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.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

How We Deal With Now

 I just couldn't survive this week without coming together here on this blog with you all. It's been a tough week and to chat about home remodeling right now seems pretty lame.

You probably suspected and rightly so, as the title of this blog alludes to, I am a Northern Californian through and through and yes I am liberal. I grew up among free-thinkers, hippies and a lot of what we call 'granolas' here. Old word now! I had moderate, but open-minded parents. One thing I got from them was acceptance of everyone, and always do onto others, be the best person you can be, read, be informed and be kind.  I have voted both Republican and Democrat in my life. I try always to see both sides.

This week ...I just can't. I truly felt an excitement and elation about actually having the first woman president. This woman did her homework, spent her life doing right and was the most overqualified and experienced candidate ever- man or woman. The Facebook group Pantsuit Nation got me even more energized hearing the stories of -men, women, children, old folks, immigrants, all sharing their hope for this woman president. We were ready to make history and see the world change together.

Well it was not to be.

Tuesday night I was feeling sick to my stomach by 7 p.m. I had to turn of the PBS Newshour as I could see it on their faces. It wasn't good. I went to bed fearful and woke up afraid to get out of bed. I wanted so badly to see this woman elected president. I wanted it for my mother who always admired Hilary and told me women can do anything. I wanted it for my 99 year old grandmother who said,' It's her time honey, she will do it.' I wanted this for the little girls of the world and the big girls too. I wanted it for the young women in college who have dreams. I wanted it for women who have sweated and suffered through so much to give their families a decent life. I wanted it for my sons so they could live in a country where a woman was the leader of the free world. We were ready for that ceiling to shatter. I can't write this without crying. It has broken my heart. I could barely get out of bed. My college freshman son texted me, 'Mom I just can't believe it.' What to say to him?

I think what has made this loss even more painful is the winner is someone who has openly disrespected women, belittled us, and possibly even assaulted us. The class bully was chosen over the girl who did her homework. The bully cheated his way through class too.

How my fellow Americans, especially women, could choose this man to be our president is incomprehensible to so many of us. Yesterday my phone literally blew up with messages of despair from friends far and near. What will happen to us now?

Monday, November 7, 2016

What's Been Happening Around These Parts...

Hello friends. Sorry I've been a little busy and I just haven't been able to sit and write. The past few weeks have been a flurry of Halloween, get-togethers, and lots of goings on. Though we did have some unusual October rain, it's just gorgeous right now in the Bay Area and this week we are supposed to have 70s temps!

I've been especially enjoying the warm afternoons and have been trying to get out to soak up some winter sun and marvel at all the pretty leaves.

This is just a smattering and some snaps of what's been happening around these parts. 

We had some fun at our annual street pumpkin carving gathering. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Weekend in San Francisco

How was your week? Some of us got an extended one as many are on fall school breaks right now. It's a great time to take a trip somewhere in California and especially San Francisco as October is unofficially the best weather month unlike summer which is cooler and foggy.

On the sculpture terrace at the top floor of the new SFMOMA.

Max and I finally got to getaway for our 20th anniversary and decided to stay in the city. We considered Napa, but this time of year it's exorbitantly expensive. We thought, let's pay half that price and stay at the Four Seasons in SF, which we never have done.

The Four Seasons San Francisco is tucked away off Market Street and shares it's building with Four Season residences. The hotel lobby is on the fifth floor and has a cozy long bar with a fireplace area.

The MKT restaurant attached has floor to ceiling windows on some of the prettiest architectural landmarks in the city. We had breakfast there both mornings and it was amazing. The fresh fruit and juice and lemon ricotta pancakes were my favorite!

Drinks in the bar were good. We tried chicken sliders and the pub cheese appetizers which were exactly what we wanted.

The rooms have window seats onto the city and feel spacious yet cozy. Of course the bed and bedding was incredible and I slept like a baby both nights. The location is perfect. You're minutes from shopping, Union Square, and the new MOMA which we couldn't wait to check out.

Friday, September 30, 2016

What I'm Loving - Friday Favorites

Since it's Friday I wanted to share a few goodies I found in the past week..

First, how yummy does this slow cooker white bean soup from Martha Stewart look? I vow this fall to use my slow cooker more and this little post gives some great tips about using it better and some new recipes I want to give a shot at.

 I finally visited a Blue Mercury beauty store and I love it! I don't know why it took me so long to find get to this gem. Our town of Los Gatos has one and I love this small curated shop with just the right amount of brands for me to browse without getting overwhelmed as can often happen in a big department store.  Best of all, there's one sales person who is very knowledgeable about all the brands, but not hovering if you know what I mean. They give generous samples too.

One thing I discovered is that they carry Photo hair products from France. I used this line years ago when I worked at Nordstrom and the shampoos and conditioning cremes are miracle products. They are plant-based which I also like.

 I bought a tube of Phyto 7, a leave in conditioner which is still wonderful and made my hair look so healthy I postponed my highlight appointment a few weeks. My hair is fine, but if you have thicker more coarser texture the Photo 9 does the same job. You can use it as a hairdressing on the ends and before blowdrying, or as a regular conditioner. The small tube makes it easy to travel with. 

Travel has been on the brain for me lately and one of the things I need is an always packed beauty bag with some good size samples or products that do the job. Blue Mercury has an anniversary bonus (above pic) going on and it's free with a $150 purchase, but it's amazingly generous and has many good sized travel essentials. If you buy any of the brands they carry, you might get this bonus while they still have it! Obviously it's nice to visit the Blue Mercury in your town if you have one if not, they are online.

 I received a sample and now I'm addicted to their M-61 Power Glow Peel Pads and they really do work wonders. You use them just three times a week at night. It works for rosacea skin like mine as well and I woke to brighter, smoother and  prettier skin everyday last week. The price is good for $28 for the smallest box and you can cut a pad in half to use another night as they are fairly large. A few other things they sell that I love is Bliss's Triple Oxygen Serum, Clarin's Super Restorative Eye Concentrate and Nars Sheer Glow Foundation.

I'm also love with the home of Suzanne Kasler, one of my favorite designers. One King's Lane has her gorgeous Atlanta home including a curated sale with some of the similar things she decorates with. Her style is classic, but always with pretty and feminine details!  I need more pink accents and florals in my home...

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Victorian Blouse- What Your Wardrobe Needs for Fall

Fall my favorite season is finally here! One of the freshest fall looks that I'm keen on is the Victorian blouse. It popped up all over at the many fashion weeks and many retailers have some pretty versions in their fall lineups. There's something very sweet and even sexy about these tops, but to keep the look current you must pair them with something unexpected and less feminine like faded jeans or distressed khakis and the like. Add pencil skirts or dressy pants and you risking looking like someone's mother from the 80s.  Here's a few ideas of how to make these blouses look cool:

Gorgeous with a latter-day Gibson Girl hairdo and I think a dark jean is perfect. I'd add a brogue shoe with this.

Even cuter in a print! Love the addition of corduroy and the bob with bangs!

Mom jeans (yes they are a thing now) with mannish loafers, and a bun.

The bun seems to pair well with these blouses, just add in a rough element like destroyed jeans or tough boots, lest you go all Little House with these prairie versions.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Entertaining Inspiration -Friday Book Chat

Fall is just about here and with that are many chances to host gatherings, and impromptu get-togethers. One of my promises to myself when I turned 51 this year was to have more friends over and not waste time fretting about things being just so. Every time I make the leap and commit to having people here, I'm always so glad I did it. Gatherings at home are infinitely more fun and relaxing than going out as a group. Hosting is a gift you give to your friends and the more you do it the better you get at it and the more you relax!

My grandmother, who is 99 now, loved to host and had entertaining down after many years of doing it. Her organization allowed her to throw parties for any number, at any given moment. Drawers held napkins that were organized by color and sets and recipes were already in double and tripled versions for more guests.

I think keeping a little book where you can jot down notes of what worked or didn't, what was served, who came and how you decorated is a great thing to refer back to. You can even take photos and it can become sort of a scrapbook as well.

Another idea is an inspirational binder. I keep one with tear sheets from magazines of pretty tabletops, recipes I want to try, and seasonal menus and party suggestions. I always pull it out planning for Thanksgiving, Easter and and when I feeing in a rut and not creative. My binder always gets me in an entertaining mood.

Books especially inspire me and there are three super books that really got me jazzed about entertaining more that have recently come out.

First, this by the Kate Spade people...

All in Good Taste is packed with fun, fantastic ideas for enjoying your life and having friends over more. It includes pages to write yourself notes about menus, guests, playlists and such. Thanks to all the very cute ideas, I recently had a Chinese takeout dinner by the pool. (Top pic, kinda fuzzy and not perfect, but was I was having fun and forgot to take pictures.)

 This book touches on ideas for brunches, the perfect cheese plate, playlists, hostess gifts, and cute tips on how to put a quirky twist on any party. There's even how to serve takeout on fine china. The ideas and inspiration from this book are copious and I recommend this book if you're in a hosting slump. Love it.

Then I just got this..

Steven Stolman's Passion for Parties is a sweet book. Steven grew up in a family that knew how to celebrate. I just loved his funny family stories that are sprinkled throughout this book along with tried and true recipes, floral ideas and party themes. The stories of his youthful dinner parties, his own Bar Mitzvah and wedding are heartening and really inspire one to celebrate these milestones. 

Last, but not least, this gem by designer Lela Rose... If you aren't familiar with Lela check out her gorgeous clothing. She's all about pretty and her dresses are literally little works of art. They are special occasion and aspirational clothes for sure and her party book is along those lines....