Thursday, October 31, 2013

Help! South of France in November

An opportunity with Rob's work means that we can spend the first half of November in the South of France! I think we'll fly into Nice - where should we go from there? Cassis? Aix-en-Provence? Bruniquel? Send me your best recommendations - we only have a few days to plan.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

To Do: Halloween Cards

With a birthday in late October, Halloween is naturally a favorite holiday of mine! I made a series of these cards to mail out last week:

They were a snap to put together using leftover metallic copper paper, vinyl lettering and glossy black paper cut from a magazine.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Weekends: Stinson Beach Birthday

It's hard to believe - sitting here now, bundled up in blankets on Sunday night with a fire in the living room and a cold wind storm whipping at the bay windows - that we were sunning it up at the beach just yesterday.

To celebrate my birthday this year, Rob rented a cottage on Stinson Beach for a weekend getaway with friends and family. I left the city early on Friday to drive across the bridge and along the rocky coast to the red house. (Note: I forgot my camera, so apologies for being all-cell this week)

While waiting for Rob to arrive from San Francisco by bike, I "opened" the house - drawing back the many, many curtains in each room, venting windows, lighting the fire and exploring.

This cottage was full of charm, with plenty of old lamps, straw hats, bells, driftwood and shelves full of odd vintage biology books.

Nicole arrived shortly after me and we walked down the beach in the warm, sunny weather. That coastline you see in the distance is San Francisco, only an hour away.

Rob arrived when we were headed back.  Nicole made us paloma cocktails by juicing fresh grapefruits and we watched the sunset from the deck upstairs.

The three of us walked to dinner down the beach at the Parkside Cafe - delicious with freshly baked bread, homemade pesto and local seafood.  Tucked in to our beds pretty early, with the sound of the ocean outside our windows.

Heavy fog over the coast on Saturday morning - perfect for lounging in our pajamas reading magazines with coffee and the pumpkin bars Nicole baked.  The rest of the weekend guests started arriving at 10:00.  My sister Jean and Trent with adorably-outfitted Everett were first in.

Margaret, Seth and and his daughter Rowan arrived shortly after.  Snacks, beers and bloody marys quickly appeared. Eventually, the ladies decided to split off to go pick up oysters and other supplies up at Point Reyes.  The four of us drove to Drake's Bay Oyster Company first to get five dozen oysters fresh out of the bay.

Seriously, right out of the water. We stopped to watch the sorting process taking place behind the little stand.

From there, we drove to Point Reyes Station for produce from the farm stand and market. Fresh local kale, bell peppers, tomatoes, pumpkins, sausages and cheese. We are so spoiled in the Bay Area with delicious food.

Back at the beach house, the boys had walked down to pick up fresh bread from Parkside.  When they returned, we sat down to a hearty lunch of grilled sausages and bread with pesto, bleu cheese, carrots and hummus on the deck.

A quick break from eating in the late afternoon. We took walks on the beach, worked on puzzles, read, napped on the deck and lounged about.

Soon enough, it was time for sunset and another round of paloma cocktails on the deck. Everett was excited.

With good reason, it was a pretty one!

After the sunset, it was time to tackle those oysters. Three dozen were shucked and served raw and two dozen cooked briefly on the BBQ. I ate at least 15 of the raw myself and even three year old Rowan got into it. Did you know that oysters are super rich in iron?

Quick break after the oysters for Margaret to make a lasagna, Jean to prepare a kale salad. Rowan and I carved this pumpkin we got in Point Reyes.

We sat down for a delicious meal together at eight followed by cupcakes that Margaret had baked, Nicole frosted and Rowan decorated with sprinkles.  I'm a lucky gal to have these great and kind people in my life! After dinner, we played board games and lounged around by the fire until turning in to bed late.

Another lazy, fogged in morning on Sunday. We hung around in the living room, painting with watercolors and watching dogs go on morning beach runs. Seth made fluffy pumpkin waffles for our breakfast. Rob and Trent took their mountain bikes out for a spin.

We darted back and forth between the beach and the house.  The weather had certainly turned colder overnight and that fog didn't want to burn off.  The sun briefly came out when we walked down the beach to a snack shack to fetch ice cream and fish and chips for lunch.

Nicole had to leave first, then Seth and Rowan.  After picking up the house, Jean, Trent, Rob, the baby and I took one last very cold walk on the beach.

Closing up a beach house is a very melancholy business - I dragged my feet while hunting down the last few lost oyster knives and coloring pencils. Rob and I drove back to San Francisco - spotting our good friend Corey biking on the Golden Gate bridge. Made an attempt an unpacking before taking a hot bath and working on this report. As nice as it is to be back home, I'm already dreaming of buying our own little beach house in the future.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What to Wear: Dress your Boys for Photos

My sister-in-law emailed tonight for help coordinating outfits for a family photo shoot they have coming up. With four boys, she has a lot of kids to dress. The older boys don't want to be too "matchy" - so she was looking for some options to mix and match with jeans and brown shoes. Here are four color combos to consider:

Blues/Grays from Target SweaterHoodie, ShirtSweater
Greens from Kohl's ShirtSweaterShirtSweater
Red/Browns from Kohl's - SweaterShirtShirtShirt
Ivory from Old NavySweaterShirtJacketShirt

Monday, October 21, 2013

Recipe: Citrus Salad

Frosty fall nights have officially arrived in San Francisco. I wore boots, a scarf, wool coat and a beanie for my walk to work this morning. With the cooler temperatures, all kinds of fresh citrus are also back in season.  For the Halloween-themed brunch last week, I used one my favorite make-ahead recipes: citrus salad.

This is one of those recipes that is uses simple ingredients, glammed up by a little extra prep time. Just bring together fresh oranges, grapefruits and other citrus of your choosing and get to slicing. This blog has a good step-by-step tutorial on how to cut citrus slices:

Once you've cut all your fruit - you can get creative. For Christmas, I add a dash of syrup cooked with mulling spices and add pomegranate seeds. For the Halloween brunch, I left the citrus plain and topped it with toasted coconut right before serving in vintage champagne saucers. For a spicier selection, you could add a bit of jalapeno and avocado to the mix.

The best part? This dish is a snap to prepare a day in advance and dish up the morning of your party.  One less thing to cook in the morning.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Weekends: Bliss Out

This was a nice, relaxing weekend in the city. Our crisp mid-October weather was in full force - bringing sunny days all weekend. On Friday, Rob was sick so we took it easy at home. Easy dinner of rotisserie chicken and salad.

We got a pretty early start on Saturday. With the BART strike, we hit some traffic on our way out to Pleasant Hill. Seth and Amy were throwing a bike-themed birthday party for their little 3-year old. Rob jumped right in to the festivities:

The little sister and I were paired up to decorate a bike helmet bag. Loads of glitter glue:

Delicious BBQ and fresh salads for lunch in the park. Amy put on a bike-themed obstacle course for the kids and baked a blueberry layer cake.  We stopped at their house to open presents before heading back to the city. It took us a while to get back with the transit strike traffic - so by the time we got home, we were ready to just veg out and watch episodes of Scandal.  In the late afternoon, we took a cab downtown to try to see Gravity at the movie theater.  Ticket sales were shut down due to a fire alarm, so we ended up taking a leisurely walk home instead.  Once back in Hayes Valley, we stopped for a light dinner at Arlequin and discovered their secret garden patio in the back:

Sunday morning, I stayed in bed for a long time with the New York Times.  Rob left for a bike ride with Corey. I decided to walk to Nob Hill to meet Nicole. It took about 45 minutes to hike up the hill. We met at the famous Huntington Hotel for a day at the Nob Hill Spa.

We spent over an hour lounging on the deck overlooking the city, swimming in the pool, steaming in the steam room and baking in the sauna before our massage appointments.

An awesome early birthday present from Nicole! More steam room and sauna before showering, doing our hair and heading to Union Square.  Lunch at Bodin in the Macy's basement. A bit of shopping with Nicole. I bought a ridiculously awesome "diamond" necklace at Zara - an awkward compliment to my sporty spa day outfit.

Rob walked down to meet us and we went to see Gravity together at the Metreon. The movie was so scary, and really good. Subway home. It is getting cold at night these days!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What to Wear: Fall Getaway at Stinson Beach

Rob rented a house at Stinson Beach for my birthday in a few weeks! I've been obsessed with taking a weekend getaway with friends at Stinson since watching the 1972 Woody Allen movie Play it Again Sam. Here's a dream outfit to head north for a fall weekend at the beach:

Sweater - I love the metallic foil look on a basic sweater. Easy to dress up or down.
Tank -When it comes to white tanks for layering, the cheaper the better. This is from Forever 21.
Jeans - A basic straight leg pair from H&M.
Boots - These booties from Zara look a lot like a pair from Coach that I'm obsessed with.
Coat - Zara has the best winter coats each year. This dark camel color is glamorous.
Sunglasses - Vintage-style pair from Forever 21. Overnight bag - I need a new weekender bag so badly. This option from Anthropologie is tempting.
Oysters & books - Two requirements for the beach house!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Weekends: Family Ties

This weekend was fun...and a little exhausting! My parents came to town for a visit with Aunt Lucie from Chicago. Rob and I joined them on Friday for dinner at a Chinese restaurant near their hotel in the Marina.  Then back home to prepare a brunch for nine people the next morning. Set the table with festive Halloween trimmings and the luncheon set of silver:

That night, I baked two quiches with the last of our amazing leftover Christmas ham: one with ham, shallot, thyme and parmesean - the other with rainbow chard, ham and feta cheese.

Plus, a loaf of pumpkin bread in my pumpkin pan and a simple citrus salad topped with toasted coconut:

In the morning, we set out smoked salmon with dill cream cheese and crackers. Jean and Trent brought supplies for coffee and mimosas. A happy scene, complete with dog and baby:
This little guy cut his first two teeth the night before and was an adorable little monster - grabbing everything he possible to chew on.

After brunch, Trent and Rob dashed off for a bike ride, Dad rested with a book and the ladies drove to Nordstrom for some shopping. Helped Mom and Jean pick up a few items at H&M and found a super-discounted DVF dress for myself at Bloomingdale's. Big spaghetti dinner together that night. Jean made the sauce with turkey and mushrooms. I made garlic bread and salad to go with it.

Jean, Trent, baby and dog spent the night with us after everyone headed back to their hotel. Leisurely Sunday morning with coffee, cereal and the newspaper (which the baby happily chewed on). We drove over to the hotel at 10:30. Rob, Trent and Dad headed to Alameda to look at boats. Jean, Aunt Lucie, Mom, the baby and I headed to Japantown to shop at the adorable boutiques and have ramen for lunch.  We drove over to look at the Golden Gate Bridge, then stopped at the Palace of Fine Arts on the way home:

Everett liked it when we stopped for an ice cream break at the park. He can sit up now - much easier to pose:

Early, quick dinner at a pizza restaurant - then over to North Beach to see Beach Blanket Babylon. This over-the-top musical review has been running non-stop since 1974.

Fun performance! We said goodbye to my parents and aunt after the show - Lucie was catching the train back on Monday morning and my parents driving back with a few harbor stops along the way.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Weekends: Get out of Town

Rob and I packed our bags and headed to Palo Alto Friday night, escaping the traditional October heatwave, concert crowds and a long week of work. My sister, Jean and Trent made us steak salads for dinner and we crashed to bed on their air mattress pretty early.

Leisurely breakfast the next morning - they made us delicious eggs and cinnamon rolls. Rob and Trent had a bike race south of San Jose, so we packed up for a warm day out at the course (warning: there are a lot of cute photos of little Everett from this weekend):

Rob is a member of the local SuperPro bicycle racing team, which hosted this San Jose Cougar cyclecross event. After we got settled in at the park, our volunteer task was to help with the kids race. There were about a dozen kids, age 4 to 12 who raced an abbreviated course in the heat.

Rob (in red) was the "pace car" - showing the kids where to ride. While Jean (in the green shorts) helped them jump over the barriers and Trent was the "sweep" rider, making sure everyone finished. It was pretty adorable!

Rob and Trent didn't have their race for a few hours - so we left them with a car and drove to Santana Row in San Jose for a snack. Ceviche and iced tea at one of the open air cafes.

Back at Jean's apartment - we organized baby clothes for a few hours. Packing up his newborn supplies and sifting through new items. They bought a lot of clothes from a Japanese family, so there were some hilarious t-shirt slogans to try to decode.  Of course, he's rarely dressed with spending so much time at one of the pools in their complex. When Trent and Rob arrived we went straight there and little Ev had a glorious time splashing around.  Can you believe his eyelashes?!

Post swim, we drove over to a Vietnamese place for Pho and noodles. Jean loves the spicy Pho broth to rehydrate.

And Everett loved trying to throw everything he could reach on the table onto the ground.

We watched Ironman 3 and decided to spend a second night in Palo Alto - this time with their smaller dog joining us on the air mattress (and being quite the bed hog).  The next morning, we had kale smoothies and cinnamon toast for breakfast. Rob and Trent went for a bike ride and Jean and I dressed up for a day at Filoli - a historic mansion and gardens in Woodside. I loved the massive flower arrangements in every room of the house made using cuttings from the estate.

The house is pretty grand, but the grounds are even nicer. There's a pretty reflecting pool, a swimming pool, apple orchard, wooded garden, formal box garden and rose garden. It reminded me of one of my favorite places in the world - the Musee Rodin in Paris.

Since Everett wouldn't sleep, we took lots and lots of photos with him and the various flowers. If only he knew how to sit up, he'd be a much easier model!

The garden house, full of orchids and begonias was especially pretty.

Jean and I drove back to the apartment and had sandwiches with Rob and Trent for lunch. We went for another swim in the pool before driving back to San Francisco - still in the midst of its own heatwave. We could hear the music from the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival - with nearly 750,000 people in attendance - as we picked up the house and read the Sunday paper. A bright sunset - very rare in San Francisco - showed up while I was making Yucatan-style shrimp tacos for dinner.