christmas tree

We went down to Half Moon Bay a couple weeks ago to get our Christmas tree. We started this tradition last year, when we cut down our own tree for the first time. It's a nice excuse to go down to the coast and let a certain little dog run on the beach...

...and take flight!


homemade treats

Still working on finishing your Christmas shopping? It's not too late to whip up some homemade treats! Homemade goodies make great gifts for people that can be hard to shop for or you don't know that well. Most people enjoy a delicious treat, and will appreciate that you put time and effort into making them something.

Cookies or fruitcake are of course the traditional foods to give this time of year, but the internet is chock-full of other creative options. In the past few years, I've made jam, lemon confit, and granola to give as gifts. If you're in a time crunch, I recommend spiced nuts or granola- both are relatively easy and can be made in an afternoon (or at midnight on Christmas Eve if that's how you roll...).  For more ideas, check out these round-ups from Country Living and BuzzFeed.

If you do end up making something, be sure to make more than you think you need.  Having a few extra treats stashed away can be a lifesaver when you need a last-minute hostess gift, or your neighbor surprises you with a gift and you've forgotten to get them anything.  

[both photos from Country Living]


gift guide: gold digger

Ok, ok, so my last gift guide of the season isn't really just limited to ladies looking to score a rich husband. But when I noticed how many metallic items there were on my list of potential gifts, well, I just couldn't help myself. So here's a round-up of great gifts for those attracted to shiny things, whatever their social aspirations may be...


give away: hand in hand

I'm excited to announce a special holiday give away today! 
Ellington & French is a boutique in Berkeley that has recently re-launched their website with online shopping. They were so excited to have some of their products featured in my gift guide, they wanted to offer one of my readers the chance to try them! 

The lucky winner will receive an all natural bath set, featuring a soy candle, bath salts, and a bar of soap in the scent of their choosing. These beautiful bath products (that normally retail for $82!) are a great way to unwind during the stressful holiday season, and of course they would make a great gift. 

To enter the contest, simply visit their website to check out Hand in Hand's scents. While you're there, you may want to pick up a little something for yourself or someone on your list- they've got lots of great gifts to choose from and they're currently offering the first 25 customers a free gift with purchase. Once you've chosen your favorite scent, leave a comment on this blog post with the scent you'd choose (I'm torn between Orange Blossom and White Tea)

One lucky winner will be chosen from the comments at random. Contest ends Sunday at Midnight. Good luck and Happy Holidays!

Update: Kait from San Francisco is our lucky winner! Thank you to all who entered! 

[top photos from Ellington & French, bottom photo from Hand in Hand]


gift guide: the foodie

For friends who love to eat and drink, it's far too easy to fall into the habit of always buying them a delicious treat for the holidays. Why not try a little something different (and longer lasting!) this year with one of these food-related gifts: 


gift guide: the dude

Boyfriends, husbands, brothers...Dudes of all kinds can be tough to shop for. Don't give up and just buy them slippers again- try one of these awesome gifts instead:


gift guide: girly girl

If you've got a girly girl on your list, whether it's your mom, your younger cousin, or your BFF, you've come to the right place. If she likes dressing up, smelling good, and all things sparkly, this list of presents is sure to make her smile. 


gift guide: the pencil pusher

Pencil pusher, desk jockey, paper person- whatever affectionate nicknames you may have for the desk dweller in your life, it seems one can never have enough office supplies. Does their desk need a little sprucing up? Or maybe you just want to find a little something to compliment their extensive sticky note collection?


gift guide: the hostess

Whether you need an actual hostess gift, or a holiday present for a friend who loves to entertain, these gifts are sure to please any hostess with the mostess.

gift guides!

It's officially December, and you know what that means- Christmas shopping! If you didn't get all your shopping done during the crazy Black Friday/Sunday sales (is Black Sunday a thing now?), I'm here to help with gift ideas for all your favorite people. I've been on the hunt for fun, unique, and affordable gifts for everyone. I'm emphasizing affordable here, because I've noticed that many gift guides seem to feature one or two reasonable items, and then throw in a $600 sweater and $800 suitcase out of the blue. I don't know about you, but I don't know many people who can spend $600 on a single gift for a friend (though if you do, tell them I want to be their friend!). To keep things a little more practical, I'll be capping the gifts in my guides at $100, with most items under $50. 

First up is gift ideas for the hostess with the mostess- but stayed tuned over the next couple weeks, I've got ideas for moms, co-workers, foodies, and even those hard-to-shop-for dudes. 

[photo via Vogue & Vintage]


happy thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! Hope your holiday is full of family and plenty of delicious food. 
Don't forget your stretchy pants!

[card from Dear Hancock Paper Goods]


shop small

You won't find me waiting in line at 5am for Black Friday sales, but I can get behind supporting small businesses on Small Business Saturday. Skip the crowds at the mall and start your holiday shopping on the right foot by supporting your locally-owned shops. 

As an added incentive to "shop small", American Express is offering a $10 statement credit to cardholders when you make a purchase at a small business this Saturday, November 30th. Click here to register your card and check out what businesses in your area are participating. Free money and supporting your community? Yes! 

[Shop Small graphic from American Express]


holiday cards

With Thanksgiving just days away, it's about time to start thinking about holiday cards. For those of you not sending photo cards, I thought I'd share some of the best holiday cards I've come across so far this year. 


tiny messages

These tiny cards are awesome. They seem like an especially great idea going into the holidays, when we all get a bit stressed and could use a little note of gratitude and encouragement. These would be so fun to slip to your co-workers, your favorite barista, or the harried cashier helping you on Thanksgiving (please tell me you're not shopping on Thanksgiving). The best part is you don't even have to write anything on them, you can just leave one for someone as an anonymous message from the universe. 

Find these and more tiny messages from Emily McDowell here

[photo from Emily McDowell]


easy quilt hanger

My husband and I purchased an Otomi tapestry on our honeymoon in Mexico two years ago, and last weekend I finally figured out a way to hang it up. I'd looked for tapestry or quilt hangers online, but most of them were big and bulky, or just plain ugly. I wanted something simple and delicate to keep the focus on the beautiful embroidery.

The simple technique I came up with ended up being super easy and required less than $10 in supplies from the hardware store. It could be easily adapted to hang quilts, tea towels, or any piece of fabric you'd like to hang. 

Click through for the step by step instructions:



Refe Tuma and his wife have devoted the month of November to convincing their children that their plastic dinosaurs come to life while they sleep. So far, it looks like the dinos have been getting into quite a lot of trouble...

The scenes they've set up are hilarious, they're obviously having a lot of fun with it. I can't get over that roaring T. Rex- something about his expression just kills me!

I love this idea. I remember my dad doing something similar (though not quite as elaborate) with my favorite stuffed bear, Oatmeal, when I was little and it was so much fun to find him hiding all over the house.

You can check out more photos here and follow their page on Facebook through the month of "Dinovember".

[Photos from Medium.com]


invisible bike helmet

How is this girl wearing a bike helmet with her hair like that? How is there a helmet if there's nothing on her head?

This guy too? What is it- invisible?

Oh wait, it's the helmet OF THE FUTURE!!

That scarf-like thing they're both wearing around their necks- that's the helmet! I know- crazy, right?
This revolutionary helmet was designed by two genius ladies in Sweden. The Hövding helmet contains a special airbag that is triggered in the event of a bike accident. No more bulky shell on your head, no more sweaty helmet hair or pesky straps digging into your chin. The Hövding has you covered.

I remember hearing about this years ago when it was still in the prototype phase. Now, after seven years of research and development, its finally an actual product you can buy. Unfortunately, this kind of innovation doesn't come cheap. One of these bad boys will set you back 399 Euros (about $540)- yikes!

Hopefully they will become wildly successful and the price will come down a bit. Until then, I'll stick to my old-fashioned helmet and dream of the day I can ride with the wind in my hair and a crazy futuristic helmet scarf around my neck.

Check out the Hövding in action here.

[Photos via Jalopnik]


my favorite granola

I'm afraid I need to make a correction. I must retract my excitement for TJ's Pumpkin Spice granola that I shared a few weeks ago in this post. Once I tried it, I must report that, like most store-bought granola, it is too sweet for my taste. I don't know why I continue to be lured into thinking boxed granola will be delicious when I've already found my perfect granola recipe and it is so easy to make. My favorite granola is an adaptation of Early Bird Foods' Farmhand's choice granola.

I first tried Early Bird's granola when it was given to me by my sweet friend Lauren as I was moving out of New York. It was part of a care package of snacks for the road, and once I opened it, I don't think it lasted beyond New Jersey. This granola was unlike any I'd ever tasted, it was crisp and crunchy, but without those tooth-cracking clusters. It was lightly sweet and a little salty. I didn't know then that it was a combo of olive and maple syrup that gave it such a fantastic texture, I just knew it was delicious. Once I finished off that first bag, I was far from New York and didn't know where to get more. Years went by, and I would occasionally think of it when eating yet another mediocre granola. I cannot tell you how excited I was when I stumbled upon the recipe on the blog Orangette last year. I immediately went out and bought the ingredients to make it, and it was every bit as great as I remembered.

The Best Olive Oil and Maple Granola
adapted from Nekisia Davis and Food 52

Makes about 7 cups.

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds, hulled
1 cup raw sunflower seeds, hulled
1 cup unsweetened coconut chips
1 1/4 cup raw pecans, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup pure maple syrup (I prefer grade B)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar (optional)
1 tsp coarse salt, plus more to taste

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat to prevent sticking.

Combine oats, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, coconut, pecans, syrup, olive oil, sugar, and 1 tsp salt in a large bowl and stir. Spread granola mixture in an even layer on the baking sheet. Transfer to oven and bake, stirring every 10-15 minutes, until granola is toasted, about 45 minutes.

Remove granola from oven and season with more salt to taste. Let cool completely before serving or storing in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

This recipe is delicious as written, but can be easily adapted to suit your tastes. I sometimes omit the brown sugar for a less sweet everyday granola. The pecans are excellent, but walnuts or almonds are also a tasty way to switch it up. Dried cherries, cranberries, or raisins are a delicious addition once the granola is baked and cooled. One ingredient I must recommend you do not omit is the coconut flakes. I'm generally not a fan of coconut, but the flakes don't have much of a coconut flavor once baked. You can usually find them in the bulk section of natural foods stores, and they bake up to a light, crispy texture that really sets this granola apart.

P.S. I do still stand by my recommendation for Trader Joe's Pumpkin Greek Yogurt. It is particularly delicious with this granola.

[photos from Food 52]


glitter cards

I've never sent out photo holiday cards before (it hasn't really seemed necessary without babies to show off), but these new glitter cards from Tiny Prints have me reconsidering (does anyone want a photo of my dog dressed as an elf?). 

If you're not in the market for holiday cards, they also have glittery party invites...

...and glittery address labels!

If you're in need of some holiday glitter, Tiny Prints is having a sale for 20% orders of $49+ through 11/12. They are also currently offering three free stationery samples if you want to give them a test run.

[all images from Tiny Prints]


book recommendations

I decided to start a book club recently, in an attempt to avoid hibernating all winter with my Netflix streaming addiction. I'm beginning to plan our first meeting and I'm grappling with a lot of tough questions: What will our club be called? Should we all wear sweaters with patches on the elbows? What snacks should I serve?  The one detail that's proving to be the most tricky is possibly the most important: What books should we read? It's a lot of pressure to chose a book for all your friends to read. What if you chose something terrible everyone hates? We're only meeting once a month, so I don't want to waste everyone's time with a lackluster book. 

As I do with all my problems, I turned to the internet for advice. There are a ton of sites dedicated to helping you decide what books to read. Here are my impressions of a few:

GoodReads: A popular site I've used before, good for finding new books and sharing your opinions on books you've read. GoodReads allows you to connect with your friend's virtual bookshelves and get recommendations from them. They are also accepting votes for the Best of 2013 lists right now, which are the only major book awards decided by readers. 

Your Next Read: Type in a book you like and this site will give you a list of similar books you may  also enjoy. Results seem a little mixed, some searches yield similar books and others seem to just give you random titles. This seems like one step up from Amazon's recommendations for me based on my random search histories. 

What Should I Read Next? : Very similar to Your Next Read, but seems to give even less useful recommendations. Books are tagged with keywords about the book's subject, themes and location. Many of the keywords seem arbitrary- I don't know many people that choose novels based on their location. Just because I like a novel set in Seattle doesn't mean I want to seek out other books set in Seattle...

Whichbook: A rather interesting way to find a new book. Whichbook gives you a choice of gradient scales that you can manipulate based on what you're in the mood to read. The gradient scales cover everything from "Funny" to "Serious", "Larger than Life" to "Down to Earth", and "Easy" to "Demanding".

The Staff Recommends: Created to act as a web version of the staff recommendation cards often seen in bookstores (which are actually often my most trusted sources of recommendations), this site offers a highly curated selection of books from a McSweeney's editor-at-large. Assuming you agree with his taste in books (so far it looks like I do), this is a great resource. The current selection features only 8 titles, much less overwhelming to look through than the thousands of titles offered on the other sites. 

Do you know of any other ways to find great books? Are you old school like me and still go to bookstores to find books?

[library photo via Old House Dreams]


happy halloween

Happy Halloween! Get your day off to a spooky and scary start with the best Halloween song ever (sorry for the crappy video quality):

[infographic via Vulture]


halloween costumes

What are you going to be for Halloween this year? A sexy pizza? If you've been procrastinating like me and don't have a costume yet, the internet has some good ideas for you:

Buzzfeed has a round-up of hair tutorials to take a basic costume to the next level (some of these are definitely beyond my hair braiding ability, but this Medusa one looks pretty easy)

Refinery29 has 3 ideas for last minute costumes under $25 (although I think #2 could potentially be free if you just go the dry cleaner and ask them for a few plastic bags and hangers)

The Huffington Post has some clever- and mostly easy- costume ideas (I like the "guy in a hurricane").

Also, did you see Kristin Schaal's send up of sexy costumes on The Daily Show? Hilarious. 

[sexy pizza photo from bonanza.com]


queen mary

This Queen Mary cocktail sounds delicious- like a light, fresh version of a bloody mary. I might have to make some this weekend while there's still good tomatoes to be had at the market. I can't believe its already the end of October, I'm not ready to say goodbye to summer produce!

[photo by Molly Wizenberg via Food 52]


arcade fire

Did you hear Arcade Fire is streaming their entire new album Reflektor on YouTube? The album wasn't supposed to be released until October 29th, but the band released a lyric video today as what's being called a "full length preview". According to this article, the band decided to release the stream after a record store in Ireland started selling the album early and it flooded the internet. The video features the album streamed over the 1959 movie Black Orpheus.

You can watch it below, or on their website:

You can also check out the crazy interactive music video for "Just a Reflektor" here.

[top image from justareflektor.com]


baked oatmeal

Now that the weather is cooling off, I find myself wanting something warm and comforting for breakfast. I like regular oatmeal just fine, but its no comparison to baked oatmeal. My favorite is from Heidi Swanson's book Super Natural Every Day. It is absolutely delicious, and provides a healthy dose of whole grains, fruit and protein with just enough sweetness. The best part is, you can make it over the weekend and the leftovers provide you with a quick breakfast for the rest of the week (I just reheat in the microwave, adding a little milk if it seems dry).

Click below for the recipe:


pumpkin time

I'm always sad to say goodbye to summer, but if there's one thing that gets me excited for fall, its pumpkins! I love pumpkin pie and all things flavored with that delicious mix of pumpkin pie spices. 

For all you fellow pumpkin lovers out there, Trader Joe's has your back. Each fall they seem to add more and more pumpkin offerings, and this year is no exception. I got their "Fearless Flyer" in the mail this week and ran out to stock up on pumpkin goodness. Last year, I got addicted to their Pumpkin Greek yogurt (its like pumpkin pie you can eat for breakfast!), and I can't wait to try it with the Pumpkin Spice granola for a DOUBLE PUMPKIN BREAKFAST!! 

Pumpkin season doesn't last long, so get them while you can...

[all product photos from Trader Joe's]


house full of plants

Inspired by my friend Michael's lovely collection of houseplants, I've been trying to add more plants to my home. I love the fresh pop of green they add to a room, there's something so cheerful about a little potted plant. 

Our current apartment doesn't get a ton of natural light, so its been a bit of a challenge to find plants that will survive in our mostly indirect light conditions. Click below for tips and photos of the plants I have been able to keep alive, as well as the ones that didn't make it...


color test

How well do you see color? Some of us may not see it as well as we might think. According to Apartment Therapy, "it is generally believed that around 1 out of 255 women and 1 out of 12 men may have some degree of color blindness." Many people I've met with some color blindness have no idea that they're not seeing colors properly until they take a test or someone points it out to them.  It's strange to think that you never really know if you're seeing the same color as the person standing next to you. 

Want to find out your Color IQ? Take this online test from X-Rite.

I was relived to score a 16 (the test is scored out of 100, with 0 being a perfect score). I've always thought of myself as a good judge of color, and often need to work with color in my job, so it would be pretty bad news if I didn't have at least an average sense of color. 

My husband on the other hand, did not fare so well. I've noticed in the past that he has trouble with some colors (as do several of my guy friends), but apparently its worse than I thought. According to this test, he's almost totally color blind! 

[Hillary Clinton pantsuit spectrum via The Huffington Post]


makeover day

I've been working on a little makeover for KPG today- hope you enjoy the new look!  Lots of changes are afoot and more posts will be coming your way (I think that's the first time I've actually used the word "afoot"). You can still expect the usual Monday posts, but be on the lookout for additional posts of great things I find around the web throughout the week.

[August 1953 Vogue photo via Jessica Cangiano]


reconsidering animal

For years I have been staunchly anti-animal print, but lately I've begun to have a change of heart. Don't get me wrong, it can easily be gaudy and overdone (case in point), but I think a small amount can add a great pop of pattern to an outfit.

Here are my tips for keeping animal print out of Snooki territory:


bathroom makeover

Like most buildings that were built a century ago, our apartment has many flaws and quirky features. Many of them are charming and give the place character. When it comes to bathrooms, however, old quirks are often more gross than charming. Old tile usually just looks, well, old. If I had my way, I'd have a beautifully restored old house with a re-tiled bathroom (and while I'm dreaming, let's update the tile in the kitchen too). Unfortunately, as we're still renting, gutting the bathroom wasn't an option for this apartment. In the past, I haven't put much effort into fixing up rental bathrooms, but this one needed some serious help.


second wedding anniversary

This week marks my second wedding anniversary. It's hard to believe that its already been two years! Sometimes it feels like happened just last week and other days it feels like we've been married forever (though in a way we have been- we did date for seven years before tying the knot!). I thought I'd share a few photos and some details on the awesome vendors we worked with:


burger cook-off

We held our annual Burger Cook-off on Labor Day, and the competition was pretty fierce. Everyone really stepped up their game in the burger department this year- maybe because they wanted to bring home one of these magnificent specimens:

I was able to modify these thrift store finds (see the before photo here) into official burger trophies with the help of some gold foil plaques. I found some gold foil card stock in the (shudder) scrapbooking section of the craft store, and was shocked that I was actually able to print on it (note: I did use a fancy office laser printer, an inkjet might not be as successful). Once I got the printer to print on the gold foil, it was only a matter of glueing the plaques on and voila! Official USA World Champion Trophies!


birthday hooky

Its my birthday this weekend, so I'm playing hooky from blogging. Lest you not know what to do with your Monday without me, I thought I'd leave you with a few links to amuse yourselves with:

Pigeon street style - who knew?!

Video for the song Royals by Lorde. Warning: I haven't been able to get this song out of my head since I heard it a week ago.

And don't forget, Labor Day means sales! sales! sales!
Need to buy paint? Home decor? New jeans? Cute dresses? Shoes in size 11? (oh wait, maybe that's just me...)

[Pigeon photo by haseebansar via Buzzfeed]


burger time

We're hosting our annual Burger Cook-off next weekend and I've got burgers on the brain. Last year's winner was a Spicy Lamb burger, so I'm on the hunt for an extra special burger recipe to beat the competition. I think there could be some contenders in Food & Wine's round-up of 10 Favorite Burger Recipes. I've got my eye on this Chile-Stuffed Cheeseburger- hard to go wrong with a burger stuffed with cheese and peppers, right??

I've also been working on the homemade trophies for this years contest. Lucky for me, the thrift store did most of the work this year- just look at these beauties! Who would ever give away such a magnificent eagle trophy?! Now I've just got to figure out what I'm going to use to cover up the bottom to turn these into 1st, 2nd and 3rd Best Burger trophies (and maybe try to cover up their minor flaws, like the one in the center who is missing an eye...)

I found some great burger paraphernalia in the dollar bin at Target earlier in the summer, so I'm trying to figure out how to incorporate those as decorations too. I'm thinking the beer cozies will make good runner-up prizes.

You can check out last year's trophies and the how-to here.

[top photo from Food & Wine]