gift giving: by J

K’s Secret Santa post reminded me all of my shopping has to be done early this year as the hubs and I leave for the Philippines to visit family December 15th.

So, I spent yesterday roaming the shopping epicentre of San Francisco in search of Christmas gifts. I’m not a particularly big fan of Union Square and its sly mistress the Westfield Mall, but sometimes I need that kind of shopping density.

I am always truly amazed how utterly exhausting the whole experience is. By the end of it, I was soundly slumped on an over stuffed leather sofa in Anthropologie gazing blankly at piles of glittering objects.

But it all feels worth it when I get someone a gift they love. Or even if it just reminds them I am thinking of them and they are significant in my life.

Gift giving is an important part of relationships. It requires me to take time to really think about the person I am getting a gift for, what they are interested in, their passions and preferences.

Although, it is always easier to regain that perspective once I’m back at home, cozy and quiet.

Happy Friday,

xo J

Above is everything necessary for perfect gift wrapping.

craft paper tags $4/ craft paper $10/ black and gold twine $14 from knotandbow
Cody Foster tiny tree ornaments $17.50 from Madewell
red and white striped washi tape $3.49 from HopscotchCraftSupply


Secret Santa: by K

Last year, to take some of the pressure off of Christmas shopping, my sister, cousins and I decided to try out the whole Secret Santa idea.  We were all a little hesitant…For years and years our tradition has always been that each set of siblings gets each cousin a present.  That way we are guaranteed to be overwhelmed by presents and wrapping paper on the most magical night of the year. Making it even more magical.

This gets difficult to keep up for many reasons, two of which I’ve listed here: 1. we are getting older and the presents are getting more expensive and 2. once significant others come into the picture things get confusing. Do we buy a couple gift? Do we just add a new person to the gift giving list? Does this make them uncomfortable? Why am I all of  a sudden completely broke and stressed out?

So  this is why we decided to act our age and experiment with the Secret Santa idea – See if it does in fact ruin Christmas.

Much to our surprise, it did not. It was so fun and so much less stressful and the mystery of who gets who really WAS exciting. Also, my wallet wasn’t half as empty as it usually is this time of year.  We are doing it again this year and I am so relieved.

One part of growing up that stinks is growing out of traditions you try so hard to keep forever and ever. One part of growing up that is great is creating new traditions together with your family, as it grows and grows.

xo k

* for more Norman Rockwell Christmas moments, click here.

wish list: by K

The cold is finally settling in, here in New York. Up until now, even on a cold day, we could fool ourselves into thinking we still had some warm days ahead. But no more. The winter coat has been taken out of the closet marking my surrender to winter.

My wish list so far consists of one thing: More hours in the day. The days outside of the office have been getting shorter and the days inside of the office have been getting longer. This means less time for eating and sleeping. I haven’t had the time to think about holiday shopping which, as always, will only stress me out more in the weeks to come. But what can you do? Stressful last minute shopping is part of the charm of the holidays. At least it makes for easy casual conversation with a co worker or acquaintance you otherwise have nothing to say to… “did you start your shopping yet?”… “yeah, between the hours of never and someday…” … “right?! When will it end! I hate the holidays.” Riveting.

Right now I am trying to be conscious of the calm moments in my day . “Moments” being the key word here. My walk to and from the subway where I can soak in all of the new holiday lights and decorations going up around me that I probably wouldn’t have noticed had I not made the conscious effort TO notice them. My 20 minute subway ride where I can catch up on a few pages of my book. Preparing a cup of tea in the office kitchen where no one can email me or ask me to do something. My hot bath at the end of the day. These are very short spurts of time in a very long day, but being aware when I am in them is the only way I can feel in control or find any time to breath during this crazy time of year.

xoxo k

* illustration by Catia Chien

The love list: by J


With the cold weather and short days there are only two things on my mind, sleeping and eating.

While not a gift list specifically this is more of a comfort/ love list.

Stay cozy and full,

xo J

* midnight blue bowl via Heath Ceramics (part of their seasonal collection and already out of stock)

* gold linea ice oro cutlery via Muhs Home (who happens to be having a 20% off sale until the end of the month)

* as seen everywhere graphic stripe ink duvet set via Design Studio

The best part of Thanksgiving: by J

One of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving is the leftovers, specifically turkey soup.

My Dad was the great cook in my family, and his turkey soup was a part of the fabric of my childhood. Thanksgiving and Christmas were always followed by the easy comfort of subtle broth with turkey, rice, carrots and onions.

I added kale, parsley, and used brown rice for mine.

The familiarity and warmth is the same.

For me recipes like this are a beautiful easy way to carry traditions forward.

xo J

Thanksgiving: by K

And so it begins. Two days of prepping, cooking, cleaning, eating and drinking. Mostly I do the eating and the drinking, but even so – it is exhausting work.

I very much admire J for tackling the turkey on her own.  It is quite an undertaking but being the fantastic chef that she is, I can only imagine how delicious it will be.

Just a few things I am looking forward to: Mom’s escarole soup, artichokes, stuffed mushrooms, brussel sprouts, mashed potatoes and sausage polenta. And the cheese spread with crostini that kicks everything off.  And the seemingly never ending flow of red wine and prosecco and Dad’s delicious macchiato to help digest the insanity that was consumed hours prior. I am not a huge Turkey fan but I’ll have a bite or two of dark meat for the sake of tradition.

My favorite part of the day has to be the leftovers. And I am not talking about having some sausage polenta for lunch in the days that follow. I’m talking about sneaking back into the kitchen after everything is clean and put away and diving back in.  Then heading to the couch with my heaping plate, another glass of wine and my favorite holiday movie to kick the season off right, Home for the Holidays.

My sister, cousins and I have started this tradition and even though we are all pushing 30, I don’t see it coming to an end anytime soon. Granted we don’t really have to “sneak” anymore but where’s the fun in that?

J, take lots of pictures tomorrow. Can’t wait to see what you create.

xox k

Thanksgiving: by J

* photo via apartment therapy

I am super excited for Thursday as Thanksgiving is actually my favorite holiday.

Despite the controversial history of Thanksgiving, I see it as a time of year to spend time with family and gather together for a meal.

I actually like it better than Christmas because of the lack of gifts. I know, right?

I remember as a kid Christmas definitely reigned supreme. Something shifted as I got older. I guess going from the receiver of gifts to being in the midst of giving and receiving something changed.

I just find it easier to remember the significance of togetherness during a time where the sole focus is dinner with those closest to us.

Also I put a huge amount of pressure on myself to get the right gifts for people, the right thought, money spent, something they need, want and are excited to receive, while retaining some sense of surprise.

I know it is silly, and that the gesture is what matters, however, this just doesn’t seem to help me relax and trust my instincts.

In any case, I’ll be making my second turkey ever, and fingers crossed it all goes well,

If you have any tips or tricks please share,

xo J

sneak peek: by K

Unlike SF, New York is having pretty crisp, sunny, “warm” (for east coast winter standards) weather.

I spent another full weekend indoors so I unfortunately did not get to experience the crisp, sunny days, but I did admire them from  my studio window.

The good news is, this weekend was much more positive and productive than last weekend. My idea for my 2012 Christmas Card is now solid, so the past two days were about execution. Which, once you get past the first blank white page, is the fun part.

I am incredibly excited to finish these illustrations and see the whole thing printed and out of my imagination into the real live world – I don’t think I will ever just expect my work to be something I am proud of so each time I am it is a real humbling experience.

That being said, I am just as sad as I am happy that this project is coming to a close.  In no other part of my life can I lose myself as much as I do when I am knee deep in a project. This is not a feeling I can recreate on my own whenever I want.  It is something that surprises me over and over again. Something I don’t feel I have much control over. Which is what makes being an artist of any kind so hard to give up – no matter how critical you are of yourself. Once you’ve reached this “high” you don’t forget it and can’t live a life without it and find yourself going through emotional hell to get to it.  I sound like a heroin addict. But I think you know what I mean.

Above is a sneak peek of what I have been working on. More to come after Thanksgiving…

Happy Monday

xoxo k

grey weekends: by J

*photo of union square via the hubs

The grey weather has set in.

San Francisco winter, a sly mix of ash grey days, slick with rain, and peeks of sunshine.

Daylight savings time has fixed sunlight when I wake up, thankfully. But the dark comes early and without much civility.

The scruff is getting a little pudge from walks missed do to rain. When forced out, he cowers in door frames begging to go back inside.

I don’t mind so much, but motivation is a lost friend. I prefer cozy evenings in.

Sunday supper with friends, a favorite.

Happy Monday,

xo J