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!