Sunday, July 31, 2011

Stair Down.

Adding personality to one's home should not end at the front door.
Every nook and cranny and stairwell should always give a wink and a nod in your style direction.
Be quietly captivating or brave enough to be bold.
But be something.

We've started injecting some serious turquoise to our third floor stairwell.
Decades before the trend, or even in the thick of it, I'm never sick of turquoise in any way.
Even our kid appreciates it.

Get some more ideas:

Orla Kiely-ish.
Apartment Therapy.

Pop Classic.

I'm not gonna say "this rules."

Watery Ballusters.
Apartment Therapy

Fire and Yumstone.
Tear It Out.

Living etc.

Retro beachenstein.

Mod Victorian.
S Photos.

Apartment Therapy.

Rainbow Connection.
Lark & Linen.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Faerie see. Faerie do.

The slide was searing hot from the sun.
The swings got old after using each one several times.

So during our trip to the park I channeled my ol' Ma and began gathering sticks with Vincenza.
We made a faerie house - well, a faerie bedroom.

My mother and I used to make impromptu faerie/toad/gnome houses quite often. I especially liked outfitting them with little walkways made from teeny pebbles resembling stepping stones. It felt more enchanting having them lead toward the sweet little shanties.

The bed in our faerie bedroom was complete with a bark headboard and pillows made of pale rocks.
We even placed a log-ishy stick at the end of the bed to serve as a bench.
The surrounding walls were easily made by my daughter and I by simply jamming some sticks in the dirt until they were placed "just right," as 'Cenza kept saying. "We doin a project," she added several times. My mom taught her about "projects."

The joy on my daughter's Kewpie-Doll-face.
Passing on my extraordinary mother's teachable (and fun) moments.
So satisfying.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cobble It Up

Two days ago we harvested a skillion tomatoes from our garden and I had the perfect idea of what to do with them: Tomato Cobbler!
I saw this recipe in the July 2011 Martha Stewart Living magazine my Aunt Mikki had recycled to me and had been waiting to execute it.
However, when I was ready to dive in and make it for dinner, I was missing some ingredients and had no intention of walking in town to get the heavy cream that it called for - my kid was about to get up from her daily siesta and she's not so amicable (until she has something to eat and fifteen minutes of "wake-up-time" under her belt). I needed to start prepping and exercise was not going to be part of it.

So I decided to 'make it work.'
Oh, I made it work all right, and at the betterment of my waistline.
I trimmed some fat and added some herbs AND I even got my daughter to help make it.
Freakin' delish.
Pretty darn easy, too.
Make it and reap its summery peasant rewards:


*you'll need about a two-quart baking dish roughly 2 inches high on the sides

-3 Tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
-3 medium onions sliced thin (I used red, white and yellow, cuz why not?)
-4 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
-Enough tomatoes to fill the bottom of your baking dish - Martha's says "3 pounds." (I used ping pong tomatoes but grape or cherry or anything from a small to medium size is just fine)
-3 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour
-1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
-Sea or Kosher Salt & fresh ground pepper to taste

Biscuit Topping:
-1 cup All purpose Flour
-1 cup Whole Wheat Flour (I changed this from 2 cups of AP Flour to inject some nutritional value)
-2 teaspoons Baking Powder
-1 teaspoon coarse salt
-7-14 good cracks of fresh pepper
-1 stick of icy cold sweet cream butter cut in to small cubes
-1 cup of Thick shredded sharp cheddar cheese (Martha's required Gruyere but I was, eh hem, all out) a little for sprinkling on top before placing in the oven
-2 small containers (12 oz) of 0% Greek Yogurt (like Chobani)
-1/3 cup of icy cold water
-About a heaping tablespoon of fresh chopped thyme
-1-2 Tablespoons of fresh chopped chives depending on your affinity for them
(There aren't any herbs in the Martha version and I just felt like plain dough lent itself as an opportunity for improvement.)

1. Caramelize the onions in 2 of the tablespoons of oil on Medium heat for 25-30 minutes stirring occasionally. Add some salt & pepper. Add a dash of water every once in awhile to get them to steam and soften and to scrape up the yummish brown bit on the bottom of your pan. Add the garlic for the last 2-4 minutes of cooking. Remove from heat. Let the mix cool for 10-15 minutes. A good non-stick pan is sorta clutch for this.
They'll wilt down a ton:

2. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees...I went the convection setting route.

3. While that first step is cooling, work on the biscuit topping: Mix everything (except the yogurt, water and cheese) together. Grab a fork and mash the cold butter cubes with the back of it. Just cut it in to the size of peas but don't get too methodical about it/sposta be rustic. Then mix the cheese in real quick. Then the yogurt and water. Don't overwork the dough. Remember: rustic, people.

4. Put the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in your baking dish. Rub that sucker down to avoid sticking. Then - add the caramelized onions to the baking dish along with those 3 extra tablespoons of AP flour, salt, pepper, & red pepper flakes and the tomatoes, of course. Spread everything out in one layer as best as you can.

5. Use a small-sized ice cream scoop (or a spoon or your hands as my daughter did), to place equal-sized mounds all around the perimeter of your dish, sorta like a wreath. Brush olive oil over the dough. Sprinkle that lil bit of cheese over the dough.

6. Put that delicious monster of a dish in the oven. Bake until golden and bubbly. (50-70 minutes depending on your altitude, dish size, and biscuit mound architecture). Just keep checking.

7. Let cool 15-20 minutes. So infuriating.

8. Eat with joy as you sop up those tomatoey juices with crunchy-crumbly-satisfying-low-fat-herby-biscuits!!!!! Yaaaaaaaay!!!!!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

On The Fence

Ken and I have been working on making our backyard not only a place to grow as many vegetables as possible, but also a cozy intimate space worthy of meandering. Although we have done quite a bit to get there - well, my husband has done quite a bit - in the last two years to make our yard full of life, we have not gotten to every project quite yet. In the future, we have planned on making our neighbors expansive old fence a bit more sumptuous by adding a trellis for beans and clematis - but have not yet gotten around to it.

So as I sat staring at the boring fence the other night, I got a great idea for giving it a little life inspired by a Babble clip I'd just seen.
I decided to make a garland to hang on the fence.
I made it for free and it took about thirty minutes.

Rip some 8" long pieces of fabric (or longer) for a Anthropologie effect.
Make an upside down "u" and place string over it.
I had 2 choices of string but ultimately went with the frayed one to stay with the whole theme.
Figure out how long you want your string first.
Loop the ends of the fabric over the string and pull through the other side. Pull tight.
I strung mine across my dining room so I could pepper the colors around as I saw fit.
Choosing to do all one color/fabric would be coolish too.
Felt might be nice too and better for OCD-types who don't wanna see frays.
Be sure to leave slack on both ends of the main string for tying it up!



Leftover scraps from a project I did in my daughter's room + string = fun & easy!

Gussy up your fence too.
Or your campsite.
Or your BBQ bash.
Or yourself:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Pinterest Your Interests

As a designer, a homeowner and voyeur of all things aesthetically enticing, I cannot tell you how many random pieces of loose magazine pages (with good ideas as opposed to crappy ones) I have floating about.
I have folders and binders of loose magazine "tear sheets." Too many to mention.
I tried to stop tearing out pages and opted for scanning them right in to my computer instead for a while. I had all kinds of design folders of inspiring spaces/ideas(and 1 folder of recipes I rarely remember I have).
There is a folder for Fireplaces & Mantels, Bedrooms, Window Ideas, Floors, Kiddie Spaces, Porches, Gardens, Lighting, Fixtures, Knobs, Dining Rooms, Washrooms, Laundry Rooms... I kept up on that for about two months but it grew tiresome. I think my megabyte (or is it gigabyte?) capacity started stressing out with all the stuff I kept saving in iPhoto. I was stressing out with trying to keep up with my catalogue of design ideas and sites!

But recently, I have found my salvation.

My friend and fellow design lover, Sarah, introduced me to the organizational tool my "Internet A.D.D." and my design eye has been craving for so long: PINTEREST!

I can save aaaalllll the design sites I've been looking and lusting after. I can even save good gift ideas for the people I actually plan ahead for. Hell, I can save nearly anything from the web - there's a "Board" for that (of whichever naming I choose) because I customize it for myself! Maybe you don't know what a "board" is yet, but trust me: you'll wanna find out...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Green Eggs & Ham

I think I was 22 years old when I had my first deviled egg. Previously, the presentation, color and consistency of that egg's predecesors were scary to say the least. I grew up learning to cook from my mother who as an artist told me that you "eat with your eyes first" before everybody discussed it on The Food Network decades later. So for me, I wasn't going to eat a runny, sloppy, neon-yellow deviled egg at 8 or 18 either.

But after a couple of glasses of wine one night, my friend finally convinced me to eat a non-threatening-looking deviled egg. The party we were attending where this first deviled egg crossed my lips was made by a good cook whose house who looked like she kept fresh-quality-milk in her refrigerator (a standard in which I judge adventurous eating in private homes).
The egg surprisingly wasn't bad. Fine actually.
"I can do something with this. Yeah, I'm gonna make my own deviled eggs," I said, surprising us both that these words were coming out my mouth.

And in the many years since I have made deviled eggs, several times in fact! I'd like to think I've improved upon the standard, adding a ton of herbacious goodness and dijon. But this budget-gourmet incarnate is my best yet.

Green Eggs & Ham:
-1 dozen hardboiled eggs, separated (make your own or make it easy and buy them pre-cooked and peeled!)
-1/4 cup reduced fat olive oil mayo (or go ahead and use the high test stuff)
-1/4 cup good olive oil
-3 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard
-1 Tablespoon of Green Hot Sauce
-kosher salt (to taste)
-fresh cracked black pepper (to taste)
-fistful of fresh basil
-fistful of flat leaf Italian parsley
-1 teaspoon of fresh thyme
-1 clove of garlic
-Zest and juice of Half of a Lemon
-1 scallion diced
-1 medium rib of celery diced
-1/4 lb. of super thin sliced proscuitto (or serrano ham)

Place the eggs whites on a platter.
Put everything else minus the celery, scallion & proscuitto in a food processor and pulse until incorporated scraping the sides down as needed. When the mixture is all green and incorporated add the onions and celery and pulse a couple more times just to bring it all together.

Pipe the mixture using a standard piping bag or a freezer bag with a tip cut off to place in to the egg. Top with a little curled up ribbon of proscuitto.

There you have it: Green Eggs and Ham you'll actually wanna eat.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Following D'Artrections

Vincenza, my precocious daughter is not following directions very well these days. I'd laugh if she weren't my kid, but that's not my reality. Reality is the fling-down-flop-body-loss-of-spine-thing that she does when I grab her hand to walk in a parking lot, or walk her inside to take her daily siesta. You get the idea. I don't blame her. I'm an independent woman myself and if someone tries to tell me what to do I'd like to drop dead or run before I were succumb to them, too.

But to our chagrin, following directions "is a part of life." I figured I better get her on the bandwagon. So instead of having her practice following directions with some sort of marching order I opted for a fun route. We made art. She willingly followed my lead and I praised her every step of the way for doing so. Looks like things are on the up and up.

First, (while she was occupied) I cut 2 of everything: hair, face, legs, pair o' arms, 'dorable 50s-style bow, roundy shoes and hearts. Oh - I used scraps of paper for this and gave myself mom-of-the-day-points for being green.

Then, I drew giant triangles for dresses so we could cut them out together. She practiced following directions and using fine motor skills, too. Yes, I said fine motor. And happily, she followed.

After that we glued on the pre-cut parts.

She was so involved and proud after we had assembled her "dolly" as she kept calling it. Mind you, this is obviously translatable for a boy figure too: go with the standard rectangle for the body and lotsa blues if you're feeling gender-color-confined.

After some jumping and oohing and ahhing we hung them to dry. Later that afternoon we colored them with markers when they were dry. We then hung them next to one another as we recalled the awesomeness and accomplishment of following directions.

Crossing my fingers for the rest of the week. But I'm guessing some poor schlub will have to witness the noodle-child being dangled by her mother's grip.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dining Out

My husband Ken and I have continued to gather things to "dress" our backyard. We moved here three years ago to a very blank, very linear slate. I would look out from my mudroom towards the yard, grateful for what we had, but overwhelmed with possibility and work!
We have since done a ton of experimental vegetable gardening, arduous weeding, and collecting of chairs and surfaces to create and outdoor dining room that begs to be sat in and enjoyed. Now, it's hard not to look out my back door every day and not want to sit down. And have a cocktail. Or coffee. Or a meal. Or meander around and pick veggies. Or weed some more. Or come up with new ideas.

There is something to be said about dining outside. Not only is it fun but it can be seductive and enriching to be surrounded by our little outdoor universe. Picnic blankets, card tables draped in burlap, overturned tubs, benches, actual tables... They all serve as a great surface for simple or elegant food to be shared and honored with someone you hold dear.

Forego the overly scented, overly priced candles and opt for something short, sturdy, and scentless. You wanna smell your food not the candle and see your fellow diner(s).

Leaves or flowers from your garden, placed in vases or repurposed jars serve as perfect impromptu table-scapes. Just be sure nothing is too tall or in the way of the conversation.
Reflect upon this in February.

Monday, July 11, 2011


My dear friend, JenJones (yes, say her name quick and together-like), persuaded my old soul to join Twitter. As a business woman, I could not help but listen to her platform.
I just joined minutes ago.
I'm scared. Very scared. But scared and willing.
I just mastered, well, like 94% mastered, our t.v. remote control a coupla' months ago...

Friday, July 8, 2011

Blow Horn

Our two-and-a-half-year-old came bouncing in our room this morning at 5:57am with gleeful sobriety and enthusiasm. "Mama, the sun come through my windows and I wake up!" she explained as she climbed into our warm bed.

I cracked open my weary eyes and she smiled sweetly at me about four inches from my face, her white mop hair glowing in a halo around her big kid head. Unlike her father or I, she had not enjoyed icy lime garnished beers til midnight talking away in our garden.
More sleep was in order for me so I got her to submit to more snuggle time so I could sleep a little more, feeling guilty for my indiscretions the night before.

Alas, the extra snooze time was short-lived as I was getting trampled on by thirty-five pounds of non-stop energy and getting mercilessly harassed with playing doctor.
I ultimately peeled myself out of bed and made my way down the hall holding my sweet little daughter's hand as she explained what it was she was to do that day with great sincerity.
We made it to the bathroom and I handed her the faded Elmo toothbrush that she covets so.

"Thank you, Mama" she said.
She really does have amazing manners.

"I do it pwleeease?" she asked, referring to adding the strawberry toothpaste.
"Of course. Thank you for saying 'please,'" I answered, and showed Vinnie how to do it neatly on the sink because she had been making attempts with the freakin' toothpaste in the hall, in her room, our room, her playroom...
"Ohohohooh" she was impressed by my tutorial.
She did it all by herself and handed me the toothpaste when she was done with an additional "Thank You."

Still weary, I closed the lid on the commode, sat down, and watched my sweet little darling brush her tiny Chiclet teeth.

About six or seven scrubs through over her pearly whites she says, "Hold this pwlease, Mama," and hands me her toothbrush.

"Uh sure, why?" I ask.

As she braced herself with one arm on the sink and the the other on the wall she tilted her teeny hips back and answered "Mama, I have to get the gas out of my butt." She expelled something out of her body that I had only ever heard in slapstick comedies before.

I screamed and gasped and she furiously tried to get more out, her face red and shaking, looking for me to give her the same boisterous initial reaction.

She then leaned back in to me and reached for her toothbrush.
"Thank you, Mama," she said.

Apparently her manners are gastronomical.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Tentatively Speaking

When I saw the photos of a homemade tent for sale I was impressed with the look but unwilling to pay the price for it. I figured although I am no stitchery sleuth I could make one myself.
So I did and maybe you'll want to!
Those generic-plastic-pop-up tent-things everyone has are so last-year anyhow.

Find an old flat sheet for a twin bed (I guess you could go bigger too if ya wanted). I made my daughter's out of a twin size. The color is the palest robin's egg blue with teeny white flowers. If you don't have one you're willing to donate to good times, maybe someone you know does.

Fold the sheet in half so the short ends touch and serve as the bottom ends of the tent.
Ok, now there are two sides for two different or one symmetrical design.

I cut out felt animals from templates I made from Googled animal silhouette's. Felt doesn't fray at the edges, so yay for that. But I also cut birds from some neato material that did fray, so yay for that too.
I cut out some pieces and layers for a sun and one long honkin' piece for some grass effect - going for the whole outdoors thing. I even used two doilies in different diameters for "flowers" and sewed buttons in the center of them.

But before you think I'm playing down my sewing skills listen up:
glue all this stuff on with fabric glue!
Let it dry overnight.
Then go back and throw some thread and embroidery floss in for good measure and a truly homespun look.
Seriously: sew with wreckless abandon it'll look better.

I will suggest that the thread or embroidery floss contrasts with the fabric you're sewing on.
Get creative with the concept and think about what the kid you are making it for would like. Maybe dinosaurs or windows and doors for a house feel. Trains. Fish. Peace Signs. Whatever.
Even get a little Martha-ish and have it coordinate with your yard decor.
That is if you have a yard or decor or even know what Martha-ish is referring to.
Then, definitely with the embroidery floss, sew sturdy ribbon in long lengths to all four corners at the middle point of the ribbons.
Tent: done.

Then grab a rope or a clothesline and 4 tent stakes and you have hours of fun for the kiddies or a perfect place for even you to take a nap.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

We Are The Warriors

I felt so bad when I saw that my daughter had two mosquito bites are the front of her shin.

They were unusually tight and swollen and quite hot to the touch.
Later that night when she suddenly had a low grade fever, I was convinced it was her little immune system doing overtime because of those hideous mosquito bites.
So, bug spray was in order.
But I didn't want spray my little blondie with chemicals I had never heard of.

I got thinking about companion plants for veggies that help kept pests away and it came to me:
My husband had thankfully planted (a close to obscene amount of) mint in the bare spots along the side of house and we had rosemary growing in a pot by our tomatoes!
Those might be just the thing...

I looked up some homeopathic recipes online and I saw that geranium oil was used in a organic brand I like.

So I concocted my own recipe and did a few minor revisions.
The final recipe is easy, cheap, works well, feels and smells good (insert Michael Scott quote here).

So spray it on yourselves, your kids, your outdoor gathering areas, outdoor tables & chairs, and even your pest-ridden plants! We use it every 15-20 minutes or so while we sit out in our garden in the evening for ultra security.

Ken labeled ours "F Brand Bug Spray" cuz seriously: F those skeeters.

Non-Scary Bug Spray
-Find a Pasta Pot (or the largest pot you have)
-Fill the Pot(but don't overpack it) with fresh mint (any, all, mix variety will do)
-Add 2-4 fresh rosemary sprigs
-Add Marigold Flowers that have been separated a bit with your fingers (3-12 heads, fresh or dried out). Or a geranium head. Or geranium oil. I use the marigolds.
-Fill pot with water about an inch or two from the top and let everything steep overnight

-The next day: bring the concoction to a boil and bruise it occasionally with the back of a wooden spoon as it comes up to temp.
-As soon as it gets a good boil going, remove from heat and let cool
-Muddle the stuff a bit with the wood spoon every once in a while as it cools down
-When completely cool, add a couple of glugs of Rubbing Alcohol. Depending on the pot size, 2-6 tablespoons will do ya. Use your good judgement.
-Strain and add to a fine mist spray bottle. There will be lots of leftovers for gifts!
-Label it as you wish.
-Use liberally.