Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Advent Calendar: 2009 Photo!

Happy Holidays! Rob staged this year's annual Christmas card photo in Golden Gate Park and enlisted the help of Margaret. It was a gorgeous late fall day right after a big rain storm.

We are off to celebrate with my family down in San Luis Obispo and will return home to a whirlwind of packing. We're starting the new decade with a new apartment! Get ready for lots of decor posts as we settle into our new loft space. And don't forget to comment on the fundraiser post before the 4th!

Want more holiday photos? Check out 2007 and 2006 (I had a terrible flu in 2008).

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Advent Calendar: Comments for Cans!

It's nearly Christmas and time again for the "Comments for Cans" fundraiser. For each comment left below, I'll donate a dollar to the San Francisco Food Bank. Last year, your comments turned in to $1,350 worth of food for the hungry.

You have until January 4th to comment - one per person please. I think we can beat last year's record!

And tune in tomorrow for the big reveal: The 2009 Christmas card photo will be posted here!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Advent Calendar: December 21

All my gifts are wrapped and packed up in bags for the trip home later this week. Gift wrapping is one of my a favorite holiday activities. All that paper, ribbons, cards and tags.

It's my favorite thing for December 21st!

Weekend Round-Up: 'Tis the Season

This was one dynamo of a weekend! We kicked things off with two company Christmas parties on Friday night. First, Rob's company celebrated at Bacar. We only managed to get through wine, appetizers and a calamari frisee salad before having to dash across town in a cab for my company's event at Rosewood. My boss dressed up as Santa to pass out holiday presents:

We danced the night away after the gifts and speeches - Margaret arrived after her party finished. I have the unfortunate habit of believing I'm excellent at the "robot" when that was fun! Cab home around midnight. We had a pot of chamomile tea, made Margaret a bed in the living room and called it a night.

Up the next morning fairly early. Margaret and I walked up the street for some pastries and a badly needed pedicure. At 11, Rob and I dropped her off at the train and dashed around the city looking at apartments. We found a great loft in SOMA, applied and held our breath. The rest of the day was spent relaxing at home and writing Christmas cards.

Up early on Sunday morning with a very full day of Christmas shopping ahead. I met up with Margaret in San Mateo in the morning and we went straight to the stores. I found some excellent gifts to round out my list. Back home at 5:00 loaded with bags, I spent the evening wrapping gifts.

And *fingers crossed* it sounds like we were approved for the new apartment. I'll really miss our little Duboce Triangle place, but this new loft comes with peace and quiet, a dishwasher, private patio, washer and dryer...we may never have to go to the laundromat again!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Advent Calendar: December 18

Charity is one of the best things about the holidays. I try to do a mix of volunteering, donating to charities and giving to someone I know in need during December. It's especially vital this year, with the demand much greater and resources much lower due to the recession.

My office is volunteering at the St. Anthony Foundation today. The foundation works with low-income and homeless in San Francisco and has served over 35 million meals.

Giving is most certainly my favorite thing for December 18th.

Coveted: Fire Department Building Models

I loved - loved! - having a dollhouse as a little girl. My sister and I each had one and had a lot of fun with the miniatures, decorating rooms, throwing "parties." And my grandmother - when she was in her 80's - readopted the large family dollhouse from a cousin, kept it in her bedroom and decorated it for the holidays each year. We're serious about dollhouses in the family!

So when I went to a meeting at the San Francisco Fire Department's training center last week and saw the wood models of traditional style San Francisco apartment buildings that they use for training...I just about died from wanting one of my own so badly. The most perfect, local dollhouses complete with water tanks and fire escapes.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

To Do: Star Garland

This simple garland made of woven palm leaf stars has become one of my favorite Christmas decorations. You can see a strand in action in my apartment here.

At $11 for two 14 foot sets, they're an easy and affordable way to brighten your home during the holidays. Plus, they're made in Bangladesh through a fair trade network. Just be sure to wrap the strands around a box when you're packing up - those stars can get tangled amazingly fast.

Advent Calendar: December 17

Anchor Steam Christmas Ale is brewed right here in San Francisco. It's the exact right drink for the holidays. Hearty with a dash of juniper and nutmeg.

It's my favorite thing for December 17 and a great stocking stuffer for a beer connoisseur on your list.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Advent Calendar: December 16

With no time to dash down and join the throngs of shoppers at Union Square, I've finally joined the Etsy holiday shopping craze! I've been ordering amazing things from creative folks all around the country.

Including the lovely NoraJane - who sells adorable stamps and pillows and is expecting twin girls next year.

{family members: no chance for peeking, the things I've purchased for you are no longer listed on her page}

Ladies Activity Club: Ornaments

We had a great time last night at Amber's apartment. A new mom who has her hands full with twin boys - Amber was an excellent hostess.

For our activity, she provided us with ribbon, glitter, paint, paper, porcelain ornaments and glass ball ornaments to decorate. I made one for a colleague and one for Rob!

Along with the ornaments, Amber served us aged cheddar, salami, goat brie, a crudites platter, bruschetta, gingerbread cookies, chocolates and champagne.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

To Do: Bows on Shoes

I have two office holiday parties coming up this Friday. And zero minutes to shop for something new to wear. But I do have a lot of ribbon.

I'm thinking about pairing my favorite black cocktail dress with a pumps topped by giant bows. Some big earrings and red lipstick...should do the trick.

Advent Calendar: December 15th

My mother's molasses cookies are one of the tastiest things about the holidays. Thin and soft with a single redhot in the middle...yum! I'm dreaming about them for December 15th.

The closest looking recipe I could find online is from Blue Jean Gourmet.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Advent Calendar: December 14th

Dance-Along Nutcracker has become a favorite San Francisco tradition for the holidays.

It's fun to see our friends perform in the band - but I have to admit that they're outstaged by all the adorable kids dancing in a variety of tutus, princes gowns, ballerina outfits and superman costumes. The assorted parents, grandparents and friends get pretty dressed-up too. And the actual actors? It's over-the-top and a ton of fun.

Always a Christmas highlight and my advent favorite for December 14th.

Weekend Round-Up: Apartments

This apartment was packed with holiday cheer, rainy downpours and a great deal of apartment hunting.

On Friday, Rob and I rode the train home in the middle of a rainstorm. At eight the rain let up and bit so we walked over to my friend Kellie's house in the mission. Along the way, virtually every boutique was open late with live music in order to bring customers. We saw a jazz trio, DJ, violinist, mariachi band, guitarist, saxophonist...all in these miniscule little shops.

The party was a lot of fun! An impromptu Christmas tree decorating event with plenty of eggnog. I must have had two pounds of shrimp cocktail with spicy cocktail sauce over the course of the evening. Back home after 11, accidentally leaving my camera behind for the weekend.

I slept in a bit the next morning. Not too much since we had a lot of apartments to go see in the rain. Apartment hunting always seems like it would be fun - and then actually is a huge time sink. We saw three places that didn't work out before returning home to get dressed up for Dance-Along Nutcraker at 2:30 with Margaret. Our friend Greg plays in the band for this annual song and dance bonanza, this year with a western theme. It's hard to describe, but let's just say that the plot was resolved with a dance-off and the group with a pirate, water nymph & seahorse theme didn't win.

A quick dinner at Chevy's after the show as a fundraiser for the band. Still raining, we made it back home around 6. A short time to relax before going to Alison & Joel's holiday party in Hayes Valley. Another great holiday event - this time with homemade pretzels and sidecar cocktails. Rob and I returned home at midnight.

Sunday was all about apartment hunting. We had six viewings throughout the day - driving from Diamond Heights to Hayes Valley to Dogpatch. We had hot cups of tea and a copy of the Sunday Times with us in the morning, delicious sausages from Rosamunde Grill for lunch. A couple good leads but still nothing definite. A long day.

After our last viewing at 5:00, we returned home to relax. A tasty fondue dinner and finally a chance to start on my Christmas cards.

Friday, December 11, 2009

To Do: Bad Day Eyeliner

Some mornings just start on the wrong side of the bed. When I have a no-good, terrible day ahead - I find it best to embrace it. Like a cold and rainy Thursday.

Clothes: motorcycle boots, black corduroy pants, a comfy boyfriend sweater, scarf, shell jacket, beanie and puffer coat. Hair: bedhead. And the most important part, Make-up: smokey eyes inspired by Kristen Stewart. Smokey eyes are exactly the thing for dreary days.

Advent Calendar: December 11

This weekend is going to be all about writing Christmas cards. Sending and receiving holiday letters each year is one of my favorite traditions. The giant stack of completed cards, ready to be mailed - that's the best feeling of all.

And definitely my favorite thing for December 11th.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Rob's Annual Man Gift Guide!

It's time for the annual man gift guide - present ideas straight from my husband to yours! Here are Rob's picks for the holidays in a variety of prices:
  1. Les Stroud's Survive! - Rob loves the Survivorman show. This book teaches all kinds of skills including how to "locate and trap small animals" - something that can come in handy during the holidays.
  2. Fire Tool - The perfect accompaniment to the survival book and a good stocking stuffer. This handy little Swedish Scout Model tool can be used sparks a fire anywhere, even for a BBQ or fireplace.
  3. Swank Shoes - Kenneth Cole's dress shoes are fancy enough for the opera - but ultra-comfortable thanks to hidden Silver Technology. Shoes that look good and feel good.
  4. Home Theater PC - A computer for your TV. Rob says these systems let you watch Hulu or surf the web on the big screen.
  5. Glenlivet - Single malt whiskey aged 18 years makes for some serious man-sipping aroung the yule log.
  6. Tumbler - A stainless steel, double-wall-insulated, vacuum-sealed tumbler to keep coffee warm on the go.
  7. Friends of Old Time Music - The perfect compilation for a long roadtrip. Rare blues, folk and bluegrass songs recorded in New York back in the 1960's.
  8. Kona Ute Bike - A serious bike for a serious commuter. The panniers in back are perfect for trucking laptops, groceries or even a little one around town.
  9. Bookcase - This modern spine bookcase is designated as "manly furniture" by Rob. JCPenney's has a version similar to the DWR model on sale for $99 right now.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Sale Alert: Boden

A whole bunch of my favorite things are on sale at Boden right now. This denim shirt dress in black that I have and wear all the time. That purple shift dress I posted about a few weeks ago. The tweedy plaid blazer I coveted. And this tunic that I'm glad they don't have in my size because I think I would have a hard time not wearing everyday.

Advent Calendar: December 9

A white Christmas in the Bay Area? Too bizarre. An artic storm is passing through and we're dealing with record-breaking temps below freezing. Our apartment radiators are working overtime.

It's bitter cold, but also pretty festive and a fun chance to get all bundled up. The cold snap is my favorite thing for December 9.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Party Recap: Holiday Brunch

What a great party! I didn't have much time to plan. Thanks to Trader Joe's and your ideas everything came out well. Here's the quick run down for this year's holiday brunch.

  • Giant glazed spiral cut ham
  • Skewers with tiny red potatoes and spicy chicken sausage
  • Mini bagels with lox and capers
  • Spiced citrus salad
  • Skewers with red pears, camembert and beets
  • Goat cheese and cranberry relish on toast squares
  • Mini cinnamon rolls
  • Make your own mimosa bar with a magnum of champagne, pomegranate juice and orange juice
  • Coffee
  • Hot cider
  • Tea
  • A bowl full of ornaments to hang on the tree
  • An adorable nine month old baby (he likes capers!)
  • Christmas music
  • Lovely Christmas tree
  • Arrangements made of branches from the bottom of the tree combined with red roses and white status
  • Lots of polished silver and candles
Click here for more photos from the party! We're almost done with the dishes now - ah, the life of the dishwasher-less entertainer.

Advent Calendar: Spiced Citrus Salad

This recipe has evolved over the years to become a holiday favorite. It's a nice counterbalance to a hearty spread and is best made the day before. It's my favorite thing for December 8th:

Spiced Citrus Salad
Serves 20

10 oranges
6 red grapefruits
1 1/2 cups of pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup of mulling spices
1 cup of water
1 1/2 cups of sugar

Use a knife to slice off the skin of the oranges and grapefruits and segment out the fruit into a big ceramic or glass bowl. Meanwhile, simmer the sugar, water and mulling spices until the mixture is slightly thickened and light brown - about 15 minutes. Let the syrup cool a bit and then pour it on to the citrus through a strainer. Leave overnight in the refrigerator. When you're ready to serve, use a slotted spoon to drain the fruit and top with pomegranate seeds.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Weekend Round-Up: Kicking off the Holidays

It really feels like the holidays after this festive weekend. On Friday, we came home from work and went straight to the Christmas tree lot down the street. Our tradition is to buy a tree fresh off the truck, still wrapped up, and carry it home.

Pizza delivery and Bing Crosby as we unwrapped the tree and set it up in the living room. It's a beauty this year, and super fragrant too.

The next morning, Rob got up early for a bike ride and I read in the living room. When he got back with had oatmeal and coffee for breakfast. A leisurely morning spent cleaning house in preparation for the next day's party.

At 1:30, we drove to the east bay to visit some old family friends and make a stop at Ikea. On the way back, we had a nice view of the city from the bridge.

Back at home, we kicked into full party prep mode. A quick run to the grocery store before we spent the night boiling potatoes, slicing oranges and grapefruit, assembling skewers, polishing silver, seeding pomegranates and making flower arrangements. Rob is a great helper! To bed with a cup of chamomile tea around eleven.

Up the next morning at nine. There wasn't much left to do in the morning before the party. I baked the ham, made lox bagels, baked cinnamon rolls, made coffee, heated up skewers and put pomegranate seeds in glasses for mimosas:

By 11:00, we were pretty much ready. Margaret came over early with some last minute supplies and the guests started to arrive right on the dot a half hour later.

The party was one happy blur of friends, food and drinks! It went by like a flash. And our final total was 21 did we manage to fit that many in the apartment?! I'll share more photos and details tomorrow.

A lazy afternoon after the guests departed. I always love the quiet time after a party ends. Margaret, Rob and I sat around eating leftovers and watching GI Joe. A relaxing evening washing dishes in the sink and picking up.

Advent Calendar: December 7

I had a blissful holiday moment last week. Picture this: a little french boulangerie in the lower Haight on a cold winter evening. Inside: candles, croque monsieur, pints in tall glasses, Ella Fitzgerald singing Christmas songs, festive lights around the bar. Outside: bundled up couples with pugs on leashes, lugging home their Christmas trees on foot.

Definitely my favorite thing for December 7th.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Things I Love Today: Ikea Christmas

I love Ikea any time of year, but the holidays are the best. Those crazy Swedes really know how to put on a cozy holiday.

I stocked up on all sorts of red and craft-paper colored wrapping paper, ribbon and gift tags last weekend. These little santa dudes are only $4.

Advent Calendar: December 4

The annual holiday party shopping trip! Always a great adventure in calories and my favorite thing for December 4th.

Last night's trip to Trader Joe's was epic: applewood smoked bacon, jalapeno sausage, andouille sausage, camembert, goat cheese, cream cheese, capers, miniature cinnamon rolls for a cheater version of croquembouche, bags of potatoes no bigger than olives, beets, smoked salmon...we're going to have some great food this weekend.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Things I Love Today: Bamboo Knot Picks

I ordered a bunch of these for Sunday's party. Simple bamboo picks with a little knot at the top. Our caterer used them for bison skewers at the wedding.

Not only are they cheap, but they're elegant and easier to maneuver than regular toothpicks.

Advent Calendar: December 3

This year, my office has gone holiday-decoration-crazy. There's at least 200 feet of pine boughs with twinkle lights, poinsettias,'s lovely and my favorite thing for December 3rd!

Earlier this week, I bought a little Christmas tree for my desk from a flower stand downtown. Such an urban little tree, on display right there on the sidewalk among the skyscrapers. Like that scene in "When Harry Met Sally" (start at 3:20).

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

To Do: Brunch Planning

Ooooh my! Our annual holiday brunch is coming up this weekend and I haven't planned a thing yet. I just checked the invitation and we're on for 24 people this year!?

Time to reevaluate my menu. I've got a big ham on deck already. I was thinking about repeating the savory bread pudding from last year, but something like tiny open-faced brunch sandwiches would be better for a crowd.

What else? Maybe festive poached pears in champagne saucers. Beet skewers with fennel and blue cheese? For an appetizer, little "deviled" potatoes filled with smoked salmon or bacon-wrapped dates?

Help! Hit me with your best brunch ideas for a big group!

Advent Calendar: December 2

Any brand worth their salt puts on a holiday event during the season. And that means you can find a swanky cocktail party to attend almost any day of the week in December. It's my favorite thing for December 2 on the advent calendar.

Last night, a couple of friends joined me at the Banana Republic Edition store after work for costume jewelry and free champagne. Some very fun items on display! I recommend dropping in during the holidays for affordable sparkle.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

To Do: Bedroom Remodel

After...hmm, three? times redecorating the bedroom in three years, I'm finally making progress. I started with a blue and white china pattern, bought antique lamps, painted the walls, changed the bedding, put up navy velvet curtains and then switched the bedding again when we were given a lovely wool blanket from MacAusland for our wedding.

Now, I've swapped the curtains for patterned sets from Ikea (pictured in the first image on their site) and the room already looks way bigger. Plus, a new duvet cover in a dark gray and navy chambray. This may just be the first year we leave the bedroom door open during our Christmas party!

Advent Calendar: December 1

It's already the first of December?! Time to kick off the advent calendar. This year's theme: favorite simple things about the holidays.

Fuji persimmons are a new favorite this year. We brought home a big bag from Rob's grandmother's ranch last weekend. I guess I'd only had the bitter acorn-shaped Hongsi before. These are delicious eaten just like an apple.

And they look stunning in a celadon bowl.