Early Christmas spirit

Today was probably the most productive day I've had in, well, like ever. My mom came over for the day and we ended up going to the grocery store, building nine (yes nine) terrariums, making a yule log cake and then going to a Christmas party. Pretty productive, if I say so myself.

The recipe for the yule log was pretty simple. You can really use any sort of box recipe (if you're really short on time, Bob's Red Mill makes amazing cake mixes), or you can pull together a nice standard family cake recipe. I made a lovely gluten free white cake. The most important thing involves having a cake sheet pan, some good wax paper and some shortening. Then you just need to make sure the cake has ample time to cool, some delicious filling and yummy topping (I used homemade whip cream and pudding for my topping and filling). It also helps to have someone helping you that knows what they are doing if it is your first roll cake experience. Luckily this wasn't my mom's first time. I hope your experience turns out as delightful as mine. Enjoy!


Norwegian Christmas

Again I cannot stop talking about this area of the globe, but its just so gorgeous and so simple. I just adore how understated clean pieces of nature are inspiration, in many cases, the material for making a home and with plenty of breathing space! I recently stumbled across Kjerstis Lykke. I love this blog, especially how it shows a home during Christmas. The lack of red and green is so refreshing and so relaxing. Did you notice the advent calendar!?! *gasp*. Gorgeous and so simple it makes me sick.

Susanna Bauer

If you took two of my favorites, that being: 1) natural items such as stones, twigs, leaves and 2) warm fuzzy, crocheted and knitted things and put them together you'd have Susanna Bauer's work. I feel akin to the pieces I've seen so far, and it touches me on a very personal level by using such elemental objects as an exercise in the process of construction. And lets face it, these are just lovely and interesting to look at.


Holiday Wish List

Well, I've had a horribly stressful day, so looking at pretty, consumerist things is probably one way to feel slightly better, and less likely like I want to jump out the window (yes I know its all so expected). The downside to working with a NFP is, most of the time, the stress does not equate to the money you are making. Pretty much you MUST love your job, other wise you're fucked, and won't find any other point to what you are doing (excuse my French, it's been a long day). I will say, I am one of those people who happens to love working with a NFP, however today sort of pushed me in the direction of "why the hell am I here," even if it was briefly. Is it weird that I feel like I need another vacation so soon? I think at least I need to start taking lunch and refuse to stay at my desk ... but I just really hate working until 6 or 7 pm because I took an hour lunch ... and unfortunately many of our meetings are right around the time we should be eating. Anyway, you've heard me vent and digress enough.

Dreaming about lovely things for Christmas might make up for part of today, and really this all very selfish, but my brain is in complete id-shutdown-survival-only-about-me-mode so whatever, I promise I'll make up for it later.

1. Pipe Match Strike from Jonathan Adler. 2. Diana Mini Petite Noire. 3. Ceramic Owls from West Elm (3 would do nicely). 4. Rachel Comey Sazerac Boots from Need Supply. 5. Duluth Pack Canvas Backpack from Kaufmann Mercantile. 6. Ellery Chair from West Elm (I've mentioned this before). 7. Double Headed Jaguar Ring from Rabid Fox (also mentioned before). 8. Butter of London Nail Polish in Artful Dodger, Rosie Lee and Chimney Sweep.


Why yellow makes me happy

Georg Baselitz's Woman of Dresden – Karla.

I ♥ Europe: Italy

I was able to put together more Diptych selects from the Italy trip, but I have to say they don't necessarily sum up this country. I don't think I've ever had such a mixture of emotions to a place: positive and negative all hitting me at the same time in this weird wave that could only be described as reacting.

In the cities I generally became highly agitated by the layers and people that each place revealed. I've never been a very publicly aggressive person, but I discovered very quickly I needed to take control of myself and do a complete reversal on my normal habits in order to survive. I think the most difficult part for me was the lack of order, specifically when it came to standing in lines. I had this innocent notion that people just automatically stay in their spot when in a line, and that social etiquette would frown upon cutting in front of someone else. Ah, how innocence is so quickly slapped in the face with the sulfur scent of Italian reality.

I was strangely depressed by the Colosseum. I was in love with what the Galleria Borghese offered and gave me (I wanted to touch the Bernini sculptures so bad). Standing on top Duomo in Milan was an experience that would be hard to top. Pisa was, in all honesty, a joke to me. The Vatican was bigger and more grand than I could have imagined. This mingled with the feeling that these famous sites so many people flocked to, were a strange kitsch-version of themselves—their purpose, to provide a trophy to hang on one's wall with a plaque reading, "I was there."

I ♥ Picasso's parody

I don't think you can really in all seriousness be a well adjusted person without being able to critically look at yourself and laugh. Case in point, SOIL in Pioneer Square is doing a fantastic show that parodies and mocks SAM and Picasso. I just adore how clever it all is. It's highly flattering to be mocked in such a way, and they really didn't too bad of a job replicating the Picasso campaign (although I did cringe at some of the letter spacing and kerning). SOIL took SAM's overtly serious nature and corporate qualms and sent them running down the hall with a pair of scissors. ♥ Props.


Oh my Cavalier, how I love you.

I've been wanting to do a post on Julianna Swaney's work for awhile now. I pretty much just adore her style. Her illustrations have this edge to it that says I'm delicate, I'm intricate and I'll behave for you ... but you probably shouldn't turn your back on me. She has a shop full of lovely things, called Oh My Cavalier! in case you, as I do, cannot live without some form of her work.


New post at the Selby

The Selby posted something this morning just in time for my green-thumb-csa desires and to pull me out of my doomsday sadness streak. Annie Novak at Eagle Street Rooftop Farm in Greenpoint, New York. If you're feeling blue from all this winter weather and icky grocery store food, I insist you view these immediately.


Pulling from the past

I love old photographs, especially family photographs. There is just something more innocent and comforting about peering into a world that is some how linked to your life now. I enjoy how this forces you to question about the content and the connection.

My mother's side of the family was vastly different from what I am. She grew up in, what I believe was, a two bedroom house with her parents, and two of her four siblings, without an indoor toilet until she was almost out of high school. They heated their house with a wood stove. My grandmother made mom's dresses for her out of empty flour sacks. They used to milk their own cows and sell the cream every week. They killed chickens, ate fresh eggs and had more of a connection to the land that I will probably ever know, and they did this all because they had to.

That sort of living, in all reality does not exist anymore in the same form in this country. I'd be lucky if the chicken who laid the "organic" eggs I ate yesterday have ever even seen more than artificial lighting, a wall and thousands of her counterparts. Only if I made the obvious effort to march myself down to the farmers market would I hope to see something even remotely close. I think I read that only 1 to 2% of our population are farmers... there are more people unemployed and in prison. I don't think I've ever wished so much that I could grasp onto this something, this unfamiliar life slipping away.


I ♥ Europe: Switzerland

Diptych selects that pretty much sum up the Switzerland trip. Enjoy.

♥'s for Monki

I discovered this wonderfully quirky Swedish clothing site over the weekend called Monki. I insist you go there directly and check out the fabulous introduction animation showcasing their November styles.

I must mention that I am so enamored with their illustration and animation, and the art direction to showcase their clothes is different from anything else I've seen before. If only I could get my hands on a magazine issue and drool.


Scandinavian Christmas

I was looking through some more interior design sites / inspirations and came across a few winter Scandinavian inspired shots via Norske interiørblogger, Bo Bedre and Emmas Design Blogg. I love the idea of planting a tree instead of cutting one. And I'm absolutely in love with how many interesting and simple ideas one can use to create a Christmas space (even if you don't have tree).


Why I heart scandinavian / nordic everything

Came across Kim Holtermand and Ditte Isager awhile ago in a sea of amazing talent from this area of the globe. I love the stark simplicity and eeriness to Holtermand's work, while Isager's compositions are just absolutely intriguing and unpretentious to look at. I adore how pretty much anything I've seen from this region; design to photography has this same sort of quality to it.



For the fashionable cold weather lovely

Well today is a snow day! It is absolutely ridiculous outside for a Seattle day. All I can think about right now is how cold it is, and how cold I am. Our poor tiny excuses for wall heaters just can't handle this, so to pass the time I started thinking about clothes.

A couple of things have caught my attention this winter, and I think all of them are a recycled, updated version of fashion's past. I've been wanting a turban since I saw them in August. When I found quite a number of gorgeous ones on the The Future of Frances,  I decided right then and there that I definitely had to have one (and pretty much the outfits as well). I think the Jersey Turban would look so unexpected, but lovely paired with the military-inspired coat from Dear Fieldbinder. 

No. 1 Jersey Turban, The Future of Frances. No. 2 Wool Epaulet Coat, Dear Fieldbinder.


More Selby ♥'s

Well its absolutely ghastly out there. Snowy blizzard-ness. But I'm not going to let it scare me...

I just had to share a few modern inspirations from the Selby that I adore before I trek out into the darkness. Enjoy.

Why I absolutely heart the Selby

Well its snowing. I was secretly (well maybe not so secretly) hoping for a snow day ... but alas.

All is well however, because I got a lovely little email from the Selby.

I love, love, love the Selby as a constant source of inspiration. Many of these homes are so eclectic and so interesting, but so personable I find my inner dialog shouting, "I can totally do that!".

This morning they posted new photos of Andy Spade, Creative Director and the design Kate Spade in their New York home.  I am completely in love with all their random little collections, and the sheer volume of stuff they have, and how they somehow make it all work harmoniously together in a very classy sort of way.


Gifts for the Urban Lumberjack?

I feel like I'm on a roll with gift guides. Its just so much fun to "window shop" and not necessarily buy. I  suppose you could call this urban lumberjack ... really not sure... its got an urban twist, so it definitely not just lumberjack... Or you could just call it woodsy? On any account, this time of year and fortunately this season, has brought with it warm cozy sweaters and plaid everywhere. I quite love these Bunny Ear Muffs from The Future of Frances on etsy although I don't think I could handle buying them (as I love bunnies alive more than on my ears). I also found the Bjork boots and Nordic leggings on Need Supply (I know, I know I can't stop pretend shopping on this site).

I also was quite taken with the Downeaster sport wool plaid bag, and even though the idea of wearing real fur sort of grosses me out, the faux fur trapper hat does the trick potentially. Enjoy!


Gift Guide for the Urban Gardner

I know its crazy, but its this time of year where I start to think about gardening. Specifically I start thinking about what I plan on growing next year.

Tubtrugs look pretty awesome as an multi-purpose bin for gardening, laundry, etc. These would be perfect for dumping soil and maybe even toting the occasional laundry load.

The other thing I've thought about for quite awhile, since I saw a post on Design*Sponge back in April, are seed banks. Baker Creek Heirloom seeds is housed in an old bank and sells over 1200 varieties of seeds, many of them heirloom in variety. With such success of my heirloom tomatoes last year (bought from Tonasket, WA), I'm chomping to get started again in multiple veggies, for next year.

But in the meantime, since much of this will need to wait, why not try a terrarium? Grow Little has some gorgeous shots of terrariums. While it wouldn't be possible to order one of these all the way from France, why not make one for your friend as a holiday gift?


Why I heart an ode to vintage sci-fi.

I've always always had a soft spot for science-fiction. Its probably because as a kid I used to always cuddle up next to my dad on the couch, Friday nights at 8 pm to watch Star Trek (I remember vaguely the original) and then more specifically Star Trek: The Next Generation. So when I came across the series that Kahn & Selesnick created I was ecstatic. Much of it has obviously been digitally photoshopped, but still well done.

Along that same vein, these photos also reminded me of a short film I saw awhile back called Connected. The synopsis describes it as set in the distant future, Connected is a story about survival and greed with a post apocalyptic wasteland as its backdrop. Survivors of an unknown disaster shuffle through a desolate landscape, as it quickly becomes clear that not everybody has the strength to survive.


I heart Nick Cave

Working on creative concepts for work I stumbled across some lovely juxtapositions of Nick Cave's Sound suits and fashion, title Creature Couture . This mixture strangely checked off all the boxes of multiple likes. And mean come on, its Nick Cave. No do not respond with "from the Bad Seeds?" otherwise I may need to lay the smack down ... if you still don't know what I'm talking about ... google and the entry "Nick Cave Soundsuits" is your friend. If you want to see all this lovely stuff in the flesh, SAM is doing an exhibition in March of next year, so keep your calendars open.

Photography by Ted Sabarese, found via Behance.


For the Love of Hair

I've always loved how long hair looks. I've had this fascination with the texture of hair since I was a kid, and coincidentally its compelled me to draw it (and for a long time sport my own version of that look). There is something ultra satisfying about the end result to spending so much time on each strand. That's why I was enthralled when I came across Hong Chun Zhang on Booooooom. Her work is so delicate and so considered, but so grand.


Two blogs I love

While on lunch I'd love to share two blogs I'm addicted to.

Animalarium is fulfilling my animal illustration addiction. After trolling through I discovered a beautiful post about Andy Warhol's illustrator days... and... a post on Millions of Cats (a childhood favorite of mine). I love little surprises like that!

Did I mention that Book Worship is packed full of beautiful little book design jems?

I ♥ Europe: Spain

I just got back from a lovely vacation in Europe for two weeks (my first time ever, teehee!).

Did you miss me?

I missed you ... beautiful Seattle.

While gone we specifically hit Barcelona, Spain, various cities in Switzerland and Italy. It was fabulous to get a sense of the food, the smells, the sounds, the history, the fashion, design and the art.

First things first. Can I just say with all honesty that I 'd Barcelona's Metro?

The Metro is an extensive network of electrified railways that run underground in central Barcelona and above ground into the city's suburbs. I was so incredibly impressed by the ease of use as well as the information graphics.

Don't speak Spanish (or Catalayn in this case)? Not a problem. I known maybe a handful of Spanish phrases and had absolutely no problem navigating my way through it ... not to mention that the metro's graphics (and much of the design I saw related to it) was just really really easy on the eyes.


Specific love for Need Supply Co.

I don't often give total props to a store, but I love this place. I love the design, I love the usability and cleanliness of the site, with the black san-serif type. Their blog is interesting and they sell the most amazing shoes. And pretty much if money weren't a problem, I'd shop there all the time. I love their clothes!

Did I mention they specifically have a large and striking selection of Jeffrey Campbell shoes that I adore? I don't think I've ever seen a Campbell shoe that I didn't like.

Things I'm loving right now, the Gregg coat and Thistle shoes by Rachel Comley. ♥!!!

Why I love Fridays

Well, its Friday and my last day of work before we start off into the great unknown that is our vacation. I'm excited (thrilled even), but nervous.

Number one there are protests going on in France.

I won't bore you with details, but basically the large unknown of what we'll be walking into when we arrive there and fact that we were going to dependent on a car (rented) to get us to the multiple locations and countries we'll be visiting while on our trip. I'm all for fighting for your rights as citizen, and I think that its totally rad that there is such a civil unrest about raising the retirement age by only two years. Damn...retirement at 62 here would be fabulous ... I'm sure most of us in the states can agree that retirement even at 65 is highly improbable because of most of our retirement security-net being gutted over the years and being forced to be on the graces of the commercial stock market to gain our freedom from a long life of work and toil. But I digress.

Number two, I hate flying (as in, I probably certifiably have a medical reason to need to take medication to combat my anxiety), and we have a good day ahead of us just in flights.

But ... I'm going to attempt to not focus on that, and instead share some lovely work I've been drooling over for awhile.

I've been oogling over Studio on Fire for awhile now. I would give my right arm for a lovely little table top letterpress and their ideas are just so pretty I could look at them all day.


Why I love sweet things.

I think Christmas is the only time you can justifiably eat baked goods with frosting and not feel that bad about it....but I say screw it. Frosting has single-handedly done me in year after year (and probably responsible a few extra pounds that I end up pouting over and then struggling for the next 5 months to get rid of). Because I know this year I will more likely be saved that anguish through the "healthier" eating during my trip to Europe (wishful, delusional thinking, I know), I want to share some of my grandmother’s all time best frosting recipes, because I won’t be here to partake in the yummy goodness of it all (at least for a few weeks).

Coconut-Pecan Frosting
Combine 1 cup sugar, 1 cup evaporated milk, 3 slightly beaten egg yolks, 1/2 cup butter, and 1 tsp vanilla.
Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened (about 12 minutes).
Add 1 1/2 cups coconut and 1 cup chopped pecans. Cool until at spreading consistency, beating occasionally.
Makes 2 1/2 cups.

This next recipe is one of the best frosting recipes I’ve EVER had the pleasure of enjoying. It is that good if it is done right. If it’s done wrong however, you’ll end up tasting blackened sugar…and that’s just gross.

Burnt Sugar Frosting
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup boiling water
2 tbsps butter
1/2 cup milk
dash of salt

Brown 1/2 cup sugar in heavy sauce pan. Remove from heat and add boiling water. Stir until dissolved. Add remainder of sugar and milk. Mix in salt well. Bring to boil and boil without stirring to soft ball stage. Add butter and vanilla after it has cooled a few minutes (maybe 5).

Then beat until smooth. It will become a little lighter in color and loose some of its shine. Beat until spreading consistency.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 pound cream cheese at room temperature
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 1/2 pounds confectioners’ sugar, sifted

In the bowl of an electric mixer, on low speed, cream together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla and almond extracts. Add the confectioners’ sugar and mix until smooth.

While I love edibly-odd things ... tomato soup cake?

I know what you’re thinking…because I’m thinking it too.

That’s totally gross and just doesn’t sound right, but for some reason, it works. My mom swears by this cake.

I have yet had the guts to try making it, so if you happen to be rather adventurous on one cold and dark night, let me know how it goes ... unless I happen to beat you to it first, in which case I'll document my experience with some lovely photos.

1 can tomato soup
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. soda
1 3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup chopped nuts

Cream sugar and shortening. Add egg. Alternate sifted dry ingredients with soda and tomato soup stirred together. Add chopped dates and nuts. Bake at 350 degrees. About 30 minutes.
Best with icing made of powdered sugar, melted butter, cream and vanilla (but now would be a fine time try out one of grandma's frosting recipes I'll be posting soon!).

Why I love penuche.

I have to say I’m not even close to an expert by any means on baking, but this has been a wonderful lesson in my family’s history and the history and definition(s) of the art of baking in general.

This recipe for example … I was kind of like, “what the hell is penuche?” 

So I looked it up and found out that it is candy [that] is similar to fudge in texture and softness. However, it does not contain chocolate, and it is made with brown sugar instead of white granulated sugar that is used for fondant, and as a rule, for fudge. The name also is derived from the Mexican word for "raw sugar" or "brown sugar."

I’ve included the recipe as is (as in the original), but also with my notes, since some ingredients are highly toxic if you get my drift. So without anymore rambling, here it is ... Orange Penuche.

1 lb. brown sugar (see Notes 1)
3/4 cup light cream
1 tbsp. white corn syrup (see Notes 2)

1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp grated orange rind
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

1. I substitute the organic version since most commercial brown sugar is refined white sugar that has molasses mixed in, providing no additional health benefit. 2. I've figure out that I don't need to use corn syrup for this recipe. Corn syrup is a highly refined, artificial product. Dietary experts are singling out this fake syrup as one reason for the startling rise in obesity in America and related increase in diabetes. So, I use a form this recipe instead. Yah, like how they used to do it?

Place all ingredients, except vanilla and walnuts, in a large, heavy saucepan. Stirring constantly, heat to be be boiling, and continue cooking at 238 ° or soft ball (mixture may curdle, but beating makes it smooth). Remove from heat; let stand, without stirring, until bottom of pan feels lukewarm; stir in flavoring and walnuts, and beat with spoon until thick and creamy and surface looses its gloss. Pour into buttered 8-in. square pan. Cut into squares while warm.

What I love about fall.

There are a few things in life that really make me happy. One of them is Fall, when it decides to actually be Fall that is. Seattle doesn't always give us the million colors of red and orange nor the crisp weather that begs us to put on our warm sweaters, wool jackets and riding boots. I want warm knit blankets and sweaters, drink tea in the evening and coffee in the morning, warm pillows, crisp morning fog, and an excuse to preserve food. This year so far it has actually giving us our Fall.

I love how Autumn's arrival automatically warrants dragging in our wooden furniture and pulling out the crocheted blankets that your grandmother made for you out of all her left-over yarn, while curling up in a cozy corner somewhere to do nothing.

One of the things I'm obsessing over right now is chairs. This is mostly to do with the probability that I could really use a chair in my main living area for reading and all-around book laziness.

The Ellery Chair from West Elm. Couldn't you just see yourself snuggled into it while your legs drape over a fabulously cozy footstool? (yes that ball-o-yarn is a footstool)