Archive for May, 2008

Grey Matter

May 31, 2008

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I've mentioned my obsession with neutral shades in passing, but allow me now to indulge myself. Though I sometimes manage to inject bright color into my decor, I usually end up same muted tones of grey, white, and taupe: colors with names like "mushroom, mouse, elephant, ecru, eggshell", and if I'm feeling really adventurous, "mauve". According to the principles of feng shui, grey and white bring a sense of purity and order, and in my house, we can certainly use a little help in the 'purity and order' department!

Curl up with a cup of tea and a copy of Pride and Prejudice at Sweetpea and Willow.

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A silky faux fur throw adds texture to crisp white linens and an upholstered bedframe.

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Sweet dreams are guaranteed when you put your bed under a flower chandelier.

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A sunbleached sitting room made even breezier by some casually tossed pillows.

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Gather friends around the table and dine only on white foods a la Erik Satie.

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Head over to  Knack and admire these platters–they're too pretty to use for serving food!

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And an image from the kitchen of Martha Stewart (the queen of 'purity and order' herself). Even the kittens match the color scheme!

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Like it? Stay tuned for a grey and white shopping trip. Though I don't think kittens will be on the agenda…

Crime Doesn’t Pay

May 30, 2008

Okay, the subject line on this one is completely unrelated to the
content. Tonight’s post is being cut short by my husband’s realization
that someone smashed the back window of our car to steal items of
value. Fortunately for me—and unfortunately for our hapless
thief—there was nothing of value to be stolen. But it’s still
annoying. Grrr!

So I’ll save the snazzy long post I had planned for tonight in
favour of a quick public health announcement. I was remiss yesterday to
discuss my outdoor exercise habits without putting in a plug for the
importance of sunscreen. I’ve been making a supreme effort to wear it
whenever I go outside. Though I wish I could say that my motivation
stems from my desire to prevent skin cancer, in honesty it comes from
my hopes that a high SPF will keep me wrinkle-free well into my
nineties.

Here’s where it gets tricky. My skin breaks out if I even look at a
greasy cream. And the smidgiest bit of product causes my eyes to sting
like nobody’s business. Sunscreen and a sweaty run do not kind
bedfellows make. But I’ve discovered Clarins UV Plus, and now all is
right with the world.

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Because it contains titanium dioxide as its protective ingredient,
it doesn’t burn my eyes the way a chemical sunscreen can. And it’s
oil-free, so it doesn’t cause blemishes; yet at the same time, it
doesn’t leave the dry, chalky film that other ‘no shine’ products do. I
use it on its own when I run in the park, or I apply it under make-up
for daily incidental sun exposure. Even when I wear contact lenses and
am therefore ultra-sensitive, I can go the whole day without a blind
dash to the sink for an emergency eye rinse.

The take home? Protect against UV rays, whatever your reasons. And
if you’re looking for a good sunscreen, this is it. Because even though
crime doesn’t pay, a liberal application of SPF 40 does.

Now I’m off to tape garbage bags over the hole where my window was…

Vegetable Matter

May 29, 2008

This morning’s grueling thirty-minute run confirmed two suspicions:
first, that I have been skimping on cardio and now have the respiratory
fortitude of a sparrow, and second, that last weekend’s workouts on the
beaches of Santa Monica were a lot more fun than jogging the
traffic-jammed, garbage-strewn streets of Brooklyn. Still, a girl must
soldier on—especially when there is a big white dress and eternity’s
worth of wedding photos looming in her near future. Which is how I
ended up with this book on my shelf.

Kirsch

I knew of David Kirsch as the fitness guru who whipped Heidi Klum
back into Victoria’s Secret Shape after the births of her children.
Plus he gets lots of editorial attention in the Bible (aka Us Weekly).
This book screamed from the shelf at Barnes and Noble, promising a
quick makeover but—unlike most “instant results” plans—also promising
lots of pain and hard work. I’m a sucker for bald-faced honesty.

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The book lays out a two-week plan; I’ve been on a modified version
for four. And it has been hard, but not as hard as it could have been
due to my little tweaks. Daily 90-minute workouts? Not with my sixty
hour workweek! And the nutrition plan includes lots of fish, but
seafood gives me the heebie-jeebies so I substitute pork and lean beef.
But the fitness routine—with its combination of plyometrics and core
toning—and the food guidelines—which limit starches and sugars–has me
raving about David to anyone who will listen.

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Weight loss aside (though 6 pounds in four weeks is nothing to
sneeze at!), I am most enthused about the changes in my approach to
vegetables. I’ve come to view them more as the main event than as a
paltry side, and my repertoire has expanded considerably beyond romaine
hearts and baby carrots. Some new standards include:

Asparagus stir-fried with ginger, garlic and soy sauce, or broiled with a spritz of olive oil and sea salt.

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Kale chopped and sauteed with garlic, paired with roasted spaghetti squash as a bed for turkey meatballs marinara.

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Zucchini and Cremini mushrooms tossed in a hot skillet with a splash of marsala vinegar, piled high atop a grilled chicken breast.

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Brussels sprouts blanched in boiling water until tender, then browned in a pan with a little dijon mustard.

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Cabbage chopped and thrown together for a quick slaw on Asian night.

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Canned tomatoes in a versatile sauce that’s great over grilled eggplant, portobellos, or the aforementioned turkey meatballs.

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And when in doubt, just add turkey bacon to everything; it’s nature’s miracle seasoning!

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And never again will you have an excuse not to eat your veggies!

Orange Pop

May 28, 2008

I live in an apartment full of muted greys, soft taupes and clean
whites. I would love to mix in a splash fuchsia, a dash of chartreuse. Yet I can’t take the leap. What if I get sick of it? What if it looks
ugly? The thought of color in the living room–or in the bedroom, or in
the office–terrifies me.

But color in the kitchen? Bring it on! Perhaps because I spend most
of my playtime in the kitchen, I’m more than willing to goof around
with the decor. Right now I’m working on a wallscape of
bright, juicy orange artwork, which stands out brilliantly against my
Benjamin Moore Chantilly White walls. And when you’re being
non-committal about color, there’s no point in spending a lot of money.
So how to do it on a budget?

For starters, I painted the central piece myself. A flip through my old Dominoes resulted in a flash of OpArt Inspiration…

Modhome

…which resulted in the canvas seen in this impromptu tomato and
turnip still life. The painting is super easy to do. Even an
artistically challenged individual such as myself can manage it; I’ll
include a step-by-step as soon as I get my act together and paint a
second one. The tablecloth is from Crate and Barrel; table linens are another great way to be adventurous with color, without dropping too much cash.

Opartorange

I also love to scour antique print shops for odd and hilarious
artifacts of times gone by. I discovered this food label from the early
1950’s at Pageant Books on East 4th. It’s only a nod to my orange color scheme, but at $5 I had to have it. I’m going to frame it in a white acrylic frame with a white mat. And what the heck are kiln dried yams, anyway? 

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Also awaiting framing are two pieces from Etsy–hands down the best resource for inexpensive original art. The baby tiger came in a pack of hand-stamped notecards, and the poster
is a stylized version of a British WWII PSA. Both these sellers have
lovely selections and will custom produce anything if you get in touch
with them. 

Orange_etsy

Perfect
for projects like this, Etsy has a function that allows you to search
by color. A quick peek at today’s orange offerings yields:

Lovebirds perched on a branch by valentinadesign.
A plaintive fox from OrangeWillow.
John Golden’s homage to the humble cassette tape

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…Dan C. makes butter beans dance.
Wyatt Earp in acrylic on wood by Robert Comire.
WithWallPaper elevates the old school toaster to high art.

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Take your pick, or snap up all six! Each piece is less than $15:
proof that one-of-a-kind design is within reach for even the most
color-phobic amongst us. And when I tire of orange, there’s always
chartreuse…

Post-Wedding Blues (and Purples, Whites, Greens…)

May 27, 2008

I’m terribly jet-lagged after taking last night’s red-eye from L.A.
to New York, but I’m trying to get into the habit of posting
regularly–even if it’s just something small. So here’s a quickie:

I traveled out west to attend the wedding of college friends and–as
weddings tend to be–it was beautiful. The bride was glowing, the food
excellent and the company divine. And the gorgeous flowers completed a
perfect evening. Everyone thought I was nuts because I insisted on
photographing every arrangement, but I’m glad I did because here they
are for your viewing pleasure!

Tall wire and moss baskets full of dogwood, hydrangea and white iris stood behind the altar.

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The bridesmaids carried blue Siberian Iris (my all-time favourite!) and green hydrangea.

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More Siberian Iris perched high in a corner…

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…while magenta tulips made an appearance on the cocktail tables…

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…and on the groomsmen’s lapels.

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A splendid display of deep blue and green hydrangea accompanied dinner.

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And last but not least, the bride carried an exquisite bouquet
comprised entirely of white iris held together with a satin ribbon and
pearl clasp.

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But the loveliest arrangement of all? The happy couple!

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Thank you, Lauren and Jeremy, for a wonderful evening. Congratulations, and have fun in Mexico!

You CAN Win Friends with Salad

May 24, 2008

Memorial day marks the start of barbecue season, and with it comes the question of ‘Can I bring anything?’ Instead of resorting to the standby bottle of wine, throw together a quick summer side and you’ll be an instant hit.

There is one salad I make that always goes over like gangbusters. I
like to pull this recipe out when the weather is warm and there are
lots of people to feed.

Broc

Broccoli Bacon Crunch

Ingredients:
2 heads of broccoli
about 1/2 to 3/4 package of bacon, depending on your penchant for pig
1/2 to 2/3 cup sliced or slivered almonds
1/2 to 2/3 cup raisins (yellow ones are good because they’re nice and plump)
1/2 to 2/3 cup grated cheddar cheese

Dressing:
1 cup mayo
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tblspns white wine vinegar

Instructions
1.
Cut the broccoli into bite-sized florets and blanch them (ie. bring a
pot of water to boil, drop in the florets and let them cook for approx.
3 min until they’re bright green and tender crisp, then dump them into
a colander and run cold water over them to stop the cooking).

2. Chop bacon into little pieces and fry them until you have crispy bits (mmmm…crispy bits).

3. Toast almonds in a skillet on the stove top until they are lightly
browned (Don’t leave them unattended! Those lil’ devils burn in an
instant!). Let them cool so they are crunchy.

4. Combine broccoli through to cheddar in a really big bowl, then dump the dressing on. Give it a good mix around and voila!

A couple notes: This salad is best made at least 8 hours before you serve it so that the flavours have time to meld. It can be made vegetarian by omitting the bacon (but why would you want to do that?). Also, the ingredient amounts are approximate and can be adjusted according to which you like more of, less of, etc. But prepare at your own risk: this salad is so amazing that you’ll be fighting the summer party invites off with a stick.

Outdoor_domino

Not convinced? Check out some other recipes that are sure to drive your barbecue popularity rating through the roof:

  • A ‘pinch’ of crab provides a twist on the classic deviled egg over at Orangette.
  • More appetizing ideas for Memorial Day dips, sides and libations from Bluelines.
  • Don’t forget dessert! 101 Cookbooks promises that black bean puree in brownies is awesome.

Have your own favourite summer recipes? Share them! And Thanks to Trazy for the gorgeous macro shot of broccoli. It’s cruciferlicious.

You CAN Win Friends with Salad

May 24, 2008

Memorial day marks the start of barbecue season, and with it comes the question of ‘Can I bring anything?’ Instead of resorting to the standby bottle of wine, throw together a quick summer side and you’ll be an instant hit.

There is one salad I make that always goes over like gangbusters. I
like to pull this recipe out when the weather is warm and there are
lots of people to feed.

Broc

Broccoli Bacon Crunch

Ingredients:
2 heads of broccoli
about 1/2 to 3/4 package of bacon, depending on your penchant for pig
1/2 to 2/3 cup sliced or slivered almonds
1/2 to 2/3 cup raisins (yellow ones are good because they’re nice and plump)
1/2 to 2/3 cup grated cheddar cheese

Dressing:
1 cup mayo
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tblspns white wine vinegar

Instructions
1.
Cut the broccoli into bite-sized florets and blanch them (ie. bring a
pot of water to boil, drop in the florets and let them cook for approx.
3 min until they’re bright green and tender crisp, then dump them into
a colander and run cold water over them to stop the cooking).

2. Chop bacon into little pieces and fry them until you have crispy bits (mmmm…crispy bits).

3. Toast almonds in a skillet on the stove top until they are lightly
browned (Don’t leave them unattended! Those lil’ devils burn in an
instant!). Let them cool so they are crunchy.

4. Combine broccoli through to cheddar in a really big bowl, then dump the dressing on. Give it a good mix around and voila!

A couple notes: This salad is best made at least 8 hours before you serve it so that the flavours have time to meld. It can be made vegetarian by omitting the bacon (but why would you want to do that?). Also, the ingredient amounts are approximate and can be adjusted according to which you like more of, less of, etc. But prepare at your own risk: this salad is so amazing that you’ll be fighting the summer party invites off with a stick.

Outdoor_domino

Not convinced? Check out some other recipes that are sure to drive your barbecue popularity rating through the roof:

  • A ‘pinch’ of crab provides a twist on the classic deviled egg over at Orangette.
  • More appetizing ideas for Memorial Day dips, sides and libations from Bluelines.
  • Don’t forget dessert! 101 Cookbooks promises that black bean puree in brownies is awesome.

Have your own favourite summer recipes? Share them! And Thanks to Trazy for the gorgeous macro shot of broccoli. It’s cruciferlicious.

Westward Ho!

May 23, 2008

I’m heading out the door to hop a plane to a wedding on the West Coast. I’ll write from out there, but in the meantime here’s one of the few good photos I’ve ever taken in my life. It’s of my husband on the beach in Carmel, and for me it captures the California spirit perfectly…

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Happy frolicking!

Westward Ho!

May 23, 2008

I’m heading out the door to hop a plane to a wedding on the West Coast. I’ll write from out there, but in the meantime here’s one of the few good photos I’ve ever taken in my life. It’s of my husband on the beach in Carmel, and for me it captures the California spirit perfectly…

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Happy frolicking!

Confessions of a Product Junkie

May 23, 2008

I’ve just come from what is by far my biggest indulgence: a monthly facial and brow shaping at Robin Evans Skincare
in SoHo. Not only does Robin sculpt my arches into near-Natalie Portman
territory, she purges and peels, massages and masks until my skin glows
pink and plump as the day I was born. I would go every week if I could,
but Robin says every four weeks is plenty. Plus I don’t want her to
think I’m stalking her.

So between visits to Robin I get my facial fix from what my husband
calls my ‘lotions and potions’: a medicine cabinet full of scrubs,
crèmes, clays, gels, and other assorted goos. On Saturday mornings I’ll
slather some on, slip into a pair of rubber gloves, and clean the
bathroom while the products do their thing; it’s multi-tasking at its
very best. Here are some of my tried-and-trues.

I discovered the Solar Recover
line when the founder of the company set up a demo table in my local
Whole Foods. The whole collection is brilliant, but I especially love
the Solar Facial Exfoliator.
It’s made from the cranberry hulls and seeds that remain after the
production of cranberry juice–so it’s sustainable!–and is super rich
in the same vitamins and antioxidants that make cranberries so good for
your insides. Give it a good stir in the jar, then work the fine grains
around your face with your fingertips and leave it on for about ten
minutes before you rinse. It’s recommended for all but the most
sensitive skin types, and I find it particularly effective when one of
those pesky midmonth breakouts appears.

Solar_recover_2

By law product ingredients are listed in order of dominance, meaning
that the ingredient at the top of the list is present in greater amount
than the others. In the case of skin care, this primary ingredient is
usually water. But the first thing listed in Naturopathica’s Environmental Defense Mask is (drum roll please) Cherry Puree.
Like the stuff you find in fruit-at-the-bottom yogurt, only a billion
times more concentrated and not full of sugar. The aesthetician who
sold this to me suggested that I apply this mask while running a
steaming hot shower, because the steam activates the enzymes and helps
the good stuff penetrate the pores. I can tell it’s working because it
tingles. Plus, if you miss a spot when you rinse it off, you have a
snack for later!

Naturopathica_2

The Chantecaille Fruit and Flower Acids Mask
falls into the category of ‘pricey but worth it’. It costs a whopping
$82 for 1.69 oz. The good news, however, is that a little goes a long
way; I’m still dipping into the jar I bought a year ago. The
consistency resembles a thick lotion, which makes this mask the ideal
substrate to facilitate a soothing self-massage. Grapefruit and
sugarcane exfoliate while jasmine and mimosa flower waxes seal in
moisture. I imagine über-wealthy French women smearing huge quantities
of this stuff all over themselves and then strolling naked around their
Parisian pied-à-terres while they wait for the cream to work its magic.
Of course, a tiny dab on your forehead, cheeks and chin will do. At
least until you wait for the deal to close on that place in the 6th
Arrondissement. (Note: The below photo shows the Jasmine and Lily
Healing Mask, but they look the same in the jar.)

Chantecaille

Finally, no matter what combination of lotions and potions I use, I always cap things off with the Rose Face Mask
from Fresh. Cucumber, marine algae and aloe vera combine with a base of
rose flower water to create a cooling finish to any at-home facial. But
the ultimate luxury of this product is the real rose petals suspended
throughout. The ancient Greeks had their olive oil rubdowns, and
Cleopatra her milk baths, but for me nothing can top the extravagance
of using real rose petals in my beauty ritual. The result?
Firm, radiant skin. No more puffy cheeks and droopy jowls. And pores
sealed tighter than Nefertiti’s tomb.

Rose_mask

But ultimately, my pleasure comes less from the products themselves
and more from the ritual as a whole. Because even though I might be at
home–not in SoHo–and up to my elbows in toilet water–not in eau de toilette–my lotions and potions turn even the dreariest task into a day at the spa. Ce qu’est un régal!