Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Resolve

(a simple paper banner I made for Saturday's party which reminds me of resolution #3)

When I was younger, around this time of year, I would sit and fill an entire page of binder paper (college ruled) with new year's resolutions. They spanned the gamut from the specific and mundane -- e.g. keep backpack tidier -- to the more elusive -- e.g. be happy. Eventually I realized that I could keep about, oh, one resolution going for at least a solid month if I really tried, and then for the past few years I'd given up on them all together. For some reason, this year, I felt compelled to jot a few down.

1) Sleep better. This will be enormously challenging for me since I am the type of person who needs at least 8 hours of sleep but who finds there are always 20 more things to get done before bed. I find myself staying up late all the time even though I know how much better I'd feel in the mornings if I only went to bed earlier.

2) Eat better. Specifically, I'm going to attempt to cut potato chips out of my diet because I noticed that when the smokers at work step outside for a smoke, I join them for a bowl of chips. Which is then accompanied by my chips with lunch and my chips for my mid-afternoon snack. Yes, addiction comes in many forms.

3) Simplify. The process of packing and moving has forced me to take a cold hard look at the many knick knacks I've accumulated over the years. More than once this week, I've had to ask myself do I really need this old wad of receipts or will these ear bud attachments that I've never worn before ever come in handy? So next year, I am going to really try to live simply. And tidily.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Homemade bread that will change your life

While many people were undoubtedly busy baking cookies and pies on Christmas, this year, I decided to bake bread. It was my first time, but with my love of a good loaf, my trusty Le Creuset (Alan calls it the iPot since it's so fancy shmancy, haha), and this awesome recipe, I baked two perfect loaves. The first was a test loaf because even though this recipe has gotten rave reviews, I was a bit wary that it might actually be trickier than it seemed. Aside from a bit of planning around the long rise (about 20 hours), it was so easy to make. And the taste... oh, the taste. It had a perfect crust-- crispy, slightly chewy, substantial, but definitely not too tough-- and a super moist interior with an open irregular crumb structure. (Note: crumb is a term that bakers use to define the inside/holey-ness of the bread. I learned this after this baking experience and am tucking this tidbit away for the next cocktail party I go to -- being the life of the party takes a lot of work! ;)

This bread starts out like the ugly duckling. When I first mixed the ingredients together, I looked in the bowl and was sure I did something wrong. It looked like a big mess, but sure enough, 20 hours later (I had aimed for just 18, but got carried away with holiday fun) it had turned into a nice dough.

I formed the dough into a ball and marveled at its swan-like beauty.

We devoured the entire first loaf with just a bit of butter and some salami -- you know, just to make sure it was Christmas-dinner worthy :). I made the next loaf on Christmas morning, and after I pulled it out of the oven, I stuck my face in close and just inhaled. The smell of fresh baked bread is something else.

(Christmas dinner plate)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

(freshly picked berries from a jaunt through the woods yesterday)

Merry, merry Christmas to you and your loved ones. I woke up (relatively) early to get a jump start on my baking, and now we are off for an early dinner with Alan's family and a later dinner with mine. Wishing you all many sweets and a few pretty presents under the tree :)

(ornaments making windows festive and bright)

(simply wrapped presents with washi tape, bows, and manila gift tags)

(soft gingerbread cookies all the way from Germany, but conveniently found at Trader Joes)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Favorite new necklace

This week felt hectic and slow all at once. I rushed around in the evenings in order to get to bed by 11 (my ambitious new goal) and made it there by midnight on Tuesday and 11:30 on Wednesday. Once in bed, however, drifting off to sleep became a challenge. Instead, I would lay awake thinking about the inconsequential moments of the week. Like the way the rain seemed to pause as Nathalie and I drove under overpasses on our way home from the surprisingly calm and empty outlets. I thought about the future and all that I'm grateful for. Even though I know Thanksgiving is usually the time when people give thanks, I feel most thankful around this time, when we are in the middle of such an amazing season and when we begin anticipating the bright and shiny promise of a new year.

I am thankful for everyone who visits this space, I am thankful for Nathalie for taking pictures of me when I am usually can be super awkward in front of the camera, and I am thankful for being continuously inspired by bloggers and friends alike. And also, this week, I am thankful for the awesome finds I scored at the Renegade Craft Fair, like this Noble Town Vintage necklace and Seablanket top.


p.s. Chelsea from Seablanket is too cute.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

SF Renegade Craft Fair

The Renegade Craft Fair was this weekend in San Francisco. It was my first time ever going, and it was a crafter's wonderland. I didn't even see the friends that I went with for the number of hours we were there since I really wanted to get around to every vendor. And I didn't even see everything! I did, however, score some really awesome gifts (above) from Yellow Wallpaper Handmade and Noble Town Vintage to name a few. I also loved rummaging through the letterpress bargain bins where I found a nice stack of beautiful greeting cards for just a few bucks.

I'm already looking forward to the next craft fair, and in the meantime, check out some of the cuteness that was present.

I Made You A Beard was there showcasing all things related to beards. Funny and awesome.

I nabbed one of these little kits for making your own sheep ornaments as a cute present.

These whimsical bird mobiles would like equally great hanging over a dining room table or up in a nursery.

Pretty pillows made of vintage grain sacks.

Simple and modern salt and pepper bowls from Rae Dunn.

Monday, December 20, 2010

My Favorite Italian Restaurant

There are good restaurants, there are so-so restaurants, and then there are your favorites. You will know which ones are your favorites because they are the ones that you will compare all other restaurants to, the ones you take your out-of-town guests to, and the ones that make it hard to try new restaurants, even the ones that get rave reviews. The Pastaria in Los Gatos is this restaurant for me. It is teeny; teeny-tiny to be exact. It has something like 8 or 10 tables and there is a mish mash of Italian decor on the walls. Everything is simple and cozy and all the pasta is homemade. The service can be a bit spotty and there are times when there's just one server attending to the entire restaurant, but I find that it just adds to the restaurant's charm. It allows for lots of time to chat with your dinner companions and to linger over the evening's moments. I love every bit of it.

We start with the bread. Alan always skips over the table olive oil and balsamic vinegar and asks for butter. He is a complete bread and butter fiend. I secretly am too.

We have a few menu items which we routinely choose from. On this night, Alan veered away from these and tried something new. Adventure! He had the tagliatelle in a black truffle sauce with sauteed mushrooms and grilled chicken. My friends, you can never go wrong with dishes that have "truffle sauce" or "sauteed mushrooms" in their descriptions.


I chose a staple: linguine with tri-tip, sauteed mushrooms, spinach and sun-dried tomatoes. So not truffle-cream-fancy sounding, but so amazing.

Irene had another menu favorite: the seafood linguine special. Having eaten many a seafood linguine in Italy, she's been known to say that nothing she tasted there compares to this. Yes, a bold statement, indeed.


Normally, I am too stuffed to even think about the desserts, but tonight, it seemed we were celebrating the season so it seemed only right to end on a sweet note. We had tiramisu on the house to thank us for our patience throughout the night (I think there was just one server and some back-up in the kitchen) and for the non-rum fans at the table, we also had a cream puff sundae. It was a perfect way to end the crazy hectic weekend of last minute holiday shopping :)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Behind the scenes: Content Magazine fashion photo shoot

I can't believe there are only 8 days left before Christmas. While a (big) part of me wishes the holiday season would go on forever, I have to admit, I am excited for the new year. We found a real charmer of an apartment which has kitchen counter space, closet space, and a completely unnecessary (but darling nonetheless) fireplace that we'll be moving into on the first!

I've also been busy working on Content Magazine, a life and style magazine with a focus on all things hip and stylish in San Jose. Beginning January 7, we'll be posting new content every Friday, and while the emphasis will be on highlighting San Jose, I think there will be a lot that will appeal to a much larger audience. I'm excited to be working with our small core team, including the very talented Daniel Garcia who has photographed people I have only ever seen on TV (like Rebecca Romijn). I got to hang out at a recent shoot (which involved me holding props and saying things like "ooh, I like that"-- you know, very important stuff) where the outfits were based on simple, shimmery, and lacy pieces. Since it was my first ever fashion photo shoot-- with a real model, a hair and makeup stylist, a clothing stylist, and all that jazz -- I snapped a few photos to share if you'd like to see.

All done up! (I felt very short on this day.)

The clothes!

Hair and makeup!

More hair-- a sweet, retro-inspired updo

Fixing and adjusting folds, the hang of clothes, accessories and hair was a bigger part of the shoot than I would have imagined. It all paid off though because in the end, the pictures Daniel took were amazing.

Please be sure to check out Content Magazine on January 7 and stay tuned for the full fashion editorial piece. We're all very excited about what we've been working on and can't wait to share it with you in the new year!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How to Make Your Own Terrarium

I have been obsessed with terrariums for a while now, especially since the time I thought about how cute one would look perched on my gray desk. When I saw that my co-worker Suzanne had one on her desk, I spilled my guts about how much I wanted one. I would pop by her desk now and again to peek at hers, and after enough visits, I finally convinced her to teach a terrarium building workshop after work one day. They were surprisingly easy to make and have been super easy to take care of. And the best part is how soothing they are to gaze at in the middle of a stressful day. All you will need to make your own terrarium are the six materials above. (Don't skip out on the mini animals -- they make all the difference!)

First, place a 1" layer of small rocks in the bottom of your jar. Place another inch or two of potting soil on top of that. There's no need to pack the soil, although you can smooth it out if bumpy soil bothers you.

Using your finger, create holes in the soil to plant your succulents.

Place each succulent in its own hole, making sure to cover the roots of each plant. You can use as many succulents as you like. Each person found that it took a little bit of experimenting to find exactly the right number of succulents that looked right to her. (I used about 8 plants in my terrarium).

When you've planted all your succulents, you can stop here, or if you'd like to get fancy, add small rocks to the exposed soil for a finished look.

You can also place dried moss on top of the exposed soil. Some used only rocks (which looked rad), some used only moss, and most used a combination of both.

As a last step, place your miniature animals in the tiny world you've just created and give it a story.

My friend Stacy made a safari scene with a happy elephant and a curious giraffe.

Someone else made a scene from Jurassic Park.

My cousin Denise said "the heck with strawberry shortcake!" and made a terrarium trifle.

One person even had tiny hikers braving a treacherous journey over many, many (so many) boulders.

So far, I've watered my terrarium once a week, and pretty sparingly at that. They don't need a lot of water or attention which makes them the perfect desk companion.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday Cookie Swap

This weekend, my friend Sashee and I hosted a holiday cookie swap. It was so much fun seeing all our friends and eating cookies all afternoon. Since everyone brought a different plate of cookies, we just put out a few savory snacks, drinks, and a pitcher of milk and then got to relax and enjoy everyone's company.

For decorations, we strung these tissue paper pom poms at varying lengths from the ceiling. They remind me of giant snowballs.

Sashee made out like a bandit and found this natural wreath, string of lights, and fancy ornament for just a few bucks at the dollar store.

She also picked up these glass vases which we filled with glittery ornaments.

We set out these gift tags so that people could write the names of their cookies on them. Mini clothespins acted as cookie name tag stands.

An entire table was dedicated to the cookies (and cupcakes and brownies). They were all so pretty!

We also made gingerbread people for guests to decorate.

Everyone got really into it...

And the cookies were so creative! I made a gentleman (in the center), my cousin Nathalie made the red-headed gingerbread man on the left (a ginger gingerbread man, get it? haha!) and our friend Noelle made a judge in a striped robe.

The dinosaur and the bikini babe above cracked me up.

At the end of the night, we gave everyone a goody bag (gotta love those $1 bins at Target!) so that they could all take home treats for later.

Other party highlights were playing Taboo and Telephone Pictionary. Have you played Telephone Pictionary before? It was my first time and it was hilarious!
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