Monday, November 30, 2009

Weekend Round-Up: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving weekend in our traditional manner, it involved at least one epic adventure.

On Thursday morning we drove to Sanger from San Francisco to stay with Rob's parents. We arrived around noon and helped finish the the preparations for our big meal. Rob's dad cooked a bunch of dishes in his solar ovens outside. Granny, Meg and Rusty arrived shortly after and we sat down to the feast.

Several second helpings later, we put the delicious food up and helped with the evening chores: feeding the goats, horses, ducks and geese. A quiet evening at home.

On Friday morning, we had a leisurely breakfast before leaving to Corcoran to track down a red-necked grebe. A little more bird watching around the area before heading to Hanford and the Superior Dairy Products soda shop. Giant ice cream sundaes in the old-timey little restaurant on the town square.

In the afternoon, we drove to Kearney Mansion in Fresno for a historical tour. What a lovely house! It was built with adobe bricks to have two foot thick walls, four bedrooms, an external kitchen and three stories. Each room was perfectly proportioned with fireplaces in the corners. The whole house was surrounded by two stories of wrap around porches. I'd gladly live there.

The next morning, our friend Fred arrived early in the morning for a big bike ride. We planned for 40 miles up rolling hills to Pine Flat Reservoir. Things didn't turn out exactly as planned. The rolling hills were steep climbs, Fred got two flat tires and the temperature dropped dramatically to 45 degrees. Rob snapped this photo of me freezing shortly after he decked me out with plastic baggies for gloves:

Brrr! We arrived back home 57 miles later a few hours behind schedule just before sunset. Lots of hot tea and a crackling fire to help us warm up. Big Chinese delivery dinner and to bed early.

On Sunday morning, we shared a batch of french toast before hitting the road. Rob stopped at Home Depot to get some goodies - he's very excited about finding a "bucket head." We made it back to the bay area at 2:30 and went to Ikea on the way home. I found some great things for the holidays. Back over the bridge just as the most beautiful sunset was setting over the city. A quiet night at home cleaning and enjoying candles in the fireplace.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ladies Activity Club: Gocco for the Holidays

We had a great LAC party last night! I wish I had more photos of the ink, paper, mulling spice madness that went on as we learned how to screenprint with Gocco.

Our hostesses Lauren and Kellie provided a huge spread of food including mulled wine, mulled cider, cheeses, strawberries, chocolates, cookies and hot tarts. They had Christmas music on the stereo and Meet me in St. Louis playing on a projector. For the activity, Kellie drew the designs (isn't she talented!) and I helped turn them into screens.

There were two Gocco machines going all night printing place cards, note cards, gift tags, envelopes and gift boxes for the holidays.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What to Wear: Thanksgiving

Ah, Thanksgiving! Food, family and stuffing - I love stuffing. Here's one idea for a outfit on Thursday:

Dress - Boden's little purple dress is great dressed up for holiday parties and pared down with boots for work.
Apron - A must to help protect your dress from gravy and other menaces. In my book, a good apron is always in a dark color with a patterns for durability.
Shoes - Wedges in tan for a little extra comfort chasing after nephews.
Brooch - A laurel leaf brooch inspired by a portrait of Napolean from the Réunion des Musées Nationaux in France. Wear it up in your hair for a little extra flair.

Trend: Tandem Bike

Our tandem commuting craziness is catching on. Last night we saw another couple riding Market Street home from work. And then, on the way to visit some special paintings (whee!) in progress we saw another tandem parked in the Mission.

If you're not ready to splurge on a bicycle built for two, maybe this rubber stamp from Etsy will do for now.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Weekend Round-Up: This and That

Rainy weather and a lot of relaxing this weekend. It really feels like the holidays now.

On Friday, my whole office went out for drinks to celebrate a big week. We first shared some red wine, mussels and fries at Local. Then walked to Varnish which is a cool art gallery in an old brick warehouse with a full bar. Rob met us there for a drink. At nine, a bunch of us took the train to the Castro for a late dinner at a teeny underground place called Sushi Time. Rob and I walked home and crashed to bed around 11.

Woke up the next morning with terrible headaches from wine on empty stomachs. A slow morning with coffee, oatmeal, clementine oranges and the Daily Show on Hulu. Eventually, I went out to run errands in the neighborhood. Picked up a package at the post office, bought ribbon at the variety store, went to the bank and the video store. A bit on tinkering with the bike in the afternoon and a nap. At six, we ordered thai food for dinner (our kitchen sink is broken, so delivery is key).

At eight, we went to the War Memorial Opera House for the last show of the winter season: Otello. Fun to get all dressed up with feathers in my hair for the night out. Otello was pretty good, but I think Il Trovatore was the best show we've seen so far.

Slept in a bit on Sunday morning. Breakfast of coffee and oatmeal with flax seed. It was a cloudy and drizzly day outside, but Rob motivated for a bike ride. At 10:30, Kellie and Lauren came by to plan for the LAC party coming on Tuesday. We had tea before walking up to the Paper Source store on Fillmore for supplies. A perfect brisk day for a long walk across town.

At noon, the morning's visitors had left and Margaret arrived. Rob and I got dressed up and we all rode bikes to Golden Gate Park for our annual Christmas card photo. A preview of my elfy, outdoorsy getup below:

Beautiful day in the park! I think our photo this year will be a good one. Back at the apartment, we dropped off the bikes and ran a few errands in the neighborhood. At 4:30, we caught a cab to the Trader Joe's in Fisherman's Wharf.

Supplies purchased, the three of us walked up the hill to cook dinner for Matt, Amber and their adorable twin boys. Two roasted pork loins for a big taco spread, followed by an apple cranberry gallette. Back home by bus and subway after dinner. Rest of the evening spent preparing for a short, but busy week ahead.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Coveted: Blazer

Yorkshire tweed blazer with leather elbow patches straight from the UK! Are those ducks printed on the liner? That is just too much.

Lets each get one and go apple picking this weekend.

Things I Love Today: Carving Sets

Cooking your first Thanksgiving turkey next week? This vintage antler handle carving set would be the perfect accompaniment to your perfectly roasted bird. It's $24 from Etsy.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Things I Love Today: Beaujolais Nouveau

Midnight on the third Thursday of November (tonight!) is the official start of Beaujolais Nouveau season. In France, the arrival of the season's first wine also marks the start of the holiday season.

I was in Paris for the arrival one year and was amazed by the number of signs and posters all around the city. Kick off the holidays tonight with a glass of young wine! Link

Stock up: Pajamas

We had our first frost warning of the winter this week. Colder temperatures call for adding a down comfortable to the bed, cranking up the radiators and switching to more substantial sleepwear. I'm a huge fan of the classic pajama set but they seem harder and harder to find in good quality each year.

Luckily, I have had a very good week in my ongoing pajama hunt. First, I picked up the softest pair of satin pajama bottoms at H&M for $12. Second, thanks to a sudden hatred for my credit card company prompting me to cash out all my points, I splurged on a pair of Brooks Brothers broadcloth pajamas.

I'm looking forward to future winter mornings in these classic PJ's - drinking coffee, reading the paper, wearing Rob's glasses, unwrapping Christmas presents.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What to Wear: Biking in Fall

After four months of riding the tandem bike to work, I've finally got a good handle on how to dress. It's actually easier to wear a lot of the heels that were gathering dust in my closet when I was walking to work. This outfit is inspired by my new favorite:

Skirt - A high-waisted mini with pockets and a slit in front. Mine is from Bloomingdale's in a dark, almost denim fabric with a pleat instead that I found on sale. The slit or pleat is key for riding comfortably. And the
Tee - A gray long-sleeved tee shirt tucked in to the skirt.
Pashmina - A winter must-have.
Jacket - This cute tweed coat is under $40 from Forever 21.
Shoes - Black shoes with a wood heel are easy to match with either black or brown.
Earrings - Pearls from The Met.

Add on a pair of driving gloves and an old, rickety tandem bike - you're set!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

First Clementine of Winter

It has begun. The first clementine of the season!

The first crack at the peel took me straight back to winter memories. Making pomanders, peeling for holiday brunches...all sorts of good things.

Lovely painting by PainterNik on Etsy.

Clip: An Affair to Remember

Possibly one of the best movies ever. Funny, glamorous, sad, a bit racy, great clothes, packed with adorable kids (I always thought the little blonde girl in the choir looked just like my little sister) and of can't beat Cary Grant.

Since it ends at Christmas, I think it should be an official holiday movie.

Monday, November 16, 2009

To Do: City Guides Walking Tours

San Francisco City Guides leads free historic walking tours every day thanks to the public library sponsorship and an army of volunteer tour guides.

On the average Saturday, you can choose from 15 different routes including Chinatown, Pacific Height mansions, swanky hotels, North Beach and Sutro Heights. The tours are led by San Francisco natives and long-time residents who have great insight into the city's history.

And each tour is about half tourists and half locals!

Weekend Round-Up: Chinatown

I've been consciously trying to take it slow these last few weekends -to savor the break between a crazy summer and the holidays. It's been lovely!

On Friday, Rob and I went to the movies downtown after work. We saw The Men Who Stare At Goats, which was disappointing and strange. The director should have decided if the film was going to be either a comedy or a poignant anti-war tome...both didn't work out so well.

On Saturday, we had breakfast at home early on the drizzly day. Rob had to be at his bike coalition volunteer gig at 9:00 and I had to be in Chinatown by 10. Susan and I met for a walking tour promising to show the "real Chinatown." We walked with our groups through all kinds of hidden alleys filled with the clinking sounds of mahjong tiles for two and a half hours. Even though I've been a few times, this tour was all new to me.

After our tour, Susan and I had lunch at a Cantonese place and shared an enourmous messy salt and pepper fried crab.

From lunch, we walked to pick up my repaired wedding ring at Lang's and ogled t the jewelry. And then went to Gump's and ogled the holiday displays - the city is in full Christmas mode already. A quick stop at H&M and Bloomingdale's and then home on the train before four. A good adventure!

Rob came home shortly after - all scraped up from a mountain bike ride with his buddy at Glen Park. We had a warm bath and a mellow dinner watching Away we Go (another slight disappointment here - did anyone else find the characters in this movie annoying?). Luckily, An Affair to Remember was also on that night...much better!

Up early on Sunday morning to have breakfast at a cafe down the street with the Sunday Times. Brrr...a freezing morning and our first "two radiator" day of winter at the apartment.

Rob left for another quick volunteer session. I read, cleaned, painted, organized cabinets and relaxed at home while he was away. At 2:30, we met up and took the tandem bike out for a fast ride. Down Valencia Street, over to Glen Park, up to Twin Peaks with the tourists and back home on the windy street pictured below.

Another hot bath to warm up from the cold day. A bit of blogging and a hearty dinner at Home. You can see more photos from the weekend here.

Friday, November 13, 2009

To Do: Chinatown

I'm going on a little Chinatown adventure tomorrow morning. It's a whole different world, even though it's smack in the middle of the city. A mini vacation...with sandalwood soap!

Have a great weekend!

Vintage-style photo from gas3d

Things I Love Today: Fireside Candle

I was given this lovely candle for my birthday in the Fireside scent.

It smells like cedar, pine and a warm fire in your imaginary cabin. And it would fit just right in the bottom of a Christmas stocking.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Things I Love on Wednesdays: Waffles

Another day, another new food obsession. Rob and I passed by the Belgian waffle truck at the morning Civic Center farmer's market for the past a few weeks. This time, we finally stopped on our way to work.

Crispy on the outside and melty on the inside thanks to a roasting hot iron. Mine was powdered sugar, Rob's was Nutella. Waffle Wednesday is official!

To Do: $1 Oysters

Woodhouse Fish Company has $1 oysters on Tuesday nights. I wasn't a fan previously, but I'm hooked now thanks to the fresh selection served on a bed of ice at this local spot. I suppose turning 30 and all the "sophistication" that comes with that milestone helped too (groan!).

Not yet sold on trying oysters? This Hemingway quote may help you make them a favorite for fall:

"As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”

- Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What to Wear: Work to the Opera

I always thought those features in In Style magazine about things you could wear from work to a fancy evening out were a bit silly. But then I bought a series of Friday opera tickets and had to eat my words.

I wore this outfit a few weeks ago to see a performance of Abduction from the Seraglio. Not only does this outfit show a good way to transition to a fancy evening, but it also demonstrates how to easily dress down something from your closet for work.

Dress - Your favorite black dress. Mine is a Theory v-neck with pockets I found on super sale at Macy's a few years ago.
Tights - Gray tights are always a favorite.
Sweater - A cardigan in papaya from J.Crew.
Belt - Braided belts are a good buy since they're infinitely adjustable.
Shoes - These little Steve Madden flats are easy and comfortable.

Ditch the sweater, belt and flats. Keep the same dress and tights!
Earrings - Everyone should have an over-the-top pair on chandelier earrings on hand for dressing up.
Pashmina - In ivory bamboo (thanks Jean!) stashed in your purse during the day.
Black Heels - The higher the better.

Note: Now that my life has calmed down a bit, I'm dabbling in what-to-wears again. But I'm still not ready for your requests yet. Hold tight.

To Do: Jane Austen Exhibit

Oh dear, I may have to go to New York this winter. The Morgan Library and Museum is running an exhibit called A Woman's Wit: Jane Austen's Life and Legacy - complete with manuscripts, first editions and personal letters, some not seen in 25 years. Drool.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Recipe: Cornish Game Hens with Smashed Potatoes

Cornish game hens are such an easy and fun thing to cook. When our Safeway has them for about $3 each I stockpile the freezer. They're always a hit at parties and would be a no-stress alternative to turkey for the holidays. Or just a quick Sunday dinner like we had last weekend.

To roast them, I use techniques borrowed from Chez Panisse and Zuni chicken recipes:

Roasted Cornish Game Hens
2 Rock Cornish Game Hens
Zest of 1 lime, lemon or orange
1 clove of garlic
Kosher salt (about 1/4 cup)
Pepper (about 2 tablespoons)

Thaw the sealed game hens in a bowl of warm water (takes 2/3 hours). Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Unwrap the hens and drain. Prepare the thawed birds by using your fingers to loosening the skin on the breast and leg. Dry the internal cavities with a paper towel. Use a microplane to zest the citrus and grate the garlic into a small bowl. Mix that combination with a heaping tablespoon of kosher salt and teaspoon of pepper. Rub the mixture under the skin on the breast and thigh meat. Rub the outside of the hens with ample salt and pepper. Truss the legs together with twine and set in a small pan. Put a small pat of butter on top of each bird.

Roast the hens, breast up, for 30 minutes. Carefully turn over the hens and roast for 10 minutes. Turn back over and bake until the middle of the breast reads 165 degrees with a meat thermometer. Pull from the oven immediately.

These hens are a great match with super-fast mashed potatoes:

Smashed Potatoes
4 medium red potatoes
1 tablespoon of butter
2 teaspoons of truffle oil
1 green onion (chopped green part)
Salt & pepper

Add the potatoes to boiling water when the hens go into the oven. If they don't cook fast enough, slice them in half. A few minutes before the hens are done, drain the potatoes and put back in the pan with the skin on. Add the butter and truffle oil and go to work with a potato masher. Season with salt and pepper and add the green onions. Mash once more and serve.

Inspired: Garnet Ring

Speaking of estate great is this garnet ring?!

I imagine it paired with a thick cashmere sweater, a bag full of pomegranates and a trip to a musty used book store on a cold (my gosh it's cold this week) fall day.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Weekend Round-Up: Racing

This was a fairly quiet weekend, but one that included some of my favorite things!

On Friday, Rob and I both had to stay a bit late at work. Finally at home, we had a spaghetti dinner, watched Hulu and turned in early.

Rob woke up the next morning before six for an all day brevet race with the San Francisco Randonneurs. He took his bike 120 miles, to Point Reyes lighthouse and back! While he was hitting the road, I was being thoroughly lazy. Mint tea and toast with honey and butter in bed along with a New Yorker.

At 11, I took the train downtown. First stop was Lang Antiques to drop off my ring for repair and drool over their display cases. I could spend hours there! Next stop, Gumps. I redeemed a couple gift certificates for wedding china and investigated their holiday offerings - they have some really fun gifts this year. I was shopping at Macy's when I caught up with Margaret and visiting friend, Jonathan, from Kansas. We had cream puffs from Beard Papa in Yerba Buena Park.

More shopping after the cream puff break, I still hadn't found my flat boots or anything else. Nearly bought these Nine West boots but decided to wait for a sale. At Bloomingdales, I hit the 40% off of clearance item sale and score big with an Aqua skirt and a BCBG dress, both for over 60% off.

Back at home, Rob returned from his ride an hour ahead of schedule. He was in the top 10 fastest times from a group of 64. Go Rob! We cleaned house and finished the wedding album before Margaret and Jonathan arrived for an early dinner. All four of us walked up to a fairly new French restaurant on Haight Street called Bistro St. Germain. A nice bourdeaux to share and a huge pot of moules frites for me! Back at home, we had coffee and It's-its for dessert. We had fun with a big world atlas pointing out places we'd been.

Another lazy morning on Sunday. Coffee and oatmeal along with the Sunday political roundtables. Rob and I did a load of laundry and had lunch a the neighborhood taqueria. We met with Matt at the climbing gym after lunch for a bit of bouldering practice. On the way home, Rob and parked the bike on Valencia Street to shop for couches. We also stopped at my favorite produce market on the way back. We had one loaded down tandem bike by the time we reached the driveway.

Cornish game hens with mashed red potatoes and fresh fava beans for dinner - yum!

Friday, November 06, 2009

More knobs!

I love this african violet knob from Anthropologie. At $12 a pop, I'm glad that my bathroom only has one cabinet.

Imagine the knob with a dark blue shower curtain, white honeycomb tile, glass canisters, gold picture frames, a violet in a celadon pot....hmmm. Might be a little too girly for Rob.

Remodel: Knobs

I bought 17 of these carved bloom knobs on sale at Anthropologie to redo the kitchen last weekend. They're $3 each, down from $10. The ones I found in the store are more of a caramel color, not stained black, but still very cute.

In under an hour, Rob and I got them all switched and our old kitchen brightened up!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Things I Love Today: Bow Shoes

I'm supposed to be on the hunt for a sensible pair of brown, flat boots. The exactly right boots that are currently being worn to work by every stylish lady in the city...but are impossible to find in stores.

Instead, I'm drooling over these completely impractical gray suede and yellow satin pumps from J.Crew on sale.

To Do: Compost!

San Francisco - our funny city - just started the nation's first mandatory composting program. Which meant a brand new compost bucket courtesy of our apartment manager. Not as cute as this copper version, but free and fun!

My mom has been a great composter for years, so I'm used to the separation process. It's nice to be able to compost without having to have a garden of my own.

Get this: we're on our way to keeping 90% of our trash out of the landfill (we're already at 72% - so high!) here in the city.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Coveted: Hediard Tea

Oh no! All I needed was one more fancy French favorite to add to my life.

Our next door neighbor gave us a big red tin of Hediard tea as a thank you for picking up her mail during a trip to Paris. It's a fragrant mix of green tea and mint - but the bold design of the red tin is really what makes my heart race. I'll have an amazing new pen cup for my desk about a hundred pots of tea from now.

To Do: Tweedy Tandem

A fellow tweed-rider snapped this impromptu photo of Rob and me on our tandem bike back in September. We were heading down Valencia Street in costume toward an outdoor movie. This is the same rickety bike with baskets that we take to work every day.

In the larger version I think I bear a small resemble my elegant great grandmother - especially in one particular photo of her in profile riding a horse. She was better about "wearing" her nose than me.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Recipe: Hawaiian Roasted Squash Seeds

I roasted an acorn squash in the oven last night and turned the tiny seeds inside into a very tasty treat. My tricks:
  • Don't rinse the seeds, take them straight from the squash to the baking sheet.
  • Top generously with Grandfather's Royal Hawaiian Seasoning (basically a mix of sea salt, cane sugar, pepper, etc).
  • Roast in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes, turning once.
  • Try not to burn your tongue when you munch on the spicy, sweet kettle-corn-esque seeds straight from the oven.

Weekend Round-Up: Healdsburg

What a fine weekend! Rob and I rode home on our tandem bike along with a few thousand others dressed up for Critical Mass. It was wild to see the city taken over by so many bikes. At the apartment, we quickly packed up the car and drove up to Healdsburg in thick traffic. We arrived at our B&B at 9:30 and had time to catch up with Matt and Amber before bed.

The next morning, Amber and Matt left at 6:30 for the start of the Wine Country Half Marathon leaving us with their twins briefly. When Matt returned, Rob took off for a bike ride. Matt and I managed to get in a tiny bit of breakfast between feeding, burping, changing, dressing and loading up the twins into the car. (so cute!)

We drove out to the end of the race to pick up Amber and Rob, who had biked out 25 miles to the finish line. Can you believe that she came in 4th for her age group just a few months after having twins!?

From the race, we stopped briefly at home to change and then out for wine tasting and a picnic at Everett Ridge. Delicious spread of triple cream brie, humboldt fog goat cheese, soppresetta, coppa salami, seeded crackers, meyer lemon olives, red pepper hummus and veggies - yum. Our second tasting was at Lambert Bridge. The babies were great companions at the wineries! Back at the house, we took naps before dinner.

We found a cute place to eat in downtown Healdsburg for dinner. Affronti set us up with a seat on the heated patio. Their small plate menu was perfect for taking breaks to feed, change and walk the twins between courses. And the food was delicious to boot!

Back at the B&B, we put the boys to sleep and played a few rounds of gin rummy before turning in. It was a big day. The twins had their first ever stay in a hotel, first day away from home and first day out and about in their stroller. We were all exhausted!

The next morning, we had a nice casual breakfast at the B&B. Matt and Amber headed back to the city early. Rob and I loaded up on the tandem bike for a 50 mile ride up to Cloverdale, down to Geyerserville (spicy pizza at Diavola) and back to Healdsburg. Very pretty with vineyards at every turn. And our fastest ride yet, with an average pace of 16.4 mph!

A couple stops at antique stores where I bought a gray pearl necklace and a red vintage suitcase. Then back home to lovely, sunny San Francisco! You can see more photos from the weekend here.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Book Report: My Life in France

I adored this book. Julia Child with her French adventures, passion for cooking, craftiness and general relaxed-outlook was just exactly what I wanted to read when turning 30 last week.

I think I might just read it all over again directly.

Sonoma in Fall

Shoot! I forgot my camera and you'll have to wait until tomorrow to see all the details from our weekend in Healdsburg. Of course, we had a great time, tasted some excellent wine and ogled the fall vineyard scenery. It looked just like this painting.