Monday, January 31, 2011

Weekend Round-Up: Rest

I tried to rest-up this weekend after last weekend's Scottish epic. But, as always with me, I don't slow down very successfully. On Friday night, the temperature dropped so Rob and I cancelled our plans for the evening to stay home instead.

On Saturday, I spent the morning exercising, washing laundry, baking and cleaning house. Rob and I walked to the store for groceries in the afternoon and then watched Shutter Island (strange). By then, it was time to get ready for the polka-a-dot party at Margaret's new apartment. I painted my nails with pink dots, put on a dotted skirt and wrapped her gift with dotted Japanese tape. The party was a lot of fun! About 20 people, pompoms, cupcakes, music and sangria. We caught a cab back home with overnight-guests Jackie and Pierre at midnight.

The next morning, we had a lot of coffee with the Sunday paper while Margaret came across town. Great greasy spoon breakfast at Red's Java Hut.

I Jackie and Pierre hit the road back to Davis after breakfast and Rob went to work for a few hours. Margaret and I walked up to the Chinatown. We stopped in at the Wok Shop for kitchen supplies and then on to the flower festival, packed with potted plants, cut flowers, blossom branches, fireworks, pinwheels...everything you need to celebrate the year of the rabbit in auspicious style.

Back at home just in time to head out again. Rob and I drove out to the Richmond to spend time with Seth, Amy and baby. We walked through the park to the Academy of Sciences just in time to see the penguin feeding. The baby loved watching the fish swim in the giant tanks. Back to their apartment for a delicious home cooked meal. Across the city one last time Sunday night to prepare for the week ahead.

Friday, January 28, 2011

What to Wear: Downton Inspired

Those lovely Edwardian costumes in Downton Abbey have me so ready for spring. It's fun to translate the period's fashion to today with silks, beads, lovely colors, a little lace, a lot of feminine elegance. I could see wearing this to a shower, afternoon opera or a fancy lunch.

Slip - Start strong with a white satin slip trimmed with lace and black bows from Darjeeling in France.
Shirt - Smokey gray silk with beading detail on the cowl neckline.
Skirt - A slate blue pencil skirt.
Necklace - A $10,000 Edwardian aquamarine and diamond laviliere necklace.
Ring - And a $1,000 Edwardian aquamarine ring to match.
Fascinator - Feather and ribbon in a gray hairpiece on Etsy.
Clutch - In dark silver for $35.
Shoes - These lovely vintage-styled t-strap gray shoes are from Target for only $32

Tea at The Palace, anyone?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Inspired: Downton Abbey

I've watched 4 and half hours of Downton Abbey online and am completely hooked. Not as much with the plot - which is SO gossipy and some of the characters are SO mean - but with sets and costumes. I'm ready to go completely gossamer, lace and beading for spring.

This site has tons of photos for inspiration.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Party Recipe: Burns Supper

If I didn't already have so many annual parties this time of year - I would add a Burns supper to the rotation in a heartbeat. We really outdid ourselves with this event!

Decorations: A plaid scarf as a runner on a white tablecloth, potted ferns, artichokes, red candles, thistle stamped napkins. Guests decked out in plaid. Scottish music including bagpipes and the Bay City Rollers.

Appetizers: Rye crackers with pepper smoked salmon and cream cheese, celtic cheddar.

Dinner: Two roasted legs of lamb, truffle mustard, an authentic haggis (actually pretty tasty!), mashed potatoes with roasted garlic, roasted beets, turnips and carrots with lavender salt, cauliflower gratin, green salad with oranges and red onion. No cock-a-leekie soup because with 15 guests, we had to switch to a buffet format.

Dessert: Margaret made bread pudding with a bourbon sauce and ice cream. Decaf coffee.

Drinks: Hearty red wine, five kinds of scotch, beer.

Activities: We did a full traditional Burns supper with several stages of toasts - opening, while you cut the haggis, to the lassies, to the laddies. In our attempt at Scottish brogue we read To a Mouse, To a Louse and other short poems. We ended the dinner by singing Auld Lang Syne. After the supper, we played a round of guess-the-movie-character. Jackie (and the rest of us) were absolutely stumped by her card with "Morlock" from Time Machine.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Inspired: Moss

One of my favorite things in Point Reyes was wind-swept pines absolutely covered with lichen and ferns. The weather is usually so harsh out there that the trees grow sideways and the damp air covers everything with moss. My plant-biologist sister would have got absolutely nuts with all the succulents, wild irises, ferns and reedy grasses we spotted.

Weekend Round-Up: Highlanders

This was a non-stop fun weekend - the Burns supper was just one highlight in a weekend-long celebration of Shane and Scottish culture. Our house guests - Sarah, Chris, Jamie and Shane - arrived around 10:30 pm on Friday night. We unpacked, toasted the weekend with a bit of scotch and set-up four beds downstairs.

The next morning, everyone showered and dressed. We headed to Butler & Chef for a hearty brunch. Mmm...eggs benedict.

A brief break at home after brunch. Jackie arrived and we drove to the archery range in the park for our lesson. Eddie from the archery shop gave six of the group a lesson. Rob and I brought our own gear and shot alongside. It was a gorgeous, warm day in the park!

Back home at 4:00, I started to cook and prepare our feast. The gang headed off to Anchor & Hope for a cocktail while Jackie, Margaret and I finished preparations. I'll cover the dinner in a second post - it was pretty epic with 15 guests and a whole lot of ceremony.

Five beds made downstairs, a load of dishes in the wash and a load of napkins in the machine when we finally tucked in before 1. It was no surprise that we slept through the alarm the next morning. But still up and at 'em at 8:30. We loaded into two cars and drove to the Dipsea Cafe in Mill Valley for breakfast. From there, the eight of us drove onward through Stinson Beach to Point Reyes for hiking on the "moors" of Northern California.

Gorgeous day on the bluffs, nearly 70 degrees and completely still - so odd for a piece of land known to drive lighthouse keepers to suicide with harsh cold weather. We spotted a herd of elk and took the shuttle to the lighthouse at the very end of the peninsula. 803 steps to the bottom, where we spotted a couple whales passing by on their way from Alaska to Mexico.

We hiked from the lighthouse to the chimney rock point - it felt just exactly like Scotland with mossy, rocky, ferny terrain and tiny dairy farms along the way. It was dusk by the time we left the park. Dinner at the Farm House in Olema before driving back to the city through Fairfax. Our guests packed up, exchanged hugs and then drove home around 9:30.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Stay Tuned!

Our highland weekend was a roaring success! Whales, whiskey, archery...lots and lots of lamb. Isn't Point Reyes just gorgeous?

Our last guests left at 9:30 last night, I need a day off to fully gather the story of this fantastic Scottish party. Not to mention, to wash dishes and linens and put the furniture back where it belongs. Stay tuned!

Friday, January 21, 2011

To Do: Asian Art Museum

The Asian Art Museum is such a nice place to spend a winter afternoon. I hadn't been since a visit during my very first month in the city, almost 6 years ago.

Civic Center - normally a pretty skeezy place - can seem almost Parisian on a hazy, cold day with the farmer's market in the plaza. The museum building is the former city library, designed in 1917 by the same person who did the Musee d'Orsay. Gorgeous.

PS: I would totally wear that gold deer hat. In fact, I think it would be a perfect accessory for the "highlands" this weekend.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Crafty: Printed Napkins

Only one more day until guests start to arrive for our grand Scottish weekend. There's a lot to do still, but I've completed a fun project: hand-printed napkins!

I carved the thistle design over the weekend with Shane's initials in the middle and finished the napkins last night. I think they'll be fun customization with the theme. The napkins can be taken home as dishtowels party favors by the guests and the seal will be a gift to the birthday boy.

Supplies:About $35 for 24 napkins
- Linoleum carving starter kit
- Inexpensive cloth buffet napkins
- Iron
- Tinfoil

Carve the linoleum block with the design of your choice, making sure to do lettering in reverse. I really liked this process, all that scraping is very cathartic. Clean the block with a dry brush and ink using the roller. Stamp the napkins and leave overnight to dry. Iron the next day on the highest setting with a sheet of tinfoil under the napkin, design down. Use any extra ink to print your own letterhead for menus.

Monday, January 17, 2011

What to Wear: Belt

For only $5.50 in the perfect shade of teal blue...this little belt from Charlotte Russe started it all. I'm not normally a fan of bows, but it works in this casual Friday get-up for early spring.

Cardigan - A basic boyfriend cardigan in light gray from Old Navy.
Shirt - Basic white tank.
Bracelets - Silver bangles from The Met.
Belt - From Charlotte Russe.
Jeans - My favorite "teen jeans" for $30 from Levi's.
Shoes - Gray suede pumps from Urban Outfitters.
Pashmina - In yellow to keep your focus on spring.
Bag - From Kenneth Cole.

Weekend Round-Up: MLK

What a weekend! We were lucky to have the first geniunely nice weather in months pass through town. On Friday, Rob and I went to see The King's Speech after work. What a great movie! Helena Bonham Carter was awesome. On Saturday morning, we went for breakfast at the new Grove down the street. Cute place - like Anthropologie but with eggs and coffee. We sat by the fireplace upstairs.

A couple errands on the way home and then out for an architectural tour by bike sponsored by the Bicycle Coalition. It featured turn of the century buildings by the Reid brothers dowtown.

We left the ride towards the end for a picnic on one of our favorite piers - an Acme baguette with cheese, salami and nutella. Back home for a planned quiet evening. I was just wrapping up a simple fish and rice dinner for the two of us when the doorbell rang. Oops! A miscommunication in our planning meant I thought we were planning dinner for Sunday and Seth, Amy and baby thought Saturday!

I quickly changed plans and whipped up chicken tacos with spanish rice, beans and salad. It was a great meal that definitely adhered to my resolution for more casual parties in 2011. We followed dinner with prosecco and cake. Much better than our original Saturday night plans!

Sunday morning, Rob left for work and I spent the morning in bed with the paper and a cup of coffee. At 11:30, I took the train to meet up with Margaret at the Asian Art Museum for the last day of the Japanese screen exhibit. We had a great lunch in the cafeteria before finishing the rest of the exhibits upstairs. Mmm, thai coconut soup and sweet potato fries!

Farmer's market at Civic Center up next on the agenda. For exactly $20, I brought home a feast of beets, persimmons, oranges, artichokes, myer lemons, onions, cauliflower and potatoes - even a small fern. A very wintery bounty.

A quick tea at home before Margaret and I went to the art supply store down the block. I bought a linoleum carving kit and she loaded up on paint supplies. By Whole Foods and then back home to prepare dinner. I tried the cauliflower gratin recipe (kind of bland, I'm going to punch it up) for next weekend with little pork chops and salad. Margaret left for home and I went nuts carving a seal for the next weekend's Scottish party.

I may be officially obsessed with engraving! Monday morning, up bright and early to volunteer for Day of Service with Golden Gate National Parks. Margaret and I drove to Land's End park to help landscape the new grounds with native plants. There were about 50 other volunteers and they said we planted over 4,000 seedlings!

We were so fast, that they dismissed the crowd an hour early. Margaret and I went for lunch at Park Chalet and then on to Target in Daly City. I dropped her off at home back in the city, got the car washed, had a bath myself and caught up on my mending (and Downton Abbey) at home. There's a lot to do before the big party next weekend!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

To Do: Downton Abbey

I don't have regular TV, just hulu, so this one almost passed by my radar. Luckily, mom sent me the link yesterday! Masterpiece Theater has a new upstairs, downstairs-style show called Downton Abbey and it looks marvelous!

Ack, I don't have any free time to watch until the weekend. Torture!

Listen: Ghost of the Saber Tooth Tiger

A friend got us tickets to Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger here in the city this month. It's a folk project by Sean Lennon (yes, that Lennon) and his girlfriend Charlotte Kemp Muhl.

I don't know any of the songs...yet...and Rob has mixed feelings about the costumes in their DIY video. They're a big deal on NPR though. Should be a grand adventure!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Party Recipe: Scottish Dinner

In a few weeks, Rob and I will be host to the final party in the "Tour de Awesome" series for my friend's 30th birthdays. Tour de Shane has a Scottish theme, with the main event being a big dinner party! Here's what I'm brainstorming so far:

Food - A hearty menu with some kind of giant roast (leg of lamb?) and a rich cauliflower gratin. We're going to try to do a haggis too.

Decorations - Instead of a tablecloth, I bought a plaid pashmina to use as a runner. The big candelabras will have red candles. Our laguiole steak knives and carving set will be a great match. Rosemary and lavender for centerpieces. Auptimagh font for the invite.

Beverages - Scotch tastings from modern glass decanters. For the birthday boy, a special ram's head glass to drink from.

Activities -Plaid is mandatory for all the guests, which should make a festive start. My mom has delivered a couple old Scottish books, including an antique copy of Robert Burns poetry. We'll have toasts and readings.

Any other ideas to fit the theme?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sale Alert: Camel Coat

My favorite purchase of the winter is now on sale from Zara for only $99. This camel coat makes every outfit look polished!

With the must-have color of the season and a bit of military style, you hit two trends in one piece that is sure to be a classic. I'm tempted to buy a second for myself!

Weekend Round-Up: Bikes Party

Just when I was really starting to accept my winter social "hibernation" - Rob found a new rocking party for us to attend. On Friday night, Rob, Margaret, Denyse and I bundled up and got on our bikes (in 30 degree weather!) for the first ever San Francisco Bike Party. Thanks to Meli for the photo of us on the tandem!

I wasn't sure what to expect, but the night turned out to be super fun. We rode around the city in a pack of about 500, stopping every few miles for an impromptu dance party while everyone caught up.

The best was a stop at a deluxe playground inside a city park where our inner eight year olds went berzerk. Monkey bars, teeter-totters...the works! We got back home around midnight completely frozen to the bone. Tea and standing by the heater to warm up before bed.

Rob left for work early the next morning (poor Rob!). Margaret spent the night on the guest bed and she and I slept in. Oatmeal, coffee, oranges and a bad movie to recover from our hangovers from the night before. Tequila for dinner is not a good idea.

She headed home at noon and I stayed sacked-out for the rest of the day. I'm fighting off a sinus infection brought on by the altitude and cold weather in Tahoe. I watched The Young Victoria (loved), cleaned house and planned a party for later January. Rob came home in the evening and we had a quiet dinner together.

Sunday morning, the paper and coffee in bed. Breakfast of eggs and toast. Rob rode some spin on the bike while I cleaned out drawers and did other New Year's organization. Lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches made terribly fancy by the fact we only had leftover Cowgirl Creamery supplies in the fridge.

We went to the Contemporary Jewish Museum by bike after lunch. I bought a membership in a silent auction for the Bicycle Coalition at Christmas and hadn't been before. The exhibit on Curious George is well done and had Rob and I both ready to spend four years in Paris as illustrators.

To the grocery store after the museum. Apparently, there was a bowl game in the city on Sunday - at the baseball stadium? with Boston and Nevada? It was quite the scene.

Back home with our supplies and then out again at 7:00 to see Tron in 3D IMAX to cap the weekend.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

To Do: Social Calendar

Christmas being over means that some of my very favorite city events are just around the corner. Mark your calendars now!

Day of Service
January 17
Spend MLK Day volunteering with the national parks around San Francisco. Rob and I volunteered on Alcatraz a couple years ago.

Chinese New Year Flower Fair
January 29-30
Chinatown is filled to the brim with vendors selling citrus trees, auspicious flowers and moon cakes.

Chinese New Year Parade
February 19
Year of the Rabbit is going to be crazy cute. Get ready for fireworks, dragons and hundreds of bunny school kids.

Bouquets to Art
March 15-19
The de Young Museum is transformed with hundreds of floral arrangements inspired by the collection.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

What to Wear: Polka Dots

Margaret is having a Polka Dot-themed housewarming party in a few weeks and it has me on the hunt for cute dotted outfits to wear. I found an inexpensive vintage dress for my party outfit, and came up with a version that works for the office.

Dress - Polka dot wrap dress in navy from Ann Taylor.
Shoes - Platform green pumps with peep toes.
Cardigan - A basic in ivory to keep you warm at the office and to dress-down the outfit.
Belt - In navy.
Purse - A green bag from Etsy seller Paulina Carcach.
Earrings - A bit of a splurge to start the new year. Bold gold and beaded drops.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Thank you!

Speaking of gratitude, thank you so much for your comments in this year's Comments for Cans drive!

I'll donate $134 dollars to the San Francisco Food Bank this year thanks to your your support. It means $1,200 worth of fresh, healthy food for the hungry. A lot of full bellies indeed!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

2011 Resolution!

I was too busy to make a resolution last year, with the move to our new apartment. But the year before, I resolved to focus on being "bona fide." I focused on standing up for myself, being genuine and speaking straight over the past 24-months.

This year, my theme is to be grateful. To spend more time focusing on friends and family. Small pleasures. Clarity.

As part of this, I'm aiming to host a Sunday Supper with friend once a month in 2011. Casual, simple meals designed for catching up, playing with babies and relaxing.

What other ideas do you have for a gratitude resolution?

Book Report: Period Piece

Over the holiday, my mother lent me her prized hardcover copy of Period Piece by Gwen Raverat. It's a lovely, lovely book.

Gwen recalls her Victorian childhood in Cambridge with her father, one of Charles Darwin's sons, and an American mother. It's illustrated with engravings of Cambridge and full of stories of eccentric, hypochondriac relatives. Mom described it as the perfect book to read when sick.

It seems so charmed to live in a big house with a handful of maids and cooks. Days filled with art classes, croquet, ladies' committees, nature walks and French lessons!

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Gifted: Mystic Seaport Christmas Journal

My aunt gave both my sister and I embossed Christmas memory books this year. The journals have five pages of calligraphy-decorated pages to fill for 20 years of Christmas seasons. There's even a space for your annual holiday card photo. Documenting this first year while taking down the tree already felt like a tradition!

Mystic Seaport, a Connecticut nautical museum, sells the journals, along with a selection of other seaworthy gifts.

Winter Break: Part II

It started raining on the way up to Tahoe...the first signs of a big storm coming to the valley.There wasn't a snowflake on the road when we checked into our first hotel, the Cal Neva. But Wednesday morning, we found our poor little car buried:

This was the first of many snow+car related adventures for us two unprepared "city slickers." We dug out the car (Rob had smartly put the chains on the night before as a precaution), swung by a gear shop for some foul weather goggles and hit our first nordic trails. Four feet of fresh powder was a challenging way to kick off the cross-country ski trip. We emerged from the backcountry a few hours later with a couple big bruises!

Dinner and hot tubbing with our friends Bill and Leslie at their Truckee home that night. It was nice to relax after our first day on the snow.

Thursday was a lot easier! We drove south to the Tahoe XC trails and started the day with a lesson just to make sure our skills were in line. Turned out we were just fine! I didn't fall once on the groomed trails during our first 10+ mile day. We had a beautiful view of the lake from one of the trail top warming huts:

Such a cold day! Rob and I checked in that night to our second hotel for the week, an icy little cabin with a warm stove at Rustic Cottages.

Friday morning, we drove up to our friend's house in Truckee for a day on the backcountry trails. Bill and Leslie are serious skiers, so I was happy that we just managed to keep up with them on the snowmobile tracks and foot-deep powder out to a vista overlooking the Truckee River. Back at their house for lunch and some more hot tubbing. Worn out from all our skiing, we picked up supplies for dinner and had a quiet New Year's Eve at the cabin with a bottle of champagne.

Rob and I headed back to XC on Saturday for our longest day of skiing yet. We were out in the snow for about six hours, with a long break in the lodge for lunch and tea. We did some challenging routes this time. My downhill technique is starting to improve a bit! I only fell once on the steepest downhill route.

Sunday, time to head home. Rob and I were up early to get one last bit of skiing in before driving back to San Francisco. It was icy along the beach, but the views of the lake were breathtaking!

Traffic wasn't too bad and we made it home around 3:30. So nice to be in our own space again after such a long trip. Lots of laundry and errands to get back on track for the real world.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

To Do: Bananagrams

Wow...did I ever become addicted to this game over the holidays. My aunt from Chicago brought Banagrams with her for the break.

You get 13 scrabble tiles to be assembled into words. If someone gets stumped, everyone has to draw two more tiles. First person to use all their letters wins! It's quick and fun.

Winter Break: Part I

What a nice Christmas! This year's holiday was a smash hit - nary a glitch despite being a packed house.

Rob and I arrived down in San Luis Obispo late Thursday night and joined up with the family on Friday morning. Some much needed Christmas Eve laziness, plus a hike to the top of Bishop's Peak to enjoy a brief break from the rain:

Christmas Eve dinner was our traditional dungeness crab, artichoke and sourdough bread feast! To bed with stuffed bellies and stuffed stockings. We did stockings-only for the grown-ups this year and I loved helping to play Santa with all kinds of goodies from Ikea and Japantown. Isn't my mom's stocking adorable with the little mouse peeking out the top?

Christmas morning was lovely. Everyone had fun opening their stockings and doing a small white-elephant-style gift exchange by the fire. My nephew Cameron made out like a bandit being the only kid in the group. Rob and I got him a Paper Jamz guitar that was a lot of fun when borrowed by other relatives and paired up with the piano for some rocking carols.

Christmas Eve dinner was another grand feast! We had a giant turkey, creamy mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, roasted brussel sprouts, creamed onions, apple pie, pumpkin pie...the works. And everything was delicious.

Folks started to peel off on Sunday. Jean, Trent and his parents hit the road for Davis in the morning after breakfast. It was a mellow day with a lot of puzzles, a brunch with an old colleague and a couple after-Christmas sales. Dinner feast of leftovers from the day before.

On Monday, Rob and I baked cookies in the morning and then spent the day with his sister and adorable nephews. We had pizza, watched a fun movie they made and decorated a lot of cookies! Our visit ended with a foam noodle battle-royal in the yard. Such a fun family!

Tuesday morning, Rob and I packed up the car and headed north to Tahoe for the second half of our vacation. Good bye sun and comes the snow!