Weekly Digest 12.19.14

Friday, December 19, 2014

There are just a few days left until Christmas. I'm excited for the break and for all the holiday fun. My parents arrived yesterday, and we're getting a tree tomorrow, so it's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. Here are some of things that are on my mind this week:

How did I miss Sir Terrance Conran's new book, Plain Simple Useful?

This tiny Manhattan apartment got a major makeover. 

Should I buy this?

A brilliant campaign for ugly vegetables.

You can now buy Maille mustard on tap in New York City.

Great advice for buying vintage rugs on eBay.

Let it go. 

A gingerbread brownstone!

Two favorite Fenton family recipes for the holidays: Cranberry bread and cranberry cookies.

I asked the experts how to decorate for the holidays like a grown-up.

DIY Cardboard Rudolf

Sunday, December 14, 2014


In a moment of inspired craftiness, I made this cardboard Rudolf as a decoration for our annual Christmas party. I thought it would be funny to hang it in our entry hall alongside my husband's actual roe deer antlers and hunting prints.

I'd spotted the idea on Pinterest, and followed the link back to GoodHousekeeping.com, which had instructions and a very good template to make the craft.  (See the original below.) Note that you'll need 11 x 17 paper to print out the template. I was able to make this cute creature out of one wine box. I'd say it took me less than an hour to make it; I used hot glue to attach the various pieces, and since we didn't have a wreath to act as the base, we wrapped a Christmas-y scarf around his neck.


Check out more of my holiday decoration inspiration on my Christmas Pinterest board. 

Weekly Digest 12.5.14

Friday, December 05, 2014


The weekend is here--hurray! I'm looking forward to getting in some long runs this weekend, and spending more time with my husband's family. Holiday decorating in on my list of to-do's, as is planning the menu for our annual holiday party (Monte's Ham is, of course, a must). I hope you have some fun planned for your weekend. Here's what's on my mind this week:

A charging cable key chain that's actually pretty cute.

Three questions to ask when decluttering.

Leather boot care--from people who know boots.

A virtual visit to the famously hard-to-enter Gramercy Park.

I'm interested to check out Simplicity by Nancy Braithwaite.

A sweet DIY idea: Cinnamon-Applesauce Ornaments.

Bedside lighting advice (a subject near and dear to this reader's heart).

The best shades of white paint to use when selling a home.

7 More DIY Christmas Gift Ideas

Thursday, December 04, 2014

It's just a few weeks until Christmas, which means it's time for another round of easy, DIY gift ideas. My family has decided to have a no-gift holiday this year (instead we'll spend some extra money on delicious things to do and eat together). However, if I were giving gifts this year, these handmade ideas would be at the top of my list:


I love the utilitarian simplicity of this trivet made from wooden clothespins from the book, Sweet Paul Eat and Make.


Here's a craft I made for Country Living magazine years ago: Jewelry magnets. Vintage brooches and pins are glued to strong magnets to make decorative fridge magnets.


Colorful lanyards were used to make these camp-inspired crafts from Martha Stewart Living. If you wanted to avoid the plastic, you could use colored suede lace instead.


A super-practical gift, these simple drawstring bags are great for shoes, but I can think of dozens of other uses. Find the full tutorial for the drawstring shoe bags on The Purl Bee.


I couldn't resist this sweet idea for a DIY moon clock, which I found on the blog Hellobee. It could be a great gift for a kid or a grown-up (I know I'd love to receive it).


I love vintage linen tea towels, but they can be hard to find in good condition (and new ones seem to cost a small fortune). Make your own with directions from the blog Everyday Occasions. I'd stencil them en masse, so that I had a few extra gifts on-hand.


I came across this stone alphabet idea idea on Pinterest, which lead me to a Spanish blog. Based on the Google translation, the blogger just used markers to write on the stones--easy! It's sweet and simple idea for early readers.

Check out 7 DIY Christmas Gift Ideas from 2014.

Cold-Weather Menu from Lucques

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Last fall, I made this absolutely delicious menu that ran in Food & Wine magazine. The recipes are from Lucques, a restaurant in Los Angeles that I will be eager to visit the next time I find myself in L.A., based on the caliber of this meal. The restaurant's chef, Suzanne Goin, has also written Sunday Suppers at Lucques, which I'll add to the long list of cookbooks I hope to someday own. 

This is a sophisticated yet hearty menu for a cold fall or winter night. I plan to make it again int he coming weeks. It'd be great with Marcus Samuelsson's excellent apple cake for dessert.

Bratwurst with Mustardy Fried Potatoes and Braised Cabbage
From Food & Wine

1/4 cup diced shallots
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup whole-grain mustard
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
16 bratwursts
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Citrus-Spiced Red Cabbage (recipe below)
1 bunch of watercress, thick stems discarded

1. In a bowl, combine the shallots and vinegar and let stand for 5 minutes; stir in both mustards. Whisk in 3/4 cup of the oil and season the vinaigrette with salt and pepper.
2. In a pot of salted boiling water, cook the potatoes until tender, 30 minutes. Drain and let cool slightly, then slip off the skins. Break the potatoes into 1 1/2-inch chunks.
3. Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Grill the bratwursts over moderate heat, turning, until heated through, 10 to 15 minutes.
4. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the potatoes and thyme and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderately high heat, turning, until golden and crisp, 6 to 7 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add 1/2 cup of the vinaigrette and the parsley. Season with salt and pepper and toss to evenly coat.
5. Arrange half of the Citrus-Spiced Red Cabbage on a serving platter. Scatter the potatoes and three-fourths of the watercress over the cabbage and top with half of the bratwursts. Repeat with the remaining cabbage, watercress and bratwursts. Pass the remaining vinaigrette at the table.

Citrus-Spiced Red Cabbage

One 1-pound red cabbage—halved, cored and sliced 1/8-inch thick
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup duck fat or unsalted butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
1 árbol chile with seeds, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
1/2 cup port

1. In a large bowl, toss the cabbage, lemon juice and orange juice. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour, tossing occasionally.
2. Set a large enameled cast-iron casserole over moderate heat for 1 minute. Add the sugar in an even layer and cook without stirring until melted and starting to caramelize, about 3 minutes. Stir in the duck fat. Add the onion, thyme, chile, allspice, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Cook over moderate heat, stirring often, until the onion is lightly caramelized, about 7 minutes. Stir in the wine and port and cook over moderately high heat until the liquid is reduced to 2/3 cup, about 5 minutes. Add the cabbage and accumulated juices and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook over moderate heat, stirring often, until the cabbage is tender and glazed, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot or warm.

Plus: Marcus Samuelsson's Apple Cake

Weekly Digest 11.28.14

Friday, November 28, 2014


We hosted my husband's clan for Thanksgiving this year, and I cooked a host of new recipes. Here's what we served and a few links for the week:

Ina Garten's "Accidental Turkey" is a great recipe for a small-ish bird.

Cornbread and Sausage Stuffing. I vow to try something more adventurous next year.

I'll make Food & Wine's Escarole-and-Brussels Sprout Salad again this holiday season for sure--a real winner!

Twice-Cooked Potato-and-Leek Casserole  is worth the extra effort.

'Tis the season for more joy and less clutter.

Really, think twice before you buy a bunch of stuff this weekend.

This brick blanket is a hoot.

I just bought the Prune cookbook--it's amazing.

Dying to check out A Boat, A Whale & A Walrus.

A Shakespeare first folio was discovered in France.

Time to start thinking about Christmas decor.

Simply Spotless Fabric Cleaner

Saturday, November 22, 2014



Earlier this year, I was introduced to the Simply Spotless cleaning line, and I'll admit I was curious, but a little skeptical. Being eco-conscious, my curiosity was sparked by the company's achievement of the Environmental Protection Agency's Design for the Environment certification for all of their products. My skepticism was founded in the product's designer packaging. What can I say, it just didn't look serious to me, and I figured the chic design was just a way for the company to charge higher-than-normal fees for their cleaning supplies.


Well, boy was I wrong: Simply Spotless Fabric Cleaner is amazing. It has removed so many stubborn stains that it is now my go-to stain treatment, especially for upholstery fabrics because it doesn't need to be washed out. A half-full glass of wine spilled on our light-colored sofa (my fault!) and fear gripped my chest. Yes, the slipcovers are washable, but it was a lot of wine, and a couch is a major investment piece. I covered all the stained spots with the Simply Spotless, and the stains were gone in the morning--really, there was no trace of the wine. It has also worked on old stains that had been sitting for who knows how long. I think this fabric cleaner is so effective that the $18 price tag is a bargain.

The company was founded by a mother-daughter team and is made in New York City, which is another reason I am happy to pay the higher price for this product.

(I should note that I also tried the Simply Spotless Glass and Surface Cleaner, and while it worked just fine, I wouldn't spend the extra money on it; I have yet to try the Wood Cleaner.)


Weekly Digest 11.21.14

Friday, November 21, 2014


Happy Friday! It's been a cold, cold week here in New York, and I'm excited for the weekend. We'll be finalizing our Thanksgiving menu and getting ready for our houseguests in anticipation of the mini-holiday next week. Here's what's been on my mind this week:

I seriously cannot wait to try these savory tart recipes from Pistache. 

For a slightly more healthy veggie dish, I've got my eye on Wild Apple's Celeriac Potato Gratin.

Renzo Piano's micro-home, 'diogene.' So. Chic.

The founder of the Container Store is working on a green alternative to Home Depot.

I bought a pair of Darn Tough Socks. Made in the USA, they have a lifetime guarantee.

I spied these gorgeous (but wildly expensive!) water filters at ABC Home--wow, right?

"Slow building" in Brooklyn.

These "tool pegs" from Brook Farm General Store are a great storage solution.

AirBnB is launching its own magazine! (AirBnB, if you need writers, I'm available!)

I'm intrigued by Vokashi, a compost service for urban dwellers.

...and a great design for a compost bin.

I've noticed a trend of winemakers going naked at our local wine shop.

Recipes for Broccoli Stems

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I'm the kind of cook who hates to waste anything edible. Whether it's the last wedge of lemon, a heel of bread, or some leftover potatoes, I always try to find a way to use everything up. In the spirit of making use of every last bit, I want to share some recipes for broccoli stems.

Many people cut the crowns off their broccoli, cook the florets and toss the stems. However, the stems are perfectly edible. The simplest way to use them is to sauté or roast them right alongside the florets, but I was also intrigued by these dishes that use only the stalks. To prepare stems, I cut off the end and any protruding bits, and peel them with a sharp vegetable peeler (sometimes you need to peel more than one layer to remove the woody exterior). I hope these recipes inspire you to cook every bit of broccoli that you bring home from the store.


I made this Broccoli Stem Salad recipe from Quinciple's blog The Sift, and it was pretty darn good. I added some slivered kalamata olives for an extra kick of flavor. The trick here is to let the stems marinate in the vinaigrette.


Pan-Fried Broccoli Stems from the New York Times sound delicious (and easy to make!).


Bon Appetit offers Sautéed Broccoli with Floret Vinaigrette, a dish from Oxheart restaurant in Houston, TX. This recipe uses the whole broccoli, so isn't really a stem-only recipe, but I bet you could use the technique with a basic vinaigrette and get delicious results.

Also: This recipe from The First Mess for "green goddess" pizza is intriguing--broccoli stem pesto!

Weekly Digest 11.14.14

Friday, November 14, 2014


I'm going to try something new here on the blog. Every Friday I will post a list of links to things that have sparked my attention over the previous week. Most of them will have to do with living well in small spaces, but others might touch on food, entertainment, travel--whatever strikes my fancy. I hope you enjoy what I share.

I am in love with the design of the tiny Marmara house.

Joanna Goddard shared another small, but certainly not minimal home.

So simple, yet so powerful: How 'double bucks' for food stamps at farmers' markets. 

This non-electric espresso machine is genius.

A writer tries to green her beauty routine by buying products that create less waste.

I'm intrigued by this sustainable-meat company.

Lessons in small-space living from a woman who lives on a boat!

I am so curious about this laundry gadget.

...and about this alternative to plastic baggies.

Harper's Bazaar compiled a great list of interior designers to follow on Pinterest.

home exchange site for creative types is an interesting idea.

Sheila Lukins's simple recipe for "dress-up rice."
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