Monday, January 31, 2011

New beginnings

Unlike most of the country last week. We were blessed with gorgeous, sunny, spring like weather for most of the week. Unfortunately for us it disappeared in time for the weekend and drizzly cold rain came in it's place. Now I know those of you that are buried in snow really don't care. And I don't blame you. I've been there in the snowy northeast. But I live in California now. Home of sunshine and palm trees.

It doesn't feel like winter. More like fall in the northeast. Which reminds me of pumpkin, and pumpkin muffins which I just so happen to have in the freezer.


See? You don't even have to wrap them very well. I made these weeks ago and froze them individually for times like this - when you want something sweet but the cupboards are bare. Well not really bare. But it doesn't feel like there is anything good in there.

Pumpkin Muffin
I plan to go shopping tomorrow after I get my last pay check. Holy cow. As of tomorrow I'm a free agent. Unemployed. Free to do as I please - as long as it doesn't cost any money. Free to help out Don at the store. Free to pick Elli up early from school. Free to work out at 10am. Free to cook and blog. Oh, and free to spend all day on the computer looking for work. Ugh.

Last week was an emotional one. It was my last full week at Hoffman Lewis. Today is actually my last day - one last meeting to attend and I'm done. It's a weird feeling ending one thing without a new thing lined up. Kind of exciting. If you like living on the edge like we do here in the Mulkey household.

Now I couldn't leave H/L without one last happy hour. So a few of us organized a farewell party at Sens Restaurant in San Francisco last Thursday. The party was for four of us and we had a pretty good crowd show up. I'm going to miss all my friends. Especially my buddy James. We shared a lot of laughs and tears over the years. Together we worked on one of the hardest pieces of business I've ever worked on. It was quite a journey for us.

My buddy James and Me
Melissa, Kris, Camille, Anne, Melissa, Brandy, Martha, Erika, Sachi
So tomorrow I start fresh. A new chapter. What it's going to bring, I don't know. But I'm excited about a new opportunity. Woo hoo!

And here's the pumpkin muffin recipe in case you're in a fall/pumpkin mood too.

Pumpkin Muffins

1 2/3 cup flour
3/4 t. salt
1/4 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. allspice
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup pureed canned pumpkin
1/3 cup water
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup vegetable oil

1. Preheat the oven to 350ยบ
2. Line a cupcake tin with liners or, grease the bottom and sides of a 5 x 9" loaf pan.
3. Sift the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and allspice together.
4. Combine the sugar, pumpkin, water, eggs and oil in a bowl; mix well.
5. Add the flour mixture gradually, mixing well after each addition.
6. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.
7. Cupcakes: Bake 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
8. Loaf: Bake for 1 hour or until loaf tests done.
9. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Friday, January 28, 2011

2008 Vintage Bordeaux Tasting in San Francisco

Ok. This may not mean anything to you. But holy cow. This was the tasting of all tastings for us ordinary folk. And I was there.

The winemakers from Bordeaux go on a week long US tour previewing the 2008 Bordeaux for all the wine snobs in the world. They start in San Francisco, then head to Chicago, Boston and New York.

The San Francisco tasting was held in the grand ballroom at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. There were  hundreds of people in attendance. I was a guest of my friend Wilfred Wong.

The entrance to The Palace Hotel San Francisco. Gorgeous!
There were people from wineries, restaurants, magazines, websites, blogs, retailers. Everyone was required to wear a nametag so you knew who they were. I saw people from every top wine retailer on the West Coast - along with some of the best restaurants. At one point I found myself standing in one spot just rotating in a circle about three times checking it all out.

Check out the crowd and this beautiful room.
I was just a tad intimidated. This was serious work for them. They were on a mission. There was a lot of swirling, sipping, swishing, and spitting. The rookies like me were actually drinking it. There were definitely more spitters in the room.


I got there an hour before Wilfred. He told me to just taste wine and have fun. So that's what I did.

I tasted 24 of the 102 different wines that they were pouring. I liked about 20 of them. Really liked about 10 of them. I'm really excited. Because I don't usually buy or drink wines from Bordeaux. So this was a great opportunity to really broaden my horizons.

I took good notes in the handy little tasting guide they gave us.
When Wilfred finally arrived it all changed. He was on a mission. He knew exactly what he wanted to taste. And EVERYONE knew him. He was like a little superstar. When I say everyone knew him. I mean everyone. He could barely move in the crowd. He introduced me to everyone. It was so fun!


Of course, he then explained how everything was organized in the room by Appellation. Which would explain how I accidentally tried a dessert wine first and embarrassingly said "Oh, that's sweet." You can imagine the look on the sales person's face. She immediately looked at my name tag to see who I was and why I was there, and saw that it said "What's Cooking." She then starting talking about the recipes on their site that paired nicely with their wines. Nice. Now she thinks I'm some kind of cooking expert - because she was talking about a Foie Gras recipe. Blech.

Wilfred has lots of friends. And he takes pictures of everyone. You'll notice in the picture above that he actually has two cameras around his neck. He cracks me up. But he takes nice pictures.

Here are some of Wilfred's peeps...

This winemaker was really sweet and patient for her photo session. I think this is her wine below. I was sure I would remember. But it's all kind of a blur now. Oops. (photo from Wilfred Wong)

I'm pretty sure this is her wine. Yum. (photo from Wilfred Wong)
The ladies from Yum Sugar were fun. (photo from Wilfred Wong)
(photo from Wilfred Wong)
The place was still packed when I left at 5pm.

I really hope I get to do something like this again. It was really, really fun tasting the wine and hanging out with Wilfred.

Thanks again, Wilfred!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Congrats Tyler Florence! Wine Enthusiast Restaurateur of the year.

I think I need to start setting my sights higher.  Check out what Tyler Florence has done since moving to Mill Valley. Holy cow. He's making me feel like a slacker. I better get to it!


Wine Enthusiast Magazine - Restaurateur of the Year Chef Tyler Florence from Michael Coleman on Vimeo.

He's on TV, he has cookbooks, kitchen shops, a signature wine label, an iPhone app and opened THREE restaurants in six months. Really!!!

Clearly I need to get over my sad, sorry self and kick it into gear. His money people need to speak to my money people. 'Cuz he's got some serious financial backing coming from someone. And our little Napa business wants in on the fun.

sigh......

I must confess. After I typed in the first sentence, and linked the video, I went back to read what I wrote and totally cracked myself up. I typed in "I think I need to set my sites hire." You gotta love subliminal messages your brain sends to you.

I was having a separate conversation in my head as I was typing this up. It went something like "Man, I'd like to work for Tyler Florence and his company. I'm going to have to google him when I'm done." Ok. Now that I read that I may freak him out. And his wife too. "I must google him?"

I better start making something out of my TF cookbook or bad mojo will come my way. Sounds like a good project for next week when I'll have a lot of time on my hands doing what my dad calls the hardest job on the planet: looking for a job.

I bet you can hardly wait to read all about that!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Why you should quit smoking today

I lost a dear friend to lung cancer last Friday.
He was a husband.
A father.
And a friend.
He was also a life-long smoker.
He worked in the tobacco business most of his career.
As did his father.
He was only 58.
And now he's gone.
And I'm sad.
And I don't want anyone else to feel this way.
Ever.
So please.
To everyone out there that smokes.
Please stop.
Today.
1952 - 2011

Mya and Greg in China, 2002



We met Greg in 2000. He and his wife Kelley were part of our small group that traveled to China to adopt our daughters. We all became very close - almost like family. It was quite an emotional journey.

We shared laughs and tears, and stories, and more than one bottle of wine. Our most memorable moments were at their house hanging out on their deck eating Greg's famous ribs and drinking his special margaritas.
 
I wish we could have gone to Connecticut to say goodbye. I have to tell you though. On Tuesday morning I was driving to work thinking about him, wondering when the funeral was. And I felt like he was there. Smiling. I swear I felt hands on my shoulders and a feeling that everything was going to be ok. Later that day I found out that his funeral was at 11am est. Which would have been exactly when I was in the car on the west coast.

Good bye my friend.

Don, Elli, Greg, Mya, Ray, Lindsey, Tom and Amanda, 2002 Guangzhou China
Mya, Amanda and Lindsey, Fall 2010 in Connecticut
Don and Elli, 2011
We will miss you Greg.
You will live on in our hearts forever.

Love,
Kris, Don and Elli

In lieu of flowers, the family would like contributions in his memory to go to Healing Hearts, 73 Stadley Rough Road, Danbury, CT 06811.

Help find a cure for cancer.
Donate today: AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY
CLICK HERE for tips on how to quit smoking

Monday, January 24, 2011

My favorite blogs


Thanks to Trop 50 for sponsoring my writing about fabulous bloggers. This year Trop50 is granting 50 fabulous wishes. Click here to enter for a chance to win $1,000 to help grant a friend's wish!

Speaking of friends, I was talking to a friend the other day about blogs. She's a new blogger. And I'm somewhat of a veteran now that I've had my blog almost two years. I was giving her a few tips that I've learned along the way which led to bringing up some of the blogs that I like.

I remember asking my friend Kelly what blogs she likes. And from there I discovered a whole, huge world of blogs.

So I thought I would share five of my favorites with you. Here they are. In no particular order. I couldn't really pick a favorite favorite.

Deb
SMITTEN KITCHEN
Love, love, love her blog. Deb lives in NYC. She cooks in a teeny, tiny kitchen. She has a toddler. And cranks out some of the most amazing, yummy food. Ever. She has great photography skills. You will wish your computer screen was the scratch-n-sniff kind.

Elise
SIMPLY RECIPES
Hands down my #1 go to site for recipes. Next to Martha. I saw Elise speak when I went to the BlogHer food conference in San Francisco. I'll have to be honest. I was new at blogging - both reading them and writing them - and had never heard of her. (Same with a few other uber famous folks that were there like the Pioneer Woman, David Lebovitz, and so many more it's kind of embarrassing now.) Anyhow, I was intrigued by all of them, so I immediately checked out their blogs when I got home and Elise's blog just clicked with me. It's simple, clean, the recipes are well tested and taste great. The photography is simple and makes the food look delicious and real. I like her style of cooking and so does my family - some of my favorite recipes are from her.  Her Lemon Bread recipe is hands down my favorite.

Jenna
EAT, LIVE, RUN.
I first learned about Jenna when she was trying out for the Murphy Goode wine job - that was about two years ago. Something about her perky personality and drive for success has me checking in with her every morning. I'm practically old enough to be her mother. Reading her blog is a lot like watching a tree grow from small sapling to a great, big and beautiful tree. And she's a pretty good baker too.

THE KITCHN
No e. Trust me. I love the kitchen because it gives an inside peek into people's homes and kitchens. They feature real people, with real budgets and real homes. Large and small. Not the homes of famous folks all gussied up and gorgeous in Architectural Digest. Not that they aren't gorgeous. They are! My friend Lance had his home in SF featured. It was cool! In addition to highlighting different homes they also have tabs on technology, green, home design, cooking, and kids. I'm always discovering something new on their blog.

Heather
DOOCE
Heather Armstrong is Dooce. She is the original sassy blogger. I know some people have grown tired of her. But I still find her humor hilarious. Probably because I was late to the blogging world. I check out her blog on those days when I need a good, hardy laugh. She lives in Utah. Isn't afraid to tell it like it is which may or may not include a few cuss words and I like that. Plus, she takes amazing photographs - mainly her kids and two dogs. I have no idea how she gets her dogs to pose the way she does.

So there you go. A few of my favorite bloggers.

What are your favorite blogs? Besides mine of course. Ha ha ha!  I'd love to check them out!

PS.

Don't forget to enter the 50 Fabulous Wishes contest for a chance to win $1,000 to support a friend's wish. I was selected for this Tropicana Trop50 sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do. I received compensation to use and facilitate my post.

Note: All photos are from each bloggers site. Thank you Deb, Elise, Jenna and Heather.

Friday, January 21, 2011

It's Tequila tasting time. Salud!

I don't know about you. But the mister and I love our margaritas on Friday night.

There's nothing better to end the work week than one (or two) margaritas on the rocks. Oh who am I kidding. Really. Who only has one margarita? You have to have two. Because the first one is finished before your date can answer the question "How was your day?" And you need the second one to wash down the salty tortilla chips and the guacamole. This one you can take your time and enjoy.

And f-u-g-g-e-t about frozen margaritas. That is so 1990. Let's not go there.

If you're in our neighborhood on a Friday night you'll probably find us at a local Mexican restaurant. Feel free to come and join us. The more the merrier!

We recently did a little tequila tasting at home (for fun.) Don read about a new tequila that got a Silver Medal at the SF Spirits competition so he wanted to give it a try. It's distributed locally so we thought that was kind of cool. Lucky for us they tell you right on their website where it's distributed so Don had no trouble finding it.


We set them up on the counter. We compared their golden hues. Sniffed them. And sipped them. And bam. I'm choking. I have never learned to do anything in moderation. A light sniff is highly recommended. We sipped them again. And again. And then.....picking a winner became a lost cause.



They both tasted good and were pretty smooth. If I had to pick one I would pick the Magave because the bottle is prettier. I know. I know. I'm such a girl. But it is prettier! It's gold and sparkly. Check it out here: Magave Tequila Reposado

The verdict: We liked them both. They both made our Friday night a lot happier!

I clearly don't have a future as a tequila taster. I can cross that off the job list along with being a cab driver. (My sense of direction is not so hot.)

Tequila Taster - lack of focus
Cab Driver - bad sense of direction

I should stick to what I know. Eating and Drinking Wine. Advertising.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Names you don't forget: like Sclafani.

There are certain names you don't forget. They are unique. Or are tied to someone that had a huge affect on you - positively or negatively. They stick with you. Like the name Margaret. It reminds me of a big, red-headed girl in gym class that could throw the dodge ball harder than any boy. I have secretly feared the name Margaret ever since.

Then there's the name Sclafani. I once knew a family named Sclafani that was unlike any family I had met before. I haven't seen them in thirty years. But I remember them.

I thought of Donna Sclafani the other day when I wrote the story about the Italian one pot meal. She's Italian, her mother was always cooking, and it just made me think of her.

We were friends in 8th grade. She lived down the street from me in a split level house. I have no idea where she is now. But at the time, I had never met a family like hers before.

They were very New York. I don't remember where her parents were from. But my guess is Brooklyn or the Bronx. She had really dark, curly black hair and fair skin and dark brown eyes. She was a bit of a tomb boy - with a very pink bedroom. Which always struck me as a bit odd. Her family was loud. They didn't speak to one another in a normal tone. They were always yelling like George Costanza and his parents on Seinfeld. Or Jerry Stiller in real life! It kind of scared me.

"D-O-N-N-A!!!!" her dad would yell.

We became friends shortly after I moved to Connecticut from Michigan. I was the new girl and she was nice to me. So we hung out for a while in middle school. We eventually parted ways when we went to high school.

Weird things I remember:
  • They had doilies on the furniture.
  • She was the only girl in the family, and had a canopy bed and a tv in her room which made me extremely jealous. 
  • She had a little white dog named Corky that bit me.  I kinda hated that dog. I never told them he bit me. I was embarrassed.
Her mom was always in the kitchen, wearing an apron and cooking with great big pots. Their house always smelled like food. She cooked things that seemed exotic and a little strange to me. I remember seeing unfamiliar ingredients and smelling things I had never smelled before. I'm sure I gave her my wide-eyed "I-have-no-idea-what-that-is" look on more than one occasion. I'm sure she thought I was a curious little thing.

I bet she made things like Piaaziola, Puttanesca, Giambotta and Baked Ziti - all stuff with funny names that is served on giant platters, to a large family just like on the Soprano's.

The funny thing is I didn't eat at her house very often. We would hang out after school and then have to be home at our own house for dinner. I wish now that I could go back in time and see what she had cooking in the kitchen. I bet it was fantastic.

I don't know if her family is related to the Sclafani line of food products. I would bet anything they are.  I did a little Google research but didn't find much history - which is odd since the company was started in 1911. They were sold in November 2010 to a big food company called B&G Foods. Seems like I might have found out something. huh.

It's just occurred to me that all this stuff I remember is taking up valuable space in my brain. I need a separate hard drive to download some of this old information to make room for new stuff I want to learn.  Like what all the <+>"" stuff means in HTML code, and new recipes, and the names of actors in movies, and how much money I made at my last job. Useful stuff. Not a brain cluttered with old doilies.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Chicken Spezzatino

Ya gotta love a word like Spezzatino.

You have to say it like a character on The Sopranos. S-p-e-z-z-a-t-i-n-o. It helps if you squint your eyes a bit and cock your head to one side when you say it. And don't forget to nod. Now try it one more time.

"Yo, anyone seen Joey Spezzatino?"

Ha.

So yeah, I made a new recipe from My Giada de Laurentiis cookbook called Chicken Spezzatino. And I think I had the cast of the Soprano's in the kitchen with me. Weird, I know.


I didn't set out to make this recipe. I had chicken and a can of tomatoes and was in need of some inspiration. So I looked in the index of the Giada book and voila, I had MOST of the ingredients needed for Chicken Spezzatino. Perfect. This is how I fly. (And why things don't always taste exactly like they should.) But don't worry, I don't include those recipes here - unless they turn out.


It's technically supposed to be a one pot meal. It took me three pots - a small, medium and large.

The large, because I decided to serve it over pasta. And the small to make a roux, because it wasn't quite thick enough (due to one of the missing ingredients: beans) so I made a quick roux to thicken it up a tad. The good news is it tasted good. It's the perfect weeknight meal.

I love these Italian one/three pot recipes. They're so homey and delish.



Chicken Spezzatino (adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis)

2 T olive oil
2 celery stalks finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled, and finely diced
1 small yellow onion chopped (or 1/2 large onion)
1 t. salt
1 t. fresh ground pepper
1 (14.5oz) can diced tomatoes with their juices
1 (14 oz) can reduced-sodium chicken broth
6 crimini mushrooms sliced and roughly chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves*
1 T. tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1/2 t. dried thyme
2 chicken breasts (cut in thirds)
1 (15-ounce) can organic kidney beans, drained and rinsed*

Roux: (optional)
1 T. butter
1 T. flour

Pasta (optional)
Large egg noodles

1. In a heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium. Brown the chicken and remove from the pan.
2. Add  the celery, carrot, and onion, and saute until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the salt and pepper.
4. Stir in the tomatoes, broth, mushrooms, basil, tomato paste, bay leaf, and thyme.
5. Add the chicken and press to submerge. Bring the liquid to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer gently, uncovered, turning the breasts over and stirring occasionally, until the chicken is almost cooked through, about 20-25 minutes.
6. Add the kidney beans and simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the liquid has reduced to a stew consistency, about 10 minutes.
7. Discard the bay leaf. Place the chicken pieces on a cutting board. Use a fork and knife to shred the chicken.
8. Return the chicken to the pan and bring to a simmer.
9. Add salt and pepper to taste.

OPTIONS:
1. Roux: Melt the butter in a small sauce pan. Add the flour. Cook a few minutes until bubbly. Add to the chicken and tomato mixture. If you added the beans, you may not need to do this.
2. Pasta: we were eating this as a main course. It didn't seem like it would be enough without some pasta. So I made a bag of pasta to serve it over and it was perfect. Again, if you used the beans you may not need to do this.

Elli had her friend Lou Lou over the night we ate this. She asked me if the noodles were donuts. I have to admit I gave her a look. "Uh, no. There are no donuts in the dinner with the chicken. Those are noodles." I told her. "Oh." she replied. She didn't believe me until she tasted one. Hmmmm.

*These are the ingredients I didn't have - fresh basil and beans. I used a few shakes of dried basil.  But fresh would have been better. The beans definitely would have given it more substance and creaminess. And I might try a different bean like cannelini. Not a huge fan of kidney beans.

Friday, January 14, 2011

09 Dahlia Pinot Noir Reserve - 93 PTS and delish

I'm not afraid to admit it. And I can say it out loud. I like this Pinot. I know, I know.....

You've heard me moan and groan about my issues with Pinot and my sensitive palate. You've put up with all my whining about how I think they all smell and taste like stinky old barn. Not that I have actually tasted a barn, or hay, or dirty goats. But the smell is so strong for me that I can't get past it.

So when Don poured me a glass of wine on Saturday and had a devilish smirk on his face I knew he was up to no good. He was going to try and trick me into something. But I'm smarter than that, because I spotted the BevMo purchase he made and noticed he bought a few bottles of Dahlia Pinot Reserve. Apparently he has forgotten that my friend Rob Jensen, of Testarossa fame, makes this Pinot and it is one of the few pinots I actually like! Because it tastes like fruit. Imagine that!


Don bought it because Wilfred gave it a whopping 93 pts. And it was on sale. That's like winning the lottery in my house. We thoroughly enjoyed the first bottle. Then the second. Oops. It was Saturday. So settle down.

I remembered tasting this wine a while ago when we were doing a photo shoot at Testarossa. It was the summer of 2009........ just kidding. Well not really. It was! We took a break from the photo shoot and had lunch with Rob and Wilfred and the crew on the patio outside. Rob brought out a few wine samples for all of us to try. Technically they were for Wilfred to try, but the rest of us couldn't resist getting a little sip.

And now here they are bottled and on sale at BevMo for $19.99 (in California, anyway.) Plus, I just remembered, BevMo has a coupon out there that you can use to purchase this wine. You can save $1 on each bottle. The easiest thing to do is to order online and use this code at checkout: VPMM13

Sorry, I got side tracked. I'm always looking for a way to save a buck. Or two.

I highly recommend a trip to the winery if you happen to be in Los Gatos. You will love all the Testarossa wines. They consistently score above 90pts. Rob and Bill know how to make good wine.

And if you're into history you'll find the physical place quite interesting. It's the fourth oldest continuously operating winery in California. It dates back to 1888. The building has quite a history. See? Now you want to go, right? You can get directions here. Call me. I'll meet you there.

Check out the beautiful old stone entrance to the winery tasting room.
It's a great place to take pictures too. Here are some shots that my buddy Wilfred took that day. There's a lot of down time at a photo shoot. So of course we took a bunch of pictures - of each other - to kill time.
Me
Rob Jensen, Owner
Bill Brosseau, Winemaker
Wilfred Wong, BevMo! Cellarmaster (photo by me!)
And me again. This is how I am in real life. Totally annoying.

After wine tasting you can skip into town and have lunch. There is a tasty little lunch spot down the hill from the winery called The Purple Onion Cafe. Yum. Yum. Yum.



You might also like this past article on Testarossa: Pinot Noir and my Sensitive Palate

And, I would be happy to blah, blah, blog about anyone else's pinot. Just send me a bottle and I'm all yours. Yes, it's that easy.

Disclaimer: all products and opinions are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this post. The end.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Haiti earthquake - one year ago today

When I see the pictures of the people in Haiti it breaks my heart. I can't imagine.

We experienced an earthquake here in San Francisco the other day. It rattled the building, shook our desks and made the rafters squeak. It was over in a matter of seconds. No harm done. We all went on with our day. Or in my case I jumped on Twitter to see if any of my other SF twitter friends felt it. The earthquake was recorded as a 4.1 and it's epicenter was somewhere near San Jose.

By the next morning it was old news.

This was not the case for the poor people in Haiti. On January 12, 2010, their world literally crumbled in a matter of 30 seconds.

The people that live in San Francisco can relate to the horror and damage that an earthquake creates - - more than most people. Many people here experienced the horrible earthquake that occurred in 1989. It was recorded as a 7.1. You should hear the stories.

But nothing can compare to what happened in Haiti. The 7.0 earthquake created so much destruction that it will take years to rebuild. 230,000 people were killed and 1.3 million people were left homeless.

Fortunately, there are a lot of people out there that really care. People like Sean Penn and Willa Shalit (daughter of Gene Shalit.) They are using their star power, connections, and rolling up their sleeves to help raise money and rebuild Haiti.

Sean Penn is the leader of a 55,000 person refugee camp. He's been there a year living in a tent. Amazing. You can see photos here. That's dedication.

Willa Shalit has a company called Fair Winds Trading Company that she created years ago to help artisans in Rwanda and now Haiti support themselves. She imports their goods and pays fair wages. Which has tremendous economic impact. Because when a country crumbles, so do the jobs. You can read more about her on Oprah's site.  She's known as the woman who makes shopping meaningful. That's my kind of girl.

So what can we do to help? Shop, of course!

Lucky for you (and me) Willa Shalit has partnered with the very smart and generous people at Macy's. Together they created a program called The Heart of Haiti. They partnered with artists in Haiti and in a matter of three weeks designed a group of home accessories and jewelry that range in price from $10 to $275 to sell in store and on the website.


You can purchase a one-of-a-kind beautiful piece of art from a Haitian artist. Proceeds from the Heart of Haiti art collection will help provide better nutrition, improved education and health care - life-changing resources for the artists and their families.

Here is a sampling of what is available. Click HERE to see the entire collection. And to start shopping of course!
Heart of Haiti Mirror, Made from the steel of recycled barrels, $75

Monday, January 10, 2011

A kitchen miracle

This is not one of those buy this product and we promise you'll never have to do dishes again.

But wouldn't THAT be awesome.

It's much simpler. And a teeny bit ridiculous that something so simple took three years to accomplish.

It has to do with my growing cookbook collection and the need to put them somewhere.

I used to have my cookbooks piled up in the kitchen on top of the microwave, and on top of our sideboard. It made me crazy how messy they were. I wanted a shelf.


(This picture was taken a few years ago before they took over the top of the microwave.)

We looked for a shelf at West Elm. Didn't find one. But we did find a nice looking teeny weeny mantle for our fireplace. Great. What about my cookbooks?

A year passes by......

I wanted one of those cool streamlined shelves that look really modern and seem-less. But Don insisted it wouldn't be strong enough for all the books. And he's right.

So, another year passes by.......

Finally I decided to see what I could find at the Container Store. I picked up a shelf that had a wire brace. But when we held it up to the wall it didn't look right. So I took it back to the Container store.

And another year passed by......and my cookbook collection continued to grow.

Finally a few Sunday's ago I decided that I was done waiting. So I grabbed some stuff we had stashed in a closet - a shelf, two brackets, and screws. It was supposed to be for Elli's closet. But since I high-jacked her closet we never installed it.

The shelf length is perfect and the brackets are strong enough. Don thinks there should be three brackets, I have two. I don't care. We're putting it up with two brackets. And before Don knows it he's drilling holes and installing my shelf. FINALLY.

TA DA!!!!!

Let me tell you. It's awesome. I love, love, love it. I don't know why, but I feel like my kitchen is ten times bigger and the ceiling taller. Strange, I know. It's added height to the room somehow. And air below. Elli thinks I've gone a little cuckoo over my shelf.

Whatevs. I'm much happier in my our little kitchen space. It's amazing what a little shelf will do. And if I ever decide to make home-made spaghetti I can put a rod on the brackets and dry pasta. How 'bout that?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Managing chaos.

 As in, "Oh no. Oli the parking attendant is gone. Fired."

"What? Who?" you're asking yourself.

Oli managed the parking garage where I park for work. I work in San Francisco where parking can be really challenging. I'm lucky I get to park my car in the same garage every day. It's in a condo building next door to my office. Most of the tenants work, so it frees up spaces for all the nearby businesses during the day.
 
That's my window!

Oli (pronounced Oh lee) knew exactly where every car should go. He piled them in. And treated them with TLC. He hardly ever took a day off and when he did it was never good. No one could park the cars with such efficiency. We were always happy when he was back.

And now he's gone and the parking garage is an unorganized mess. Cars are everywhere. They're piled in the wrong order. They're all over the place. It doesn't give you much comfort when you leave your car to someone creating such chaos.



They say he helped himself to some of the cash. I don't know. Maybe it's true. But I find it hard to believe. He seemed to really like his job. And from my point of view, he did it really well.

When I first started here over four years ago Oli was a little mean. I didn't know his "rules." The only way to keep a busy parking garage organized like a puzzle is with rules. I needed a manual.

When he asks what time you're leaving he really wants to you tell him. Because that's how he figures out where all the cars go. And you better give him the heads up if you have to leave in the middle of the day. Or you can forget about getting your car out. He will force the "no in and out" rule on you if you don't communicate with him.  And when he says park in the middle row far left he meant far left. You better put your car as far to the left as humanly possible. Because he's going to squeeze three cars in there where you think it should fit two.

I quickly learned his rules and he was very pleasant to me after that. He always seemed to be friendly with the other customers and tenants too.

So it made me kind of sad to hear that he was gone. And that I didn't get to say goodbye.

I'll be gone from my job at H/L in a week or so anyway. But I'll get to say goodbye to everyone.

So Oli, if by some odd chance you happen to find my blog, "Good bye my friend. I wish you well. Elli says good bye, too."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Oh my aching back.

I feel old today.

Mainly because my back hurts.

I don't know if it's stress, lack of exercise, sore muscles from putting away the Christmas stuff (lame), an old mattress, or what. Or a combination of all those things. But my back hurts. And it's killing me.

I'm no spring chicken so I'm not surprised that I have some aches and pains. But in my mind I'm still young. It's not until I look in the mirror - and see a face that I barely recognize do I really realize that I'm not young anymore.

Don usually does a good job of keeping me in check. I'll say something like, "She looks a lot older than me and we're the same age!" and he'll give me that crazy look, with one eyebrow cockeyed. "Uh, hate to break it to you. But you look like you're the same age." he'll say, in the most loving way.

"Oh no you didn't." Is what immediately goes through my mind.

humph.

I don't want to be old. But then again, I don't want to be young again either. I guess I just want to freeze where I am and not get any older looking. It's really the older looking part that bothers me the most.


When I was young I said I would never, ever consider plastic surgery. I have a totally different opinion now. I would totally let someone do a teeny weeny nip and tuck here and there to take a few years off. Nothing crazy like the cat woman. Just a little subtle tightening and lifting. I won't really do it. One, I'm scared to death of doctors and needles. And two, I'm a huge chicken. I guess those are both kind of the same thing. Seriously though, I don't even color my hair. Yet.

I'm hoping it's all mind over matter. So I wore a sassy outfit with short skirt, black tights and black boots. I always feel better when I wear my tights and boots. It makes me feel young and sassy. At least I think I'm sassy. Who knows.

No comments, please. Let me live in my own little sassy fantasy world for one day.


Monday, January 3, 2011

Cookbook Review: Tyler Florence Family Meal

Elli gave me this cookbook for Christmas.

She went to the book fair at her school right before Christmas and saw two books that she wanted to buy for me and Don.

She got Don the book "Earth" that Jon Stewart wrote. She knows how much he likes Jon Stewart and thought this was the perfect gift for him. She could not wait until Christmas when he could open the book. It was really cute.

She picked out the new Tyler Florence cookbook for me. Tyler lives in Mill Valley and has a shop here. So she thought I would like it. And she's right. It was an incredibly thoughtful gift.

I think she's going to grow up to be a thoughtful gift giver like her daddy.

So over the next few months I'll be trying out some of his recipes. Don will be happy. He's got recipes like chicken fried steak, chicken and dumplings, gravy - real southern favorites that I've never made, that Don will love.


The interesting thing about this cookbook is all the stories he incorporates and recipes from his neighbors, too. He likes to host pot luck dinners with his neighbors. It looks really fun. And they can cook. I wished he lived in my neighborhood. I would love that.

Good thing I don't know where he lives exactly. I remember when I was in 12th grade. My friend Marsha and I took up jogging (for about a week) so we could jog in front of Robert Redford's house in Weston hoping for a peek. We never even saw a car in the driveway so we gave up jogging. Dumb girls.

Back to Tyler. And his book. It has beautiful food photography.  And pretty much has only one recipe per spread. I like books like that. It's easy to see what the food should look like so you can measure how you did.

So looks like I have some cooking to do.

Sorry I bored all of you with gobs of recipes between Christmas and New Years. I was working on a HUGE recipe project and had to get a bunch of stuff posted. It's a top secret project right now. I'll fill you in soon though. And no it's not a cookbook or anything like that. I'm a recipe follower, not a creator, remember?

I read someone's tweet the other day ranting about people calling themselves "Chef" or "Sommelier" when they hadn't worked in a restaurant with that title. I'm not claiming to be a chef. But I was head pizza maker at Mazzio's Pizza in Plano, Texas when I was in 11th grade. Does that count? Kidding. I don't want to be a chef. That is sweaty hard work. No way. I just want to be able to cook (almost) restaurant quality food at home.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

TCU - 2011 Rosebowl Champions

WOO HOO!!
Picture by Kristy Washburn Rapson, '86
Congrats to my alma mater. It was a great game! I can't wait to see all my office mates on Monday!

This has been in my office for 2 weeks. You can imagine how happy everyone is that the game is finally over.

It was a little bigger than I imagined it would be. Ha!