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Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Royal Wedding Viewing Party at San Francisco's Fairmont Penthouse

The day before the wedding there was much to do about the custom of ladies wearing classic to elaborate hats or headpieces called "fascinators" to British weddings and that those attending viewing parties around the world should wear them as well.

When I heard that I was so excited because I had a hat to wear!

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This hat was a gift from my mom that's lived in a hat box, in my closet, with the price tag still attached for over two decades. It has moved with me from apartment to apartment and house to house, never seeing the light of day. Why? Because I'd never felt like I had an appropriate event to wear it to. Until today.

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Today the hat came out of the box and the closet where it was buried under boxes of shoes to make it's debut at the Royal Wedding Viewing Party and Brunch at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. The weather was absolute perfection. Sunny and warm with the bluest of skies.

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As I entered the Penthouse Suite the wedding was playing on television sets around the room and I saw lots of people I knew! That always makes a party more fun doesn't it?

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I moved to the Dining Room where a buffet station was set up. This was the sweet buffet, the savory was in the Billiard's Room.

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Classic Cinnamon and Currant Scones

Of course there were scones, two kinds in fact. Interestingly I heard celebrity wedding designer Colin Cowie say on tv that the proper pronunciation isn't scone with a long "o." Instead it rhymes with the word "con" so more like "scahn."  So if you go to the UK you might want to try that out.

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Just some of the buffet items I was able to photograph:
  • Top Left : Orange Peel and Cranberry Scones
  • Top Right: Ripe Papaya with Mint Yogurt
  • Center Left: Lox with a gorgeous vegetable garnish!
  • Center Right: Dungeness Crab and Caramelized Onion Waffle
  • Bottom Left: Spiced Beef Tenderloin with Black Olive Baguette w/ Lady Apple Slaw and Pear and Coconut Currry Chicken Petite Brioche Roll
  • Bottom Right: Pear and Coconut Curry Chicken Petite Brioche Roll
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The Penthouse Dining Room was bustling all morning. I love this room partly because the walls are gorgeous and because the crystal chandelier creates such an elegant ambiance it makes me want to put a chandelier in every room of my house.

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From the dining room I stepped directly out onto the Penthouse Terrace. I have to admit I was a little surprised more people weren't wearing hats but you can spot two in this photo :)

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I was enjoying the view from the terrace when all of a sudden I spotted something interesting right beside me.

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Do you see it there on the fountain?

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Ooooooh a honey bee! This made me recall that when I attended an event at the Penthouse in December I learned all about the Fairmont's Honey Bees. From that post:


"The honeycomb above was served alongside a cheese tray. The really cool part? It was from the hotel's own bee hives! There are now 5 hives that house 80,000 honey bees that live at the hotel! So cool right? Executive Chef JW Foster wanted to do something eco-friendly to help support honey bees which, since 2006, have been decimated nationwide by a phenomenon called "Colony Collapse Disorder." If you've never had honeycomb before you should try it if you ever have the opportunity. It's really delicious."

I really wanted to find the bee hives and had once heard they were "on the roof" so I headed downstairs to see if I could sleuth around a bit and locate them. I thought they might be on the Roof Garden but before I could arrive there I spotted them along the way.

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Right between Cirque Restaurant and the Roof Garden is a long hallway. One side is all mirrors, the other windows. Through the windows this is the view of the hotel's Epicurean Garden. Here the bees feast on flowering herbs like basil, chives, cilantro, lavender, oregano, rosemary and thyme.

And how cool are those raised beds? Gardening would be so much easier if you didn't have to bend down to do it!

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At the east end of the Epicurean Garden I spotted the bees.

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They were buzzing around the hives. I think they were enjoying the weather!

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I walked across the hallway and stepped out into the Roof Garden.

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I gazed up to the left and spotted the terrace to the Penthouse. It's that open nook along the top line of the hotel right above the iron balustrades of the terraces for the lower floors.

Ah, so  the bees fly up to the fountain to grab a little drink of water.

So cool!

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Cell phone photo snapped by Kevin Chin.

Here are Photographer Michelle Walker and I in our hats. I think I'll be wearing dressy hats more often. It's kind of sad they're such an underused fashion accessory here in the United States. Perhaps it's a lack of closet space that has kept them from becoming popular here?

My thanks to The Fairmont Hotel San Francisco, San Francisco Brides Magazine and Josephine Fisher Interior Design for hosting such a lovely event and inviting me to it!



If you'd like to see more pictures of The Fairmont San Francisco visit these posts on The Flirty Blog

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Royal Kiss

Woke up early to watch the coverage on the TODAY Show on NBC 11 here in the Bay Area.


The Official Royal Kiss :)

I'll have some fun coverage to share of a Royal Wedding watching party later today. I'm so excited to be wearing a hat I received as a gift at least 20 years ago! It's so cute and formal I've never had an appropriate time to wear it before. So glad I've hung onto it all these years. Today is its day!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Daring Bakers' April Challenge: Maple Mousse in an Edible Container

The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at http://thedaringkitchen.com!

The Daring Cooks five finalists are online but the Bakers haven't been announced. I'd imagine the judges are having a hard time narrowing down their top picks. I don't envy them at all. How can they choose only five finalists? There were so many amazing results!

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The instructions included an edible bacon cup or nut-flour cup filled with maple mousse. . .

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I couldn't think of anything better to pair with bacon and maple syrup mousse than pancakes. But of course they couldn't be an ordinary stack of pancakes so I went whimsical.

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The ingredients for the Maple Syrup Mousse

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The mousse is really easy to make.

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The Instructions:
  1. Bring maple syrup to a boil then remove from heat.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks and pour a little bit of the maple syrup in while whisking (this is to temper your egg yolks so they don’t curdle).
  3. Add warmed egg yolks to hot maple syrup until well mixed.
  4. Measure 1/4 cup of whipping cream in a bowl and sprinkle it with the gelatine. Let it rest for 5 minutes. Place the bowl in a microwave for 45 seconds (microwave for 10 seconds at a time and check it in between) or place the bowl in a pan of barely simmering water, stir to ensure the gelatine has completely dissolved.
  5. Whisk the gelatine/whipping cream mixture into the maple syrup mixture and set aside.
  6. Whisk occasionally for approximately an hour or until the mixture has the consistency of an unbeaten raw egg white.
  7. Whip the remaining cream. Stir 1/4 of the whipped cream into the maple syrup mixture. Fold in the remaining cream and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  8. 8. Remove from the fridge and divide equally among your edible containers.
If you want to try making the mousse or view instructions for the bacon cups, nut crust or a tofu vegan version of the mousse just Download the Printable Recipe PDF by CLICKING HERE

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My friend Elisa recommended using Lightlife Smart Bacon Strips when I asked her for a recommendation for the best faux bacon. If you cook it well it really tastes like bacon and the mouth feel is pretty close.

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I wanted the bacon to create ornamental spirals. I started out googling for "Bacon Straws" and found these directions for Bacon Curls on Not Martha.

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Using a knife I cut one slice of bacon into thinner, lengthwise strands.

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Use aluminum foil to create a frame to wrap the bacon strips around.

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I folded the foil over one end then rolled the bacon around the length like so.

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The key was to not allow the bacon to touch the cookie sheet as it baked or that area browned darker than the rest. So I elevated each spiral by adjusting the foil to hold them high.

Bake in the oven until cooked. The temperature and time will vary by your oven, if you're using pork or faux bacon and the thickness of the strips.

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After the bacon is cooked carefully compress the foil so that it is more thin than the spiral is wide allowing you to gently slide the foil out of the spiral without breaking the bacon which will have shrunk down during the baking process.

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I used Arrowhead Mills Buttermilk Pancake & Waffle Mix
to make 3" wide silver dollar pancakes.

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The funniest thing is that this was also the first time I've ever made pancakes! I used to help my mom when I was a kid but I don't like pancakes so I've never made them for myself. Man are they easy to make! Makes me wonder why anyone pays more for them in restaurants.

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I used a small cookie/biscuit cutter to remove the centers from three of the pancakes and stacked them on top of a fourth whole pancake creating an edible container. I was calling it "Pancakes with a Hole" but then fellow bakers Audax and Renata proclaimed it was a Vol-au-vent (pronounced vole-aw-vahn) which sounds so much more elegant. So I'm going with that instead :)

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And then something went very wrong. My mousse was a flop. I wanted to make a vegetarian version so I substituted the agar agar for the gelatin. It didn't set. In an attempt to salvage it I threw the mixture into the freezer for an hour. Still liquid. WOW. Like Vodka. So I left it in the freezer overnight. Happy surprise in the morning. . . I had maple syrup gelato! Because it's so sweet I think I actually like it as the gelato more than I would have as a mousse since cold always seems to cut some of the sweetness out of things.

I filled the Vol-au-vent with the gelato and topped it off with a small scoop. . . Added the bacon spirals, some maple syrup and. . .

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Are these the most elegant pancakes ever?

This challenge was so much FUN!

The instructions included creating cups made of bacon or a crust style cup made from nut flour but the sky was the limit. We were free to create any kind of container as long as it was edible.

And here's the challenge recipe one more time: Download the Printable Recipe PDF by CLICKING HERE. You should make it for yourself or your family just for fun!

I can't wait to make a pancake vol-au-vent filled with scrambled eggs and bacon spirals the next time we have house guests.

If you're a bride how fun would this be to serve at your bridesmaids' brunch? Or if you're catering a breakfast with family and friends before or after the wedding you should ask your caterer if they could create something similar for you.

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And my favorite part of every Daring Bakers' post is sharing some of the jaw dropping creations by the other Daring Bakers. I love showing you the range of creativity that comes from a single recipe. Click on the image to view the enlargement and the links below to visit their blogs. Congrats to all who attempted this challenge, success or flop we all tried and learned from the experience which is what counts most imo.

Row 1
  1. I Can Do That: Lemon rind confit with a ginger flavored meringue
  2. ALL OUR FINGERS IN THE PIE: Sugar Basket
  3. KOKEN IN DE BROUWERIJ: Dipped White and Dark Chocolate Cups
  4. Cherry Tea Cakes: Maple Bacon Donuts
Row 2
  1. C Mom Cook - Brushed Chocolate Bowl
  2. Oh Yenner!: Almond Meringue Rings
  3. Expreriments of a Housewife: Carrot Bowl
  4. J's Kitchen: Chocolate Dipped Nut Bowl with Mini Meringue "Chocolate Chips"
Row 3
  1. Magpies Recipes: Cream Puff
  2. Hezzi-D's Books and Cooks: Dark chocolate container 
  3. I Can Do That: Candied bacon with chocolate meringue
  4. txfarmer: Espresso Jello Mold with Toasted Pecans
Row 4
  1. Chef in Disguise: Baked Apple Cups
  2. Chocolate & Flowers: Faux Bacon Joconde Entremet
  3. AEROFLOT REH: Pan de mie bread box, maple poached apple chunks and toasted pecan pieces
  4. txfarmer: Ice glass decorated with edible flowers, maple mousse inside, topped with maple poached apple and toasted pecans
Row 5
  1. Gayathri's Cook Spot - Fried Rice Cups
  2. Audax Artifex: Deluxe Stuffed Ridge Back Sweet Potatoes
  3. Audax Artifex: Chocolate bacon brioche spoons
  4. txfarmer: Ice glass decorated with edible flowers, maple mousse inside, topped with maple poached apple and toasted pecans


If you liked this post you'll enjoy these Bakers' Challenges too:

• January 2011: Fancy Joconde Imprime Entremet
• February 2011: Panna Cotta and Florentine Cookies
• March 2011: Meringue Coffee Cakes

Saturday, April 23, 2011

I Hope You'll Be Able to See "I AM" the Movie

72 hours ago I had no idea who Tom Shadyac (pronounced Shay-dee-ack) was. If "Name a movie Tom Shadyac directed" was the million dollar question on Who Wants to be a Millionaire, and I'd used all of my lifelines, I would have left the show with less than a million dollars.

Most people know Tom as the director behind some of Hollywoods biggest comedy block busters like Ace Ventura, The Nutty Professor, LIar, Liar, Bruce Almighty and more. Two days ago he was talking about his new, non-fiction, documentary movie I AM on Oprah. What I heard him say moved me so much less than 24 hours later I'd driven to the closest movie theater showing I AM, down in Santa Cruz, because I couldn't wait to see it.


Tom was, by American standards, "living the dream." He was young, rich, successful, owned a private jet and was living in a 17,000 square foot mansion with people to manage everything from his career and finances to his swimming pool and tennis courts.

But in the midst of his success Tom realized that being financially rich didn't create or guarantee his happiness. Despite the picture our society paints that wealth equals happiness, the point is made in the movie that if you earn twice as much money it doesn't mean you'll be twice as happy. So true right? Sure there are happy rich people but there are also miserably unhappy, lonely and angry rich people.

His message isn't that money or being rich is bad. The distinction is made between having enough and when enough becomes too much so that acquiring more or holding onto excessive wealth can come at the cost of your happiness. It's about following your heart's authentic passion in life and by doing so is the only way we can live truly content and fulfilled lives regardless of our income levels.

the shift is about to hit the fan

In 2007, 13 years after Ace Ventura, Tom's life came to a screeching halt, literally, when he was in a cycling accident (him vs. gravity, not a car) and suffered post-concussion syndrome. The excruciating pain and side effects lasted for months and so impaired his quality of life that he wanted to die to escape the pain. He thought if he were to have any last words, what would they be? That was when he realized he had something to say. Something to share with the world. The slow growing epiphany that began the day he moved into his first mansion but didn't feel any happier had become a moment of clarity: His life was a lie. He wasn't living the way he was meant to. He had allowed his success to turn him into part of the group of people that he perceives are responsible for what is wrong with the world.

He sold his humongous mansion and moved into a 1000 square foot trailer. He got rid of the jet and now rides his bike to work. He's given away millions of dollars to others who he knows need them more than he does and most importantly, he took a four person film crew and set off to create a new and different kind of movie to create the opportunity for our country to have a new and different kind of conversation.


I AM is an exploration of two of the most important questions we can ask ourselves: What is wrong with the world and what can we, as individuals, do to make it better?

The three key concepts explored in the movie are:
1. It is scientifically proven that the entire human race is connected.
2. It is human nature to be cooperative rather than competitive.
3. If you don't do what your heart wants you to do and follow your passion, it will destroy you.

It's easy to blame the world's problems on large things like politics, the economy and other countries. And while it's true that these things often are the cause of our perceived problems, the reality is: What is wrong with the world boils down to the thought processes and actions of individuals and the trickle down effect of each person's existence. As long as we are comfortable blaming others and not examining our own actions to see if in fact we are also a large or minuscule part of the problem, the problems will not only persist, but through misplaced priorities, we can deny ourselves our own happiness without even realizing it.

He draws easy to follow analogies and explores the science of "connectedness," how (in a scientific not metaphysical way) our energy, the way we think and subconsciously output our emotions, can effect not only other people but all living organisms and even non-living things like computer algorithms, in the world around us. Suffice to say if you see the movie you'll never look at yogurt the same way again. LOL


People have often said to me that given many of my negative life experiences they are surprised (sometimes even shocked) that I am not a cynical and bitter person. The movie confirmed that the reason I am for the most part unscathed by my past is because it's through caring for other people, animals, plants, the environment, the world and myself I've found my path to happiness. And you can too :)

The premise of the movie, and what I truly believe, is that, for better or worse, one person can make a difference. Living life with passion, compassion for others, embracing a spirit of cooperation and not allowing material things or money to ever matter more than people permeates almost every thing I do, every day. Caring shouldn't be a once year, once a month or once a week gesture or state of mind. Caring is something we can all strive to do 24/7.

Now I have to figure out where to buy a copy of Darwin's book "The Descent of Man" because the movie has made me incredibly curious to read it. I want to verify some things for myself. I hope it goes better than the time I was curious to read a book about quantum physics. That was totally over my head. LOL

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In the meantime if you want to see I AM, cross your fingers and use the link below to see if it's playing near you:

CLICK HERE to Find a Nationwide Theater Showing I AM


In the SF Bay Area it's playing in:

Sacramento - Crest Theatre - May 6, 2011
San Rafael - Rafael Film Center - Now Playing
Santa Cruz - Nickelodeon - Now Playing • Leaving Soon
Santa Rosa - Summerfield Cinemas - Now Playing
Sonoma - Sebastiani Theatre - May 9, 2011
St. Helena - Cameo - Opens May 25, 2011

vegetarian-jalapeno-burger-fries-saturno-cafe

And it was only fitting I'd have my new favorite burger the same day I saw my new favorite movie. If you go to Santa Cruz you might want to grab a Jalapeno Burger at the Saturn Cafe for lunch or dinner. It's a fun and retro styled vegetarian diner just minutes from the theater.

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With beer battered, deep fried jalapenos, a slice of jack cheese and a spicy chipotle-buffalo sauce on a potato roll hamburger bun it's not super healthy, but it is super delicious! I think you'll love it!

My Earth Day Celebration 2011

Today I went outside and planted a tree to officially celebrate Earth Day.

For Valentine's Day this year my hubby asked if I wanted chocolates or flowers. I asked for and received a lime tree and had been too lazy to go out and plant it.

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When I found out April 22nd was Earth Day it seemed perfectly appropriate to procrastinate a few weeks longer so that I could plant the tree on a day of significance.

So the 22nd came and I discovered I am really out of shape.

Digging that hole almost did me in.

Turns out the proper way to plant a lime tree is to dig the hole just deep enough so that the root ball extends 2" above the soil line but dig the hole twice as wide as the pot. You can't tell in the picture but I had to dig both to the left and right of the tree to get the double wide width. Whew. It was a lot of digging. I'll keep you posted if it produces fruit.

bearss-seedless-lime-blooming-flowers

 It has lots of blossoms so I'm thinking there's a good chance we'll have limes this fall :)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Finally! The March Flirty Cartoon You Winners!

flirty-March-2011-cartoon-you-winners
Meet Susan the florist, Lara the photographer and Mimi the invitation designer. By chance all are wedding industry professionals and all were winners in the March "Flirty Cartoon You" giveaway.

I've been having so much fun creating the custom cartoons each month for the contest winners. Capturing people in a graphic can be tricky at times and to be honest, until I begin working on the actual image I'm never sure which style will look best for each person: Cartoon or Illustration.

For some people the little "Flirty" style eyes work best. Others translate better if I replicate their real eyes and eyebrows in more detail.

Hair can also be tricky. The longer the hair the easier it is to create a graphic that really "looks" just like the person. If your hair is shorter it may become more challenging for me to create a cartoon that looks like you so I'll have to go into more facial details to create the perfect illustration.

All three of last months winner turned into super cute Flirty versions of themselves. Thank you all for entering.

I've posted the New April Giveaway on The Flirty Blog today so CLICK HERE for your chance to win a Cartoon of You!

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flirty-girl-lara-2

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