Tuesday, June 30, 2009

guardian angel(cot)

run, don't walk to trader joe's and buy "angelcots." they are a hybrid apricot - bred from iranian and moroccan apricots and they are addictive. my friend kelly told me about them over the weekend and described them, in official terms of course, as "the best things in the entire world." so my interest was obviously piqued. she also mentioned that they're only available for a short period of time. interest and anxiety - a very motivating combination for me.

upon doing a little research, i learned that these grow on precious few acres, do in fact have a very short window of time where they're available, and are known by fruit enthusiasts everywhere as "the best things in the entire world." and let me tell you, they are. i might even have to put my recent obsession with peaches on hold - after all, we have those all summer. here is what the fruit guys have to say about them:

a family farm in brentwood has hybridized a moroccan and iranian apricot that they call the angelcot. there are only two acres of this special fruit in the world. it has a very pale yellow skin color with a slightly speckled and nearly peach like blush at the top. the fruit inside is so juicy and refreshing that i can not tell if i am eating fruit or some impossible combination of warm-apricot-sorbet. it has the juiciness and smooth texture of a perfectly ripened peach with an indelible lightness that forces your tongue to question if taste buds are real or just part of the matrix. enjoy this rare delicacy. it will only last one week.

seriously, go get them. and you're welcome.

Monday, June 29, 2009

label whore no more

i once heard a designer's tip to eliminate visual noise from a home by removing busy and colorful labels from bottles and jars that are left out in kitchens and bathrooms. (now i wouldn't do this with products for cleaning or cooking which require you to read labels for safety, but for bath products and soaps which are regularly left out on display, it makes sense). i tried it, first in my kitchen around the sink, and then in the bathrooms in my house, and i can not overstate what a difference it has made in my daily routines.

for me, there is an actual sense of calm and appreciation that comes from looking at a bottle in a simple shape with a pretty liquid showing through, especially when compared to that same bottle plastered in a collage of colors and words and labels shouting "NEW AND IMPROVED" or "SAME GREAT FORMULA" or "COMPARE TO YOUR FAVORITE BRAND NAME"...i mean, that truly is visual noise. i can say for sure though, its a difference you can only feel once you've done it - i certainly didn't feel before that i had "too much visual noise" in my house - but having made the change, the difference is, for me, quite palpable.

even the companies that have nicer, more sedate packaging like mrs. meyers or method...i still find it infinitely more pleasant to see no words or images. in our daily lives, out in the world, there is an endless amount of visual information we are constantly taking in, so its nice to eliminate some of that when you're at home. its a small and simple way to make daily routines more enjoyable, and i welcome that any day of the week.

Friday, June 26, 2009

look up

these times are not easy.

sometimes it seems like everywhere we turn bad things are happening. the feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop has become ubiquitous and is agonizingly paired, for many, with the feeling that there are no more shoes to be dropped...

trying, desperate times for many. sad and stressful times for many more. it's scary out there. but we, and by we i mean ME, we have to remember that life is good, people are good, the earth is still turning.

one of the small but powerful things my father has taught me is to "look up." it means that no matter how bad and downtrodden things seem, there is light.

"look up" means you have faith even though it would be easy not to.

"look up" means there are still wonderful and beautiful things in the world to be seen, and heard, and felt.

i hope everyone has a nice weekend, and makes time to enjoy whatever small things make you smile and breathe deeply - garden, friends, family, exercise, pets, cooking, changing and rearranging, napping, listening to music...

in trying times it is even more important than usual to be nice to ourselves and make our homes our havens, to appreciate the wonders around us every day, and to do what we can to bring light to the world around us...

look up.

a watched lily finally blooms

so you know that feeling that if you just stared at a budding flower long enough, you could catch sight of the second it blooms? that was the way i was feeling about my day lilies as the stems grew taller and readier looking every day, but never seemed to bloom. i don't even really like lilies, but since i know they come in june every year, i wait for them, and i feel invested in their growth even though they've been growing in our yard for much longer than we've lived in our house and have nothing to do with my work. and although there's a certain type of charm to the idea of staring at a flower for upwards of a week, its not really in the cards for me this summer - i have to sleep and work and stuff.

so i decided to take pictures each morning at roughly the same time and from the same angles, and see if i could capture the moment that way. its interesting to see, and in a way, the story is more in the background than in the foreground... i am struck with flower/people analogies - how some bloom before others, some wilt before ever fully opening, some stand taller than the rest...







i find it amazing how between sunday and wednesday, there was barely any noticable change to the bud in the foreground, and then yesterday it just sprung open. even though it looked the same for days, it was not - it was much closer to "ready" on wednesday than it was on sunday - it was just all happening on the inside - kind of like us sometimes. its like that feeling that the ground is shifting and you're moving towards something...slowly, slowly...and then one day, you just go. it's a powerful reminder to hold onto as i look out from my balcony each morning at the slope, ablaze with lilies, finally.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

just peachy

if you have not eaten a peach recently, let me tell you...peaches are amazing! not that i haven't always loved peaches - i have - but the peaches i have had this summer so far have far surpassed any i've had before.

first of all, their smell is intoxicating, and more authentically peachy than any bath product could ever hope to be. i have been bringing a peach or two to work each day and several times throughout the day, i actually bring it to my nose and inhale deeply – seriously weird, i know, but they smell really good. now, i will say, i have found that its borderline inappropriate to eat said peaches in public because of the drippage factor. i have found slicing them into neat and socially acceptable wedges works best -- still tastes delicious, saves me from looking like a toddler or a crazy person and everyone’s happy.

according to my research, peach season is through august in most of the country. so while they're fresh, here are some ideas. i’ve even created a drink in peaches’ honor.

honey’s fizzy peach
- a lighter,fizzier (and thus, more refreshing) alternative to a fuller bodied, red sangria

2 bottles prosecco
1 cup peach nectar
½ cup peach schnapps
5 peaches, cut in wedges
2 cups fresh raspberries
fresh lemon juice (2 to 4 tablespoons - taste as you add)

place sliced peaches and whole raspberries into a pitcher and pour the nectar and the schnapps over fruit. Stir, cover with saran wrap and refrigerate for several hours before serving (overnight is best). right before serving, add the lemon juice and the prosecco for fresh fizziness and stir. servce over ice.

for a sweet and savory appetizer platter, the items below include different tastes, textures and temperatures – perfect for mixing and matching. this platter could even serve as a small-plates meal, especially when cocktails (like the fizzy peach) are flowing!

wedge of good parmesan (reggiano is best)
goat cheese
sharp cheddar
baked brie (just stick brie wedge or wheel in oven at 350 for about 10 minutes)
crusty baguette, warmed
hearty multigrain crackers
shaved prosciutto
spicy pepperoni
salted almonds (if you can get marcona almonds, try them – known as “the finest almond in the world”)
thinly sliced peach and apple wedges, chilled

here are some recipes i found that have made me curious about cooking with peaches. i'm not usually a savory or cooked fruit lover, but some of these dishes actually look really good.

grilled peach salad

chicken with peach and melon salsa (pictured above)

grilled peaches with thyme, mascarpone and honey

cinnamon grilled peaches

and here are some simple ways to enjoy summer's bounty, with no recipes needed. add peaches to:

toast or an english muffin with peanut butter
vanilla ice cream
oatmeal or cold cereal
cottage cheese

...and whatever you do, bring napkins.

seen and felt

when i first laid eyes on this pillow on the crate and barrel website, i fell in love. not only do i love the repetition of the concentric circles, but also their texture and neutral color are soothing at the same time as being modern and playful looking. as i do with many things i love but have no immediate need or use for, i printed this out and filed it away in the appropriate folder - in this case, "textiles." yeah.

then, i happened upon this pouf, an even more amazing version of the same concept. a piece like this could make an entire room. it manages to be a total piece de resistance, while being cream on cream and made of felt. who knew? i wondered what a piece like this in a more definite color would look like, and was disappointed to see that it did not work as well as i had hoped.i feel like it is immediately cheapened, even in neutral shades of brown, or green, as shown below. to me, it is a look that's meant to live in shades of white and play more off its texture than its color. there are so many other ways to add color to a room, why waste it on a piece that gets so much mileage out of its texture and dimension alone?i also happen to think that these look more like arts and crafts projects than smartly designed home accessories - too playful.
back to the ones i do like, i could see using them in a room all done in shades of sand and oatmeal, and mixing them with several other patterns and textures, as the pillow is shown below.

here is one design scheme i could see working well. i played around with a fuscia throw, and one that was a burnt red because i felt obliged to at least try the whole "punch of color" angle, but i think the muted colors really work best here:

and because one look at that incredible chair isn't enough, here are two more. add it to the wish list. obsessed.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

inner beauty

for the longest time, i have had a passion for bags. as much as i want to think i could get to a point where i don't need anymore, i have discovered that i never seem to get there. i used to sometimes settle though, when i loved most things about a bag, but not all things. sometimes the hardware or color would be slightly off or the strap wouldn't be as long as i like it. as a result, i have collected several bags over the years that are wonderful to look at, but not as wonderful to use. as my general rule about all purchases has become that i really need to love what i'm adding to my home and my life, i have very much limited bag purchases to ones that strike me as aesthetically and ergonomically perfect for me and the way i'll use them.

i have found that one of the details i gravitate to when looking at bags now is the lining - it's an almost unseen element of a bag, and arguably one only the wearer is aware of, and to me it makes a huge difference. i also find that some of my favorites of the bags i already own have special linings - its like a little surprise party when i go to take something out of my bag. i also feel like it gives a bag i already like from the outside an added element of interest and beauty and delivers a higher-quality feeling, like attention to detail was paid in every way.

conversely, i find it a real turn-off when a nice bag has a cheap looking lining. one of my favorite bags is this black one with braided details and shiny silver hardware, but i'm always disappointed when i open it to be reminded of this unpretty, mass-produced looking lining. ironically, it cost more than both of the above bags combined. i think if i were shopping for this bag now, the lining would have deterred me from getting it, despite my love for the bag in general -- beauty is more than skin deep, even when it comes to bags.

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