Sunday, August 31, 2008

Dessert of the Week Part II

Yes, we were both late with this post... but this recipe is worth waiting for:

I am a girl who loves strong flavors. Some of my favorites are: lemon curd, black licorice/anise, the darkest dark chocolate I can find, caraway seed, lavender, molasses, coffee, ginger, fennel--you get the idea. But waaay up there on the list of best flavors is Earl Grey tea.

I absolutely share Mia's love for all things tea and tea party. For my first "big kid" birthday party (you know, where you actually select the lucky invitees, as opposed to your parents just inviting your entire class) I requested a formal tea--everyone in their best ruffled dresses & a long table with china cups & saucers & trays of ladyfingers & tiny sandwiches. I invited ten proper 2nd grade ladies, & upon greeting each at the door, I was utterly impressed by their choices of couture. One girl came with a full face of makeup and a bulky knit shawl, & I remember feeling just a smidge of disapproval. My my. How Upper East Side of me! But look, people, I was 8 years old & a stickler for details. I would also like to point out that after tea, we all played freezedance to the California Raisins cassette.

Anyway, I was unwise to the bergamot-y, slight orange-y goodness of Earl Grey at that green age. If I were to have a tea party today, I would most certainly serve individual Earl Grey puddings as the perfect dessert. The cool pudding topped with a thin layer of caramel sauce is the perfect way to end afternoon tea service.

All you need for this delicious treat is: water, sugar, confectioner's sugar, eggs, milk and Earl Grey tea leaves. The best recipe I've found is Lynn Chen's at Teality-- find it here.

You can serve this with shortbread (recommended flavors: chocolate or orange--both excellent pairings) OR with petite lemon curd cookies! (see Mia's DOTW post below)


Saturday, August 30, 2008

Dessert of the Week

I was so preoccupied with everything yellow yesterday that I forgot to post the Dessert of the Week!! I know you cried all night.

Sticking with my new color scheme, this week's DOTW is... (insert drum roll here)

Petite Lemon Curd Cookies!

Lemon bars might be my favorite dessert after Profiteroles, which I originally liked only because they sounded all chic and French. (Now, having actually had one,  j'dore them. A lot.) At our school and church bake-sales, Lemon Bars were always the first to go. Luckily, these mini cookies are relatively easy to make AND have the sophistication of those small macaroons I fantasize about giving away at my wedding. (these)

They are a wonderful option for tea parties and brunches. I might just double the batch and package them in beautiful vintage tins as Christmas presents!

You can find the recipe here.

Image: Epicurious

Friday, August 29, 2008

I must have amazing taste!

The folks over at Simply Stated. are into my new color palette too!

Check it out here.
Image: RealSimple

Recent Obsessions

Things I am into lately include: open shelving in the kitchen, black & white Op Art graphics  and the color yellow.  Basically, I'd like to live in a Viennese cafe in the 1920's designed by Josef Hoffmann. How can I make this happen?

Images: (from top) Domino Mag, Hoffmann's Series B Champagne Cup, 1912 via Momist, Domino Mag

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I found something awesome

It is this Chiffonier!!! 

Image: Aria via ATNY

(My Deco) Style

This morning, the good folks over at Apartment Therapy featured a survey from My Deco that identifies your design style. It's a simple enough test--you choose your favorite colors, chairs, chandeliers, etc for different rooms, and answer a few lifestyle questions.

Apparently my style is Pot-Luck Pro--a phrase I already detest. The explanation makes me feel slightly less queasy: 

Your home certainly stands out from your neighbors'! There's nothing average or ordinary about the place, and that's just the way you like it. You have a maverick approach to interior design and decoration, gleaning ideas, inspiration and objects from the unlikeliest of places. Over the years, though, this has synthesized into something unmistakably 'you'. You revel in the juxtaposition of furnishings and objects that have caught your eye. 

Above is the photo that matches my profile. It is labeled 'Urban Modest Bedroom'. I like the wall color.

Find out what your style is by clicking here.

Image: My Deco

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Skip to my loo

While we're on the subject of bathroom decor, I'd like to bring everyone's attention to Mibo Tile Tattoos. The perfect answer to plain or discolored bathroom tiles, Mibo tattoos adhere using only water and don't leave a hard-to-clean residue. My favorite is this 4" light blue and black design. These handy decals aren't just for the bathroom either;they would make a great backsplash in the kitchen. At only $16 for a set of six I'd spring for both!

Check out 2Jane for more details, designs and other great products including paint-by-number wallpaper (!!).

Image: 2Jane

Powder Room Chic

Bathrooms sort of baffle me. They are usually small, require little to no furniture, and because I've never really had a large, luxurious tub, I've never really spent much time in them. The fun pretty much ends after I've chosen colors for a bath mat and shower curtain.  

Last night I saw a movie that might have single-handedly changed my opinions re: bathroom design and decoration. The movie is called Lucky Number Slevin and on the whole, is pretty mediocre, but the set decoration throughout is phenomenal. Every wall, floor and ceiling in practically every scene is boldly patterned and at the risk of ruining an important plot point, pretty distracting. The bathroom in question is only featured for about 40 seconds and the only view we see is through the doorway so I'm not even sure what the rest of it looks like but oh. my. gah. is it wonderful!

I couldn't track down any production stills without Josh Hartnett standing in the way in all his half naked (floral toweled) goodness. But basically, the bathroom is tiled in bright white subway tile about 3/4 of the way up the wall and then finished off with this incredibly cool moroccan print wallpaper that is pink and turquoise on a white background. So simple and yet really  stylish. Even though I couldn't see the rest of the room, I have a feeling the shower curtain was probably plain white or clear and the bath mat was probably a lighter sky blue.

C'est Magnifique!

Ps. While trying to track down similar wallpapers, I came across this one from Walnut Wallpaper. It's called Luxury and has diamonds! The whole thing has a rather 70's feel to me but I'm diggin' it! 

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Party Planning: Tea Party

I spend a lot of time planning parties. Sometimes it's for other people but mostly it's for myself and my friends. I've been known to throw fancy brunches, dressy cocktail parties, cookie-decorating, gift-swapping, and dessert oriented soirees, but my favorite by far is the old fashioned tea party. There's something so delightful about sitting down to a proper tea, complete with tea sandwiches, scones and little cakes or petit fours.

Of course, it all depends on how well you prepare. To start, you need the perfect invitation. I prefer smaller tea parties, no more than 6 people, including myself. These invitations by Gina B. are perfect for a refined afternoon tea. A delicate but modern floral against a bright background sets the tone for the event and the card leaves enough room to hand-write the invite.
Once your invites are out, you can turn your attention to the table. Tablecloths are traditional but I like to go a bit more modern with just a table runner. This works especially well if you have a nice wood table. When it comes to napkins, stay elegant and traditional with cloth napkins if possible. I like this table runner from Pier 1 and these cloth napkins from Pottery Barn. 

Flowers are essential for a tea party. And any party for that matter. Make things easy for yourself with a simple arrangement with only one type of flower. If you have a longer table, divide the flowers up into 3-5 smaller arrangements running the length of the table. Stick to flowers in season to avoid spending too much money:

Spring-- Lilacs, Peonies, Sweet Peas
Summer-- Hydrangea, Delphinium, Dahlias
Fall--Chrysanthemum, Zinnias, Asters, Marigolds
Winter--Camellias, Amaryllis, Forget-me-nots
When in doubt, always go with roses- they are always in season and easy to find at your corner deli. 
Of course, the most important thing to consider is the teapot and teacups themselves. I like this one from Teavana. On a recent jaunt through Anthropologie, I spotted these tea cups. I love the idea of using them as both a place card and a party favor for guests.

On to other table necessities. Tea! Good tea is v. important. I'm a huge Teavana fan, thanks to Hanna, but obviously tea can come from anywhere. I love the loose tea tins at Pearl River Mart here in NYC. They're cheap, they're pretty and they come in a variety of flavors. Even if they aren't featured at your party, they would make a great addition to the table decor. Also necessary are beautiful cake stands and platters. I found this vintage hobnailed cake stand on ebay, and these wonderful platters at Essentials, a fabulous store in Northampton, MA. 

Check out Epicurious for yummy recipes like these Whole Grain Cranberry-Apple Scones or these Radish-Chive Tea Sandwiches with Sesame and Ginger and don't forget the classic Cucumber Watercress Sandwiches!

Now all you have to do is figure out who to invite!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Those old golden rule days...

Well, it's almost time for Fall. You know what that means: pumpkins, apple cider, crisp mornings and weeks of people-watching as everyone debuts their carefully chosen fall wardrobes even though it is technically still too hot for corduroy and boots. 

Suddenly everyone I know is either going back to school or teaching this year so I've had school supplies on the brain. Besides my obvious love of all things Lisa Frank, I also have a serious notebook fetish and enjoy accessorizing in general. School supply shopping is simply heaven for me. Assembling the right school supply collection requires work--not only must one keep in mind which specific supplies one will need but one must also consider color, texture and the overall theme of the set. A well-curated selection of notebooks, pens, etc. can mean the difference between eating your lunch in a bathroom stall and reigning supreme over the entire cafeteria. (Trust me. I know this.)

At my Connecticut High School, LL Bean backpacks were essential. Extra large with initials embroidered on the back, which color and style you chose said everything about you. These bags were purchased in 7th or 8th grade and carried all the way though the four years of hell and sometimes even while moving into your freshmen year dorm. I arrived on the scene a bit late for this trend. A midwest transplant in 8th grade, I was a fan of the plain black backpack you could find at, say, Target. And when I was a sophomore I embraced (gasp!) the messenger bag.  Today, my little sister carries her books in either a Vera Bradley messenger bag or a plastic tote from H & M but reports that the LL Bean backpack still rules the halls. So the question is, as adults, what are our options for today? How do we find the right balance between function and fashion???

 I have long since abandoned the messenger bag because it makes me walk crooked and I despise all backpacks in general. I am thinking a cute tote might be appropriate for the upcoming school year. I adore this one by a designer under the label Morelle from Amsterdam. The color is fabulous for Fall and the style is feminine without being frilly. This particular bag is Sold Out but more will be available in her Fall/Winter '08 collection after August 31st. 

Now if I can only get into grad school....

Friday, August 22, 2008

Hot & Cranky Child in the City

It's Friday, which normally means FUNNNNN! (Okay, actually, it normally means an hour on the couch being soothed by my therapist--hey, I'm a New Yorker born and raised--a light dinner, a long walk and then a whiskey before bed so that I can be properly geared up for Saturday and Sunday fun!) But today is different. It's about 85 degrees of pure humidity here in Chicago, and I'm slated to work not only tonight, but all day tomorrow as well. This is the time of year when 9 to 5 turns into 7:30 to whenever I fall on my face from exhaustion the next day.

So today, in terms of design, I'm thinking rest. Just looking at some of these goodies makes me curse my office & its fluorscent lights accentuating my dark-circled, lackluster complexion. Sigh.

But these pillows!

They're from Bonjour Mon Coussin, which, hands down, showcases the BEST PILLOWS I HAVE EVER SEEN. They cost a bunch of Euros, but, whatevs! Ooh la la!
Thinking about pillows of course has me thinking about beds. Right now I sleep on queen futon with a super comfy spring mattress. It's not the prettiest form of bedding, but it has a black iron frame and is covered with blankets and pillows in varying shades of pink. Since I live in such a small studio, the bed really is the focal point. Which for me, is appropriate. I mean, hey, I'm the girl who had a pink neon sign that read "Trust Me" above her headboard while in college. True story.

Sly perviness aside (sorta), I do like a bed that makes a statement. I cannot stand Laura Ashley-type numbers done up with stiff floral duvets and brass frames. I want something inviting but modern--good, cozy fun.

This Tolga bed, from IKEA, is controversial among consumers (and, really, is that a mattress or a napkin? Gahd.) but I admit that I think the design is fun and inspires other sculptural possibilities for me, like mobiles and lamps.

And then there's the Muir Bed, from Amenity Home. It's hard to picture winter right now, but this seems like the perfect bed to nurse one through a cold, or to spend a Sunday watching movies (Woody Allen marathon??) in.

Not to mention the fact that this lovely sleep station looks like it can handle a lot more in the way of, shall we say, indoor sports...

Maybe I should have named this post "Hot & Bothered Child in the City"...

Oh. My. Gah.

Every two years, landscape architect E. Stautemans designs and builds one of the most beautiful large-scale public art pieces I have ever seen-- a flower carpet lining the square in front of the Grand-Place in Brussels. 

Using over 700,000 begonias, the newest carpet--his 14th!--was on view from the 15th-17th of August. 

You can watch a video on the making of the piece here.

It's a Bird! It's a Plane!

It's a Mini Bar! It's a Side Table!

Browsing the Moma website this morning, I was excited to find this minimalist oak Mini Bar. Y'all know my taste is a little over the top at times and when it comes to Mini Bars, I am all about the glitz and the glamour, but this one is subtle and sophisticated and I am into it! It could double as a console table during the day and then a bar for cocktail hour in the evenings. And it would make me feel less obnoxious when my parents come to call. A very space efficient alternative to a traditional bar-cart!  Two thumbs up!

Image: Moma 

Dessert of the Week

Rhubarb + Raspberries = Crazy Delicious!

This week I've had pie on the mind. Easy to make and oh so tasty, berry pies are especially wonderful for summer. I'm a sucker for rhubarb pies because I only really have them once or twice a year and this Rhubarb Raspberry Pie from Gourmet looks ridiculously amazing. It serves eight, so it's a perfect end for a summer dinner party on my terrace coupled with vanilla ice cream and too much wine.

You can find the recipe here.

Second runner up: Sadie's Mixed-Berry Pie!  
(Note: She chose to make this after she moved out of our apartment. Biotch.)

(But it does look heavenly!)

Images: Epicurious, Sadie.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

So. Many. Options.

In case you haven't noticed, I'm a little preoccupied with wall art. I can't explain it.  Well, I could try, but that would be boring and inevitably involve some long story about my childhood and how my very first bedroom was painted Peptol Bismol Pink. (Seriously. That was the name of the paint color.) Instead I will spare you my nostalgia and cut straight to the chase. Here are some of my recent obsessions:

It's drawings of furniture! As wallpaper! Neutral but a total statement piece.

Oh my gosh. Jen Corace. The Rhode Island artist makes my heart skip a beat. I love pretty much everything she makes. 

Blik Wall Decals have moved past simple polka dots and birds on branches. They've recently teamed up with Threadless to transfer some of the company's t-shirt designs into wall art. This parasol themed decal is really sweet and would look great on a long wall in the dining room.

Horses Horses Horses!!! I heart this wallpaper so hard!

Mea Culpa

I constantly underrate Pier 1 Imports. I think of it as the store my mom runs to when she has a last minute gift to buy and has to settle for either a citrus candle set or a basket full of plastic jewel-toned wine glasses and a carafe for 'Margarita Night!'. 

Today I've decided to amend my previous skepticism and go so far as to say that I will keep the joint in mind whenever I need some fun and inexpensive accessories. Here are a few of my favorite items sold at astonishingly low prices.

The Hostess with the Mostest

One of my ongoing fantasies about my impending 'adult life' is that I have room for house guests and entertain them regularly. Of course, my fantasy also involves living on a large country estate and the house guests come with their own personal valets. We engage in a nightly cocktail hour followed by a formal dinner and retire each night to the drawing room where we will stage our own plays and have sing-alongs around the baby grand.... I could go on and on and on.

Alas, my life is not Masterpiece Theatre and so my hostess aspirations must be edited and restrained. Until I have my country estate, I shall plan for a small, probably closet-sized, guest bedroom wherein I will attend to my guests with style. 

A proper guest room needs some thought. One must straddle the line between pampering and accommodating guests. They should feel comfortable and at home, yet provided with small luxuries that make them eager to return. Here is a short list of must-haves:

1) Comfortable bedding-  No one wants to sleep on scratchy sheets. A basic cotton in a neutral shade and a medium to high thread-count will suffice. Avoid flannel in summer months and satin pretty much all the time.  Too slippery.
2) A good reading lamp- Overhead lights may be too harsh. A nice lamp on the bedside table will create warmth.
3) Books for late-night reading- Steer clear of anything too serious or long. Classic mysteries or random novelty books are always entertaining.
4) Extra blankets and throws-No matter what time of year, it's nice to have the option of customizing the weight and type of blankets you are sleeping under.
5) Fancy toiletries-Your guest will feel pampered if you provide the luxury of fancy handsoap, lotion and shampoos. This doesn't have to be expensive, an inexpensive product in nice packaging goes a long way! No room in your budget? Ask for samples at Sephora and save all your mini shampoos from hotels and spas.

Last but certainly not least, accessorize the bedside table with an alarm clock and fresh flowers, but stay away from flowers that are pollinated or particularly pungent-  Peonies, Calla Lilies, and Roses are always safe bets. 

Images: Carafe- Classic Hostess, Coverlet- Dwell, Lamp- Restoration Hardware, Bath Set- Laura Mercier, Book- Chronicle Books