Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Wrapping Paper Solution: a few ideas on sustainable and creative gift wrap

As though it weren't enough to be running hither and yon through crowded shopping malls searching for the perfect present, Christmas gifts produce yet another complication: wrapping them. Sometimes this is the most stressful part for me because when I go to do it, I have no paper in which to wrap them! So instead of merely keeping wrapping paper stocked in the house, (something I have no problem with; you should buy a roll that suits your fancy when you see it for a good price, regardless of the season) I like to keep objects that help turn common items into wrapping paper. For example, a couple year ago I invested in a small stamp alphabet, a couple ink pads in metallic hues, and a stamp with a feather design that I liked. Using that small arsenal I was able to create the wrapping ensemble above with the use of the one roll of paper I had left from the year prior, an old map, and some kraft paper. Brown paper bags can be turned inside-out and gussied up with stamps and ribbon. Read on for even more wrapping ideas after the jump!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Gift Guide for the Amateur Botanist

I realize that I have not yet done a Christmas gift guide and I mean to remedy that today. It may be a bit last minute and even obscure, but I wanted to curate some items centered around a hobby of mine: Botany. What's that? you might say. Isn't that a course you sign up for to fill your natural sciences requirement in undergrad? The answer is yes, but for me that grew into something I really enjoy. Tree and plant identification makes me feel more connected to the world and it adds another enjoyable aspect to hiking and trail running. Sure it takes some memorization and study, but it's nothing this gear can't help with. Enjoy! -hil
details after the jump!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

bridesmaid dresses for the whimsical wedding

sohomode blog
My good friend Ellen is getting married at the beginning of April and I am very excited because a). she is marrying a wonderful man who is committed to her and makes her heart glad and b). it is going to be so so beautiful. Ellen's taste is perhaps the taste I would trust most in the world. I hold it in high esteem and love talking art with her because we understand each others sensibilities. That's why I was absolutely over-the-moon when Ellen found these outstanding vintage-eccentric bridesmaid dresses by Louise Hedley. Louise allows bridal parties to select their own vintage fabrics (often each girl in a different pattern) and then she makes a custom dress. The result is that oh-so-lovely, elegant-but-not-overthought beauty that is so Ellen and will be perfect for her big day. Louise also has an Etsy shop where you can buy her styles ready-to-wear. Enjoy! -hil
two times photography
jade pierce photography

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Gift Guide for the Chef

Todays gift guide is brought to you by guest blogger Lindsey Stevens. Lindsey lives in Cincinnati and is an avid cook. I know I am in for a treat every time I get the honor of eating her food because she is always up for a challenge and loves to experiment with new ingredients. She's earned a degree from Midwest Culinary Institute and has curated a list of goodies with which every chef should stock their kitchen. Thanks, Linds!
Read on for details and Lindsey's comments after the jump!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Deck the Halls and Dust off your DVDs

Allow me to explain my absence for the last half of last week. I had a little slip-up with a pairing knife while cutting some carnations at the flower shop and ended up with eight stitches in a very sore thumb. While this was incredibly inconvenient and took me out of work (this blog included) for a couple of days, it did allow me to catch up on some of my favorite films of the season. So, to quote Rob Gordon, here are my "all time, top five" movies to watch around Christmas. Enjoy! -hil

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
My all time favorite version of Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol." I'm not usually a Muppet fan, but this rendition is very beautiful and full of the whimsy of animation, only without it. Plus, Michael Cane plays Scrooge and Gonzo plays the narrator, Charles Dickens himself. What's not to love?

The Family Stone (2005)
Okay, so I'm a little embarrassed about this one (I know it seems super chick-flicky) but I love it and it's easily rentable from the local library. It's an all-star cast and follows the Stone family through their holiday as they learn to accept new members into their close-knit unit and learn to face new challenges. Basically, the now-grown Stone children learn to actually grow up. It's heartwarming and I cry every time at the end.

Little Women (1994)
Always a beautiful story, but that first scene set with the winter that the March sisters recall as "the coldest of our childhood," feels so much like Christmas. It's a wonderful story of a Family that doesn't have much but finds wealth in the company of one another. If not that, what is Christmas about? And when Beth gets that new piano from Laurie's priceless. An absolute must. Plus, Kirsten Dunst is just an itty bitty and Christian Bale grows a snooty mustache.

Love, Actually (2003)
I know, I know, so cliché. But throw out the Kiera Knightley plot line and keep rewinding that part where Hugh Grant dances to the Pointer Sisters and you've got a pretty good Christmas film. My favorite line? "I'm the Lobster," said with that cute little british accent.

Hook (1991)
Ok, so this movie isn't about Christmas, but it does remind us all of the beauty of childhood, to think happy thoughts, and remember: never grow up. I think Christmas tends to bring out the kid in everyone, not to mention an appreciation for your family. This film accomplishes both feats. Bangarang!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How To: make a vintage suitcase pedal board

This post is written by guest blogger Nicole Ayers. Nicole is a multi-talented musician who works at the Cincinnati House of Prayer. Thanks, Nicole for sharing this awesome tutorial!

If you’re an aspiring musician like me, it’s impossible to remain content playing just one instrument.  Most people begin learning the acoustic guitar (if you learn it in high school, that’s instant street cred for you my friend), but after a while, you’ll find the romance with your instrument begins to fade.  It’s now time to make another instrument sing.  

A natural thought comes to mind for the acoustic player, “Why not play the electric guitar?  How hard can it really be?”  

Somehow you get your hands on an electric guitar and quickly learn it needs to be amplified.  (“Ohhh, that’s what an amp is for.” )  So you go to Guitar Center and drop some cash on an amp.  In zeal, you pick up your new solid wood friend, play some chords, and realize:

It just doesn’t sound that good.  

This is a coming of age moment for you.  The electric guitar really is a different instrument.  Not only do you need to learn new chord shapes and scales, to get the sounds you want, you have to spend EVEN MORE MONEY.

Guitar pedals.  They are a must have.  But just because you have to drop additional cash on pedals, doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot on a pedal board.

The secret: build a suitcase pedal board.

Most thrift stores will have a vintage hardshell suitcase ($2) and voila - a pedal board that is both economical and super hipster.
Read on for Nicole's full How-To after the jump!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Advent, advent

Advent, Advent, 
ein Lichtlein brennt
erst eins, dann zwei, dann drei, dann vier
Dann steht das Christkind vor der Tür.
DIY Advent Calendars
My mom taught me this little poem when I was very young. It's literal translation is "Advent, advent, the little light shines. First one, then two, then three, then four, then stands the Christ child at the door." We always celebrated Advent growing up, and I loved it. Advent is basically the season of waiting for Christmas to come. It's a beautiful time of anticipation and hope, and there are plenty of symbolic traditions to go along with it, first and foremost being the advent calendar. A traditional advent calendar usually has 24 doors (sometimes 25 in the US) and you open a door every day starting with the first of December and leading up to Christmas eve or Christmas day. Behind these doors is some sort of treat, whether it be candy, a picture, or an ornament for the tree. Today there is an endless variety of advent calendars, and I thought I'd celebrate the season by sharing them with you. I've categorized them for you viewing pleasure. Enjoy! -hil

Garland Advent Calendars

German Advent Calendars
More calendars after the jump!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

the best floral items to fit your holiday

I'm sure last week wore you out a bit on the recipe front, so now it's time to switch modes. I hope you enjoyed Brian's guest gift guide yesterday; there will be more of those as the holiday season trundles on. In the meantime, i'd like to share some imparted knowledge. I recently started working at a small floral shop and have had the privilege of watching some very creative folks at work each day. Sometimes I get lucky and they teach me a thing or two, like how to tie a bow with red velvet ribbon, an item that screams holiday no matter what you apply it to, or how to make a mistletoe orb without actually having mistletoe (hint: boxwood and christmas tree trimmings). You can get pine cones the size of your face from the west coast. Did you know that spruce needles are poisonous so you should use fir branches to make wreaths because they won't irritate your skin as much? I didn't, and in order to impart some of my gleaned floral knowledge to you (and a few long-time personal opinions), I've created this handy educational chart on the best floral supplies for all you DIYers out there to help you decorate for the holidays. Enjoy!-hil

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Gift Guide for the Mustachioed Man

Well folks, today you're in luck. I am fortunate enough to share with you a carefully curated gift guide from one of our dearest friends. If you have a Ron Swanson in your life, look no further than this handy compilation. This is a guest post from outdoorsman extraordinaire Brian Quay. Brian lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with his lovely wife Shannon and their Siberian Husky, Manii. He is currently pursuing a Graduate degree in Natural Resource Economics from Colorado State University. Brian is a fan of climbing mountains, growing mustaches, reducing his carbon footprint, and brewing beer. Enjoy!

Read on for the details and Brian's comments after the jump!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Mom's Turkey leftover remedy: Grießklößchen soup

Every year, once Thanksgiving has passed, there's still one thing to be looked forward to in my family, and that thing is Grießklößchen (grease-kloos-hen) suppe. My mom boils down the turkey bones into soup broth and then adds these wonderful little german potato dumplings. Unfortunately, if her sister hasn't shipped some over from the old country, these little gems are pretty hard to find. If there's a german grocer or international foods market near you, you may be able to find a mix for them, otherwise you're up the creek. But never fear, folks. There is an easy substitute. Head down to the kosher section of your local bodega and pick up some matzo ball mix and you're ready to go! Read on for how to make this delicious Thanksgiving hangover after the jump!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A last minute list for Thanksgiving day

Happy thanksgiving! I hope you're all cozily snuggled on your couches watching the big parade. But if you're anything like my family, you're probably busily making a schedule for oven use or being sent out to the grocery store with a last minute list in your hot little hand. So to help with these eleventh-hour errands, I've compiled a short list of items that never hurt to have around this capitol of all cooking days. You can view it after the jump. Hope it's helpful and have a great holiday! -hil

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving for the Smaller Table

For the past ten years or so, I've gone to Florida with my family for Thanksgiving. We don't have much extended family, at least not any close by, so our holidays have always been a bit small. When my oldest sister got hitched and it was just my parents and Lindsey and I, we started inviting folks over on Thanksgiving, but even that felt pretty modest. That's why I'm very excited to spend the holiday with Sean's family this year. The extended family lives close by for the most part, and those who don't are driving in. I think Thanksgiving is a great time for a large group, a festive feast, and even if your family is small it's nice to attend a good party or go over to a friends house this time of year. However, if there's just a couple of you, cooking a huge turkey and all the fixings can be overwhelming and impractical for your personal Thanksgiving meal. Never fear: I'm here to help.

I think it's important to cook something special on the holidays. It helps to set the occasion apart, hence the traditional whole Turkey. But if fifteen pounds of poultry is a little over the top for you and just a couple other guests, consider this recipe I found for Roasted Cornish Hens with Apples and Onions. What's great about the cornish hen is they always feel really special to make and to eat, plus you get the satisfaction of serving the whole bird. They are a bit of a delicacy and certainly aren't the most practical, but they're so small that it makes them easy to work with. They don't dry out like other birds in the oven since it doesn't take as long for them to cook the whole way through. This particular recipe is festive and rich: perfect to serve alongside mashed potatoes and all the other Thanksgiving accouterments. Part of it even includes a delicious gravy! I like that it's a simple recipe that produces a complex flavor. You'll need a dutch oven for this one, as well as: 2 Cornish Hens, olive oil, an onion, 2 apples, dried thyme, a smidgen of brandy, and a splash of apple cider. If you have flour or cornstarch nearby, it might be handy to thicken the gravy. Follow the link above for the complete instructions and read on for a visual How To after the jump!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Second Family Thanksgiving

This past weekend Sean and I hosted a little gathering called Second Family Thanksgiving. We moved around our furniture and thanks to some kind friends who brought extra tables and chairs, we were able to turn our tiny home into what looked like a ramshackle but cozy restaurant for the evening. It was my first time doing a turkey solo, and one certainly feels the weight of getting it right when there's fifteen pounds of main course depending on you. I went with something fairly straightforward and also wrapped some bacon around the bird to give some extra flavor (a trick my sister Lindsey taught me). Success was mine, as was the whole night. We had folks bring a veritable cornucopia of dishes, from the traditional sweet potato casserole and cranberry sauce to mashed parsnips and waldorf salad. It was delicious!

The vintage plates help add that homey feel
One of the best parts was seeing all the people from every corner of our lives crammed into the same room enjoying one another. Despite the fact that most were strangers to each other, it felt like a reunion of old friends. Having a celebration like this was such a phenomenal way to embrace this season. The founders of this occasion in Oxford, the Quays, were of course desperately missed, but it was lovely to see the legacy they'd left with us. Also, a few lovely ladies had collected vintage plates for me back in the spring to use for the wedding, but it ended up being a bust. Fortunately, we still had them stowed away and used them for the event. They added a great down home feel to the whole thing.

So, from Second Family Thanksgiving, I've included some family photos. My sincere apologies for neglecting to take pictures of the beautiful and expansive spread! In all the excitement, I just plum forgot.
Ashley and Mark with their award (a vintage plate, duh) for coming the farthest: all the way from Iowa!
Verily, Thanksgiving is almost upon us! Here's to a week of food, merriment and togetherness. You can view more pictures of our Second Family after the jump!

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Rustic Italian November Dinner

Last night my sister, Lindsey, and her beau came for dinner, which gave me the perfect opportunity to try out a recipe I've been carrying around in my back pocket for awhile now. About a month and a half ago Design*Sponge posted a recipe by food editor and stylist Dani Fischer for orecchiette with orange-spiced lamb meatballs. I immediately knew this was one I'd like to try and bought a pound of lamb at the farmer's market that very weekend. It has been sitting in the freezer since, and last night I triumphantly sculpted it into these lovely meatballs.

The recipe itself is very rustic and earthy, and it felt fulfilling to make. I started the stock earlier in the day and followed the instructions to the T, boiling down a few potatoes, celery stalks with leaves, and I even found arugula to add into the mix. It smelled quite tantalizing as it simmered. The most actual labor came into play mixing and forming the meatballs and thinly slicing the eight celery hearts. I nearly always underestimate how much time cooking will take, and these two things definitely slowed my progress. Luckily, our dinner guests were also running late.
More on this culinary adventure after the jump!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

(Modern) Ceramics & Co.

Whenever I inevitably stumble onto Etsy, their "featured" page is often hit or miss for me. Just because I think every artist has a voice in the back of their head that mumbles, "you could make that yourself," and mine really tends to pipe up at that point. Not that I ever would sit down and make those things, or that I even could, my inner creative just gets a little stubborn, which ends up being extremely good for my wallet. So when I see something on there that makes me ready to empty my paypal, I know it's awesome. That something this week was the JeezVanilla shop. 

Well, it's actually unclear to me whether the shop is called a). JeezVanilla or b). (Modern) Ceramics & Co. Either way, it's great. JeezVanilla is the moniker used by shop owner Adriana. I stalked her just a wee bit on her blog and even though I can't read a thing (all in Spanish) she has the cutest engagement pictures I've ever seen. Seriously. I just showed them to Sean and we both felt extremely jealous.

Adriana makes a variety of goods, including various printed cramics, notebooks, and some textile goods. I was drawn to the shop because of the "Retro People" series she prints onto her items. These consist of faceless portrait illustrations that are all labeled with a date and titled things like "The Charming Man" and, "The Flapper Girl." Upon further investigation, I found Adriana's explanation of this series:
Read on for more about JeezVanilla after the jump!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dreams of snow, show jumping bunnies, and a salute to pet lovers everywhere

Last night I had a most glorious dream. I was walking in the snow at the end of the street I grew up on and I had with me three trained bunnies. Yes, bunnies. And they were spectacular. I'm not sure what exactly I had trained them in, but they were very well behaved and followed me everywhere. I taught them to burrow through the snow drifts and race up the hill and back, like it was some sort of obstacle course. When I woke I was quite disappointed that my little dream rabbits weren't all nuzzled up against me in my bed. So naturally I YouTubed "bunnies in the snow." Wowza, there's a lot of boring footage of rabbits snuffling around frozen backyards. One video from Germany even edited in little thought bubbles above the rabbit's heads as though you could understand what they were thinking out there in the snow. Lucky for me I'm semi-proficient in German so I could understand the thought bubbles, which said things like, "What's all this white stuff?" "It's fun, but cold on the feet." Let me tell you, I really would have been on the edge of my seat if it weren't for that German minor back in college.

My dream did bring to mind a video I'd seen years ago, one that was actually pretty impressive:
Bunny Hopping, as it's called, is a pretty serious sport in Sweden and Denmark, where it's grown in popularity since it's advent in the 80's. Now, I know this all seems a bit out of the blue, but it made me start to think about the fanaticism of pet owners these days. Let me tell you, if I had one of these rabbits I'd spoil them rotten, and I have a couple friends who are cat moms and they'd do about anything for those felines. There's actually some pretty sweet stuff out there for pets of all sizes these days so here it is: your holiday gift guide for pet lovers. View it after the jump!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Turkey Day or Bust

First of all, forgive me for being flaky last week posting-wise. It was birthday week! Can't a girl take it easy? And now that my birthday has indeed kicked off the holiday season, I can turn to face what is up next: Thanksgiving!
Yes, folks, it's that time of year when I have to be inordinately cautious not to drool on my keyboard. There are so many great holiday recipes online! Beware the obscene amount of foodie posts about to usurp this blog. I love food, and when it comes to the holidays I become obsessed with it.
This week Sean and I are hosting a tradition started a couple years ago by our friends the Quays, who recently relocated to Colorado. We live in a small college town, so when any sort of holiday or school sanctioned break rolls around, this place empties out like a frat party with a dry keg. That's why the weekend before this particular holiday we like to have what's called Second Family Thanksgiving: a time when we can celebrate Tday with all our friends in town. We provide the turkey and they provide all the side dishes. The only problem is I tend to get a bit carried away looking up recipes and want to make about a million things. Don't worry, I'll control myself. But I have rounded up a few of my favorite, most festive recipes to share with you. I've picked three each as far as turkey, side dishes, and desserts. Click the links below them to get the full recipes. Enjoy! -hil
More festive recipes after the jump!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Brooks, beasts and birthday lunch...Oh My!

My new saddle with all it's packaging. 
This morning Sean gave me my birthday gift and it's...a Brooks saddle! If you don't realize how awesome this is, you don't realize how big a nerd I am about these saddles. These things are LEGIT. Brooks has been making saddles since 1866, back when John Boultbee Brooks' horse died and he had to start commuting to work on a bicycle. The discomfort of his saddle inspired him to find a solution. That said, these leather saddles are still crafted today in a tradition passed down over centuries. When I opened the box and saw it today, it was like receiving something out of a time machine. It doesn't feel like most things that are made today; it's sturdy and made with outstanding craftsmanship. It almost feels like something you'd buy in Diagon Alley were you heading back to Hogwarts. Even the packaging of the item speaks to the tradition of quality. It exudes a quite confidence that says, "this is the best saddle you could ever have for your bike." I'm so excited to get it up and running on my LHT.

After that I was lucky enough to be graced by the presence of my friend Annie. As I had spent the morning watching The Next Iron Chef on food network (go chef Samuelsson!), I was feeling ambitious in the way of the kitchen and made some mini pizza tortes.
that recipe and more after the jump!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

balloons + birthday

So I am finally starting to get into birthday mode. Maybe it's the unseasonably warm weather, or that we've been super busy, or that my folks are out of town, but I just haven't felt that fluttery "my birthday is coming!" feeling this year. But today. Today it is sinking in. For starters I got my first birthday presents of the year from Sean's family this weekend, and I'm so excited about each of them! Today I cleaned up the house from our trip north and put this beautiful throw (except in mustard yellow!) they gave me on our bed. It looks perfect and was a great surprise because I registered for it way back in April but then thought Crate & Barrel had sold out of them. But Heidi is a shopper to beat the best of them, and that didn't stop her. It was such a sweet, thoughtful gift. I also reorganized all my makeup into this cute bag from them this morning. And, as soon the the aforementioned unseasonal weather abates, I will be wearing my new birthday mittens everywhere, even to bed. I love my gifts! Thanks, Oswalds!

On top of all that, Sean woke up early and made me his signature breakfast bowl this morning for birthday week. It was so sweet, and nice to have time together in the morning.

Since my birthday is, after all, tomorrow, I thought I'd share what in my opinion is one of the cutest ways to celebrate a birthday: Geronimo Balloons! This little LA based company delivers happiness in glittery-fringed balloon form for any occasion. Have I mentioned how much I love weather balloons? Not to mention these decadent "balloon troopers"! Gosh, they are just lovely. The founder of this company, Jihan Zencirli, started making these whimsical wonders to celebrate occasions with her friends and family in 2010. Well, she wasn't too hard to miss. Since the balloons were so big, she would drive to locations with them bobbing out the sunroof of her VW Bug or, better yet, just tie them to the back of her bicycle. Now if the thought of that doesn't bring a smile to your face, I don't know what will. I think if my birthday could take a physical form, I would want it to look like a handful of these balloons: lovely, fun-filled, and there to simply be enjoyed. -hil

Friday, November 4, 2011

top three antique store finds

On my way back to the studio from a coffee run yesterday I stopped in the local antique shop. I admit, it is my weakness. I walk right by it on the way to and from getting my morning americano, and the windows are filled with the most alluring fascinations: a taxidermy raccoon playing poker,  an ancient mannequin missing its left arm (with a rather risque "MIAMI" banner tied casually around her, might I add), and a hispanic altarpiece of the madonna and child. Do you really expect me not to waste 45 minutes wandering aimlessly in this curiosity cabinet?
See? You'd never guess those little guys
used to be a dusty cluster of grapes.
I guess I should mention my hope was to find some neat vintage flare for the headpieces I've been making, and I emerged victorious: for $2, a cluster of grapes made from small, pale jade beads. Disassembled, these little orbs, which are already anchored to durable wire, have added some nice whimsy to my creations.
Anyhow. I had to leave behind some real treasures yesterday, and I'm still grieving. Fortunately I had the old cell phone with me and snapped some quick pictures by which to remember these hot commodities, just in case, you know? You can view my tope three pics after the jump. Enjoy! -hil
ps- what's your favorite thrifted/antique store find?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

power combo: roasted tomato soup and mexican torta

A couple of months ago I gave a recipe off of smitten kitchen a try. Let me tell you, it's hard for me to go on that blog because if I do I will spend all day in the kitchen cooking all her recipes. They wow me every time! And the best thing is they never feel like they are out of my reach to make. I can't speak more highly of this blog and it's wonderful, accessible recipes.
Anyhow. Tangent aside...
tomatoes, prepare to be roasted...
The recipe I tried was for roasted tomato soup with broiled cheddar and it was born from a desire to find a way to merge grilled cheese with tomato soup. It is absolutely delicious and is one of those easy-to-make yet impressive-to-eat dishes you know I love. We made it the first time when some out-of-town friends were staying with us for the weekend and it was just when the first tinge of fall was in the air. Alongside some monster quesadillas and a bottle of wine, it was a great autumn dinner. But I still wasn't convinced that quesadillas were the right pairing. This was my struggle: because of the awesome grilled cheese topping on the soup, it was hard to pair it with another item. It would look weird to plop a piece of meat on a plate next to it, and a salad would be good but might not feel like enough of a meal if it was being served for dinner. I tried the recipe again when Sean's parents came to visit a few weeks ago, and we served it with some chicken sandwiches. Also good, but I still wasn't satisfied. I felt confident it should be served along with some kind of sandwich, but what? And then, a couple weeks ago, I found it: the Mexican Torta.
Get the recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

sleeping under cities

Lower Manhattan quilt
Maps in home decor: it's no secret how thrilling I find this idea. The beautiful vintage colors or detailed lines can make a boring room spring to life. They can make a home feel cozier and add a personal, nostalgic touch if the map is of somewhere special: a hometown, the site of an important milestone or event, or the foreign city you feel in love with on a backpacking trip. That's why Haptic Lab is my new crush. Not only do they sell maps for the home, they sew them. That's right, their specialty is making map quilts. Was there ever a more glorious word combination? Those are two of my most favorite things!

custom map of Silver Lake, Los Angeles
Haptic Lab sells some colorful baby blankets of different cities, but their main business is in quilting out maps. You can buy ready-made city quilts of Washington D.C., London, NYC, Paris, and San Fransisco, but their aim is for you to choose any city that holds a special place in your heart so that you have an heirloom to enjoy and pass down. Over 200 hours are spent hand making each quilt. Talk about a labor of love! Haptic Lab makes quilts in an endless variety of colors and fabrics, mostly in luxurious silk. I'm usually the first advocate for a bright pop of color, but I love the demur beauty of the all-white stitched map quilts. There's something very romantic about them. I've included a few of my favorites from Haptic Lab after the jump. Enjoy! -hil

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

the monster gourd project

two gourds of the same shape. Both students used the bottom as a nose
and the stems on the other side as tales.
Yesterday I wanted to do something special for my middle schoolers in after school art since it was Halloween and all. Fortunately the local farm market let me buy some cool looking gourds from them for extremely cheap since the season is ending. They had a really nice selection and a good variety of sizable gourds, we're talking as big as a basketball for most of them, so for mere pennies on the dollar I toted a crate of them over to the Arts Center for our special "mystery project." I think gourds can be very emotive of creatures, so I didn't give the kids any guidelines except that they had to create a "monster" with their gourd. I ransacked the supply closet so they had paints, buttons, yarn, feathers, paper, pipe cleaners, and fabric at their disposal. And we all had a lot of fun! I think they really enjoyed being able to take their project home immediately and set it in their kitchen or on their porch as a halloween decoration. Also, it was a nice break from our linoleum blocks, which we'll finish next week. Everyone needs a break sometimes. Even my student aid said making a creature was so much fun and really brightened her day. I took pictures of all our creations and thought I'd share a few with you. Enjoy! -hil
more gourd creatures after the jump!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Martha, or should I say "Motha," does it again

I have a secret admission: I love Martha Stewart. I think she could make a designer wreath out of the dust bunnies behind my bedroom door and it would become the decor centerpiece of our home for years to come; frankly, I think she's brilliant! And always has such creative ideas.

Now I don't ever get too psyched about Halloween. It's just not my favorite holiday: I'm one of those mulled-cider-drinking, carol-singing, sweater-with-jingle-bells-sewn-on Christmas freaks. But when Sean and I were at Barnes and Noble this weekend and I saw the gorgeous costume Martha had come up with for the cover of her Halloween Special, I was nearly converted!

Her theme was "B-movie monsters", complete with a costume lineup of teen wolf, swamp thing, and the disappearing man. Her costume was the one to top them all, though: Motha, more than just a delightful play on words, was beautiful, particularly in the makeup department. She had these gorgeous moth wings she'd glued around her eyes and they were just stunning! If you buy the special she gives you a template to print them out and then recommends pheasant feathers to embellish the look. I am definitely going to use this concept for costumes and photo shoots in the future. It's such a great way to get some whimsical drama. You can read Motha's DIY how-to here. Thanks to Martha Stewart for yet another great idea!

Happy Halloween to you all! What was your favorite costume you've seen this year, or what do you plan on dressing up as tonight? Our favorite was a girl walking down Campus Avenue wearing a pair of underwear over her clothes with a belt around her head. We just had to stop her and ask, "are you Quail Man?"
Affirmative. She was. I love a creative costume. Please share! -hil

Thursday, October 27, 2011

smart-tea pants (or shirts)

I've been noticing a new trend cropping up in design land. Maybe it's that the blustery north has finally breathed it's icy blast upon us and sent folks everywhere running to their kettles for comfort, but suddenly there is super innovative tea design everywhere!

Yes, tea. Like dried leaves in a bag. Except now more fun.

The first I saw of this was a quite beautiful origami-inspired tea bag from Russian designer Natalia Ponomareva. This design, alas, is only conceptual at this point but who knows? Maybe you'll see it hit the shelves in your local grocer soon. It's extremely popular and has been showing up on blogs across the board.

The next great tea idea I ran across was one from designer Soon Mo Kang. These cute little bags are shaped like t-shirts and hang from the side of a mug on tiny paper hangers. The packaging on them, though simple, is also apt: They look as though they are hanging in a mini-closet, just waiting to be worn.

more innovative tea designs after the jump!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Yes, you can cook this: Baked Stuffed Pumpkin

When it comes to cooking, I've always got a few recipes up my sleeve that are sure to impress; these are dishes that I know will be delicious and are hard to mess up, yet have certain one-of-a-kind details guaranteed to evoke that "ooooh" factor in dinner guests. This Sunday I added another to my repertoire.
While Sean was in upstate New York this weekend learning to be a master painter, (seriously, I'll have to post some of his work sometime. Just beautiful) I took the opportunity to go to my parent's. Usually the best thing about our home is that Sean is there, so there wasn't much point in sticking around the empty house. Plus it was nice to have some solid time with my family, and as an added bonus I got to eat some absolutely astounding meals, one of which I'll share with you today. I guess my sister Kristi made this recipe for my other sister, Lindsey, last week, and Linds wanted to share it with the rest of us. The recipe is called "Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good" and believe me, it's no lie. The great thing about this recipe is there are countless variations on it. Once you've made one, I guarantee you'll have ten more ideas for how to make the next. It's just the nature of the beast. Even the author, Dorie Greenspan, admits this is more of an "outline" than a "recipe." She has some great remarks on the subject:

"Catherine sent me a charming outline of the recipe, and as soon as I'd baked my first pumpkin, I realized that an outline is about the best you can do with this dish. It's a hollowed-out pumpkin stuffed with bread, cheese, garlic, and cream, and since pumpkins come in unpredictable sizes, cheeses and breads differ, and baking times depend on how long it takes for the pumpkin to get soft enough to pierce with a knife, being precise is impossible.

As Catherine said when she turned this family favorite over to me, "I hope you will put the recipe to good use, knowing that it's destined to evolve . . . and maybe even be improved."

Well, I've certainly been putting it to good use, and it has evolved, although I'm not sure that it's been improved, since every time I make it, it's different, but still wonderful. My guess is that you'll have the same feeling once you start playing around with this 'outline'(Greenspan)."

The recipe you'll find on Epicurious is for more of a traditional bread stuffing inside the pumpkin. Lindsey stuffed ours with delicious risotto, spinach, parsnips, cheese, and chicken sausage. Fortunately I was in the kitchen with her as she concocted this magical delight and have step-by-step pictures of her process to share with you.

Read on for the visual How-To after the jump!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Yulia Brodskaya, the paper whisperer

My sister Kristi turned me on to this Russian Wonder. Julia Brodska is a graphic artist whose work has appeared in Target ads, Oprah magazine, book covers, and much more. She is trained as a graphic designer but her passion is for the handmade. She reports that she has always felt a special connection to paper and  would make designs with it to get a break from sitting in front of a computer screen all day. One day while trying to come up with a design concept, she returned to a technique she'd learned in the olden days called "quilling": an art form which uses strips of paper curled around a quill to make a coil form. After that she was hooked, and her passion for using paper caught on because she started getting commission work out the wazoo. Her work is absolutely breathtaking and intricate; it's probably the most lovely ad work I've seen in quite some time.

I'm a softy for good graphic design, but these are especially wonderful to me because they are handmade. Look at the craft! Look at that form! A human made these things. The precision is unfathomable and the beauty of these designs is astounding. Enjoy more from this London-based designer after the jump.