Monday, November 28, 2011

Rustic Thanksgiving Tablescape

My parents have hosted Thanksgiving at our house for the last 10 years.  While my mom stresses over the menu, I stress over the decor. A few weeks ago I asked my family what the tablescape should look like.  After some blank stares and a logical response from my mom  (we have 14.5 people coming this year and a 14 foot table. Don't make any flower arrangements too tall or fragrant), I came up with a simple rustic theme using burlap, pumpkins, twigs & moss.

The Inspiration
Inspired by a tiny pumpkin I found at the Berkley Bowl called Lil’ Pump-Ke-Mon  
(doesn't the name sounds like a Japanese cartoon character?) I decided to create a tablescape using brown, cream, orange and green.

 Not wanting to spend a lot of money on flowers I used white hydrangeas.   Hydrangeas are great on a budget, because you get a lot of flower for a bargain price. (Each steam cost me $2.00 and I usally only use one steam per vase.)

Hydrangea Floral Arrangement
For a fresh but rustic look, I cut the hydrangea steam short and packed them it into a small vase.  I accented the arrangement with twigs and moss I found at a local park. To conceal the vase, I created a liner using leftover hydrangea leaves.

Herb Center Piece  
As an alternate floral arrangement, I bought a few herbs and dressed the bottoms with burlap and grosgrain ribbon.  The herbs were a great rustic accent to the table.  The natural aroma from the plants also complimented the food we were eating.  
Each plant cost me $2.59. 

 Thanksgiving Tablescape 
Finding a runner long enough for a 14 foot table was a challenge. For a  cheap solution, I bought 2 yards of burlap for $3.99 a yard and cut the fabric into 10.5" wide by  72" long stripes and layered them on top of each other.  For a splash of color I found these great orange and white napkins that remind me of a David Hicks print.

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving. Ours was fantastic and mighty tasty. Good luck in your holiday preping.  I know the countdown has begun for me and I'm sure it has for you too!



Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sugar & Spice and Everything Nice

St. Louis Style BBQ Ribs

Berkeley Bowl West
October 23, 2011

As  previously mentioned in this post, I hate grocery shopping.  I hate it so much, I'm willing to drive over a bridge and into the woods to try something new.  The hubby and I were responsible for cooking Sunday's dinner and decided to venture to the Berkeley Bowl.  Holy moly was this an overwhelming and very cool shopping experience.  I felt totally overwhelmed (like the time I tried on 100 pairs of jeggings at Bergdorf Goodman), but walked away with some great things (unlike at Bergdorf's).

First up on Sunday's menu:  St. Louis Ribs!
The hubby loves BBQ!  We decided to go with the St. Louis style rib instead of the traditional baby back, because you get more meat for your money (honey)!

The Sugar and Spice BBQ Rub (recipe for 12 ribs)
  • 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Paprika 
  • 1/4 Cup Chili Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon ground Red Pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon ground Cumin 
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Mace (or use nutmeg)
  • 2 Tablespoons Salt 
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly cracked Pepper
In a bowl mix ingredients together.

After removing the membrane from the meat, cover in garlic olive oil. Massage the dry rub into the meat.  Let meat marinate for 2 - 24 hours.

An hour before you cook your meat, get your BBQ ready.  My dad taught my husband to cook with charcoal not propane (real men use matches)!  Because my dad cooks on a high wood / charcoal heat, the boys were a little worried about  maintaining a heat of 300 degrees for 90 minutes. After much strategic planning they put together the below fire.

After looking more closely at this picture, I would suggest the following: 
a. Do NOT barbecue so close to a wooden deck.
b. It's probably not safe to have a sun umbrella so close to an open flame.

My dad is practically a professional barbequer and that's the only reason why he was allowed to bbq so close to our deck.  Grasshopper on the other hand (aka my husband), is still a little to green to do this.
After 90 minutes on the BBQ with an indirect heat, this is our final product. The beauty about using a dry rub is you don't need to slather on a sauce!  Now some you may feel your ribs are naked without sauce, but the only way you can truly appreciate the sweet, spice and smoky flavor is to eat them as it.
Try it.  You just might like it.   

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Devil Went to Mexico

A spicy take on a traditional Deviled Egg Recipe 

Spicy Deviled Eggs 

 6 Eggs
1/3 cup Crème fraîche
1/3 cup Smoked Bacon (finely chopped)
2 tablespoons Serrano Pepper (finely chopped)
2 tablespoons Siracha
2 tablespoons Cilantro (finely chopped)
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard 
2 tablespoons Lime Zest
3 teaspoons Lime Juice
Pop out (remove) the egg yolks to a small bowl and mash with a fork. Add crème fraîche, smoked bacon, Serrano pepper, siracha, dijon mustard, lime zest and lime juice and mix thoroughly. Add pepper and salt to taste.  Fill the empty egg white shells with the mixture.  

Tip: For a professional finish, use a pastry bag to fill the empty egg white shells.  

Cover lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to one day before serving.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Football and Apple Pie

A strange thing happens to my husband when football season starts.  He suddenly loves to cook.  So imagine my surprise when Nick announced we were going to make an apple pie from scratch (including the crust)!  See my pictures and Nick's step by step commentary below.

 "The Forbidden Apple" Pie begins.
The Spiteri Apple Tree, planted in 1996

 Paula Dean closely monitored the making of this crust, with chunks of frozen cubed butter, teaspoons of cold water, flour, sugar, salt, and good ole' Southern love.

 Paula actually let my husband knead the dough, because of his rather picturesque model hands.

 Again, I am not sure if this shot is more of the apples or of my husbands beautiful hands.

 After a  brief introduction, the apples and dough meet and get married.

 Once again, as Paula was holding my husbands wrist, Nick and Paula detail the outer edge of pie.

 Before leaving San Bruno, Paula took this last picture of Nick.  Paula insisted on having doubles made of this picture, since she had to catch her flight back to the Food Network.

As part of the contract, Paula insisted on a third of the pie being shipped to her, before anyone got any.

If you're up for the challenge and want to make your own "Forbidden Apple Pie" click here

Easy Apple Pie Recipe. 

Fall Flower Revamp

October is my favorite month.  Here in San Francisco we experience warm summer days and cool nights.  Although most of our summer flowers are in their last blooming stage, it's too early to say goodbye to great landscaping.  Below are a few pictures of what I did over the weekend to add some texture and color to our front yard.

  Organized chaos:  Utilizing our front lawn as my workspace. 

Fall Rustic Flower combination (full sun)
African Daisy, Ipomoea (twining vines), Lemon Thyme, Purple Annual Flowers.
Tip: Know your climate.  The death of a plant often happens because we choose a plant because it looks great, but we don't plant it in the right climate.  Pay attention to the climate tags and make sure you select the best plant for your garden.

Fall Rustic Flower combination (full sun):  
Ipomoea (twining vines), Scottish Moss, African Daisy 
Tip: A classic terracotta pot is always a timeless choice. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

City by Foot

It's always exciting and slightly stressful when friends and family come to visit. Even in a city like San Francisco, sometimes you run out of things to do (you can only visit Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf so many times.)  Momma Carrillo came  into town a few weeks ago and we decided to try something new and signed up for a walking tour by San Francisco City Guides.  Founded in 1978, City Guides is a non-profit organization with more than 200 trained volunteers who lead FREE history and architectural walking tours in San Francisco. They are sponsored by the San Francisco Public Library and are a a San Francisco Parks Trust Park Partner.

Let's just say this is one of the city's best kept secrets. I signed us up for the Alamo Square Painted Ladies tour and the husband (who was a little reluctant about this idea), had us do another tour the next day (it was that good).  We even had my San Francisco native parents join us on the tour and they both were impressed with the sights they saw and the knowledge they learned.

  An upward view of a building in Alamo Square.

 Fancy Wood Work in Alamo Square, San Francisco

 Tourist take a picture of the Painted Ladies.

 Nick and his mom Andi

Hearts in San Francisco is an annual public art installation started in 2004 by the San Francisco General Hospital.  There are 130 hearts through out the city.  This heart is located outside the home of  Diane Feinstein.

Good to KNOW:  Although they are called "Walking" Tours, you really aren't walking for a long period of time.  Wearing comfortable shoes is recommended, but you certainly don't need a walking stick to do this tour.  Lastly, although the tour is free a cash donation is encouraged.  For more info and to view their October calendar click here

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Kayak Made for Two

Over the bridge and through the woods, to kayaking we go.
(Golden Gate Bridge: in motion 2011)
Taken from our car's sunroof! 

Last weekend Nick talked me into kayaking in Sausalito.  
My reaction: "Aren't there sharks in Sausalito?" 

Much to my dismay, I went along for the ride and tried to channel my inner coxswain.  What could have been a disaster, turned out to be a great Saturdate activity.  Nick and I quickly found our rhythm and enjoyed an hour rowing around the bay.        

Nick: "I told you this would be fun!" 

I think my husband was relieved because: 
A. We didn't see any sharks.
B. He wasn't stuck rowing the kayak by himself.
C. The weather was sunny and the water was calm.
D. All of the Above

City: Sausalito, CA 
Next Time: Make kayaking reservation first thing in the morning.  
Grab brunch at Le Garage Bistro

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sundate: Concert in the Park

The tradition of Sundate is back, now that the hubby and I are living under one roof.  Praise the lord!  Last Sunday Nick planned our date (with Stella) and we went to Golden Gate Park and enjoyed a free concert featuring the San Francisco Symphony!  Before we made our way to the park (which hubby keeps calling The Great Park... not sure why) we went to the Fatted Calf and bought our picnic goodies.  If you love meat this is the place for you. In addition to selling meats they have a great selection of fresh baguettes, olives and cheese. 
Our picnic was delicious and spending a lazy Sundate in Golden Gate Park is an easy and inexpensive activity to do.

Location: 320 Fell Street, San Francisco
DYK: The Fatted Calf offers classes.  Yup that's right!  You can take a class and learn the basics of curing meat, making pates, sausage, salumi! and even learn how to breakdown a whole hog into it's various useful parts.  Now nothing sounds more romantic then learning how to breakdown a hog together as a couple.  Maybe I should plan this for a future Sundate.......   

 Do you recognize anyone in this photo?

 This meat case is worth drooling over!

 Happy hour doesn't have to be for cocktails! 

 Concert in Golden Gate Park at Sharon Meadows

Stella relaxing in the sun while enjoying the music!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Vancouver Happenings

When you travel as much as I do, you learn there are some things you can never be prepared a riot in Vancouver.  Lucky for me I wasn't there the night it happened, but when I arrived the next day you could see the upsetting aftermath.  Although it was a quick 36 hour trip, I managed to try out one of the hottest new restaurants in Chinatown, Bao Bei.  For more info visit Vancouver magazine Scout, which shows some amazing pictures and also gives a great glimpse into this restaurants amazing cuisine. 

Travel brought me to Vancouver.  Lucky for me I missed the riot by a day.... 

A picture of the bridge leading into Chinatown

 Bao Bei means  "precious" in Mandarin 

 Trixie the "mixologist" has inspired me to learn how to make a creative cocktail  

I love the vintage flea market feel of the restaurant

My pretty dinner, which looked to good to eat (but was mighty tasty) 

Drew's Bubbly 1st Birthday

As an Auntie, I try to keep my camera handy and ready for any potential photo ops.  My nephew  Drew B turned one a few weeks ago.  It was a special day for me, as it had been awhile since I'd seen my nephews.

My initial goal was to take tons of pictures of Drew & Tyler, but I quickly got sidetracked with taking pictures of men (including my husband) playing with bubbles.

Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the day.    

The best cake ever 

 Drew B was all smiles on his big day

 Everyone needs an Uncle Mike! 
He's tall, great with kids and quite the bubble man

You would have thought Nick and AJ were turning one.  
They couldn't get enough bubbles!

 Me and Mr. T dipping our magic bubble wands  

Mr. T concentrating on his bubble making

"Up, Up and Away,"  one of the biggest bubbles of the day