Filed under: Nature
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a fascinating project on the beautiful birds of New Guinea. The Birds of Paradise project documents 39 different species and the principles of their evolution. Their extraordinary colors, plumes, sounds, and shape-shifting dances are fascinating! You might remember some of them from one of the Planet Earth episodes, but here there are many videos and they are all addicting. This is the introduction, but here are some of my faves: shape-shifting, dance, the Ribbon-tailed Astrapia,
Filed under: Shoes
Fantasy all-purpose, float around town, lunch date, dance party, oh the things I would do for these shoes. Saint Laurent, $1195.
Reality float around work, bar service, dining room dash, oh the things I have to do in these work shoes. Dansko, $70.
I think I may have underestimated the toll restaurant life would take on my feet and legs, and it hit me all at once a few months ago when I noticed deep aches in my legs and feet and knew my work sneakers and boots were not cutting it anymore. I’m not exactly excited about it, but I grabbed a pair of work shoes that have helped a lot. But the part I am excited for are the Epsom salt baths that I take after work a few nights a week.
Interestingly, Epsom salt isn’t really even a salt, but a pure mineral compound of magnesium and sulfates which are both easily absorbed through the skin and have strong healing benefits individually:
- Magnesium reduces inflammation, helps muscle and nerve function, and prevents artery hardening. Since stress reduces magnesium levels in the body, soaking in a warm Epsom bath can replenish magnesium levels and restore calm and relaxation (and elevated levels of the mood-elevator serotonin).
- Sulfates help improve the absorption of nutrients while also eliminating toxins and heavy metals from cells, easing muscle aches and pains.
Epsom salt bath
Use 2-3 cups in a nice warm bath (depending on how achy or stressed you feel). Soak for at least 12 minutes.
Andrew gets our salt by the 20-pound bag (for real) from The San Francisco Bath Salt Company. They have tons of high-quality salts, but our favorite is the unscented Epsom. We did get a sample of the Dead Sea Salt with our last order and that was really nice too. Lots of minerals in there also which would be another great soak.
Also, if you are interested in using baths as a regular part of a health and beauty regime you might want to consider investing in a water filter for your shower. We fill the tub with an Aquasana shower head. It takes the same amount of time as the bath faucet, just a little bit more dramatic (and kinda fun!) from the shower head above. Your skin and hair will be really happy too.
I’d never seen a Witch Hazel blossom before last year (god, I love this shot!), and ever since I’ve been dying for its return in the Winter Garden at the Arboretum. I’m kind of ashamed to say that it never dawned on me to think beyond the magic tincture I splash on my face each night, but behind the natural toner is a wonderfully fragrant and vibrant tree that blooms in winter. So if you’re in need of a floral fix and can find an upcoming dry day you should head into the Winter Garden for a quiet stroll and a few deep breaths of the Witch Hazel blossoms. (It makes for a great little date too!)
Oh, and can we just talk about the rules of visiting public gardens for a moment? Let’s all agree not to snap off a branch or blossom to take away. Didn’t we cover this in Kindergarten? I seem to remember the lesson, but sadly so many others we saw didn’t. Savor and share.
How I use Witch Hazel toner
After cleansing, the purpose of a toner is to remove excess oil and dirt, and also to close the pores and restore pH balance. Witch Hazel is a natural antiseptic, so if you make sure the product you’re getting is alcohol free, it can perform all the functions of a conventional toner, but without the added preservatives and chemicals. After that you’re free and clear to lotion it up.
Bottom line: it’s natural, it works, it’s cheap, and it will last you quite a long time.
I use Thayer’s. Different varieties here for about $6.
Now that half of my things are moved into Andrew’s, and the house is now truly a mix of us both, I’ve once again started to lust after beautiful area rugs. I stumbled upon Loom Rugs from Australia and my desire for an oversized, crazy expensive, out of my reach living room rug was reignited.
I’m actually looking for a neutral classic, but with a twist like these guys below. I love that many are vintage or old yarn, which is yarn that’s be unraveled from vintage kilims and then rewoven into a new creation. I think it’s so cool that they can do that! Of course it’s painstakingly difficult and involved, but upcycling at its finest, no?
There’s something about these vintage floral guys that caught my eye and I can’t really explain why. They are more rustic and country than I’d know what to do with but I can still pretend. Although, when I look at them individually I can see more potential. The first one is just so interesting.
There are no prices listed (that seems to happen to me a lot with the things I adore) but at least we can feel inspired by the work they are sourcing and creating.
Filed under: Fashion
Ever since I found my 1920’s print coat last summer I have been fascinated by all coats of graphic print and bold color. And I am still kicking myself for not getting the Emerson Fry linen leopard coat from last fall. Ugh! I would have rocked the hell out of that thing.
I love the diversity and versatility in styling — just so effortless and sexy. Whether with leather, wool, print, bold solids, oversized, or tailored pieces there are so many fun ways to play; it is whatever you want to make it. I should also admit that it was because of my coat that I finally felt comfortable enough to start mixing graphic prints. Somehow it can be quite intimidating with other pieces, but with the same amount of “real estate” to work with in a knee-length coat and dress there’s less material to worry about than if you were to try mixing a graphic pant.
Some warn of the danger in going too housecoat-esque (thanks to Andrew for this unpleasant mental image) but there are some tricks in not looking like a pissed-off Betty Draper.
If you are going the vintage route: collars, sleeve length, and this shiny material for instance can look precisely like what it is: dated. So look for timeless qualities where the cut and style of these elements won’t give you away. And natural fabrics will always look better than synthetics.
Filed under: Entertaining
So did you guys know I had a party? Oh, I don’t know, maybe I mentioned a few times here and there. Well, here’s the thing…suddenly I’m feeling quite shy about the party and my planning abilities and I regret the hype I might have generated because really, I am no expert. It was a lovely get together, and it looked precisely the way that I had envisioned…but my insecurities stem from the idea that perhaps we had over-planned, and just maybe it was interpreted as more opulent than we had intended.
For us, it was the celebration of many things: making time to connect with friends, celebrating during a time of year that’s often dull and dark (in Seattle anyway), and making the most of a silly holiday. It was also a time to celebrate the fact that half of my things were moved into Andrew’s house, not 24 hours before the party. So there was stocking, cooking, moving, and planning that was all happening simultaneously. Crazy? Yes, definitely. We are crazy.
But with 18 of our closest friends in our new home it was a beautiful and fun get-together and I think we did a great job at staying nimble and open. Here’s how things went down.
Planning and Set-up
During menu planning I use my trusty Sharpie pen and Post-It’s to “diagram” how the plating and service will look. This is the best way to see how many platters/serving trays you’ll need and also show how much table space (and storage space) you’ll need. Each serving piece will have its own label so you can move and plan. Any platters that will be switched out for new ones should be stacked.
We ordered flowers from our friend Nisha at Fleurish and picked them up the day off. Because I had included vases (and votives) into the planning of the table I knew where each arrangement would go. I also made sure to plan to have some mini guys for the bar area, side tables, and bathrooms.
And then there was this amazing piece in my ceramic vase (which was surprisingly 3x bigger than I expected when I originally got it). So I took my own vases in to Nisha and with only the mention of no reds, lots of blushes, champagnes, and light pinks she created the most beautiful arrangements. They were quite the showpieces and ultimately set a sexy, festive tone. In other words, the ladies totally freaked!
Initially we had quite an elaborate menu planned, and it was mostly because our start time of 7:30 was determined to be prime dinner time, but our research led us slightly astray as more modern couples eat before any sort of cocktail dinner/party, even if the start time is more or less dinner. This was actually a blessing in disguise as our menu was easily scaled back and we only put out as much as was needed. Really at the end of all things, people really only cared about getting a nice Valentine’s buzz.
I didn’t capture everything, there was a pretty endive and grapefruit salad that I wish I could post but here are a couple of bites that were some favorites.
Mini pot pies are called hand pies, for real. Whatever they’re called, they were a hit and were the perfect party bite because they’re hearty and small enough to pop more than one. We cranked out tons of these guys ahead of time and then kept them warm in the oven.
The most wonderful tiny meatballs for snacking. We served them in a large Le Creuset pot and had the skewers on the side for people to serve themselves.
We kept the cheese and charcuterie simple and served only one type of cheese and ham — we just got A LOT of each one. It made things so much easier and the cheese bar was really an easy way to get people full and satisfied in case they did come really hungry.
Bar & Booze
We planned on vodka, rye, beer, and mostly red wine and bubbly. Surprisingly everyone was all about the bubbly and we went through tons. We had coffee on hand too but it seemed that people were more interested in continuing to drink bubbles.
One thing we did learn about using coupes for parties was that slight spillage is inevitable. Whatever, I’ll take it just to use a sexy coupe but for practical purposes just stick to flutes.
Crepe Paper Garland
I love working with the crepe paper but I was totally stressing trying to figure out what I was going to do with them. At one point I asked Andrew if he thought it looked prom-y and he kinda paused like he was trying to think of how to answer. Poor guy. Really, there’s a fine line to follow in order to avoid prom, so I decided that with only a touch of red and mostly the light colors we’d be safe. I also knew that I didn’t want things to be symmetrical (and there should be no twists!) so I went with a haphazard, disheveled look that was it was definitely less prom, and more festive. Problem solved.
As fate would have it, our piping tool for soup shooters (a turkey baster/injector) was out of commission, so in a quick regroup I repurposed the shot glasses with slices of my all time favorite chocolate (Pralus Barre Infernale)…that was originally planned to be sliced by the party-goers at a small bar. So perhaps the lesson here is all about versatility and regrouping.
Another piece of decandence was in the form of a take-away container and I must say this was one of my favorite touches. Our chef at the restaurant makes the most unbelieveable pandan leaf custard, chiffon cake cupcakes, so I ordered a few dozen from her for the party. We stuffed them in takeaway containers and handed them out as our guests were preparing to leave. It was a sweet and easy little touch that I’ll add at all of my future soirees.
Before and After
Ok, so I’ve mostly shared the prettiest parts with you, but I can assure you that there were times where it was a total shit show and I wanted to be sure to be honest about how things came together. Oh, and I have yet to mention that for whatever reason my gougeres did not work. But whatever! We had so much else that they were not even missed and the lesson I took from everything was to stay nimble and open. Really the most important piece was making our friends feel comfortable and loved, and that is definitely what we did.
Things were pretty grim before.