Tuesday, August 31, 2010

grocery store heaven

On Sunday night we invited several of our friends over for dinner.  The goal was to learn how to use our pressure cooker (with the assistance of Kevin and Nell) and try something new.  We settled on oxtail. The cafe at work had made it once and it was to die for - creamy polenta, rich braised meat, topped with a poached egg. We weren't going to go that gourmet, but I did need to get some oxtail.

Around here, the Safeway, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe's don't carry oxtail, so we headed over to the Mi Pueblo grocery store in East Palo Alto to pick up 6 lbs.  I must say, that this was the cleanest, most amazing grocery store ever with festive music and free samples!  They have a HUGE meat case and an entire bean aisle - I felt at home, like I was back in New Orleans (we have tons of rice and beans there).  Even though I went for the oxtail - I left with lots of goodies and I know I'll be back before too long.

My new favorite store

We got oxtail, table cream, Oaxaca cheese, tortillas, Peruvian beans, Inca Cola (a favorite from Peru), and some Japanese-style snack peanuts (my addiction when I am in Mexico).  I would have spent more time in there, but I was excited to get to the farmer's market to see if they had figs.  I will definitely be making a trip back.  In the meantime, I am going to make quesadillas with peruvian beans (I am going to try to make them in the pressure cooker), Oaxaca cheese, and cream.  Heaven.

Monday, August 30, 2010

baby shower!

On Saturday, I co-hosted a baby shower for my sister-in-law.  It was the first shower I have ever been involved with planning!  I wanted to do an EXTRA special good job for her.  She is expecting her first child (a girl), and has been there for me so many times (cough *bachelorette party* cough).   I was very excited to help plan this shower.  The vision was girly and pretty - right up my alley.

So, I was in charge of the perishable elements - food and flowers - two of my favorite things!   I thought about buying the food and flowers, but then decided that I wanted to do it myself.  I wanted to make sure everything tasted good and was just right!  I made chocolate cupcakes, madelines, beet and goat cheese sandwiches, ham and cheese finger sandwiches, lemon strawberries, and oatmeal blueberry scones.


Our kitchen on Friday night as I prepped all the food for Saturday

Making the spread for the ham and cheese sandwiches

The sandwich spread

The beets for the open faced sandwiches

Arranging the flowers
The finished product (we had 6 canning jars full of flowers)

We transported everything pre-measured up to San Francisco on the morning of the party

I pulled out my wedding silver for the occasion
The spread!

My silver service in service

The name tags, favors (tea caddies, lip balm, and chocolate)

Game #1: write a funny message on the diapers

Game #2: Write messages to the new baby on a frame mat
 Game #3 (not pictured): Andrea asked both the mother and father-to-be questions and she had to guess what his answers would be.  It was really cute!
The planning team (minus an out-of-towner) and the mother-to-be
It was a beautiful day!  We had so much fun, and I really enjoyed meeting my sister-in-law's friends!  Most of them seemed to have children (or be expecting) and I laughed SO hard as they recounted their birth experience stories - ranging from being kicked out of a cab while in labor to husbands who cut their paternity leave short when they realized how much work it was!

I was asked several times for the recipes for what I made, so here is the line up:

  • Cakebread Beet Tartare (I changed the bread for this occasion)
  • Party Ham Sandwiches (from SouthernLiving.com)
  • Madelines from the Joy of Cooking
  • Blueberry Oatmeal Scones from Bon Appetit
  • Chocolate cupcakes with whipped vanilla frosting (in the shape of rosettes) - Duncan Hines!
  • Strawberries with grated lemon peel and sugar (thanks Nell for the idea!)
So would I do anything differently?  The savory food (sandwiches) and the strawberries went the fastest - not sure I needed the 45 cupcakes I made!   I gave away 30 or so and then my boss and I ate an additional 4 today at work.  Gotta love leftovers!

Congratulations again to the mother-to-be!!  Can't wait to meet the new little one!

p.s. I fully aim to be her favorite Aunt... just saying these Duncan Hines skills will not go to waste... 

Friday, August 27, 2010

Ellie turns 2 (weeks)!

Two weeks ago our friends welcomed their first child, a new baby girl!  We got to meet her last weekend and she was SO sweet and cute.  I also got the chance to bust out my Martha Stewart cookie boxes (from Michael's) - which we filled with homemade madelines for the new little family.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

hog heaven

My friend Kevin has some cool hobbies (raising chickens, woodworking, preparing for the apocalypse), so you can always count on him to have interesting stories to tell.  This spring, he went hunting with Charles for wild boar in Sonoma County.  Last weekend (and tonight) I got to taste some of the spoils. 

Charles and Kevin bring home the bacon
Kevin, who had taken a hog butchering class in San Francisco, butchered his pig and brought the hams to Dittmers in Mountain View.  On Sunday, Kevin and his wife shared this delicious ham with my husband and I.
The ham in its juices
I was skeptical.  I hadn't ever had wild pig before - but I am a believer now.  It was incredible.

Sliced, juicy goodness
Kevin said that part of the flavor came from the way it was butchered (a little more fat was left on the meat), but also from Dittmer's smokehouse.  It was delicious - now I want to go taste some of the meats at Dittmer's!
The final plate - wild boar, mashed potatoes with duck fat, and zucchini 
Thanks Kevin and Nell for including us in such a wonderful feast!

p.s. I got to have the ham all over again tonight (in a quiche) when Nell hosted ladies night!  Thanks again Nell!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

my wedding Wednesday: the veil

After I had purchased my dress, I started to think about the veil.  I wanted to do something really special for the veil, I wanted to have a connection to it.  I thought about several things - I thought about making my own, about buying one, and about borrowing one from a family member.  I ruled out buying one pretty early on.  I wanted something more special, more connected to the women of my family (both my family and my soon-to-be family).  

Making my own veil.  
I thought about this, and did pretty extensive research.  I even wrote a blog post on the subject that has become pretty popular on this blog (by number of visits).  

Something borrowed
I kept coming back to the idea of borrowing a veil.  It felt very special to share this special piece of fabric with someone else.  Maybe I was influenced by the fact that all my aunts had worn the same veil.   I started by asking my married cousins about their veils.  My cousin Zizi sent a picture of hers.  I loved the simple ribbon detail and I loved the length.

Zizi in her lovely veil
My cousin Bebe actually wore the same veil that her mother (and many of my aunt's had worn). My Aunt Beth brought it over and we took a look. It was a very beautiful, long piece of antique lace.  Yet somehow not what I imagined - it was very long. 

Bridget modeling the family veil

The family veil was quite long and narrow
I also talked to my future sister-in-law Annie about her veil.  It was a beautiful, cathedral length tulle veil.  I loved the simple comb attachment and the soft fabric.

Annie on her wedding day
Trying on Annie's veil
During the early stages of searching for the right veil, I didn't know quite what I was looking for.  I couldn't picture it yet.  Then I stumbled across this photo in a bridal magazine.  It was an advertisement for Monique Lhuillier.  I instantly fell in love with the idea of a fingertip length, lace edged, tulle veil. 
The Monique Lhuillier advertisement

The Veil
Around February I had still not figured out what I was going to do about the veil.  Then sweet Annie offered me the use of her veil and encouraged me to make it my own.  I went back to Britex and found the perfect, ivory scalloped French Alencon lace with eyelashes.  The pattern was perfect - it looked like it could have been cut from the dress. 

The lace pinned on the veil in the dressing room

A close up of the lace on the veil
I took the cathedral length veil to the seamstress at Marina Morrison and they cut it down into a fingertip length veil. I then bought 7 yards of the French lace (really it was 3.5 yards but the lace came two pieces per yard with lace netting in between).  

The lace - lots of cutting ahead
The veil was now about 250 inches in circumference.  

Preparing to start pinning - the night before I went home to Louisiana
My plan was to hand sew 250 inches of French lace to the edge.  As cheesy as it sounds, I was excited to take on this challenge as I would get to spend hours with my mom on the week of the wedding working on it together.  During this time, we would be able to talk about the wedding and get excited together - all while being connected to my new family through the veil.

Cutting the netting off took a long time - much longer than I expected
So 250 inches might not sound like a lot, but in the week before the wedding - there were many sleepless nights sewing!  Just preparing the lace for sewing, and pinning the lace to the veil took 4 hours! 

The veil with the lace pinned on
My mom and I each sewed at the rate of about 1 inch every 10 minutes - which works out to almost 40 hours of sewing between us.  No kidding - it took a LONG time.  After my mom went to bed each night, I watched a lot of Bravo TV to keep the work going.  I finished it on Wednesday before the wedding.  It was a special time - a chance to slow down while things were winding up. 

In the end it came out beautifully.  It was all that I could of dreamed of - everything I had hoped for and wanted.  I got to wear the veil of someone very special to me - my future sister - but also to take the time to create something with my mom (20 hours of togetherness the week of our wedding was pretty special).  Our very own sewing circle.
The veil from the front
The veil from the back
A big thank you to both Annie and to my mom - both who were so patient and supportive.  Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to wear something connecting me to both families on such a special day. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

dog days of summer

It was hot today, so hot that it felt like summer for the first time all summer.  Maybe it is the inner school kid in me (the Palo Alto schools start tomorrow), but I find myself wanting to make some mischief in the final moments of summer.  Play hooky from work and lie in the sun all day eating figs and reading romantic novels like Pride and Prejudice (which I just finished).  I want to laugh with friends and eat ice cream in the sun after running through a neighbor's sprinkler.  All the best things about summer...

Cecilia living it up (two years ago)

Ice cream from Bi-Rite in SF
Phil's boat on Lake Almanor

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

my wedding Wednesday: the shoes

If you know me, you know that I love beautiful shoes.  It is very stereotypical, but I can't help myself.  Usually (like 6.5 of 7) I wear ballet flats.  However, I absolutely love shopping for party shoes.  When I got engaged I knew that picking out the wedding shoe was going to be almost as much fun as picking out the dress.  It all started when I picked up these petal pink Christian Louboutins at a deep discount (very deep) last summer (before I bought my dress).  I figured that I wouldn't wear them on the wedding day (too tall), but they would be the perfect shoe to wear to some other wedding events - they were girly, delicate, and totally impractical.
petal pink heaven
Another view of the shoe
Had I more money (and less sense), the ideal wedding shoe would ahve been this $995 white satin Christian Louboutin shoe.  But even I, who can talk myself into just about anything, had to pass on something so wildly unpractical. 

the perfect wedding shoe

I figured that I didn't want to spend too much on my wedding shoes themselves (how many other times do you want to wear white satin shoes?) - so I scoured ebay for a few months until I found the perfect pair of white satin J. Crew heels (new!) for $39.99 - pretty different than there $200+ price tag new.

My wedding shoes!
While I was at it - I bought these J. Crew satin flats on ebay as well (to change into when my feet got tired).  I was a very happy camper - I loved these shoes.

So you see... as of last summer (months before the wedding) I was all set in the shoe department.  I had fantastic pink shoes, beautiful white heels, and fun party flats.  What could go wrong?  Well, this is where the US Postal Service comes in.  Thinking I was being VERY proactive, I sent these shoes home about 3 weeks before the wedding - all in one box (I think I already hear the collective groan) - without a tracking number (banging head on table). 

Two days before the wedding (panic!) they had still not arrived.  My mom went to the post office on my behalf and begged them to find the shoe.  Without a tracking number, there wasn't much they could do.  So, with one day left, I overnighted a new pair of shoes from J. Crew - at full price (dagger to heart).  I felt I had to stay with the same brand, as the dress had been hemmed to the perfect length for my original J. Crew shoes. 

the original shoe - perfect length dress
Then, my mom and I went to the mall to replace my flats.  I ended up with simple gold ballet flats.  The new heels arrived the day before the wedding (see below).  The only problem?  They were huge!  I usually wear a 10 in J. Crew - I actually can't think of another pair in size 10 that has EVER been too big for me!  However, these were soooo big.  I bought tons of inserts for them and hoped for the best. 

the last minute replacements
I understand that something has to go wrong at weddings.  I was pretty upset about this, but I figured that at least this one thing that had gone wrong only affected me.  I really doubted that anyone else would notice my shoes.  If I could just keep them on.  

So how did they do?  The one thing that I didn't anticipate was how much my feet would sweat.  The inserts were slippery and my feet kept flipping out of the shoes as I walked down the aisle.  I was really really bummed that I had to think about my feet at all on such a special day.  At one point when my new husband and I were walking down the aisle newly married, I literally had to ask my brand new husband to slow down so I didn't step out of my shoes - which was a huge bummer.  I didn't stay in them for very long at the reception.  I switched to some nude heels (which I should have just worn from the start) and then eventually my gold flats.   Thinking about this mix-up, that so easily could have been prevented, still gets under my skin.  I wish I had never sent the shoes to begin with!  It also made me very upset at J. Crew for their inconsistent sizing.  I am a pretty loyal customer and this was unacceptable!

So did the original shoes ever arrive?  Fortunately for my sanity and my petal pink shoes - yes!  They arrived in New Orleans while we were on our honeymoon.  My mom then shipped them back to me.  So now I have 2 pairs of white satin heels, one pair of unworn white satin flats, AND my lovely petal pink shoes.  I think I am going to have the white heels dyed black.  I loved my original pair and would hate to see them go unworn in white. 

So what other shoes do I love for weddings?  Here are just a few of my favorites:
Badgley Mischka shoes worn by my friend Lindsey at her wedding
Stewart Weitzman Pomposo (I have these in black!)

Martha Stewart Weddings - Cheree Berry wearing the Pomposos!
Kate Spade Keeden

Can you tell I love shoes?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Happiest Season of All

My friend Suchi sent me the photo below last night and it made me so happy.  It's fig season!  I would be lying to you if I didn't admit that I have eaten two crates this week of the green ones. I have had trouble finding the black mission figs this year (center in this photo). 

Fig Feast!
Lest you worry that these were like candy - check out the nutrition facts I got from the wikipedia.org entry on the "Common Fig."  Looks like figs are a superfood and I should definitely eat them often.  :)

p.s. the main fig growing regions for the world are Turkey and Egypt.  I think I know where I want to go on our next big vacation (during fig season of course)...


Figs are one of the highest plant sources of calcium and fiber. According to USDA data for the Mission variety, dried figs are richest in fiber, copper, manganese, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and vitamin K, relative to human needs. They have smaller amounts of many other nutrients. Figs have a laxative effect and contain many antioxidants. They are good source of flavonoids and polyphenols.[3] In one study, a 40-gram portion of dried figs (two medium size figs) produced a significant increase in plasma antioxidant capacity.[4]

Monday's (and Thursday's) green fig snack

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