Purl Bee's Nautical Flag Napkins

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

It's pretty rare that I am overcome with the urge to sew, but these absolutely adorable nautical flag napkins are very inspiring. Sadly, they look like they might be just a wee bit beyond my sewing skill set. It's especially clever that each family member can remember whose flag is whose and napkins can be reused several times. Thanks to my friend Elizabeth for pointing them out on the Purl Bee blog -- I love them!

Hooray for New York

Monday, June 27, 2011

Hooray for New York! I am so proud and pleased that my state passed the same-sex marriage law on Friday night. I am especially proud of Governor Cuomo for getting this passed (albeit by a very thin margin). I thought this photo of Jonathan Adler and Simon Doonan, who were wed during the notorious "window" when same-sex marriage was legal in California, was an accurate depiction of how happy I feel to know that New Yorkers are free to wed whomever they choose.

Three-Ingredient Cocktails, Yes, Please!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Did you see the New York Times article about three-ingredient summer cocktails? I was thrilled to read it because everything sounded delicious and do-able. Limiting bartenders to just a few ingredients (plus staples like seltzer, citrus and simple syrup) means that these are drinks you might actually make. I'm thinking Friday night might call for a test drive of the Guadalajara Sour. What do you think? Do you have a favorite summer cocktail?

Guadalajara Sour
from the New York Times

1 3/4 ounces blanco tequila
3/4 ounce lemon juice
3/4 ounce simple syrup
3/4 ounce chilled rosé.

Combine the tequila, lemon juice and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker, fill with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled rocks glass over fresh ice. Hold a spoon with its back side facing up on the surface of the drink and slowly pour the rosé over it.

Yield: 1 drink.

Essie's Potato Fields

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I'm not in the habit of writing about beauty or make-up, but I feel compelled to share my love of Essie's 'Potato Fields' nail polish. To me it the perfect barely-there nude color--in fact, it's practically clear. Until last year I was a devoted fan of 'Fed Up,' a similar hue from Essie, but I've come to love 'Potato Fields' so much that I bring my own polish to the nail salon with me to ensure that I'll be able to get my favorite color (yes, that sounds fussy, I know). I'm planning to wear it on both my fingers and toes for my wedding day for a super-subtle look. Sadly, Essie's website says the color is "currently unavailable;" I hope this doesn't mean it is being discontinued.

Lobster Roll Northside

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Lobster Roll (aka Lunch) on the Napeague stretch between Amagansett and Montauk is an institution. If you want a lobster roll on the far East End, it's the place to go (though I could rarely afford to go when I lived in Montauk).  I've often driven by this second Lobster Roll location on my way to various points on the North Fork and wondered about it, not sure if it was THE Lobster Roll or just a similar-looking establishment.

On Saturday we were on our way out to Shelter Island to run the annual 10K race and to do a tiny bit of wedding preparation. Feeling hunger pangs, we decided to stop and see what this northside lobster shack was all about. It turns out this is, in fact, the second home of the Napeague Lobster Roll: A little over a decade ago, the founder of the original Lobster Roll set up shop in Baiting Hollow, the town on the North Fork of Long Island where he had grown up. Luckily, the classic lobster sandwich did not disappoint. However, I would rather have a really great pile of potato chips than the sub-par, straight-from-the freezer french fries we were served with our rolls. Don't you agree? It would have been nice with a nice, cold beer, but since we were on our way to a race, we skipped the brew in favor of ice waters. Definitely make a pit stop on your way out to the North Fork, if you get a chance.

Paul Bernier's Clever Details

Monday, June 20, 2011

A lot of the time Dwell magazine leaves me cold: I have trouble relating to the super-pristine homes of architects and other design elite, but this house by Paul Bernier was a different story: I loved almost everything about it, from the vines he has trained to the exterior of the house (lovely, right?) to the simple, wall-mounted bedside tables. Check out the full slideshow on Dwell.com to see more of this amazing house. Here are some of the details I liked best:

The addition to the house is quite small, but it adds much-needed space without eating up too much of their outdoor ares. I love how there's a wall of windows and sliding doors to open the room right up to the garden in warm weather.
The green roof kills me! I love the way it makes the house's courtyard feel even more garden-y. Plus, most green roofs seem to be planted with succulents or other low-growing, non-leafy plants. I like seeing something lush instead.

Sure, it's probably not that practical, but I love the light mounted on an old-fashioned pulley. And could that nightstand get an more minimalistic? I think it's a super-smart solution to a small space, and I can't helping thinking how easy it would be to sweep/vacuum under.

The simple cabinetry is super-appealing, I love how Bernier simply cut out holes and rectangles on many of the drawers and cabinets in lieu of pulls or handles. I also like the combination of close cabinets and some open shelving.

Cannellini Bean Salad With Shaved Spring Vegetables

Saturday, June 18, 2011

I am thrilled that David Tanis now has a weekly column in the New York Times food section. I am a big fan of both of his cookbooks The Heart of the Artichoke and A Platter of Figs, and his recipes are the kind of food I want to cook (and eat) daily. I like that the new column is focused on cooking in a small kitchen, though I have never not made a recipe because my kitchen was too small. In fact, I can't imagine how having a larger kitchen would change my cooking habits, but who knows, I've never had a large kitchen.

Last night I cooked a variation on Tanis's first recipe for the Times: Cannellini Bean Salad With Shaved Spring Vegetable. I was prepared to follow his recipe to the letter, but it didn't work out that way. First, I forgot to get a bulb of fennel when I was at the market (and I was too lazy to go back). And second, I just couldn't bring myself to mandolin the vegetables. I own a mandolin, and on rare occasion I have actually used it, but frankly, I hate the thing. I don't know why I detest the mandolin so much, and I recognize that it is, in fact, the best way to get thin even slices of vegetables.

So, instead of carefully mandolining the veggies, I sliced the radishes as thinly as I could and I chopped the asparagus into 1-inch pieces and blanched them for about two minutes in hot water, figuring that they would taste a little better that way. Also, I used a whole bunch of asparagus, since I'd forgotten to get the fennel. The salad was delicious, and the vinaigrette had a wonderful, complex flavor with the anchovies and fennel seed. We served it with pan seared arctic char and a simple salad of baby arugula that I tossed with the remainder of the dressing. I'll include Tanis's recipe as he wrote it, but feel free to adjust as you like -- I certainly did.

Cannellini Bean Salad With Shaved Spring Vegetables
From The New York Times

3 tablespoons lemon juice, or as needed
Finely grated zest of half a lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seed
4 to 6 anchovy fillets, rinsed and chopped
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 cups cooked cannellini beans, drained
Salt and pepper
Pinch red pepper flakes
6 to 8 large, fat asparagus spears, snapped and peeled
6 radishes
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed
1 small sweet spring onion, or a few scallions, finely chopped
Chopped parsley, basil or dill, for garnish

1. To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients. Adjust lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.
2. To assemble the salad, place the beans in a large bowl. Pour half the vinaigrette over the beans and toss lightly. Season with salt, pepper and
red pepper flakes.
3. Using a sharp mandolin — and a hand guard — carefully slice the asparagus spears lengthwise to about the thickness of a penny. Slice the radishes and fennel to the same thickness. Lay the shaved vegetables and chopped onion or scallions in a shallow bowl. Season with salt and pepper, and dress them very lightly with a few spoonfuls of vinaigrette, turning gently to coat.
4. Spoon the beans onto a serving platter or individual plates, then cover the beans with the shaved vegetables. Add a little more vinaigrette over the top. Sprinkle with chopped parsley, basil or dill.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

Love: Eric Therner's Diamond Light Bulbs

I gather this has been blogged to death, but it's new to me, so maybe it will be new to some of you too. How amazing is this Diamond light bulb? Swedish designer Erin Therner gets a big thumbs-up from me for designing something that is both playful and elegant at the same time. I love it. Can a New York City shop please stock it? I nominate the Future Perfect.

Go See Midnight in Paris

Friday, June 17, 2011

Have you seen Midnight in Paris yet? If not, I can't think of a better thing for you to do this weekend. Really. We went last Saturday and it was such a treat, it's like a cross between The Purple Rose of Cairo (one of my favorite Woody Allen movies) and Vickie Christina Barcelona, but it's set in Paris -- and better still, much of it takes place in Paris of the 1920s. Le sigh.

The caricatures of all the 1920s artists Gertrude Stein, Picasso, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and best of all Hemmingway are just plain fun to watch. My fiancé was particularly amused by the Hemmingway character's monologue about making love to a woman; I died over Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein.

Plus, the film is a huge success. The New York Times reports that Sony Pictures Classics plans to increase the number of theaters showing “Midnight in Paris” to 1,038 screens, which is apparently the widest release of any of Woody Allen’s films: Wow, right? It makes me pleased to hear that Woody Allen's genius is being appreciated by a wider audience than ever.

Urban Roof Deck by Douglas Fanning

When thinking about outdoor spaces in the city, I always dream of a brownstone's backyard, but this roof deck designed by Douglas Fanning might be a sound argument to settle for a roof deck. (It was in New York magazine a while back, but I just came across it again.) The humble 200 square-foot patio was nothing to look at before Fanning got his hands on it. The new deck, built-in benches and planter arbor are all made from a steel beam base with cedar boxes to hold the dirt and plants. I love the simplicity of the design and how completely it transforms the space, don't you?

Inspiration: Hollow-Core Door Upgrade

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I find Jenny Komeda's blog, Little Green Notebook, endlessly inspiring. She's always making and DIYing things in her home in a way that seems doable with results that are incredible looking. One of her latest projects was adding molding to the hollow-core door of her daughter's bedroom. Above is a shot of the final project, and it looks pretty authentic to me -- a serious improvement over a lame, Home Depot door for sure.

We have two hollow-core doors and I am inspired to invest in nicer doorknobs and add trim to both for a more polished look. What do you think? Worth the effort?

Rhubarb Strawberry Compote from Food52

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A while back, I'd bookmarked Food52's recipes for Rhubarb Strawberry Compote, and last weekend, I was inspired to pick up some rhubarb and strawberries and finally test it out. This recipe couldn't be any easier, you put the ingredients in a pot and cook and stir. I only cooked mine for about 25 minutes, so you may not need the full 45 minutes recommended by Food52. I ended up with about three recycled Bonne Maman jars worth of the compote and I've been eating it stirred into my yogurt each morning with a sprinkle of granola -- it's delicious.

Rhubarb Strawberry Compote
from Food52, makes about 2 cups

- 3 cups rhubarb (4 large stalks), trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 pound frozen or fresh strawberries
- 6 tablespoons raw (turbinado) sugar
- Pinch salt
- Peel from 1/2 large navel orange
- 3 tablespoons rosé or white wine

1.Combine all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan and add 1/4 cup water. Set over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cook gently, uncovered, for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more water if the mixture seems too dry. You want the fruit to cook through and soften without completely losing its texture.
2. Cool and serve over yogurt or ricotta, with ice cream, or on its own.

Here's everything tossed into the pot about to cook.

A few minutes later the sugar has dissolved and the fruits are beginning to soften.

Fun Find: Picnic Basket Cooler

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How cute is this picnic basket cooler? I love the combination of the classic basket silhouette with the practical insulation of a traditional cooler. It's definitely a more practical present that your usual picnic basket.

Ice Master, $49, Peterboro Basket Company.

Surprise Strawberries

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Walking home from my office I noticed some strawberries growing in the side lawn of a brownstone. They were clearly volunteers and not something that had been intentionally planted. I thought it would be a nice surprise to discover berries growing in your lawn, and wondered how they'd ended up growing there.

Etsy Pop-Up Shop on Governor's Island

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Did you know that there's any Etsy pop-up shop on Governor's Island? Well, there is! My mother and I were wandering around on Sunday and discovered this lovely little shop. It was very well curated and I saw lots of things I would have loved to own, including a necklace made from vintage beads, which I ended up buying.

When my sister and I went to visit Governor's Island two years ago I wondered what they would do with all the buildings on the island, and I am glad to see them being used in a way that supports independent craftspeople. I also loved it that the shop felt very down-to-earth and genuine, and the ladies manning the shop that day were super-friendly. Be sure to stop in, if you visit the island.

THE Dress

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

I'd like to share some thoughts about wedding dresses. First, I'd like to say that the whole wedding dress industry is a bit of a racket. It makes me crazy that a dress made from the same amount and quality of fabric that is not a "wedding" dress is inevitably cheaper than a bridal gown. It also seems criminal that the $400-$1,000 dresses sold by companies like J. Crew and Ann Taylor are considered "affordable" -- that's a lot of money to spend on something you will wear once.

When I set out to find my dress, I didn't have strong opinions about what kind of wedding costume I would like. I knew I wanted it to be simple and elegant -- and truly affordable. So, I went ahead and bid on a J. Crew dress from a few season's past on eBay. I won it for $99 and it arrived looking great. The dress fits me fairly well: I could wear it as-is and be fine, or I could have slight alterations to make the bust fit a little better. I was pretty sure I'd wear this dress, as I liked it and I relished the idea of telling everyone I'd worn a $99 dress from eBay.

However, everyone said: You must go try on dresses, you'll regret it if you don't, this is your one chance, etc. etc. So, I booked an appointment at J. Crew. I tried to do the same at Ann Taylor, but they only sell online. My attempt to contact David's Bridal made me very certain I did NOT want to buy a dress there. My mother hearing of the appointment and of a sale on Jet Blue plane tickets booked a flight to NYC to see me try on dresses. So, suddenly, it was an event.

I went to J. Crew with my mother and sister on Saturday. I told them what my price range was and we started trying on gowns. The first few left me feeling confident that the eBay number was going to win, but then I found a few I liked a bit more. And then there were two dresses I really liked -- one of which I really love. But my gosh, it's $575 dollars (before taxes!) and that's more than 1/20th of my whole budget.

On the one hand, I feel like I should just go for it: I love the dress and in the grand scheme of things it's really not that much money, and well, it is my BIG day, right? On the other hand, we set a budget and I am determined to stick to it. If we start making decisions to spend just a little bit more on this and a little more on that, the overall budget will quickly escalate. I want to save money for our future house more than I want to wear that dress on my wedding day. However, I also want to look and feel great and I don't want to look back and regret not buying a dress I really loved. I know every woman will say buy the dress, but I am not sure that, that is the right answer. I could find a compromise and try to buy the dress on eBay for less than the marked cost, but I'm still uncomfortable with racing out to spend more money when I do have a dress that I like that cost only $99.

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