Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Weekend excursions

Only a train ride away from me lays the exciting city of Chicago and for a late Summer getaway, Paul and I grabbed an early ride into the windy town for a little dining, sightseeing, and shopping fun. From the classic hotel to the street-side discoveries, the excursion was a welcome relaxation.

Because we were there for a few important events, most of our days were filled, which meant our meals (and most of the food based outings) were moments for exploration. A loaf of chewy country bread from Hendrickx Belgian Bakery complimented our pre-drink noshing, while a quick lunch at the Goddess and the Grocer left us full from paella, quiche, and other freshly made treats. Before catching the train home, we treated ourselves to a little gastropub dining at Gage, a green tiled brown leather interior created by the Gage Group that appears very similar to the 213 bar family of Los Angeles. Not to mention, it's gourgeous interiored French neighbor, Henri, looks to be a perfect dining spot complete with white tile floors, crocodile wallpapered powder rooms, and teal suede chairs.

And of course, when passing by Sprinkles cupcakes and noticing that there was no line, I had to take advantage of that foreign sight and buy some. I tried the Key Lime version that was wholeheartedly enjoyed on the trip back home.

P.S. hope everyone enjoys the larger images. Thanks to Paul for a little computer 101

Friday, August 27, 2010

Old timey finds

I'm starting to go a little crazy collecting trinkets from antique stores and garage sales, but honestly it's hard to say no when the little yellow sticker says "10 cents"...p.s. does anyone know where the cents key is on the keyboard? Well as I was saying, the collection is growing and last night I found myself slumped over a sink of warm water and bleach, bubbles up to my elbows (gloves on of course) scrubbing away at small glass medicine bottles snatched from a barn sale a few months ago. They're the perfect size for small flowers and a row of different shapes along a windowsill or table looks rather un-cluttered and styled. Plus after turning to the vintage glass bottle article found in Martha Stewart Living, I knew my cheap find had the design stamp of approval.

I'm planning on hunting for more sales to add to my bottle collection, especially for a few of the rose, green, and lavender colored ones.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

At the office

I have a pretty big love for men's suits. The fabric, cut, and the way they are worn can look so good together that I'm often left a little jealous of their polished looks. Rather than letting the guys have all the fun, I like to mix in a few masculine pieces to otherwise feminine outfits. To add to my favorite skinny jeans, silk top combo, I added a vintage men's suit vest to pull everything together. While it's not a full fledged three piece affair, the small touch was just enough to cure any jealousy issues. Enjoy your own little androgynous day with a few styles from Rag & Bone, Acne, and a crisp white version from 3.1 Phillip Lim (all of which are incredible marked down from their less than impulse buy cost).

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Watermelon and jicama salad

After a long weekend of enjoying a few too many dinners out and an otherwise un-routine diet plan, I like to start the week with something a little fresh and light. A summery citrus salad sounded like the perfect way to freshen up a dinner and enjoy a few seasonal staples, so pulling inspiration from a few other menus, I crafted a watermelon and jicama salad with feta and mint. The hunt for jicama turned into a few puzzled moments that left Paul and I staring blankly at the produce section for a coconut like brown ball, but eventually the white crunchy....er, fruit?...was bought.

Watermelon and jicama salad: Serves 4
1 personal size watermelon
1 small jicama bulb
5 mint leaves julienned
juice of 1 lime
1/2 container feta cheese
olive oil
salt and pepper

Cut the watermelon and jicama into small bite-sized pieces and place in bowl. Pour fresh lime juice over, then add feta cheese, mint, olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste.

*For a little extra flavor, try adding a few pieces of prosciutto.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fresh white flowers

When it comes time to arrange flowers I have to stop myself from going crazy at the florist or grocery store. I'll start reaching for stems and before I know it my little touch of color for the house has turned into a $60 vibrant garden bouquet...that I reluctantly return to its various buckets. So, when my bouquet designs start to get a little over the top, I go back to a clean simple approach, an all white arrangement. Whether it's a small vessel with a few sweetheart roses, a tall bottle filled only with baby's breath, or a medium vase blooming with big hydrangea puffs, the crisp color is always a striking option.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Closet cleanout

Vintage dress and belt, Cynthia Vincent for Target wedges

I go through cleaning spurts where I'll pull everything from my closets and drawers, toss unwanted clothing into a donation pile, then enjoy a mini victory as I discover that long lost top or dress I never knew I had. I'd like to think I can be ruthless enough to toss out unworn items, but there are those few things I can just never let go of. This weekend, I dusted of one of those dresses and gave it a little time outside of the closet. The cut has always been a little hard to work with, but something about the pattern made me hold onto it for years.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Desert closet

1. Traveler Hat, Akubra
2. Pendleton Coat, Opening Ceremony
3. Surface to Air boots, Asos
4. Santa Fe Vacay Dress, ModCloth
5. Goa Saddlebag, Banana Republic

I think everyone has a place that they are drawn to for its style, inspiration, lifestyle, what have you. It's normally a little unknown, but the pull is undeniable. While I've lusted for romantic places like Paris and Italy, something about the Southwest has always intrigued me. Mile long sunsets, dry heat, south of the border influence, and natural architecture always keep me inspired and dreaming of an alternate lifestyle that's a little slower in the wide open desert, with a wardrobe to match.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Toasted hazelnut and white chocolate cookies

Sometimes baking cookies from scratch sounds like one of the most delectable tasks and since I rarely cook from scratch, I figured I'd go all out. While the Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe will remain a mainstay, a little bit of gourmet, at times, sounds more enticing. After purchasing a bag of Ghiradelli white chocolate chips and some fresh whole hazelnuts, I entered the kitchen prepared to make a bakery worthy treat. Using this basic cookie recipe, I substituted the familiar milk chocolate chips with the white chocolate version and some rough chopped fresh hazelnuts. 15 minutes later...and a few sheets in the oven... my kitchen table was stacked with a crunchy fresh baked treat.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Look for less: Bistro sets

After seeing outdoor seating pop up on almost every corner in town, I noticed that the furniture of choice was this French made set by none other than Bistro, the company that crafts their quality furniture from the original 1889 European style. Available in colors that fit perfectly with the summery feeling, these sets are adorable ways to feel a little Parisian as you sip some coffee on the balcony. The only problem, quality and history come with a price, around $430 to be exact. Not quite my idea of a simple seasonal set to spruce up your outdoor area, but before I stashed away my al fresco dining dreams, this Target version came my way, looking surprisingly similar. After a few days spent in transit, I'll be able to make my outside meals a little more enjoyable and a lot more affordable.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Small bites

I've never really liked appetizers before a meal because I'm usually looking forward to the main event, but munching on a rustic cheese and meat plate is always a fun little luxury. A slab of wood, thoughtfully scattered fruit, meats, and cheeses, and a stack of crusty bread or crackers is all it takes to make a board that looks restaurant worthy. I like to use thick unpolished cutting boards for my display, then focus on one selection from each group mentioned above (think lunchables minus the Capri Sun for the mature set).

Cut large pieces into snack worthy sizes and arrange each element loosely on the board, so munchers can easily pick up one small piece at a time to arrange on their bites.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Typing letters

As Paul and I sit back to back at our desks playing with our respective powerless word processors, I think to myself "offices must have been so loud before computers". The pounding of the keys is really the only way to effectively write on a typewriter, but I will gladly pound away because this weekend's purchase of a portable Webster Typewriter was one of the best finds in a while ($1 peacoat is still number one). Every scrap of paper has been thrown into the spool, only to emerge imprinted with some random smattering of letters, but in an attempt to use my vintage treat a little more effectively, I pulled a little organizational tip from my last office with a twist. White tags, Ikea wicker baskets, and a few silk ribbons and my storage shelf is now stylishly put together.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Torn tomato and basil pasta

Have you ever noticed how movies like to play up the sensual act of cooking, tearing shreds of tomato with bare hands, tasting big spoon fulls of something gourmet while "accidentally" swiping a little on the corner of the mouth? Well in the real world, when you tear tomatoes, seeds shoot out behind you on the fridge while simultaneously spraying the electrical socket with red juice. And the meticulously placed dollop on your lip is also on your arms, cheek, and most likely the camera lens that just had to get an action shot. It's not silver screen worthy, but the devouring of this torn tomato and basil pasta (from this month's Martha Stewart Living, with a few tweaks) proves that the path to the plate is open to interpretation.

Torn tomato and basil pasta: (Serves 3)
3 Roma tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
3 thinly sliced garlic gloves
1 medium sized fresh mozzarella ball
1 package short tube style pasta (I used strozzapretti)
Handful small basil leaves

1. Boil pasta in water with salt and a bit of olive oil
2. In a large bowl combine garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper
3. Mix in pasta to combine
4. Tear in 3 tomatoes and mozzarella into rough pieces and mix to combine
5. Scatter small basil leaves (tear larger ones) and mix together gently

Monday, August 9, 2010

Thrifted designer looks

This weekend was one of those magical few days that resulted in exceptional vintage finds. An adorable light blue typewriter, billowing sheer white dress, a few touches for the home, and these slightly out of character leather pants. I've never owned real leather pants and it's not because I have an aversion to them, it's simply because a good lined pair can cost well into the thousands (and I have a lot of wishes on my shopping list that come before spending that much on a non-daily item). When the price tag read $14 for these oh-so-eighties pants, I pulled out my wallet and didn't look back. They hit the perfect spot on the waist and the moment I tucked in a more feminine silk blouse, the images of classic black and white Yves Saint Laurent popped into my head. Last Fall, the house known for iconic creations produced an all leather collection, and standing before me in the mirror was the budget version that I'm proud to say was pretty spot on.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Nine to five at home

I think college life has permanently ingrained in my head the idea that I need a desk in my room. I'm no longer typing papers and stacks of folders and scuffed text books don't line the bookshelves, but when I need to work, I need my little nook. It took some time, but I've finally created my own homemade cubicle, complete with inspiration boards, jars of paint brushes and pens, and all the space needed to create freely.

Use vintage tins and unique jars to hold things you reach for everyday. It will keep your desk looking polished.

Mix your tools with small trinkets to keep everything looking interesting.
(cameras mixed with Lisa Sitko ceramic apple from Ooga Booga and ceramic hand)

Keep important papers nearby with a handy tote bag
(Dessert Plate Design Assorted Pastry Tote)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Citrus sugar scrub

One of my favorite splurges is a trip to the spa. The endless supply of fluffy towels, fresh scented oils, and cold cucumber water are little treasures worth savoring, but of course they come with a price. That is why I've turned to creating my very own therapeutic treatments in my own bathroom and last night was an adventure in sugar scrubs. Because salt treatments seem to irritate my skin (ever shaved your legs then jumped in the ocean?), I crafted a sugary version with a few common ingredients. Enough cane sugar (or any rough ground version) to absorb most of the liquid, juice from 1/2 of a grapefruit and lemon, and a few generous squeezes of vitamin E oil (my secret replacement for eye cream), mixed together in a jar and left overnight to chill in the fridge resulted in a delightful spa worthy treat and an invigorating addition to my morning shower.

*Tip: For and even better morning wake up, try mixing coffee grounds with olive oil. It's incredibly moisturizing and energizing for your skin.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Slightly obsessed with

These skinny little belts from Brave Leather. They come in glossy candy colors as well as the staples and are the perfect way to fashionably cinch together any outfit.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Back in time

This weekend was full of discovery and visits to surrounding areas. Driving only a few miles outside of our daily bubble, Paul and I were instantly thrown into the tourist role as we wandered the streets of a few nearby towns. First of all, I would like to note that not all of my clothes are high waisted, but sometimes a journey to a small town requires a little step back in time as well as an outfit that plays the part. For a weekend of shopping, eating, and exploring, I threw on a thrifted pleated skirt, button down blouse, and prepared for simple pleasures like scoops of ice cream, vintage trinkets, and local storefronts.

Vintage silk skirt, Marc by Marc Jacobs blouse, Forever 21 clutch, vintage bracelets