Thursday, January 12, 2017

Road Trips - Squaw Valley and Plump Jack Inn

We just returned from a 5 day trip to Lake Tahoe last week where we made Plump Jack Inn at Squaw Valley our base. It was the first time I've stayed right in the village and it was great not having to drive to ski each day. In fact we didn't use our car after we arrived, as everything was within walking distance or a quick shuttle ride away.

Plump Jack's rooms were lovely, well-equipped for skiers and felt roomy enough for my family of four. 

They had the brilliant idea of a including a great wicker tower of drawers in the room which was perfect for hats, gloves, scarves, goggles and all that. I'm also a huge fan of hooks in a hotel room which they happily had in a large amount.

The bathroom had a tower for towels and toiletries and was large. Our room felt very spacious and the beds are very good.

Convenient for skiers is the free breakfast buffet each morning which was yummy and included cooked eggs, potatoes and pancakes, fresh fruit and great tea, coffee and juices. I liked their famous homemade granola with yogurt. 

The hotel will store your skis downstairs which makes it very convenient and the ski hill is a four minute walk from the hotel. They also have their own ski rental shop in the hotel.

I liked this rack in the entry for all the wet clothes, helmets and boots, etc. Someone clearly thought about all the details here.

Max and Jackson getting ready to hit the slopes.

From our room you could see the tram and little skiers coming down the mountain. One day I stayed in and ordered lunch from room service. 

What a view!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Christmas, The Year's End and All That...

Hi lovely friends. Sorry I haven't posted for a bit, but Christmas was nuts and I'm only now getting to sit for a bit and share. I hope you are all having good holidays.  This year we chose not to go away right after Christmas, but wait a week and it's been so calming having the quiet and the downtime to regroup after the chaos.

We had a lovely Christmas with my dad and also celebrated with dear friends two days before that. I miss my mom still so much and the holiday season really brings forward all those feelings that I push out of my mind most of the year to cope. Opening our beloved and ancient Betty Crocker Cooky Book with mom's writing all over was tough.

I have many ornaments my mom bought me over the years and cherish. This year I bought one I found at Anthropologie that she would have loved. It was a knit pair of bunny slippers. As a little girl I had bunny slippers and whenever I was cold, even as an adult, my mom would say, 'Where's your bunnies?' which meant slippers so I had to get that ornament in her honor.

This year we got a Victorian Fraser Fir tree which is a little sparser and more English looking. It was from Summerwinds Nursery and I have loved it. You can see our ornaments even better than a Noble Fir which I usually get. It's also less cumbersome and let's more light in the house, which I savor at this dark time of year. I'll be a bit sad to take it down. It's been my most favorite tree yet and has hardly dropped any needles!

We did the requisite baking - sugar cookies, biscotti and cornflake wreaths. This year I tried a new sugar cookie recipe that I clipped last year from The Mercury News Home Plates column. It is called Holm-Made Sugar Cookies after the family that submitted it and are famous enough for it they give the recipe along with cookie cutters as wedding favors! It has a mix of vanilla and almond which gives it a marzipan flavor I think. Recipe can be found here.

We had fun making more tags with an old rubber stamp we had and more vintage ribbon of my grandmothers like I mentioned in the last biscotti post.

I found some holiday cards with the Golden Gate bridge a while back and turned them into tags which looked nice on plain bags. I bought a load of these brown bags in different sizes this year and colored tissue. I just got creative with tags to make them more festive. They seem a lot greener and reusable than paper...though we did still use some wrap.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Biscotti for Christmas and Gift Tags

Like the rest of you I am sure, my days have been pretty hectic the past weeks and as soon as I'm up I hit the ground running trying to shop, decorate, make it to a few seasonal gatherings and all the little things that make up this crazy month!

Despite how busy the season gets some people always seem to find time to make a particular treat that they share. My neighbors make cranberry Christmas bread.  My dad and his mom always make something called yummy nuts which are amazing (some sort of holiday crack) and my aunt makes fudge. Biscotti has become a tradition in our house along with sugar cookies, meringues and cornflake wreaths. I like the biscotti for gifting as it lasts a long time and looks pretty packaged too.

The biscotti recipe from the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook has been my go to and everyone seems to love the traditional anise/almond version.  This baking book is the holy grail and has everything in it, including chocolate versions and great baking tips. Might be a good gift for someone who likes to bake.

Biscotti isn't hard at all, you just need to have time to bake them twice. Once you give it a go, you can throw a batch together in a jiffy and they make a terrific holiday gift. Recipe can be found online here.

One of my favorite parts is the wrapping, and tag making. This year we are having fun making our own tags from pretty cards and calendars we collected all year tied up with vintage bric a brac ribbon that my grandma had. Love recycling and also using something vintage.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Holiday Gift Ideas for The Whole Family

With many of us going in every direction at holiday gatherings, writing cards and doing the tree, it always nice to have a little help with the gift shopping. I always try to shop early and it often goes in fits and starts... I begin strong, feel good about what I've got, relax a bit and before I know it, I'm behind and everything is picked over. I've noticed particularly this year, people are shopping even earlier. So many things I wanted to suggest here are already sold out already! Not to induce anxiety, but people get out there -or better yet grab a latte at your local coffee spot and do it online asap! You can get what you need online and then save yourself the hassle of the mall.

Otherwise, I often default to Nordstrom. They seem to have something for everyone and I know without a doubt, everyone can return their gifts or exchange with no hassle. That and their customer service are why it will always be my go-to store. In fact, most of these things on this list are from Nordys and since regular shipping is free and arrives quickly, I felt good recommending them here. They always deliver on time and as you like it.  

Here' a few of the best gift ideas this year..

For the traveler, I love this mini brush set and chic evening clutch it comes in from Charlotte Tilbury at Nordstrom.  It's wonderful to have a brush set small enough to travel and the clutch is pretty enough to be your evening bag for the night! Less to pack and a dual purpose bag is always a win-win.

Another discovery I recently made is these darling Mantra bands. These are not only pretty, but share an inspiring message to the recipient. Great for a friend, teacher, favorite neighbor, or anyone who might need a little boost during this season. 

They come in silver, gold and I particularly like this rose gold and the message. Other good ones are, 'Be Fearless,' and 'Enjoy the Journey.' Many others as well.

I can't help coveting this new edition of the original Adidas satin track jacket. How darling is this for a college kid and also for the gal who still pines for the days of roller disco? I would wear this skirts as well as jeans.

This YSL Lip and Nail Collection at Nordstrom features the prettiest shades. What a great girlfriend gift for your favorite fashionista. 
For the skincare lover this Fresh  kit is a great bargain with their wonderful cleanser and 3 masks.

I also love this little kit for the traveler or friend going on a vacation. It's got everything you need and how cute to just throw in your travel bag?

And for just $22.50 this Kate Spade business card holder is a sweet gift for a glam pal and it comes in silver and a pink version too.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Kicking off the Festive Feeling at Filoli and Joules Coats

 Each year I love visiting the gorgeous Woodside's Filoli Mansion and their annual Christmas shopping days. The 1915 estate and 654 acre grounds are a California Landmark and on the National Registry of Historic Places. The Bourns who built it were prominent San Franciscans that owned a gold mine in Grass Valley and the Crystal Springs Water Company and Crystal Springs Lake.

 In the 1930's the property was purchased by the Roth family who made the formal gardens famous. Mrs Roth lived there until 1975 when she donated it to The National Trust for Historic Preservation.  There are events happening at Filoli all year long as well as classes and tours of this beautifully preserved home and property. It's an easy jaunt off freeway 280, but enter the gates and you are in a magical place surrounded by green rolling hill, moss-covered oaks and little deer!

The holiday shopping days are usually sold out a few months ahead. So you need to plan by October to go to this. All of the rooms are transformed into seasonal boutiques which are really well done, beautifully decorated and filled with unique finds from cooking items, to holiday gifts and home decor and even some furniture.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Holiday Cards- Minted is My Go To and Local

I know some of you are already doing your holiday shopping! I'm not there yet, but I have made a start and ordered my cards from the San Francisco company, Minted, which I've done for several years now. Minted is dedicated to featuring independent artists and helping them gain exposure and has some of the most creative and freshest looking cards designs, so I always find something different.

This year they are addressing envelopes for free if your place an order. That was an offer I couldn't pass up, so last night spent an hour with the husband making an actual spreadsheet of all our address book/contact list together. It only took us 20 years of marriage to do it, but now we have it!!  I sent that off and am looking forward to getting my cards out a bit earlier this year. I won't have to sit long hours addressing them and can take time to write notes in those for far off relatives and friends.

We were in San Francisco for Cirque du Soleil last week and had some time to kill near China Basin and the ballpark. My sons skateboarded around a bit and I cajoled them into posing for a quick photo. They aren't matching, or even wearing their nicest clothes, but they look like authentic teenage guys. I love these impromptu photos more than any staged photo sessions and this card design was modern which I think goes well with the casual feel of our cards.

   Minted always uses unexpected colors in their designs as well. I like that you can often choose the color of the writing on the card fonts as some photos clearly stand out more with cool or warm tones. I'm crazy like that, but it makes a photo sometimes.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving and Things I'm Trying to Do

Hi friends. How are you all holding up? Sorry I haven't blogged since the election post. Thank you everyone for your words of support and also your opinions and ideas. Love you guys!

I've been trying to think about what matters, what to chat about. The world around us is changing and I have some more ideas on how we can make a difference and not let this become the new normal. I'll include ways we can at the bottom of each post for a while. Please, please add any other good thoughts to share with us all who are feeling the same. I want this to be a safe forum where we can come together to share ideas to be the change.

 Today let's take solace in Thanksgiving and upcoming holidays. That brightens my world a little and the thought of all the small joys that come with this time of year is something to cheer us in these unsettling times.

Some small bouquets I was working on for my home, below. Thanksgiving is a good time to shine everything up and make it festive and there's nothing like houseguests to motivate.

This year we are lucky to have Max's sister and husband who are traveling from Seattle to be with us.  My oldest is home from school and I am so looking forward to some quality time with everyone including a beach day, some long walks, board games, and movies.

I dashed into Crate and Barrel this week as the boys/guest bath has been looking a little faded. I bought a new shower curtain, towels and bath mat. Just small things like that make such a huge difference. I don't know why I don't invest in home things more often. It's so easy for us all to say yes to a new pair of jeans or a top, but how rare it is we spend on the things we use and see everyday? Crazy as they are so worth the money if you think of how many days, hours, years our home things serve us!

I also picked up these wood grain placemats. Something about them felt very me and so I cleaned them out of this pattern and the matching chocolate napkins. We had friends from my husband's childhood over for a fun dinner the other night and I paired them with white plates and black napkins and flatware. They are still online here and also the brindle brown napkins which are reduced if you buy a set of 8, which I did.

At first I was going to get some other placemats and napkins from the clearance. I didn't love them as much, but was thinking I could make them work.  I have this thing in my head I should always be looking for a bargain. Does anyone else have that issue? Well, actually adding it up, it was about a twenty dollar savings to get the sale set instead of the ones I was first attracted to and really loved. In the long run, that would be not a savings at all since I probably wouldn't keep them around for long. The old me would do that before getting the full-price set. I am trying hard to retrain myself to stop buying what I call sale stand-ins instead of what I actually want.

The result is a house full of items bought at a bargain, but many you just feel lukewarm about. If I think logically I can better save by buying what I really love- usually a more quality item, not because it's on sale, but because I need and adore it. If I shop like that I will have a home of things I cherish, and hopefully need less. It's a quality over quantity mindset which is smart.