Monday, 29 November 2010

Re-create the Look: Suzanna Bierwirth's Cozy Sofette

This is indoorsy and wintry in the best way and makes me feel optimistic about the months of cold ahead.  You can imagine that the light filling the room is glinting off snow.  The modern details and yellow feel cheerful.  This looks like a good place to wile away a Sunday afternoon with a cup of tea and a good book.

The inspiration was featured in one of the Home Tours on Martha Stewart's Home & Garden site (here), and it was orginally been featured in Blueprint.  Suzanna Bierwirth is the creative director and founder of Binth, which creates graphic, whimsical designs like those featured on the pillows here.  This was the kitchen-side living area from her Chicago row house.

The sofa has to be the Odette from Mitchell Gold.  Find it here.

The side table is La Bohème 3 by Kartell, available for $198 here.

This blanket is made from real, Connecticut sheep and costs $160 for a queen size, found via Remodelista.

The pillow on the left is by Fauna and the pillow on the right  is by three sheets 2 the wind, $36 and $85, respectively.

Sunday, 28 November 2010


I was surprised to wake up yesterday morning teary-eyed and with a familiar ache somewhere in my chest.  I am homesick, again.  I'd experienced this feeling periodically over the past two years living in Spain. It was not, at least in my experience, a sharp, specific pain.  Of course, there were cravings for Mexican food and the like, which could be exquisite, but they were only cravings.  Homesickness was more insidious.  When I was homesick I missed everything familiar: feeling like I belonged to the people and place around me.  I missed the freedom of driving my car around and of having spontaneous conversations.  I missed the way that the seasons smelled at home.  I missed the daily routines and pace of life.  Overall, it was more of a general feeling--like when you think you're waking up in your childhood bed and reality takes away that feeling of comfort and security.  Even if you realize that you are in an amazing place, that you love where you are, you don't get back that initial feeling of peace that comes from not having to question your surroundings.

Now I have that feeling again, except this time I'm not missing the United States.  We will be there in a month. While the move is long-awaited and exciting, a month is soon enough for me.  Instead I'm homesick for a place I was sure would never feel like home, Spain.

Nobody tells you this about living abroad.  Everybody talks about the discomfort of living in another country: the language barrier, the bureaucratic nightmares, the prejudices.  All these things can be true, at times, and living them is just as difficult as people say.  What they don't tell you is that at the same time, even, or maybe especially, in the greatest discomfort, you are planting a small part of yourself in the inhospitable ground.  They don't tell you that when you leave a place, even a place you were plotting to leave for almost as long as you had been there, that part of yourself--that weedy, scrappy, wide-eyed part--stays behind.  It thrives.  Months or years later you wake up feeling out of place, uncomfortable, and you know why.  You know that the only place that would feel like home at this moment is that place where you struggled and where you lost that tiny part of yourself.  You realize you are now in love with the very things you found strangest and most irritating.  The separation from them aches.

The only solution to this feeling is to go about life as usual.  Survival and happiness depends on living in the moment.  Yet, as you daydreamed once about returning home, you now plan your trip back.  Maybe not for forever, but there are minimal requirements.  You must walk down a certain street, even though it will still smell like pee.  Then there's "taking" a tiny beer in the plaza with friends.  You need to eat an almond pastry from a certain bakery and you even hope for a firecracker to be set off alongside you.  Then, with the adrenaline, you'll curse at the scoundrel, who you can no longer hate, in that colorful way that took you so long to master.  You want to feel alive, which is impossible as long as you are homesick in this new way.  Nobody tells you that when you choose to live in a foreign place, you will be homesick, not only while you are away, but also afterwards, even months and years later.    (Photo by me, taken roughly ten meters from our old front door)

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Market Saturday

I finally made it to a market! and it was a holiday market! The first time I went to a holiday market was in Prague and it was pure magic... pastries, mulled cider, carols, and snow.  This market, in Vouvant, had the same excitement, but a very different feel.  There was a craft fair inside the Norman church while  children and a herd of ponies gathered outside.  There was instant coffee and crepes.  Stores around town were decorated for the season.  The toy shop, which was filled with handmade wooden toys, was especially impressive.  I bought a bar of locally-made soap, the one that Jack did not make a face at.  A big success.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Holiday Decorating: A Blank Slate

Simple, natural materials, handmade touches, vintage details.  Snow white, evergreen and blackboard paint.  A blank slate.
Images Top Row: See Martha for snowflake making, Country Living for a pine cone tree, photographer Robin Stubbert
Middle Row: Unknown, Country Living for making a wreath of vintage photos
Bottom Row: Karen Mordechai for Martha Stewart, a woven tree skirt from  Terrain via Remodelista

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Wednesday Groove 2: The Mighty Clouds

I was so excited to find this duo, via Wood&Faulk (see his review here).  Music becomes so important around this time of year.  I happen to like holiday music, especially my Mom's longstanding policy of Handel's Messiah or bust.  There's a definite need for more music to balance out the holiday music at the same time, however, and about now is when my hoarded music seems a little stale.  Mighty Clouds, a collaboration between Fred Thomas and Betty Marie Barnes, has a wonderful sound, at times a little poppy and retro.  There are several free downloads on their site here or go to Polyvinyl Records to download individual tracks from their album.

(The turkey was picked up from the farm where it had recently departed its free range life.  I'm so happy we were able to do it this way and I'm very thankful for the feast ahead.  There were, and still are, giblets involved, but we hope to use everything.  Thank goodness it was already d-e-a-d, or we probably would have ended up with a 20 lb. pet bird.  I shudder to think of the logistics of emmigrating with such a creature.)

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Thanksgiving Eve Eve

Yes, I am that excited.  I love Thanksgiving, it's my favorite holiday, but that's not to say I'm not feeling some serious trepidation.  I'm cooking for Jack's family, who have never celebrated Thanksgiving before, so there's a little pressure to do my family and national traditions justice. (Speaking of which: interesting, no?)  I will have their help, but I really want to hold my own and to be honest, English (British?) people seem to be overqualified at cooking Thanksgiving-type food.  You see, they (my in-laws, in any case) have something called a Sunday Roast, which is a special, weekly meal including roast meat (usually a Chicken), with potatoes, gravy, steamed vegetables and Yorkshire pudding.  It's exactly the kind of production, simple in theory, that causes so much anxiety around Thanksgiving, and they have had every week to perfect it.

So today I went to a French mega-supermarket (somewhere between a Walmart and a Target) when the local produce market didn't have everything on my list.  Two hours later, I emerged compulsively eating a large bar of chocolate, having jettisoned the pecan pie with a heavy heart.  I'm afraid the cranberry sauce isn't happening either because I bought the following to make it: 1) Ocean Spray... juice 2) dried white raisins 3) an orange.  It seemed doable at the time.  So did pumpkin pie with condensed milk (my thinking was along the lines of: if evaporated is opposite condensed... I can just 'opposite' it? Right? -- again, two hours under artificial lights).  However, what is causing me the most stress, without a doubt, is the turkey.  My father-in-law has talked to a man who knows a man who can get us a turkey.  This will be my first Thanksgiving in five years with a real, whole turkey (not to mention the eight vegetarian years before that) and I'm terrified about how intact it might be. We decided to brine it in cider, in any case.  I'm keeping my eyes on the cider phase and the things I'm thankful for.  Deep breaths.  (P.S. If you know where this picture is from, besides the dream kitchen in my head, I would really like to know)

Monday, 22 November 2010

Re-create the Look: G.P. Schafer Kitchen in the Country

This is a kitchen designed by G.P. Schafer for a horse farm in upstate New York.  It seems to have got the blend of industrial, traditional and utilitarian just right for the setting.  I love the built-in display cabinet with it's porch-ceiling blue background and the prep sink.  This looks like a place to chat with leftover apple pie and a glass of wine while someone does some serious cooking.

I put this kitchen in a special folder weeks ago, in fact, and set about scouring for the unique elements that make this space.

Sometimes, however, trying to find the secret sources in an attempt to replicate my favorite features from interior blogs gets exhausting.  I spent the longest time looking for a ceiling mounted pot rack, like the pictured, preferably with inset lighting.  It nearly broke my spirit.  Most  pot racks out there look like they belong in a French-country-style dungeon, or hung with some barbed-wire embellishment.   Where was the simplicity? Where was shiny chrome with tastefully-substantial ceiling mounts?  In any case, I was getting glum. Then I had a breakthrough, which might be brilliant or sheer stupidity, but a fine line, in any case.

Voila! I give you a simple, shiny ceiling mounted structure for $275, additional supports for $50, via. Pretty good, if slightly curvier and borrowed from a different room.  Imagine some pots on those s-hooks.  Ignore the shy shower head drooping in the corner.  Instead mount a couple of these (at right) to hang on the inside (hiding behind the pans in the original picture).

Now add H-L bracket hinges, such as these .  The ones pictured in the original might actually be shutter hinges!!!!! or maybe I'm just too eager to think outside the box after the magnificent shower rod revelation.  But maybe, just maybe, using shutter hinges on indoor cabinets would make you feel like a furniture hacking ninja, or so I would.  I think that's to be encouraged.

Finally, the bread box.  This is a perfect vintage detail, in my opinion, because it's so functional.  I love fresh bread and it really does keep better when it's stored in a bread box.  I would turn to Etsy to find the     likes of this:

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Sunday Kind of Love 2

This weekend, I'm warming up for next week's feast.  While I'm prepared to leap into the holiday season, however, part of me wants to cling to fall and the memory of summer.  Sorting through my summer photos is probably doing that to me, as are these pictures. (L. from Design*Sponge, and R. from Green Wedding Shoes).  I feel like I'm not quite ready to let the last handful of golden leaves fall from the trees.  It's not up to me, of course.  In the meantime, I have these pretty pictures to ogle.  One of my life aspirations is a tree house, and I am madly jealous of this one, in Brooklyn no less.  I've been plotting building one for some time.  On the other hand, there's the vintage VW with its debonair luggage racks.  We are quite taken with the vintage cars over here, especially the minis, which appear to have been with their owners for decades, repaired and coaxed as needed, and meanwhile acquiring their distinctive personalities.  I can only hope my own car will last that long and wear so well, if not, perhaps there's a vintage car waiting for our love and money (hah!) somewhere....   

Now the other things I found to love this week:

Two new, striking additions  to the Lindsey Adelman Studio's You Make It series.  I want to create them both and am still in awe that this resource is free.  One even appears to be a mobile.   (via Remodelista )

A photo shoot with wedding gowns from Portland's The English Dept. in a barn via Green Wedding Shoes . Breathtaking

A clustered chandelier made out of globes.  (via Unruly Things )

This is a little early, because Thanksgiving is still ahead, but Free People's winter store display , while not earth-shattering, is my kind of festive.  I think a lot of this could be copied and would look stunning, especially the paper snowflake curtains and the wall-mounted ornaments (some of which must be inspired by this, or this via Poppytalk )

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Madewell Greatest Gifts Guide

Around this time of year, I love looking at online gift guides not so much for the items presented as the way they pull together an aesthetic.  To me, they have all the fun that online personality quizzes used to, because the total of these material things are a personality or a lifestyle.  I end up looking for the people I love, their passions and quirks. It's not about buying the items shown, but thinking about what someone has and how it adds up. (Maybe, just possibly, the guide will also highlight that thing that's missing.)  That's why I was excited to stumble on Madewell's gift guides.  Vintage Sophisticate or Chic Tomboy? Except, while usually there are a few looks that don't fit (usually too much shininess or sportiness), these all seem more like looks my sister and my friends could wear on different occasions.  Granted it does all come from Madewell, which is a pretty defined brand, but I know I could wear variations on them all, depending on what the day called for. 

From Madewell, found via Unruly Things.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Edwardian Farm & Other Dreams

It's been nearly two years, and now, with our departure from Europe looming on the horizon (December 28th!), we're starting to get serious about the kind of life we want to build and where.

The details are still fuzzy, but we know some things we do want.  One of the most important to us is that we plant some real vegetation wherever we are.  We have some serious garden/farm fever, despite having no practical experience whatsoever.  I'm so intrigued by other people's stories about the way they farm.  How did they learn their skills?  What do they grow?  What does their harvest look like and what do they do with it?  How much time and money does their venture require, and what kind of chores do they do?  How do these choices and tasks ultimately change a lifestyle?  For now, we're pestering our farming and gardening friends with these questions.  The advice we invariably get is to figure out where we will be first and then try to nurture the plants and animals that will thrive there.  We plan on doing exactly that, of course, but in the meantime it leaves us with empty hands and not much to satisfy our new... shall we say... urges.

The solution we've come up with over the past few weeks has two parts: 1) Dig the you-know-what out of my in-laws' back garden and toss around a pile of manure  2) Watch Edwardian Farm on BBC 2.  (I found out about it after chasing up Jenna's mention of Victorian Farm ).  Given that the first is back-breaking, visually unappealing and malodorous, I'll focus on the second.

 Edwardian Farm shows back-breaking labor and likely smells bad, if not to the viewer, but it is some of the most gorgeous footage you could possibly find on reality TV.  There are no aerial shots of cities overlaid by pop tracks.  Instead, the costuming and dramatic setting (the Tamar Valley in Devon) make each frame look like it could become an oil painting.  Then there's the content.  As the website describes the show: "Archaeologists Alex and Peter and historian Ruth attempt to bring Morwellham Quay in Devon back to life as it was in its Edwardian heyday." This process is beyond fascinating, at least to us.  In one episode alone you can see smoking and salting pork, milking goats, clearing land, navigation of a tidal river, slaking lime, strawberry planting, cider pressing, chicken roasting, wholesome halloween traditions and putting a pair of draft horses in reins. It's sometimes the details that catch us up though--in our quest for a simple life we don't realize how much depends on oil and technology.  Sometimes it takes a man running after a pony cart full of strawberry plants to bring that into focus.  Who knows though, next week they'll be using "new technology."  (Above, the Edwardian Farmers from the Edwardian Farm page) 

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

In the Wednesday Groove: Folk Duet in the Garden

This is Johnny Flynn and Laura Marling playing "Water."  I've listened to Marling before, and marveled at both her voice and songwriting talent, but this is new to me.  The two voices and buzzing garden are a perfect antidote to a cold Wednesday in November.  I'm really looking forward to watching both careers continue to blossom.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Chicken Cacciatore

It's definitely feeling wintry here and some thick, cold fog set in.  We made Chicken Cacciatore (adapted from a Delia Smith recipe) for dinner tonight to use up some of the last fresh tomatoes of the season.  Making a tomato-based dish at my in-laws' also invites hilarious toh-may-toh vs. toh-mah-toh accent comparisons.  I forgot that I had intended to blog about it and so it was consumed without any photographic evidence.  Imagine, if you will, a red stew with mushrooms and some golden brown lumps.  Those lumps are the chicken.  It was surprising easy and tasted both rich and healthy (in the good way).  [Jack even co-cooked, which made preparations fantastic.  Jack cooks quite often, but he's a lone chef due to mild perfectionism.  I'm not giving up on him, however, because everything about cooking is more fun together.] I would highly recommend this classic recipe of Italian origin.  Here's how we made it:

* 1 casserole dish for stovetop cooking with a lid *
- Roughly 1 free range chicken, jointed into 8 pieces
- 2 onions, chopped roughly
- 10 mushrooms, quartered (this is optional... and where I went rogue on Delia)
- 2 mashed garlic cloves
- 1 tbs. of fresh rosemary "leaves" (really spikes) bruised and chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cups of dry white wine 
- 1 tbs. of white wine vinegar
- 7-10 tomatoes, peeled (poured over with boiling water to make the skin separate) and chopped
- 1 tbs. tomato paste.

1)  Prep the tomatoes first for sure, or used canned tomatoes.
2)  Heat a glug of olive oil to shimmerine in the casserole dish.  Salt and pepper the chicken.  Brown chicken in batches. Transfer to a plate.
3)  Here I browned the mushrooms in the remaining oil, draining off excess liquid.  Transfer to a plate.
4)  Add more olive oil if necessary and add in onion.  Turn heat to medium and sauté the onion until clear and browning at the edges.
5)  Add the garlic, and combine for 1 minute.
6)  Add rosemary, bay leaf, wine, vinegar, tomatoes and tomato paste. Season liberally.
7)  Simmer the sauce for around 20 minutes uncovered.  It will reduce by 1/2.
--If you're making brown rice, as we did, this is the point to start it--
8)  Add in the chicken and mushrooms. Stir to combine and make sure chicken is covered.
9) Cook for about 40 minutes (in my opinion, a half-hour would have worked as the chicken was a little overcooked)

Buen provecho!

Monday, 15 November 2010

Re-Create the Look: EmersonMade's Bedroom

Last March, a glimpse into the pantry and entryway of EmersonMade's New Hampshire home (from a Design*Sponge Sneak Peak) provided some breathtaking inspiration that still feels fresh.  I now dream of coming home in my faux leapord coat, putting my boots on their tray and surveying the contents of my larder arrayed in glass jars.  As the days get colder this year, however, the classic simplicity of Emerson Farm's bedroom seems especially relevant.  It looks like such a grown-up place to return to rest every night.  It would be an ideal place to prop yourself up, read and fill in a journal before falling asleep.  I love how the muted canvas of the space makes the monogram stand out and emphasizes the traditional impact of the initials--it's the kind of touch that seems both luxurious and personal.

(Above: The inspiration, via here ) Here are the elements to re-create this space:

#1 The Bed.
This is the ubiquitous Colette bed from Crate and Barrel, which is upholstered in natural-colored linen with a brushed pewter nailhead trim.  It costs $1599.00 for the queen size, excluding shipping.

If, however, you have fifteen spare hours and about $300.00 you can follow the instructions for recreating this piece  (see results at right) from the intrepid High-Heeled Foot in the Door.

#2 The Bedding:

The flat sheet is the monogrammed flat sheet from Williams-Sonoma Home's White Hotel Bedding
in blue.  It costs $ 168.00 for the queen size.  While the same look would be difficult to replicate, I think sewing on a double stripe (if you have the skills and a zig zag foot on your sewing machine) would create much the same style.

The shams also appear to be of Williams-Sonoma Home origins.  Standard shams from the Everyday Luxury B&B embroidered collection cost around $44.00 with embroidery, although only light blue appears to be available.  The Company Store offers embroidered shams in the same thread count, but in a diamond template and the monogram appears to be off-center, currently on sale for $12.00. It would probably be safer to match bedding purveyors as white can mean a variety of colors.  While the former doesn't seem exorbitant for such a personal feature, hand-embroidering monograms into the center of a pair of shams could be a great way to personalize existing bedding, and the template could be reused for other projects.  I would draw a four inch circle onto tracing paper and inscribe the initials, centering the family-name-initial.  At left is how Williams-Sonoma Home uses each letter of the alphabet in their designs.

When you're happy with the design apply it to pillow using the tracing paper (by coloring in the reverse side and "printing" it onto the pillow), then, using embroidery backing (to keep the fabric from puckering) tighten the fabric in an embroidery hoop and stitch out the design using embroidery thread and a satin stitch (basic horizontal stitches close together across the design).

While the Civil War blankets at Woolrich, specifically the Gettysburg, more closely resemble the inspiration, it appears that only the twin size is in stock (at $99.00).

The gorgeous alternative at the left from Brook Farm General Store's own line, Tourne.  According to the description, the sheep are locals (I know... I know what this means, but I would still love to see a flock crossing the Brooklyn Bridge) and it's made at a family mill.  It's $225.00 (excluding taxes, etc.) for the 79"x106".

# 3 The Light.

This happens to be the Chelsea swing arm sconce from Pottery Barn, in antique brass with the shade in bisque (I would personally select white).  Together the price is $99.00 and some professionally finagling could probably hardwire it.  In my search, I found many suitable options for this piece, so if this one is not quite to your liking explore the options.  Most of the furnishing companies provide a variation on this theme, but I liked that this sconce and shade came packaged together and that the antique finish resembles the original.

# 4 Finishing Touches.

Sunday White Wild Rose $58 from EmersonMade itself!  I know the internet is probably brimming with ways to copy this, I'm refusing to search for them on principle.  Here is an opportunity to get a real piece of the EmersonMade aesthetic into the picture.  I also love the idea that this casual, bedside display could be a memento from a wedding or meaningful occaision, an artifact to stand in for, or perhaps compliment, any photographic evidence.

I have a weakness for vintage, traveling alarm clocks such as these.  While I recognize that the pictured is in fact set in a wooden block, these analog faces look so dapper popping up out of their cases and I think they would go beautifully in the room (although they must function first to earn their place).

Last, but not least, covering material for the journals and other reading material in need of protection or going incognito (nothing too racy comes to mind, but several seventies-era-designs).  This is an alternative to kraft paper and may have cost upwards of 10 cents new, depending on the caliber and eco-awareness of your grocery store.  I understand that taking the time to fit each cover exactly to the book is essential here.

*Please feel free to comment with any insight into the above.  I'm especially intrigued by the DIY bed*

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Sunday Kind of Love

1. This fixture, from Schoolhouse Electric's new collection.  Before I found the English department in college, I spent a lot of time--ridiculous, geeky, happy time--in science laboratories.  I think that might be why I love the ring clamp on this sconce.  Also, it is a scientific fact that anything in a glass globe has an undeniable appeal.

2., 3. Brussels Sprouts two ways I never would have thought of without the internet, because they appear to be in season and they will always have a special place in my heart.  Brussels Sprouts are like magical holiday candy to me, likely because my family only served them for Thanksgiving and Christmas, much like actual candy (with the addition of a couple other holidays).  If this was strategic on my parents' part, it was effective.  These both look appetizing and like a way to eat Brussels Sprouts more often while keeping them special. Way # 1 (Southeastern Asian/BBQ).  Way # 2 (pickled). (via  DALS and D16 )

4. Beautiful Seasonal Bouquet from Saipua.  Self-explanatory.
(Photo Rodney Smith )

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Market Saturday

I pouted a little writing this title and Jack laughed at me for writing it then leaving it up for a solid ten minutes.  The truth is, today I slept through the Saturday market and the trip to town.  In Valencia, shopping in the central market was a daily possibility.  Toting my trolley, five minutes of walking, dodging motos and the older women of the neighborhood with their trolleys, brought me to the soaring, Modernist expanse of the market. Inside, was an overwhelming array of fruit, vegetables, spices, herbs, dried fruits, nuts, seafood and meat.  When we first moved to Valencia, the unexpected discovery of a pig's head or an entire monkfish, not to mention the pressure of choosing a stall out of the dozens selling what I needed, pushed me back into the supermarket.  It was only after a few months, and narrowing my options down to a few stands (based on the crowds gathering around them--I went for the oldest and most feisty patrons), that I started to get comfortable.  I learned how to ask for what I was looking for--whether it was ripe tomatoes to eat that day or good soup vegetables.  The produce was local, seasonal and cheaper than the supermarket.  I got used to being called "bonica" and the undersized fruit that the owner of my favorite fruit stand would toss in the bag with my purchases.  As a special treat, we'd pick up lunch from the Greek stand, and feast on stuffed grape leaves, and stofado straight from the container.  I left Valencia for this small town in France with a private commitment to whatever the local market might be.  

It turns out the local market here is quite different from the array of Valencia's Mercado Central.  It's a weekly market, reflecting the area's rural set-up, with the fruit and vegetables set out in stalls on the cobbled streets, while meat, pastries and fish are inside.  There seems to be only a couple of each category: goats' cheese, flowers, apples, vegetables, pies and Vietnamese take-out. There's an air of excitement to this market that I think comes from it being a special day in the week.  Saturday is market day.  I feel more comfortable here than I did in Valencia initially, but I have a long way to go before I feel the welcome of 'my' stands in the Mercado Central.  I'm back to communicating with gestures and facial expressions.  I'm hopeful, however.  I have had my eye on the basket stall for a few weeks now.  Instead of trolleys, the patrons of this market carry around small, woven baskets for their purchases.  Of course there are also the classic, French totes.  The basket seems key.  With such a basket I could, perhaps, blend in... at least before attempting to engage a vendor.  I must, however, wake up in time to get there in the first place.  As it so happens, my in-laws did make it to the market without me.  They bought a delicious, free-range chicken which was roasted for dinner.  I can't wait for next Market Saturday. (Hopefully there will be chestnuts at the market soon, image from Plain English )