Holiday Gift Guide 2012

I absolutely love it when my favorite bloggers put up a list of their Holiday gift suggestions! Digital window shopping is much more fun than fighting my way through a sea of not-so-merry shoppers. After all, reports of Black Friday’s death and injury toll were enough to scare even the Grinch away from  department stores!

So pour yourself a little mug of eggnog, put on your slippers, and click click click away little elf!



For girls with style, a pair of silvery shimmery cashmere gloves with a very lady-like bow at the wrist. Chic AND cozy is always a winning combination! Find them here, $68




For the newlyweds, a customized birch wood anniversary wine box. As the bottles and their love mature and become more special as the years pass, this gorgeous box provides a unique toast on their 1st, 3rd, and 5th anniversaries. Find it here, $130




For the writer, for the dreamer, for the artist: a handmade leather journal. Daniel Heywood crafts his unique journals and paper goods in Utah, and his work can be found on Etsy (boasting 100% positive feedback from shoppers). This particular journal can be found here, $25




For the girl who’s tuned in, these cute little cupcake earbuds will have her listening in style. Find them here $12




For your parents, in-laws, or an outdoorsy friend, a gorgeous picnic basket will have them grinning from ear to ear! (I know I would). This 18-piece beauty features napkins, wine glasses, corkscrew, tablecloth, flatware, cheese knife, plates, and cutting board! Find it here, $100




For bringing out the child in all of us, a hidden animal mug! Choose from a selection of tiny little animals, and as you sip they’ll begin to emerge from just beneath the surface of your tea! Find them here, $25




For keeping her toes warm this winter, knit socks for Hunter wellington boots! Find them in a variety of syles and colors here, $40




For a father, brother, or gentleman caller, this unique handcfrafted razor is not only handsome but functional. Made from deer antler, and uses Mach3 re-usable blades. Find it here, $40




For the the girl with stars in her eyes and love in her heart, a customized cuff evoking the romantic tradition of lovers carving their initals into bark. Jeweler Nancy Nelson hand casts the brass from real birch bark that she collected along the southern shore of Lake Superior. Handmade in the USA. Find them here, $100




For the host and hostess, Wiens Family Vineyard bottles a limited amount of their yearly holiday meritage in magum-sized bottles! The 2011 Merrytage is a blend of cabernet, syrah, grenache, and mourvedre varietals, and features a new artist’s label each year. Find bottles here, $49




For the sports nut: get him a pair of these heirloom cufflinks. Made from salvaged stadium seats, these one-of-a-kind cufflinks will certainly look a whole lot better out on the town than a grubby ol’ jersey. Handmade in the USA from sterling silver and reclaimed materials, these handsome pieces will be treasured for a lifetime. Find them here, $170-200




For the adventurous little tyke, gift this bike chalk trail kit! Recommended for children 3+, the adjustable chalk holder snaps onto the back of any sized bike and is immediately ready for creative kids to color their world with miles of doodles! Find it here, $7-27




Happy Holidays!!



Fresh Air and Pho

After months on end of humidity and sweltering heat, the coast has finally been swept with the first blast of winter chill!

And now…. I have a cold.

Desperate to kick this sickness to the curb before Thanksgiving, I’ve resorted to all sorts of remedies…a few aspirin, a handful of vitamins, gallons of tea, early bedtimes, maybe a whiskey or two….you name it, I tried it.

But my ultimate, tried-and-true, fail proof, cold-kickin’ combo is this: a stroll in fresh air and a steaming bowl of pho.  Rather than staying cooped up and moping next to a box of Kleenex, I know that getting out for a long walk can start to clear up even the nastiest of symptoms. So I bundled up, leashed Wyatt, and headed for the wetlands.



The hound tugged me along at a fairly brisk pace, and we gulped down the salty coastal air. It was quiet out, there was a sturdy onshore breeze, and the view was gorgeous.




With weary legs but big smiles, we headed home. While Wyatt dozed off right away, I started on a big pot of soup. There’s something about Pho…the strong broth, aromatics, and spices…that warms you from head to toe. Deemed one of the world’s “50 Most Delicious Foods” by CNN last year, this popular Vietnamese street food is so killer, I had to find a way to whip up a pot at home. There was bit of leftover roast in my fridge, so this particular recipe is for a beef version (Pho Bo). Feel free, however, to sub the broth for chicken or vegetable and omit the meat if you need to. To me, pho is all about a deeply flavored, rich, spicy broth.


You will need:

4 cups good quality (beef) broth

Thinly sliced beef

Package of thin rice noodles or ramen

Bean sprouts

1 jalapeno

1 lime

1 fistful of fresh basil

Sriracha (hot sauce)


Crimini or shitake mushrooms

1 cup scallions, diced

1 tsp. Chili powder

1 tsp. Ground or freshly grated ginger

1 tsp. Ground cumin

Salt, pepper



Finely mince 2 or 3 cloves of garlic and sauté in a large soup pot over medium heat. Once the garlic is turning golden, pour in the broth, followed by your scallions and thinly sliced mushrooms. Add in a pinch of salt and pepper, and a dash each of chili powder, cumin, and ginger. Pour in 4- 5 cups of water, and let simmer for 30 minutes, or until adequately reduced.

Once the broth is finished, place a handful of rice noodles in the bottom of a bowl and pour the piping hot liquid over. The noodles will begin to cook, and now you can add your condiments! I love the traditional bean sprouts, hand torn fresh basil, thin slices of jalapeno, and a squeeze of lime. If you like it spicy (like I do), stir in a bit of Sriracha hot sauce! If a more mild flavor is what you prefer, you can also add Hoisen or a bit of duck sauce.



Slurp up, and enjoy!




*** Wyatt wears a Gentle Leader headcollar. This may resemble a muzzle, but is far FAR from it. For more information, click here. ***

Oh Baby!

My friends are starting to have babies. That time has come.

This means I get to spend hours perusing adorable bonnets, frocks and blankets…gawking at dapper little boots and blazers…drooling over miniature designer collections…

And I still get to have cocktails!

One of my dearest friends had a baby shower the other day. It was an afternoon filled with laughter among friends, buckets and buckets of prosecco, lots of talk about Gerber and Pampers, and traditional shower games that made us act like giddy little girls. “A” was radiant as usual…she’s been embracing this pregnancy like a pro, with a serene confidence and permanent smile. It was SO much fun celebrating her that day…

In addition to chatting away with friends and sipping a bottomless glass of bubbly, one of my favorite parts of a baby shower is watching the mom-to-be open all her gifts and goodies! As an auntie to two nephews (the second, actually, will arrive in less than a week!), it was especially fun this time to see so many girly items being unfurled from the pretty packages. A’s little bun-in-the-oven is now the proud owner of a wardrobe so chic, Suri Cruise would be jealous.

If you haven’t be out hunting down shower gifts lately, here’s a little peek at what you might find out there in the world of children’s fashion.

For the rustic, debonair little man in your life, look to Zara Kids for inspiration:

Gymboree and Etsy offer tons of ruffles and rompers for the pint-sized princess. Burberry is, of course, always a classic choice for the tyke who has everything:

Zara Kids also offers incredibly chic dresses….and bonnets for little ladies:

Fresh Pickin’

This past weekend, Mike and I ditched the sweltering coast and headed for the foothills. A drive up winding roads scattered with auburn leaves took us to a quaint hilltop dotted with family-run orchards. As we pulled off to the side and parked under the shade of a gangly pine, I drew a deep breath of crisp mountain air and readied myself for some apple-picking.

The century-old Willowbrook Orchard is a gorgeous little farm bustling with gaggles of laughing children, trees groaning under a bounty of apples, an absurdly fat pig and her sidekicks “Comet” and “Flopsy”,  and the cutest little shed packed with jars of honey, apple butter, and home-made jams. The Swansons are charming folks, delighting in showing visitors around their orchard, telling jokes and lending a hand over at the cider press.



After sharing a cup of just-pressed apple cider, we gathered up our little satchel and took to the trees. Mike spotted a few bountiful branches and we managed to rustle up some beautifully lush fruit.



Setting off past the berry thicket, in search of a mothership tree, Mike got side-tracked admiring a plump little friend…



With our sack full of big ol’ winesap apples and our arms growing weary from wrestling with wild branches, we paid for our bounty and headed down the road again.



Passing by a few farmstands and a tempting sign for a “Corn Maze”, we came upon a huge craft fair and village. Little shops selling hand made knick-knacks lined the paths, a restaurant terrace was packed with families lunching in the sunshine, and an older gentleman manned the petting zoo, offering children little cups of corn kernels to feed the little lambs and reindeer. Mike and I perused the scene for a little while before being completely overwhelmed by the unmistakable scents of fresh-baked apple pie. Following our noses, we came upon a bakery heralding “Mile-High Apple Pie” which we lined up for immediately. A few minutes later we were handed a fantastically huge slice of warm pie, mounded with vanilla bean ice cream. Our two tiny little plastic forks wittled away at this delicious monstrosity until there wasn’t a crumb left.



Bellies happy, lungs full of fresh air, and smiles still glued to our faces, we got in the car once more and headed home.

Now I just have to cook up something deliciously autumnal with all these apples!