Ladies: Channel your inner Barbie Doll!

As we are preparing you for your next virtual cocktail party, we thought of including a tutorial on a really stunning makeup! My longtime friend and colleague Jira of Wowpretty Salon (whose hair and makeup stylists have transformed countless brides into red carpet-worthy beauties) is contributing a tutorial on how to do it – one of her stylists is taking you through it step by step:

What about you try it out and send us “before and after” photos? We want to see it!!

Let’s have cocktails together! (virtually… of course)

Why not?

Our friends Jim and Stephanie invited us “over for cocktails” last week, and it was just lovely! We all dressed up, joined in a zoom.com meeting (more of that later), and had our cocktails while catching up on things.

So… here are some of my favorite cocktails with recipes!

The Cosmopolitan:

INGREDIENTS

2 oz vodka, 1 oz cranberry juice cocktail, ¾ oz fresh lime juice, ¾ oz triple sec

Orange twist (for serving)

PREPARATION

Combine vodka, cranberry juice, lime juice, and triple sec in a cocktail shaker. Fill shaker with ice, cover, and shake vigorously until outside of shaker is very cold, about 20 seconds.

Strain cocktail into a martini glass and garnish with the orange twist.

The Mojito:

INGREDIENTS:

10 fresh mint leaves; 1/2 lime, cut into 4 wedges; 2 tablespoons white sugar, or more to taste; 1 cup ice cubes
1 1/2 fl. oz white rum; 1/2 cup club soda

PREPARATION:

Place mint leaves and 1 lime wedge into a sturdy glass. Crush the mint and lime with a muddler; add 2 more lime wedges and the sugar, and muddle again. Do not strain! Fill the glass nearly completely with ice. Pour the rum over the ice and fill up with club soda. Stir, taste, and adjust sugar if desired. Garnish with the last lime wedge.

And… my favorite: the Chi Chi

INGREDIENTS:

3 oz vodka, 4 oz pineapple juice, 2 oz cream of coconut (e.g. Coco Lopez), 1 tsp (or more) confectioner’s sugar, 1 cup crushed ice

Pineapple pieces and Maraschino cherries for garnish

PREPARATION:

Combine first five ingredients in a blender; process on high speed until combined, ca. 30 sec. Pour into chilled glasses, garnish with pineapple and cherry. Serve immediately.

Lastly, the meeting format! These days, it’s videoconferencing, and we used zoom.com – free for up to 45 minutes. Just have everyone sign up for it ahead of time, send a zoom link to your event in time to all your friends, and… oh, we forgot. Dress up. And the ladies: “doll up!” Stay tuned for that – the “Barbie Doll” makeup tutorial is in the works!!

Continuing education with “Masterclass” courses

Now that I suddenly have more time on my hands than ever before (and more time than I like…) I was looking for something constructive to do – beyond my COVID-19 support & encouragement series here, that is! I wanted to widen my horizon, learn something new, and not necessarily something related to my business.

I have to give my husband credit for finding something for me, something that I didn’t even know existed: “MasterClass!” It’s a platform of online courses taught by accomplished professionals in their respective fields – chefs and pastry chefs, to start with; there is Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue; interior designer Kelly Wearstler, fashion designers (Diane von Fuerstenberg, Marc Jacobs), dancers, magicians, star architects (Frank Gehry), photography (Annie Leibovitz), acting and game theory. And many more whom I haven’t even explored yet! Each master class consists of 12-20 lessons of approx. 20 minutes – short enough to fit into my day and sometimes to even watch several in a row. This is something I am now really looking forward to every day! I already found an intuitive approach to gardening through watching “Gangster Gardener” Ron Finley (and maybe I’ll eventually develop a “green thumb” after all!) and I learned from pastry chef Dominique Ansel to make heavenly Madeleines. (BTW, all the links above lead to free sample lessons – enjoy!!)

Have a look at the course selection. The cost? You sign up for a year, and for access to all courses on the platform you pay 50 cents a day. It’s so totally worth it… and NO, I don’t get a kickback for recommending the platform. I’m simply enthusiastic!

Let me know what you think…

Wise advice to engaged couples

A guest post by photographer Anna Hogan

Planning a wedding in the era of the Coronavirus

Photo credit: Anna Hogan Photography

The world around us has taken a long pause due to the Covid-19 virus pandemic, forcing most of us to shelter in place and practice social distancing. While the essential businesses are still operating, the wedding industry has literally stopped in its tracks. All events have been cancelled or postponed to the near… or the far future…? The couples who spent months navigating the wedding planning process are now facing a new set of challenges. All small business owners who cater to the wedding industry like photographers, florists, caterers, hair and make-up artists are without work for possibly months. 

When the shelter-in-place order gets lifted, the return to normal life will likely be a multi-stage process, and eventually some gatherings will be allowed.

Below are a few ways how to make your wedding safer for you and your guests. 

  1. Keep it small.

Looking back at the last couple of months, events with over 50 attendees were the first to be cancelled, so it is likely that the return to normal will follow a similar path.   Keeping your guest list small will likely help to “make it happen” as it will be safer for everyone – and as a side benefit in these uncertain times, it will be cheaper, too. I know, you tried to keep that guest list small from the beginning, but in the current situation I think everyone will be much more understanding.

If you are local to San Francisco Bay Area, have you considered getting married at San Francisco City Hall once it reopens?

  • Keep it local and minimize travel.

Even without a pandemic, planning a destination wedding presents its own set of challenges – but risking to contract the virus on a plane or getting stuck somewhere en route is not fun at all. 

  • Keep it outdoors.

The chance of catching a virus in an open space is much smaller than in an indoor space, so take advantage of the beauty of our nature and get married outside! Vineyards, parks, backyards, and beaches are all great options.

  • Streaming your event.

One of the ways to keep your most vulnerable guests safe is to live-stream your wedding.

It could be just the ceremony, or it could include more key events like your First Dance, Cake Cutting or speeches. 

Hiring videographer to document your celebration is a great idea as well.

  • Avoid buffet or family-style served meals. 

Having all guests use the same serving spoon is probably not the best idea in these times, so if you decide to have a buffet make sure that all food is served by catering staff.

  • Offer hand sanitizer and reusable face masks with fun designs to your guests.

I know that hand sanitizer is “worth its weight in gold” right now! Still, try to find it for your celebration. There are also a lot of cute face masks available these days; the skilled craftspeople making them would certainly be happy to help you.

We are sheltering in place to “flatten the curve” – but after a few months of confinement at home we will all go back to our “normal life,” whatever that means. It will certainly take time to recover and life might be different than before, but the world will start spinning again and people will start getting together again and celebrating.  No matter how scary things are right now – the most important things are that we have our health and that the people we love are close. If this continues, then we are winning. 

Written by Anna Hogan

Hundred Hearts… and counting

Today I want to share with you an extraordinary undertaking that I just came across. It’s called the Hundred Hearts Project – and it was started by one single person, a woman trying to fight her own depression and anxiety by reaching out to others and expressing her gratitude to them by painting one heart for each person she wanted to thank. And through giving to others, she herself began to heal. I find this story incredibly moving and impressive.

I will definitely do my own “Hundred Hearts” project. Maybe not through painting, but through writing letters, through giving my time, my thoughts and my affection to those who deserve my gratitude.

I would encourage you all to do the same!

Let me kick the campaign off with my own first “letter of gratitude.” It goes to my longtime friend Robbie Schlosser of Magnolia Jazz. The year was 2012. I had just opened my wedding planning company, starting from scratch, a total newcomer to the Bay Area wedding scene. I was lucky to secure an invitation to an industry event – but, of course, I knew no one. I tried desperately to introduce myself to the little groups of people who were in lively conversation, obviously all longtime acquaintances. Nobody was interested in me. I felt totally miserable. Suddenly a middle-aged gentleman approached me. “I believe we have not met yet… are you a new addition to our community? I am Robbie. Let me introduce you to a few people.” I could not believe it. He had not only noticed my predicament – he had stepped in to help. He literally took my arm and “worked the room” with me. Needless to say, I have never felt so relieved in my life, and I am eternally grateful for Robbie’s selflessness and generosity.

Well knowing that there is no way for me to “repay it” to Robbie, I have been “paying it forward” to all newcomers to our group in the same way ever since, and I will continue doing so. But I always wanted to say that big “Thank You.” Finally, here it is.

Magnolia Jazz is playing for us!

You all know my friend Robbie Schlosser and Magnolia Jazz! Robbie is one of the most helpful and warm-hearted people around – you all know that! – and so he immediately offered to contribute to our little series of “COVID-19 support and encouragement.” He is playing “I’m Old-Fashioned,” and you will love it so much that you, too, will declare: “I’m Old-Fashioned!”

Enjoy, and do let Robbie know how you liked it! (robbie@magnoliajazz.com)

Guitar Music by and with Eric Symons

“Eric Symons Presents” is a household name in the SF Bay Area events scene – need a band? Contact Eric Symons! But what probably most of you do NOT know is that Eric is a distinguished musician himself; a classically trained guitarist and composer who has performed and recorded with the Romero family – true “classical guitar royalty!”

As a special treat to our local wedding vendor community, he is sharing with us a recent performance of his beautifully soothing and comforting “Ballata.” Be consoled and inspired as Eric is playing for us!

Laura plays Telemann for us

Many of you will know the Mersonacta Quartet from their performances at Bay Area weddings. Today you can enjoy your very private performance: Laura Rubinstein-Salzedo plays Telemann for you!

For those of you who are not so familiar with the composer… here is a little information (courtesy of wikipedia):

Georg Philipp Telemann (1681 – 1767) was a German Baroque composer and multi-instrumentalist. Almost completely self-taught in music, he became a composer against his family’s wishes and  worked in Hamburg, Germany, as a musical director of that city’s five main churches.

Telemann is one of the most prolific composers in history and was considered by his contemporaries to be one of the leading German composers of the time, compared favorably both to his friend Johann Sebastian Bach, and to George Frideric Handel, whom Telemann also knew personally. Telemann’s music stands as an important link between the late Baroque and early Classical styles.

I am sure that will lift your spirits. Enjoy – and let Laura know how you liked it!

No Yeast? No Problem! (Try Our Soda Bread)

Like most of us, you’ve probably always thought that bread needs some type of yeast. If you are an advanced baker, you were maybe even thinking of sourdough starters. Bread without yeast? Not really… But currently yeast is impossible to come by! During the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of commodities have simply disappeared from the market. Disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer, to start with; followed by toilet paper, kitchen paper towels – and yeast. So what to do?

I’ll tell you. Replace yeast as a leavening agent with a combination of bicarbonate of soda and acid. In plain English: baking soda and the leftover liquid from our yoghurt project! (As you can see, nothing goes to waste in my kitchen…)

Here is what you need to make one bread – 45 min from start to finish!!

Preheat oven to 425 F. Mix 500 g flour (50/50 all-purpose and whole wheat), 1 tsp of baking soda and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt with scant 2 cups of the whey from yoghurt-making (alternatively the same amount of buttermilk OR regular milk mixed with 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice or white wine vinegar). Stir just to bring the dough together.

It will look shaggy and be a little sticky. Turn out on a slightly floured work surface. Knead just enough to achieve a smooth consistency. Shape into a ball.

Transfer the dough ball to a nonstick cookie sheet. Cut crosswise nearly all the way through.

Bake for roughly 30 min until a golden crust has formed and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

And here is your delicious bread – ready to eat! Should you (miraculously) have any leftovers, just rewarm in a 350 degree oven for ten minutes; tastes like fresh-baked. Enjoy!