Hot as Hell

I spent the summer whining about how cold I was. Now we've transitioned into fall, and into a new complaint: it's so freaking hot! What is up with the climate in this bass-ackwards state?? We've even had to delay the next installment of Adam's Soup Series because I don't want to eat anything that isn't a popsicle.

Yesterday I made a pitcher of iced tea to combat my afternoon caffeine stupor and the killer heat. I chilled it with skulls and crossbones from my Bone Chillers Ice Cube Tray

I clearly don't need chilly weather to get me in a Halloweeny mood. I'm starting to plan for a Halloween cocktail party (would any of you Bay Area bloggers be interested in an invite?), and I'll surely be popping some of these creepy gems into intoxicating concoctions...


Dare to Dream: Wicked Bling

I like sparkly things as much as the next girl, but I'll be honest: if given the choice between a diamond and the cash equivalent, I'll be laughing all the way to Restoration Hardware. Diamonds are forever, but furniture is this girl's best friend.

Of course, if I were to be offered one of these, it would be another matter entirely. First off, any gentleman who could afford a rock that heavy could likely fund my decor habit with his pocket money. Secondly, I might live in a hovel to have this glorious combination of petal and claw glittering on my finger.

Round diamond "Flora" ring by McTeigue & McClelland Jewelers (via Martha Stewart Weddings)

I'm not anticipating any proposals from wealthy suitors, so my principles will remain untested, and this will get filed under "dare to dream." And oh, how I shall dream.


Summer-Fall Shift

In only a week I'll be visiting my family in Seattle. My mother informs me (with a grumble) that I should pack my raincoat. I'm actually looking forward to true Autumn weather!

I've discovered pluots this week, and it occurs to me that they're the perfect symbol for the Bay Area September, a Summer-Fall hybrid. Super ripe, deeply sweet, exactly the color of dappled red leaves. 

Thank you for your wonderful comments on my dining room! I'll be taking advantage of the lovely filtered sunlight this weekend so I can give you more images of my home next week...

Until then,

xoxo Elizabeth



Yesterday I visited Chomp, the carnivorous plant exhibit at the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers. It was fun to tour as an adult, but it made me wish I was still a nanny! The exhibit was definitely geared towards kids with comic book styling, displays outfitted with magnifying glasses, and of course, the "ewww, gross!" factor. I was hoping to capture a venus flytrap in action, but they apparently weren't hungry. I did, however, get beautiful shots of strangely alien pitcher plants.

As cute as the Chomp feature was, I fell in love with the more traditional Victorian aesthetic of the main Conservatory exhibits. I can imagine spending several hours there with a macro lens, and the steamy greenhouse climate would be a welcome vacation from blustery winter weather!

My favorite part was a pond dotted with enormous lily pads, touted as strong enough to hold my weight. I can't tell you how tempted I was to test that claim.


Fresh Picks from Rappaccini's Garden

Hello my lovelies... Today I'm off to Chomp, an exhibit of carnivorous flora at the Golden Gate Park Conservatory of Flowers. Sinister plants??? Can you think of anything more perfectly calculated to delight me?

Speaking of, there's only about a week left to receive up to 15% off of your purchases at my new Etsy shop...


Here & Now: Our Dining Room "After"

My dining table has made many appearances on this blog- usually as the backdrop for one of Adam's gourmet creations. I'm feeling brave today, and I thought I'd show you how it fits into our dining room (or our dining alcove, to be more accurate).

For those of you who've started reading recently, last year (at about this time) Adam and I were informed that his job would be moving from Seattle to Berkeley. We had very little time to decide our course of action- and only a weekend to find a new home in California. Our apartment was selected for its practicality rather than its prettiness. In fact, it was downright ugly. If you don't believe me, check out the "before" pictures here

The only remotely charming feature of the otherwise bland apartment was the bay window in the dining area. I thought, "I can do something with this." And I think I did.


A Glass Half Full Weekend

Monday already? It can't be. Adam and I spent our weekend in the company of amazing people and many glasses of wine, and I can't believe it all went by so quickly (especially the wine).

It's not often that we've got such a full social calendar, with two separate visits from college friends in one weekend! On Sunday we drove up to Sonoma for lunch at the Coppola winery and a taste (or two) of what wine country has to offer.

Naturally I'd like to take an extra day off to recuperate. Today I'm enjoying a quiet house, catching up on the shop, putting the finishing touches on some blog posts for the week... and eyeing the bottle of port that we brought home as a souvenir...


J. Crew is Flipping Out

I keep spotting backwards books. How about these displays at J. Crew?

Photos taken with my iPhone

I'd planned to do a little bookshelf flip myself, but (sigh) it's something that was put off in these last few busy weeks. And, let's be honest. Today I'm going to immerse myself in the new Rue!


Kitchen Chemistry: Soup

I'm a girl made for Autumn. An apple pie-baking, wool scarf-swathed, college football-obsessed girl who waits impatiently for the day when glaring summer ripens into glowing fall, when it's time to bring out the biggest stockpot and make soup. Adam is back today with the first in a series of soups that celebrate the season (without dipping into your pumpkin spice latte budget!).  

Soup is the ultimate autumn meal- warmth, color, and rich fall ingredients are just the thing to impress my just-in-from-the-cold guests with my culinary genius. Take, for example, my Taco Soup.

This dish is milk-based (or half & half, or cream, depending on your latitude/metabolism), and utilizes canned black beans and whole kernel corn as primary texture elements. Condensed cream of chicken soup is added for thickness and complexity of flavor (but can be omitted to modify this recipe for vegetarians). My Taco Soup is seasoned with sharp cheddar cheese, garlic powder, onion salt, chili powder, ground cumin, and cinnamon (a side note: from Southeast Asia to New England to the American Southwest, no spice crosses geographic and culinary boundaries like cinnamon).

I garnished the bowl with sour cream, shredded cheddar, red pepper flakes, lime, and chopped cilantro. Elizabeth made the tortilla crackers- they're analogous to oyster crackers in clam chowder, and they were delicious.

For another bowl of soup, check back next week for part II in this series... or watch my Salmon Bisque tutorial videos, here, here, here, or here!


A Thank-You Note to Twig & Fig

Being a blogger, crafter, and general freelance type means that I spend most of my time alone in my little Berkeley apartment. I love making my own hours and rocking my own dress code (sweat pants, hell yes), but there's always a point in the afternoon when I know I must put on real clothes, must talk to someone who's not a cat, must leave the house.

I've plotted a little route around the neighborhood that satisfies. I sip an iced coffee from Peet's, stroll by the best gardens to see what's blooming, chat with the girl at the flower stand, check out the menu at Chez Panisse, peer in the windows of the estate jewelry boutique, and very often stop into a favorite paperie, Twig & Fig.

On Saturday I had to get out and enjoy the late summer sun, and I had special incentive via a tweet from Twig & Fig: "a special surprise awaits." What could it be?

A bundle of their letterpress cards! 

What a way to sweeten my weekend! The sampling included cards from several of their collections that I'd long been ogling (especially the foil skull + Edison bulb on wood veneer, it's brilliant!). These cards are much more than pretty design (and pretty faces, just check out Mr. 70s Sexy there!). They're also made from 100% recycled materials, from the brown bag envelopes and soda bottle felt to the biodegradable cello packaging. Their designs might pay homage to vintage aesthetic, but Twig & Fig is certainly forward-thinking! 

The crow, of course, will never be stamped and mailed- I'm keeping it for me! 
How did they know I was starting to decorate for Autumn?

Thanks to Twig & Fig for making my afternoon escape even more delightful than usual!


Weekend Reading

I decided to take a little break from beading last night to attend the Creative, Inc. book launch party at Candystore Collective in San Francisco and see these lovely ladies in person...

I was so in awe of Joy's presence that I got totally tongue-tied. All I could squeak out was, "uh uh uh... I love your shoes!" In my defense, they were some pretty rockin' shoes.

Aside from this moment of conversational brilliance, I had a fantastic time- eating more than my share of tiny cupcakes and making connections with Bay Area artists and bloggers (like Natalie, whose blog I'll be relying on for fashion guidance from now on). I distributed the last of my beribboned handmade business cards, which were looking oh-so professional after being crumpled in my purse. Thank goodness I picked up a signed copy of Creative, Inc.- I clearly need all the help I can get.

Speaking of freelance business, I'm off to the post office to mail the very first orders from Rappaccini's Garden. I'm over the moon, kids- it's been a happy week. 

Until Monday,

xoxo Elizabeth


Berkeley Flora (and Fauna)

In a past life I was a Victorian Era naturalist- the sort with the straw hat and sketchbook who traipsed around the countryside in a poufy skirt to collect specimens for her cabinet of curiosities. I'm fairly certain of this, because I'm doing pretty much the same thing here in 21st century Berkeley (with a camera and a slightly more practical wardrobe). I figure old habits die hard.

Adam and I visited the Berkeley Rose Garden over our long weekend. There were varieties in every color, and I can't even imagine how intense the park must have been in its prime Spring months.

There are days when I crave the lush Northwest- the smell of rich soil and evergreens, and so many shades of green. The California landscape still feels foreign to me with its spiky and untouchable succulents. I am very often homesick. I've noticed though, that since getting my new camera, I've had a new appreciation for my surroundings. There's something about peering through the lens that reminds me that things are beautiful, and that this is an adventure.

I took this photo in a moment of unusual bravery.
Anyone who knows me will understand what I mean.


Kitchen Chemistry: More Bang for your Buck

Adam is back today with a colorful (and economical) favorite...

There are many dimensions to a good recipe, one of the LEAST important of which is CO$T. Complexity and quality of food is often achieved by using more numerous or higher priced ingredients- but there is a point of diminishing returns. I have yet to encounter Kobe beef wrapped caviar, or saffron-stuffed sea bass shallow-fried in truffle oil. These dishes would be decadent to an uncomfortable extreme, overwhelming the palate as well as the pocketbook. Money can only take a cook so far. In fact, the most talented chefs are restrained, subtle, frugal, and inventive- more likely to emphasize a single quality ingredient rather than bombard the diner with several. In this spirit, I present my Hoisin-Black Bean BBQ Chicken & Asian Slaw.

Before we get to the recipe, let's break this down. Fresh ingredients are almost always more expensive than dried/canned/frozen ingredients. Careful appropriation of both fresh/high quality/expensive AND preserved/generic/cheap ingredients is the only way to achieve great flavor on a modest budget (and our budget is certainly modest). To get mathematical, an inexpensive dish should be 80%-95% "cheap" by mass/volume. To use a sports analogy, there are Utility Players (texture, volume, structure, starch, & fiber) and All-Stars (flavor, seasoning, garnish, fat & perhaps protein). In preparing this dish, I deliberately selected a few unusual and expensive ingredients as flavor highlights (like fresh basil & ginger and Thousand Year fermented black beans), but the other ingredients were comically cheap (Top-Ramen, need I say more?), helping to bring the whole package into a reasonable price range.

The Asian Slaw is a simple mixture of chopped purple cabbage, diced radish, diced sweet onion, and crumbled Top-Ramen. It was seasoned with the Oriental Top-Ramen packet, rice wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Grilled pineapple rings and grilled sweet onion were added as flavor accents. All of these ingredients fall into the preserved/generic/cheap category.

Frozen dark meat chicken was barbecued in my Hoisin-Black Bean Sauce. To make this sauce, sauté minced ginger (4 oz), black bean garlic sauce (4 oz), chopped sweet onion (6 oz) and sambal (1-2 oz) in minimal vegetable oil. Deglaze with generic mirin, add a generic hoisin sauce (24-32 oz) and seasoned rice wine vinegar (6-8 oz), then simmer for 20 minutes. Strain this mixture and cool. Add the zest and juice of 3 limes and 1/2 of an orange. Add salt, pepper, and chili paste to taste. You'll have plenty leftover after you've sauced your chicken. This sauce can be (and was) used a condiment, marinade, or glaze. It's a fantastic addition to grilled fruits, vegetables, or caramelized onions.

Fresh basil and sliced orange were served as bright garnishes (and palate cleansers). 

Elizabeth's contribution to the meal was a sake cocktail: cheap sake from Ranch 99, a bottle of seltzer, a can of limeade, and canned pineapple rings, curled orange peel slivers, and maraschino cherries skewered on a chopstick. We got a whole pitcher for far less than a couple drinks would've cost us at a bar (plus I didn't have to tip the waitress).

The plating style integrates all ingredients, resulting in a three-dimensional landscape of food. This is a typical example of my culinary style: a stratified taste adventure for less than $5 per plate (economies of scale apply).


Rappaccini's Garden: Grand Opening Discounts

I hope everyone had a relaxing holiday! Yesterday marked the Grand Opening of my new little Etsy shop, Rappaccini's Garden...

(From now on, you can see my recently posted goods in the Etsy gadget on my sidebar -->)

I've started things off with a small sampling of jewelry and housewares, but there's much more to come. I'll be adding new items daily!

As promised, I'd like to offer a discount to my readers and friends- from now until September 30th, you can receive up to 15% off of your first purchase at Rappaccini's Garden

You may take 5% off if you follow the One Must Shock the Bourgeois blog...

or 5% off if you're a fan of the Shock the Bourgeois page on Facebook...

or 5% off if you're following my tweets @ShockBourgeois on Twitter!

Follow on any 2 sites and receive 10% off, or go for all 3 and save 15%. Hurray!

To receive your discount, follow these instructions:
  • Add the items of your choice to your shopping cart.
  • Click "Checkout." 
  • Enter your shipping address on the next page.
  • Click "Final Review."
  • In the "Message to Seller" field, list your usernames for Blogger, Facebook, or Twitter (or all three!), and your email address (so I can send you a revised invoice).
  • Click "Commit to Buy."
  • Stop there! I'll review your order and apply your discount- you'll receive a revised PayPal invoice from me via email.
Thanks to all for your encouragement and love- your comments have made my effort (and hand cramps and pricked fingers) worthwhile!