Mother’s Day Table Settings

I absolutely love hosting people for dinner parties. Setting the table is something I always consider and enjoy immensely. I have set some elaborate tables for Thanksgiving, but my everyday parties are a little more simple. There is something about setting a table well that makes it feel more like a celebration and I think your guests will appreciate your effort. Simple dinner parties may have fresh flowers and candles with fabric napkins (we use fabric napkins all the time) and a more elaborate meal might have some additional flare. I thought it would be fun to share some inspiration for Mother’s Day Table decorations. I wish I were closer to my mom or mom in law and I’d have them for a lovely meal. Remember, you can set your table the night before or morning of so it’s one less thing to think about while preparing the food.

Source: Stylemepretty.com
Photography: Tinywater Photography
Event Coordination: Very Merry Events
Floral Design: Atelier Joya

Just look at that flower runner! Bunches of flowers in low vases would create the same effect.

Source: Stylemepretty.com
Photography: Tinywater Photography
Event Coordination: Very Merry Events
Floral Design: Atelier Joya

Gold Flare is sometimes appropriate

Source: annesage.com Credits:
Photographer: Anna Costa
Rentals: Town & Country Event Rentals, Santa Barbara,
Produced by: Kelly Oshiro for Santa Barbara Chic, Flowers & Decor: Kelly Oshiro Design,
Wholesale Flowers: Florabundance.

Since persimmons are not in season, you could use oranges with foliage attached, or kumquats with bright sprigs of sea berry in a wood bowl.

Source: Stylemepretty.com
Photography: Gia Canali
Event Design and Production: Yifat Oren & Associates
Florals: The Velvet Garden

Peonies are in season and are modestly priced. They are so large that one bunch will make multiple arrangements.

ranunculus2

Ranunculus (also in season) are great in little clusters. Add some texture with galvanized buckets, wire baskets and burlap.

stgermainlarosette_0007

Photography: White Loft Studio
Design and Styling: Style Me Pretty
Cocktail Recipe: St-Germain

Cocktails to match? Love these glasses.

You might be surprised what you can find at your local thrift store or flea market. These are dangerous places for me since I am attracted to “old stuff” for no reason at all. I hope you all are able to share some time with your Moms or adopted moms and grandmas this Mother’s Day!

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the ice cream diet

Michael is genuis. Last night he came up with the best “diet” plan I’ve ever come across and you get to eat ice cream. So, what’s the catch? The catch is you have to work for your dessert! He decided it would be really fun to map out our house (the brown dot below) and some of our favorite ice cream shops in San Francisco. He assumed that one scoop of ice cream  = 180 calories and calculated how many scoops you can get per round trip biking, or walking. We’ve actually walked to Swensen’s Ice Cream before because it was one of our favorite places to treat ourselves when we were in Russian Hill. How I adore Swiss Orange Chip! We’ve biked across the city for meatballs at Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack but never for ice cream. If you read my last post, you may have seen my declaration of love for ice cream too. Now that we have this handy little map, our ice cream excursions will be a little less of a guilty pleasure and lot more rewarding. I kind of love his seemingly pointless graphic fun, thanks love!

Home to Ice Cream Map

Do you reward yourself for dieting? What motivates you?

Hand Made Tortillas

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We recently took a family trip to Belize. Family trips don’t happen often, especially when the children are late twenties early thirties. It was a fantastic trip and we were able to do some amazing things. We went deep sea fishing, snorkeled, kayaked, and lounged. Lounging is a necessity in beachy places. We stayed off the coast of Belize on a tiny island, Ambergris Caye, in a house a short boat ride north of San Pedro. I read three books, and made it into the ocean without panicking too much. I don’t like being near fish, but I really enjoy watching them. So I have this huge dilemma of wanting to snorkel but being slightly terrified at the same time. Yep you see those fish and nurse sharks. You’d be terrified too….

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On land, we made dinner with the fish we caught, and were lucky enough to have a house keeper who offered to make us tortillas a few times. They were amazing and we gobbled them up. After we showered her with compliments, she said she could teach us how to make them. While half the family was fishing, the other half stayed for a tortilla lesson. Marena said that she learned to make these from her family (not in Belize) and that they make more corn tortillas than flour in her home town. She preferred to make the flour version because they are a bit easier and her little son loves them.

I documented the process step by step so I had a better chance of recreating them again, and I thought it would be a great post to share with you. Here we go!

Measure 4 C flour into a large bowl. Add 1/2 spoon of baking powder (using a normal spoon here), 1/2 spoon of salt (optional), and a handfull of shortening (about 1/2 C).

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Using your hand mix the dough together much like you would a pie dough (but it’s much softer due to the amount of  shortening).

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Knead the dough for five minutes until it is thoroughly mixed and soft (don’t add flour during this step)

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Once you’re done kneading, give the dough a little pat and let it rest for another five minutes.

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After the dough has rested (it’s already had a hard life in only 10 minutes) divide it evenly into about 16-17 pieces.

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They should fit nicely into your palm like this.

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Once you’ve divided them all, let the dough rest again for another five minutes. At this time, heat a large flat griddle pan on your stove on high heat.

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Now it’s time to flatten them into tortillas. They should be very soft and elastic. Grease a flat surface with canola oil. It can be your countertop or a cutting board. Flatten a dough ball and begin pressing it into a circle using your fingertips. Move your hand in concentric circles to try and keep it round (harder than your think).

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Marena’s perfect tortilla

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See, we tried to make ours as round as Marena’s but failed.

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Then place top side down onto the hot griddle. Marena has a beautifully seasoned cast iron griddle but I’m guessing your pancake griddle will work just as well. It’s important that you place it quickly on the grill so it doesn’t deform on the way over. Work closely to your stove. Once it starts to bubble, flip it over by sliding it towards the edge of the pan so you can grab it and flip it quick. Why? because it is hot and burns your fingers. Cook on this side until it starts to brown just slightly on the bubble areas and flip one more time. This whole process takes about a minute or so. If it takes longer, increase your heat.

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Repeat and keep them in a tortilla warmer until ready to eat.

While you’re waiting for dinner have your captain-fishing guide-snorkeling expert make you fresh ceviche on the dock with a snapper your family just caught. Yum! Then indulge in your tortillas and cooked fish.

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I thought the tortillas would be a lot more difficult, and thankfully they are not. It means when I make them on my own I’ll hopefully succeed. There are countless uses for a tortilla. We fried fish for fish tacos, and ate them with eggs for breakfast. You could also do shrimp tacos if your backyard is not an ocean. However you eat them, I suggest eating them in moderation since they are full of fat… and you’re working on your bikini body. Or you could always just make a bunch for your friends so they get fatter and you look better in comparison!

Thanks family for a fantastic vacation! Michael and I are ready to plan our next adventure….

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If you want to see more gorgeous photos from our trip, feel free to peruse Michael’s Flickr site. I promise you’ll want to go there for your next vacation!

Feed the Birds

Last year I obsessed about getting a humming bird feeder. It happened after a strange encounter in my garden with a little green hummingbird. I was watering my plants with a big hose and the tiny bird (we’ll call him Ruby since I believe he was a Ruby-Throated hummingbird) flew under the hose and stared at the water for a while. Ruby was literally hovering about five inches below my hand. I didn’t know what to do so I just kept the hose where it was. He eventually flew up and stared at me eye to eye. He stayed there for another 20 seconds and then promptly flew away. I felt a little like Cinderella (she had bird friends) and then I decided he was trying to deliver a message “I need some nectar and these plants aren’t working for me!”

So I bought a cute little feeder and have been mother to a variety of hummingbirds since. I did my research and found that the red hummingbird food they sell everywhere is not good for their digestive tracts; no one likes red dye #40. The Lovely Lady Baker would have it no other way than to make some food from scratch each week. It’s incredibly simple and I know I’m not going to kill any birds. Now, if I could just get rid of those pigeons…

Hummingbird Nectar
1 part sugar to 4 parts water

I started making 1/2 C sugar and 2 C water so that I could store it in my fridge and not have to make it as frequently.

Pour sugar and water into a heavy bottom small saucepan. Turn the heat on medium-high. If you have a gas stove, a good rule of thumb is to turn the fire up enough so that the flames are as wide as the pot but don’t go up the sides. Bring to a light boil and continue to boil for 2 minutes. Cool and store in an airtight container in the fridge for one week. Replace as needed.

Dreamy Coconut Cake

With all this Thanksgiving ;hubbub, I had to switch things up a bit and post something non-holiday. I love coconut. I love cake. Coconut Cake is simply ;irresistible ;and something you should try once you exit your soon-to-be-food-coma-for-a-month…. Yes, we won’t stop eating for a month so get ready.

This may be one of the prettiest cakes I make. I have used sweetened shredded coconut and unsweetened flakes before, and I actually like the flakes much more. Less sugar, more flavor. I think the big flakes make it more dreamy than the tiny shreds. I like to sandwich the layers with lemon curd. It creates a nice tart balance to the sweet cake and cream cheese frosting.

Coconut Cake
2C cake flour
1 1/2 C all purpose flour
1T baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 C butter
1 1/2 C sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp coconut extract (I like Flavorganics brand)
1 14oz can coconut milk, full fat not low-fat

Lemon curd (store bought or home made)
3-4 C flaked coconut

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Spray two 9″ pans or grease with butter and add parchment rounds to the bottom. Grease the parchment and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar together. Add in the eggs and whip until light and fluffy. Add in vanilla and coconut and combine. Whisk the remaining ingredients. Shake up the coconut milk to combine the water and cream together. Add 1/3 of the flour mix and combine until almost all of the flour is moistened. Add 1/2 the coconut milk and repeat, ending with the flour. Spread evenly between two pans and bake for 25-30 minutes. When the cake is done it will spring back lightly when you press in the center and a cake tester will come out clean.

Cool for 5 minutes and remove from pans to cool on a wire rack completely.

For the Frosting…
Cream Cheese Frosting
16 oz cream cheese room temperature
1/2 C butter room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
2 C powdered sugar

Cream the butter and cream cheese in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add in vanilla. Add powdered sugar a little at a time on low speed. Once all the sugar is in, scrape the sides of the bowl and raise the speed to ;medium-high and beat another 5-10 minutes or until bright white and fluffy. If it seems to soft to frost, cool in the fridge for 15 minutes.

To assemble the cake…
Cut domes off the top of the cakes and cut each in half to make 4 layers. Pipe a 1/2 inch border around the edge of the cake with the frosting. Spread 1/3 C lemon curd on the bottom layer and place another cake on top. Continue to the top layer but refrain from adding the lemon curd to the top. Frost the entire cake and press flaked coconut into the sides and top until well covered. Chill to set, remove from the fridge at least 1 hour before serving.

Grocery Shopping

Grocery shopping is one of those tasks you either love or dread. If you have no idea what you need, you might dread walking up and down every aisle, but if you are prepared and have a game plan grocery shopping can be great. 


One of my favorite grocery stores in San Francisco is Rainbow Grocery Coop. While only supporting the vegetarian needs of the community (they don’t sell meat) they have managed to make organic produce and bulk items affordable. They have everything from bulk herbs and spices, to grains, chocolate, peanut butter, honey, and every specialty oil imaginable. It is definitely a fun and cheaper way to try out new products (like the the dried refried bean mix I bought). Purchasing in bulk I also find fulfilling. Less waste from plastic and cardboard packaging, and you get to store everything in pretty jars when you get home. 


So how do you shop? I usually never go without a list or I end up buying things I don’t need but can’t remember if I have. Knowing what you need is essential in sticking to a budget and not over-buying. It will also help keep you from purchasing snacks and other products on SALE that supermarkets intentionally place in your path to get you to buy! 



I keep a magnetic notepad on the fridge and write daily the items we run out of or items I need for a specific meal. You could also try these spectacular notepads from Knock Knock with all the basics. Knowing what you need is step one. Then you just need to remember to bring your list and re-usable bags to the store with you! 


The best way to circulate a grocery store is first to shop the perimeter, then move in to the aisles. On the perimeter, you will find Produce, Dairy, and Meat. If you fill up your basket with fresh and healthy products first, you will have less room for cheetos and chips later. I also like to limit which aisles I shop. I steer clear of the snack aisle and stay near the canned beans, rice, and tomatoes. I actually find the aisles in the middle of the store overwhelming, so having a list helps me navigate to the items I know I need rather than staring at a shelf full of salad dressing trying to find best possible deal. 


On my last outing to Rainbow, I may have bought slightly more veggies than we need, but we are trying to eat less meat. For all of the items you see in the first picture (minus the eggs and yogurt because I forgot to set them out), I only spent $100. This is more than enough to last M and I two to three weeks. I have our staple items like fruit, rice, beans, lettuce and potatoes, but I also bought some fun items as well. At Whole Foods or Safeway for the same organic ingredients, I would have spent at least 20% more. 


If you don’t know how to stock your kitchen, Real Simple has a great checklist for you. Listing ingredients by Pantry, Refrigerator and Freezer. Happy Grocery Shopping Everyone! 

do you know Sweet Paul?

I just learned about Sweet Paul today via the lovely Decor8 blog. If you haven’t hear of Sweet Paul before, you should definitely take a minute to check it out. They just released their Spring 2011 Magazine which is full of kid friendly crafts and foods. Here is what they have to say about their magazine:


Sweet Paul magazine is based on Paul Lowe’s wildly successful blog Sweet Paul, which ranked 22nd in the London Time’s Top 50 Best Design Blogs. With over 100,000 hits a month Sweet Paul has become a regular read for editors, stylists and foodies all over the world. Paul’s motto is “chasing the sweet things in life” and the magazine sure lives up to that. It will be filled with easy and elegant recipes, fun and stylish crafts, entertaining ideas, shopping tips, up and coming crafters and so much more.” 

 One of my favorites – Hand Talking Tattoos from Hand Talking Hands A+R 



Why do I love it? It’s a web based publication (although you can order a printed copy if you desire) which you can download, or “clip” pages from. It is full of beautiful, elegant photography and simple and inspiring recipes. I’ve added a few of the Spring pages here but you should check out the 128 page issue! Also, be sure to read the back issues beginning in Spring 2010 and the blog! 


p.s. I’d like the dog on the blog cover… please feel free to hand deliver a puppy at any time! 



The Gravy Stops Here

I’ve mentioned before I have a mild affection towards biscuits. When I made biscuits a while ago, I tried to figure out why. Maybe you have lovely images of your grandma in the kitchen on a Saturday morning rolling and cutting biscuits, flour dusting her floral apron… My image is slightly different, possibly even frightening.

We used to eat Biscuits and Gravy fairly frequently growing up. I know, this meal is extremely terrible for you, but it’s what we did. You could call it a tradition. (My grandpa also used to feed us popcorn and milk which I’ll try to explain another time). We didn’t have home made biscuits, and if we did, we didn’t have them often enough for me to remember. We had biscuits in those scary peel and pop cans. They scared you too. Don’t deny it. Just the thought of peeling back one of those corners made my blood pressure rise. I was actually thankful those times the “pop” didn’t happen and you had to smack the can on the corner of the countertop to open it. 

I can’t remember the last time I had biscuits and gravy. I can’t bring myself to eat them anymore because all I can think about is the gravy slowly clogging my arteries. For now, I’ll take my biscuits with Honey or Apple Butter. yum.



I’m going to try and be that grandma someday….

Happy Valentines Day

I wanted to wish you all a Happy Valentines Day. It’s nice to have a day to celebrate those we love, whether they are family or friend. I hope you were able to make or enjoy a fantastic meal or dessert tonight. It’s not every day you are given the opportunity to ingest loads of chocolate (so take advantage… there is still time left!).