Sunday, July 29, 2012

elsa's 1st birthday

So Elsa turned 1 just over a month ago, and I managed to turn the event(s) into pretty much a full week of pictures. Her party—for which I was making those mustache brownies from the last post—started the off week on Sunday. Dan and Carmen hosted it downstairs in their apartment, moving the various pieces of their bed up to our dining room to create more space in their bedroom. It was a good thing too, because with something like 30 people and several small children, their place was quite crowded during the party. For picture of the day options, I ended up with many pictures of the circus-themed decorations, most of them designed and made by Carmen. But I went with a picture of Carmen bringing out Elsa's birthday cake, made by Noe Valley Bakery. By the end of the week, I had a couple pictures of the day of the birthday girl herself anyway, so she was well represented.

176/366 elsa's birthday party

Elsa's actual birthday was on Monday. Rather than doing the obligatory messy cake eating at her party, Dan and Carmen waited until Monday night, when Steve and I came down to watch her open her presents too. (Good opportunity to get more pictures of the birthday girl!) It took Elsa a little while to figure out what to do with the cupcake when it was put in front of her, but she got the hang of it once Dan and Carmen started breaking off pieces and feeding them to her. Soon, she had both hands full of cake and lots of frosting on her face, saying "um num num" while she ate.

177/366 elsa's 1st birthday

At the end of the night on Monday, Carmen sent me home with one of the hats from the party. Dan, Steve, and I had all helped make them the previous Friday, after our weekly pizza. Carmen and I figured I could get an extra picture of the day out of it, and it certainly came in handy on Tuesday when I was more interested in editing birthday party pictures than taking new ones. It also happened to be my nephew Jon's birthday that day, so I used his birthday card in the shot too. (It was waiting for a new address to get sent out.)

178/366 birthday mode

On Wednesday, Carmen asked if I could come down and take some more pictures of Elsa in her circus party outfit. I had gotten a few shots of her at her party, but none of just her, so I was glad for the opportunity. It proved to be a little more challenging than we expected, though. We tried putting Elsa behind the photo booth picture frame, but of course, she just crawled out of it. The couch turned out to be a better spot. Carmen had to catch her a couple times when she was in danger of falling off while trying to climb down, but she was much better contained there. She just needed a little distracting.

179/366 high-couch act

Then, on Thursday, I suggested we get some pictures of Enzo in his hat and tie. He hadn't actually ended up wearing them at the party, since it was too hectic, and I had only gotten one shot of him in costume toward the end. Unfortunately, the light wasn't great by that point. This time, we went down the alley and looked for a neutral background. The focus on my favorite picture didn't turn out to be quite as sharp as I would have liked, but I decided that the composition was more important this time.

180/366 pensive clown

Friday was pizza night with Dan and Carmen again, and I saved my picture of the day until then, for lack of ideas. I figured I might as well stick with the Elsa birthday theme, and I was able to get pictures of the bunting that Carmen had made, as well as pictures of Elsa's birthday bunnies. (The bunnies won this round.) The smaller bunny is the one that Bonnie and I bought for Elsa in Hayes Valley on Carmen's due date last year, and the bigger one was from Bruce and Bonnie for Elsa's first birthday. We had spotted it and a few bigger sizes at a toy store in Ghirardelli Square in March, and naturally, Bonnie snapped it up and kept it for Elsa's birthday. The only downside of the bunnies is that Enzo tends to think that any plush animal is his, so they have to be kept off the floor.

181/366 the bunny brigade

I did deviate from the theme on Saturday... I was running out of birthday pictures to take anyway. Instead, I took a picture of Steve's homemade beer, which he and Dan cracked open that afternoon. This would be beer from an "Everyday IPA" kit that I got him at Williams-Sonoma for his birthday in 2011. He finally got around to starting it, just before the expiration date on the package of yeast. The whole process took almost a month, but apparently, it came out well. Steve said it was maybe a little overly hopsy, but he and Dan had no problem drinking it. And despite Steve's worries, it came out sufficiently bubbly. The head had just died down a little by the time I landed on a composition that I liked for the picture.

182/366 homebrew

And that wraps up the month of June. Here's the obligatory mosaic:

Sunday, July 22, 2012

the twenty-fifth week

Week 25 of Project 366 began with a Sunday afternoon trip downtown. It happened to be Father's Day, and we "celebrated" by going t-shirt shopping for Steve at the Gap and then lugging home a whole bunch of plastic containers from The Container Store on BART. The only pictures I took that day were of the t-shirts at the Gap store, so it was a good thing I stopped to take them. Steve's previous collection of graphic t's was sadly starting to show some wear, since he wears them pretty much every day. Unfortunately, the store where we got many of those—Martin + Osa—closed probably a year ago. The Gap has some decent options now, though, including some collaborations with Threadless.

As previously mentioned, we went to The Container Store after buying Steve's shirts. On our list: 5 plastic watertight file boxes and 2 larger watertight "totes." Steve carried 4 of the file boxes, which stacked pretty tall, and I carried the 2 totes with the last file box in the top tote. It was a tiring walk back to the house from the BART station, especially since my belly was just getting big enough to be slightly in the way when trying to carry things. I couldn't really rest the totes against my front without it being uncomfortable, so I had to shift them slightly to one side. I was just glad that we didn't wait any longer to buy our containers and bring them home.

169/366 t-shirt shopping

So those plastic containers are what we started packing things into for our closets. The two larger totes were assigned to hold my scrapbooks, the box with our wedding album, and my baby book. Meanwhile, I filled three of the file boxes with sheet music and scores from musicals. The other two file boxes went to Steve for actual files, some legal sized files, and a few board/card games. Beyond just being watertight, I'm hoping they're bugtight; we have issues with those creepy silverfish bugs. (Shudder.)

Monday was devoted to going through a box of old things from my childhood. The box's contents didn't get transferred to a plastic box, but I did at least sort through it and throw out some of the unnecessary stuff so I could fit a little more in there. (That whole box ultimately went into a larger rubbermaid tub to hopefully stay bug-free.) While I was looking through things, I found a couple birth announcements, my hospital bracelet, and a couple other items from when I was born. The picture of the day became those items with my baby book—a nice look at baby/hospital stuff circa 1982.

170/366 c. 1982

Getting out of the house on Tuesday afternoon, I went shopping for Elsa's birthday present(s) at Aldea NiƱos. That and the quest for a birthday card took me down Valencia Street, where I also looked for things to photograph. The most interesting shot I took was the stuffed baby ostrich in the window of Paxton Gate.

171/366 stuffed baby ostrich

Wednesday was the night we had tickets to see the musical American Idiot at the Orpheum, which meant dinner out beforehand. Steve and I decided on Fifth Floor, since they were doing specific foie gras courses before the CA ban went into effect July 1. It also seemed like a good choice, having been almost exactly a year since our first (and only) dinner there. This time, we had a foie gras and rhubarb first course, a cheese-filled pasta with mushrooms and peas for second course, a duck entree, and a foie gras and rhubarb dessert. Everything was really fabulous, but I decided that the colors and plating of our first course made for the most interesting picture for the day. 

172/366 hot and cold foie gras

On Thursday, I went for my apparently weekly walk to Noe Valley, no doubt to run some errands again. I went for a close-up shot of the top of a cake in the window of Noe Valley Bakery this time. The reds and browns happened to go well with the previous day's food picture anyway.

173/366 teddy bear picnic

In advance of Elsa's 1st birthday party the following Sunday, I was tasked by Carmen to make some brownies. Because I wanted to give myself ample time and also stay out of Steve's way in the kitchen over the weekend, I started the project on Friday afternoon. A couple hours later, I had made two pans of the brownie recipe from the first Baked cookbook. Carmen and I made the caramel version from the second book last December, but this was my first time making the original recipe. I figured/hoped it would be fudgy enough to hold together in the mustache shapes Carmen wanted. The actual brownie making ended up being pretty easy; I didn't have to make caramel for these. Instead, I just had to think through my strategy for making two batches back to back. Simultaneous measuring helped when I had enough bowls to prep both at once, but there were a couple things I just did twice. Needless to say, I got to know the recipe pretty well that day.

174/366 brownie making

I saved the actual cutting of the brownies for Saturday and Sunday, letting the pans chill in the fridge to make things easier. All didn't go quite according to plan, though... It turns out, using cookie cutters on brownies doesn't work all that well. Even greased, the brownies don't want to come out of the cutters. (It probably would have worked better with cutters that were just metal outlines of the shape, allowing me to push the brownie back out from the other side.) I did one brownie with each of the two chosen mustache cookie cutters before realizing the complications involved. Luckily, Steve managed to get each of those out in one piece with the small offset spatula, but we decided that a change in method would be a good idea. At Steve's suggestion, I tried using the cookie cutters to make indentations in the brownies, which I then cut out with a sharp steak knife, rinsing the knife with warm water every so often. It was rather labor intensive. While they certainly turned out to be cute, next time I think we'll go with brownies in the shapes of squares or rectangles—maybe even triangles if we're feeling daring!

175/366 brownie mustaches

Next up, Elsa's birthday week, with her party and various birthday-related things. I'm only about a month behind...

Sunday, July 8, 2012

progress, pasta, and a petting zoo

Continuing with June, part of week 24 was about cleaning out closets and sorting through old stuff. Oh wait, that had been happening for weeks already... But there was more of it to do, anyway. That Sunday afternoon, I tackled the rest of my music from the living room closet. I had gone through a bunch of photo copies the month prior, but I hadn't really finished the whole job. This time I got through the rest of it, including classical piano music, scores from musicals, and selections books from musicals. I didn't throw out a whole lot when it came to those, although I did get rid of any classical piano music to which I didn't particularly feel connected. I kept the Chopin, Debussy, Gershwin, and anything else I really liked or had memories of playing in college. And I kept most of my scores for musicals, on the off chance that I do any of those shows again. (It's good to have a record of cuts and things.) When I was done, I had two crates full. One of those had a nice stack overflowing above all the binders. I took a quick picture, since I wasn't sure if I'd get any shots later in the day.

That evening, we drove down to Sunnyvale for a party with my old work friends at Erica's house. We had a good time, but my camera stayed in my bag the whole night. I was too busy catching up with everyone. Good thing I had already taken a picture of the music.

162/366 miles of music

Monday was one of those days when I was too busy doing something around the house to want to think about finding a picture to take. (Of course, now I don't remember what I was actually doing...) To solve my problem of what to photograph, I proposed a dinner of something we didn't have a picture of yet: shrimp with "sea monsters." It's a dish that evolved from a combination of things. There's the sauteed shrimp like I used to make with basil-sour cream sauce in college. And there's a riesling-cream-parmesan sauce with basil that was inspired by a Bertolli frozen meal that I ate a few times in grad school: chicken, spinach, and farfalle in white wine sauce. Steve made his own version of the sauce at my request when we were looking for something to eat with the spinach ravioli from Lucca. We eventually stopped buying the ravioli, but I missed the sauce enough that it made a reappearance with shrimp in this dish. The pasta in sea monster shapes is just an added bonus, really.

163/366 shrimp & sea monsters

Tuesday was my 20-week OB appointment, so I got another nice walk around Presidio Heights on the way to and from my parking spot. This house with columns had some really pretty planters in front with hydrangeas. I think there may have been some gardeners at work around here on my way to the appointment, but they were gone by the time I walked back.

164/366 hydrangea box

My plans on Wednesday included clearing off the corner shelf in the office/nursery so I could start packing what I was keeping into a rubbermaid container in the dining room closet. Part of the process included sorting through some notebooks... which is about as far as I got that day. I started reading through these journals from about 10 years ago, and then I got nothing else done. Who wants to be productive when you can sit and read all the details of boy drama from college? It turns out, I had forgotten many things. 

165/366 blast from the past

On Thursday, I went back for my third ultrasound of the pregnancy. At our ultrasound the week before, the little guy had been moving around so much that they couldn't zoom in on his heart for long enough to take all the pictures they needed. This time, I went in around 11am—generally a much quieter time of day for the baby—and he behaved much better. He moved around just enough that they were able to get all the angles without so much trouble. While I wasn't really thrilled that I had to go again, the tradeoff was that we got another CD of images that turned out to be much clearer than those from the week before. (And I was happy to see that we weren't charged too much more by our insurance for the extra ultrasound.) For the picture of the day, I just set up a quick shot of the CD with a pair of booties that Erica had given us on Sunday.

166/366 third first photos

Fridays are our weekly pizza nights with Dan and Carmen, which usually includes some Elsa playtime before she has to go to bed. This time, she was demonstrating how well she can escape from her toy bag/box when Carmen wants a picture of her inside.

167/366 escape from the toy box

And finally, Saturday. The weather was warm, so we walked to Noe Valley to look for dinner ingredients at Whole Foods. (I also got some Mitchell's ice cream at the sub shop.) While we were in Noe Valley, we discovered that they were having their Summer Fest, the centerpiece of which seemed to be a pretty big petting zoo. They had sheep, alpacas, pigs, a pony, a donkey (or mule?), and goats, of course. That was good for a picture or two to round out the week.

168/366 the girl & the goat

Thursday, July 5, 2012

we're having a...

Steve and I found out the gender of our baby nearly a month ago, making at least the first half of week 23 an eventful one. But while we eagerly awaited Monday's ultrasound, we got some work done around the house on Sunday.

After lunch that day, Steve and I cleared the construction stuff out of the dining room closet, and then I vacuumed it out while Steve put the previous contents on the shelves in the utility room. I did some measuring once the closet was clean and decided that the existing shelves in there would work just fine for us. We plan to get some elfa shelving from The Container Store for the living room and nursery closets, but this closet had some actual built-in shelves already that happened to be at acceptable heights. That meant that I could start loading up the closet with things like the little keyboard, the tabletop food photography light, and my container of photo props—all things that had been in the office/nursery before.

With all that work in the afternoon, we decided that we would go to Mission Cheese for an easy dinner. That way we'd get a nice walk, have our fancy grilled cheese sandwiches, and I could take a picture or two for the day. I didn't end up taking many pictures, but we stopped for a shot of the fence outside the newly renovated Mission Playground.

155/366 monster park

Monday was finally the day of our ultrasound, but as I figured out at the first one, there's not much picture-taking to be done at an ultrasound—at least not on my part. We got a CD of pretty low resolution pictures, but those wouldn't count as my photo of the day anyway. And I wanted to buy something special and gender-specific for when we announced whether it was a boy or girl. Of course, with the ultrasound taking place at 3:45pm, there wasn't really time afterward to go buy something and photograph it. Instead, I decided to wait until the next day for the announcement picture. Luckily, we had gotten dinner reservations at Incanto that evening to celebrate, so I was able to use a food picture from our meal as my shot of the day. I went with the "Hot Mess," a foie gras dish that we had as a starter.

The title—Hot Mess—wasn't actually representative of my day, although the ultrasound didn't quite go as perfectly as we would have hoped... The baby was moving around too much by the end, so I had to go back a week later for the pictures of the heart that they needed. I guess I was asking for it by scheduling the ultrasound for one of the more active times of the day, but I was trying to go by what would be most convenient for Steve, coming from work.

156/366 hot mess

On Tuesday, I went to Fiddlesticks in Hayes Valley in search of that special something to photograph to say "it's a boy!" I wasn't sure if I wanted something like a stuffed animal or some booties or a newborn outfit, so I just looked around to see what caught my eye at my favorite kids' store. On the way in, I saw this adorable stuffed owl that would go well with my woodland-themed plans for the nursery, and then I found a couple outfits that I liked. The light blue one is pretty tiny, but hopefully, the little guy will fit into it long enough to at least wear it home from the hospital.

Before finding out the sex, I posted a rather informal poll on Facebook, asking my friends what they thought it would be. Several people thought girl, a couple thought boy, and several more hedged—afraid to commit to an answer. I didn't mention my hunch that it would be a boy, for fear of throwing the results. I was kind of hoping for a girl, but my top choice for a boy name was the one that seemed to be sticking better than any of the girl ones. (We're not telling what that name is until he's born...) I had also started to design the nursery with the aforementioned woodland theme. While it will probably be pretty gender-neutral as nurseries go, it does seem like a better fit for a boy.

157/366 it's a boy!

After all that excitement, it was back to the dining room closet for Wednesday's project. I took all my food photo props out of the Rubbermaid container they were previously in, stacked them on the new desk, and then tried to figure out what sizes of plastic containers from The Container Store I would need to fit them all. (And what combination of containers would actually fit together on a single shelf in that closet.) Once I had settled on my choices, I gave Steve a list, and then he picked them up on his way home that evening. I was able to load my stuff into the boxes and pack them in the closet while he was making dinner. So now, all these things—plus a tray and a bamboo cutting board—are in four smaller, clear containers at about waist level, rather than one large opaque tub on the floor. It should be much easier to get things in and out that way. 

158/366 prop collection

Not wanting to take another consecutive day's picture in my house, I did an errand run in Noe Valley on Thursday. I pretty much ended up just taking pictures of flowers on the way this time, so the daily shot was some society garlic that I passed in the neighborhood.

159/366 society garlic

Friday's event was a bang trim downtown, bringing me to the general vicinity of the Teuscher chocolate store. (It's across the street from the salon.) They sell chocolate in these cute animal-shaped boxes, so I occasionally look in their windows for photo ideas. This time, the giraffes were my favorites, although the little chocolate gnomes behind them were pretty awesome too.

160/366 giraffes & chocolate

The best thing I could think of to shoot on Saturday was the bowl of cherry (or grape) tomatoes that Steve had gotten from the farmers market on Thursday. I've been pretty excited for tomato season to start, so cherry tomatoes make me happy. These ended up in caprese salads that I had for lunch the following Monday and Tuesday.

161/366 grape tomatoes