my own thank you {a giveaway}

October 29, 2010
My first giveaway, but that's not what I want to call it. I want it to be a thank you. Over the past year that I've had this blog it still amazes me that there are so many kind "strangers" who just want to say hello and make your day a little brighter. It's my favorite thing about the blogging community.

So, to say thank you for the love I feel here, I'd like to send some of my own love in the form of travel photographs from my little shop. In addition to a few little Bay Area surprises, three winners will get to choose three photos or two travel sets. Or one photo and one travel set.

To enter just leave a little note with three things that make you happy by midnight Thursday, November 4th. Feel free to blog or tweet for extra entries and leave extra comments to let me know. If your email is hard to find, please leave that as well. I'm so happy to have met such loving people through my little corner of the internet-- nothing warms the heart like genuine kindness.
athens travel set
oh, to be a frog

pumpkin + squash seed pesto

October 28, 2010
pumpkin and butter nut squash seed pesto
I've never had "proper" pesto. I'm allergic to nuts, so even when I was in beautiful Liguria- home of pesto- I couldn't try it because of the pine nuts. I recently bought a Martha Stewart cookbook that organizes recipes by month so that everything is seasonal. I found a "pumpkin seed" pesto recipe that I've been eager to try since I bought the book in August. When I finally came around to making it, I didn't have half of the ingredients that Martha's recipe listed, so I improvised and made my own.
the simple ingredients
pumpkin and squash seed pesto

1/2 cup of pumpkin and squash* seeds
a healthy handful of fresh basil and sage
2 small cloves of garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
fresh ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
grated parmesan or pecorino

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spread out the seeds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Toast for 10 minutes, or until the seeds are golden brown and fragrant. Let cool, then remove the outer shell. In a food processor, combine the seeds, garlic, cinnamon, salt pepper and herbs. Pulse until everything starts to break down, and begin streaming in the olive oil. Mix until the mixture is thin enough to be a sauce. Serve over pasta. Sprinkle with cheese and enjoy!

*I used the butternut squash seeds left over from my risotto

stanford's oldest known living alum

October 27, 2010
with ram's head, a drama society
A few weeks ago I was getting things ready for Stanford's Homecoming Reunion when my supervisor told me that Stanford's oldest living alum was from the Class of 1932. I thought that this was pretty amazing, so I got in touch with the Stanford Daily editors and proposed a feature article about Lawrence W. Harris, Jr. '32, born July 23, 1911.

Yesterday, my interview was published. Mr. Harris is a very sweet man and even though his hearing aid gave out a few times while I spoke to him, it was a delight to get to know him. He was so involved while he was in school! I went through his yearbook, and I found all of these photos of clubs he was in. Can you imagine? When the stock market crashed, he was a sophomore in college. He lived through the Great Depression, both World Wars, the Civil Rights Movement... and so much more. He's 99 years old!* I'm still trying to wrap my head around it all.

The last photo is Mr. Harris's senior portrait from 1932. Seventy-eight years later, he's still looking back on his memories at Stanford. The funny thing is that today I have my senior portrait appointment scheduled. I wonder what I'll think of it in 78 years.

Click here if you'd like to read the interview.
*He's also been married to his wife, Jane, since 1939. So sweet.
early yell leaders
larry with the swim team
larry with the water polo team
larry's senior portrait, 1932
All photos courtesy of the Stanford Quad.

things to love {about seattle}

October 26, 2010
by Janelle, one of my newest blog friends.
Janelle's dancing feet
1. In Seattle you appreciate the sun more than other geographic locations because you see the rain so often.
2. The city is a clash of cultures from various regions of the world and as a result, you can find any kind of food readily available for dinner take-out.
3. The city sure does love greenery. Delightful parks and lookout points can be found scattered around the city.
4. The birth place of grunge, the hometown of Jimi Hendrix, the stomping ground of Death Cab for Cutie, Seattle has a great music scene.
5. Set-up as a sprawling downtown metropolis with many smaller, surrounding neighborhoods with tons of charm, Seattle has no shortage of shops for the fashionista. There are both high end department stores, and quirky thrift shops run out of victorian style houses.
6. Ten Things I Hate About You. Sleepless in Seattle. Say Anything...
7. Art is everywhere, from murals to well thought out street grafitti. The SAM (Seattle Art Museum) also has a great collection of work, with new shows always coming through.
8. Romance. Seattle is no Paris, but full of small cafes, quaint book stores, romantic parks with views of the skyline, Seattle is a wonderful place to fall in love.
Janelle's chinese food
Art as seen by Janelle
Janelle's Seattle skyline
I think my favorite part about reading Janelle's list is that I get to see these things for myself in a few months! David and I just made plans to go to Seattle in December and I'm so excited to travel again. Thanks so much for sharing, Janelle! Everything about Seattle seems so eclectic, alive and laid back all at the same time. What a beautiful city. Seattle, we're coming for you.
If you have a list of things you love about your city,
feel free to send me your list with a few photos (including one of your feet!)

[nonexistent] weekend

October 25, 2010
the sharon heights country club
a little plate of delicious
beautiful lights
These are pretty much the only photos I have from this weekend. This weekend was "Reunion Homecoming" at Stanford and I worked almost all of Friday and Saturday to help with class reunion parties. I got to meet a lot of interesting alumni- including one who taught both Obama and Michelle at Harvard, and another who helped develop a program for NASA to get a space rover on Mars for 3 months (6 1/2 years later... the rovers are still going!). These photos are from the Class of 1975's dinner party on Friday, at a beautiful country club. Although we were there for what seemed like forever, the venue was beautiful and the food was delicious (mushroom ravioli with roasted butternut squash... yum!) I have no idea what those desserts in the photo are actually called, but I'd like to rename them "heaven."

Then, this Sunday was dedicated to the upcoming week which includes a midterm, two essays, a response paper and a problem set. I already wish it was Friday. Can I have a real weekend, please?

a tea ceremony & that time we wore kimonos

October 22, 2010
washing hands before entering the tea house
Before visiting the Hakone Japanese Tea Gardens, I had never seen a traditional tea ceremony. Everything was really simple and elegant. As you enter the tea house garden, you forget your outside worries and clear your mind. You clean your hands with fresh water from the bamboo pipe, take off your shoes and sit on the mats in the tea house.

There were only six of us, so two people we didn't know joined us. They turned out to be our tea-lady's husband and son, coming to see her work for the first time. They were so cute! Her husband had a little camcorder and her son just made the sweetest little faces as he watched his mama.

The tea is reallllllllly bitter. Before you drink any, they give you sweets to have sugar residue in your mouth, but it doesn't help all that much. Although I'll need a lot of time to get used this kind of tea, the tradition is really beautiful.
a sweet little boy watching his mama
so elegent
green tea
we got to wear kimonos!
these were really fun to wear
Oh yeah... and then we got to wear kimonos!

butternut squash risotto

October 21, 2010
butternut squash risotto with fresh sage
I love autumn. I love fall foliage and warm clothes and Thanksgiving. And I love gourds. While my undying adoration for pumpkin will have to wait until a future post, this post is dedicated to butternut squash. Most of the times I've had this squash, it's been in ravioli di zucca. Once fall came around, I wanted to make something with the squash but didn't think I was culinary-advanced enough to make my own ravioli. So I made butternut squash risotto instead.

The verdict? Easy. Seasonal. Delicious. I used Rachel Ray's recipe as a guide but made some of my own changes. First, I used vegetable stock instead of chicken stock. And most importantly, because I'm not trying to feed a family in 30 minutes, I got fresh squash instead of frozen. If you have the time: cook the squash yourself. It's so easy and so gratifying once it's out of the oven.
my butternut squash and our growing gourd collection
couldn't help but laugh when i cut one open for the first itme
slowly adding white wine and vegetable broth
on the stove top

butternut squash risotto

1 medium butternut squash (around 3-4 pounds)
salt and pepper to taste
1 quart vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons of E.V.O.O. (get it?)
1 small onion, chopped
2 gloves of garlic, chopped
2 cups of arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons butter
7-8 sage leaves
1 cup parmigiano reggiano*

Preheat oven to 350°F. Wash squash and cut in half lengthwise. Clean out the seeds and extra stringy stuff that you don't want (perhaps save the seeds to toast them later, if you'd like). Rub butter on the face of each half and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place squash face up in a baking pan with an inch of water. Bake for about an hour and 15 minutes, or until the squash is fork-tender. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

In a pot, bring the vegetable broth and water to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let the broth simmer. In another wide, medium pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add onions and garlic. When the onions have caramelized, add the rice and toast for 2-3 minutes. Add wine and cook out completely. Once the liquid is gone, begin ladling in the broth- one to two ladles at a time, constantly stirring. Add the next ladle when the rice completely absorbs the liquid from the previous ladle. Take the squash and remove the meat- it should be soft and easily mashable. (You only need about 3/4th of the meat, so go ahead and enjoy some of the fresh roasted squash while it's still warm). After you add your last ladle, mix the squash. Add nutmeg, butter, spices and cheese in during the last few minutes of cooking. Enjoy!

*I completely forgot to add parmesan in mine and it was still really good. If you have the cheese, add it. Otherwise, it's not a big loss.
** How funny is it that all of the seeds in the squash are at the very bottom? I love it.

tibetan monks and their sand mandala

October 20, 2010
such attention to detail
When I walked into work on Friday, three Tibetan monks were working on a sand mandala in the main lobby. I know this seems really random, but the Dalai Lama came to speak on campus so I'd seen monks in red all over for the past couple of days. None of that prepared me for how amazing sand mandalas are.

Basically, the monks put colored sand into one end of these metal stick things, and then quickly rub the stick's metal ridges with another stick so that the sand comes out slowly. Then, slowly but surely, a beautiful sand mandala is made with vibrant colors and stunningly intricate designs. The best/worst part about these mandalas is that they can blow away at any moment. All of the sand is loose and if a gust of wind came into the building, the piece would be destroyed. As sad as this sounds, the pieces were made to be ephemeral because they symbolize "Buddhist doctrinal belief in the transitory nature of material life."

The piece has expanded even further since I took these pictures and it's so amazing. So much patience, dedication and creativity for something so beautiful.
buddhist monks working on their sand mandala
sand in all different colors
for the dalai lama
such beautiful colors
P.S. -This week, I was featured at Janelle's for Magic Monday and wrote about cliff jumping!

things to love {about los angeles}

October 19, 2010
by Kim, photographer extraordinaire

1.The Getty. It's FREE and offers some of the most stunning views of Los Angeles(+)the hollywood sign
2.The beaches. The ocean. The picnics. (that counts as one thing right?)
3.There's a farmers market every day of the week
4.It's sunny 300+ days a year
5.Every band has a Los Angeles tour stop
6.It isn't uncommon to see Paris Hilton walking past you on Melrose.
7.The Hollywood Bowl, my favorite little spot in all of Los Angeles.

I was so happy when Kim agreed to send in a little list of the things she loves about Los Angeles! Even though I'm a California native, I spend most of my time up north and have only been to LA a few times. Now that I'm older and can take long road trips whenever I want, I'm hoping to visit more places in California that I haven't spent a lot of time in. LA's farmers' markets, picnics and frequent band spots are some of my favorite things about Kim's list, but her photos are what really make me want to visit. She's got such talent for soft, dreamy photography (reason number 45,324 to love her blog). Thanks for sharing, Kim!

If you have a list of things to love about your city,
feel free to send me your list with a few photos (including one of your feet!)

P.S.- You can find me over at Rhianne's today blogging about what I'm easily distracted by!

hakone japanese tea gardens

October 18, 2010
garden feet
On Friday, I went to the Hakone Japanese Tea Gardens in Saratoga. My roommate, Jenna, is president of the campus Japanese Club and invited me to tag along because they had extra spots. These gardens are surreal. I've been to the tea gardens in Golden Gate Park but these have a different, serene vibe to them. All of the colors are true to nature and the whole garden has a sense of peace and harmony. During our little tour I found out that some scenes from Memoirs of a Geisha were filmed here, in the "moon viewing" house that sits on top of the hill. The gardens were originally built as a getaway for a family who lived in San Francisco, and after seeing the place, I can't imagine why they didn't just stay here.

We also got to attend a tea ceremony, a kimono demonstration and went out to enjoy a feast of delicious Japanese food in San Jose's Japantown afterward... but more on that later.

my exact impression of what japan looks like
into bamboo garden
wisteria grows here
bodies of water
serene little bridge
koi waiting for food
the moonviewing house

how to host a tea party

October 15, 2010
**Okay, in retrospect, I would just like to apologize for how long this post is. Who knew I had so much to say about tea?
1. Set the date, create a guest list, decide on a time and location, etc etc.

This is the basic part, but of course you can get creative with it. I've always liked the idea of sending out invitations, but more often than not, my tea parties are so last minute that I just invite people in person (or create a facebook event....). You can also kindly request that your guests dress nicely, if you want.

egg salad and arugula on rye
scones with jam & clotted cream
2. Plan the menu! This is one of my favorite parts. As a rule of thumb, my menus usually include...

- Two to three different tea sandwiches. Depending on how many people you're expecting, you can make one item in large amounts and keep to this list. I always always have cucumber sandwiches, but I've also used egg salad, smoked salmon and tuna with bits of apple as well. The most important thing to remember is to use simple bread, cut off the crusts, and cut the sandwiches so they are small and dainty.

- Scones with clotting cream and jam. Ever since finding my favorite scone recipe, I've never turned back. One or two batches of this recipe can go a long way, especially if you cut the dough with little cookie cutters instead of making the larger triangles that the recipe calls for. As for the clotting cream, I have scoured the internet for the perfect recipe but I still haven't found the perfect one. Nothing is like the real thing. But, as soon as I find something close, I'll let you know. In the mean time, I suggest finding an easy recipe online and serving that with your favorite jam.

- An extra sweet dessert or two. This can be anything, but I think it's most fun when you use desserts that are just really pretty. Mini cupcakes? One big beautiful cake? Muffins? Your choice.

we made placecards hahaha
tiers and teapots
pretty antique plates
3. Serve everything on the prettiest dishware you have.

- At my first tea party, I used my mom's antique teacup collection for everyone's teacups. Everyone had their own unique cup and altogether is was adorable. (You don't have to be nerdy like us and make place cards with fake royal titles). Don't worry about whether things match perfectly or not. Mismatching everything just makes it all the more charming.

- Do you have plate-tier-thingy? I don't know what this is actually called, buy my mom uses hers to store plates and in my apartment we use its different levels to hold our fruit. These are perfect for separating sandwiches when you have them out on the table. (I've seen them tons of times at thrift stores, too!)

- Make your own cake stands! I'm sure that these cake stands might be familiar, because they were inspired by Olivia's lovely little cake stands. However, as a student on a budget, I went to thrift stores and found plates and bases to make my own. They aren't as fancy as Olivia's violet plate, but I'm proud of my little guys. Instead of only using candle votives, I also used an upside-down cocktail glass for one of mine. Thanks for the inspiration, Olivia!

4. Enjoy your tea party!
Curl your hair. Wear a pretty dress. Spend the entire afternoon sipping English Breakfast and munching on cucumber sandwiches. And take lots and lots of pictures, because tea parties always come out more beautiful than you could have imagined.