Friday, April 30, 2010

The Last Thing I Need

Anthropologie has a home and garden sister store called Terrain. I'm sorry, but their dresses and skirts are keeping me busy enough over here. I don't know if I can handle a whole new set of perfectly cute and unique items. Slow it down, Anthro. Let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Open weave dining set

Fruit honey flight

Strawberry sachets


Medium ruled vase

Filigree sphere

P.S. Okay, something is really bothering me. Does anyone know how to save an image when it doesn't offer that option when you right click? I see other people accessing images on Lonny or Terrain. I can't figure out how to save them, so I can upload them here. I have to save those embarrassingly small images you see above. I am a dumb.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


I spend a significant amount of time overhearing people talk.

My office shares a wall with the psychologist next door. My huge and immovable desk is against this shared wall, so I inadvertently hear murmured secrets and many times weeping and sometimes loud, manic laughter and sometimes dried up, bitter laughter. (I also know they must hear me on the phone, scanning, shredding and all the boring audible details of my work, too.) One sad thing is to hear the older women who come in to share. It seems there are a disproportionate number of old women who need therapy, or maybe older ladies just have a particular affection for Dr. T for some reason or another. It is a sad thing that gives me pause as they talk over how their children ignore them and how their doctors can't fix them. I don't like to hear the old women cry. It is one of those things that makes you sad for the whole world and the insensitive, fallen way humans treat each other. I try not to listen too much. I will confess that one time there was a really juicy conversation going on, and I pressed my ear to the wall. I did.

My husband and I also hear talk and giggles and shouting from the house across the street from us. The party house, we call it. A teenage girl lives there, and she must be remarkably popular because there are--and I cannot emphasize this enough--constantly a swarm of her friends over at her house, sitting on the front porch. Nevertheless, popular or not, she has a exceptionally permissive mother. Not only do those kids sit out on the front porch making enough noise that we can hear it from across the street when we are inside the house in our back bedroom, but also they smoke! I've seen them! Okay, so I don't really care about the smoking, but the screaming and yelling is getting old. I'm surprised no one has called in a noise complaint yet. I can't bring myself to be the surly old grump who ruined their fun, but come on. I have a feeling the summer heat will squelch some of their rambunctious outdoor behavior.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Teamwork, Messy Buns, and the Chicken Bus

We're having an interactive dinner party next Tuesday night, and by "interactive" I mean that I've wrangled some innocent guests into doing my cooking for me, while I snack on hors d'oeuvres (I am too lazy to look that spelling up. Close enough. Don't get picky on me around here.) and crack a whip and cackle.

This is what I'm thinking for the menu...

App: Pesto Parm Palmiers like Ina's, except simplified a bit

Protein: I think chicken en croute would be good because it seems fancy but is really pretty easy, and we can get an assembly line going. Person 1 can season; person 2 can smear pesto; person 3 can sprinkle parm; person 4 can wrap the chicken in the puff pastry. I like teamwork in the kitchen. I also like an effective system. Yeah for efficiency and cooperation!

Starch: One of the explicit goals of the party is to share a few cooking ideas, too. I think herb mashed potatoes are a good, basic side that I'm sure nearly everyone has in their repertoire. Plus, I get to flash some of my homegrown herbs.

I also think mashed potatoes are one of those dishes that men seem to love, and our main demographic group for the par-tay are young, newly marrieds, so this is a recipe of how to please your new husband in one pot. There is absolutely nothing fancy about it, but carbohydrate + butter = comfort food. It also lends itself to several easily delegated steps, so it supports my goal of teamwork and involvement.

Veg: I wanted to keep it simple, so I'm just sticking with a salad. Call me crazy, but I just think salad is chic and bistro and casual and not too studied or fussy. It's like the vegetable version of the messy bun.

Image from this random site

In our fashionable little salad, we'll have mixed greens, crisp fennel, and cashews.

(I picked cashews one time when I was living in Honduras. Let me set the scene... I went on what we'll call a road trip to an eco-lodge with another girl from the States who also lived in Tela, working with Doctors without Borders. Much to what I'm sure was my mother's relief, we did not hitchhike to La Ceiba but instead took the chicken bus.

Can you see why hitchhiking was so appealing? While at the eco-lodge, we hiked through the jungle with a guide to swim at the base of a waterfall in the national park in La Ceiba, and I also showcased my talent for sweating like a man. The lodge itself was not luxurious, but they did make a really great dinner for us every next and served cool beverages to everyone as we sat around and talked on the back patio of the main building. One afternoon, the proprietor asked us if we wanted to help pick cashews, so we did, separating the nut from the fruit. I'm a little fuzzy on the details now, but I think we tasted a few immediately, but normally they would be dried before eating.

This is what they looked like. This image is from the Camping Boipeba website, which I definitely think you should go peruse even if you're not interested in camping in Brazil.)

Moving along...

Dessert: I'm still a little stuck on that key lime pie I mentioned a few weeks ago, and none of these guests were at the get together where I served it before. Plus, that thing is easy (as pie... what? too on the nose?) and easily done way ahead of time.

Favors: Maybe it's overkill, but I figured if we're playing with puff pastry anyway, we might as well make a few sweet palmiers for everyone to take home with them, too. Why not?

Epicurious image

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Powder Room Revision

Plain Jane powder room walls and glitzy mirror before:

I debated about wallpaper in here. I still might, but I had free gray paint in the garage waiting to be put to use, and I had this image for inspiration.

So I did this last week...

Is it gross that I left the toilet open? I wish I had closed it. Anyway, I also painted this little table glossy black, which I think is a step in the right direction.

I painted the glam gold mirror black as a temporary solution. Ignore the rumpled towel.

This is what I'd like to see in it's place soon. I know it's hard to see, but there's pretty beading along all those beveled edges.

You will not believe this.

Hey, remember the ugly dentist office chairs? I wanted a pair of wing backs to reupholster and replace them. I found these low, square side chairs at an estate sale instead. Guess how much? (Is this tacky? It can't avoided. I have to tell you.) No, really, guess. You'll never guess low enough, so I'll just tell you. $20 each. Yes. I'm not joking. $20. Even if you count the Lowe's steam cleaner rental, that still is less than $40 for each one.

They could be reupholstered at a later date, but I kinda like the blue. It works with the art, and I like it with the black, white, and avocado in there already.

Which pillow should I put on them? Big Green Geometric Trellis?

Or should I make covers out of a smaller rectangular black, white and green chevron fabric and leave Big Green on the couch?

Little Man

Another Hipstamatic portrait, this one featuring a friend's son who showed his brawn by walking with us Saturday morning in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. He mostly chewed on toast sticks and napped and was a trooper in every way.

Tangentially, do you ever wonder how many times your bent over, khaki-clad behind is caught in the background of a stranger's random pictures?

Monday, April 26, 2010

One Thing Leads to Another

I made cupcakes for a friend of my in-laws who was throwing a baby shower this weekend.

We decided on vanilla cakes with cream cheese, vanilla bean icing with a turbinado sugar crown...

and a lemon cake with lemon lime buttercream icing and boyish blue sprinks.

The best part? When she picked them up, she asked if I could do a graduation luncheon for her son in May, too. I was bouncing a few ideas off Carter, and I was warned not to make "girly" food for the luncheon. Hmm. Now, I'm trying to reconcile burly food with a luncheon menu. Suggestions?

Two New Things: Both Hits


I made a Vampire Weekend station on Pandora. It was a success, rife with Modest Mouse, The Shins, Feist, and Andrew Bird. My station sounds like spring, and even snobbish Hub has been requesting it in the car.


Do you use the Hipstamatic app? They claim that "digital photography never looked so analog." Oh, would you like to see some personal weekend samples? Yes, yes, they're right here...

Leaving work Friday

Quality time, sitting in grass

Looking around the house at decor that might need freshening

Sitting on the swing with arms around each other

Trying to Live Like George

"This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; being a force of nature in stead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy." George Bernard Shaw

And even if I didn't love his approach to life, I would still love him for Pygmalion and Eliza Doolittle.

I remember the first year I taught seniors, I was so excited that I got to teach it and got to show My Fair Lady (Don't judge. It was a play; it's meant to be seen, too, not just read!). I might have sung the songs in class while we watched it.

Now, I was not an exuberant, jokster, tap-dancing kind of teacher (Not everyone can be or should to be. I think being passionate about what you teach and real in the way you present it is 3/4 of the battle, but that's another post, I think.), so I hope you realize how this demonstrates my irrepressible joy in getting to share one of my childhood favorites with my kids. Alas, my students, although they did generally like the play, did not appreciate musicals (or my froggish singing) in the same way I did, and they certainly did not become giddy watching white people singing and dancing about things being loverly and how the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain. Looking back, it was one of the highlights of my time at Everman, and, hey, at least I didn't do the dances.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Battle Royale

Jennifer Reese has an article debating who has the best fried chicken: famous chef Thomas Keller or famous blogger the Pioneer Woman. I thought it was interesting experiment on the writer's family to see what their verdict was on recipes from both cookbooks for fried chick, mashed potatoes, iceberg lettuce salad, and pineapple upside down cake.

I think it's an interesting debate between slow, deliberate, artful, cooking as a hobby/process for oneself and practical, frugal, helpful cooking done as a necessity for a family. (As an aside, I don't have kids, so I have the luxury right now of indulging in this debate, but I certainly understand for most families Keller's brand of cooking is not really an option... also, another disclaimer, this is not to say that fast, kid-appropriate food cannot be an art of it's own, but hopefully you know what I'm saying.)

Thomas Keller's book is Ad Hoc at Home, and he runs the empire of the French Laundry, Per Se, Bouchon, Bouchon Bakery, and, of course, Ad Hoc itself.

His three tips for home cooks:
1. Seasoning (salt heightens the flavor of everything)
2. Touch your food (to check doneness, to apply condiments, to manipulate and prepare, dare I say... to connect with it)
3. Organization and efficiency (from menu preparation to shopping to timing)

Ree Drummond's book is The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl. I haven't followed the Pioneer Woman too closely, but I heard a rumor that there's a biographical movie coming out about her, and Reese Witherspoon might be playing the part of Ree. I mean what other Hollywood actress can play the part of a spunky, country woman? Well, besides Sandra Bullock? Hello, Walk the Line and The Blind Side. It's their bread and butter, their biscuits and butter... if you will. Too far? Probably so.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Another Blog... I know. I know.

She's a writer and a mother, and I think some of you might like her 'tude.

She talks about Matt the Electrician. What a coincidence.

She also talks about Patty Griffin.


I found this Lucky mag interview with J.Crew's Jenna Lyons via Neo-Trad and thought it was interesting.

I'm in This Kinda Mood.

Does this UO shirt come in my size? I want to belt it and wear it with jeans all spring long.

I have a theory that turquoise never goes out of style. Erin agrees. It's too flattering on everyone. No one can afford to lose it. I don't know anyone who doesn't look good in turquoise. Men, women, dark, light, everyone looks good in it. It's here to stay.

Playing Possum

Rodents of unusual size...

Carter had to get up extra early this morning, and as is our normal custom, he got Lu from her crate, let her go outside, and then theoretically, after she did her business and scratched on the back door to indicate she was finished, he would have let her come snuggle with me while I slept a little longer... but she was out there a really long time. Longer than usual. Longer than necessary.

I asked him what she was doing. "Is she just playing around out there?" Sometimes she does, chatting with the squirrels and chasing Cleo, the next door neighbor cat who wears a bell on her collar (which sweet Cleo enjoys purposely shaking and ringing extra loudly underneath our bedroom window early on Saturday mornings). I've gotten off track.

Carter went to the back door and called for Lu to come inside. And then he noticed what had been detaining her. You know it's coming... it was a gross ol' possum! In the liriope! Nast! And Carter yelled to let me know about it. So I leap out of bed and fumble with my glasses to come to the back door and see it.

As we stand at the door, looking out, rat-hating Carter asks, "Should I go... do something to it?"

"Like what?"

"Chase it away?"

"Um, I don't think you need to."

And he didn't. Our rodent guest unfroze himself and waddled away to the dark of the back gate and, I assume, squeezed underneath, making his near-death escape.

The funny part to me is the length of time Lu was out there with him. I know she tried to play with him. She would have certainly done her enticing jump-away-now-lunge-toward-you-bow down-sorta-growling-invitation-to-play dance in front of the possum. I have never seen her get really scared or intimidated or aggressive with another dog. She thinks everyone loves her and why wouldn't they want to play? Cats are still something of a mystery to her so she avoids most of them, but I know she would have tried to sniff this guy out and figure out if he was up for some chasing or stick tug-of-war. He wasn't.

After the hub bub settled down, I inspected Lu for any obvious bite marks or, I don't know, issues, and she seemed okay, but I was worried that she was going to go all rabid on me under the covers. I read a Chuck Palahniuk novel where a guy's little dog goes all rabid on him, and it was pretty traumatizing to me. It would have traumatized you, too.

Also, when Carter was leaving, I told him just to scream if the possum was waiting for him by his car. Then we each did an imitation of funny high-pitched screams that he'd let out if the possum leaped at his face from atop the car all gangsta style or if he cold-bloodedly sliced at his ankles from his secret hiding place under the car. Ha. Or if ninja possum was hiding in the back seat, about to carjack the heck out of him. I know I'm getting silly, but I think it's really funny.

I tried really hard to find a You Tube video of the Fire Swamp scene from The Princess Bride, but there weren't any good ones. Shocking, I know. I will leave you with this, which is slightly related and somewhat funny.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Deferential, glad to be of use...

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis? 80
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head [grown slightly bald] brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker, 85
And in short, I was afraid.

"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" T.S. Eliot

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Another Television Program, One I Support Without Caveats This Time

I love Dhani Tackles the Globe! We just watched his episode cycling in Italy. He's a professional football player here in the States, but on the show, he travels the world and gets to know various cultures by playing their respective national games. The production is a little slicker than last season, but it's beautiful, and he's funny. He always has this endearing, bantering camaraderie with his local coach, he loves to eat and drink the area's specialties, and Dhani loves the ladies.

The feeling is mutual.

Uncomfortable or Awesome?

Concerts in the Attic

Photo from JeffCam Photo Blog

"Concerts in the Attic is a not-for-profit house concert series hosted by Steve Long, Sarah Goodall and Ed Rogers. Held in the attic (that's right, the attic) of Sarah's one-hundred-year old house in Fort Worth's historic Fairmount neighborhood, the series features top-notch singer/songwriters performing in an intimate setting for an appreciative and attentive audience of music lovers.

Concerts are usually held on Sundays beginning at 5pm*, and are followed by an acoustic song circle until 11pm. Guests are encouraged to bring acoustic instruments, potluck dishes and their beverage of choice. A suggested donation of $15 is collected during each show, all going directly to the performer."

P.S. One of their February performers, Matt the Electrician, looks very similar to a bearded Matt who Carter knows... and since we're here, who also looks very similar to bearded Jack Shepherd from Lost.

Oh! One other thing... The idea of Concerts in the Attic reminded me of the IFC show Dinner with the Band, where I usually love more and more the chef/host Mr. Sam Mason and then feel sort of vicariously awkward about the band's performance and interaction with everyone. The episode with the vegans of Yacht was so painful that I could hardly watch. 90% of the time I find vegans to be laughably pompous and just generally absurd. I can say this as a former veg. Even with all that said, I support the concept, and the host is sharp and ... cool, for lack of a better word. It's worth watching, at least until the band starts spaz-robotically dancing and thrusting in front of their 5 person audience.

Monday, April 19, 2010


Blog chronicling a couple's journey through the Russian adoption process...

Friday, April 16, 2010

I surrender.


Portiere Project

I have been considering a dining room project. I posted about some of our dining room's flaws a long time ago. Some of these issues have been remedied. (Hello, trestle table and pew/banquette, I'm looking at you.) However, others--specifically a shallow built-in hutch--have not.

Here's the old view of the dining room--new table and pew have replaced these featured here, and future hutch to be built on the left.

The project I have in mind now tackles our issue of cooking and entertaining in a very open space. I love the idea of an open-concept home. I love the freedom to see out into the living room while I'm cooking and the theoretical liberation of cooks from their solitary confinement kitchen-y prisons into the arms of family and friends... but practically and personally speaking, when I'm cooking for a dinner party, and we get to that moment when people begin to arrive, and I'm scrambling to finish garnishing the hors d' oeuvres or, you know, whatever, I need to get down to business, (being very liberal with the italics today) and sometimes that is more difficult with the distractions and demands of an open space.

Is it just me, or is it really hard to multitask in these situations? There's my guest. I can't just ignore her while I'm finishing up. I want to stop cooking and give her my total attention. I mean, that's the whole point of having people over, right? But, oh no, I'm burning the chicken now. Now, everyone will eat burnt chicken and giving them something good to eat was part of the point of having them come over, too. It's quite the conflict. As you can see.

I find myself most stressed when I want to be most gracious, and sometimes I think that a private kitchen, one where I could step behind a curtain, speaking sort of in the Wizard of Oz sense, might be more logical for entertaining.

Not to mention that as we sit down in the dining room, most of the time I have dishes in the sink and on the counter from cooking the meal that are now staring everyone in the face as they eat the meal. No one wants to see the dirty implements of culinary war, the baked on casualties and violent smatterings of olive oil and cream. Not so appetizing. It would be nice to pull a curtain across and allow my kitchen a shroud of modesty.

This is where the portiere comes into play. A portiere is exactly what I need. It is inexpensive, and it allows for options.

I could mount a track or a curtain rod to the ceiling, and when I want to hide the kitchen and establish a more intimate, separate dining space, then I could pull the curtain across between the two rooms, drawing a boundary. When it's not needed or I want to cook and still see the TV in the living room, then I could push the curtain back so that it just hangs in front of that bank of cabinets to the left (which is something of an eyesore anyway, and probably would be much better off with a dressing of pretty fabric over it).

Something like this...

Image via design*dump

But maybe in more of this shade and weight of fabric...

Image via design*dump

This one is a pretty example, too, dressed up with sconces...

Image via griege

I'm predicting a trip to Joanne's in my future.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Jinny Blom

Chelsea Flower Show

Laurent Perrier Garden

Scottish Highland Estate

Oxfordshire Farm

London Garden

Hampstead Garden

Cotswold Garden

Chalksland Farm

Landscape architect, Jinny Blom, shaking hands with Prince Charles (!). All images are from her website and were found via the neo-traditionalist.