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.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

crazy in love with Vitamin String Quartet

The quest for the perfect music to listen to while working is one that has plagued mankind for centuries. I felt obligated to drop by and inform everyone: crisis averted! Sean came home from work this week whistling the tune to Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi". He said he'd been playing it during class all day, to which I replied, "huh?!"
No, Lady Gaga is not the answer.
However, Vitamin String Quartet, the chamber ensemble who covered her entire "Born This Way" album instrumentally, is. More on VSQ after the jump!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Useful Advice from Miranda July

I'm in the middle of a pretty sizable graphic design project right now. My goal is to finish it by the end of the week, but I feel like I'm stuck in molasses trying to run. I feel extremely privileged and excited to be working with this organization because I love their cause and I've wanted to volunteer time with them for years. I've really enjoyed developing the project, too. It's only that graphic design is a little more difficult for me so I move a little slower doing it. It just makes for a more deliberate process. Thus it has been incredibly important for me to flee all distractions this week because I can be a marvelous procrastinator. I ran across this video from Miranda July and thought it very apt:
Obviously I can't physically trap my laptop for this particular task, but I can still put restrictions on other computer-related distractions. Anti-Social is a smart little app I read about in a Michael Hyatt blog a couple months ago. It allows you to use your computer but it blocks all social aspects of the internet, i.e. Facebook, Twitter and the like. You have to restart your computer to get rid of it. Maybe a good metaphysical version of the hostage situation in the video above. Do you have any good advice for how to stay on task? -hil

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Behind Closed Doors: my current studio project

I've been holed up in my studio for the last week or so playing around with some new materials. My dear friend Ellen is getting married in the spring and we've been drooling over dresses and hair adornments which really is one of the most fun parts of wedding planning. Let's be honest: it's fun to pick out lots of pretty things for yourself. We have found some beautiful fascinators and head wreaths online. Since we're both artists, of course our first response was, "we can make those." And I've been trying my hand at it ever since. Of course, none of the items I've made are the right palette and look for Ellen's wedding, but I was just having so much fun working with these beautiful materials that I had to pursue my tangent.
So for the first time this week I've emerged from the studio and I have three (almost) finished products to show for it. I'm going to let you guys have a sneak peek.
View all three designs after the jump!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

October To-Do list: Luxury bird houses, squirrel-proof feeders, and greenhouses from antique windows.

"her favorite flower is daffodils."
Before the month is out I have a small list of outdoor tasks I would like to accomplish:
I. Plant bulbs for spring
II. Hang bird feeders
III. Buy Mums for the porch + plant window boxes

We have a nice patch of mulch in front of our house that as of yet has no purpose. I'm going to get my guerilla gardening on and make that baby sparkle for the spring. Daffodils are my absolute favorite. I love that scene from Big Fish where he fills the yard with a sea of daffodils because all he knows is "her favorite flower is daffodils." Mmm, I could live in that every day of my life, not to mention tulip fields. Those things are wild. Imagine waking up in the Netherlands, pulling the curtains back, and this is the sight that greets you as you gaze out of your stately windmill:

Yes, your windmill is so tall you get this sweet aerial view. Tulip fields and more after the jump!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Appetizer Idea: sweet potato wontons

Sean and I went down to visit my family in Cincinnati last sunday and my sister Lindsey was mixing up one of my favorite of her always original finger foods: sweet potato wontons. This is a tasty asian-inspired appetizer for the fall. It's perfect especially if you have a few extra hands hanging around to help fold up the wontons during prep time. This was perfect since my other sister and I were sitting in the kitchen with Linds as she cooked. The wontons have to be sealed up nice and tight so the insides won't get burnt when you fry them in the hot oil. Other than the folding, this dish is pretty simple and sure to impress.
Read on for a visual how-to after the jump!

Friday, October 14, 2011

A salute to my natal occasion

In almost exactly one month I will have existed for a quarter century. That's correct, my birthday is right around the corner and I will have the power to rent a car! Every year my mom asks me to send her a wish list and every year I forget. This time I decided to take the time and make a visual assemblage of my birthday wishes. So here they are, folks. The collection of things I'd like, practical and frivolous, to rip balloon-patterned paper off of next month: 
Read on for details after the jump!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

shameless bragging occurs in this post

I need to take a minute and just brag, because I have witnessed something beautiful this week. Something to join the pyramids of Giza or the hanging gardens of Babylon. An epic wonder of the world to span time and nations. Yes, friends. My art class finished it's mural this week.
Oh, what a sight to behold! My class of middle school girls has been working so hard, and all their sweat and toil has finally paid off. Our only rules for the mural were
A) Keep it on theme: It is nature-inspired since the community garden is right outside it's doors.
B) Use the limited color palette I had set out for them.
C) Everything inside a black outline to keep things unified and
D) use patterns instead of solid colors to fill in the shapes.
Now, of course some rules have been bended, but I think for the best. These girls created a lovely mural that will brighten the Community Arts Center for many years.
Pictures of the work in progress after the jump!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

throw out your laptop

the Ghost
I'm always tempted to invest when I see an old typewriter sitting in an antique store, yard sale, or thrift shop. They are such beautiful, utilitarian objects. To this day my dad keeps his trusty electric typewriter oiled and ready next to his laptop on his office desk. And more often than not it's what he goes to for memo writing. So what if I told you the best of both worlds was out there? That you can have the charm of a vintage typewriter but the smooth speed and agility of your macbook plus style points off the charts?

Meet Kasbah Mod, a line of revamped, refurbished, and blinged-out typewriters. Each of these has been reclaimed and works better than the day your grandaddy ordered it out of the old Sears & Roebuck, plus it looks slick. Enjoy! -hil
More gems from Kasbah Mod after the jump!

Monday, October 10, 2011

culinary brooklyn

I thought it fitting to finish out my tales of our New York trip with one of my favorite parts: the food! We had the privilege of dining on some absolutely scrumptious eats while we were there. All the restaurants in Brooklyn seem to be very proud of their fare, and they are into serving up free range, organic foods. This makes for some tasty meals, let me tell you. I probably had the most delicious chicken sandwich ever our first day there; it was finished with watercress, mint, cilantro, and pickled veggies.
I cataloged our food from two of the places we went:
A visual guide to our meals after the jump!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Mrs. Meyers, where have you been all my life?

If there were a scent that could bring to mind every happy memory accumulated over the course of my life, I believe that scent would be Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Geranium. A couple of years ago I picked up a pack of counter wipes in this scent on a whim at a local TJ Maxx. Once I took them home and realized they were pure magic, I raced back to the store but alas! They were sold out, and I've never been able to find this particular scent in Ohio since. I was extremely frugal with my lonely pack of wipes, and only ran out of them a few months ago. Even after they dried out in the packaging, I would just wet them down and that heavenly scent would fill my home as I cleaned.

So, when I was in NYC imagine how thrilled I was to discover the Mrs. Meyers products in Geranium EVERYWHERE! The shelves were stocked with dish soap, laundry detergent, hand soap, toilet cleaner, dish detergent, dryer sheets, you name it. Unfortunately I traveled carry-on, so I could only bring back one Geranium candle (and even that caused the TSA to root through my luggage--so worth it though) but now I have this glorious fragrance wafting through the house once more.
more on Mrs. Meyers after the jump!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Sprout Home

clockwise from top left: walking in the city in the rain, Sprout Home Garden, Rockefeller Center, Sprout Home Floral
succulents and cacti in Sprout Home
This weekend Linds took us to visit one of her favorite shops in Brooklyn: Sprout Home. It's a really adorable floral and garden store from which I desperately wanted to buy everything. I had visions of turning our entire living room into a sunroom with hanging terrariums and air plants you can put on the wall. It made me want to live nearby just so I could walk home with a bundle of Ranunculus in the crook of my arm. The front of the store showcased a bountiful variety of terrariums and also some beautiful cacti and succulents: things that would brighten any apartment but need minimal care. You can even attend workshops there to make your own terrariums, something I think would make a great creative date. They had all sorts of things to put in the terrariums and all sorts of containers to make them out of. It was really inspiring, considering I bought four different glass vessels last year with that express purpose in mind yet made zero terrariums. They also were selling a gorgeous collection of Jill Bliss cards.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

the new york cupcake

There is a phenomena in New York City that you just don't see so often in Ohio: cupcake shops. What's that, you say? A bakery devoted solely to the craft of tiny, frosted, baby-sized cakes? I'm here to tell you: they are REAL! They don't just exist on Sex And The City, and, though I have yet to authenticate exactly how long the wait outside Magnolia bakery really is, this new yorker may be able to set you straight. Now, the hype may exceed reality, but all the same I really wanted to stop at one of these shops. A few hours before our flight on Sunday we popped into Cupcakeland Bakery in Williamsburg. After soliciting an opinion, I took the advice of one of the co-owners and got a cookie cupcake. The best part by far was the extremely rich oreo cream cheese frosting. Yowza. It cured my sweet tooth for at least the next month, and it was a fun experience.

This got me thinking, though: just what makes these cupcakes seem so much more delectable than anything I see at the grocery store or for that matter make at home? And I've come to a conclusion: it's the way they do the frosting. That immaculate little swirl perched atop those perfectly baked cakes is a temptation to great to resist. And so it was decided: I had to try this for myself. All I had on my shelf was a box of plain vanilla cake mix, but I really wanted to make something more festive. I found a recipe online for pumpkin cupcakes and all I really had to do was add a can of pumpkin to the mix. I beat in cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger to some cream cheese frosting and put that in a zip loc bag. I carefully snipped one corner off the bag and used that as a piper and then sprinkled the top with more cinnamon. I think the end product looks almost just as enticing. Read on for a visual how-to after the jump! -hil

Monday, October 3, 2011

Dandy Lion Press

the card I bought at skinnyskinny in Brooklyn this weekend
Today I wanted to share with you some of my adventures in the Big Apple, but alas. Today was also the day my hubby was home sick from work and the day I felt exhausted from the big trip and the day I didn't plan ahead for my art lesson, so instead I would just like to share with you something that I rediscovered at one of the many cute boutiques we visited in Brooklyn. Dandy Lion Press is a little print studio based in San Francisco. I bought a tiny card with a jackelope print on it from Anthropologie a couple years ago when they were carrying Dandy Lion in their stock. This weekend I added to my collection and bought the print to the left. I can't wait to frame them both and put them on the wall!