Friday, December 17, 2010

Handmade: Spritz Cookies

Some time ago (when I moved to my first apartment), I stole the cookie gun shown below from my grandma (love you Grandma).  And now, every Christmas, I make spritz cookies at least once over the holiday season.

The worn pink box and the shiny, aluminum glorified-caulking-gun inside make me super happy every time I look at them.

I use the spritz recipe from Williams Sonoma: Cookies but I add some food coloring and peppermint extract (I tend to crave all things minty during the holidays).

Spritz Cookies
adapted from Williams Sonoma: Cookies

1 c. unsalted butter, room temp.
3/4 c. sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
3-5 drops red food coloring
2 1/4 c. flour
1/4 tsp. salt

Colored sugar or sprinkles for decoration.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In large bowl, cream butter and sugar on high speed until sugar is no longer grainy.
Add egg, extracts and food coloring, stir until blended.

Sift flour and salt together onto waxed paper and add to butter mixture by spoonfuls until blended.

Follow your cookie press directions to place cookies onto ungreased cookie sheets (I use silpats on mine).

Sprinkle with colored sugar or sprinkles.

Bake for 8-10 minutes until edges are golden brown.

Let cookies cool on pan for 1-2 minutes, then transfer to wire racks.

Makes about 5 dozen cookies, keeps well for a few days.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Handmade: Throw Pillows

Last weekend, some of the girls from my office came over so that I could teach them how to make pillows.  We all got some pillows made (after figuring out how to work with zippers) and below you can see my end result.  I made 2 of each kind and now I've got an itch to make some more.  Such a simple and fun project.

Mmmm, shiny.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

My First Time: Framing

Until now, I've always used pre-matted, cheap frames from places like Bed, Bath and Beyond or Pier 1, but now I've dipped my toes into the (expensive) world of professional framing.

While heading home from a business trip in Europe I happened to be on the same flight as David Lynch, who happens to be one of T's favorite directors.  The only reason I knew what he looked like is T decided on a documentary about David Lynch to watch sometime before that.  Well, since I'm an amazing wife, I went up and told him how much my husband loved his work and asked for an autograph.  He was very nice and obliged me.

So our anniversary came around (November 21st) and I thought that framing this autograph would be a fantastic first anniversary gift (paper, check).

I also had some lovely nudes done by a friend of mine in Seattle, she wanted to find some good homes for her artwork and I was more than happy to take some off her hands.

I went to FrameStore in Culver City, because it was convenient, but I was really happy with the quality of the work and the assistance from the shopkeeper, Nancy, in helping me pick out so the frames and mats.

Here's a close up of the autograph with a snapshot of the director that I took at the Charles de Gaulle airport. It's sort of floating in a shadowbox frame with a black suede mat.  T loves it.

And here are the nudes by the lovely Heather Haws.  They are the perfect amount of sketchiness and softness, and the colors are just amazing.  They're our first 'real' pieces of artwork and I can't wait to add more to our home.

After getting over the sticker shock of custom framing, I have to say I'm hooked.  I think I'm going to have to try and keep myself in check by only framing things that are important to us, but I keep thinking about what I can get framed next.  The one tip I've got if you're going to get something framed is to give yourself some time at the frame store.  There are tons of mats and frames to choose from and it takes a little while to pick something perfect.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

My First Time: Whoopie Pies

T bought me Baked Explorations recently, there might have been some heavy hinting on my part, but I'm still grateful.  It's fantastic, the photography is beautiful, the graphic design is cool and the recipes are delectable.

I was immediately drawn to the two whoopie pie recipes.  I had never made whoopie pies and I felt it was time to see what all the fuss was about.

I used the Chocolate Whoopie Pies recipe (p. 108) for the cookie portion and for the filling I used the cream cheese recipe from the Red Velvet Whoopie Pies (p. 117).

Chocolate Whoopie Pies
-adapted from Baked Explorations.

3 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 c. dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup hot coffee
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare baking sheets with parchment or silpats.

In large bowl, whisk flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda.

In another large bowl, whisk the cocoa powder and coffee until cocoa is dissolved.

In a medium bowl, stir the sugars and oil together.  Add to the cocoa mixture and whisk until combined.  Add the egg, vanilla and buttermilk, whisk until smooth.

Fold dry ingredients into the wet.

Drop by large rounded tablespoonfuls onto baking sheets about 1 inch apart.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, until cookies are set and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool cookies completely.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies (2 dozen whoopie pies).

Cream Cheese Filling
-adapted from Baked Explorations

3 cups powdered sugar
1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
food coloring (optional)

Cream butter and cream cheese together.  Add vanilla, salt and food coloring.  Add sifted powdered sugar in batches until filling reaches desired consistency.  I made these for Halloween (just felt a need to explain the haz mat suit orange).

Assemble the pies.  I started out by matching up cookies that were similar size and shape so I wasn't left with a weirdly paired pie at the end.  Then scoop on some filling and sandwich them up.  Mmmmm.

These cakey cookies came out great, they held together well, but were still soft and delicious.  I tend to hate coffee in desserts, but the coffee in this recipe just makes the chocolate better, no more no less.  Paired with cream cheese frosting (always a winner) these pies just couldn't be beat.  I will have to make these again as soon as I have a chance to give them away, or else I would absolutely eat them all.

Oh, I wish I could eat my screen right now.

Miraculously, these lasted a couple of days.  They were still fantastic the next day, but the day after that, they were on their way out, still good, but not as good.  So eat 'em quick, tough, I know.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Side Note: Goat Cheese Cheez-it

Goat cheese on a Cheez-it is amazing!

I know you think it sounds absurd, but we had a bit of leftover goat cheese and we were out of normal crackers, so we gave it a whirl on the Cheez-it's.  Man am I glad we did.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Explore: Abalone Cove

I don't know why I never wrote about this, but T and I went with my cousin and his family to Abalone Cove in Rancho Palos Verdes this summer.  If you're going to visit you just have to check the tide schedule and make sure you make it there at low tide to get a glimpse of all the sea life.  You park on top of the cliff, take in this view...

as you begin your hike down.  Then you catch a glimpse of your goal.

After the descent you make your way along a rocky beach

And then you get there, get your feet wet (definitely wear water friendly shoes), and start to look around.

Lovely, vibrant sea urchins that can sting you.  They're everywhere, but they can be avoided.

The dry stone is pretty interesting also.

It looks so structured.

The starfish are fun too.

I definitely recommend a day trip if you haven't been.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Handmade: Baby Quilt

My cousin and his wife just added a little baby boy to their family, so for the baby shower I whipped up a baby quilt.  For those new to quilting, starting small is the way to go.  And I'm not sure I possess the required amount of patience for a large quilt.

I started out looking through my fabric stash and found some browns, blues and teals with an overall theme of stripes and polka dots.  For the quilt, I decided to incorporate a lot of white and the lighter colors rather than the standard pastel-for-babies route.

Because I don't particularly like patterns, I just cut strips of varying widths and lengths.  Then I started laying them out and playing around with the composition.

After sewing the strips together, I added a wide, white border to freshen it up.

After layering the top with 80% cotton/20% polyester batting and the quilt back fabric, I planned out my stitching pattern.  I simply 'stitched in the ditch' for the strips in the center, and for the border, I measured out large 'x's to go in the border.

Then I bound the edges in crisp white to finish it off.  You can see the stitching pattern a little bit better from the back as well.

This quick and simple project was a great way to get me back into sewing.  I haven't made anything in a while and it felt good to be back behind the machine.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Traveling: Milan (Part 2)

We were in Milano for i Saloni, it was my first furniture fair, and I was pretty overwhelmed.  So many things I'd seen in magazines or on design blogs were suddenly right in front of me.  I have a sneaking suspicion that this job is going to influence my home decorating budget.

I mean, look at this sofa from Busnelli.  It was, by far, my favorite piece of furniture at the show.  It's upholstered in tufted, draped suede and it's so full of drama, yet glam and comfy all at the same time.  And I love the metallic stripe wall treatment behind it.  I think that being new to the interior design world has led me to be a little overly wowed by this piece.  Apparently this draped upholstery has been happening for a while, but I'd never seen it, so I love it.

Though the furniture was lovely, I have to say that my favorite part of the fair was all the creativity that went into the booth designs.  Whether it was paper, fabric or solid materials; there was some funky stuff going on and I liked it.  And even though I'm married already, I still love thinking about how some of these ideas could be transferred over to wedding/event design.  This paper design from the Gervasoni booth was a definite favorite.

Want a closer look?  It's dip-dyed paper that looks similar to what those ubiquitous paper party decorations are made out of.

I love the simplicity of these floor to ceiling strings from the Elite booth.

This booth (don't remember which company it was) was actually for bathroom fixtures and looks like the best TP prank ever.  Seriously, TP taken to a fantastic new level for a bath fixtures booth, I love Europe.

Again, don't remember the booth, but these upside down plants hanging from the ceiling could be a lovely avant-garde decor for a party.

This display from Cor Sitzmobel was an elegant use for drum cymbals.

On a more practical note, isn't this a genius idea to make your TV fit into you decor.  This bookshelf is from Besana.

And I'll end with a self-portrait taken in a mirror also at the Besana booth.  This is how I looked through most of the show; camera held to the eye and lagging behind the others.

So there you have it, my 2 week business trip, that I returned from in late April has been recapped, right before I leave on Monday for another 2 week European trip.  Life isn't so bad these days.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Traveling: Milan (part 1)

After Riyadh we headed to Milan for iSaloni, a humongous furniture fair.  We bunked up at the Hotel Principe di Savoia.  Many of the rooms had recently been redone and I was a fan of the purple with a few bold accents color scheme that was chosen.

We spent most of our time at the furniture fair (I'll discuss in the next post), but we did get in a quick trip to il Duomo.  The last time I went to Milan (almost 6 years ago), the front was entirely covered by scaffolding and a scrim, so it was pretty awesome to see it in all it's restored glory.

Then we headed up to the roof (by far the coolest part of the whole cathedral)  Check out this gem of a carving.  I have no idea what's going on here, but it is amusing.

The intricacies, scale and amount of detail are staggering.  It's so amazing to think of how much manpower, energy and resources were put into these projects.

And here's a shot of the galleria, it's such a lovely space, but it's a shame that there isn't a single thing that I can afford in there.

Here are some of the bikes just hanging around the city ready to take part in a bike share program.  You sign up, pay a few euro and you get to check out bikes all around the city.  Such a great idea, and I wish I'd had a chance to take advantage.  And check out the adorable baskets!

Up next will be some of my favorite booths from the furniture fair.  I think I was more impressed by the installations than the furniture.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

My First Time: Riyadh

Not many pictures in this post, pictures of people aren't allowed for religious reasons, pictures of government buildings aren't allowed for security reasons and I can't show pictures of our projects for privacy reasons.  But here are some thoughts.

This was definitely an eye-opener.  I had a pretty sheltered existence while I was there, mainly being shuttled between my accommodations and our various meetings, I certainly wasn't able to venture out on my own (women can't drive).  I truly hate driving, so I'm OK with that (as long as I can afford someone to drive me where I want, when I want).  But I only had to wear the abaya (traditional robe and veil) out in public and rarely had to put on my veil and it really wasn't a huge deal.

It's supposed to go to the tops of your shoes, but I got the longest size available and it was a couple of inches too short. Eh, I guess I'm tall for Saudi Arabia.

The men totally wear traditional clothes as well.  The long white dress shirt looking things with the printed scarves held to their heads by black cords.  I don't think they're required to wear this outfit like women are required to wear the abaya, but I'm glad that they keep tradition.  It's so weird to be in a place where everyone is dressed almost exactly the same way.  But don't let that fool you into thinking women aren't playing the fashion game.  They do, but it's only for other ladies to see at "ladies only" places.  And after visiting a ladies club of sorts I can see a few advantages.  Being in a place with just women is kind of nice, I've never had many female friends and I can see how more sisterly relationships can be formed.  Family is very important in the culture, which is mostly a good thing.  And people are the same as they are everywhere else, they're people.

Saudi Arabia is an American ally, so there are a lot of people trying to attack them, but they run anti-terrorist PSA's and have blockades and checkpoints where necessary and the violence has been lessened drastically.  They also run anti-domestic violence PSA's which was somewhat disheartening (but we do those too).

There is (like in many places) a drastic difference between the wealthy and the poor.  Workers being brought in from other countries were just laying around outside the airport waiting to be picked up and taken to the jobs they were promised.

Everything is crazy expensive.  Two smoothies and a coffee came to about $60!  Oh, but they do make excellent smoothies.  Alcohol is prohibited so they rock the juices!

And after 5 days of Riyadh it was off to Milan.

I shot this about 2 minutes after take-off.  Riyadh really is just a city and then desert.  I think that road goes to Jeddah, which is the city closest to Mecca.

Flyin' in style.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Day in Paris

I just got back from a 2 week business trip that took me to Paris, Riyadh and Milan (where I was stuck due to the volcanic ash cloud) and it was pretty great despite the large amounts of work and meetings that had to be done. After my very first flight in business class, we landed in Paris and had a mere 24 hours there.  I packed in as much as possible and it was a great introduction to Paris.  First off, we stayed at the Ritz!  Just walking up to the reception desk and seeing the gentle curve of the pendant that lit the area let me know that I was in France.
My room!
My bathroom!
It had swan faucets and a profusion of pink.  There was a small balcony with french doors and more molding than I thought could fit in a hotel room.  We had a meeting and stopped for a spot of tea, but then it was off for a couple hour walk around the city with my boss.
One of the desserts had gold leaf on it.
We saw the Eiffel Tower (duh!), some crazy museum with a gold cap and a moat around it.
It's obligatory, but that's OK.

I enjoyed the shaped hedges without leaves and this building with a vertical garden as walls.

We went to the Saint Germain area and saw European life at it's best.  Street cafes, vendors cute little shop windows (sadly Lauduree was closed by the time I found it) and a general sense of public life.

We ate at a less crowded place down the way, but the vibe of the St. Germain was great.

We found a cute little joint and had some supper, it wasn't amazing, but the atmosphere was great and so was the rose.  Then there was the lovely view of a purple sky from my balcony that night.

The next morning I went for a run, with my iPhone handy, I had tunes, took some pictures and just enjoyed every second of it.
The Seine in the morning.
Sweaty and super happy!
Then it was a quick breakfast in my room of eggs benedict with shaved black truffle on top and some lovely berries with mint before heading off to Riyadh.

Not bad for a day, huh?!