Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry, merry!

Well, Christmas Eve is Saturday.  The last present was purchased yesterday.  All my goodies are wrapped and ready to go.  We have a really scaled down holiday this year and I'm feeling pretty good about it.  Most family members are getting homemade gifts from the heart.

If you looking for some quick last minute gifts for people, this is what I made this year.  

Most of them require very little time (chocolate blocks) or little effort (citrus peels; I actually skip the blanching and simmer them for about 3 hours), the biscotti take a little more of both, but are totally worth it!

I hope everyone has the warmest happiest holiday possible!  See you in the new year!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Wishin' & Hopin'

I've been a good girl this year and this is what I'm asking Santa for.  Hopefully one of these things will be under my tree Christmas morning.

I'm all about investing in solid pieces for my kitchen.  I imagine my granddaughter will use this one day, too!

Our local pub has a bunch of board games, but Jenga is my favorite!  Now I want one of my own.  (Though it does get more challenging as the pints add up!)
I'm not really a gadget person, but the Mia from Clarisonic is getting rave reviews and, let's face it, I'm not getting any younger.
The Lulu Frost collection for J.Crew is sooooo pretty and pretty affordable!

And, c'mon, a girl can dream, can't she???

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

It's that time of year again!  The 3rd Ward Handmade Holiday Fair!

Every year I think, "This is the last."  Then I have a moment of weakness and I find myself surrounded by scraps of fabric, and knitting like a mad woman all the month of November.

I'll be there with Jess, from Little Bunny, so stop by and say hello (and buy something!).  Support your small business owner (crafter) this holiday season and give with a clean conscious.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Somethin's Cookin'

December 1st is tomorrow and, today, it seems, the sense of foreboding or melancholy or whatever-it-is-that's-been-bothering-me, has come to a head.  For the last couple of weeks I've been plagued by some very un-Christmasy thoughts.  Thoughts that were very Bah Humbug and very, well, not me.

I couldn't figure it out.  I didn't have the holiday spirit and I always have the holiday spirit and then it hit me - this was what some people call stress.  That feeling of having too much to do and not enough time to do it all in.  On top of the hype of Black Friday that seemed to creep in well before Thanksgiving, pile on the multitude of blogs that I flip through during the day (don't tell my boss) where perfectly adorable bloggers are decking the halls and making homemade salted caramels and wearing vintage frocks and, well, I'm quite primed for a melt down.

Then I remembered this post, from earlier in the month (Seriously, read it.) and I told myself to take a deep breath and pick two.   Honestly and without irony, I literally choose two things I can do from this list each night and let the other ones go without feeling guilty. 

Here's the list:
cook dinner
clean up after dinner
make (sew, bake or knit)
quality time with the man (this means eating dinner at the table and talking, instead of watching TV or choosing a movie that we both want to watch together)

If It means giving up the gym one night so I can finish up a project or putting a project on hold so we can linger a little longer over dinner with a glass of wine then so be it!  It's a small list, but I'm also adding to it some Christmas cheer.  

Here's another list.  A list of holiday goodies I want to make as gifts, instead of buying into the holiday crush of consumerism.

I'll try to get to them all, but if I don't, then that's OK, too.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


 Is anyone else going crazy over the leopard print trend this fall?  I bought these babies on super clearance and have been using the unseasonably warm weather as an excuse to wear them every day.  My daily wardrobe trends a little on the preppy side and I feel like these give me just the right amount of Ooh-la-la!  The key, I think, is the classic silhouette.

 Now I've got leopard on the brain!  I want this belt to add a little oomph to my fall dresses and cardigans!

Or this headband.  It could go Gossip Girl really quickly, but I'm imagining it as the ultimate way to hide bed-head on a Sunday - just throw on some jeans, a striped tee and a red lip and you're ready for brunch!

What about you?  Any trends you're crazy for this fall?  Trying to avoid boot weather like me?  Inquiring mind(s) want to know!

Thursday, October 27, 2011


When I travel to a new place, my mission is always to try to fully understand the culture.  I want to know how people think, where they work, how they relax a the end of the day, what they like to do on the weekends, how they dress, what they read, and, most importantly, what they eat!

I feel like I am really connecting to place or a people when I can sit down and say, "This is a typical breakfast" or "This is how people eat dinner".  The food can communicate to me in a way that transcends language.  It tells me about their habits, their relationship to the land or the sea and to each other.

As a 21 year old exchange student in Paris, I had an epic dinner my first night in Paris that lasted 4 hours.  It wasn't at a fancy restaurant and it was only 3 courses, but it was distinctly Parisian.  The waiters only refilled our water when we asked for it and there was ample time between courses so that we never felt rushed.  I was shocked when it was over and the clock was striking midnight!  Had we sat there that long?  I was having so much fun that I hadn't noticed.  It was then that I understood that the meal was as much about the company ans it was about the food.

In 2009, when I traveled to Tuscany, I was blown away by the simplicity of every meal that I ate.  There were no foams, or complicated reductions, but every bite was a revelation - a plate of pasta dressed with nothing other than a slip of butter and a shaving of truffles, an artichoke heart nestled in a cloud of perfectly cooked eggs, a plate of wild strawberries.  With each forkful, I understood the directness of the people through the food they cooked.  "Here, eat, " they were telling me.  "Isn't this the best artichoke?  You must have more!!"  It's no surprise that, on the way home, my suitcase was stuffed with (contraband) food that I hoped would prolong the vacation.  By recreating the meals at home, I could relive each memory.

My trip to Spain was no different.  My souvenirs were saffron, pimenton, chorizo.  I wanted only to be able to extend the vacation by a few weeks, to have a coffee and a bocadillo and pretend that I was back in Madrid.

Last weekend I attempted to recreated a  particular paella - one that was full of flavor and brimming with seafood.  I had the saffron, but I was missing the recipe.  Every one that I found contradicted the last one.  Each one called for different ingredients in different quantities.  I finally printed out about 5 of them, cross-referenced them and compiled what I feel to be a really good interpretation.  But perhaps that is the bigger lesson here - each recipe is different, because a different person is making it.  Mine will be different because it is mine.  There is no perfect recipe, just the one that you like the best or the one that your mother or grandmother used to make.

Here's mine.  Enjoy!

Feeds about 6 people with a big portion of rice.  If you want to make it for 8, increase the amount of seafood so that everyone gets enough!

6 c. chicken stock
1 tsp. saffron
2 links (about 1/2 lb.) Spanish chorizo, cut into 1/4 inch rounds
12 large shrimp, with the heads on
1/4 c. olive oil
1 medium onion
6 cloves garlic
1 small bunch of parsley
2 medium tomatoes, chopped (or one 15oz. can diced tomatoes, drained)
1 Tbs. pimenton (Spanish sweet paprika) 
1 tsp. salt
3 c. arborio rice
2 dozen mussels
1 c. frozen peas
1 medium lemon

Heat chicken stock with saffron in a stock pot on low heat and keep it warm while you assemble the rest of the ingredients.

In a large shallow pan (I have a paella pan that is 18") over medium heat, brown the chorizo, rendering the fat.  If not a lot of fat comes out, then add a little bit of olive oil.

Remove the chorizo from the pan and put it aside.  Add the shrimp, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook until they just turn pink, turning them over once.  Remove them and set aside with the chorizo.

Add the 1/4 c. of olive oil and allow it to heat up a bit.  Then, add the onion, garlic and parsley and turn the heat to medium-low.  Cook the mixture slowly, for about 10 minutes, until it becomes very soft and translucent.

Add the tomatoes, 1 Tbs. pimenton, and 1 tsp. of salt.  Cook mixture for another 10 minutes, or until it is all a big red mess, almost like a paste.

Add the 3 c. rice and cook for about a minute, stirring well to cover every grain with the onion tomato mixture.

Return the chorizo to the pan and add the 6 cups of warm stock infused with saffron.
Turn the heat up to medium-high and bring the whole pan up to a boil.  Then, reduce the heat to a steady simmer.

Simmer for about 15 minutes, making sure that it's cooking evenly and not absorbing the stock too quickly.  

After 15 minutes, taste your rice.  If you taste it and think, "Almost, but it could use a few more minutes." then it's ready for the next step!  It should be just a little too firm to eat.  This is also where you can adjust your seasoning to your taste by adding more salt or pepper.

Turn the heat up to high and cover your pan.  If you don't have a lid big enough, then cover it with a few sheets of tin foil.

Cook for about 5 minutes, keeping an eye on your mussels and paying attention to the smell, you don't want it to burn, but you do want the bottom to get brown and crunchy - this is very important.   If you start to smell it getting toasty, then reduce the heat.

After 5 minutes, or once the mussels have opened (discard the ones that don't open), turn off the heat and let the whole thing sit, covered, for another 5 minutes.

Serve family-style, with wedges of lemon!

(Photo by, Paul Maklary; food and prop styling by, me!)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Just Can't Help It

There's something in the water.  I've been to two weddings this year and I have two more slated soon.  When it comes to weddings, I'm a lot like Shelly on Northern Exposure - I'm a big fan.  

I don't know if it's my stylist blood, but I love it all - the dresses, the flowers, the venues, the food!  It's planning the ultimate party and you get to pick every last detail!

I was browsing vintage dresses on etsy yesterday and I stumbled upon this dress.  I swear to god my jaw dropped open.  

 And I would almost buy it, if doing so wouldn't make me a crazy person, but it would, so instead I did the next best thing.  I planned a fake wedding.  
(No, that does not make me a crazy person, thankyouverymuch.)

Then, of course you'd have to have these shoes.

Bridesmaids' dresses would echo the shape of the dress and compliment the colors.

And you would carry these flowers.  I love the touch of green.

And the venue would be slightly swanky, but relaxed.  I always loved the idea of big long tables, like one great big Sunday dinner!

*Sigh*  Love is in the air!  I'm so happy for all my friends and loved ones who are celebrating their nuptials!  Congrats!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Lessons I learned on vacation in Spain

There is more than one kind of jamon.

Catalan is not even remotely similar to Spanish.

You only ever wear half the clothes you pack.

Missing a flight (or 3) isn't the worst thing in the world.

Chorizo for breakfast is pretty awesome.

A bicycle is a great way to get around Barcelona.

 It's better to have a plan you can stray from than to not have a plan at all.

All almonds in Spain are Marcona almonds!

Espadrilles are possibly the most comfortable shoes in the world.

I'd like to do more of this travelling stuff.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fall Back

Well, hello there.

I've been absent for a while, I know.

I've also sat down to write this post about a half-dozen times, and haven't been sure where to begin my re-entry.  The first day of Autumn is upon us and this seemed like the best time as any to come back.
I've been at this place before; last year and the year before.  Summer ends, the new (school) year begins and I take stock of what has passed and what is to come.

This year, and especially this summer, was about finding a balance in my life.  With all my talk of saying yes, it seems I swung too far in one direction and had to find my way back to the middle.  So, I dialed it back a little.  I put some things aside, like this blog, in an attempt to find time for other things, like the gym.  Boring, I know, but the truth.

I've also had to find new ways to share my space and my life with a certain someone.  After a few years of "Me, ME, ME!", I am rediscovering compromise and mutuality.  It's new territory, a little frightening, but in the best possible way.

Now that it seems like I have life a little more in the balance, I'm coming back to the blog.  I spent a few hours re-reading old posts and I realized how much I missed this space - as a creative outlet and as a source of inspiration.

So, I'm back.  And I have lots of great ideas and lots to share, but first, I'm going away!!  Off to Spain for 10 days!!!!!  I'm heading to Madrid and Barcelona, so recommendations are welcome.  You guys know what I like.

See you soon.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

A week late and a dollar short

Was Memorial Day really two weeks ago and not yesterday?  How can that be?  Summer has just started and already it's moving too fast.  Let's revisit the list, shall we?

See Bridesmaids. (Um, hysterical.  Really.  Go see it before it's too late.)

Eat Mexican food. (Nope.  More on that later.)

Go for a bike ride. (Yay!  All around LIC.  It was a killer on Sunday, but we went late in the day)

See this exhibit at the Met. (Nope.  Anyone want to go with me?  We can try for a Friday night and maybe have cocktails?)

Make banana bread. (Um, nope.  It was too freakin' hot.  Bananas went in the freezer for another day.)

Maybe the beach? (Yes!!  Riis State Park continues to be a favorite destination.  Best if you have a car, though.)

Instead of Mexican, we went here on Sunday.  I've been dying to go since it opened and there just never seemed to be an opportunity, but on Sunday morning, Little Bunny, the Man and I woke up early and took the train to LIC.  

Queens doesn't have much by the way of fancy or cool restaurants (tons of "authentic" places but that's another post), so M Wells is quite an attraction.  If you go, go early and maybe don't eat a big dinner the night before.  Everything is rich and hearty.... and really yummy.

 And last week was Week 1 of my CSA!  I am so excited about this!  I know everyone's been doing this forever, but I've never been able to do it before now, so I'm psyched.  

We made short work of the spinach and radishes this week.  I still have a huge head of Boston lettuce (you can see it lurking in the background of this pic) that is destined to become this

By the way, this is my 400th post!  I feel like there should be confetti and balloons or something.  And a cake!  There should definitely be a cake! Ah well....

Friday, May 27, 2011

Happy weekend!

couch by Needleworks, Inc.

I've been finding a lot of weird stuff on the street lately.


These pictures don't have anything to do about Memorial Day weekend, but I thought I'd share them with you, because they're pretty funny.


I found an avocado and an onion.  AllI need is a tomato and I can make quacamole!  Just kidding, I didn't keep them.  

This is my wishlist for the weekend.  I hope I can do it all!

See Bridesmaids.

Eat Mexican food.

Go for a bike ride.

See this exhibit at the Met.

Make banana bread.

Maybe the beach?

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Better than it looks

I made tortillas from scratch this week and it went a little something like this. *


Tortilla recipe from the back of Bob's Red Mill Masa Harina.  Pork taco recipe from here.  It was surprisingly easy and possibly one of the most delicious things I've ever made.  I'm never buying tortillas again!

* I also tried out my new Labelbox app.  Also, highly recommended.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Before & After

Once upon a time, on the Upper, Upper West Side of Manhattan (112th Street, to be exact), I found a chair on the street.  She was a lovely chair.  I painted her green and put her just inside the door to my new sublet so I'd have a place to leave my purse when I came home.

Eight years, five apartments and two paint-jobs later, the poor thing needed to retire.  Someone sat on her last month and she literally collapsed underneath them, much to my humiliation!  Sorry chair, you had a good run, but it's time to go.

Enter the bench.  
I've been thinking about a bench for this space for a few months.  I liked the idea of having a bench for extra seating; two people can sit on him, instead of only one, like my chair.  Also, I thought a bench would look great under my sewing table - something to echo the simple rectangular shape of the the design.  I knew exactly what I wanted, but couldn't find anything in traditional stores (Target, etc.) so I began to scour craigslist.  It took me a while, but I finally got the bench of my dreams from a very nice lady in Midtown who was moving and selling a bunch of stuff.  $40 - not free, but I would hesitate to pick up something upholstered off the street.  I'm not shy about garbage picking, as evidenced here, but I draw the line at fabric/upholstery.  Why, I couldn't tell you.  I just do, okay?

Four coats of paint (yes, really) and a $6 yard of fabric later and I have this:

Ta DAA!  
Not bad, right?  I'm so happy with the result!  The white paint-job really accentuates the shape of the bench and how perfectly it echos my West Elm Parsons desk.  I recently painted that wall Benjamin Moore's Labrador Blue and now everything pops against the color.  I love that I can access the drawers of my desk without having to pull out the chair, which is a bonus I didn't even think about.

Ugh, this shot isn't white-balanced but I wanted to give you a close up.  The blue of the fabric is actually more a teal but it looks very similar to the wall color in the picture.  It's not that match-y in real life.

And here's a wide shot of my office/sewing nook.  I bought that rail and hanging cups from Ikea and it's changed my life.  I love having things (scissors, Sharpies, etc.) out and easy to access but this keeps them up and out of the way - the best of both worlds.

Stay tuned for more Before & After action - coming soon!!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Wants and Desires

In my last post I discussed my philosophy for decorating a new apartment.  I explained how 6 months is an adequate waiting period to decide whether you love something or hate it, where to hang art or place a book shelf.  Well, I hit the 6 month period last month and I decided it was time to paint!

Originally my living room was this color:

Benjamin Moore's Poolside Blue.  I chose to make a bold color choice and, well, I chose poorly.  So, it was time to repaint.  

I really love me some teal/aqua; it brings me to my happy place.  Following that logic, I simply moved two steps down on the color watch.  I still wanted the room to feel like it had a distinct color profile, but I wanted it to be much more subtle.  What I decided on was this:

Benjamin Moore's Jamaican Aqua.  Let me tell you, it is the most amazing color in the world!!!  It made the room feel instantly bigger and it makes all of my dark/vintage furniture seem sophisticated, instead of kitsch-y.  It also allows the curtains that I adore to really shine and doesn't compete so much with my area rug.  (Before and after pictures to come soon; I'm still sorting out this no camera problem.)

Now that the room is painted, I'm feeling the itch to add the finishing touches.  I need side tables and lamps, mostly.  Here's what I'm lusting after.
A classic/modern side table in white to keep things airy and light.  They were on sale last week and I'm kicking myself for not buying one!

From Jonathan Adler (I have a Thing for JA), this lamp costs as much as the table (!), but would nicely compliment the oil-rubbed bronze curtain rod I recently hung.

I want the room to feel balanced, but not match-y, so I'd like this table for the other side of the couch.  You also can't really see that side from most vantage points (it's in the corner) so the table can be more utilitarian.

This lamp to go in the corner, to balance out the room.  It's also bronze, but a different shape, so it "goes", but doesn't "match".

P.S.  I'm hoping that I can find some less expensive sources for lamps.  Why are lamps so expensive?

P.P.S  You guys were no help on the alarm clock tip!  Sheesh!  I've resorted to using my phone, which I don't really like.  I have a strict no electronics in the bedroom rule.  Am I the only one with a rule like that?

Monday, March 28, 2011

In which I have a dilemma

I have an ideology when it comes to settling into a new place.  It's not exactly revolutionary, but it's my theory, nonetheless, and in the last week, it's been relatively hard-won.  

There are some things that you have to do in a new apartment right away - arrange the furniture, clean the bathroom, organize the kitchen - so that you feel at home.  It is then that you realize that there are a lot of items (those old Pottery Barn side tables, that desk chair you found on the street) that don't really fit into your new place.  You make do the best you can because, hey, moving is expensive, and while you may want to replace that chair or buy new side tables, you can really afford it right away.  Also, decisions like that may take kindly to a little contemplation.

Then there are some decisions you make after living with the space for a little  while.  Six months is a good amount of time to figure out where to put your favorite photos or if you need a garbage can that goes under the sink.

When I moved into my new place I felt a compulsion to do Everything right away.  I had to have the walls painted and pictures hung immediately.  After hitting the 6 month mark this month, I realized that there were some decisions that I may have rushed and some that I'm  finally ready to pull the trigger on.  I'll have more of that later.

For now, I have this:  My Alarm Clock Dilemma

This is my old alarm clock.  It's perfectly nice.  It has a radio and a digital display.  It has an (indulgent) 10 minute snooze button.  It also has an unsightly cord and a very large footprint that is taking up valuable real estate on my bedside table.

This is my new alarm clock.  It's the perfect size and the right color.  (See, it picks up these little orange accents on my new duvet cover!)  What it does not have is a snooze button or a light up digital display.  For some reason, someone wants to be able to see what time it is from the other side of the bed.  Sheesh!  And, well, I do love my snooze button.

I'm considering returning it, but I'm not sure.  Something so simple as an alarm clock shouldn't be this troubling, but I have quite a few requirements when it comes to The Perfect Clock.  I really would rather not settle for the beast that was taking up so much room before.

Can anyone recommend a relatively cheap, small, digital alarm clock that is also cute?  Please?


Thursday, March 24, 2011


It's been a tough week, my friends.  The cold and rain has me down and I still haven't adjusted to the time change.  Last night I sat down with some perogies from my grandmother and my favorite (for the moment) vintage plate and all was right with the world.  More later.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Soul Crushing

Almost a month ago I had the privilege of going to see a see Adele perform on the Live on Letterman series.  I don't often go to see live music and I cannot remember ever being so excited to see an artist!

She was adorable, charming, self-deprecating, stunningly beautiful and soul-crushingly talented.  She ended the set with this song and it's been echoing everywhere I go these days.  I came across this link over at Girl From The North and thought it was the perfect item to pass along on this sunny Friday.

Happy Weekend, everybody!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

It could be worse...

For me, that is.  I uttered this phrase, rather glibly, to a co-worker today, in reference to a project we were working on.  But then I realized that if only I applied that same thinking to most parts of my life, it would truly put everything into perspective for me.

I was scrambling to put together a post for this week, but everything I came up with just seemed to trite in the shadow of what is happening in Japan right now.  I'm taking this week to reflect on the wealth of small pleasures I have in my life that I take for granted every day and to offer up a silent prayer to all those affected by the tragedy in Japan.

The Japan Society in NYC has set up a really easy way to donate.  Go here and do what you can.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Spring is right around the corner

Can you feel it?

I bought daffodils last week and I was so happy that I did a little dance.  Seriously.  Is there anything I love more than Springtime flowers?  The blousy roses that bloom in Sunnyside during the summer are plain lovely, but nothing get my heart going pitter-patter like daffodils.  
The first sight of them at bodegas and in the tiny gardens in my neighborhood mean one thing, and one thing only:  Spring is coming.  You can feel it, that slight shift in temperature where 40 degrees suddenly feels warm and not cold.  Where the wind seems balmy and chilling.  Spring is coming.  It's daffodils first and then tulips and sweet, sweet hyacinth and then it's official.  Spring is in the air! 

The above photo was taken from bed with my iPhone.  Lord those flowers made me so happy all week! 

This is a better representation of my bedroom:

The moody gray walls and the mint-iness of the bedside table are all pretty accurate.  (The glass lamps are impossible to keep free of dust.  I look at it every night when I go to sleep.  "Goodnight dust!")

Oh dear.  So do you have any Springtime plans?  I for one cannot wait to start going on bike rides again.  Also on my list is a visit to The Cloisters, which is heavenly when the trees start to bloom and The Brooklyn Botanical Gardens for the Cherry Blossom Festival!

Saturday, March 05, 2011

In which I take the 7 train to the end of the line

My friend Little Bunny has been raving about the food court at the Flushing Mall for-ever.  I mean forever.  To the point that I was really skeptical.  I mean, how good can it really be.  Really?

Well, circumstances collided a couple of weeks ago and Jeffery Tastes was sponsoring a trip out to the mall.  I asked Little Bunny and her bf if they were interested in going with me and their answer was a resounding, "Yes!"  (Again, too much enthusiasm?  Maybe.)

We arrived at the mall and saw the group forming for Jeffery's event, but decided to just go it alone, rather than joining in.  The Grazing Experience seemed like a lovely idea, but as Little Bunny put it, "I don't really like to share."  After our first plate of noodles, I knew what she was talking about.

Since they were old pros and it was my first time, I let them be my guide.  There are nearly an overwhelming amount of choices and it can be a little intimidating because not  much is really in English.  But if you are adventurous and courageous, you will have an amazing time.

We ate hand pulled noodles with spicy beef from this place, the weird gelatinous turtle pictured above, the biggest seafood scallion pancake I've ever seen, pork, seafood and scallion dumplings, Chinese lamb "hamburgers", green tea ice cream and fresh mango juice.  All that (which we did share) and I think my wallet was only $10 lighter at the end of the day.

Go hungry and go soon.  According to this article in the WSJ, the mall is being demolished in 2012.  And, yes, it really is that good.