC which is a fairly conservative town for dressing and as a mom we want for her to have something versatile that she can wear to church, a wedding, an evening out with the girls and maybe an evening out with the hubby....all in one depending on the accessories.

With spring almost here, it would be great if we could find something that she can wear in the last few weeks of winter, drop a layer and wear in the spring/summer too.

We are looking for fun, classy, and sweet.

So considerate! Here are my recommendations for the birthday girl:

Skirt - Adorable classic navy skirt with button pocket details. On sale for $30!
Blouse - A ruffled silk georgette top will be reserved for special occasions only. I'm a huge klutz and have managed to keep a similar top un-stained for years.
Clutch - Very girly. A great birthday present!
Shoes - Nude pumps are very in and also make your legs look longer.
Necklace - Sparkly pink pearls from Forever21.
Jacket - A little ivory lady coat.

A little extra perfume and lipstick to match the top...just right for turning 30 in DC.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Announcing the Penninsula Ladies Activity Club!

And last night I drove to San Mateo to help launch the latest LAC: the Peninsula Ladies Activity Club! Margaret hosted a night of martinis, delicious food and Cabaret. What a bizarre movie - Liza manages to be charming throughout despite the strange 1972-ness of it. We had a great time providing running commentary!

If you live in the South Bay and would be interested in joining this brand-new LAC, shoot me an email!

Ladies Activity Club: Easter Crafts

We had our Ladies Activity Club party on Tuesday night. Yvonne hosted us for a night of Easter yarn crafts. We made pom pom animals like this example and also wrapped styrofoam eggs with yarn.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Happy Birthday to Rob!

Happy birthday to my love, my husband, my captain and my sweet friend. I'm taking the day off to celebrate you and all your wonderfulness. Here's to many, many more happy trails.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Inspired: As Time Goes By

Is it strange to be completely obsessed with a British sitcom about septegenarians? (coming from someone who just professed her love for polishing silver, maybe not)

I'm crazy about As Time Goes By and would like very much to be able to climb through the TV into their cozy London home to have a cup of tea. I love everything about the place, the tidy living room with office and garden view, the small kitchen with a big table in the middle. It is my goal to have an urban home inspired by theirs at some point.

Things I Love Today: Polishing Silver

I love polishing silver! Last night, I scrubbed a stack of platters, vases, spoons and silver Easter baskets with good old Wright's polish for an hour. It's such a satisfying, easy chore. Napkin ironing is another great one in the same category.

Maybe I could have a job in Martha's prop room?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Weekend Round-Up: Photos!

Actual photos from the weekend are just in from Jackie! Isn't the valley breath-taking in the snow? Click here to see the whole batch (including many of me in a mismatched outfit featuring waterproof trousers).

Weekend Round-Up: Chance of Showers

The weather this weekend wasn't exactly cooperating with our camping plans. Despite a lot more rain and snow than expected, we had a great time in Yosemite.

On Friday, Jackie and Margaret met us at our office after work. We packed our little Fit to the brim with four people and all our camping gear. Rob drove through the valley, while we watched YouTube videos and listened to Pandora (what did people do on car trips before iPhones?). Arrived at the campsite at 11:00, set up our tents, chatted for a bit and went to bed.

The next morning, we woke up to find our friends from Weaverville - Rich, Molly and baby Richard - in their RV next to our campsite. They got in late that night. It started to drizzle while Rob made us all blueberry pancakes. We figured it was the "20% chance of rain" the reports had mentioned.

Still raining, we walked over to Yosemite Falls together. The baby was bundled up and didn't seem to mind the rain at all (ps: these photos are courtesy of Rob's cell, I forgot my camera):

It started pouring when we got the base of the falls. Now pretty soaked, we all took the shuttle to Curry Lodge. PB&J and PBR for lunch. After eating, we all took long naps while warming up in front of the fireplace. As we were bundling up to leave, the mom of one of my elementary school friends came over to say hello. Small world!

From Curry Village, we walked aross the valley and over the river to visit the Ahwahnee. They had decked the lobby with new potted ferns and succulents, very pretty. Now pouring, we walked back to the cars and went back to the RV. Lasagne for dinner and lots of card games.

Eventually time to go to bed. We had to brave the heavy rain and the flooded campsite to check out our tents. Jackie and Margaret's tent was in a low area and completly swamped, they went to sleep in the RV. Ours was on higher ground and snug. Rob and I fell soundly asleep with the rain pelting the tent...

...and woke up to the sound of big clumps of snow hitting the roof. Surprise! It had snowed at least four inches early in the morning and was still coming down hard.

Jackie and Margaret's tent was almost fully sunk and covered in snow. Ugh, a big mess. We got everyone up and packed the camp before things got even worse.

A nice warm breakfast of coffee, carmel rolls and louisiana hot sausage in the RV. Still snowing hard, we spent the rest of the morning packing up. With chains on, we drove out of the gorgeous black and white valley very slowly.

In Groveland, we finally ditched the chains and regrouped for lunch at at a good little Mexican restaurant. We made it home with Margaret and Jackie around 6:00. A quick load of laundry, grocery shopping, flower arranging and batch of cookies before my college roomate dropped by for a visit. He's about to to go to Korea for a year-long teaching job. Hot fudge sundae at the 24-hour diner. Back home and to bed at 11pm.

Friday, March 20, 2009

What to Wear: Sporty Mom

Joanne, a reader from Canada, wrote in with this request:
I am a 40 plus mom who lives in power suits 50 hours a week. Lululemon yoga wear is the weekend staple. What do I wear to my son's sporting events? I don't want my rear hanging out of designer jeans. It's as though I have some pieces but can't put a "look" together. Shoes are especially challenging. My chunky track shoes look sloppy and ballet flats fall off my narrow feet. It doesn't help that I live in the Canadian North. HELP!
Layering! Start with a basic pair of jeans and a long sleeved shirt, and then just keep adding pieces until you've hit the right mix:

Sweater - A fancy version of a hoodie in lovely sage.Wear the hood outside the trench.
Shirt - Basic while long sleeved tee from Old Navy.
Jeans - From Old Navy for $25.
Boots- There are so many cute flat boots on sale right now. I just wish finding the perfect pair wasn't such a chore.
Earrings - Pretty little gold drops from Anthropologie.
Sunglasses - Aviators from Old Navy.
Trench - From Old Navy. They make really adorable coats sometimes.

Casual and put together, Joanne will shine from the sidelines next weekend!

Things I Love Today: Bikini

Have you seen how cheap tickets to Hawaii are these days? Dangerous, especially when adorable frenchie-striped bikinis are available from Boden. This bikini, plus a big umbrella and a sand-logged New Yorker....bliss!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

To Do: Bouquets to Art

Last night was delightful. Rob and I rode our tandem bike across town after work to visit the de Young Museum's Bouquets to Art event. I even had on my coral velvet blazer and a flowery silk scarf to match the red bike.

This year's flowers were of the highest caliber - bright orchids, spring branches, tulips and succulents. There was also a trend of dark foliage: lots of black ti leaves, black callas and fiddlehead ferns. I forgot my camera, but you can see photos online.

Halfway through, Rob and I took a break in the main hall where there was a bar and a jazz trio. The museum installed an enormous display hanging from the ceiling to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Bouquets to Art event. 800 pounds of swirling copper, manzanita, anthriums and forsythia. You have to see it in person to get a real sense of the magnitude.

While taking in this massive flower arrangement, we sparked up a conversation with Robert Futernick, Associate Director of FAMSF. Nice gentleman! Rob and I chatted with him about using "new media" to promote the museum.

We walked through the last upstairs wing just as the museum was getting ready to close. Rob had such a good time that he suggested we get tickets for the gala next year. I can't wait!

Back on the tandem to ride home right at dusk. We got lost in the park along the way - which was lovely on such a warm night. The scent of eucalyptus, gardenia, mud and victorian box trees followed us all the way home.

Road Trip: Yosemite

We're headed to Yosemite this weekend for Rob's annual birthday camping trip.

The snow is mostly melted and the spring flowers are coming out. I can't wait to visit the dogwoods near the Ahwahnee Hotel.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wedding Wednesday: Bridesmaids

Jean is mulling over these lovely teal silk dresses as a possible bridesmaid option. The color is so pretty and would be an excellent backdrop for bright bouquets full of dahlias, renunculas and roses.

Has anyone tried it on in person?

Wedding Wednesday: Paper Sale

Paper Source has a crazy sale on all sorts of cute paper right now. If you're planning on making your own save the dates or wedding invitations, you should definitely take a look (I used their ivory luxe paper for my envelopes and escort cards).

I especially like the scalloped pieces and the string and button envelopes.

Wedding Wednesday: Inspiration Board

Yet another amazing wedding inspiration board from at Snippet & Ink! This budget Mexican fiesta from last week is perfect to help Jean brainstorm.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Listen: Jamie Lidell

This song seems so perfect for a springy St. Patrick's Day. This is a live performance for a French program because, unfortunately, the official video is strange.

Recipe: Chicken and Black Rice Soup

I inherited my love for chicken "carcasses" from my mother. She's a big fan of cooking down the last scraps of a chicken or turkey into a hearty soup. This made about 10 portions, plenty for freezing or giving away:

Chicken and Black Rice Soup

Stock - Start by cooking down one or two whole chicken carcasses for stock in a big pan with water, an onion, a bay leaf and celery tops. This takes a couple hours. Refrigerate the entire pot until you're ready.

Soup - Scrape off any extra fat solidified at the top of the pan. Strain the broth from the chicken and other bits and put back in the pan. Start two cups of black rice with 1/2 broth and 1/2 water in a rice cooker. Wrangle a good friend into helping you separate the good meat from the rest of the chicken bits. Break the wishbones...make wishes.

Cut two carrots, two parsnips and 4 stalks of celery into small pieces and add to the broth and chicken mixture. Microplane four cloves of garlic into the soup. Salt and pepper to taste. Don't overcook, turn off the heat when the veggies are just softening.

When your rice finishes, pour it into a thin strainer and rinse thoroughly with water. Otherwise, you'll have black soup. Add the rice to the soup mix and cook briefly. Your soup should still turn a little brown thanks to the rice. As with all things like this, the soup is best the next day.

To Do: Bouquets to Art

One of my all time favorite San Francisco events starts today! Bouquets to Art at the de Young challenges floral designers from around the city to pair arrangements with works from the museum collection. The flowers stay up until Saturday.

You can see photos from the 2008 show here and a sneak peek at the set up for 2009 here. Last year's floral trends included metal wire, succulents, weaving and folding.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Things I Love Today: The Red Balloon

We watched The Red Balloon on Saturday. Adorable 30 minute film. I especially loved the 1950's French kids clothes; all those leather shoes and baggy tweed shorts.

Combined with La Misma Luna, we almost had a film trilogy of "strangers being nice to adorable children on adventures." We just needed one more...suggestions?

Weekend Round-Up: Agoraphobic

I'm concerned that the combination of the bad economy and the bad weather may be turning me into some sort of an agoraphobic. I spent most of the weekend absolutely content holed up inside the apartment, not normal!

On Friday, Margaret came over for a stir-fry dinner and the video La Misma Luna. Adorable, the kid who star in it just gets cuter and cuter! She spent the night and on Sunday, we had pancakes with peaches for breakfast.

A lazy morning in our pajamas. Margaret helped me pick apart chickens for soup (there's a measure of a true friend!), decorate the Easter tree and bake cookies:

Margaret left after lunch. Rob and I briefly tried to motivate for a bike ride. It was way too cold, so we only made it a block before turning back for home. Reading and naps.

At five, it was time to prep for our NERT drill. I made batches of hot cocoa and onion dip while Rob gathered our supplies. We set up in Duboce Park from 6 to 9, testing our emergency response logistics and ham radio system. I'm not officially trained to be a NERT, so was assigned snack and public information duties. I must have talked about the program with 100 of our neighbors!

Quiet night after the drill. On Sunday, we had coffee and oatmeal for breakfast while it started raining outside. I finished making my huge batch of chicken and black rice soup. Delicious for lunch and I put away five big servings in the freezer. Rob left to volunteer with the Bike Coalition - he was assigned to parking bikes at the Anarchist Book Fair of all things.

Margaret came up in the afternoon and we went to the de Young to see the Warhol exhibit. Very nice! And it was fun to see the florists setting up for the Bouquets to Art gala under a tent in the sculpture garden. Mark your calendars: Bouquets to Art starts this Tuesday!

Back home on the train through the increasingly bad weather. Margaret and I had hot toddies and played Lego Batman until Rob came home. I roasted a chicken (that I bought for only $4 thanks to a sale and a coupon!) with potatoes and made a big salad for our dinner.

Hmmm...I guess this weekend was a little busier than it seemed at the time. Agoraphobia averted!

Friday, March 13, 2009

What to Wear: Black and White Wedding

A bonus WTW just for you this Friday! Jennifer has a request:
I'm invited to a wedding at the beginning of April in the city in Denver, Colorado. I'll be speaking at the wedding, so I need to put a little thought into this.

The bride has requested that everyone wear black and white. Since the wedding ceremony is outside in a park, and early April could still be very chilly, I need a creative way to work the requested uniform.

I have tons of black coats (including a vintage 50s leather coat with fur collar) but how do I work it in a chic way? Would love your help.
This was followed by a funny email conversation all about how completely bizarre it is to enforce a dress code on wedding guests. Especially one that involves wearing the two colors you are absolutely not supposed to wear to a wedding. But - no matter how strange the demand - a good guest does as they are told:

Dress - A black and white pattern is the best way to go. This dress is absolutely darling. A bit of a splurge at $210 even at 40% off. There is also this, somewhat lesser dress for $100.
Boots - For warmth. Paired with tights depending on how cold it is. In the summer, trade the boots for adorable red flats or pumps.
Gloves - Elbow length in gray cashmere.
Coat - Go to town with the best (and warmest) your closer has to offer.

Have a great time at the wedding!

What to Wear: Teaching Interview

Emily is a new mom gearing up for a return to the workforce. Here's her question:
I would love to get your thoughts on an interview outfit. I am an elementary teacher and I'm planning on going back to work next August after taking the year off to have a baby. I guess I could wear a business suit, but it feels a little stuffy for my occupation. I'd love to wear something a bit more creative that still feels professional and polished. Also it would be great if I could work the pieces into my work wardrobe (i.e. no dry clean only in a kindergarten class). I prefer to wear pants vs. skirts, but I'm open. I'm very petite; brown, curly hair; green eyes, fair complexion.
Pants - Navy machine washable chinos from J.Crew can pass for fancier trousers when well ironed. On sale for $78.
Sweater - Pink cardigan for from J.Crew on sale. Machine washable! Much less lumpy in person.
Shirt - Light and floaty top from Old Navy. Also great for covering up any remaining baby weight.
Belt - I have a cousin of this belt from Target, it's the perfect width for layering.
Bracelets - White enamel from Old Navy.
Shoes - Obviously, you're not going to wear these to school everyday. But they're lovely, gray and on sale.
Earrings - Basic pearl studs.

Good luck with the job hunt!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

To Do: Ribbon Embroidery

Remember this lovely project from Martha a few years back? I've had the magazine pages ripped out for the longest time but never tried it. Did you?

This might be the right project to combine my spring fever and need for baby and wedding gifts. Could I justify some very expensive silk ribbon?

Restaurants: Slow Club

We had dinner at Slow Club last night with a visiting co-worker. This low key neighborhood restaurant is one of my San Francisco favorites. They have great cocktails with all sort of exotic liquors and fresh, tasty food delivered from an open kitchen.

I took this photo of a bunch of these quintessential "characters" enjoying a drink at the place last summer.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Give: Gardenias

Rob and I visited friends and their brand new baby in the hospital last night. An adorable almost-nine pound little buddha with a full head of hair. There are few things better than holding a sleeping two day old for an hour!

We brought a little knit bear for the baby and some flowers for the new mom with us. You can get fresh gardenias at the florist for about $1.50 each (or less, especially at the end of the day). Paired with a simple bowl, they're great for bedside fragrance and affordable too.

Inspired: Muscat

What is with my dessert wine obsession of late? Something about chatting with friends over a spent table and a glass of something sweet just seems right for a cold March night.

This French muscat ended our dinner out at Chez Spencer last Friday. The adorable bottle and classic label are an added bonus.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

To Do: Plant

Spring fever has hit me hard this year. With an absence of yard, I had in mind window flower boxes full of blossoming jasmine and tea roses. However, I don't think the management would appreciate my drilling holes in the building's siding from three stories up.

Instead, I found two sets of these windowsill herb gardens on super clearance at a closing Cost Plus store. Fingers crossed for green shoots in 7-10 days.

Weekend Round-Up: Glitz and Grit

Fun and very busy weekend! We took full advantage of the fact that it finally stopped raining. Sunny - even bitter windy and cold sunny - is better than rain.

On Friday night, Rob and I were taken to dinner at Chez Spencer. I have professed my looooove for this restaurant before, and it only gets better each time. Everything was divine: from the patio table, to the perfect dirty martini, to the rolls, to the olive-rubbed rack of lamb, to the glass of muscat that ended the evening.

A lazy Saturday morning. I made a big "fry-up" of eggs, potatoes, mushrooms and turkey bacon. Rob and I dashed downtown on the train for a few errands and had a nice mexican lunch.

In the afternoon, we went to the park to practice setting up the NERT canopy. We ran into our friends and their dog while there - this is such a small city sometimes!

Rob and I drove to Davis in the evening to prepare for our big ride the next day. Jackie graciously hosted us at her apartment. Up very early on Sunday, especially with daylight savings! We had to meet the other riders at Cache Creek Casino at 9:00. With Rob and I on the tandem and Jackie on her bike, we peddaled along past organic farms and old ranch towns all the way up to where the 16 meets the 20 and back. A very challenging 54 miles in total. 17 miles more than my longest ride ever.

Starving and exhausted, we went for a late lunch at Burgers and Brews in Davis. Around 4:00, we drove back toward the city and straight to San Mateo to hang out with Margaret. A light dinner and apricot pie at Heidi's Pie. When we got back to the apartment, and put the bike away it was already almost nine. I crashed hard and went to bed.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Hold tight

I'm exhausted from the busy weekend - including a 54 mile bike ride in Capay Valley on Sunday. Combined with technical difficulties, I need an extra day to get up to speed. I'll be back tomorrow.