Friday, September 30, 2011

Fall Favorites

Fall is officially here, and even though the Bay Area was still really warm this week, I can't wait until the weather cools to get bundled up and cozy. For me, fall revolves around dressing in warm sweaters, scarves, and boots with either simple gold jewelry or big, fun statement pieces to balance all of fall's earthy tones. Here's what I'm looking forward to doing the most and the pieces that would be the perfect way to usher in this new season:

*Making soups and homemade bread and having friends over to eat it with. Perfect host outfit: these cheerful flats and pretty drusy bracelet.
*Painting pumpkins. Last year, we carved pumpkins and they quickly (and sadly) turned into mush. This year we're skipping the carving altogether and painting our pumpkins instead. This tweed blazer and dainty gold ring from ShopNBC would be fun to scope out pumpkins in at the pumpkin patch.
*Getting ready for the holiday season and dressing in bows, sequins and pearls.
*Catching up on good books, drinking pumpkin lattes, and wearing wool shorts, tights, and bold cocktail rings.

What are you most excited about this fall?

(This post is in partnership with ShopNBC. However, please note that I choose to feature only those items that I truly would enjoy wearing myself.) 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Celebrity Crushes


While we're on the topic of girl crushes, do you have a celebrity girl crush? Mine would definitely be Keri Russell. She has such a natural, friendly look. (Is it weird to describe someone's look as friendly?) I've loved her since Felicity, so it was a pleasant nostalgic surprise to find that Netflix is streaming all four seasons of the show. I'm re-watching from the very beginning, and at first I thought it might feel like a guilty pleasure, especially since I started watching the show when I was a freshmen in high school, but I can say for sure that it's still one of my favorite shows ever. I love the music, the quiet, moody way it's shot, and how exciting it makes NY look. Not to mention that looker Scott Speedman! (When my friend Jennifer used to live in L.A., she'd see Scott Speedman at the coffee shop down the block from her apartment, and I'd always feel giddy when she'd text me about her Scott sightings).

p.s. Alan has a devoted man crush on Matthew McConaughey ;)

(second image via Lily Lemontree, bottom image via people.com)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Girl Crush: Ali + Her Anthro-esque Apartment



This might sound kind of weird, but the other day I was writing an email to an old friend whom I admire when I realized that I have a girl crush on every single one of my friends, each for their own unique reasons. It made me happy to think about because aren't those exactly the kinds of people you want to surround yourself with? Well, in an attempt to share what makes them awesome, I'm starting a new series to feature all of my girl crushes. And I hope you'll like them as much as I do!

Kicking off the series is my friend Ali who just recently moved into our neighborhood (lucky us!) She lives in the cutest apartment with her husband Elijah and her cat Greg. Walking into her place feels like walking into an Anthropologie catalog — and who doesn't want to live in an Anthropologie catalog? It's vibrant and artsy but relaxed and homey at the same time. (Sometimes I joke that I want to live there too. And that I could just fit right under the kitchen table. And then everyone laughs. But really I'm being serious.)

Here's Ali's home tour and her wise words on home style. Thanks, Ali!


1) How would you describe your decor style?
It's eclectic and undone. Lots of colors and patterns, and lots of visibly stored things, like stacks of dishes in the kitchen, piles of books everywhere. These past few months I have LOVED pretending like I live on an old farm somewhere (the constant buzz of cars on the freeway tends to disappear into the background noise after awhile). Our old creaky floors and vintage kitchen really do add to the imagination! 







2) How does your apartment reflect how you live?
When my husband, Elijah, and I moved in a month ago, I had the week off of work; talk about a decorator's dream! I spent the week putting things away, propping up photos, and organizing what I could. As the month progressed I saw our habits, like piling books and electronics and pretty much everything that fits within a 2'x4' space on our coffee table. I know this isn't going to change, and I don't really want to allow style to take priority over comfort, so I had to find a way to work with our habits. I neatly stacked the 22 books/magazines on our table in 5 piles, added a basket for remotes and mail, and voila! 

3) What is your favorite room and why?
The kitchen, I tell you, THE KITCHEN!! It's my favorite room in our home for so many reasons. This is the room my imagination gets carried away in most, and I often need to remind myself it is NOT the 1950's, I am NOT a housewife, and we do NOT live on a quaint dairy farm in the middle of a beautiful field out yonder, as much as I do wish we did. I love to cook, and I bake professionally, so those are the practical reasons why I love the kitchen. But it's more than that. I love our collection of dishes and cloths, which makes setting the table, even if for just me and my lover, so fun and sweet. I love that what we use is what we see. I can cook an entire meal and never have to open a cupboard for any utensils or pots/pans. In the kitchen, these are the decorations: pots and pans hang on the wall, strainers on the side of the cupboard, utensils sit in buckets, and our everyday dishes look so crisp in stacks in our door-less cupboard. The kitchen is a place where I can serve my friends and family, and there isn't much that I know of that provides more comfort than the expectancy of a meal with those you love. 






4) What inspires you?
I have a few things that always inspire me, such as the store Anthropologie, or my favorite Swedish organizer at chezlarsson.com. And then there are those special finds that unexpectedly send me on a surge of creativity or productivity. The most recent find occurred while watching one of my favorite movies (and book) The Help. Did you see it? Do you remember the scene where Skeeter is sitting in Aibileen's kitchen with her and Minny and they stay up all night recalling stories? Well, I went home that day, and I had all new hopes and dreams for our kitchen. This is where the 1950's farm house comes in. I loved that the kitchen was used, and comfortable, and easy. Things were where they are handy, and it didn't feel like Aibileen was hiding any fancy china behind closed doors. This makes me happy because I don't have any china. But thats beside the point. What inspires you?


5) What are your favorite places to find pieces?
My favorite places to find pieces are places that are cheap or free. For example, the side of the road, garage sales, thrift stores, even friends. At all hours too. My favorite dresser (which has been banned to the porch for lack of inside space and is now transformed into a makeshift planter) was found on the side of the road in Capitola one cold fall midnight. Our couch came from a church that was giving it away, and we are borrowing our desk from our friend's basement (she knows). I don't take things I won't like, BUT I do have to think creatively about furniture and home decor I see. Can it be painted or covered and be just what I was looking for? Sometimes I take free things just to experiment at home in hopes of liking it. After all, I can always give it away if I change my mind.




6) What's your advice to people who are trying to create their own beautiful space? 
I can give decorating advice on how to create your own beautiful space, but only if your beautiful space has the same style as mine. What I mean is, I'm not an interior designer, but I know what I love, and what makes my home enjoyable to my husband and me. You must do the same. Think of those who spend time inside your home, including yourself, and make a list of what you want out of your home. A place to entertain? A place to take off your shoes and put your feet up? How about a place to display your crazy penguin collection? Once you decide how your space will be truly used, you know what you can be looking for to fill it with. A beautiful space will come out of enjoying your home.
As for advice on how do do some fantastic organizing and decoration? You really should check out: www.chezlarsson.com.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Weekly Ponderings Coming Soon


When I first started this blog almost 4 years ago, I used to write a lot of stories about what was happening in my life. And then about a year ago, I moved away from that for a number of reasons, but one of them was because writing a new story — a good one that I'd want to post — every day was stressing me out. Lately though, I've been wanting to get back to more writing, so hopefully once a week, you'll find a post here on the other things I think about besides good food, charming things, and beautiful clothes. Like life and work and relationships. I hope you'll read and enjoy and let me know your thoughts. :) 

(top image from honestlywtf; bottom image by snap a booty)

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Spaghetti Bolognese of My Dreams




In our neighborhood, there's a cute Italian restaurant that has an all-you-can-eat-spaghetti special on Wednesdays for something like $7 a person. Alan and I passed by it a few times before one day, on a whim — a crazy, carb-fiending whim — we decided to try it. While we waited, my hunger grew, and with it, my hopes and dreams for this pasta. I hoped it would taste out-of-this-world, unlike any spaghetti I'd ever had, but when it came, over-boiled noodles and watery tomato sauce and all, I realized that it was actually just like all the other bowls of spaghetti I'd ever eaten. It shouldn't have surprised me because, like all disappointing relationships, I had built it up in my head despite its lackluster track record, only to be let down once again.

I thought maybe that I would never find the spaghetti sauce of my dreams, and I started getting used to the idea, until last month when I had the best lasagna of my life. Made up of both bechamel and bolognese sauces, the lasagna was gut-bustingly decadent. But alone, the bolognese sauce is flavorful and hearty enough to make a really amazing bowl of spaghetti. We had it for dinner this weekend, and this is the one! It's also pretty simple to make with a straightforward list of ingredients, which is my preferred level of cooking involvement. 

A few notes:
*This recipe requires grated carrots. Who knew that would taste so good in a spaghetti sauce?
*Not to be brand snobby, but I recommend Barilla spaghetti as a sauce accompaniment. It's my favorite for cooking perfect al dente pasta. 
*If you'd like to watch a video on how to make this sauce before you get started, go here. Or go there anyway because I love the way Gordon Ramsay says oregano "aura-gone-o."
* Don't forget the freshly grated parmesan! 

Bolognese Sauce
As adapted from Gordon Ramsay

Serves 4

Ingredients
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 large onion, peeled and grated
1 large carrot, grated
4 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
2 pinches oregano
~.6 pounds ground beef
1 tbsp tomato puree
1-2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp red wine
1 14 oz can chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in your frying pan over a moderate heat. 

Place the grated carrot and onion in the pan to soften. Softening will sweeten the onions and carrots and keep them moist. You want your onion to become translucent. Softening is different from frying — if your onions start to brown, you are frying them, so remove from the heat immediately.

Crush in your garlic and add in the dried oregano and bay leaf and stir.

Now you're ready to add the ground beef. Make a well in the center of the pan and add it in. It's really important that you don't have large clumps of beef. Take a wooden spoon and stab the pan to break up the meat. Carry on repeating this motion until the ground beef is fine. Now season the beef with salt and pepper and fold it through the vegetables to incorporate everything together. Breaking down the ground beef means that every bit of beef can be equally infused with all the flavors.

Create a well in the center of your pan and add the tomato puree. Allow the puree to sweat off for a few seconds, letting the tomato puree cook a little which helps remove the acidity. Then stir through the beef, carrots and onions. Make sure that the onions, carrots and mince are all coated in the tomato puree. You can see this as this happens — everything takes on a slightly red color.

Then add the wine. Reduce to a simmer to allow it to reduce slightly so that the alcohol flavor is cooked out.

Then add the chopped tomatoes and Worcestershire sauce and stir through. Finally add in the milk, this will enrich the sauce and add some sweetness.

Allow to simmer for 5-6 minutes.

Top with a generous serving of freshly grated parmesan cheese. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Let's Polka (Dot)!


Polka dots are huge this fall, and I must say that I love it. They strike the balance between simple and classic but still a little quirky — just my kind of combination! I'm also so happy that bow blouses are everywhere (because they are my favorite, even though Alan hates them). I think they are more my favorite now than ever because we just finished watching four seasons of Mad Men in one month (I know, what is wrong with us? Oh yeah, that's right, that show is amazing!) and Joan and Peggy sure know how to rock their bow blouses.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Goat Hill Fair and Farm


This past weekend, my friend Ali invited me to go antiquing with her at a fair in Los Gatos. It was called Goat Hill Fair because it was held at an actual goat farm (pictured above). The couple that lives here bought the property years ago and inherited all the goats with it. Now their grown children and grandkids all live on the farm too, and together they run a goat business. Isn't that straight out of a book? It's quite a spacious farm with gardens (filled with plump tomatoes and corn) and pretty overlooks — I think it'd be a really neat place to get married. It kind of blows my mind to think that just a few miles away from all the high-tech techiness going on in the Silicon Valley there can be places like this that hum along at a much slower pace.

 {I never knew I wanted a hill full of goats until this weekend}

 {the vendors all did cool things with their spaces, like putting in a makeshift swing}

 {a cake stand I didn't get but am still thinking about}

{cute idea for Christmas — starfish Santas}

(second from top image credit: Abundant Picnic)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Best Response to the Introduction of Qwikster.com


Are you following all the shenanigans surrounding Netflix lately? They recently announced a new pricing structure which certainly riled a few feathers, but late Sunday their CEO Reed Hastings sent out an email to let everyone know they're splitting up their streaming and DVD by mail service entirely. Their DVD by mail service is getting completely re-branded and will now be known as Qwikster.com, while their streaming service will still go by Netflix. But the best part, and perhaps the most maddening of all, is that the sites won't be integrated. From the 21,857 comments posted on Reed's blog post (the one above made me laugh), no one else seems to get it either. Since I'm a total movie junkie, I just downgraded to streaming movies only, but I wonder how many people will be canceling their Netflix subscriptions altogether. Do you subscribe to Netflix? What do you think about this new change?  

p.s. a really funny comic on this topic (thanks Sarah!)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Beautiful Food Styling + Photography



Some beautiful food photography from the always amazing Cannelle et Vanille to brighten up your Monday morning. I've been enamored with her blog ever since a friend introduced me — her styling is so, so gorgeous. Anytime I meet a new photographer friend, I always ask them to give me tips on how to take better food photos like Aran's, but now something even better. She's teaching a workshop at The Makerie — a creative retreat in Boulder, Colorado. I'm so excited! Would you ever want to go? I'm off to work to get my vacation request on. Have a delicious day!

Friday, September 16, 2011

In the Red

There were a few mornings this week on my drive into work where the sky was grey and overcast. I listened to jazz and NPR and everything felt really cozy. I couldn't help but yearn for the first signs of fall, even though I know as soon as it drops below 70 I'm going to miss summer all over again. A few red accents are on my fall wish list, especially this funky umbrella!

1, 2, 3, 4 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tea Party Decor

Here are a few more pictures from the weekend's tea party. One of my favorite things were the water carafes Nathalie and I found for $2 each at Goodwill. Amazing what a little paint will do! (Colors are Pea Shoot and Wild Salmon by Martha Stewart Crafts). One of them now sits on my desk at work to make sure I stay hydrated (for, you know, those days when walking the 10 feet to the water cooler is just too much to ask).

Making the dot garlands was crazy time-consuming, but in the end, it was so worth it to sit under a rainbow canopy with friends. We chose shades of pink, green and gold. There ended up not being very much gold though because glitter paper is really tough to punch through, and it was really starting to mess with my carpal tunnel. (Tip: if you are not as masochistic as I and don't want to spend weeks punching and gluing down dots, you can buy these kinds of garlands online).

These flowers were from Jennifer. I've never seen the hexagonal green and purple flower in the middle before, but I like it. (Her mom is an amazing florist. Remember the flowers she did for Jennifer's wedding?)

Another picture of the dot garlands. Because they took so, so long to make. And I just can't let it go yet. But I'm almost there.

"Get teapsy" tea favors in the smallest mason jars I've ever seen.

We asked everyone to bring a tea cup for a tea cup swap. All the cups were wrapped on a table and people took turns going up and picking one to use during the party and to take home. I heard about this idea from my old boss and I totally stole it.

Remember a few weeks ago when I was at a friend's bridal shower and I wondered if I'd feel embarrassed opening up tons of gifts in front of everyone? Well, after this weekend, I don't think I feel that way at all. At first I did, but then after I got going reading cards and all that, that feeling went away real fast.


{sweet friends <3}

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tea Party Menu


When I started thinking about what I wanted my birthday party to be like, I imagined inviting friends over for a relaxed afternoon with lots of chatting and, of course, lots of tasty things to eat. That sounded like the perfect opportunity to host afternoon tea, and I decided on serving traditional tea fare. We munched on tea sandwiches, scones, Russian tea cakes, and fresh berry skewers. For the sandwiches, I went with two of my favorites: egg salad and caprese on buttermilk bread (recipes below). (Side note: I normally don't eat white bread, but it seems like a must for tea sandwiches, doesn't it?) 


My friend Jennifer brought boxes of macarons, bless her heart. I'm telling you, it could not get any better. These people are so nice to me!


The Russian tea cakes and the scones were both so easy to make, but the scones were much more popular. In fact, I think the scone recipe may be my new favorite. They're the kind that will make you look forward to breakfast in the morning — if you have any left, which we did, because we were apparently planning to feed an army and made twice as much food as we needed, but more food is always better than not enough, right?


Devonshire cream (from World Market) and lemon curd (from Trader Joe's) were served with the scones.


And finally, we ate a decadent banana cake with cream cheese frosting homemade with love and sprinkles. (Thanks, Denise!) I'll be sure to make and share this recipe ASAP because it tastes just like my favorite banana cake from Icing on the Cake. (Amazing!!)

Egg Salad
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Serves 4

8 whole Hard Boiled Eggs, Peeled
4 Tablespoons Mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
3 teaspoons Red Wine Vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Salt
Black Pepper To Taste
1 teaspoon Chives Chopped
1/4 Shallot, Minced

Preparation Instructions
Combine all ingredients except for chopped chives in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times, scraping the bowl once or twice if necessary. Continue pulsing until salad reaches the consistency you want.

Remove blade from bowl and stir in chives and shallots. Check seasoning and adjust as necessary.
Serve on a sandwich (spread bread with a mix of Dijon and mayonnaise).


Caprese Sandwich
Serves 4

2 tomatos, sliced
1 cup spinach
1 cup basil
2 fresh mozzarella balls, sliced
2 tablespoons pesto
8 slices of bread

Preparation Instructions
Spread slices of bread with pesto. Layer mozzarella slices, tomato slices, spinach and basil in each sandwich. 


Dreamy Cream Scones
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, preferably a low-protein brand such as Gold Medal or Pillsbury
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 cup currants (optional, I skipped these since I like plain scones with my tea and cream and lemon curd)
1 cup heavy cream

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425°F.

2. Place flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in large bowl or work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade. Whisk together or pulse six times.

3. If making by hand, use two knives, a pastry blender or your fingertips and quickly cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few slightly larger butter lumps. Stir in currants. If using food processor, remove cover and distribute butter evenly over dry ingredients. Cover and pulse 12 times, each pulse lasting 1 second. Add currants and pulse one more time. Transfer dough to large bowl.

4. Stir in heavy cream with a rubber spatula or fork until dough begins to form, about 30 seconds.

5. Transfer dough and all dry, floury bits to countertop and knead dough by hand just until it comes together into a rough, sticky ball, 5 to 10 seconds. Form scones by either a) pressing the dough into an 8-inch cake pan, then turning the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, cutting the dough into 8 wedges with either a knife or bench scraper (the book’s suggestion) or b) patting the dough onto a lightly floured work surface into a 3/4-inch thick circle, cutting pieces with a biscuit cutter, and pressing remaining scraps back into another piece (what I did) and cutting until dough has been used up. (Be warned if you use this latter method, the scones that are made from the remaining scraps will be much lumpier and less pretty, but taste fine. As in, I understand why they suggested the first method.)

6. Place rounds or wedges on ungreased baking sheet and bake until scone tops are light brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Party, Party



My friends, this weekend, I had my most favorite birthday party of all the birthday parties I've ever had. The dot/streamer ceiling installation I'd been working on for the past few weeks finally came together, and it was so nice to enjoy it with friends. I'm excited to share what we snacked on and what the party details were, but I'm so tired from two intense party-prep days, so I'll be back on Tuesday with all the deets!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Floppy Hats

New York Fashion Week Spring 2012 is officially upon us, and even though I'm all the way over on the opposite coast, I'm having so much fun keeping up with it all via Twitter (Dani Stahl is a recent fun one I follow). Can you imagine how exciting it must be going to all those shows? I would absolutely love to get invited one day (note to self: add that to list of things to do), but I know I'd be so nervous. As much as I love fashion and style, I kinda put fashion editors and fashion-makers on the same level as celebrities, so being in a room full of them would be intimidating. But who knows? Maybe they are the most down-to-earth bunch who tell the best jokes. I'll be sure to let everyone know just as soon as I get that invite... Well, now that that's decided, what to wear? I love these crazy floppy hats that somehow end up looking super chic. (I'm not sure if I could pull one off, but hey! This is future me we're talking about--we'll let her worry about that!) This one looks pretty perfect for fall, sitting front row at fashion week or not.



(From top to bottom, images via The Sartorialist, The Glitter Guide, The Glitter Guide by Kristy Ahumada)
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