Happy Holidays!

Photo by J. Mears

Season's Greetings and Happy Holidays! Jay and I are super lucky to be able to be in Michigan with our family and friends for a full week. We are definitely in relaxation mode and we are savoring every minute of it!

Wishing you a wonderful holiday and quality time with your loved ones! See you in the new year!

Weekend Wishes, Holiday Edition

Image source unknown

Happy Friday friends! Today Jay and I experienced a bit of a Christmas miracle!

We started our journey from San Francisco to Grand Rapids, Michigan last night knowing that we had a very tight connection in Minneapolis. Our flight left San Francisco on time and arrived in Minneapolis on time, but two planes were blocking our gate when we arrived because they were getting de-iced. So there we were, on the tarmac, as time ticked away and our 40 minutes turned to less than 20.

The flight attendants were fantastic (our first stroke of luck) and told anyone who's final destination was Minneapolis to stay put and allow those with connections to exit first. Jay and I took that as our cue and raced out of the plane. We were at gate F and we needed to get to A with just 15 minutes left of our layover. We ran for it. It was more of a walk-run since we had just woken up from our 3.5 hour red-eye sleep, but we gave it our all.

We were beginning to think we were doomed and that we weren't going to make it. We had been running for awhile and were exhausted, only to find that we were still two terminals away. But that's when we saw him. A tall burley man, beard and all in overalls and a fluorescent vest. He asked us where we were headed, we told him gate A. He directed us to the tram and hopped on with us. Then he asked what gate we were running to, and we told him A2. And that's when we got our Christmas miracle. He reached for his radio and called out, "alpha two, we've got two runners, can you hold the doors for a few more minutes." And they did!

I don't know his name, but I'll never forget his random act of kindness. His kind gesture made such a difference in my and Jay's day. Had he been indifferent, Jay and I could still be sitting in the Minneapolis airport right now trying to make our way home through who knows what kind of standby situation. But instead, we are home with our family soaking up all the fun that comes along with the holidays!

Have a wonderful weekend with your family!

Zuni Cafe

Photos by K. Mears

I've been told Zuni Cafe is a San Francisco staple, so I was really excited to finally try it out after close to two years of city living.

Truth be told, it was actually our "plan b." Originally we had set out to brunch at Bar Jules, but it was one of the very few days that they were taking reservations for parties under 5 (needless to say, our party of four did not have reservations). Nevertheless, it worked out perfectly as there was no wait at Zuni (we just beat the rush!) and within minutes of walking through the cafe doors, we were seated!

Zuni Cafe definitely lives up to its reputation. It's a solid San Francisco brunch spot, with creative cuisine and delightful afternoon cocktails.

I started my brunch with a few Marin Miyagi and Pacific Hog Island oysters from Tomales Bay accompanied by a prosecco and elder flower cocktail. Ever since moving to San Francisco, I cannot get enough oysters to both my and Jay's surprise! For my main brunch course I ordered Sky High Ranch eggs with arugula, sausage and chimichurri and a side of roasted sweet potato. It was absolutely delicious and perfect for our foggy winter afternoon.

The food was excellent, no doubt, but I loved the added bonus of top notch customer service. Zuni has a warm and cozy ambiance, but we were seated close to the main entrance which opens and closes often. Aware of this potentially drafty seating arrangement, the manager came up to our table and offered us complimentary shawls in case we felt chilly. We didn't take him up on the offer, but I very much appreciated the thoughtfulness!

So next time you are thinking of a city brunch location consider this oldie but goody. You won't be disappointed!

San Francisco and Marin Food Bank

Yes, that's me and my friend Shilpa having our Laverne & Shirley moment, or rather, a fun evening shift at the San Francisco and Marin Food Bank!

In approximately 2 hours we, along with the other evening volunteers, were able to sort and package just over 2,000 pounds of bulk whole wheat pasta into 1 pound servings. The pasta will then be distributed, helping to feed over 2,500 individuals.

We had a really great experience and in fact, plan to go back for more volunteer shifts. The Food Bank makes it extremely easy to volunteer and they are happy to take help from individuals or groups all year round. For more information on volunteering, click here.

Weekend Wishes

Photo by J. Mears

Happy Friday friends!

December is flying by much too quickly for my liking. I want to savor every moment of the holidays - the lights - the cheeriness - I love it all!

Well, I don't think there is any hope of slowing down and this weekend is no exception. This weekend is full of activities, from company parties to holiday birthdays. I just hope we can keep up! Oh and holiday cards...must get those out as well!

Have a happy hectic December weekend!

Crushpad in Sonoma

Photos by K. Mears

One of the benefits of living in San Francisco is that California's wine country is just an hour away. Recently I headed to Crushpad for a company outing (I know I'm lucky, all in a day's work!) where I spent the afternoon learning about wine making and perhaps a little tasting as well.

You would not believe how much goes into creating just the right blends. Note: there is a little math involved but the end result makes up for it.

I had such a fabulous experience, I can't wait to take friends and family there to try it out first hand. If you end up at Crushpad sometime, definitely request Stu, he was a fantastic instructor. Cheers!

Ernest Alexander New York

Images from  ernestalexander.com

Jay has been looking for a laptop or messenger bag that suits his style for ages. Unfortunately, it always seems to be a decision between form and function. He finally found a bag with both, from Ernest Alexander New York. Ernest Alexander pays special attention to craftsmanship and design, producing all their lines in the U.S.

I only wish I would have come across Ernest Alexander's bags before he did! He found a great deal on Urban Daddy so he jumped on it.

It would've made an excellent Christmas gift. So I pass this information on to you. If you have a charming gentleman in your life who appreciates the finer things, I recommend checking out Ernest Alexander New York.

Ah, back to the drawing board for me...

Holiday Card from Minted

Created on minted.com

For years I've been loyal to Tiny Prints for our holiday card creation, but this year I decided to mix it up by trying out Minted. I found that Minted had a much larger selection of non-photo cards which is exactly what I was looking for this year!

Oh Christmas Tree

Photo by J. Mears

The holiday season is in full swing so we purchased the teeniest tiniest Christmas tree for our little San Francisco apartment! 

For those with limited space and the enthusiasm for a real Christmas tree, might I suggest checking out the selection at Whole Foods (of all places)! That's where we found out little Charlie Brown tree.

Happy Holidays friends!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo by J. Mears

Happy Thanksgiving friends!

We have had a wonderful and busy few weeks. First, we had our dear friends Chad and Natalie in town over the weekend from Chicago and now we have Justin's parents here to celebrate a family Thanksgiving!

It's hard to believe that the holiday season has officially started (although, I have been secretly celebrating since right after Halloween night). I have so much to be thankful for this year, starting with my amazing friends, parents and family and of course Jay who makes me feel so incredibly loved every day. I have wanted to live in San Francisco as far back as I can remember, so I truly feel like I'm living my dream!

I hope everyone has a wonderful day and a little time to reflect on the happiness in their lives!

Nutcracker with the San Francisco Ballet

Photo by Carl Johnson

Last year was the first time I had the opportunity to see the Nutcracker live and also learned that San Francisco was the first city to bring the Nutcracker to the U.S. We went to a Christmas Eve matinee performance just hours before we flew out to Michigan for the holidays. It was such a special way to spend our last afternoon in the city before Christmas!

We loved the experience so much, that this year we decided to go to opening night. I can't wait! It's the perfect way to kick off the holiday season. We are thinking of making a tradition of it!

Weekend Wishes

Photo by R. Mears

Happy Friday friends!

The weather took a turn for the cold over here in San Francisco. But I must admit I am enjoying the change. It feels like holiday time and for me, it's the best time of year!

I am looking forward to enjoying the build up to Thanksgiving, followed by Christmas. And I can't wait to see Market Street decorated with lights and the holiday decorations in the stores lining Union Square.

Did anyone notice the holiday cups are already out at Starbucks?! It'll just be a few more weeks before the peppermint mocha is back! Sometimes it's simply the little things that put a smile on my face.

Have a cozy weekend! Stay warm!

Dandelion Chocolate

Photo by K. Mears

In our quest to cook more at home and use in-season ingredients, Jay and I have been trying to dedicate Saturday mornings to the Noe Valley Farmers Market. While we mostly purchase fruits and vegetables, we couldn't help but stop by the new dark chocolate stand, Dandelion Chocolate!

We purchased all three "bean to bar" chocolates currently available: Venezuela, Costa Rica and Madagascar (named after where the bean originated). Each bar has a unique flavor since the chocolate is made in small batches and are just chocolate and sugar - nothing else.  Although I'm still consuming extra sweet calories, I don't feel as bad eating this chocolate knowing literally who made it (we met them at the stand!) and that there aren't any extra preservatives in the chocolate.

I must admit though, it didn't take Jay and I very long (less than 5 days, eek!) to polish off all three bars. So for now, we will be skipping the stand and only venturing by for special occasions (or every other Saturday, which ever comes first)!

One Night in Siena

Photos by J. Mears

Siena was one of my most favorite places on our trip to Italy, and we were only there for one night!

After the fast pace in Rome, the slower more scenic Siena was a nice change. Plus, this was where we met up with our friends SP and HK right before the Florence leg of our trip.

We spent the day exploring the town and having a sunset picnic in Piazza del Campo with an amazing wine, meat and cheese spread from Pizzicheria de MiccoliIf you are planning a trip to Tuscany, we highly recommend a stop in Siena, it will provide exactly the relaxing atmosphere you are looking for!

Roman Holiday

Photos by J. Mears

What can I say about Rome that you don't already know. It truly is amazing. History, art, food, hustle and bustle, it really has everything you would expect and more.

Being a first timer to Rome, I was captivated by all the sights: the Colosseum, Forum, Pantheon, Spanish Steps, the list goes on and on. But what I will remember the most is la passeggiata. I loved strolling around the city in the evening with Jay, it was my favorite part of each day. It's such a wonderful Italian tradition. I would love to bring it back to San Francisco, a nice pause in the evening to just stop and smell the roses.

When we left Rome, I was certain we would return someday. I look forward to our next visit!

Three Days in Vienna

Photos by J. Mears

Before we headed to Italy, we made a pit stop in Vienna to visit some more friends who had recently relocated. It seems to be a bit of a trend among our circle of friends lately, to make a bold move overseas!

Vienna was beautiful. Honestly, it's not a city I would have picked to explore had I not had someone to visit there. But I am glad we had the opportunity or I never would have had the chance to participate in Vienna's Oktoberfest or go boating on the Danube river!

Our goal upon arrival was really to just hang out with our dear friends S + C. They are our very best travel partners. We made it to India and back with those two and are still close friends. That's saying a lot in my book since travel can really be stressful if you aren't with the correct company.

Things that I will now associate with Vienna should I come across them include krasekrainer (sausage with cheese inside, surprisingly delicious), lederhosen and plenty of beer!

Thanks again S + C for the amazing weekend in Wien! Until our next adventure!

Eight Hours in Amsterdam

Photos by J. Mears

It's our first week back from our vacation to Europe and I find myself feeling like our trip was already ages ago. I don't want to forget all the fun and adventure from our trip, so this week I'll be posting a few snippets from some the cities we visited. Our first stop, Amsterdam.

We only had an eight hour layover in Amsterdam but took advantage of the time by visiting our friends who had recently relocated to this very beautiful and bike friendly city. Thanks again R + N for showing us around!

We spent the afternoon taking in the city and visiting their local market sampling treats such as stroopwafels and fries with mayonnaise (sprinkled with paprika). We obviously spent what little time we had, eating our way through the city!

Before this quick visit, I had never stepped foot outside the Schiphol airport which I had been inside about eight or nine times on my way to India. I'm glad I finally had a chance to experience a little of what's been a mystery to me for years! I look forward to another visit, next time giving Amsterdam a bit more time so we can truly explore and get to know it even better!

Weekend Wishes, Europe Edition

Photo by J. Mears

Happy Saturday!

After a full day of travel and time changes, we made it to Europe!

We had a long layover in Amsterdam, so we met up with our old friends from Michigan. They recently moved to Amsterdam and were kind enough to give us for a tour of their neighborhood and some afternoon sight seeing.

Then we got back on a plane to our first official destination, Vienna, and here we are! We have quite a bit planned, a lot to do and see! After a few days here we will hop over to Italy where we will be spending most of our time. I'll be posting periodically depending on the speed and convenience of the Internet.

Have a wonderful and restful weekend!

Pimentón Fried Eggs

Photo by K. Mears

The weekend was very gray in San Francisco, very damp and misty to the point where it may as well have been raining. Although gray weather can bring a weekend down, it's also perfect for sleeping in a bit, reading in bed and making a comfort breakfast.

Jay came across this recipe for Pimentón Fried Eggs while catching up on some reading on his iPad Sunday morning. And since he is a true breakfast enthusiast, he couldn't resist trying the recipe out immediately!

It was a great find and I must say a keeper recipe (super simple but very tasty!). I look forward to bringing it out again on our next slow weekend morning.

Do you have any favorite weekend breakfast recipes? Do share!

Weekend Wishes

Photo by J. Mears

This week has been hectic. From New York City for a conference to Los Angeles for a photo shoot and back to San Francisco, it's been quite a bit of travel!

And it doesn't stop there. We have just five days left at home until our trip to Vienna, Rome and Florence! It's time to make a serious "to do" list. Mon dieu!

Have a relaxing and organized weekend!

Two Years Ago Today

Photo by Ksenija Savic Photography
Happy Anniversary, Jay!

You make my life special and wonderful everyday. I love you more than ever.


Film School, Good Food & Music!

Image Source Unknown
Image by K. Mears

Jay planned a really fun Saturday for us last weekend! As I mentioned here, it was an early anniversary surprise!

For the last few years, instead of material gifts we have been investing in "the gift of an experience." So what did we do? We went to film school!

Jay signed us up for an all-day workshop at the San Francisco School of Digital Filmmaking. We got to learn about the the entire film making process, from screen writing to casting and even editing (which is what I think I like the best!). I am a total film buff as some of you know, so this was a perfect outing and chance to learn something new!

After our day at film school, we rushed over to the east bay to Riva Cucina for an Italian dinner. And after that we still had the Fleet Foxes show to attend at the Greek Theatre on the UC Berkley campus! The show was a great end to a wonderful day of activities!

Thanks for a perfect day Jay! Love you!

Weekend Wishes

Photo by J. Mears

Happy Friday friends!

Did this not seem like the longest week? Perhaps it's because it's noticeably darker when I leave work in the evenings. None of that matters however, when it's the weekend!

I'm particularly excited for tomorrow because Jay has booked the entire day, but I have no idea what we are doing. It's a surprise anniversary day (I know, what can I say, he's awesome)!

Our second wedding anniversary falls on a weekday so we are celebrating it a little early. All I know is my day begins tomorrow at 9:30am and will end at the Fleet Foxes show in Berkeley. I've also been told that I can dress casually but that what I am wearing in the morning will be it - no wardrobe changes in between.

I'm quite stumped on what he has planned and I've tried not to look at any Daily Candy or Tasting Table weekend guides - because I do not want to ruin our special surprise day!

Have a delightful weekend!

South Asian American Digital Archive

Image from saadigitalarchive.org

I was recently introduced to a really great organization, the South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA). They are a volunteer organization that documents diverse and relatively unknown South Asian American stories and photos spanning back as far as the late 1600s.

SAADA posted a photo this week of a Hindu temple in San Francisco, apparently the only in the U.S. at the time, which is dated 1921. I was aware that the Chinese American community has a long history with San Francisco, but I was really surprised that South Asians do as well to some degree.

I'll have to wander over to Webster Street to see if the building is still there and take some photos of my own!

Simple Lasagna

Photo by K. Mears

In our attempt to cook more at home, I'm bringing back an old classic, lasagna. There are many ways to prepare lasagna, but I'm using the easiest method which does not require boiling the noodles first. I simply layer sauce, cheese and noodles a few times and bake at 350-375 degrees for 45 minutes. It's so easy and very delicious! 

You can find the basic recipe here. I typically forego the ground beef and instead layer in steamed vegetables such as diced zucchini and broccolini. I also use whole wheat lasagna noodles to make the pasta a little healthier. And for a treat, rather than using pre-shredded mozzarella, I use mozzarella balls which I shred by hand and layer on top. It's definitely a rich meal, so I would recommend sticking to just one slice. It makes several servings so you have the option to eat it throughout the week!

Weekend Wishes

Photo by R. Mears

Happy Friday friends!

Summer for most of the U.S. has come to a close, although San Francisco's summer is just beginning (I hope)! September and October are typically the warmest and most beautiful months in the city. I have my fingers crossed that is still the case this year!

After all of our summer travels, we are happy to just hang around our neighborhood this long weekend. A little rest and relaxation in our city sounds perfect after red-eye flights and rental cars.

Perhaps we will finally get around to ordering our wedding album (two years late!) as a way to celebrate that three years ago on Labor Day weekend we got engaged! Jay really pulled out all the stops (hiking, clues, geocaching!), I couldn't have asked for a more perfect proposal. I'm one lucky gal!

Have a restful and celebratory weekend!

Kavita Desai Circa 2004 - 2005

Photo by J. Mears

Jay was doing some digital organizing today when he came across Kavita_Gelion in one of his old book marks. What's Kavita_Gelion you ask? Oh, just the blog I started back in 2004 on Xanga (Xanga, really?)! And here I was thinking Simply Us was my first blog. I had completely forgotten about my little Xanga blog which lived from  December 2004 to December 2005.

Reading Kavita_Gelion (the name is a lift from an anime I was into at the time, oh so dorky I know) really took me back. Although it's completely embarrassing, I am so glad that I documented my feelings back then. I used my blog as an online diary with no structure, just basic thoughts and feelings. I was certainly more uncensored.

And as I recall, 2004 to 2005 was a very pivotal time period for me. Jay and I had decided to seriously make a go of our relationship for the long term, I took a chance on a new career, I took up snowboarding and I was smack in middle of my MBA program. I'm glad I have a little glimpse of who I was then. It makes me appreciate who I am today even more.

In the words of Kavita Desai circa 2005, It's exciting to think of all the possibilities out there...in the crazy world.  I love this crazy world. 

Kate Spade Sample Sale!

Images from katespade.com

I realize this is the third time I have mentioned Kate Spade on my blog, but I really do love this brand for its classic and preppy style. Plus, I couldn't resist sharing a worthwhile sale! Items are marked down up to 75%, and shipping is a flat fee of $5.00. This is a good deal. The link for the sale is here.

Unfortunately, the Gramercy Park Calista laptop bag I've had my eye one for ages sold out (just as I was about to check out!). So the sale has been a bit of a bust for me. But I definitely spotted a few handbags worth considering. Perhaps a little something to hold my essentials for our up and coming Euro adventure!

Remembering Nirmalaben

Photo by Ksenija Savic Photography

Photo by Moxie Photography

I got the sad news that my grandmother passed away in India this morning. My last grandparent. But I was comforted knowing that she was surrounded by all six of her children in her home at peace. She lived a full and beautiful life. She was loved dearly and we will miss her.

There are a few moments that really come to the surface when I think of her. One is, when I was in the third grade she designed and sewed the most delicate pink silk dress for me. It was my absolute favorite and I wore it proudly for years. I still have it, and hope to pass it down to my daughter someday.

Another moment was very recently when I had the privilege of her attendance at my wedding. I had always wished that she would be able to come. It is a very long journey from India and my grandfather had recently passed away. I thought traveling to the States would be too much, but she did it. She stayed with my parents and was witness to all the commotion that goes along with planning such an event. She would just smile and laugh at the frantic party planning in the days leading up to the festivities. She was still quite strong at that time. Strong enough to tell us, she would indeed walk down the aisle at our ceremony processional. And she did. Arm in arm escorted by my uncle, her youngest son. It was a moment I will never forget.

Love you Ben. Be in peace.