Friday, April 30, 2010

Honor thy cake

As you know, I am in love with antique pieces, especially serving items. Lately I've been hunting for a cake stand and while I have a dream of the perfect colorful pedestal complete with glorious dome, I'm not ready (slash, attempting to save money) to spend close to $100 for my cake display. The other day I was perusing through Crate & Barrel's inventory, making my dream registry, when I came across the wonderfully vintage cake stand (first image below) called the Sunshine Pedestal. The yellow color is instantly uplifting and the frilled edges make it seem more antique chic than standard Crate & Barrel white. I'm waiting for the price to drop a little more, but I may have to go for it and just click order (I guess store bought cake mix will just have to taste as good as the gourmet bakery varieties). While I stalk the price, here are a few more options from the home decor superstore.



Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cilantro lime fish tacos

Last night I had an incredible urge to make something that reminded me of my California home and what better way to honor the cuisine than to make fish tacos? The fish was incredibly flakey and the sauce I used on top gave the perfect lime...tang. Best of all, it was finished in about 15 minutes, no joke.




For the sauce:
Pulse a small container or one handful of cilantro leaves in a food processor.
Add the juice of 2-3 limes, 1/4 cup buttermilk, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and a small dash of honey to cut the sour flavor a bit. Blend until well combined.

For the fish:
Cut one large cod fillet into several 4"x 1" pieces and season both sides lightly with salt, paprika, chili powder, and a dash of garlic salt. Saute on medium heat for a few minutes on each side. (The fish is very delicate, so it will probably fall apart a bit. If it is too hard to handle, reduce the cooking time, it doesn't need to be in the pan long)

To assemble:
Heat up two corn tortillas in a lightly greased skillet, then transfer to plate. Place 2-3 fish pieces and spoon lime sauce over the fillets. Top with shredded cabbage.

This was the perfect way to bring me back home for a bit...and an even better way to start planning for a few Cinco de Mayo treats.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Under the stems

One of my favorite ways to treat myself is to buy fresh flowers on the weekend. I love walking through a farmer's market (or even the entrance of Trader Joe's) gazing at the rows of buckets filled with different blooms, colors, and heights. Choosing the flowers is the first fun step, but arranging them opens up a world of possibilities. Since I've tapped into my home decorating side, I often find myself flipping through design magazines rather than fashion glossies and one particular Martha Stewart Living reading session taught me how to create flower arrangements that actually fill a vase with a professional touch. The secret is under the flowers, where no one knows the secret of stability...a tape grid. So simple, I know, but after testing it a few times, I've found my weekend flower purchases to occur more often and with more variety. I like to stick with a small color scheme, 1-2 colors, but the key is using a short vase with stems clipped no longer than 6" or 7" and most of the leaves removed. Before you start adding the flowers, fill the vase with room temperature water and add a small spoonful of sugar, it keeps the flowers alive longer.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Art in the little places


The bulletin board above my old work desk was home to many images of inspiration, magazine clippings, exhibition openings, and dream decors. floating among the visuals was a piece by creative artist, Anne Harwell. Her colorful quotes and delicate watercolors have popped everywhere from Daily Candy to, more recently, the movie set of "It's Complicated". Anne describes herself as an artist who searches for the humor in her work, which I believe makes her paintings accessible and a great way to add style to any location, from the smallest coffee table frame (like this), to the largest of living room walls (like here). I stumbled upon Anne's Etsy shop where I instantly fell in love with her Louis chair cards (I have been dreaming about these pieces of furniture for a long time now). Along with her furniture pieces, there are prints of flowers, china, even small pink cars, and while I'll continue to search for the real pieces she sources from to fill my home, Anne's prints may just work as the perfect inspiration.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Where I lay my head

I've always had a dream of owning the "hotel bed". Those big fluffy white clouds, ten pillows, and a swathing of sheets and comforters that keeps you warm, yet magically cool at the same time. The only problem...there's a reason those beds are reserved for luxury hotels ($$$$). While I may have to add to my dream linens in small, more economically wise increments, I did decide to take a little trip down thread count lane today with Paul. So where do the number of threads begin to separate the twine sheets from the good sheets? Unfortunately, linen quality is only one of the four things to take into account when choosing sheets, like diamonds...only sewn into threads.



(Source: Frette)

A few helpful tips...

1. Fabric: 100% cotton is the norm, but bamboo is another surprisingly soft choice. The cotton is measured by staple length, Egyptian cotton having the longest staple.
2. Yarn size: the higher the yarn size/ finer the yarn, the softer the sheet.
3. Finish: Singeing burns all of those little pills off of the fabric and mercerizing increases strength and gets it ready to be dyed. Make sure your sheets have been through both of these processes.
4. Thread count: This counts the number of threads per square inch of fabric, so generally, the higher the thread count, the softer the sheet, but "single ply" will give you the best softness because it counts one thread woven horizontally and one thread woven vertically. When you get into 2ply, 3ply, and more, the thread count is actually less because it takes into account 2 threads woven as one (i.e. a 2ply 600 thread count sheet is really 300 thread count.)
(Source: Linenplace)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Dessert plates


After hijacking my mom's pink depression glass plates, I've become obsessed with the translucent sets. The thin glass always reminds me of dissolving hard candies and each color has it's own level of difficulty to find...ruby being one of the hardest. While adding to my illustration portfolio, I began to make my own collection of glass...albeit fake...plates. Check back soon, I'm in the process of setting up an Etsy shop, where you'll be able to buy this print as well as some other little treats!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Your personal florist


As seen in the number of times I have mentioned flowers on this blog, bright and fresh blooms are one of my favorite things. Since I've never really loved the floral shop's traditional arrangements (a few flowers, a green leaf, probably a sprig of baby's breath), I've always resorted to creating my own bouquets...that is until I stumbled upon Pot & Box. I'm not ready to give up moonlighting as a florist, but this cute studio has a great approach to gardening that gives customers a little taste of DIY landscaping. One of Pot & Box's services even puts you in the garden, planting your own seeds along with helpful guidance from the professionals. If gardening is one more step than you'd like to take, the floral studio offers custom arrangements that are not only gorgeous (planted in watering cans and teacups!), but ethically sourced as well. Can't wait to pick up some of owner Lisa's great flowers!

Couscous with roasted vegetables

It's believed that the pallet changes every seven years and for a girl who believed that plain was always better, my taste-bud transformation was an eye opening experience. I used to stare at the oblong shape of squash, poke the squishy skin of a tomato, then happily turn back to my bowl of plain buttered noodles, but now my cooking experiences are far more fun.





Roasting vegetables is one of the easiest ways to add flavor to a root vegetable as well as other somewhat bland veggie options. To start, preheat oven to 400 ℉, then add to a glass baking dish two roughly chopped medium yellow squash, 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, and 15-20 small frozen asparagus spears (broken into thirds). Toss with a few tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper, and a pinch of dried rosemary. Roast for 30 minutes or until tomatoes begin to pop and squash is slightly soft. In the meantime, prepare one cup couscous according to package. To plate, scoop couscous into deep bowl (small deep bowls somehow feel cozier to me), then top with roasted vegetables. Serves two with a little taster left over for lunch the next day.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wear your heart on your...neck


Well, time can fly by fast and as seen in my lack of posts this past week...time doesn't want to slow down. While I will always consider myself a California girl at heart, a little bit of wanderlust has set in and I've found myself in Michigan, inhabiting the quaint yet forward thinking town of Ann Arbor. Because straddling two states makes me feel a little like a jetsetter, I've found a way to show my new found title and keep the coastal feeling of California close to my heart. Jewelry designer, Maya Brenner, has received countless followers with her simple yet classic pieces, but two necklaces popped out to me...hint hint, the selection is pretty obvious. The simple gold lines keep the jewels understated and the charm-like quality allows travelers to add to their chains the states that they call home.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Big shoes to fill

After seeing the amazing Spring 2010 Miu Miu collection pop up in stores, magazines, and online, I became obsessed with the school girl style prints and humorous detailing, but the shoes (high, big heels, and graphic shapes) pushed me over the lustworthy edge. I remember when I was younger and my little dress shoes were all mary-janes, you know, the ones you wore to church that were probably white patent leather. Well, these mary-janes grew up, got some high fashion styling, and are ready to incorporate themselves into a more mature closet. Since the thicker heel is instantly immature (in a good way), I put together some outfits that are perfect for Spring to Summer workdays that will ensure all coworkers you are still able to join in on those after work drinks. Stick with light fabrics that aren't fitted. A heavier shoe tends to accentuate your legs, so keep everything light up top.

...and since these shoes will probably never find their way into many closets, to re-create the look, search for thicker stacked heels, like these from Delman, but make sure the height stays pretty high (big heels on low shoes can look awkward).



(Outfits left to right) Elizabeth & James top, Forever 21 shorts, Miu Miu heels, Topshop top, Moschino pants, Miu Miu heels, DKNY top, Acne shorts, Miu Miu heels.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

...and to my estate

As you know, I love looking around vintage and antique stores to find unique items, but another great resource is the estate sale. Not only is the entire house open for hunting, but the items are usually priced fairly and often valuable as well. Over the weekend, I stumbled upon a small house that was tucked at the end of a street. The driveway seemed fairly cluttered with remnants from years of garage storage, but I wasn't giving up that easily (often the best finds come from the most unlikely places). Inside wasn't too promising either, but on a side table packed away in a tan sack was a medium sized, ornamented silver serving tray. A few posts ago, I talked about my love for silver, so I was pretty excited to add this piece to my entertaining collection. Even on the way out the treasure hunting continued. Paul started digging through a box of old books, choosing an old engineering publication while I opted for a more feminine read. The old covers and yellowed pages look great on bookshelves and even work as mini pedestals on coffee and dinner tables.




Also, thanks to my mom for hunting down these vibrant German cake plates on her own estate sale hunt (pretty obvious where I got the antique appreciation from). There are thirteen plates, each one glazed in a bright yellow, green, blue, pink, or cream color and rimed with gold. Rather than spending $$$ (lots) on a dessert china set, these plates can add a bit of conversation to a party for not a lot of money. Looks like a dessert party may be in the works.



Driving around a sunny weekend day is the best way to scout out sales, but if you need a little help finding private homes, look in the paper or try this great search engine at EstateSales.net.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Seeing spots


When looking for a pair of tights, I've always seemed to stick with the opaque versions rather than going for the more traditional hose. I guess the sheer black or nude never found a way into my outfits, but after seeing decorated versions of the nylon classic pop up in magazines, on runways, and on fellow bloggers posts, I decided to test out a black dotted version. This weekend was a whirlwind of events, but one of the more memorable ones was the engagement photos I got to take with my fiance (pics to come). Since the weather was slightly chilly, I wanted to cover my legs a bit, but solid black seemed too heavy for the daytime shoot. Mixed with a grey chiffon dress and distressed leather heels, the dot nylons were a perfect way to add a bit of warmth, while keeping the outfit interesting. I found these at Target for only $7, but of course there are a range of prices and opacity to choose from...although I tend to snag my tights a bit too often and with a trendier item like this, the cheaper versions are pretty comparable to the more luxurious versions.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Wild blooms


I'm really trying not to dedicate this post to the fact that the weather has been beautiful these past few days and I have spent much of the glorious day outside basking in the sun...but let's just acknowledge that it is gorgeous right now! One of the best things about the turning season is the blooming trees and flowers that are beginning to scatter the hills of Los Angeles...my favorite part of Spring, wildflowers! They're vibrant, unexpected, completely free, and a handful of the mystery seeds produces fields of delicate petals. I love how the hills behind my apartment are suddenly yellow with hints of purple mixed among the brush. Even the little cracks in the sidewalk become home to orange blooms and golden trumpet flowers this time of year. On a recent trip to Target, I came across a bin full of wildflower seeds packed away in miniature burlap sacks. The addition of a medium sized votive holder made these two "dollar rack" purchases a perfect way to bring Spring's wild blooms into my house...or a perfect gift for a low maintenance gardener.



Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Sunbathing


The gorgeous day and warm weather already has me lusting for an afternoon on the beach, but in previous years, the pursuit of a golden tan was the one and only goal of the Summer season (a.k.a. no tan lines, maximum skin). This year, I'm beginning to think that a new approach to swimwear is needed. Picture a yacht, lounging on the deck, perhaps a bubbly drink in hand...ok maybe that image will be permanently out of reach, but the wardrobe doesn't have to be. Those bathing beauties always have some fabulous swim piece on and instead of calling it a "one-piece" the luxurious synonym used is "maillot". This season, Anthropologie is offering a collection of maillots that rivals any designer's bikini selection. So, while I may not be able to jet off to my private resort on the sea, I'll have a swimsuit that rivals even the most seasoned sailor.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Fleur champagne


No matter how old I get, dinner with my dad will always be one of those events that makes me feel like a little girl being pampered. Whether it's an "only child" syndrome or the "I'll never grow up" mentality, father daughter dates always have a bit of whimsy. Last night's dinner at the Paris via Los Angeles bistro, known as Bouchon, was the perfect way to escape the American life and visit Europe for an evening. Of course the food was great (courtesy of the accomplished chef), and the atmosphere was straight from some of France's famous brasseries, but the happy hour cocktail put the icing on the Parisian fantasy cake. Scribbled on the chalkboard menu of the lower level bar, "The Fleur" is a dried hibiscus flower dipped in syrup and topped with champagne (there's really no way to go wrong with that combo) and the deep pink hue makes any cocktail hour feel a little less ordinary.

To make to sipper, you'll need dried hibiscus flowers packed in syrup. Specialty food stores will carry this, but search online and you'll find a long list of suppliers, like Amazon. Begin with a champagne flute, add one flower per glass, about a tablespoon of the syrup (add to taste), then top with a champagne or sparkling wine of your choice. Sweet yet crisp and bubbly, this drink is the perfect blend of girlish fun a grown up dining.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Meyer lemon crepe cake


While grocery shopping a few weeks ago I compulsively bought the Martha Stewart Living Easter magazine. As expected, it was filled with design and cooking perfection that is nearly impossible to recreate in the real world...case in point, the directions to build your own plant press...but instead of tossing the mag onto my growing pile of glossies, I decided to conquer the perfect Easter treat, a Meyer Lemon Crepe Cake. With 15 layers of homemade crepes sandwiched between fluffy layers of lemon curd mousse (oh, you make the lemon curd too, no shortcuts here), I thought this would be a great way to use up those meyer lemons I bought on a whim. Meyer lemons are juicier and a bit sweeter than normal lemons, making them perfect for sweeter confections. Although this dessert takes a bit of planning, the outcome is amazing. The mousse makes the cake super light and the creaminess of the whipped cream keeps the taste slightly sweet and not overloaded with sugar.




A few tips for success:
1. Don't strain all of the butter bits out of the crepe batter. When it hits the hot pan, the little drops of butter will provide enough grease to keep your crepe from sticking. No need to keep re-buttering your pan.
2. Don't worry about straining the curd either. The egg whites will froth a lot in the saucepan, making an opaque mousse that would take hours to pass through a sieve.
3. When whipping the heavy cream for the filling and topping, add a half a tablespoon of sugar to sweeten it up a bit.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Trompe l'oeil placemats

I love buying things to decorate my kitchen and dining room table, but I've never seemed to acquire any placemats during all of my homegood shopping. I guess I either haven't looked hard enough or I can't find a pattern that seems fitting. Tonight I'm having a little dinner party and while placing my plates, I noticed that my table looked bare...unfinished. One of the perks of going to art school is that you end up with pads and pads of newsprint and bond paper, so I dug through my slightly dusty pile in the corner, ripped out some place setting sized sheets, grabbed a pen, and began to draw. Since I don't have the complete formal setting needed for a true classic dinner party, I felt an outline of the correct placement would suffice. Maybe it says "one day this place will be filled with gorgeous silver utensils, but for now you'll have to deal with Target's finest", but I think the stark mats mixed with the traditional floral pattern of the plates provides just enough humor.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

A little tug


One of my favorite things to do while I'm window shopping is to browse the home sections of Anthropologie...torturous task, but full of great ideas...I always find my self spinning the little racks of knobs and searching through their huge selection of colored, vintage pulls. On one of my trips to this lifestyle heaven of a store, I picked out four great yellow flower knobs to add a playful touch to my shoe closet. After replacing the boring factory set, and smiling at my bright floral addition, I started to notice other knobs in my home and how vintage touches can really change the overall feel of a piece of furniture or even a bathroom door. I'm on the hunt for a great glass knob and recently came across Historic House Parts, a website dedicated to vintage hardware salvaged from old buildings. As if window shopping wasn't enough, I can now spend hours online searching their vast inventory of desirable items.

Tip: Instead of matching every knob on a well drawer-ed piece of furniture, try an ornate pair on one part and a solid color or simple shape in a contrasting color or similar hue on the other areas.