Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Interiors: Blogger Design Gauntlet Has Been Flung!!!

Dear Christy over at In The Cottage has tagged me in a personal style challenge. The idea is to find one (1!) room represented online that sums up your personal style. This is no easy task. I love, love, LOVE interiors, and almost every design layout has something I love in it. It was also hard to separate out the rooms I fantasize about having in my dream home (or, one of many dream homes), and rooms I would actually create out of my current head space.
From Sproost:
I love using antiques (and I mean using them), and I have many rescued items out of alleys. I love using color and I am fearless with a paintbrush. I also like this room because it looks both modern and decayed, like there should both be a Lichtenstein print on the wall and autumn leaves in some of the corners. It's ladylike but also irreverent (like me), a little formal, a little quirky. I'll probably find an more accurate room right after I post, but this room spoke to me: "I am meant to be yours..."

I dare my favorite interior girlie Ashley over at Decorology to do this wonderful challenge next!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Fashion: You're Beautiful. Yes, you.

Next time you get down about your appearance after flipping through Vogue, remember this:

Food: Birthday Deliciousness

For my first birthday as a mommy, my man graciously decided to take on all the party planning and cooking himself. He started with a lot of local ingredients, and we ended up with an elaborate antipasto platter of Volpi salamis, mixed olives, artichoke hearts, marinated peppers and cauliflower, and three different Italian cheeses, plus fresh bread, and a huge Salade Caprese.
I was so busy juggling a stranger-anxiety ridden baby, and trying to socialize that I utterly forgot to take pictures...

He then served us all a delicious linguine dish with fresh asparagus, a lemony sauce and pan-fried bread crumbs. Everyone loved it. Next was a soft polenta dish with salcissa, ham and pancetta, flavored with a bit of rosemary. I was quite flattered he went to the effort to throw such an elaborate first dinner party in my honor.
The recipes for the main dishes came from Loukie Werle's 'Italian Country Cooking - The Secrets of Cucina Povera'.
I have to say, it's an inspiring cookbook; beautiful photos, easy and extremely delicious recipes. Check it out.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Fashion: New Kicks For Today's Economy

I was pleasantly surprised to discover cute shoes at Payless, that's right, Payless, for cheap cheap cheap! Each pair below is less than $39. You can fulfill your new shoe yen!

Kids: Keeping Up With Baby

Our baby is very alert and active, and has been so since the early days. There are times I feel like she's bored with me, so I started searching for other things to do together.

http://www.gameswithbaby.com/ Has a good variety of activities based on age ranges.

Painting with Emerson:

Below is some advice from iVillage that will be appropriate for her in several months:

Creativity is natural in children. You can see it as early as the first few months when an infant experiments with the sounds she can make and squeals with delight at what she hears.

Or watch a toddler at work with blocks, and see how many ways he tries to stack a pile before coming up with a topple-proof design. As verbal skills and physical dexterity increase, preschoolers express their natural inventiveness in many ways -- indulging in word play, submerging into imaginary worlds and transforming simple objects into favorite toys.

Because creativity helps us live joyously and wisely, it may be every bit as significant as reading, writing or manners as children grow up. If you're looking for low-cost, easy and imaginative activities you and your child can do together, try these five: Imaginary Stew, Homemade Toys, Family Band, Neighborhood Walk and Dirtyville.

Imaginary Stew
Get out a big pot and take turns choosing all the silly things you can put in your supper. A sprinkling of pine cone? A dash of talcum powder? A hearty helping of crayons? Fine dining!

Homemade Toys
Go exploring with your child at home; see what you find in your drawers, cabinets and closets; and then play with everything. Turn a shoebox into a make-believe truck. Get out the ruler and measure each other. Build a miniature junk palace. What can you make from the trove of items you discover?

Family Band
Turn on the stereo and get out your kitchen instruments. Coffee beans in a tin can make an ideal maraca. Wooden bowls and spoons are easy drums. Metal whisks and colanders double as timpani and cymbals. Turn up the jazz, classical or rock and roll, and play that funky music.

Neighborhood Walk
See your neighborhood together for the first time by talking about everything you come across. Ask your child questions that invite creative answers: "What do you think that cat ate for breakfast?" Make up games along the way: "How many different kinds of animals can we find?" Or start a collection of pretty rocks, shells or leaves.

Find a controlled space in your home to dub Dirtyville, at least for a couple of hours. Place a tarp down to collect the chaos. Then get out giant pieces of paper, paint, glue, safety scissors, string, old magazines, colorful feathers, glitter. Roll up your child's sleeves (and yours too!) and create paintings, collages, sculptures -- no masterpiece is too messy!

What do you do to surprise and delight your baby?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Food: Twangy Goodness

It's almost that time of year again... the Friday mornings just warm enough that I feel the need to go to the farmer's market and buy way, way too many fruits and vegetables. I've learned that if I go by myself, baby in tow, I am limited by the weight of what I can carry, but it is so much fun going to our favorite market that I am hard-pressed to leave the man at home. One thing we always end up with too many of are perfect, sweet little clementines. This year (not being pregnant, and excited to invent some fantastic summer adult beverages for entertaining), I've decided to pay homage to my man's ethnicity and our neighborhood (though stretching the rules just a bit...): Behold, the Clemencello.
Of course based on limoncello, I thought this would be a fun way to upcycle all those peels we're going to generate in the not too distant future.


10 clementines (or try a combination of tangerines,clementines,mandarins and Valencia oranges), washed and dried
1 bottle of vodka (750 milliliters, 80 to 100 proof)
2 cups sugar
2 cups water


  1. With a Microplane, zest the surface of the tangerines and oranges, being careful to only take off the top layer; if you scrape too hard, you’ll end up with the pith (the white membrane under the peel), which results in a too-bitter brew. Add the zest to a large clean jar.
  2. Pour the vodka over the zest and seal the container. Let sit undisturbed in a cool, dark place for 3 to 4 weeks.
  3. Place 2 cups sugar and 2 cups water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook until the sugar has dissolved, then remove the pan from the heat. Let the sugar syrup cool to room temperature.
  4. Add half of the cooled syrup to the orange peel-vodka mixture, stir, and taste. If it’s not sweet enough, continue adding more syrup until you like the taste of it.
  5. Pour the clemencello through a funnel lined with a coffee filter or cheesecloth into a large spouted pitcher. Divide the clemencello among gift bottles and seal.
  6. Store clemencello in the freezer. To serve, pour into small glasses and offer it for dessert with a plate of biscotti and/or chocolate truffles.

This content is from the Culinate Kitchen collection.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Kids: Baby Needs A New Pair of Shoes

Our little one has been acting like she's going to skip on the crawling, and move right on to cruising. I've been dreaming of cute shoes for her, and I've rounded a few up on Etsy (and one major label):

1. BittyChouChou, 2. & 3. PediPed, 4. TwentySecondStreet,
5. BitzyBoots, 6. & 7. GraciousMay (my favorites!),
8. PreciousPatterns - Lots of great, inexpensive patterns for those of you who are crafty

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Food/Kids: How Freaking Cute!

Here's an adorable tea party idea from
Chocolate on My Cranium:

Petite Watermelons

2 limes
1 small box of red Jello
mini chocolate chips

Cut both limes in half lengthwise. Scoop out all the fruit with a spoon. Place the limes in a muffin tin to keep them from tipping over. Make the box of Jello according to the Jiggler directions. Carefully spoon Jello into the limes halves. Chill until almost firm. Using a skewer push the mini chocolate chips into the Jello for "watermelon seeds." Chill until until firm, then cut into slices.

Thanks Ms. Cocoa!!!

Gardening/Food: Purslane is Green!

I often tire of the strange food trends that seem to grasp the country for months or years at a time, and then vanish, leaving the poor ingredient, who never did anything wrong, relegated to the shelf of 'dated ingredients'; where things like Jello-O molds, sun-dried tomatoes and canapes have been known to hang out. One trend I will be happy to see go the way of the feta (whose passing I still mourn) is arugula. I don't like the stuff, and it has gotten in the way of perfectly good salads, sandwiches and pastas in the past years. Maybe it's just an uncultured palate on my part (which I doubt, and will be happy to provide you with proof, if challenged), but the tough and decidedly un-tasty arugula is not my friend.

Recently, I have discovered an exceptional replacement: Purslane.

It's eaten more in the Middle East, and here, in America, it is considered an invasive weed. Which means, I thought, the likelihood of being able to snip it out of my own yard is relatively good. I could have culinary adventures, and rid the countryside (or, rather, city-side, but you get the gist) of this hated interloper. How Green! How Delicious!

AND it is ridiculously healthy -- a veritable Super Food! I have included a bit of the Wikipedia entry for purslane below, as its health benefits are so numerous I would just be exhausted after typing them all -- too exhausted to go out and forage.

You can also buy purslane at many nurseries, but I encourage you to plant it in a big pot on your patio as it is, as I stated above, highly invasive.

"Although purslane is considered a weed in the United States, it can be eaten as a leaf vegetable. It has a slightly sour and salty taste and is eaten throughout much of Europe, Asia and Mexico.[3][1] The stems, leaves and flower buds are all good to eat. Purslane can be used fresh as a salad, stir-fried, or cooked like spinach, and because of its mucilaginous quality it is also suitable for soups and stews. Australian Aborigines used to use the seeds to make seedcakes.

Purslane contains more Omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid in particular[4]) than any other leafy vegetable plant. Simopoulos states that Purslane has .01 mg/g of EPA. This is an extraordinary amount of EPA for land based vegetable sources. EPA is an Omega-3 fatty acid normally found mostly in fish, some algae and flax seeds. [5] It also contains vitamins (mainly vitamin A, vitamin C, and some vitamin B and carotenoids), as well as dietary minerals, such as magnesium, calcium, potassium and iron. Also present are two types of betalain alkaloid pigments, the reddish betacyanins (visible in the coloration of the stems) and the yellow betaxanthins (noticeable in the flowers and in the slight yellowish cast of the leaves). Both of these pigment types are potent antioxidants and have been found to have antimutagenic properties in laboratory studies.[6]

100 grams of fresh purslane leaves (about 1 cup) contain 300 to 400 mg of alpha-linolenic acid. One cup of cooked leaves contains 90 mg of calcium, 561 mg of potassium, and more than 2,000 IUs of vitamin A."

Purslane, Meyer Lemon and Pear Salad with Kaffir Lime Vinnaigrette
From Gourmet 2003

For vinaigrette
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 stalk fresh lemongrass, 1 or 2 tough outer leaves discarded and root end trimmed
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock or broth
  • 1 small (1 1/2- to 2-inch) dried chile (preferably Thai)
  • 6 (2- by 1 1/4-inch) fresh or frozen kaffir lime leaves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 1 teaspoon water
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh chervil
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

For salad
  • 1 Meyer lemon
  • 6 firm-ripe small Seckel pears (3/4 pound total)
  • 6 radishes, trimmed
  • 3/4 pound purslane, coarse stems discarded
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Fleur de sel to taste

  • Accompaniment: jasmine rice crackers
  • Special equipment: a Japanese Benriner or other adjustable-blade slicer


Make vinaigrette:
Cut peel, including white pith, from lemon with a small sharp knife. Working over a bowl to catch juices, cut lemon segments free from membranes, letting segments drop into bowl.

Crush lemongrass stalk with side of a heavy knife (to release oils), then thinly slice. Bring stock, lemongrass, and chile to a boil in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan. Cover pan and remove from heat, then let stand 20 minutes.

Return to a boil and add lemon segments with juice and lime leaves. Cover pan and remove from heat, then let stand 20 minutes more.

Pour mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl, discarding solids, then return to saucepan and whisk in oil. Bring vinaigrette to a boil and whisk in cornstarch mixture, then simmer, whisking occasionally, 2 minutes. Cool completely. Whisk in herbs and salt and pepper to taste.

Make salad:
Using slicer, cut Meyer lemon (with skin) crosswise, pears lengthwise (discarding cores), and radishes lengthwise into very thin slices (about 1/16 inch thick) and transfer to a large bowl. Add purslane, oil, lemon juice, and fleur de sel and pepper to taste and toss gently.

Divide salad among 6 plates and spoon vinaigrette over and around each. Serve salads with jasmine crackers on the side.

Cooks' note: ·Vinaigrette (without herbs) can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring to room temperature, then whisk in herbs just before serving.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Design: wabi sabi mommi

My sister and I both arrived into adulthood near-obsessed with Asian culture. I blame our mother for her love of Japanese design and Greene & Greene buildings, and my father for innocently giving me a copy of the Tao Te Ching when I was twelve, and his old college materials from what I can only guess was a Sumi class. The love of all things aesthetically pleasing (not coincidentally most of them Asian in origin) was so ingrained in me by adulthood that I forgot to even think of it, and my love became part of the wallpaper of my being.
But as I have eased myself into a comfortable(ish) understanding of my new 'motherhood' role, many of my studies have quietly resurfaced, and I find myself making peace with everyday, every moment with the deep-down Zen I had all but forgotten.

a wabi sabi bowl

It is truly a gift to live so closely with a child. I am remembering again what living in only the present is all about. The delightful child-sized messes around the house, the joy of beautiful food prepared according to baby time (which seems to stretch into infinity), the imperfection that can't be helped is all priceless. At first, it all drove me batty.
Then I remembered the Japanese philosophy I love most of all: Wabi Sabi. I am too much a Westerner to explain the concept accurately, but I will sum it up like this: Its roots in Zen Buddhism, wabi sabi is about the perfection of impermanence and imperfection. There are many sources for further study, like here, for starters. The moment I started to remember wabi sabi, I began to love the beautiful chaos of motherhood.
First, I de-cluttered. Then I de-cluttered again. If 'it' isn't truly important or necessary, it gets recycled, donated or trashed. Then I started eating simply, and consciously, remembering this old Zen teaching: When alone, eat as though you are entertaining guests, When entertaining guests, eat as though you are alone. I began to better understand that all of our battered belongings are beautiful with evidence of their years of usefulness, and I began to feel that way about myself, too.

The below interior shots are cited on apartment therapy as 'wabi sabi'
While I agree they might have been inspired by the philosophy, I side with Zimbio.com:
"You can't buy wabi sabi at Pottery Barn"

True wabi sabi in action
Japanese tea house with leaves

again, beautiful on its own, but too sterile and new to truly be wabi sabi:

Closer (and I am being generous here because I think this is a cool-a** mantle piece), but no cha

this garden corner is wabi sabi without trying to be (therefore making it even more wabi sabi)

classic examples of wabi sabi cha cups

from zimbio.com: "The true spirit of wabi sabi":
made me smile

More classic examples:

A roundup of the basic concepts:

The bowl is hollow, open and free shaped antithesis The box is rectilinear, precise and contained
Simple and sparing (It's what you leave out that counts) antithesis Cluttered and full
Non demanding beauty antithesis Quintessential supreme rule to aesthetics
Non utility, non-purpose, sustaining empty meaning antithesis Survival of function and utility to uses
Solicits into sensory expansion of possibilities antithesis Desolate sensory with excessive definition
Comforts uncertainly & unconventionality antithesis Intolerant with ambiguity or contradictions, requires strong definitions in order to withhold substance
Seemingly Crude (Primordial and natural materials) antithesis Ostensibly slick (New artificial manufactured materials)
Earthy, Intimate and warm antithesis Sterile and hygienic
Unpretentious and obscured antithesis Pretentious, ornate, gaudy & flashy
To everything there is a season to change antithesis Strained for everlasting
Favors degradation and attrition (Free to change) antithesis Requires maintenance and excessive attention
Diminish to evolve to nothing (Dissolved) antithesis Requires restoration, fixing and reviving
Revives naturally through change in time antithesis Revamp/replace or change in pace to exhaustive trends
Weathering/contamination generates rich expression antithesis Purity is divine, decay is weak
Imperfect and incomplete antithesis Strains improvement and perfectionism
From zenarchitect.com

Quoting the novelist Natsume Soseki [1867-1916]):
When I was in England, I was once laughed at because I invited someone for snow-viewing. At another time I described how deeply the feelings of Japanese are affected by the moon, and my listeners were only puzzled... I was invited to Scotland to stay at a palatial house. One day, when the master and I took a walk in the garden, I noted that the paths between the rows of trees were all thickly covered with moss. I offered a compliment, saying that these paths had magnificently acquired a look of age. Whereupon my host replied that he soon intended to get a gardener to scrape all this moss away.

Leonard Koren:
Get rid of all that is unnecessary. Wabi-sabi means treading lightly on the planet and knowing how to appreciate whatever is encountered, no matter how trifling, whenever it is encountered. "Material poverty, spiritual richness" are wabi-sabi bywords. In other words, wabi-sabi tells us to stop our preoccupation with success — wealth, status, power and luxury — and enjoy the unencumbered life.

Wabi-sabi is exactly about the delicate balance between the pleasure we get from things and the pleasure we get from freedom from things.

"Greatness" exists in the inconspicuous and overlooked details. Wabi-sabi represents the exact opposite of the Western ideal of great beauty as something monumental, spectacular and enduring. Wabi-sabi is about the minor and the hidden, the tentative and the ephemeral: things so subtle and evanescent they are invisible to vulgar eyes.

Things wabi-sabi are unpretentious, unstudied and inevitable looking. They do not blare out "I am important" or demand to be the centre of attention. They are understated and unassuming, yet not without presence or quiet authority. Things wabi-sabi easily coexist with the rest of their environment.

Things wabi-sabi are appreciated only during direct contact and use; they are never locked away in a museum. Things wabi-sabi have no need for the reassurance of status or the validation of market culture. They have no need for documentation of provenance.

Keep things clean and unencumbered, but don’t sterilize. (Things wabi-sabi are emotionally warm, never cold.)

One of my favorite personal 'wabi sabi mommi' moments:
Living with my child everyday; seeing her wonder, her natural ability to live only in the moment, and her joy, has reinforced my old lessons on Zen and wabi sabi. Each day I am happier as I pare down to that which is essential, and therefore, truly beautiful.

Which moments of your day, and which objects, bring you back to your center?

Interiors/Kids: The Only Thing I Miss About Our Old Place

Our baby girl is six months old now, and I was remembering a year ago: morning sickness starting to subside, and nesting urge quietly building itself into an unstoppable obsession. We were living in a rented two-family historic home, but our landlords were deadbeats who gave us (basically) free reign on painting the nursery. I'm sure they expected something a little different than what we left them when we moved on, but I was a woman obsessed. I wanted a blue sky, I was getting a blue sky.
I tried to let the father-to-be help me paint, but everyday that ticked by was about three days too long for Lady Preggers, so I did it myself. I painted the walls, the ceiling, the clouds, the birds, then I made pillows for the rocking chair and the changing table. I painted the rocker, and the secondhand chest of drawers. I hauled up an abandoned bookshelf from the basement. I found an old mirror at a yard sale, and painted that, too. I ran out of things to paint.
That's when I cleaned!!! and cooked!!! and baked!!!, but, alas, those are stories for another time...
When it came time for us to move, I was glad, and I like our new little house very much, but I was near heart-broken to bid adieu to my much obsessed over nursery.
"Someday," I whispered to our baby girl, "I'll make an even better room for you. I promise."

Changing Table With Swallow and Mirror

View of the crib (and mommy-made high-contrast mobile)

The corner and swallows flying 'in the distance'

Custom pillows and girlie flowers and ribbons, oh my

Another swallow - this time holding cross stitch by grandma
View of changing table
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