10 Out of the Ordinary Gift Ideas

1. Aesop Resurrection Aromatique Hand Balm  |  2. Solidarity Lingua Franca x Whitney Sweatshirt  |  3. Cook Beautiful by Athena Calderone  |  4. Cheese Set with Black Handle, Hudson Grace  |  5. Dot Kokeshi Doll by Becky Kemp  |  6. Denim Apron, Ubi-Ind  |  7. Mimosa Diptyque  |  8. Tea Towel, Rough Linen  |  9. Kitchen Towel by Craig Damrauer  |  10. Lip Balm, Rodin

I can’t believe it’s already November, we’ve officially entered the gift-giving season. Throughout the year, I always look for unique, quirky, and beautiful gift ideas that I can give to an amazing hostess, amateur chef, art lover, special mom group, and family (sometimes myself). Enjoying a range of personalities and passions, I try to find things that will excite and entertain, sometimes relating to a favorite food, a new hobby, or simply a new product that I love and think my friends will too.

My new never-leave-home-without-it is a natural-looking lip balm by Rodin that goes on smooth and leaves a lovely luster without feeling gooey. Laughing is my favorite and I found a tea towel that might amuse a few art enthusiast friends. I’m obsessed with the apt prose of Lingua Franca. Their collaboration with the Whitney Museum has created another favorite wearable and a perfect gift for the modern mom and activist friend. And for the hostess with the mostess, I love this cheese serving set and rustic tea towel (personalize it by wrapping it around a favorite wine, candle or soap). Not as good as the Infinity Mirrors at the Broad but the Yayoi Kusama-inspired kokeshi doll is pretty darn cute. Happy shopping!

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Recipe: Japanese Sweet Potatoes and Brussel Sprouts


I’m always looking for low-carb and gluten-free alternatives to replace high-carb meals and snacks. While I love rice or pasta, I often feel bloated afterwards and am hungry within an hour. Hence, tasty substitutes are welcomed. Here is an easy nutritious and delicious recipe that is great with and egg for breakfast or as an option to a dinner salad (I add grilled chicken). And yes I love shopping at Good Eggs for the freshest ingredients, curated food finds and dinner kits.


1 lb. Japanese sweet potatoes (I use these from A.V. Thomas Produce)
1 lb. brussel sprouts (I use these from Rodoni Farms)
1-2 sliced green onions (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil or ghee

Cut the brussel sprouts and sweet potatoes into halves or quarters. Use a food processor with shred blade attached or grate to shred the ingredients. I start with half of each ingredient and store the rest in food containers. Keep raw shredded sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts in fridge for up to three days.

Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil or ghee in a pan (cast iron works well), over medium heat. Add sweet potatoes first and cook for about 4-5 minutes. Then add brussel sprouts and cook for about 5 minutes (longer if you want it more browned). Stir frequently, with spatula or wooden spoon, to avoid burning but you definitely want some crispy brown bits from the sweet potatoes. I add salt, pepper and thinly sliced green onions (mild onion flavor to offset sweet) towards the end.

Mix it up a bit and add chopped bacon and your favorite veggies. With the crispy sweet potatoes shreds, it’s almost like a fried rice in texture. There are lots of ways to use this nutritious recipe in your daily cooking.

One of my favorite ways to have this dish is with a poached egg… because I LOVE eggs.

Here’s the best fool-proof poached egg recipe with the best eggs:
Bring about 4 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Lower the heat to a bare simmer and add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. Crack an egg into a small cup or ramekin and, holding the cup just above the surface of the water, carefully pour the egg into the water. Cook egg until the white has cooked through but the yolk is still runny, 2-3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the egg to a paper-towel lined plate until ready to serve.

Live in the Bay Area? Leave a comment and try $20 off a Good Eggs delivery. What I love: there are some food items and kits that you will only fine here, including organic Coastal Hill Farm Eggs, and they offer same day delivery. It’s such a convenience when I’m in a pinch!

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San Francisco Pop-Up Experience

I used to think pop-ups were just for food. Well not anymore. The Color Factory, launched in August, has shown my daughter and I that it’s about creating a complete package of sensory experiences. Created by Leah Rosenberg of Oh Happy Day with design by Erin Jang, it’s a sensory sensation that has locals all abuzz. If you ask her, “It’s like being in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory but more color!” The pop-up is a must-see if you love color, surprises and just being a kid. Imagine dozens of hanging disco balls, oversized Lite-Brite pegs, a room flooded with balloons, a blizzard of confetti and the best ball pit EVER all in one building. Get on the mailing list because although September tickets are sold out, they may add another month. Who knows?

8 Things You Should Do:
1. Get your scan card and don’t lose it! You’ll need it for those frame-worthy pictures. Plus, it’s a cool souvenir.

2. Take your time. From stairs and hallways to installations, each space is full of surprises that will make you oooh and aah. Don’t miss the scratch and sniff at the entrance.

3. You’ll want to Instagram everything but the Color Factory has strategically placed cameras in the various rooms so you can take the best selfie possible. Images are emailed to you directly. So strike a pose!

4. Use the bathrooms. The red one is a hoot!

5. Take off any outerwear before heading into the confetti room. It will be much easier when you exit. Believe me.

6. When posting on Instagram, use the hashtag #selfie and your image will be printed in Tom Stayte’s Selfie installation.

7. Leave a little room in your tummy for local sweets from Sift and Garden Creamery. One per customer please.

8. “Imagine you’re swimming in a big bowl of lemons.” Our favorite yellow ball pit is at the very end, so pace yourself. And it’s deeper than you think.

We all scream for ice cream!
Looking for the next best pop-up in San Francisco? The Museum of Ice Cream opens next month and tickets go on sale today at 9:00am here. Hurry, space is limited!

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Family Vacation: Orcas Island

Road Trip
This summer, we took a few weeks off and drove up to Orcas Island, Washington, where we rented a cozy cottage located just above a beach in Eastsound. We started in southern Marin and meandered north, stopping in some of the most beautiful places in the Pacific Northwest, including Crater Lake, OR and Ashland, OR.

First stop, Running Y Ranch Resort in Klamath Falls, Oregon. This rustic-chic lodge is set amongst some of the most beautiful rolling hills and trees. Kids loved the indoor pool and game room and we loved the outdoor seating at their restaurant. Breakfast on the patio is a must, for the food and the view!

What to order: breakfast burrito, Marionberry Sour before dinner

Make time for Crater Lake. The national park is about a 30 minutes away and worth the drive just to see the Instagram-perfect setting. Breathtaking.

Next stop, Ashland, Oregon, famous for its Shakespeare Festival. For a spacious two room suite for a family of four, stay at the Ashland Hills Hotel. With a modern bohemian vibe and amenities like an outdoor pool and delicious Luna Bar, this downtown hotel was the perfect place for an overnight stay.

Things to know: You can get a good bottle of wine from the Luna Bar or just a glass to go! Kids will enjoy the photobooth while their food is being prepared. Going off campus for breakfast? For waffle lovers in the family, stop by Waffle Barn. For the creamiest lattes, visit small-batch Case Coffee Roasters, less than two miles from the Ashland Hills Hotel. And don’t worry, they’re open errday.

Our final stop, before catching the ferry, was at Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, Washington. Just look at the pictures on the website and you’ll understand why kids are crazy for this place. It’s like a mini-Disney indoor water park. From the “six-story funnel of fun” to the tsunami-motion pool, no one was bored. My only complaint was our room. Dark (even with the lights on), gritty, and full of carpet stains, the themed Wolf Den Suite left much to be desired. A friend, who has been to Great Wolf a few times, reminded me that “you go for the park not the room.” My recommendation: stay one night only.

What you should do: Drive about 20 minutes north to Olympia and get breakfast at New Moon Cooperative Cafe. Good food, good people and good music. Put your name on the list and be patient. It’s worth the wait.

Almost there: Anacortes Ferry Terminal to Orcas Island!
Tip: Ferry tickets are released two weeks prior as well as two days before desired departure date. You can purchase them at wsdot.wa.gov.

Where to Eat and Drink

Hogstone’s Wood Oven | Aelder
On our first night, Martin and I took the kids to Hogstone’s Wood Oven. An indoor and outdoor space where chef Jay Blackinton serves mouthwatering wood-fired pizza and carefully curated small dishes with bold flavors, such as grilled kale seasoned with smelt, radish and goat cheese and bull and broccoli with native clams and nasturtium. The choice of ingredients, presentation, and flavors reminded us of Bay Area favorites; Lazy Bear’s multi-course dinners and Manka’s whimsy. There’s a small dining room inside with about nine tables and a large picnic-style area outside.


We got take-out pizza from Hogstone’s a week later and were told that the restaurant was changing their format. Hogstone’s indoor seating would become Aedler and move to a ticketed tasting menu, while keeping their outdoor restaurant more casual serving their wonderfully savory pizzas and vegetable dishes.

What to order: goat cheese pizza, anything on tasting menu


Hogstone’s Wood Oven and Aedler
460 Main Street
Eastsound, WA 98245
(360) 376-4647

Rose’s Bakery Cafe
Farm-to-table cafe open for breakfast and lunch. Fresh ingredients heighten the flavors of their American dishes. Put your name on a list, and walk next door to the bakery/shop for picnic-ready wine, cheese, and crusty bread.

What to order: poached eggs and greens, any of their thin crust pizzas, mussels!

Rose’s Bakery Cafe
382 Prune Alley
Eastsound, WA 98245
(360) 376-4292

The Kitchen
For lunch, Audrey, and I found The Kitchen after being ignored at the nearby Island Skillet (will never go back). Glad we stumbled on this gem! The Kitchen became our go-to for always-delicious food made with incredibly fresh ingredients. These Asian-inspired small dishes were taste sensations. Sometimes we’d go twice per day. Note that the service, while very friendly, can be slow. When they say your lunch order will take 30 minutes, count on it taking that much time.

What to order: BBQ Pork Hum Bao (on busy days, they sometimes sell out by dinner so order extras at lunchtime and save for later), chicken potstickers, Szechwan Pork (my personal favorite), homemade root beer

The Kitchen
249 Prune Alley
Eastsound, WA 98245
(360) 376-6958

The Barnacle
For the best craft cocktails in town, go to The Barnacle. With their western saloon-inspired interior, you feel like you’re in another era. With a bar and about a dozen small tables, this craft bar and bistro serves savory small plates and some yummy drinks. If you’re waiting for your order at The Kitchen, you should have enough time to enjoy a libation at the bar.

What to order: Vesper Twist: made with Spy Hop Gin, Monopolowa Vodka, Cocchi Americano, and Orange Blossom infusion. Most of their spirits are made in the San Juan Islands so you’re in for a special treat.

The Barnacle
249 Prune Alley
Eastsound, WA 98245
(360) 622-2675
No website (so old school)

More from Downtown Eastsound
Brown Bear Baking for the best lattes, pain au chocolat, pain aux jambon, and pain aux raisins (just about everything). Stock the kitchen with local and organic goodness from Orcas Food Co-op. Having a picnic? This is your go-to for snacks, drinks, and sandwiches (which they will heat up if you ask). For bigger grocery runs, try Island Market. Take home one of their cool amber jugs after filling it with kombucha-on-tap. We display ours in the kitchen. For a boost of namaste, go to Orcas Mandala for yoga. The prettiest downtown shop, Nest (pictured), has amazing floral arrangements as well a decorative objects for the home. For a mix of boho-chic and modern clothing and shoes, stop by Tres Fabu (just behind The Kitchen). And on Saturday, don’t miss the Farmers Market from 10:00am – 3:00pm.

Outdoor Activities
Moran State Park
From hiking (lots of trails) and fishing to canoeing and paddle boarding, you’ll find all the best outdoor activities here! Cascade Lake was our go-to for fishing (Fresh Water Sunfish, Blue Gill and Largemouth Bass). All water activity rentals have been run by the same family for years and all the employees love working there. The place has a good vibe all around. There’s a small beach area with a cafe that serves locally-made ice cream as well as a few lunch items. Mountain Lake, which is a short hike away, is another good option for swimming. Hang out for the day or just in the late afternoon when temperatures were at their highest during our July visit.

Whale Watching
When on Orcas… While there are many whale watching tours, I liked the packages at Orcas Island Eclipse Charters. And I liked that it’s a small family-run operation. The boat was spacious and clean equipped with a small snack stand. We loved touring around and learning about the San Juan Islands but best of all, we saw many Orcas!

Girl Meets Dirt
Step into the Girl Meets Dirt kitchen for the most delicious preserves tasting! Not your usual flavors, think Shiro Plum with Mint and Rhubarb Lavender – yummy with triple cream. A few jars found their way into our pantry.

After two weeks, we all wanted to stay longer. I guess there’s always next year. xo

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48 Hours in Seattle

Art, Food, Sleep, Repeat

Destination: Seattle, Washington
Weather: 70 degrees and sunny
Souvenir: Sawdust Mountain, monograph by Eirik Johnson

Recently, I joined a group of art-loving friends on a SFMOMA-organized trip to Seattle. From back-to-back studio and gallery visits to mouth-watering food experiences, it was a busy two days that was as stimulating as it sounds. Here are some highlights.


john-grade-team-awesomeWorking with wood. Measuring, cutting, sanding, glueing, and reinforcing with pins. Dream job? 

First stop was John Grade’s woodshop studio where he and his team create large-scale site-specific sculptural installations, such as the hemlock-shaped sculpture Middle Fork at the Seattle Art Museum (pictured). On the day of our visit, the workshop was mostly filled with Bristlecone Pine and Alaska Yellow Cedar. My favorite sighting was a small group of artists meticulously carving, sanding and connecting pieces to create, what looked like, a floating base structure, reinforced with wood glue and micro-pins. In another area, a man was carving out little window-like openings from a solid piece of Bristlecone, a piece designated for the atrium of Portland State University. John Grade was not present as he is currently working on a pingo project in Alaska.

middle-fork-seattle-art-museumMiddle Fork at the Seattle Art Museum


jaume_plensa_wireheadsI loved these Jaume Plensa stainless steel head sculptures in the yard. “A face off in the garden!”

Meeting Barney was an absolute delight. From seeing his world-renowned modernist collection and hearing his amusing stories (like hiring a professional to clean a Jasper Johns with spit), to enjoying lunch surrounded by Old Master paintings (surreal) and sitting below Gaston Lachaise’s bronze Standing Woman (who looked like she was protecting me), the visit easily made my top ten list of best art and food experiences.


isaac-layman-studio-seattleIsaac discussing recent work.

Visiting the home studio of Isaac Layman, an artist with a passion for the ordinary. Earnest and genuine, it was easy to understand his deep curiosity for common objects, including his oven and kitchen sink.


meghann-riepenhoff-cyanotype-mediumFrom Littoral Drift Series

Based in Bainbridge Island, WA, Meghann‘s amazing process is explained here “She creates experimental living photographic prints involving a structured interaction between the canvas, the cyanotype medium and the chance operation of natural fluid bodies such as drifting tides along a shoreline.” Her work was about nature’s wonderful surprises; the flow water, the patterns of sunlight. Unpredictable beauty.

meghann-riepenhoff-Photographic-Center-NorthwestMeghann’s studio inside the Photographic Center Northwest.

LARK Dinner at the Lark came at the end of a long day. Happy to see coupe glasses of rosé waiting for us. Expect delicious locally-produced dishes. What to order: hamachi tartare, Wagyu hanger steak and their nectarine tarte tatin with bourbon caramel.

A welcoming entry

lark-rose-wineRows of rosé

group-at-lark-seattleDinner with friends and artist Meghann Riepenhoff (standing back right with lovely updo).

952 E Seneca St.
Seattle, WA 98122
(206) 323-5275


A whimsical display of color and light through glass pieces.

A visit to Chihuly‘s boathouse studio certainly gave me a deeper appreciation for his glassblowing work. An unassuming building, his boathouse studio housed a hot shop room (a.k.a. glassblowing), library, dining room, aquarium, pool, and personal boathouse collection of his works as well as other artists including a stunning collection of Edward Curtis photographs.

This yellow chandelier was just one of many different colored ones hanging over a long dining table that sat about 80 guests. The shape, color and light of the fixtures were magical.

My favorite space. It’s a room I can retire in.


entry-james-turrell-skyspaceEntrance to James Turrell’s Skyspace, Light Reign

Located on the University of Washington campus, the Henry Art Gallery features many new works by emerging artists. We got a behind-the-scenes tour from director, Sylvia Wolfe, on the gallery’s photography collection and new artist database. Moreover, it was the perfect day to take a break inside James Turrell’s Skyspace.

james-turrell-skyspaceInside Skyspace | Aperture in the ceiling open to the sky.

ANCHOVIES & OLIVES Nestled among the lovely Capital Hill neighborhood, Ethan Stowell’s Anchovies & Olives has an inviting open-kitchen format that typically caters to the local dinner crowd. For our trip, we were lucky to snag a private lunch in the middle of the day. Fresh Proscuitto di Parma, warm fluffy torta fritta and small batch olives served on a slab of wood usually means I’m going to love the place. And I did. What to order: Proscuitto di Parma, clam with spaghetti, and rigatoni with house ragu.

Anchovies & Olives
1550 15th Ave.
Seattle, WA 98122
(206) 838-8080


eirik-johnsonEirik sharing stories of the mushroom camps.

Seattle-based photographer and mixed-media artist, Eirik’s work is an exercise in endurance. From his time recording the extremes of the Arctic summers and winters to joining Matsutake mushroom hunters in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, Eirik’s large-format images are captivating and thought provoking as well as beautiful. I’m currently fascinated by his daguerreotype series.


delaunay-finch-artAmazed that these works are 100 years apart: Robert Delaunay, Delaunay Les Fenêtres simultanées (Simulaneous Windows), 1912 and Spencer Finch, Paths through the Studio, 2012

Color & Pattern works from art collection of Paul Allen with a tour by Greg Bell, Director of Pivot’s gallery space. Collection includes selected paintings, drawings, sculpture and ceramics by Squeak Carnwath, Anish Kapoor, Jasper Johns, Robert Delaunay, and Damien Hirst.

damien-hirst-barium-carbonate-13C-2005-2008Damien First, Barium Carbonate-13C, 2005-2008

BAR MELUSINE Our early supper at this neighborhood gem was amazing. Lots of natural light add to the decor of shades of seafoam green, wood, and brass. What to order: oysters, crab salad (pictured), halibut crudo, and salmon rillettes.


Bar Melusine
1060 E Union St.
Seattle, WA 98109
(206) 900-8808

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Airstream Camping in Russian River

Autocamp Russian River
Whether you’re a put-up-my-own-tent camper or looking for a different glamping experience for your next vacation, Autocamp has it covered. Think of spending a week in a cool Airstream Trailer outfitted with a queen size bed, modern kitchenette and tiled bathroom with luxury amenities. Just outside the trailer is a dedicated fire pit, small four-person dining table, and patio chairs. And to be clear, you will not be “roughing it.” The campsite clubhouse is stocked with necessary reinforcements, including beer, wine and cheese. I know. That’s why I call it glamping. Autocamp has another location in Santa Barbara but, since we live in the Bay Area, Russian River seemed like the perfect mini road trip for our holiday.

10 Things to Do at Autocamp

1. The Drive
SHED Healdsburg
If you’re driving from the Bay Area, make a pitstop for lunch Healdsburg, followed by coffee at the Barlow. Check in starts at 4:00pm so you have time to meander through some of my favorites spots in Sonoma. We love the market and food at SHED in Healdsburg. Order their in-house shrub, drink made with fresh fruit, vinegar, and sugar, and tasty food. Stock up on a few snacks for camp and bring home a bottle SHED Shrub for your homemade drinks. After a walk in the square, take a short drive to the Barlow where you’ll find some of the best organic coffee at the Taylor Made Farms Coffee Shop.

2. Unplug
Autocamp Russian River
Whether you’re glamping or camping, leave the screens behind and enjoy your temporary surroundings and each other! Autocamp has a well-equipped and super comfortable game and lounge area in the clubhouse. Scrabble, Monopoly, chess, go old-school with your favorite board game. Our 10 and 12-year-old had some withdrawal issues on the first day (What? No computer time?) but ended up having loads of fun – playing games, roasting marshmallows, riding bikes, and exploring. However, if you need it Autocamp has wifi.

Autocamp Russian River

3. Big Bottom Market
Big Bottom Market, Guerneville CA
Home to Oprah’s favorite biscuit, Big Bottom Market is both a market and cafe located in downtown Guerneville. And it has the best coffee for early risers. Have their famous biscuit or one of the tasty breakfast sandwiches, which are made with biscuits, eggs, greens and optional bacon. We ate here every morning, but they are also open for lunch.

4. Armstrong Redwoods
Armstrong Redwoods
Take a morning hike or afternoon stroll among these giants. You’ll uncover all the shapes and sizes of planted trees as well as fallen trunks with exposed roots that look more like an intentional sculpture. Armstrong Redwoods park is majestic, breathtaking, and should not be missed on your stay in Russian River.

5. S’mores
Autocamp Russian River
Bring lots of marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate for nightly s’mores at your very own fire pit. If you forget or run out, the clubhouse sells kits for about $9.00 for six s’mores.

6. Canneti Roadhouse
Canneti Roadhouse Forestville
Located in nearby Forestville, this was our favorite dinner place. The staff is very friendly and the homemade pasta and bread are delicious. Our entire family loved eating here. If you have, I would suggest going early.

7. Boon Eat + Drink
Boon Eat+Drink, Guerneville, CA
Small family-friendly place that serves up good food and wine. Boon Eat + Drink is located near Big Bottom Market and is only open for dinner. YES to the fried chicken.

8. Rent a Bike
Autocamp Russian River
Bikes are available at the clubhouse. Bike to town for lunch or just down the road to the Russian River for some fishing.

9. Chile Pies Baking Co.
Downtown Guerneville
Enjoy handmade pies and ice cream inside a downtown Guerneville old bank that was converted into a multipurpose space that includes a cafe, shop, and wine tasting. After trying their signature green chile apple pie, take a picture in the photo booth vault in the back.

10. Clubhouse Showers
While the trailer showers are quite nice, you should indulge at least once in a shower at the clubhouse. Inside you’ll find two well-appointed shower rooms in each bathroom and more hot water. Note: The trailers only have about 10 gallons of hot water per day so if you need more, this is the place.

Autocamp Russian River
14120 Old Cazadero Rd
Guerneville, CA 95446

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The Bowerbird of the Sea

Watch the entire video for one of the most amazing images.

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