Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Vacation!

My sister and her fiancé arrive tonight. We're going for Sichuan with Margaret before picking them up from the airport. The rest of the week will be devoted to fun in the city and wedding planning.

And then next week, we're with the family at a rental beach house near Half Moon Bay. (Being Northern California, this requires equal parts bikinis and cable-knit sweaters). I'll be back late next week with a full update.

Photo by Mashroms.

Ladies Activity Club: Stamped Tea Towels


Inspired by Design Sponge and connections over at SF-local Yellow Owl, Rebecca hosted the LAC last night for fabric stamping. Such a fun and easy project!

Our hostess equipped us with a big stack of plain tea towels, fabric ink and stamps galore. She even managed to score the not-yet-released cityscape stamp set from Yellow Owl. I made two sets for Jean's trousseau and this bike towel for Rob.

Along with the great craft project, Rebecca served lemonade, freshly baked cookies, hummus and pineapple. She brought fancy cheese curds and aged cheddar direct from the Tillamook factory.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Weekend Round-Up: Town and Country

Ah, long weekends. Rob and I loved this opportunity to relax in the country. We drove up to Weaverville early Saturday morning to spend time with our friends, Rich and Molly.

First stop: Cottonwood. We met Rich and Molly there with some of her relatives, all working on rounding up cattle that had been grazing in the Sierras for a few months. I held the baby and stuck to the shade while the others tried to sort the cows and calves into trailer-ready bunches.













Rob and I took off a little early, we had to make it to Weaverville and cell coverage in time for a work-related radio interview. After the interview, we drove to Hayfork and met up with the family as they dropped off the cattle at the ranch. A nice dinner of bbq pork ribs, potato salad and watermelon with the family.

















The next day, we went for breakfast together in town. Rob and I headed off on the bike for a steep 44 mile ride to Trinity Dam.

















Whew! A very steep climb not helped by temperatures in the 90's toward the end. We dropped down along the river to a cute town called Lewiston and then back to Weaverville along Rush Creek Road.













Back at our friend's house, we cleaned up and cooled off until dinner. We had a nice meal at one of the little town's fanciest places, Le Grange Cafe.

The next morning, we shared another nice breakfast together in town. As is tradition, Rob and Rich took me to the shooting range for a little practice. It was my first time with a riffle. I only took two shots, but both were well on target.













*Note: As I said last time we went to the range, I am firmly pro-gun control and have no interest in hunting. However, when we're in the country, I appreciate the opportunity to learn to safe handling. It's good to be well-rounded. Oh, and I might not mind a pair of tweed breeks and a classic British-style clay shooting party one day.*

We took off for home around 2:30 and made it back to the foggy city around seven. A quick bit of unpacking and laundry. We're preparing for my sister and her fiance arriving this Wednesday for a visit! You can see all our photos from the weekend here.

Friday, May 22, 2009

What to Wear: A-Line Skirt

Joan wrote in with a specific request for summer:
I'm, 40-something, 5'6 and 160lbs -- I have a little "paunch" but otherwise I'm well proportioned. I'm blonde (going grey when I'm due for the hairdressers) and I have a fair complexion overall but my face tends to have a strong red undertone when I'm not wearing makeup.

I'm good with the boot-cut-mid-rise jeans/pants, the tops that skim/don't cling, but I get really stumped when it comes to dresses/skirts.

I do know that given my current body shape that what looks best is an A-line skirt and even an empire waist can be nice. Also, every sales person has eventually humbled themselves to agree with me, I CANNOT wear patterns -- florals, checks, geometric designs on any scale turn hideous as soon as they make the transition from hanger to my body. Ditto for ruffles (which I love). I can wear peach undertones and spring colors. For some reason I can wear black as well although navy/brown are my better colors. White on top just washes me out completely.

I'd love, love, love to have some summer skirt combos and dresses that would make me look fresh, and enchanting but also are comfortable and avoid making me look frumpy. Tall order, right? Any brilliant suggestions?
This little number ought to do the trick!

Skirt - Adorable and voluminous, this basic black cotton skirt is timeless.
Sweater - In peach on sale at J.Crew.
Shirt - A basic little white blouse from Old Navy. This small amount of white will highlight the peach and wont wash you out.
Belt - Mid-width belt in black. Oh, Michelle Obama! The many ways you have inspired us, including with belts.
Wedges - Comfortable black peep-toe wedges are perfect for summer.
Bracelet - A pretty set of coral bangles on sale from $216 to $65.
Tote - From Kenneth Cole.
Scarf - From Urban Outfitters for $20. The sunglasses are from there, too.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Coveted: Tin Plates

Tin plates from from fine china maker, Mottahedeh, are just the thing for a posh Memorial Day picnic this weekend. And I have to get a set for our annual Mountain Play picnic in June.

Gump's carries the "Turkish Garden" design pictured. And there are other lovely sets in roses, dragons, ming and tall ships.

Things I Love Today: Letters

There are few things quite as satisfying as preparing a big stack of letters for the mail. I'm working on a special project and it involves loads of stamps.

Photo from Ankou.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wedding Wednesday: Fruit Centerpiece

A farm wedding would be just right for flowers mixed with fruit. This loose arrangement includes citrus ranunculus and geraniums.

Wedding Wednesday: Mules

I don't think I've shared my "mini-donk" obsession with you yet. Yep, my imaginary country estate comes equipped with a Scottish deerhound, plenty of tweed and an adorable miniature donkey.

Ooookay...too much information. Hey, look! Cute donkey stamped wedding favors. It would be a snap to make something like this on the Gocco.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Coveted: Artistic Luxury

Rob and I dropped in to the Legion of Honor on Saturday to catch the Artistic Luxury exhibit before it moves on at the end of the month.

So many beautiful items! The emphasis on detailed craftsmanship over expensive materials (although there were still plenty of those) was my favorite part. I'd take this lovely Lalique swallow comb or even just the artist's drawing for it. Oh, bats...even the drawings sell for over $10k.

Recipe: Potato Salad

Mmm...first potato salad of the summer. And it was just right. This family favorite is a purists version of the recipe.

Classic Potato Salad
Makes 6 servings. Prepare the day before.

5 or 6 large red potatoes, (pool cue size)
3 stalks of celery
3 green onions
Mayonnaise
Onion salt and pepper

Boil the potatoes for about 20 minutes and let them sit in the hot water as it cools. When you slice the potatoes, the skin should come off easily and the middle should be just barely cooked all the way.

Cut the potatoes (some skin remaining is fine) into medium sized chunks. Salt and pepper and set aside to cool to room temperature. Chop the celery into small pieces. Dice the white and light green part of the green onions. Mix the celery and onion into the potatoes. When everything is cool, mix in enough mayonnaise to coat (I used three heaping tablespoons). Refrigerate overnight. You may need to add more salt/pepper/mayo the next day. Only gets better the next day.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Giveway Winner: Breakfast for Dinner

Congratulations to Elena from Breakfast for Dinner! Her comment was chosen by Random.org:
Well shiver me timbers, we love the Pirate's Booty! "Aaaarrrrr" better win!

A big treasure chest of Pirate's Booty goodness is on its way to our lucky winner. Thanks to everyone for entering!

Weekend Round-Up: Around the Bay

Gorgeous weather this weekend! Hot but with a nice breeze to keep us from melting.

On Friday, Rob and I walked home and then took the bike to Civic Center to register for Bay to Breakers. We had a mellow dinner of leftover lasagna.

The next morning, we had our usual oatmeal and coffee breakfast before taking the bike out for a spin. A quick run to the post office before pedaling out to the Legion of Honor. This little museum is one of my all-time favorite places.













After our visit to the museum, we swung by the market and picked up goods for lunch at the beach.













Back home in the afternoon with a big load of fresh produce. I made potato salad for Sunday and came up with the idea for my costume. Using an old scrap of green fabric, a headband, some construction paper and hot glue, I made a full Christmas tree get-up.

















Jackie came over at 8:00 and we made her an impromptu reindeer costume. Dinner of turkey tacos with guacamole. A quick run to the store for supplies and then to bed pretty early.

The next morning, we woke up at 6:45 (!) to get ready for Bay to Breakers. We met up with the rest of our Christmas-team downtown:













We participated in the tortilla toss at the start and walked up with the 60,000 person crowd through the hot city. This was our fourth year at the "race" and it was as fun as ever. Our costumes this year were a hit, especially with the kids.













We made it the 7+ miles to the ocean in three in a half hours. For once, it was warm enough at the beach for a quick dip. We took a very crowded train back to the neighborhood and had lunch at Chow. Naps at home and a relaxed evening.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Giveaway: Pirate's Booty Treasure Chest

Here's a fun little giveaway for you this Friday:

Win a special treasure chest filled to the brim with all the flavors of Pirate's Booty (including the new bermuda onion and salt & vinegar) and other snack freebies courtesy of Robert's American Gourmet Food, LLC.

To enter, leave a comment below in your best pirate-speak (one per person, please) before Sunday at 5 pm PST. The winner will be chosen at random. Good luck, mateys!

What to Wear: Girl on the Town

Here's a request from Lesley! (PS: The what-to-wear queue is a bit backed up. I'll only be taking "rush order" requests for $15 each until things clear out a bit)
I am a 25 year old living in Chicago and a big fan of your blog. When I'm not having to wear all-black at work, my outfits are straight from the J. Crew catalog (or outlet!). It seems that every time I get the chance to go downtown for drinks or to a semi-casual party I never know what to wear. I have a hard time picking interesting tops to pair with jeans that aren't completely out of my style. I don't want to look trashy, but I also don't want to look stuffy. I love wearing color and fun jewelry - I have blonde hair and blue eyes, 5'7" and a size 4. I am hoping you can help me spruce up my semi-conservative wardrobe. Thanks!
Casual can be tricky. I find it helpful to layer in pieces that can work for a variety of adventures after dark:

Tank - A pretty silk tank in navy from J.Crew.
Jacket - In geranium canvas on sale from Ralph Lauren. Love those big nautical closures.
Jeans - A straight leg pair from Bluefly.
Scarf - From Forever21.
Shoes - A seriously hot pair of heels half off. Ankle strap, snakeskin, scalloped suede - you can't have a bad time in these shoes.
Purse - A dark blue bag on sale from Anthropologie.
Earrings - Gold and gray earrings from Forever21. Toss on some gold bangles too!

As you go from dinner to dancing, peel off layers and stash them in your bag. You'll be set to close the city down in style.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Coveted: Corey Lynn Cater



















I hardly ever find anything good at the neighborhood Crossroads (I could use some pointers from Rebecca). But when I score, I really seem to score. A few years ago it was a tweed Prada skirt for $40. And Sunday, I found a lovely silver printed skirt from Corey Lynne Calter for $30.

I had never heard of the designer before, and was happy to find out that a) she's amazing! and b) the skirts normally go for $100 to $250. I would wear almost anything on her site, especially these two little ensembles.

My only warning is that the sizes seem to run particularly small. I'm usually a 2 or 0 and this new skirt is a 6.

Recipe: Healthy Lasagna

So odd that the lasagna I made with the least effort and the strangest ingredients turned out to be my most successful.

On Tuesday I shopped for stir fry, but switched to lasagna while watching Giro d'Italia. The result was an easy and healthy midweek dinner:

Healthy Lasagna
1/2 a package of no-boil lasagna noodles
1 zucchini, cut into thin rounds
1 jar of tomato sauce
1 package of crumbled feta cheese
2/3 a package of tofu, minced (I know, so weird. But mixed with feta it tastes pretty good as a ricotta substitute. You can also use cottage cheese)
1 package of cherry tomatoes, split
1/3 a package of ground turkey
1/2 a cup of kalamata olives chopped
Shredded mozzarella or cheddar to sprinkle on top
Red wine
Olive oil
Garlic
Salt and pepper

Pull out a 8x12 baking pan. Preheat oven to 375. In a small skillet on high, cook the zucchini with a splash of olive oil and two cloves of chopped garlic. Move to a plate once barely cooked. Add the ground turkey to the same pan with the kalmata olives, a splash of red wine and pepper. Brown and move to a plate. Pour your sauce in the same pan, add 1/2 a cup of red wine, 1/2 a cup of water and the cherry tomatoes.

Start your assembly with the sauce simmering. Add 1/2 a cup of the sauce to the bottom of the pan, add two lasagna sheets and top with the zucchini. Top with two more sheets and a bit of sauce. Mince together the tofu and feta cheese, salt and add on top of the last layer. Top with more sauce and two more sheets of lasagna. Add the turkey mixture, top with two more noodles and add the rest of the sauce. Top with shredded cheese and any remaining feta.

Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes - place a baking sheet below to catch any boil over. Remove the foil, add more cheese if needed and bake five minutes more. Let the lasagna rest a few minutes before cutting. Makes six large servings. Great for leftovers the next day.

(PS: Zucchini art available for $35 on Etsy)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wedding Wednesday: More Barn Inspiration

A few more barn bits, click on each for details.












Wedding Wednesday: Red Barn Studios
















Here's a great example of less is more from Red Barn Studios in Washington. With those "bones," you'd be fine with even just the paper lanterns and the red scarves.

Wedding Wednesday: Bold Barn Flowers

I'm in L.O.V.E with this wedding I found on Flickr. Look at the elegance of that floral chandelier in the stone barn (bold, but can be less expensive than numerous smaller flower arrangements) and the dress, her ribbon tied bouquet and her loose hair!

Gloucestershire...you kill me!

Wedding Wednesday: Barn Bonanza

Plans are moving forward with the Center for Land Based Learning's farm outside Davis. It seems like just the right place for Jean and Trent's wedding. And it has a barn!

When it comes to decorating a barn for a wedding, you need to go big or go bare. Regular little decorations can look scrawny when forced to compete with all those beams.

So, this week's Wedding Wednesday is all about brilliantly decorated barns.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Book Report: Three Junes

My mother gave Three Junes to me a while back and I hadn't gotten to it until last weekend. What a great read!

I'm not quite finished, but I've loved it so far. The characters are realistic in a gentle way. Each one has distinct foibles and seem to share a certain blindness toward how they're perceived - good and bad - by others (something I'm not good at either). And the descriptions of posh country life in Scotland are particularly nice, too.

Announcing Tour de Emily!

Rob and I have been working on this idea since January, but I haven't shared it with you until today. There is reason behind all of recent bike madness!

This fall, several friends will be joining us on a five-day bike tour from San Francisco to San Luis Obispo! 250 miles altogether, a big challenge!

The idea originated from a conversation with Jackie during a long bike ride. Both of us - along with the rest of our group of close friends from high school - are turning 30 shortly. We wanted to each do something significant for this milestone and Tour de Awesome was born.

The idea is for each person to host some event or challenge to mark their birthday. The Tour de Emily bike ride is the first since I'm the oldest. Tour de Jackie is centered around a major hiking expedition.

So far, we've got the route for the ride mostly worked out, key campsites booked and a friend who is a veteran triathalon logistics volunteer on board to provide daily support. I'm working on creating a logo, getting people started training and investigating sponsors (email!).

What would you choose for your "Tour" stage?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Inspired: Wildflowers

Wildflowers were out in force for our coastal ride. I tried to identify as many as I could during our many "terrain breaks," starting with silver bush lupine:













Indian paintbrush (these were shockingly bright in person):













Milkmaids? Potato flowers? Not sure:













Wild douglas iris:













Blackberry blossoms:

















Sticky monkeyflower:

















I also spotted yellow lupine, California poppies, crimson columbine, queen anne's lace and ceanothus, also called coast blue blossom.

Weekend Round-Up: Rough Road

Our poor friends! It's a wonder that they still talk to us after all the crazy adventures we take them on. This weekend, we invited Seth and Amy along on our first overnight bike tour. It was epic.

Of course, the ride seemed like it was going to be a cinch. Only 25 miles each way, we do three times that in a normal weekend...no biggie. Our friends arrived at 11 on Saturday to load up the bikes with trailers and hit the road.

















We made it a whole seven miles before stopping for lunch at Park Chalet. Yum, nothing like a bloody mary and truffled macaroni and cheese to kick off a long distance bike ride. From lunch, we rode down along the coast to Daly City and our first set of very steep hills. Our poor friends started to look a little dubious. Then through foggy vistas of the ocean at Mussel Rock and down to Pacifica - a surfing mecca and home to the fanciest Taco Bell in America.

















Still going pretty well at this point, we turned up toward the hills for Pedro Mountain Road (also called Planet of the Apes Road). Rob's guidebook praised this road - it had once been the only way across to Half Moon Bay, we figured it was closed about 20 years ago, but didn't think to research it any further.

Turns out that the road was last used in 1937...and even in the 1800's had a terrible reputation for being "a very bad road up over a high mountain." The remaining pavement on the trail was barely visible in most places and the path was rarely more than 3 feet wide. With our friends and our bike trailers we climbed...and climbed...and climbed, often having to get off the bikes to get over rough terrain.













At least there were nice views and a lot of very pretty wildflowers! We made it down the crazy road and to our accommodations for the night around 5:30. Rob booked private rooms at the very pretty Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel. Our rooms were tiny, but clean and with an incredible view of the beach and coast.

















We had dinner at a North Indian restaurant in town, watched the sun set at the beach and read away the rest of the evening.

The next morning, we were up early and out on the bikes in a hope to avoid traffic. Quick breakfast at the local cafe in Montara before facing the horrible Devil's Slide road. This busy highway is dangerous and full of cars, but much faster than the mountain road. Once we got back to Pacifica it seemed to be smooth sailing.

...Until we hit Daly City and those giant hills again. We managed okay (go spin class!) but our friends bonked hard and Seth's knee started to hurt. So we quickly came up with plan B. Rob put their bike cart inside ours and I looked up the nearest train station to get back to the city. We were quite the sight on BART:

















Back at home for showers and ice. We had lunch at Woodhouse Fish Company and walked around the neighborhood. At 3:30, Rob and I helped pack our bruised and battered friends into their car. Hot baths and naps in the afternoon, we spent the rest of the evening watching Giro d'Italia.

You can see all our photos from the weekend online.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Inspired: Bike Commercial


This commercial for Kaiser in the Bay Area is too cute. Love the bike basket. Have a great weekend!

What to Wear: Wedding Season

Jeannie wrote in with a request for the upcoming wedding season:
I am a friend of Susan, at syleegurlinthecity. I've been a long time fan of yours and told Susan to check our your blog when she moved to SF! It's now so wonderful to know that you two are friends and hang out. I have a What to Wear request for you. In light of these economically difficult times, I am finding that the upcoming wedding season is very frightening! I have two weddings coming up, one in New York City and another in Boston. Both are going to be incredibly chic affairs.

The New York one will be an evening wedding at an avant garde Brooklyn art gallery, www.smackmellon.org. It is ultra cool and so I definitely want to look very city chic. The Boston wedding is for my boyfriend's childhood best friend and I want to make a good impression. But here's the rub: I am but a poor magazine editor and with the print publishing world going the way it's going, I know I should start saving money, so I would like to get a dress that I can wear to both weddings that is under $100! I know, seems impossible ... but you seem to be a miracle worker, so perhaps you can work a miracle for me!

I am 5' 3", and weigh about 110 pounds, so I'm a petite girl, but i'm apple-shaped (I carry weight right in my tummy and butt!) so I don't do the skin-tight thing very well. I've been thinking about trying to find a one-shoulder dress because I think they look awesome and I've never worn one before, but I'm open to anything.
Dress - I found the perfect thing for Jeannie on sale from $375 to $75 online. The blue silk is so elegant for both weddings. The cut is flattering and the one-shoulder design looks classic, not trendy. You could even try it with a black belt. Click on the link to get a look at it in action.
Earrings - A pair of labradorite studs tie in with the dress color and are an unorthodox choice. On sale for $30.
Shoes - Basic black peep-toe pumps. You probably already have a pair that would work perfectly.
Clutch - In pewter and 50% off.

Bring your best black coat, sweep up your hair, highlight your eyes and prepare for two excellent weddings!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

What to Wear: Business Trip to China

Karen is about to invest her wardrobe for an international business trip:
I always love the outfits you put together for your readers. I am a 35-year-old mom who also works as an editor of a business publication. My look, at home and at work, is very casual. A lot of my clothes are from JCrew, the Gap, etc. I am going on a business trip next month to China. I hate dressing for business because I never feel like myself. I was thinking of investing in a black pantsuit but would love tips on how to accessorize it.

The conference I am going to is three days long and I would love to incorporate the suit or at least pieces of it into multiple days. I will also be on my feet a lot and I will most likely have to go directly out to business dinners. I am short, about 5-2 and usually wear a 4 or a 6.
Michelle Obama is great at mixing and matching business pieces in a way that never feels stuffy. The trick is to wear the pieces as separates for everything except the most formal meetings.






















Suit - Buy the skirt, pants and blazer for a suit that you love. Make sure all three pieces are in exactly the same fabric and each work well on their own. It might take some time to find just the right thing. This set from J.Crew seems well cut and reasonably priced. I personally prefer navy or dark gray over black, finding it easier to coordinate with other colors.
Sweater - A pretty gray cardigan on sale paired with a basic cami and a wide belt.
Shirt - A bright basic from J.Crew on sale.
Pencil Skirt - Mix it up with tweed and other patterned suiting pieces.
Top - A delicate floral top from Kohl's.
Earrings - Studs from Anthropologie.
Pumps - Comfortable brown pumps from Sooft and a second pair in vintage-styled gray.

There you have it! Instant work wardrobe based on one simple suit.

Recipe: Spring Artichoke and Snap Pea Pasta

This pasta recipe proves once again the magical properties of butter and garlic. I made this quick spring pasta from fridge "remnants" earlier this week. The artichokes add a little zing and the snap peas provide crunch:

Artichoke and Snap Pea Pasta
1/2 a package of quality dried Paglia e Fieno ("straw and hay") pasta
1 can of plain canned artichoke hearts cut into thin pieces
1/2 pound of fresh snap peas cut into uniform pieces
3 tablespoons salted butter
2 cloves of minced fresh garlic
Dash of truffle oil
Salt and pepper

Add the pasta to a pot of boiling water for six minutes. Melt the butter in a small pan and soften the garlic. Add the artichoke hearts and cook over low heat. Add the snap peas on top and season. Turn off the heat. Remove pasta from water and add straight to the artichoke mixture. Cook on high heat for a minute, until cooked. Serve immediately, doesn't require any cheese.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Wedding Wednesday: Trousseau

Jean's trousseau is coming together nicely. I'm adding new embroidered pieces one at a time.

Is there something you received as wedding gift that I should think to include? Or something you wish you could include in your own trousseau?