Sunday, March 31, 2013

Weekends: Easter

This weekend was a little rough, but ultimately was a lot of fun. On Friday morning, I spent the morning at the hospital having some painful diagnostic tests run. It's nothing scary, I've had fibrocystic breast syndrome for a couple years - which they say more than half of women experience.  The appointment had one silver lining: the nurse said I had the nicest armpits she'd ever seen. It's a strange compliment, but I'll take it!  By the time I got to work that afternoon, I was feeling bruised and delicate.

I would have stayed home to rest, but it was time for my company's annual boat party later that day.  This is the only photo I have of me at the party so far. Its an awkward one but you can tell I'm having fun learning to play blackjack with the team:

On Saturday morning, I got up early and hopped in the car. I drove out to meet Rob at his Big Sandy mountain bike race near Fresno and only got lost once along the way. Google maps has a bad habit of directing you to the wrong side of a lake but luckily I could see the finish line from my spot on the wrong shoreline.  Rob had taken the train out on Friday to make it to the race - and broke his seat post right before the start. Being a stubborn and skilled rider he did the short course anyway with no seat and had a decent time.  What a crazy guy!  We met his mom at the finish line and had BBQ with the rest of the riders. It was a hot and sunny day by the lake, which feels unusual for us foggy San Franciscans:

Dropped off some riders on our way back to Rob's parent's ranch.  After a rest, the four of us went for a great dinner in Clovis at North India Bar & Grill. It turns out that the owner used to run a famous Indian restaurant near our house in San Francisco.

Slept in on Sunday and puttered around the ranch after breakfast.

We had a nice Easter lunch with Rob's family at 1:00. Ham, asparagus, new potatoes...the works!  Packed up the car and drove home in the afternoon. We passed through a big thunderstorm with lots of (needed) rain on the way.  Quiet night at home once we returned. Rob and I watched Summer Stock on TV and rested up for the week ahead.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Flowers: Lilac and jasmine

A simple combination with $17 worth of supplies from the Wholesale Flower Market made three lush spring arrangements this week.  I made two of these in low blue bowls for the dinning room:

And this large arrangement for the living room mantelpiece:

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Weekends: Happy Birthday Rob!

This was such a nice weekend!  Relaxation, errands, fun with friends and a celebration of Rob's upcoming birthday.

He left early on Saturday morning for a long mountain bike ride in Marin.  I had a lazy morning around the house and eventually motivated to run some errands. Took the car for a long-overdue wash, dropped by the wholesale flower market and picked up groceries. San Francisco now charges for bags, so you have to be sure to bring your own. A very cheery trunk:

Look at these pretty lilacs!

Rob returned from his ride and we had a quiet afternoon.  I arranged the flowers, cleaned house and made chicken soup with farro to stockpile in the freezer in between episodes of The Librarians on Hulu.

Spaghetti dinner before meeting friends at the Ferry Building for a Bike Party test ride. The new animated light installment on the Bay Bridge is so pretty!  Rode a leisurely 18 miles around the city on the tandem bike.

Stayed in bed late again on Sunday. Rob brought me coffee and the paper in bed - my favorite!

At 11:00, Rob and I got out the cruising bikes to enjoy the warm day. We rode through Golden Gate Park all the way to Queen Wilhelmina's tulip garden.  (a true San Franciscan always brings a scarf and matter how nice the weather!)

Rob and I had a picnic lunch on the sand at Ocean Beach.

Returned home with plenty of time for a relaxing cup of tea before starting to work on dinner plans. Six friends (and two little ones) were coming over to help celebrate Rob's birthday.  Boiled these fun potatoes and then roasted them with olive oil and pink Hawaiian salt:

Set out nuts and olives while roasting two small pork shoulders.

Margaret decorated this lovely German chocolate cake for Rob while I finished the garlic bread and salad:

How cute is this?!

Great conversation to go with all the food!  We had such a fun meal together. I love the "aftermath" scene from a party like this. So cozy!

The guests left around 9:00, the benefit of an early Sunday supper. Rob and I had a quick time with the dishes and leftovers.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spring Hookey

There's SO much going on at work, it was hard to take even a half-day break - but I made it work for the annual Spring tradition of Bouquets to Art at the de Young Museum. Margaret joined me at 1:30 (a rainy day, as always) and we browsed more than 100 arrangements

Roses were big this year along with blossom branches, anenomes, dogwood, renoncules and (oddly) anthurium in all exotic shades and sizes. Fragrant flowers like jasmine, tuberose and freesia had a strong showing. The trend of overly-fussy metallic wire and other non-floral accessories (glass, beads, glitter, fans, books, lace, shells) sadly also had a strong showing.

After the flowers, Margaret and I went downtown to shop for her upcoming trip to Arizona.  A lovely, girly afternoon!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Recipes: Red Potato, Broccoli and Ham Gratin

Brrr! It is freezing in San Francisco this week. Our lovely spring has been taken over by cold wind and rain.  I made a dinner that matched the weather tonight using the spoils of winter entertaining: leftover ham in the freezer from Christmas and the last chunks of fancy cheeses from the baby shower. It was hot, gooey and delicious!

Red Potato, Broccoli and Ham Gratin
3 cups of cubed red potatoes
3 cups of chopped broccoli
1 cup of diced ham (ours is from the excellent Roberts Corned Meats in SF)
2 tablespoons of salted butter
3 tablespoons of flour
2 1/2 cups of 1% milk
1/4 cup shredded smoked gouda
14 cup shredded onion & chive english cheddar
1/2 cup of shredded cheddar

Preheat the oven to 350.  Steam your potatoes on the stove until they are just tender. While the potatoes are cooking, make a roux in a mid-sized pan: melt the butter and mix in the flour with a fork until you have a thick paste.  Add milk to the roux and stir vigorously.  Keep over high heat until the milk boils and the sauce starts to thicken. Reduce the heat and lowly add your cheese while stirring with the fork. If the sauce is getting too thick splash in more milk.  If you're using straight cheddar with no other cheeses, you may want to add a little hot sauce to the mix for flavor.

Mix the potatoes, broccoli and ham with some pepper and toss with the cheese sauce in a casserole pan. Bake covered in foil for 20 minutes and another 10 uncovered.

We served ours with a romaine and orange salad on the side. If you have leftovers - I think it would be easy to make into a cheesy soup the next day by just chopping more finely and adding extra milk.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Weekends: Off

After two weekends of baby showers and week of being out sick with a bad cold, I was excited to take it easy this weekend.  Rob and I went out to an early sushi dinner on Friday night and I turned in for bed before 10 - sadly missing a friend's birthday party across town.

On Saturday, I stayed in bed reading for a long time. Rob and I watched episodes of Louis CK Season 3 - the most amazing show, so clever and weird and poetic.  Rob took off for bike riding and I went to a hair appointment in the afternoon.  After the salon, I met Nicole downtown for a little shopping. Got a really great dress and sweater at Club Monaco.

Nicole helped me put away my winter clothes and bring out my spring wardrobe before Rob joined us out at RickieBobby for dinner. Dangerously good food, so close to our apartment! We went to Maven for a drink afterward:

Nicole spent the night in our guest room and we had a leisurely breakfast the next day.  Warm almond croissants, coffee and the Sunday paper.

Rob left to bike down to Palo Alto while Nicole and I geared up for a hike. We walked up Fillmore Street all the way to Pacific Heights mansions and over to the Lyon Street stairs. Look at how pretty the bay was!

We walked up and down the stairs, then back along Divisadero Street. We stopped for ice cream at the new Bi-Rite, toasted coconut and chocolate for me:

And checked out some of the cute new shops that have opened up in NOPA. Altogether, about 4 miles across the city.

Showered and ate a quick lunch at home. Then drove to Palo Alto to meet Rob, Jean and Trent by the pool at their new apartment.  Great to get some sun and float in the water:

After swimming, the four of us drove out to Half Moon Bay in their new car. We walked the dogs on the beach - that's Mavericks in the distance.

Dinner at the local Princeton-by-the-sea brewery together - Jean and Trent sweetly asked if Rob and I would be the baby's godparents.  We drove back home and had cups of hot tea while planning out the busy week ahead.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Travel: Oxford, England

Rob has to go to Oxford in May for business and I'm thinking about going along with him.  Any advice for visiting the city?  And, for places to see after? I'm thinking about heading to Bath or Cotswalds.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Party Recipe: Luncheon Shower

My good friend Nicole hosted Jean's second baby shower last weekend in San Luis Obispo. Here's the guest of honor, with seven weeks to go:

The guests: A smaller affair compared to the 24-guest blue and orange shower before it, this event was a luncheon with 12 close family friends.

The location: Nicole reserved a corner of the outdoor patio at Novo Restaurant downtown. Along with seating for 12, they set up an extra table for presents and kept us warm with heat lamps. The servers were great!

The flowers:  Do you recognize my blue glass compote bowls working overtime as vases? I just bought them on sale from Williams-Sonoma a few weeks ago. Nicole and I made arrangements with supplies from Trader Joe's the morning of the party: yellow lilies  sunflowers, button mums and bells of ireland. Plus, rosemary from my mom's garden.

The food: Everyone got to order their own lunch - mostly their delicious salmon bisque and salads. Nicole provided white wine and champagne and chocolate cupcakes she baked herself.

Special gift: Nicole made a beautiful growth chart for the baby with help from Paper Source. Each guest signed a flag with a note. So thoughtful!

Thank you Nicole and congratulations Jean!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Stay tuned!

With daylight savings time and a long drive back from San Luis Obispo, I'm running behind with the latest post. Tune in tomorrow for a recap of Jean's Southern California baby shower. In the meantime, here's a cute photo of us with mom:

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Party Recipe: Sunday Lunch

So, you had a big party yesterday...the house is clean, lots of flowers and food on hand, guests are in about another party?  A leisurely Sunday meal can be divine.  Rob and I hosted nine for lunch last weekend with a simple, meyer-lemon-inspired menu to celebrate Trent's triathlon.   All together, it was just a half-hour to set-up and clean, a half-hour to shop and an hour to chop and cook. Easy!

The table: Here's our newly painted slate gray dining room. Tablecloth, napkins, cabinet and glasses from Ikea.  Dishes from Williams-Sonoma everyday collection. French cafe chairs from Amazon.

The menu: To feed a hungry crowd in a hurry, I turned to easy favorites. Four rotisserie chickens from Whole Foods were the foundation. Good country bread and local  cheese: humbolt fog and truffle goat cheese.  A big green salad with a delicious lemon-mustard-garlic vinaigrette and pepitas. Picked up cauliflower, cilantro and apples at farmer's market.

One of the guests from Saturday's party brought a basket of meyer lemons and they got used in everything. My favorite was in a veggie roast: I chopped two heads of cauliflower and pretty carrots with an onion, two lemons and fresh cilantro. Tossed with olive oil, a little salt and pepper. Roasted at 425 until cooked and a little brown around the edges about 40 minutes. Delicious and great as cold leftovers too.

I wish I had taken more photos of the finished buffet. It was beautiful!  Trent's aunt brought cheese biscuits, coleslaw and other treats to add to the feast:

The guests:  Trent's parents and aunt came. My mom and Jean's friend Kelly too. We sat and ate for almost two hours.  Lemon water and a slightly-sparkly bottle of french Chardonnay to accompany the meal.

The dessert: I made an impromptu apple blueberry cobbler using fresh ginger and a crazy mix of ingredients for the topping (meusli and crushed ginger cookies just to start). It went in the oven when we sat down to eat. So about an hour at 350. Plus, really tasty lemon sour cream cookies from Trent's aunt, mandarin oranges and strong coffee.

Do you want to see another shot of those pretty flowers? I thought so:

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Inspired: Anenomes

How beautiful are these white anenomes from the flower market last weekend?! And, surprisingly durable.  They lasted much longer than I expected - longer than the roses and dahlias for sure. I'll definitely buy them again when I see them.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Party Recipe: Blue and Orange Baby Shower

I've thrown almost a dozen baby showers - this was a favorite and extra special! But I didn't actually host it - Jean's friends Jill and Kelly decided on the theme and put together almost everything.  Let's dive in:

The guest of honor: My sister, Jean, is due with her first baby at the end of April. That's the co-host, Jill with her. She made the bunting!

The theme: The hosts decided on a blue and orange theme to welcome the baby boy. We kicked off planning with a Pinterest session for inspiration.  I picked up cute tablecloths and napkins from Ikea that happened to match just right.

The flowers:  I went to the Wholesale Flower Market the morning before the party and picked up some kind of branches, kumquats, dahlias, roses, poppies and spanish broom. For less than $50 in supplies, it made an incredible amount of arrangements using every blue vase and compote bowl I had available!  
The food: Kellie provided an amazing spread. We had chicken taquitos, salsa, guacamole, veggies, hummus, a cheese and meat plate, chips, queso dip, mini cupcakes and cookies.

The drinks: We used my grandmother's punch bowl for lemonade and had champagne on hand to "spike" it.

The guests: 24 women came to the party - which was a challenge to fit in the living room for gift opening, but we made it work with the help of every chair in the apartment:
The activity:  Jill had the idea of creating a custom alphabet book for the baby. She set out pieces of heavy art paper, stamps, markers and paint for people to customize with a message:

The necklace: Jean's friend Amanda (who also took a lot of these photos!) had the idea for everyone to bring a bead. She strung the beads together at the end of the party into a necklace Jean can wear as a symbol of our support during labor.

The gifts: One of the most special to Jean was the handwoven baby blanket she had received as a baby from a family friend. So pretty!

The small details  I painted the dining room slate gray and hung new curtains in the living room to prepare for this party. Which was good timing, because they're prominent in almost every photo! Also, I love the small party details of having fresh flowers and candles in the bathroom, and having an arrangement on the obscure "phone-nook" that all old apartments in San Francisco seem to come with.

The end: Congratulations Jean!  Big thanks to Jill, Kelly, Margaret and Amanda for all their hard work.