Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Rainbow of Cupcakes

Here's a photo from last weekend of the KaraVan cupcake display window at the San Francisco Pride festival. The theme this year was "In Pride We Trust" and it is by happy coincidence that the reflection of the flag got in the shot.

This will be the last post of the week because I'm spending the rest of it getting ready for my friend Cate's Alice-in-Wonderland-themed wedding! I'm looking forward to lending my crafting hands to some of the prep. I'll be back next week with regular postings. For those of you living here in the States, Happy Independence Day.

| Photo Credit: Me. |

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Recipe: Nutella Cookie Sandwiches

I'm not into really sweet things most of the time but every once in awhile, I get a craving specifically for Nutella. This recipe was spawned from one such craving.

I used this shortbread cookie recipe as a loose guide. I tend to avoid cookie recipes that require the dough to chill for a period of time, as is the case with most shortbreads; instead this recipe is super fast and only requires a few simple ingredients. The shortbread cookies turn out slightly sweet, a little crunchy, and a little chewy, and they allow the Nutella filling to take the lead with flavor.

1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour
Nutella, for the filling

Allow your butter to soften at room temperature. (Do not melt in the microwave as this will change the consistency of the cookies.) Preheat your oven to 350° Fahrenheit.

Cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Mix in the vanilla extract. Then, gradually add in the flour until the dough comes together.

Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and place them about 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Using the palm of your hand, press each ball down until it is flattened to a little less than half of its original height. Bake the cookies for 15 minutes, or until the edges start turn a light golden brown.

Remove the cookies and allow them to cool. Overturn one cookie and spread the desired amount of Nutella on the flat side. Place another cookie flat-side-down on the Nutella filling. Repeat with the remaining cookies.

Makes 9–12 cookie sandwiches.

| Photo Credit: Me. |

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Peanuts on Parade

Since Charles Schulz spent a great deal of his life in Santa Rosa, there are tributes to him and the Peanuts cast all over the city. "Peanuts on Parade" is an art installation that raised money for art scholarships; each Peanuts character was designed by a local artist. While I was there earlier this month, I tried to photograph as many of the Peanuts on Parade statues as I could find. I later learned that there is this very handy map which tells you where all the statues are located but I think that it was a lot more fun just to drive around hunting for them.

I think this type of scavenger hunt would be a fun activity to do when traveling with kids. Here in San Francisco, we have something similar with the "Hearts in San Francisco" installation; there are large heart sculptures all over the city as part of fundraising for the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation. In 2010 there was the "Elephant Parade" in London to benefit Asian elephant conservation and in 2008 there were "King Bladud's Pigs" in Bath to raise money for city improvements. What other cities have a version of this type of art installation? Do you have something similar in your city?

| Photo Credit: Me. |

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer Picks From Zara for Less than $40

I bought this skirt from Zara last weekend. I don't usually wear things with floral patterns but I thought the flowers were small and abstract enough and I really liked the combination of orange and yellow over a soft cyan. The store is currently filled with great pieces for the summer—lots of bold-yet-bright colors and light fabrics. It's really too bad that Zara doesn't have an online store for those of us who are Stateside because I'd probably have a lot more Zara items in my closet if they did.

Zara is a label that has always baffled me because some of their stuff is very reasonably priced while other items will give me mild sticker shock. I wouldn't expect a thin, polyester-rayon T-shirt to be $60 but I'd expect to pay more than $40 for a well-constructed, 100% cotton, pleated skirt. I know they have the more casual, youth-oriented Trafaluc line that is priced lower overall but their main collection also has plenty of dressy items that are half the price of similar items at, say, J.Crew. These are some of my favorite summery items from their site, and they're each less than $40.

| left. V-neck Dress With Belt | top-right. Full Skirt | bottom-right. Sequinned Skirt |

| Photo Credit: top. Me; bottom. See links provided. |

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Recipe: Chicken Nuggets for Grown-Ups

Just because chicken nuggets are marketed to children with poor taste does not mean that they are not actually a delightful food, if prepared correctly. They have real potential to be bite-sized packets of flavor and work well both as a main meat dish or a hand-held appetizer for a party. I serve my chicken nuggets with some sweet potato fries, a frisée salad, and a variety of dipping sauces for a casual, fun dinner.

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 heaping teaspoon ground sumac
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
3–4 tablespoons flour
vegetable oil
chives (for garnish)

Cut your chicken into the desired nugget-sized pieces. In a medium bowl, combine the chicken pieces with the soy sauce, sumac, and Herbes de Provence. Toss everything together and let it marinade for at least 30 minutes.

To make the batter, whisk together your eggs, milk, white pepper, and a pinch of salt. Whisk in 3 tablespoons of flour. If you prefer your batter to be thin and airy, you can probably stop here. I prefer my batter to be a bit more on the soft but thick side, so I would whisk in an additional tablespoon of flour.

Since I don't have a deep fryer, I cook my chicken nuggets in a sturdy 9-inch skillet. Preheat your oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Fill the skillet 1/2-inch deep with cooking oil and allow the oil to heat up. Work in small batches of 6 to 8 nuggets; coat the chicken pieces with the batter and gently place them into the oil. When they turn golden brown on one side, gently turn each nugget over and fry until they are golden brown on the other side. Place the nuggets on a brown paper bag or paper towels to allow the oil to drain off.

When all the nuggets have been fried, transfer them to an oven-safe dish and place them in the oven to finish cooking (about 10 minutes). Look for small bubbles of oil sizzling on the surface of the nuggets or cut one open as a tester. Transfer them to your serving dish, finely chop some chives, and sprinkle the chives over the nuggets as a garnish. Serve with spicy ketchup if desired.

Makes 2 dinner servings.

| Spicy Ketchup | In a small dish, add a dollop of ketchup and as much Sriracha sauce as you dare to use. Mix thoroughly.

| Photo Credit: Me. |

Monday, June 20, 2011

Little Gingko Leaves

I took this photo of a gingko tree in Golden Gate Park. I think it is neat to find old trees with new baby shoots growing out of them. I really like the shape of the gingko leaf; it's less woody and more delicate looking than most other iconic leaf shapes. It kind of looks like a paper fan but less perfect.

Here are some cute gingko-inspired everyday objects. My favorite are the gingko-leaf-shaped post-it notes, which are almost too cute to write on.

| 1. Tasha McKelvey, Little White Bird with Ginkgo Leaves on a White Bowl | 2. APPREE, Gingko Leaf-It | 3. Sumiko Braithwaite, Stoneware Chopstick Rests | 4. Red Bird Ink, Ginkgo Coasters |

| Photo Credit: top. Me; 1–4. See links provided. |

Friday, June 17, 2011

My Childhood Stamp Collection

I visited my parents' house last month and while I was there, I rediscovered my stamp collection that I saved from when I was a little kid. I explained to Nick that instead of just cutting the stamps out from envelopes, I soaked them in water to dissolve away the adhesive so I could peel off the envelope backing and get just the stamp by itself; then I'd let the stamp dry flat before putting it in my special album for displaying stamps. He thought that was pretty hardcore.

I know my stamp collection doesn't have any actual value from a stamp collecting perspective because none of the stamps are in original pristine condition. They've all been used and have all been marked by the postal services in the mailing process. But as a kid, I didn't care so much about the value of the collection as the idea that these stamps represented places all over the world and journeyed to me from countries that I might never visit in my lifetime. I think the stamps look pretty together even though they've been marked.

What do kids collect nowadays? Are sticker and stamp collections too old school for newer generations?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Rice Pudding in a Loving Cup

There are cupcake shops and ice cream shops and yogurt shops all over this city. And then there is Loving Cup. Loving Cup is a rice pudding shop. They have their own unique way of serving yogurt too, but when I saw rice pudding on the sign, I knew I had to go.

Their rice pudding is the English style; it's soft, gooey, creamy, and substley sweet. If you, like me, like deserts that are mild and not too sugary, then this is for you. I've tried their Madagascar vanilla base and the one that had tiny bits of English toffee stirred in and they were both amazing. They also have flavors like coconut, rum raisin, Nutella, and chai spice.

If you prefer your desserts on the less-gooey and more frozen side of things, Loving Cup serves up their frozen yogurt in a way that's totally different from your trendy yogurt joint. You choose a vanilla or chocolate base and toppings from their extensive list, and they put everything in a special machine that blends it all together. They pass it through the machine twice to make sure everything is thoroughly blended and what you get is a frozen yogurt treat that has been custom-churned just for you. I recommend getting cookie dough, Oreos, and animal crackers for the ultimate cookies-and-cream experience.

Despite the totally unique and modern concepts that the shop serves up, Loving Cup has a cool retro feel to it with their vintage-soda-fountain-style yogurt menu and the jars and jars of different toppings lining the counters. The staff are super friendly, everything is compostable, and the portions are generous. I've already been there twice in the last three weekends even though it's on the other side of town so yeah, I really like it there.

Loving Cup is located at 2356 Polk Street, San Francisco, California 94129.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Copper Rust and the Color of the Sea

I took this photo while I was walking along the waterfront behind the Ferry Building—something that never gets old. These copper plaques are on pillars that help make up the guardrails that overlook the water. I like the way the coppery color of the rust has bled into the turquoise paint of the pillar and the rusted parts of the copper plaque have turned a sort of turquoisey color. It's like time and weather have unified the two.

I've been seeing a lot of turquoise around lately and I like the idea of pairing it with copper and other metallics. I think this color combination makes people think of the sea even though it might not really be these colors. Here are some ways to bring thoughts of the sea to your life.

| 1. 2 Dogs Wood Working, Barn Wood Chunky Wide Picture Frame | 2. RJ Graziano, Bead and Crystal Stretch Bracelets | 3. Flora Forever Doorknob | 4. Marc by Marc Jacobs, Natasha Cross-Body Bag |

| Photo Credit: top. Me; 1–4. See links provided. |

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

3 Russian River Valley Wineries to Visit

A couple weekends ago, Nick and I went up to Sonoma County to celebrate our one-year anniversary. If you're looking to do something a little different in the wine country instead of the wine train or the big-named tasting rooms along the main highway road that goes through Napa, I'd definitely recommend hopping among small wineries farther west. We even had to cross this rusty one-lane bridge—something I thought only existed in movies.

We'd set out to visit Hawley Winery because we loved the 2008 Viognier we'd served at our wedding and we'd visited their tasting room in downtown Healdsburg during our honeymoon. This is a photo of some of the crazy signage we encountered while weaving our way through the smaller wineries tucked in Russian River Valley. At that point I felt less like I was in the wine country and more like I was in Tulgey Wood.

(I'm going to disclose right now that I am in no way an expert of wine. I simply know enough about what I enjoy in wine to articulate what I like and don't like about the wines I taste. I look for whites that are crisp without being too tart, smooth while still having structure, and not super dry. I don't like reds as much but will be drawn to ones that are not too tannin-y and have a creamier finish. My advice to regular people when buying wines is to ask yourself whether it tastes good, or you think it would taste good if you knew more about wine. Don't buy wine that doesn't actually taste like something you'd enjoy drinking.)

Hawley Winery I think at this point I've tasted enough of what they've put out in the past three years to say that this is my favorite winery. It's run by a father and his two sons, one of whom conducted our tasting. We were the only ones there, so he even gave us a sneak peak of their next batch of Pinot from the barrel. It was really cool to know that the relatively small, barn-like building full of barrels was literally the entire stock if their next release. What we bought there: 2009 Zinfandel, 2010 Viognier, 2010 Sauvignon Blanc.

Nalle Winery Austin Hawley recommended that we go here next if we were interested in another father-son production. Apparently Dad Hawley and Dad Nalle went to school together before settling in Russian River Valley to make wine. This one had quite a few more visitors, but we were still welcomed by Andrew Nalle for a laid-back tasting. What we bought there: 2008 Chardonnay, 2009 Pinot Noir.

Porter Creek Vineyards While at Nalle, we met a lovely couple who coincidentally live in the same zip code as we do, and they recommended Porter Creek. Porter Creek has a cute little shack that they use for a tasting room and lots of big, pretty roses. There was a friendly and inclusive vibe even when the room got a little crowded. What we bought there: 2008 Zinfandel, 2009 Chardonnay.

Here are more photos from our rainy trip.

| Photo Credit: Me. |

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cheap Skinny Belts

Lately I have been obsessing over skinny belts. It started with this one from Anthropologie that I have in green and wore practically every day for the first two weeks after I bought it. Skinny belts are great for cinching boxy dresses and wearing over long cardigans. I also think they are easier to work into an outfit than those extra-wide belts.

I recently bought these three skinny belts from H&M. H&M is usually hit-or-miss for me but I've been digging a lot of the stuff they've put out in the last few months. One of the great things about these belts is that the cost of all three of them combined was less than the cost of the one belt from Anthropologie. Yes, I do notice a difference in the quality (the ones on the left and right have a particularly plastic-y feel to them) but when you are just looking to update your collection of fun everyday accessories, I don't think that necessarily matters.

What accessories do you look for in quantity over quality?

| Photo Credit: Me. |

Friday, June 10, 2011

How to Style a Modern SF Eatery

I've been checking out the popular and newish foodie spots in San Francisco for some time now and I've noticed some major trends in visual presentation at many of these places. It seems that in addition to the big food trends right now of produce-forward, fresh, and simple, there is a certain decorative style that goes along with the modern menu.

I'm not saying by grouping these places together that they are unoriginal. In fact, I rather love these simple interiors with their elegant dark woods and grays and their surprising pops of chartreuse. And walking into an eatery styled in a way that so suits my personal tastes right away puts me in the mood to enjoy my dining experience. This understated look allows the food to represent the restaurant, not distracting artwork or table linens.

Here's a breakdown of the key elements of styling a modern SF eatery.
  • plain white or soft gray walls with zero to two key art pieces
  • tables that have been made from reclaimed wood
  • mixing dark wood stains with gray-colored metals
  • simple pendant lamps with Edison-style bulbs
  • one major pop of an accent color, usually chartreuse
  • serving things in canning jars
  • handwritten menu items on chalkboards
  • gunmetal gray stools
  • plush white cloth napkins with a red stripe detail for a homey touch
  • open kitchens, so everyone can see the love being put into the food

| Photo Credit: (Clockwise from Top Left.) Photo of Plow by Peter Belanger; Blazon Gleam Pendant from Anthropologie; Photo of canning jars by Craig Lee; Photo of Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous menu from their Facebook page. |

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Recipe: Cookie Dough Truffles

On our one-year anniversary, Nick and I picked up a large pizza from Goat Hill Pizza and I made these cookie dough truffles. (Not setting ourselves up for longevity, eh?) Cookie dough truffles are like classic ganache truffles except instead of ganache rolled in cocoa powder, I rolled balls of raw cookie dough in it. Since you're not baking the dough, you can use your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe and just leave out the leaveners like eggs, baking soda, and baking powder. You'll need to use a little more butter and vanilla extract to make up for the loss of moisture from the eggs but there's no need to worry about measuring precisely since you're not baking.

3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/8 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tiny pinch of salt
3/8 cup flour
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
1/8 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Bring the butter up to room temperature or pop it in the microwave until just a little bit of it starts to liquefy. (Do not melt it all the way to a liquid state.) Cream together the butter, brown sugar, regular sugar, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla. Add the flour a little bit at a time until the dough holds itself together; you may need a little more than 3/8 cup depending on the texture of your butter. Add the mini chocolate chips and stir to combine.

Scatter the cocoa powder on a small plate. Using a 1-inch cookie drop/ice cream scooper or a small spoon, drop a 1-inch ball of dough onto the cocoa powder and roll it gently until lightly coated. Tap off the excess cocoa powder and repeat with the remainder of the dough. Refrigerate until it is time for serving.

Makes 10 truffles.

| Photo Credit: Me. |

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Instamatic Hipstagraming For Your BlackBerry

For the most part I am pretty content with my BlackBerry. I like the way the size and shape are very comfortable for my child hands and I still really love having a physical keyboard over just a touchscreen. But I get serious iPhone envy when it comes to apps like Hipstamatic and Instagram which instantly add filters to your camera phone photos to give them a vintage, lomo-y, or artsy look. It's not that I am looking to become a hipster but moreso that apps like these are just plain practical when it comes to making an otherwise poor-looking photo from my not-so-great camera phone look a little more aesthetically interesting.

I finally discovered a similar app that does this for BlackBerry. The app is called PixTrix and it is free, with the usual banner ads running at the top. You don't use the app to take the actual photos but rather snap a photo first, and then open it up in PixTrix to apply a filter to it. Like most BlackBerry apps I've experienced, it is a little slow, but for on-the-go photo editing I think it's the best option for BlackBerry users right now. There aren't nearly as many filter options as there are on the iPhone alternatives and some of the filters seem completely useless to me, like "Fake 3D" and "Double Exposure", but there are a few decent ones I've had fun using to get that retro camera look.

Now that I've discovered PixTrix, I've been trying to actually use Twitter for its original purpose of microblogging. Sometimes I see something particularly nifty at the grocery store or I've assembled myself a nice-looking lunch—not really worth a whole blog post but still something fun to share. You can check out my mobile photos and mini-posts right here on my Twitter page.

| Photo Credit: Me, on my BlackBerry. |

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Glittery Gold Slingbacks—Can you tell the $245 difference?

I love the Kate Spade look and have amassed a decent collection of Kate Spade accessories by always keeping an eye out for some of their really good sales. But when it comes to shoes, it's hard for me to justify splurging when I know that no matter how pricey, they're still going to get scuffed up against the ground from my awkward, flat-footed gait. Which is why I think these sparkly slingbacks by J. Reneé are a good find for getting the glittery Kate Spade Charm look for less.

I haven't seen the more affordable version in person but I'm guessing that since they are being sold by Nordstrom, you're not missing out on a posh shopping experience in any way by going with them. These shoes have the same bow styles, are both open-toed slingbacks, and are both covered in glittery gold goodness. The ones from Nordstrom even have a kitten heel which, albeit a little less sexy-looking, are probably going to be a lot more comfortable at the end of the night. What do you think? Is the difference of the heel worth the difference on the price tag?

| Photo Credit: See links provided. |

Monday, June 6, 2011

Today's Flavor: Fish Are Friends

My sweet friend Taleen got me these fish earrings for my birthday last year and they are amazing. They were handcrafted from washi paper and then lacquered to be more durable. Most people know of washi paper from the super-popular washi tape that can be used for all sorts of great crafting projects, but the Japanese word "washi" actually applies to many paper products made from plant fibers. I love how, because the fish were cut randomly from a patterned paper, I know my pair is slightly different from any other pair out there.

In general, I love fish-themed things. My very first pets were fish, so maybe that's a part of it. Here are some other adorable fish-themed things.

| 1. Yamazaki, Gone Fishin' Flatware | 2. Kate Spade, Enchantment Under the Sea Coin Purse | 3. Jean-Michel Cazabat, Romy Fish Skin Pumps | 4. Monet, Fish Stud Earrings | 5. Ototo, Sardine Paper Clips | 6. David Mayhew, Magnetic Wooden Tongs | 7. Cara Accessories, Blowfish Crystal Stretch Ring |

| Photo Credit: top. Me; 1–7. See links provided. |

Friday, June 3, 2011

Weekender Bags That Don't Look Like Granny Bags

After my post on swanky weekender bags for men, I got a couple requests to do a roundup of my picks for weekender bags that are a little more feminine. I personally favor luggage that is unisex or a little more on the "masculine" side, but I'm also a bit too monochrome-obsessed sometimes, so I thought this was a good suggestion for ladies who know how to work color into their lives. Here are my favs from around the web.

| 1. Dooney & Bourke, Ostrich Medium Duffle | 2. Dooney & Bourke, Calf Medium Duffle | 3. Floto, Lugano Sport Duffle | 4. ASOS, Ticking Stripe Holdall | 5. DwellStudio, Dots Chocolate Weekender | 6. Orla Kiely, Large Car Large Tote |

Despite the reader-requests, I didn't truly realize the extent to which finding ladies' overnight bags that looked hip rather than hid was a chronic problem until I started looking at what is out there. I think with men's accessories, it is fairly safe to stick with solids, but once patterns get put into the equation, the possibilities are endless in both directions. Here are some of the outtakes for this post—that is, bags that, well, didn't quite make the cut. You can see some examples here and here and here.

I also got a request for tips on reasonably-priced rolling luggage that doesn't look dated. I am a fan of the rolling duffel concept because it lends to a more interesting shape than the usual boxy suitcase on wheels. Plus, it's incredibly convenient to have the options of both the wheels and the duffel handles when you are trying to navigate in places like London tube stations where ramps are unfortunately sparse. The luggage I brought on my last handful of international trips is the same model as this, but I prefer mine because it's a classic solid taupe rather than a flashy monogram pattern. Some other cute options can be seen here and here and here.

Thanks for the post suggestions! If you have a suggestion for a post on The Yuppie Lifestyle, leave it in the comments or send me a note.

| Photo Credit: 1–6. See links provided. |

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ferry Building Marketplace Mosaics

While I was wandering around enjoying the Ferry Building the other day, I noticed that in between retail spaces there were these little square mosaics on the walls. They depicted California flora and fauna as well as what the Ferry Building Marketplace has to offer—there were mosaics of fish, crabs, cows, olives, lemons, lobsters, and the like to represent all the good seafood, dairy, and produce you can find there. I've been to the Ferry Building loads of times but this was the first time I'd paid attention to them and Nick, who works nearby and therefore visits quite often, said he'd never noticed them. Some retailers even cover them up with carts of wares that overflow out of their spaces and I couldn't find any information online on the artist who made them. I thought these little guys deserved some love so I photographed as many different ones and I could find throughout the ground floor and compiled them here as a tribute.

If you know more about these mosaics, share it in the comments! I am curious about them and if there is a good story behind them.

| Photo Credit: Me. |

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Cheese Puffs at Cowgirl Creamery

I finally checked out a place that has been on my to-go list for a while—the Cowgirl Creamery Sidekick in the Ferry Building. Cowgirl Creamery is a much-loved local cheesemaker that supplies cheese to great eateries all over the city. Last summer they also opened the Sidekick, which sells hot cheesy foods and cheese plates featuring Cowgirl Creamery cheeses. The grilled cheese sandwich I had was nothing exciting and a bit pricey; I easily could have made one just like it at home and it was a bit bland compared to sandwiches at Mission Cheese. The real star of the menu at Cowgirl Creamery Sidekick, however, is the cheese puff.

I'd never had anything like it before except, perhaps, in my dreams. The cheese puffs have the same type of choux pastry shell as a good cream puff or profiterole, but instead of being filled with custard or cream, they are filled with delicious creamy cheese. I'd bought one for a snack, just because the idea of a cheese puff sounded good even though I didn't know exactly what it was. After biting through the airy pastry, I discovered a very generous amount of herbed fromage blanc with a nice whipped texture that made the treat satisfying without being too heavy. The filling also holds together well while you bite into it (as opposed to custards that get all over the place) making Cowgirl Creamery cheese puffs a great portable snack for those who want to munch on something while walking along the piers. So good.

| Photo Credit: Me. |