Monday, November 28, 2011

Hunter Gatherer Decorating

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We did. Besides our family dinner on Thursday, we were almost all alone on our little court for 5 days. In fact, the whole town, seemed to go away for the holiday. It was nice to be here. We saw a Arthur's Christmas with the kids, (super), and had a date night movie too. We saw George Clooney in the Descendants - great movie and George is... (husbands look away), a total fox! We ate lots of leftovers, walked the dogs we were sitting through the leaf-filled park, and got together with good friends. We even hit a farmer's market on Sunday. The best part is the pace of these kind of holidays and the quality time together. Being with all my family on Thursday was really special.

My youngest walking Ruby, one of our charges this weekend.

When my favorite neighbor and good pal Kim returned from her holiday, we brain-stormed some pre-tree holiday fluff for the home.  Recently she had snagged a faux mercury glass vase at Homegoods and was wondering how to display it for xmas. Our phone rings and she asks, "Hey, will your husband mind if I clip a few berries for my vase?"

Some of the lovely foliage on our court. 

"Are you kidding?, " I said, "He probably wouldn't know if the tree got taken down! I'll meet you outside with the hackers!"  From then on, we had a jolly time clipping away at this and that in the hood. I'll say it worked out for the best that most people were away. Anyhow, we used berries from Pistachio trees, Juniper branches- the ones' with white berries look best, and some Sequoia sprigs (thanks to the beast in my front yard.)

Kim's vase with her creation.

Kim's creation came out lovely and partnered with her new runner and glass bulbs acquired on the Homegoods run, her home looks darling. This inspired me to begin a new regular feature I will call, CHECK OUT HER HOUSE! Coming later this week, the first edition and more on the stylish Kim, a French teacher, and her Gallic-inspired home! Here's a preview.

Her holiday runner and pretty bulbs. Don't they look festive? She added a topiary she had from Restoration Hardware.

My arrangement on the mantle for now. The berries are quite heavy, so they will tend to hang.

Another view of what I used.

Pomegranates and Persimmons make wonderful winter centerpieces. These are from the Campbell Farmer's Market. Love the colors mixed with apples and Asian Pears.

If you don't have berries, any conifer tree branches will work. Add in pine cones and a bright ribbon or colored vase and you have a show-stopper for your entry, table or mantle.  Anything natural is much more beautiful and smells better than any fake store-bought greenery. A bowl piled with Pomegranates or walnuts with a nutcracker, bring in the natural and add richness to your home. You can even use pieces from your Christmas tree if you already have it. You'll get that holiday feeling without going all Kris Kringle on your home yet. And don't forget to check out your neighbor's yard. ;)


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Musings...

This is my Thanksgiving table.  I used olive napkins and aubergine zebra plates. I kinda like the contrast.

  In the spirit of the holiday here's a bit of all my thoughts and photos that were meant for several posts, but never got written. It's been so darn busy the past week! I cobbled it all together, so I could get it out before everything turns Christmas. Hope you can cope with my haphazard style on this...

I love Thanksgiving. I just hate ironing. Right now, I'm ironing when I could be one with couch and  watching the Dancing with the Stars finale! I swear there is no such thing as, "permanent press" tablecloths! Just sayin' Ralph Lauren.

Flowers I bunched together. I'm not good with flowers. I may make this into a  bunch of low small arrangements. I really liked the colors though.

Check out these glasses. $2.99 at Homegoods. I know. They made the tables!

Anyway, as much as I despise all the grunt work involved with a big family gathering, it's what we do. I want to have my boys grow up appreciating family celebrations and the rituals that go along. Yes, they have to wear sweaters or nice shirts, use their best manners, chat with grandparents, deliver drinks, help serve and clean-up. I did it too when I was little. They feel like hosts when I ask what music we should play and which napkin looks best. I hope they will one day do the same in their own homes.

My other tables.

My mantle now. I'll add candles on Thanksgiving day.

My boys last year.

 The decorating and entertaining part is fun to me. The cooking itself, not so much. I don't know why, but as a forty-something woman, I still haven't become comfortable with making turkeys. Maybe that's because my Mom has done it for so long, and well. why mess with a good thing? The last time I made the turkey I left that bag of stuff, (yucky- gizzards and whatnot), in the turkey. Everyone was grossed out! From then on, I became the side-dish chef and head of table decor, which was fine by me!

My Mom and I at my first Thanksgiving as hostess, 1999.  Love my Mom.

I do like making sides like parmesan brussel sprouts, gourmet mashed potatoes, harvest salad with apples, cranberries and walnuts, green beans with almonds, sweet potato casserole, and rolls. My Mom will bring her yummy stuffing and gravy. My Dad is making the turkey with a new recipe! (Hmm, we'll see about that, Dad. We like to encourage him though :)

Grandma with my sons about a year ago.

 My 94 year-old Grandma will bring her cranberry jello with mini marshmallows that the kids love and all her pumpkin pies made by scratch. Yep, she still is making them all and they are delicious. We are so blessed to have her. My brother Peter's family of five will join us from El Dorado Hills. I can't wait to see my sweet niece and nephews and my sister-in-law, Line. This year we also have my Aunt Wendy and Uncle Tom from Discovery Bay. They will be bringing the wine and they know what is good. Lucky us!

 I am fortunate to have a husband who is more than helpful. He's my sous chef, my bartender, my dish-washer, and handsome co-host. I couldn't do it without his help! He is patient with me when I start to freak about 15 minutes before everyone arrives! I can't help it, it's just how I am...He usually gets me a glass of champagne then.

Look at this cute pumpkin from my friend Ann, love it!

My house is a bit on small side, so I will be piling all the tables into the living and dining together. I really want us all to be in one room, including the five kids, (now all teens and pre-teens.) No, I don't agree with the kids table in Siberia thing. I want to chat with them too. So, I've moved some furniture and have three tables. I'm hoping I can make it all look pulled-together, get the fire going and have it cozy.

This is  my friend Jen's house- don't you love her mantle? Super cute with the books and pumpkins.

In the past, I've also moved the house all around. My husband absolutely hates that. Here's a picture of the first Thanksgiving we hosted. We had no dining room, so we turned the family room into one giant dining space using the yard table too. I think it looks cute, considering we were young and had no clue. My 13 year-old was just one! I've always gone for the natural look and used gourds, pumpkins and leaves to decorate. It didn't cost me hardly anything then either.

Us  12 years ago. What were those red things? I don't remember, maybe pomegranates.

We try to include my two boys in the production. I get them making place cards and arranging the tables. We start by foraging around the neighborhood for acorns, or pretty leaves. They always come out so cute, I've saved a few for keepsakes. Those are sweet to me and the grandparents always love it too.

From two years ago and below a bit longer. My littlest wrote, "cookie grandma, " which is what they call their Great-Grandmother, who makes them cookies all the time.

Another year when my smaller guy and I made a candy corn cake. This year we made acorns with dark kisses.

I have to always include these chickens and turkey hand whittled by my husband's Great-Grandad from Kentucky. Aren't they amazing? They look very primitive.  Usually put 'em on the kids table. 

I will be wearing my camel sweater and trying to look like this !  (photo by Tommy Ton.)

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Kim :)

Friday, November 18, 2011

What I Bought for Fall

 With Thanksgiving less than a week away I'm starting to feel the twinges of seasonal anxiety coming. I just celebrated one son's birthday last week, will be hosting Thanksgiving for 14, and then a week later son number two's birthday comes. Usually, if I survive that it's like, "Yikes! How did I get to this point in December with no cards/shopping/decorating, etc. done?

 Today, instead of inspiring you with shots of turkeys and pretty tables, here's a post I wrote a before this craziness began. I did want to show what I finally ended up adding to my own closet this Fall.

If you read my past bit on wardrobes, you'll know, I tried hard to be a minimalist!  A few things to spice up the old wardrobe and give a smattering of polish to what I already own. To wit:

1. A Burberry trench. No, I did not spend $1,000 on this coat. It was on sale in July, during Nordstrom's Anniversary sale. I also had a windfall from selling some patio furniture, and put it toward this coat, which I am hoping will last me through a few decades! Total cost, (with sale and savings applied) $180! By the way, Nordstrom's once a year, Anniversary sale, in July, is one not to miss and worth making a investment purchase at.

2. Two pairs of Tom's shoes. If you aren't already familiar with this wonderful company, they give a new pair of shoes to a needy child for every pair you purchase. That's a win-win. Get some cute shoes and help kids who need it too. I bought a pair of the super comfy flats in taupe, and a pair of yellow corduroy wedges with peep toes. Love them both. One practical and one for fun!

3. Camel colored sweater jacket from Nordstrom on sale. A little polish and warmth at the same time. Love the color and it's cute with animal prints too. Camel is very Grace Kelly to me and always looks classic.

4. A very soft leopard and zebra print tan and white scarf from Banana Republic. Love the bit of metallic on it for the holidays and I think it will be usable for Summer too.

5. A tiny bendable rhinestone wrap bracelet, from a boutique in town. Looks like diamonds and can mix and match with all my bangles. This shows a stack of them, which could be pretty too.

6. AG Jeans in a dark straight leg. These were also an investment, but I haven't bought jeans in a year or so. I know they will be worn so much they are worth it. This is my first pair of these. They fit well, don't stretch out and I love where the waist is, higher, but not too much and it hits at the perfect spot to flatter.

I also bought a custom made shirt dress in a grey blue that I am very excited still to get. I will give more details on that experience in a later post.

That's it! Well, also got a rose scarf and a yellow print blouse at Gap. Now I'm trying to mix and match with the few other basic T's I bought and my favorites I always wear.

On my wish list:

A FEED bag. Have you heard about these? This company started by Lauren Bush is all about making caring for others on this planet cool. The cross-body bags are chic, and at the same time you are funding a worthy cause. Depending on the style you choose, you could be helping buy school lunches for the UN World Food program,  immunizations in Africa, vitamins in South America and more. I love that by wearing one you are  saying, "Hey I'd rather give my money to this cause than a designer. " Check them out. Hoping to get one myself soon. I can't decide which style I like best! I think this one is a super cute bag for weekends and running errands. I'd wear mine with a chunky beige sweater and my jeans. Love it.

Hope I'll have a chance to write later this week and give you some Thanksgiving inspiration!


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Wednesday Wisdom!

I'm working on a few posts, but in the meantime, I couldn't resist sharing this gem from Andy Rooney that my friend Manuela posted. I loved Andy and was so sad to hear of his death last week, just a month past his retirement. I thank Andy for his common sense  wisdom and also making 60 minutes bearable as a child who had to watch it. I especially love this. It made my day. Another reason to love being over 40...

Ladies enjoy!

Andy Rooney on Women Over Forty

As I grow in age, I value women who are over forty most of all. Here are just a few reasons why: A woman over forty will never wake you in the middle of the night to ask, “What are you thinking?” She doesn’t care what you think.
If a woman over forty doesn’t want to watch the game, she doesn’t sit around whining about it. She does something she wants to do. And, it’s usually something more interesting.
A woman over forty knows herself well enough to be assured in who she is, what she is, what she wants and from whom. Few women past the age of forty give a hoot what you might think about her or what she’s doing.
Women over forty are dignified. They seldom have a screaming match with you at the opera or in the middle of an expensive restaurant. Of course, if you deserve it, they won’t hesitate to shoot you, if they think they can get away with it.
Older women are generous with praise, often undeserved. They know what it’s like to be unappreciated.
A woman over forty has the self-assurance to introduce you to her women friends. A younger woman with a man will often ignore even her best friend because she doesn’t trust the guy with other women. Women over forty couldn’t care less if you’re attracted to her friends because she knows her friends won’t betray her.
Women get psychic as they age. You never have to confess your sins to a woman over forty. They always know.
A woman over forty looks good wearing bright red lipstick. This is not true of younger women. Once you get past a wrinkle or two, a woman over forty is far sexier than her younger counterpart.
Older women are forthright and honest. They’ll tell you right off if you are a jerk, if you are acting like one! You don’t ever have to wonder where you stand with her.
Yes, we praise women over forty for a multitude of reasons. Unfortunately, it’s not reciprocal. For every stunning, smart, well-coiffed hot woman of forty-plus, there is a bald, paunchy relic in yellow pants making a fool of himself with some twenty-two-year-old waitress.
Ladies, I apologize.
For all those men who say, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free,” here’s an update for you. Now 80 percent of women are against marriage, why? Because women realize it’s not worth buying an entire pig, just to get a little sausage.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Loving November!

Pumpkins carved during our streets' annual pumpkin carving get-together.

Last night was the warmest Halloween I have ever experienced in my past 40 plus years here in Northern California. It was absolutely gorgeous and after sharing some pre-trick-or-treat chili with friends, we headed out to enjoy the neighborhood.  Grabbing our glasses of red wine we had to dash to chase the kids and chat with the neighbors. I especially loved seeing all the older people who still decorate and enjoy the kids. We are grateful to have a neighborhood with lots of them.  With the balmy weather, (we were just in T-shirts), and the local wine in hand, it felt very decadent and we were saying how lucky we are to live here.

Couldn't resist posting this pic of the neighborhood kids with their creations.
This news's November!! One of my very favorite months and not just because my Dad and my oldest son have birthdays. November is filled with LOTS of school holidays and I love that! Things seems to slow down a bit after hectic October. I can't say I'm not happy to get the webs off if you know what I mean...

So welcome to my kitchen!  In honor of November, a bit of cookery for you. Though you might be in sugar shock right now, (maybe I should have rescheduled this post), here's my newest, most favorite version of chocolate chip cookies yet. I found this recipe in an old kid's cookbook with my youngest son. In their version, you melt the butter and refrigerate. Because I didn't really read the directions, (a bit of a bad habit according to my husband), I made it the usual way without the frig or melting and they were awesome.  To me, the best cookies are crunchy a bit on the outside and gooey inside.

Here's a few pictures and as you can see I had assistants. Not sure how much help they really were...!

"Cleaning" up for me. :)

Walnuts are my favorite and of course California ones are superior!

The only chips I use now. Guittard also happens to be a California company. Love them.

Very important in baking- do not over beat the dough once the flour is added or you'll end up with tough cookies.

Large drops...we're talking golf ball size folks.

They look a bit browned, but are chewy inside.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
1/2 C.  Butter
1 egg
1/2  C. brown sugar
1/2  C. sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 1/8  C. flour
1/4  t. salt
1/2  t. baking soda
1/2 bag of chocolate chips
1/2 C. walnuts (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together butter,  sugars, vanilla and egg in mixer. Mix until fluffy. In a separate bowl sift together flour and remaining dry ingredients.  Add flour mixture to bowl and mix until blended. Do not beat.  Add chip and nuts as desired.  Drop heaping spoonfuls onto cookie sheet and bake until just browning,  9-11 minutes.

It's comfort food people! Get ready a chill is in the air today and I'm a bit excited!

On a glad to be done with October note, I'm on my third Almond Joy for the day! Not good. Got to get the Halloween candy out of here quick!  AAAHHH! There's a reason I buy the kind I don't like. Darn Trick-or-Treat bags.