Birthday wishes to Mom, who turns another year older and wiser this weekend. Last Saturday, I went on a little hunt for her birthday gift (item #2 below), which inspired a post about some of the great gifts I've given my parents in the last year.
Description: Turn water into soda!
I loved that the syrups were natural and that it had the potential to replace all of those aluminum soda cans! I sent this to Mom for Mother's Day last year. A few days later, Dad called to report that he over-carbonated some "Dr. Pepper," which ended up all over the kitchen. I think the SodaStream has been relegated to the closet, but it is still a great idea if your parents drink lots of carbonated beverages or enjoy "do it yourself" kinds of things. Plus, it is very environmentally friendly (think: less waste when you make your own soda at home!) in case your parents live in Portland and drive a Prius :-)
Description: Track your fitness and your sleep!
I heard about this little gadget at a conference I was at recently. The device senses movement in three dimensions, tracking calories, steps taken, and sleep patterns. It wirelessly syncs to your computer when you're within 15 feet and has an online portal for progress checks. Ironic enough, once I decided to send one to Mom for her birthday this year, she called and left a voice message about a similar device that she saw on the news!
3. Hanging Canvas
Description: Expensive-looking wall art!
Last year, Mom insisted on no birthday gift. I had already ordered her a canvas of one of my favorite photos of the two of us (taken at my 24th birthday party!) which fortunately didn't break the bank at around $30 including shipping for an 11 by 14" wall hanging. These look so professional and the upload process for a high quality digital photo couldn't be easier.
Description: Apple's magical tablet computer!
In 2009, I used some of my remaining stock option profits to finance an Ireland trip for Dad (who had previously never been outside of the US) and I. We had a great time traveling around the country in our rental car, drinking Guinness (not while driving!), and experiencing the local culture. In December, I decided that part of Dad's Christmas gift should be a compilation of our trip photos and videoclips. And what better way to present it than on the magical Apple device known as the iPad! In the ten weeks since Christmas, this device has been a big hit at home. The keyboard dock is in the kitchen and my parents are now using this for everything from e-mail to music, Facebook updates, weather forecasts, and internet browsing. Did I mention that I also downloaded Fruit Ninja for them?... The iPad is truly an amazing gift - and very intuitive for middle-aged parents who didn't grow up as part of a tech-savvy generation.
5. Summer CSA
Description: Organic veggies delivered every week, all summer long!
Last summer for Dad's birthday, I purchased a CSA from an organic vegetable farm in Minnesota. In case you're not familiar with a CSA, it's a commitment to purchase a portion of a local farms bounty for a continuous period of time (usually a season), hence the name "Community Supported Agriculture." Now Minnesota has a very short growing season, so their farm shares are not 52-weeks/year like they are in Northern California. This summer, nearly 10 pounds of items like peppers, carrots, cucumbers, potatoes, tomatoes, corn, onion, garlic, squash, herbs and lettuces were delivered each week. There were always extra items that neighbors, friends, and family benefitted from!
I haven't gone too crazy with the Christmas decor this year. Not sure why. Normally I love to decorate. This year, both Halloween and Thanksgiving came and went without digging out any holiday accessories! This fall has been a bit of a whirlwind, I guess. But Christmas is special and it wouldn't be right to neglect the glitter. So here's a quick look at the small flourishes of festivity seen 'round here.
(Above) Last year I snagged two dozen glass bulbs from Target on the 75% off sale the day after Christmas. They look colorfully chic in my tall glass vase. Meanwhile, my Mom's old Christmas towels are gracing my shower bar. Isn't that reindeer cute?
For years, I helped hang these glittery snowflakes from fishline in the kitchen. I left home with most of them a few years ago, so now they grace random shelves.
And finally, what would Christmas be without my tinsel tree? For the third year in a row, I've decked out my signature tree in pink. A bunch of bows, bulbs, and ballerina ornaments provide the sparkle. I hope my neighbors like pink, because the hot pink lights can be seen all the way down the block!
The weather in San Francisco is definitely feeling wintery (brrrr, temperatures dropping into the 40's at night!) and yesterday my office hosted its holiday party. Afterwards, my group went ice skating at Union Square. Considering that I hadn't been on ice skates since I was about 4 years old, I didn't do too bad. I only fell about five times :-)
My mother has been calling me to ask for a Christmas list. I've been fresh out of inspiration and this year, just a few things come to mind.
1. Vineyard Vines Patchwork Beach Tote. The preppy girl's must have bag of cutesy nautical pastels. A cute bag for running around town on the weekends. This could easily go from farmer's market to pilates class to afternoon picnic in the park.
2. Clarisonic Mia. My esthetician has been pleading with me to get a Clarisonic, the skin cleansing wonder brush. Finally this last time I said, "I'll put it on my Christmas list!" She thought that was a good idea. Besides, every girl that I know with one of these swears by it.
3. 4-pk of Bag the Habit Reusable Produce Bags. I've always wanted these mesh bags for the market, but I never wanted to pay $15 for them. So instead, I've been reusing brown paper bags until they get wet or break.
4. Black Suede Flats with Feathers. I tried these on in September at Banana Republic and ever since, I've been hoping they would go on sale. I wear black flats to work pretty much every day and my last pair has seen better days. I can't believe they're still full price. Who wants to bet they'll finally get marked down after Christmas?...
5. Le Creuset French Oven. Le Creuset makes me weak in the knees. Those beautiful colors! I am desperate to upgrade from the cheap aluminum $15 stock pot for making soups, rice (and rice based dishes like jambalaya), and braises. The Le Creuset French Oven is a classic home cooking piece right up there with the Kitchen Aid Mixer!
If you're at all cognizant of cultural phenomena, I don't need to tell you about the comeback of terrariums. According to www.terrariums.com, the history of terrariums dates back to 500 BC, when the Greeks grew and displayed plants in transparent containers. Now, fast forward some 2500 years to modern day. Terrariums have recently gained notable traction in the press, with multiple mentions on Design Sponge (see here, here, and here) and the cadillac of newspapers, the New York Times (see here).
The New York Times article ran on June 2nd and pushed me over the edge. I wanted a terrarium. Scratch that, I needed a terrarium. It was more than a passing urge, it was a pre-programmed desire deep in my heart. I immediately began Googling some options. The most intriguing option was sourced through a Yelp review that mentioned a DIY (that's "Do It Yourself") terrarium class at a place called Workshop SF. It was just my luck that there was a Glass Jar Terrariums class occurring that day! Of course, it was also just my luck that said class was sold out.
Not to worry though, because the class is in high demand right now (shock!) and I was able to register for the June 16th class. I must admit that I secretly still wanted to run out and purchase a terrarium ASAP, but I practiced restraint. I mean, I dished out $30 to learn this art form, and before throwing in the towel, I might as well try my own hand at this miniature gardening thing, right?
Despite a pounding headache and a growling stomach demanding dinner, I went to class last night. My moment had come and I was battling myself to find the motivation to attend this long-awaited occasion! I popped an Advil and drove up Divisadero to Workshop SF's studio at Baker and McAllister. I found street parking with ease and took a few deep breaths of cool summer air. Once inside, Katie, the instructor, gave a cheerful welcome. "This is not the Gap!" she replied, when I asked if I could take photos. I wasn't really concerned about that being an issue (after all, this is San Francisco where the per capita number of blogs probably exceeds one per city resident). I took a full 10 minutes to wander around and marvel at the unique decor. What a design junkie's paradise!
As class started, Katie did a short demo and let us get down and dirty. Leveraging her witty humor, she noted the "dirty" innuendos inherent in terrarium-crafting. Phrases like, "dig a hole and get rough," and "get a pencil and push it in" went from innocuous to raunchy the second she alluded to the dual nature of the instructions. If that wasn't going to break the ice, nothing was! In no time at all, we were filling glass jars with soil and selecting succulents.
Some notes on terrarium-making:
- Glass jars can be purchased at Goodwill for $1, Michael's, or Pier 1.
- Plants are cheap - about $2-3 for succulents and $4-6 for a six-pack of grasses or leafy plants.
- A layer of charcoal helps to counteract formation of mold.
- A spray bottle is useful for watering and for "cleaning" off the plants (they get dirty as you plant them).
- Moss or pebbles/small rocks is useful for covering up blank spaces but be sure not too overcrowd the terrarium.
- Fill rocks in the bottom. Depending on height of jar, a thicker rock layer can be visually interesting.
- Next layer is charcoal to prevent mold growth.
- Now add at least 2" of dirt (remember that the plants must have somewhere to take root in).
- Spray the dirt with a spray bottle. Use a pencil eraser to make cavities to insert grasses, plants, and succulents.
- Remove any grasses, plants, or succulents from packaging and break up the soil at bottom. Insert into wet soil.
- Super moss and small pebbles can be used to fill in any gaps.
- Add woodland creatures of your liking. Spray the inside of the jar clean with water.
- Water finished terrarium about once per week and place in the sun. Expected life is approximately 3 months, but considerably longer with good care.
I can't tell you how many people have complimented my photography skills. After perusing my blog posts they assume I am the proud owner of a DSLR camera. When I whip out my tiny Canon PowerShot SD780 IS, they marvel at (1) it's small size and (2) it's astute ability to capture high-quality images.
So even if you're sick of my posts about flowers, at least take the time to appreciate the gorgeous photos that follow...
I finally found some peonies for a mere $2/stem. Bringing home a bouquet of five, I raced to the window to capture the trace amount of 7:00 pm sunlight. Natural light makes for terrific images, whether one is shooting food or flowers... you know... the two things I just can't seem to get enough of.
Apparently, white mini-blinds also make a great backdrop.
In all of about ten minutes time, I had snapped 98 pictures. Thank you, Santa Claus, for bringing a 4 GB memory stick.
Digital photography has come a long way in ten years. Our family's first digital camera was a Polaroid (no, not the old-school kind, they actually made a digital) from Wal-Mart in 1999. I remember a discussion in French class about what we had received for Christmas. I said a "digital camera" and Madame Jungers required an explanation. Fast forward a decade and I'm pretty sure that all civilized persons are relatively familiar with the technology.
Somewhere in between the Polaroid, I've owned a Gateway (a terrible idea), a Nikon ($400 for a 5.1 MB camera in 2005!), and now, this fantastic Canon. My parents have owned two Sony's, post-Polaroid. Interesting that we've become conspicuously more conscious of buying brands held in high regard.
But enough discourse on digital photography. This post is about the peonies. Aren't they amazing?