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Oh, Hi.

January 6th, 2011

Like the rest of the world I have been in the dream state that is holiday/family mode. Mine was par­tic­u­larly lovely and par­tic­u­larly long, but I am back and ready to party.

Truth­fully, the par­ty­ing is a lit­tle sub­dued since I’ve come down with a very annoy­ing cold, but I’ve used it as an excuse to catch up on my mag­a­zines. Did any­one read the pro­file of Bot­tega Veneta designer Tomas Maier in the New Yorker (Jan­u­ary 3 issue)? Here’s the thing: if I were crazy flush, I would very hap­pily carry a BV bag. Like Reese:

But the real rea­son I bring this up is because Tomas Maier, obsessed with the tini­est details (the arti­cle men­tions how a cof­fee saucer that doesn’t sup­port a spoon dri­ves him insane), a man who says, “The It Bag is a totally mar­keted bull­shit crap” (despite it, um, sort of pay­ing his bills) lives in—are you ready for this?—Delray Beach.

Say what?

It should be men­tioned that there is no Duomo in Delray.

Del­ray is, as I have men­tioned before, not my favorite place on earth. If you are a con­trol freak (sorry, Maier, it’s a com­pli­ment) who will not live in Milan due to its “design flaws,” you can do bet­ter than Del­ray. Dur­ing our time in Florida, Ryan and I exten­sively dis­cussed how we could make it bet­ter. Our con­clu­sion, for us, any­way, was that if you led a cer­tain lifestyle—one in which you could afford a house on water, a boat, etc.—South Florida could be, let’s say, not so bad.

Maybe Milan totally sucks? I don’t know. I have spent all of three hours there, and I was 16, so I’ll remove myself from weigh­ing on it. If I cre­ated beau­ti­ful things for a liv­ing, I assume I’d want to be inspired (even a lit­tle bit) by my sur­round­ings. I’d go in a dif­fer­ent direc­tion than a retire­ment com­mu­nity sur­rounded by strip malls and I-95.

(Reese photo here, Duomo here.)

Experimental Baking and a Sure Thing

December 14th, 2010

It’s my day in the Pretty Mommy recipe exchange—and my birth­day, so I thought I’d go big. Festive.


What I tried to make—a caramel bar like the one they serve at Santa Monica’s Huck­le­berry—was not as expected.

The con­struc­tion of the bar is much like a lemon bar: a short­bread crust and a thick layer of caramel. Easy enough, I thought. First I baked a short­bread crust using my favorite recipe for lemon bars. Then I tried mak­ing easy caramel with a can of sweet­ened con­densed milk. The result of that exper­i­ment ended up in the trash. I made another attempt, fol­low­ing this recipe. The fla­vor pro­file of the caramel is per­fect. But Huckleberry’s bars have a cer­tain jelly-like qual­ity to the caramel that I can’t fig­ure out how to repli­cate. So, if you know what I’m miss­ing, or, if you’re the baker at Huck­le­berry and can give me a hint, I’d be eter­nally grate­ful. Right now I have a layer of short­bread with a hard caramel attached to it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s deli­cious, and we can’t stop eat­ing it, but it’s not quite right.

While I con­tinue to pon­der the miss­ing ingre­di­ent, my con­tri­bu­tion to the exchange is instead some­thing I know how to make: vinai­grette. Actu­ally, my vinai­grette is really David Lebovitz’s vinai­grette, and if you don’t have plans to make a salad soon, may I sug­gest that you do?

David Lebovitz’s Vinaigrette


1/8 tea­spoon sea salt
1 table­spoon sherry or red wine vine­gar
1 table­spoon finely minced shal­lot
1/2 tea­spoon Dijon mus­tard (Lebovitz rec­om­mends French brands like Maille or Amora)
3 or 4 table­spoons good olive oil

  1. In a small jar (Bonne Maman jam jars are per­fect for this), com­bine the salt, vine­gar, and shal­lot. Let stand for about ten minutes.
  2. Add the Dijon mus­tard and 3 table­spoons of olive oil. I like to use a tiny whisk, but that’s just because it’s the only time I get to use it. Taste the vinai­grette. You may want more oil for a mel­lower fla­vor. I usu­ally add salt and a lit­tle more mustard.
  3. Lebovitz sug­gests the addi­tion of chopped herbs, but I am lazy and gen­er­ally pretty happy with the vinai­grette with­out them.

I do think a great vinai­grette makes sal­ads a lot more appeal­ing, espe­cially after a week­end lack­ing in veg­eta­bles. While it’s sunny and warm here in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, I real­ize eat­ing veg­eta­bles is a lit­tle harder when it’s freez­ing out­side. I think this would work just as well on roasted veg­eta­bles or even poached fish.

Indulgence. I Has It.

December 13th, 2010


(Thanks to Design Cri­sis for bring­ing this genius to my attention.)

I just dropped my sis­ter off at LAX and I might need to do some sort of juice fast for the next week. Which is a real downer, since my birthday’s tomor­row and all.

It was a whirl­wind week­end. We ate Lar­don and LudoTruck (food trucks serv­ing up bacon and fried chicken, respec­tively.) We walked Rene­gade Craft Fair, Arti­sanal LA (where, once again, I drank the awe­some­ness that is Cold Brew and Cola), and Unique LA. We stim­u­lated the econ­omy. We took Harry the dog just about any­where that would allow him. We hit the Rachel Pally sam­ple sale. We got our nails done. We went to the Santa Mon­ica Pier.

While I go into salad mode, here’s last week’s recipe exchange recap: snickerdoodle-eggnog cookie pies, enchi­lada soup, dev­iled eggs, peanut but­ter choco­late chip cook­ies, and corn souf­flé. (That last one is from Sharon at I Can Totally Make That, one of my favorite peo­ple I know from the inter­net. Also, she has super­cute dogs.)

Heath Has My Number

December 8th, 2010

Much like J. Crew, which car­ries (and col­lab­o­rates with) older brands (Bar­bour) as well as, in their words, “leg­ends in the mak­ing” (Lulu Frost), Heath Ceram­ics can do no wrong when it comes to choos­ing associates.

Tile made in con­junc­tion with Dwell, tea tow­els designed by Skinny Lam­inx: it’s all thought­fully designed and true to the spirit of Heath. So I wasn’t too sur­prised to hear of their lat­est friend: House Indus­tries. Yes, the mak­ers of awe­some type (and the Girard nativ­ity set men­tioned earlier).

Another thing to add to my never-ending “some­day house list”: House-designed Heath tile numbers.

Image of tile with house numbers on it

Buy­ing house num­bers when you don’t own your house is crazy, right?

To fur­ther tempt me, and dur­ing my self-declared birth­day week, no less, there’s a shindig Sat­ur­day (Decem­ber 11) to cel­e­brate. Heath’s newslet­ter says, “Two leg­endary design houses are geek­ing out and hav­ing a really sweet hol­i­day party.” Um, I’m so there.

While we’re on the topic of two great tastes, I was remiss in sum­ma­riz­ing last week’s recipes from Ye Olde Recipe Exchange. I sug­gest pulling on some elas­tic waist pants before con­tin­u­ing read­ing. In no par­tic­u­lar order: sweet and sour chicken from Big Moon Sky; choco­late peanut but­ter buck­eyes from Advice Gals; can­died hazel­nut brit­tle from Bull in a China Shop; hol­i­day red and white fudge from Shades of Sun­shine; and choco­late cran­berry pecan tart from Domes­tic Dish. Now I am going to go stare into the depths of my fridge and will one (or all) of these to appear.

All I Want (or, How to Be an Awesome Gift-Giver)

December 1st, 2010

It’s some­how Decem­ber, which means we are mere weeks from the most mag­i­cal time of the year: my birth­day. Have you been cursed blessed with some­one sim­i­larly dif­fi­cult picky for your upcom­ing hol­i­day of choice? I am sorry. Despite being a PITA on the receiv­ing end, an infor­mal sur­vey says that I am awe­some at the giv­ing. This is not because I am super­rich and give peo­ple piles of cash (which would be nice) or because I shop all year long at killer sales. My ears perk up when some­one says “I’ve always wanted that” or “I wish I could find that.” So, some ideas:

Things they can eat. I adore candy from Hammond’s. They make some­thing called a filled straw and it is quite pos­si­bly the most deli­cious thing on earth. If let near a bag, a wild ani­mal takes over my being and destroys it within min­utes. There­fore, I point you towards the world’s cutest (and most deli­cious) candy canes. The more, the merrier.…

Image of candy canesPer­haps your beloved doesn’t like candy. They do not sound like some­one I would enjoy. How­ever, fig­ure out what they like to con­sume and then step it up. A bag of jerky from the gas sta­tion: lame. A bag of hand­crafted Korean BBQ jerky: magical.

Things that add a bit of lux­ury to exis­tence. Cash­mere socks have been a big hit with my dad in the past. My hus­band is fond of his non-disposable col­lar stays. I abhor bath mats and think a teak one might keep me from want­ing to change the mat daily.

Things they talk about. When Ryan and I first started dat­ing, he told me about this semi-obscure brass band that he loved. He had a few of their records on vinyl, but couldn’t find all of them. I saw this as a chal­lenge. For Christ­mas, I man­aged to deliver the com­plete discog­ra­phy. Some of them were a lit­tle shady-looking, burned copies with slightly wonky art, but he still men­tions it. I’m con­vinced it was one of the rea­sons he decided to marry me. I keep bring­ing up Alexan­der Girard, so I’d prob­a­bly love this print at Design Pub­lic. (Lately I also can’t stop talk­ing about Larry King, but please don’t use that as a start­ing point for a gift.)

Image of Love printed on plywood by Alexander GirardThings they’d use every­day. A gift card to their favorite cof­fee shop. A func­tion­ing tea ket­tle. We cook a lot and drink smooth­ies. Wouldn’t a fancy blender make these tasks a lit­tle nicer?

Image of Vita Mix blenderIn the Not $500 cat­e­gory, I think this nail brush is lovely. Maybe check that the per­son you’re buy­ing for would geek out on these as much as I do.

Image of wooden nail brush

Lastly, things they’d never buy for them­selves. Admit­tedly this is a tricky cat­e­gory and one of the hard­est to pull off. It also can be expen­sive. I am embar­rassed to say how often I think about these nest­ing strain­ers by Sori Yanagi. They’re beau­ti­ful, they’re func­tional, I’d use them weekly if not daily. And yet, I can­not bring myself to pur­chase them. Sun­glasses are the same story. Even when I cal­cu­late the cost per wear, I hes­i­tate.
Image of sunglasses(These are from Oliver Peo­ples.)

I was going to wrap this up with a list of don’t-gives, but thought it might come off as neg­a­tive. So I’ll turn it over to you: what gift, in your eyes, sucks?

Dogs, Books, Food, Art

November 26th, 2010

In no par­tic­u­lar order, those are my inter­ests. (Well, most of them.)

I went to see Maira Kalman speak last week. There were mini Snick­ers bars on every seat in the room. (Note to self: if I ever speak to a large crowd, make sure every­one gets a candy bar.) She has a show up at the Skir­ball Cen­ter that I’m pretty excited about. Here’s a piece of hers that makes me happy:

Image of Maira Kalman's painting of a dog reading a book

The museum has a bunch of Kalman-inspired work­shops run­ning through the dura­tion of the exhi­bi­tion. I read the descrip­tion for one called “Sit. Stay. Paint. Good Dog.” and thought, “I want to go to that!”

Pay­ing trib­ute to artist Maira Kalman, who has invented many a charm­ing dog for her beloved children’s books, paint por­traits of live pup­pies brought from the Pasadena Humane Soci­ety. Guided by artists from the pop­u­lar Santa Mon­ica art stu­dio Paint:Lab, painters of all ages will make one-of-a-kind works of art to take home or donate. Feel free to bring in snap­shots of your own pet to serve as your muse (but please leave pets at home!).

I’m in! But wait—Ages 4 and up; chil­dren must be accom­pa­nied by an adult.

Might need to find a child to borrow.

Am I vio­lat­ing Buy Noth­ing Day because I bought a loaf of chal­lah? Left­over turkey on chal­lah is one of my very favorite meals, and man, do we have left­overs. I thought we were going min­i­mal with our menu but we cooked a lot for just the two of us: Ryan’s dad’s stuff­ing, my mom’s mashed pota­toes, roasted cran­ber­ries with jalapenos, roasted brus­sels sprouts with bacon, a turkey breast and pump­kin cream pie.

Speak­ing of food, because I’m sure you haven’t thought about food in a while: I’m par­tic­i­pat­ing in another recipe exchange, this time for the hol­i­days. I’m not up for a few weeks, since I decided to save my recipe for my birth­day, but this week’s recipes looked pretty swell. Tor­rie made turkey gumbo—great for those of you who cooked a full bird. Michelle baked cran­berry bread, and I never need an excuse to buy more cran­ber­ries. Stephanie has a recipe for apple sausage dress­ing, which she sug­gests halv­ing and eat­ing on a non-holiday occa­sion. OK, if you insist. Hope you are hav­ing a lovely hol­i­day weekend.

This is Why I Have 100 Tabs Open in My Browser

November 23rd, 2010

(OK, it was actu­ally 57. No one tell my husband.)

As I was out try­ing (and fail­ing) to fin­ish my Thanks­giv­ing shop­ping, I took a turn down a new street. Out of the cor­ner of my eye I saw two Chi­nese Chip­pen­dale chairs flank­ing a door to a thrift store. They looked like these guys from Jonathan Adler, except they were kelly green.

Image of Chinese Chippendale chairThey were not priced at thrift store rates, sadly. The entire store was full of crazy stuff—a din­ing table with a gigan­tic spi­ral base, huge gin­ger jar lamps and a wall of books. I glanced at the needle­point sec­tion briefly because I thought I saw Mary Martin’s Needle­point. Mary Mar­tin? Like Peter Pan?

Yes! Mary Mar­tin needle­pointed. This is one of those facts that will take up the space in my brain that should be occu­pied by more impor­tant mat­ters, like where I parked my car. I picked up the book and flipped through it, only to land on an index page where my eye was drawn to Girard, Alexan­der. Girard needle­point pat­terns? I got a lit­tle excited. When I flipped to the cor­rect page, what I saw instead was that Girard dec­o­rated an apart­ment for Joyce Hall (the Hall of Hall­mark) in Kansas City. Does this mean there is a (please please please) immac­u­lately main­tained Girard-designed apart­ment in my hometown?

I’m not sure. Googling “Joyce Hall Alexan­der Girard” doesn’t give me a ton of infor­ma­tion. The two were friends. There was an apart­ment. But I can’t find pho­tos. Was it like Girard’s Miller House?

Image of Miller House interior

Hall­mark and Girard” led me to this post on a poster. If you ever see it, please buy it for me.

Image of poster with nativity angel(This is par­tic­u­larly entic­ing because the Nel­son is where I spent a lot of time in sum­mer art camp, which I loved.)

Girard and nativ­ity” took me to this House Indus­tries nativ­ity set, based on a Girard illustration.

Image of nativity set based on illustrations by Alexander GirardIs it wrong for a Jew to have a nativ­ity set? Keep in mind that this Jew also has a Christ­mas tree.

Work­ing through my Google results, I landed upon this page, the archive of a newslet­ter for Tomie dePaola—his children’s books were my favorites grow­ing up.

How much of our taste is set at an early age? I know we evolve and change, but click­ing around dePaola’s site, I felt comforted—I’m pretty sure I still love his work as much as I did many years ago. At least I’m con­sis­tent. And now I have a deep desire to own a dePaola orig­i­nal. Dammit, inter­net.

What Does Heaven Look Like?

November 19th, 2010

Pretty sure it’s some­thing like this:

Eames chair shells and bases

That’s the Mod­er­nica ware­house sale. Which starts tomor­row. But I am spe­cial and got to go last night. (Spe­cial means that I am on their mail­ing list.) At first I was unim­pressed with the chair selec­tion but then I noticed this cor­ner, where you pick out your shell and base, and a team of dudes assem­bles them on the spot. That’s like the Build-a-Bear work­shop, but awesome.

Photo of Eames chair shells

More than a few U-Haul trucks—and food trucks (says my sis­ter, “Who doesn’t have food trucks?”)—were in the park­ing lot, and I enjoyed pon­der­ing what I’d buy to fill a U-Haul of my own. Did any­thing come home with us? No. Prices are good but they are not giv­ing any­thing away. Our pur­chase of the night: some salted caramel ice cream from Lake Street Cream­ery. Deli­cious, but doesn’t solve our chair dilemma.

Kansas: Officially a Trend

November 11th, 2010

If you see some­thing three times, it’s a trend, right? (Did I make that up?)

One—Monday’s Sneak Peek on Design Sponge was a home in Shawnee, Kansas. They didn’t men­tion this in the accom­pa­ny­ing text, but that’s where Ryan and I used to live. Our house did not look like this, though.

Some­body left a pissy com­ment about all the Eames chairs that appear in Sneak Peeks. Hater.

Two—The pho­tog­ra­pher of the house has a set of Kansas City images from her trip up on her site. I’m par­tic­u­larly fond of this one.

It should be noted that our wed­ding recep­tion was in this very build­ing, where Ryan’s beloved Boule­vard Beer is brewed.

Three—While admir­ing Jen­nifer Hill’s prints, I found that there’s a new addi­tion to her Places I Have Never Been series: Flint Hills, Kansas.

Have I men­tioned that all our art is sit­ting in boxes under our bed? Yeah. But I still want the print. In its honor, Hill’s post­ing Kansas-related good­ness all month. About halfway through this post, I real­ized I’m wear­ing a Kansas pride neck­lace, a wooden disk engraved with the shape of the state. I don’t think she has any in stock, but Early Jew­elry is the place to find such things. And a lot of other awe­some, afford­able jew­elry that your friends will covet (seriously—I always get com­pli­ments when I wear pieces from Early).

I guess that makes four. Take note: all the cool kids want Kansas for the holidays.

Even Kansans who’ve relo­cated to Cal­i­for­nia. Speak­ing of my new state, Design Cri­sis let me crash their party and blab about my love of surf­ing. Not that I actu­ally surf, but you can read more about that here.

Monday Mood-Lifters

November 8th, 2010

Some­times you need to feel good. Let me help:

  • I love being reminded that peo­ple are kind. Friends and strangers donated funds so that Val­o­rie and Alberto (our fan­tas­tic New Orleans hosts) could mede­vac out of Canada after Alberto had a heart attack in the Cal­gary air­port. They are safe and sound in New Orleans again, but owe our neigh­bors to the North a lit­tle (OK, a lot) of money. There’s an auc­tion to help out here with a lot of good­ies. Please browse and find some­thing you can’t live with­out so that this kind cou­ple can focus on Alberto’s health and recovery.
  • I love being inspired. My friend Dawn was diag­nosed with MS in 2002. She ran the New York City Marathon yes­ter­day and raised almost $8,000 for the MS Soci­ety. My best friend’s mother fought a long bat­tle with MS and I wish she could’ve seen Dawn’s smile as she ran through Brook­lyn. (OK, I wish I could’ve too, but thanks to Face­book I got a photo.)
  • I love see­ing a project com­pleted. I remem­ber when Gail—my across-the-street neigh­bor, tastemaker and friend—bought a video cam­era with the idea of mak­ing a doc­u­men­tary about the Mag­netic Fields. Sev­eral years later, the film has been play­ing in fes­ti­vals and the­aters around the coun­try. It opened in LA on Fri­day night. I was thrilled to be in the audience.
  • I love laugh­ing. I saw this sign while run­ning errands today and couldn’t stop crack­ing up.

Sign that reads, "No drugs, no money. We are NOT a medical marijuana dispensary."