Monday, September 30, 2013

Blogs - Mimi's Way - 10 steps to a perfect dinner party

Mimi says, "Really spoil guests with good wine."

Mimi Thorisson has a gorgeous website, called Manger.  She lives in a rambling farmhouse in France, has a wonderful family, a husband who is an amazing photographer whose photos you can see on her blog, and seems to have an amazing life of visiting winemakers, food artisans, antiquiting, and entertaining friends and family.  She has 6 children and 14 adorable dogs!  Here is her seven steps to a perfect dinner party:

1.)  Prepare ahead!

2.)  Begin the evening with a game on the lawn.  It helps people work up an appetite and gives them something to laugh about over dinner.

3.)  Choose an easy aperitif spread, like charcuterie.

4.)  Give people tasks they can handle:  opening wine lighting candles, etc.

5.)  Serve the best possible wine.  It really makes the meal unforgettable- even if you can't quite remember it...

6.)  And the best possible bread.  I'd drive 30 minutes to find the best baguette.

7.)  To put the meal over the top, finish with mignardises, or little candies or cookies.  I serve homemade caramels and marshmallows in antique apothecary jars.


Mimi Thorisson's Blog, Manger
http: //

Dessert recipes - Blackberry ice cream

My son loves blackberries, so I'm excited to try this recipe that I slightly modified!  I found it on Mimi Thorisson's blog, Manger.  Her blog is a feast for the senses, I love it!

Blackberry ice cream
(serves 8-10)


2 cups of blackberries
6 tablespoons of granulated sugar
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
2 tablespoons of water
1 cup of heavy cream


     Rinse blackberries and drain.  In a saucepan, place blackberries, sugar, 2 tablespoons of water, and lemon juice.  Cook for 10-15 minutes on a medium to low heat stirring frequently.  Pass the mixture through a sieve to remove pips.  Set aside and leave to cool completely.  Then, place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

     Combine blackberries mixture with the heavy cream.  Switch your ice cream maker on, pour in cream mixture.  Churn in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions.  Transfer ice cream to an air tight container and place in freezer for a few hours or overnight.

Main Course Fall Recipe - Caramel Chicken

I found this recipe for Caramel Chicken in the October 2013 issue of Bon Appetite magazine. It sounds like a perfect fall recipe to warm up the kitchen and have a cozy dinner!  I modified it a bit to fit my family's needs, such as changing the soy sauce to gluten free, as well as a few other minor changes.

Caramel Chicken
Active- 1 hour 15 minutes
Total- 1 hour and 45 minutes

4 servings


2 Tbsp of vegetable oil
2 1/2 lb. skin-on, bone-in chicken legs and thighs
kosher salt
8 garlic cloves, peeled
1/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup (or more) unseasoned rice vinegar
2 1/4 " thick slices of peeled ginger
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup reduced sodium, gluten free soy sauce
2 scallions, thinly sliced
cooked white or brown rice (for serving with chicken.)


     Heat oil in a large wide heavy pot over medium-high heat.  Season chicken with salt and, working in 2 batches, cook until golden brown and crisp, 6-8 minutes per side; transfer to a plate.  Add garlic to pot and cook, stirring often, until golden, about 2 minutes; transfer to plate with chicken.  Pour off fat from pot.
     Return pot to medium-high heat and add 1/2 cup of water, scraping up browned bits.  Add brown sugar; stir to dissolve, then cook, stirring, until mixture thickens and turns to a deep amber color, about 4 minutes.  Carefully add vinegar (it may bubble up; sugar will crystallize); stir to dissolve sugar.
     Add ginger, broth, and soy sauce, then add chicken, skin side up, and garlic.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer gently until chicken is cooked through, 20-25 minutes.  Transfer chicken to a plate.
     Bring cooking liquid to a boil and cook until thick enough to coat a spoon, about 10 minutes.  Return chicken to pot; turn to coat.  Top with scallions and serve with rice.

Calories 490, Fat 18 G

Recommended realtor in Oakland, CA

Jennifer Graham has her office with Alain Pinel in Montclair Village, a district of Oakland, CA.  She has amazing knowledge about the different communities in Oakland and also has a great sense of ways to remodel to help places sell!  Jennifer is a really kind and warm person, so I highly recommend her!


Jennifer Graham
Realtor, Alain Pinel
Montclair Village
6211 La Salle Avenue
Oakland, CA  94611
Cell  510-409-9916
FAX  510-339-3747

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Foodie shopping: Oaktown Spice Shop, Grand Lake Neighborhood, Oakland,CA

     When I was in Chicago, Illinois this summer I visited an amazing spice shop in old town.  I'll never forget the smell of the freshly ground cinnamon and other spices!  I am so happy we have our own spice shop in Oakland right in the Grand Lake neighborhood.  John Beaver and Erica Perez opened Oaktown Spice Shop last December.

      John Beaver worked in the spice industry for many years at a family-owned spice shop outside of Milwaukee where he is from.  Within the shop, it is a feast for the senses!  There are vintage scales and spice jars, as well as antique maps that point out the region where the spices come from.  This is a great place to visit if you have a little time to spare and want to learn and try something new.  The shop caters to the everyday cook as well as to the gourmet.

Beaver sources the very best spices from all over the world.  He has handcrafted blends that you won't find anywhere else.  They are right down the street from the Saturday Grand Lake farmers market, which has so many food loving people.


Oaktown Spice Shop
12-7 p.m.  Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m.- 5 p.m.  Saturday, 12-4pm on Sunday.


Friday, September 27, 2013

Home Maintenance: spider web blocks burner

Fall is in the air, and I even had spider webs in my burners this morning to prove it!  I noticed this past week that a few of my burners weren't working so had to call the Sears Blue Service Crew (repairman.)  When Patrick came out this morning he said I had a blockage inside my stove's RR burner cap and center orifice from spider webs.   Though the stove had been purchased in February, this had not happened yet.  Patrick recommended that I turn on all the burners every day to prevent this from happening again.  I was really happy with the service.


Sears Blue Crew
Sears Blue Service Crew 
Technician ID#  666214

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Tours: Today is the Alameda Legacy Home Tour! 9/22/13

Today is the Alameda Legacy Home Tour in Alameda, CA.  The event is from 11AM to 5:00PM, and tour tickets can be purchased at Franklin Park, corner of Morton Street.  I went to this event last year and really enjoyed it!


Alameda Legacy Home Tour
Sunday, September 22, 2013
11:00AM to 5:00PM
http: //

Entertainment: Freight and Salvage Coffee House, Berkeley, CA

For the last 45 years, the Freight and Salvage has been the epicenter of all kinds of acoustic music.  The Freight provides a home for traditional music, a dynamic living, developing art form, since 1968.  The Freight is a non profit community arts organization dedicated to promoting the understanding and appreciation of traditional music.

I went to a concert there tonight to see the Baguette Quartette.  It was a farewell performance for this bay area treasure that has been playing for the last twenty years, playing the music of Paris in the 1920's and 1930's.  The group featured Odile Lavault on accordion, bandoneon, and vocals.  Rachel Durling on violin, John Schott on guitar and banjo, and Richard Trevor on string bass.  They played tangos and waltzes, paso doubles, and fox trots, plus marches and musettes.  The group has released sex albums, including their last, A La Noce.

The Freight and Salvage hosts traditional music concerts almost all nights of the week.  See the current schedule on their website at  They also offer ways to learn to play instruments, such as Classes, Jams, and workshops.

They have a cafe with coffee, tea, snacks, plus there is a small bar area with adult refreshments.  They only provide snacks so I would recommend you have dinner before the concert.

If you can't make it to a concert, you can watch the show live by looking at


Freight and Salvage
2020 Addison Street
Berkeley, CA
(510) 644-2020

Friday, September 20, 2013

Urban Ore, for recycling building and other materials, Berkeley, CA

Urban Ore's mission is to end the age of waste.  Yesterday, I saw their truck in front of a home in Rockridge, CA that was being renovated.   They were taking scraps of things that ware not going to be used in the remodel.  I highly recommend using Urban Ore them during a remodel.  I've also dropped off gently used curtains, clothes, lamps, etc.  The receiving part of the store closes daily at 5:00PM.


Urban Ore
900 Murray Street
Berkeley, CA  94710
Phone:  1 (510) 841-7283

Hours:  Monday through Saturday, 8:30AM to 7 PM
Sunday, 10:00AM to 7:00PM  (receiving closes daily at 5:00PM)
Closed:  Christmas, New Year's, Easter, 4th of July, and Thanksgiving

Saturday, September 14, 2013

fire pit out on the deck

Tonight we had a fire out on the deck, we could see the moon from above the roof!  We have lights in our tree in the backyard, lights that I purchased before we even had electricity in our backyard.  I remember imagining how pretty they'd be in the tree, where they are now hanging.  Though they actually had laid on a shelf for years before we finally got electricity in the backyard and I could put them up.    As we sat back there, we came to the conclusion that our backyard has had the biggest transformation from when we moved in.  When we moved in there was no electricity outside, there wasn't an outdoor light by the back door, there weren't little lights on the trees and deck, and we didn't have any outdoor furniture in the beginning when we first lived in our old bungalow.  Now, it is truly an outdoor room!  Tonight, we moved up our firepit onto our deck, which we'd never done before.  I use Java logs from whole foods as it doesn't cause the same allergic reaction as other fire logs do.    My son wanted to roast marshmallows, but I hadn't gotten marshmallows from the store, as I hadn't known we were going to have a fire.   I like the kebab skewers from home depot, they work well with marshmallows.  Also, the Whole Foods marshmallows are heavenly, they are made with no corn syrup.


Large Firepit and Grill,  from Orchard Supply,  Concord, CA  Item # 4443230   $129.99

Kebab Skewars (we use them for marshmallows and for roasting hotdogs) - 4 pack, from Orchard Supply,   Concord, CA  Item #  060197104158

Orchard Supply and Hardware
2050 Monument Blvd.
Concord, CA  94520  (925) 685-3000

Whole Foods very vanilla bean marshmallows, no corn syrup or artificial colors, made by hand, yum!

Javalog,  made with recycled coffee grounds , burns 3 hours (as I write this, the log is still burning outside, in fact I think I'll go outside and sit by myself for a little while with my dog, after I finish this post!)

A fire outdoors can be magical to both children and adults!


Bungalow Mama

Friday, September 13, 2013

Classes: The Institute of Urban Homesteading

I just recently found out about The Institute of Urban Homesteading, which provides classes in Oakland and Berkeley, in California.  The classes provide classes in skills for self-reliance, community resilience, and urban transformation.  Listed below are some samples of types of classes the institute provides:

-fiber arts
-seed saving

Upcoming Event in North Oakland
Day of the Dead
Dover Park
Friday, November 1, 4pm til dark
Altars at 4 PM
Procession at 5 PM
Dinner at 6 PM

Sample Classes in September:

Sat 9/14   Managing the Urban Harvest
Wed 9/18  Cheese Making  101
Thur 9/19  Dehydration Basics
Sat 9/21  Canning Extravaganza
Sun 9/22  Orchard Care and Pruning
Sun 9/22  Pollination Ecology
Sun 9/22 Home Smoking Foods
Wed 9/25  DIY Local Medicine II
Sat 9/28  Natural Fiber Felting
Sun 9/29  Healthcare for Urban Livestock
Sun 9/29  Hand Spinning Wool

Wed 10/2  Brewcraft:  Mead
Sat 10/5  Fall Foraging
Sun 10/6  Fermentation Intensive
Wed 10/9  Meat 101:  The Chicken
Thur 10/10  Homemade Toiletries
Sat 10/12 & Sun 10/13  Cheese Making Intensive
Sat 10/19  Rabbit Butchering & Tanning
Sun 10/20  Decadent Cordials
Sun 10/20  Home-Scale Aquaponics
Sat 10/25 & Sun 10/26  Day of the Dead Workshops

Friday 11/1  Day of the Dead Celebration
Sun 11/3  Xmas Confection Xtravaganza
Sun 11/3  BioChar Presentation
Wed 11/6  Carob Harvest and Preparation
Sat 11/9  Bar & Liquid Soapmaking
Sat 11/19  Soil Health & Science
Sun 11/17  Wheat, Gluten & Grain-Free Living
Wed 11/20  Cheese Making 102
Sat 11/23  Hand Sewing Basics
Sat 11/23  Machine Sewing Basics
Sun 11/24  Olive Picking and Brining

Sat 12/13  & Sun 12/14  Winter Open House

Classes take place evenings and weekends at private locations throughout Berkeley and Oakland.
Sliding scale tuition for all classes.  Pre-registration is required.  Exact locations are given upon registration.

For detailed class descriptions, class times, prices & registration, visit their online portal

Festivals- Rockridge Out and About, Sunday, October 6, 2013, 12-6 PM

The Rockridge Out and About is coming up on October 6, 2013 from 12-6PM.  This is a big event in our neighborhood and most, if not all, of our neighbors are actually, true to the name, out and about on College Avenue.  This is a fun event for all ages!  Listed below are a few of the fun things featured at the event:

- Chef's Stage
-Artisan Alley
-57th Street Gallery Jazz Stage
-Musically Minded Stage
-Picnic on the Street
-Kid's Court
-Wellness Area


Rockridge Out & About
Sunday, October 6, 2013
12-6 PM

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Rockridge Kitchen Tour is September 29, 2013

I love the Rockridge Kitchen tour!  I've been several times and I always think it is super interesting!  This year marks the tenth biennial event since 1995, and continues to offer guests a personal look inside nine beautifully remodeled residential kitchens in the historic Rockridge neighborhood.  The tour is self-guided and offers guests an opportunity to view a variety of kitchen styles and sizes.

Rockridge Kitchen Tour
Sunday, September 29, 2013

For ticket purchase:
Online-  Advance tickets ($35) may be purchased through September 27th online at

On the avenue-  Advance tickets ($35) are available at Rockridge Home, 5418 College Avenue, open daily from 11a.m. to 8 p.m.  Tickets are available here through september 27th.

On Site- For those who wait, $40. Day of Tour tickets will be sold at the registration desk in front of the College Avenue Presbyterian Church, 5951 College Avenue, beginning at 11 a.m., Sunday, September 29th.

Monday, September 9, 2013

fun home design websites

It is amazing how many home design and accessory website there are now.  I've listed a few below that I have stumbled upon, seen in magazines, or have been told about.   It is fun to look at these sites to get ideas when doing some redesigning.

Resources: vintage and new home accessories  affordable art prints interior accessories made by european weavers and craftsman  hand knit birds Japanese enamel stock pots

Bay Area Cafes-Farley's Coffee, Oakland, CA- Community in a cup!

I love Farley's coffee in Oakland, it is becoming one of my favorite coffee shops in Oakland.  Farley's has three locations, San Francisco, Oakland, and Emeryville.  This coffee has delicious real food too, such as gluten free and regular frittatas, paninis and salads, plus all the usual cafe fare.  There are tons of magazines, a great loft upstairs that looks out on the street, with real outlets.  I've noticed lately some cafes do not have outlets, as they do not want people to linger.  Farley's has a real sense of community, with tons of people on their laptop, meeting with friends, or poring over magazines.


Farley's Coffee, Oakland
33 Grand Avenue
Oakland, CA  94612
(510) 835-7898
Hours:  Monday-Friday  7AM-9:00PM
             Saturday-Sunday 8:00AM-9:00PM

Oakland Art Murmur- 1st Friday evening of the month

I've gone to the Oakland Art Murmur in Oakland, CA at least five times, I honestly love it!  As I walked down some of the streets around Broadway and Telegraph and in between, I felt a great sense of pride that I live in Oakland.  Plus, there is an undeniable energy and excitement that feels great!  I've never seen any violence or crime while I've been at the Art Murmur, but I'd recommend dressing casually, without designer clothes.  Also, don't walk down the streets on iPhones or sit outside a cafe on a computer- but I recommend that in any big city!  For a great cafe that you can sit inside and have coffee and work on your computer, see my next blog today!

I recommend coming early to Art Murmur, as it starts as early as 5 PM.  This way, if you drive, you can park before the crowds arrive.  Though, you can also take bart.  You can also park at Jack London Square, and then take the free Oakland shuttle uptown that runs until 1 a.m.   This way, after you arrive in Uptown, you can work your way towards downtown and Jack London Square, back to your car.  By the time things can busy, you'll be back in a less crazy area.  If Telegraph Avenue feels too packed, then try accessing the fun from Broadway.

If you feel uncomfortable walking around the streets of Oakland at night, then consider the Saturday stroll.  This actually happens every Saturday, NOT just once a month, from 1 PM to 5 PM, with almost all the OAM galleries participating.


Oakland Art Murmur
(First Friday  night of the month)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Recipes- Bill's garlic bread

My father, Bill, used to like to make garlic bread just before I went on a date!  He wanted to scare my date away, at least that is what it seemed like at the time.  The first time I ever went on a date, the guy said, "Don't worry, sir, I'll get her home early!"  My dad said, "I'm not worried I already wrote down your license plate number off your car, here it is, and showed him the paper."

Ingredients for  garlic bread on BBQ

soft french loaf bread
1/2 cup of butter
2 tsp. of granulated garlic ( or 1 tbsp. of minced garlic)


Melt 1/2 cup of butter with 2 tsp. of granulated garlic ( or the t tbsp. of minced garlic) over low heat.  Slice 1 soft French-style loaf ( about 15 inches long) in half lengthwise and toast, crust side down, on a BBQ  grill until crunchy, about 3 minutes.  Turn and toast cut side about 3 minutes.  Brush garlic butter onto Bread and cut into 1 inch slices.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Kitchen-to-Dining Room Pass-Through Cabinet

We saw a bungalow in Alameda the other day that has a very interesting feature.  Between the dining room and the kitchen is a cabinet / pass-through area.  It appears to be an original feature of the house.

Here's the view from the dining room:

Here's the view from the kitchen:

New Safeway in Rockridge

After years of debate, the builders have broken ground on the new Safeway.  Here's the view of the construction site from across the street at the fantastic Cole Coffee.

The pictures really don't do it justice.  In person, the bulldozer you see here is climbing a massive hill of soil.    

Recipe- Chicken Wings

Great article in The New York Times today about cooking chicken wings!  Check out

Our own more labor-intensive approach to cooking wings is here.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The old doorbell

I came home a few days ago and the "new" doorbell -- which was taped to the old doorbell -- was on the ground.  I felt like crying as I finally had thought the problem was fixed by placing a new doorbell on the old one.  When we finally resolve this problem, I'll update what actually worked!

Here's a picture:

You can see the new smaller white wireless doorbell button sitting on top of the old yellow large one.

The bottom line - wireless doorbells are just NOT the way to go.  We're going to have to just wire up a regular doorbell.  Wish we had done that before we moved in (even better - wish the prior owners had wired one up).

Recommended Realtor in Portland, Oregon

My dear friend, and fellow bungalow lover, recommended Rambo Halpern, known in Southeast Portland as "the bungalow guy."  I called him today to find out more about the bungalows in Southeast Portland and also to ask about whether I should connect my dining room and kitchen, as I am itching to have more light in my dining room and create more of a great room feel.  He gave some great honest advice!

He recommended that those looking in Southeast Portland neighborhoods for a bungalow look at his Facebook page,  He explained how he just added a listing of a 3 bedroom and 1 bath bungalow for $399,000.  This bungalow is in a neighborhood of Portland that is walkable to everything.  This is similar to the Rockridge neighborhood where I live, though Portland is still more reasonably priced.

I recommend talking to Rambo, the bungalow guy about bungalow neighborhoods in Southeast Portland, or even about bungalow questions!

Rambo started out by acquiring a few older homes in N.E. Portland and began the work of renovating them with the help of a good local contractor.  His greatest assets as a realtor is knowledge of the local market and the ability to match a person's needs with a suitable property.  He also has a trustworthy recommended network of lenders, contractors, and home inspectors in the area.

Rambo specializes in neighborhoods in Southeast Portland, such as Brooklyn Heights and Hawthorne, which both have easy access to downtown.  Many of the homes are turn of the century, arts and crafts homes, and are walkable to shops and restaurants.

In my research of Southeast Portland, I found that there are various neighborhoods, some are just beginning to revitalize so there are still bargains available.  I found another website discussing Portland Eastside, at  


Rambo Halpern
"The Bungalow Guy"
Re/Max Equity Group
Phone- (503) 715-1399
FAX- (503) 715-1399

Portland Eastside

Open dining area to kitchen?

We are doing a kitchen remodel in the next several months as soon and I am trying to figure out whether I should somehow connect the dining room and kitchen.  I would love to be able to pass food and beverages through to the dining room from the kitchen.  Plus, when I was at Frank Lloyd Wright's home in Oak Park, Illinois, I saw that Frank Lloyd had built one of those in his own home.

Yet, if we did add this, a contractor we interviewed had said it may be difficult matching up the newer elements of the kitchen to the all original elements of our dining room.

Today, I talked to Rambo Halpern, a realtor and resource recommended to me by a friend in Portland, Oregon.  He has an informative and well thought out blog, called  When I called him to ask his advice and to find out more about the bungalow market in Portland, Oregon, he told me that many of his clients are looking for an original bungalow, with as little untouched as possible.

Our conversation reminded me of when we started looking for bungalows in Rockridge, and so many people had painted the wainscoting white and taken out the original china cabinets or fireplace tiles.  At that point, after talking to the "Bungalow Guy," I started rethinking my idea of putting a hole through the wall from the dining room to the kitchen.  Thanks Bungalow Guy!


Rambo Halpern
"Bungalow Guy"
Re/Max Equity Group
Phone- (503) 473-4127
FAX- (503) 715-1399