Friday!

I can't believe another week is done; indeed the first month of 2008. My resolutions have been holding up pretty well. I think I've been a lot more balanced with work (despite being busier than ever) and I've kept with my recipe, reading and travel resolutions.

So far, none of my major resolution purchases have been made, but I didn't expect they would, since they're all investments and I have to save. But I'm afraid I'm straight out failing my yoga resolution, which is the worst since it's one of the things that makes me feel the best (what part of my brain is unable to connect that in the evening when I get home from work).

So, that's going to be my focus in February, as well as keeping up with all the others. All things considered I'm happy. Five out of six ain't bad.

To do this weekend:
- Paint bedroom (I decided on granite boulder - sorry ashwood fans!)
- Write V-Day columns
- Haircut
- Source new drapes (make them? buy readymades? customize IKEA?)
- Scour stores for a bench ottoman I can reupholster and a wardrobe that looks like the ones below but costs a ginormous fraction of the price

Have a good weekend!

Armoire

I've been playing with Icovia floorplanners for the last few days, trying to determine better arrangements of furniture for both my bedroom and living room. And also, trying to figure out the best way to fill those blanks. I'd like more storage in my bedroom for sure.

I think an armoire / wardrobe would really help me out, but they're such hefty (and heftily priced) pieces I have to be careful. I've been surveying the options and only this beauty by Baker has really stood out. Price: Prohibitive.


White Forest Pottery

I know there must be a few secret admirers out there. At least one? Mum? Alright then... To my imaginary secret admirers: If you took it upon yourself to seduce me this V-Day, this would do the trick. Bouquets of roses are dime a dozen, but you could reallybowl me over with this... From White Forest Pottery via The Bedlam of Beefy.

Book Report: New York Trilogy

It won't be a surprise to some that I'm a big lover of Paul Auster. After all, in his work there are loud echoes of my most favourite modernist master (Auster met Beckett in the late 1970's). But Auster says a lot more than Beckett. And while Beckett marvels at the meaningfulness in silence and our Schopenhaurian persistance in the face of an inevitable fate, Auster revels in that space where fiction and life collide and intertwine and where chance is a romantic, yet wiley, companion.


I read the New York Trilogy as an undergrad and picked it off my bookshelf again before my New York trip. I just finished last night. Auster exhibits a philosophical approach to story-telling, but these stories are written in the genre of spy novels. Don deLillo has said of him "Paul's accomplishment is building a traditional storytelling architecture with sharply modern interiors." If you want the best of continental and American, Auster's a good place to start.

Sometimes when I finish a book I actually miss the characters - they've become so real to me. And sometimes, I'm consumed by the ideas presented and toy with those ideas for years to come. Both make for good reading experiences. But, in my favourites (Beckett, Kundera, David Mitchell and Auster) both are moved, it's a complete head-and-heart reading experience.

And not to be a complete obsessive, but don't you think Auster as he ages is looking ever so slightly like Sam?

Hoss Intropia

I've blogged before about the Hoss Intropia catalogue and the S/S edition is now online. Regardless of whether you love their clothes as much as I do, you'll enjoy the catalogue. It's always beautifully shot, always dreamy and story-telling in the best possible way.

Semikolon

Semikolon boxes seem to be in every store I frequent these days and in many magazine spreads. I've been a fan since last summer when BFF wrapped my birthday gift in one.

They come in multiple hues and sizes, perfect for creating that stylist's favourite stack of boxes. In an effort to have less stuff floating about my apartment, I'm considering buying quite a few more. The worry with boxes is, of course, that once things are completely concealed, they're forgotten about.


Sewing

At school, the nuns gave us a fairly good grounding in "home economics", which was basically housekeeping class, from sewing and knitting to cooking; a curriculum designed to turn us into good Irish housewives. By my generation, the class was pretty moot. We were all going to work and feminism had reigned supreme over traditional Catholic education. Phew!

But I do somewhat regret letting some of the things the nuns taught me slip away. Maybe it's my modern day, "we must do it all" mentality, or just a practical trust in my own skills versus the many rip-off retailers out there. Either way, I really wanting to learn to sew again. I need new drapes and am determined to take on what should be a very straight-forward project. Any avid sewers out there? Any pointers, book recommendations etc? (Image from Pottery Barn.)


Recipe of the week

Not that anybody noticed, but I missed a new recipe last week thanks to the NYC trip. And since macaroons don't exactly make a good dinner, I tried a second new recipe this weekend. I found it in Donna Hay magazine, a magazine that I'm increasingly loving, and modified it slightly for my vegetarianism.

This recipe is, quite simply, splendid... The only things in my freezer are ice and frozen peas. I adore those little spheres of juicy sweetness. Unfortunately, I was too keen to eat it and didn't snap a piccy, but it looks every bit as good as this photo. I'll definitely be making this recipe again.



Pea & bean orecchiette (serves 4):
- 400g / 14oz orecchiette pasta
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves chopped
- *6 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped (I omitted, added a shallot and went a little over on the other flavourings, to taste)
- Quarter cup white wine
- 2 cups pouring cream
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsps grated lemon rind
- sea salt and cracked pepper
- 1.5 cups broad (fava) beans, shelled
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1 cup mint leaves
- shaved parmesan to serve

Boil pasta to al dente, drain, keep warm in saucepan.
In a skillet, warm olive oil, cook garlic, (*anchovies / shallot) until soft.
Add wine and cook for 2-3 mins more or until reduced by half.
Add cream, lemon juice & rind, salt & pepper and cook for 3-4 mins, until cream thickens slightly.
Add pasta, beans, peas & mint and stir until well combined, allowing frozen peas to warm.
Serve with parmesan and black pepper to taste.

Recipe of the week

I made macarons! For the first time. I guess it never really occured to me to make them. Unlike the cupcake trend, I don't see as many people sharing recipes for macarons. So, I went to Martha (where one goes in dire recipe situations). I'm not going to transcribe the recipe as I followed it verbatim.

I'm not sure that this is the "official" recipe or some Martha spin on them, but they worked out pretty great. I didn't go all crazy with food colouring this time, but I did add some lemon flavouring to the filling. They were not actually too hard to make and people will think you've taken French bakery lessons if you produce home-made macarons!


Friday!

- Finish painting entryway to apartment (temporarily pilfer a ladder so I can reach the last 3 feet)
- Make recipe of the week (undecided what that will be)
- Wait around for 3 hours for Rogers to come and install new internet service
- Clean, clean, clean, clean & do laundry
- Decide on new paint colour for bedroom. Current contenders are Ashwood (topleft) or Granite Boulder (bottomleft) For reference, the rest of the apartment is painted Sandstone Cliff (right)... Whatcha think?


Hayden Harnett

Saturday: There's nothing like good food, great conversation, a little shopping, a little eye-candy and a little tipsy e-Commerce when you get home. Still, $100 for this wallet!? A positive steal...

Valentines

Although I'm not a big romantic or Valentine's Day participant, I do still get a kick out of cute ways of expressing that loving feeling. Once again, Etsy comes up trumps. These are from Aranmade and Armato Design.

Klein blue

I've always loved that bright blue, somewhat purplish, hue we call International Klein Blue after the artist who formulated the colour and than painted vast canvases of it.

IKB was developed by Yves Klein and chemists to have the same color brightness and intensity as dry pigments, which it achieves by suspending dry pigment in a clear synthetic resin. This new medium was patented by Klein. This top from Chris Benz reminded me of the hue. It would be the perfect thing to wear to an Yves Klein exhibit. Or just in general.


Hermes

Hermes is one of my favourite little sites to browse. I adore the illustrations throughout and their e-mails are similarly ingenious. If you're not a subscriber, you should get yourself on there. Warning though: You will feel inclined to purchase many amazing enamel bangles!

NYC

I had so much fun in New York. It was a whirlwind and I wish I had longer there! But I did a little bit of everything I wanted and actually squeezed in more than I thought I would. It was super mild (compared to Toronto) and it was such a joy to get a good stroll on and not have to wear ugly winter practical footwear. Friday, I focused on Soho & Greenwich Village and had fun at Lafco and John Derian, where I made some purchases.


On Saturday, I strolled from the hotel to the Neue Galerie, stopping at Tiffany with my Starbucks (so I could say I had breakfast there), to see the Klimt exhibit. Lots of my favourite sketches were there and a great tight little collection. I had a bowl of soup at Cafe Sabarsky afterwards.

Then I strolled over to Madison, walked straight into Jonathan Adler and got myself a wee pressie. Then on and down, ducking into more shops, over to Lexington and another coffee and a violet macaron at Payard. On and on south, ducking back over to Fifth Ave to the MoMA, where I saw heart-wrenching art — most of which I forgot was in the collection, so every room was a pleasant surprise. I was dizzy leaving.


Finally back to the hotel to get dolled up for the theatre . Little did I know: New Yorkers don't dress up for theatre. This made me sad. The play was clearly something special for me since I built a whole whirlwind trip around it. And the woman next to me was wearing New Balance trainers. I'd like to think she was a tourist, but she obviously wasn't. Not that I think there should be rules or anything. But isn't it nice when everybody treats it like it's a real occasion?

The plays (all four of them) were great, but not mind-blowingly epic. The best was Eh Joe with Karen Kandel stealing the entire show. Baryshnikov was perfect in the face. But his body is too vital and strong to be convincing as one of Beckett's haggard characters. In Eh Joe he remained still, with the focus was entirely on his face, so it was the most effective of the four.



Sunday, was a short day: Hit the MET, checked my luggage. Was happy to finally see Damien Hirst's The Physical Impossibility of Death, but was even happier to see lots of Hofmann, de Kooning and Rothko.

And that was me, cab to LaGuardia and home. I promise I won't stay away twelve years again!

Guess where I'm off to?



I won't be posting while I'm away, but am back Sunday and will have updates and stories.

Eboniste

I love all of these, especially shown in profile as a collection. But, if I had to choose one, it would be the Paris table shown in the centre. It's beautifully calligraphic. All from Eboniste.

Swank Lighting

Now you can't enter, I can tell you about these lamps up for grabs on the delectable Swank website. I want to win. And I never win anything ever. So hopefully you didn't enter. And if you have already, withdraw your entry. Really, if you asked I would do it. It's true.

Lafco

I've blogged about Santa Maria Novella products before, but one of the stores I'm really looking forward to visiting in New York is Lafco. The packaging on these products alone drives me wild.

Theatre plans

After a poverty of Beckett in the last two years, 2008 is a Beckett bonanza. I'm off to NY this Friday to see Beckett Shorts & in June Krapp's Last Tape (my all time favourite play) is playing in Stratford, starring Brian Dennehy. And Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood is also on later in the year. A peppering of Sean O'Casey and some solid Chekhov would be the extra icing on the cake.

Winter lifesavers

While all the new collections are putting me in the mood for Spring, the reality outside is it's snowing and we've two more months of winter left, at least. So, here are some of the things that get me through the winter: When you have a cold and your delicate wee nose is raw from tissues that claim they're softer than they are, try this product from Mario Badescu. It's not it's intended purpose (it's also excellent for that), but it works wonders on any kind of red irritated skin.


And I think I've published my love of this cream everywhere I write, but I really stand by this product. Kiehl's Creme de Corps is simply the best body moisturizer out there, custardy rich and amazingly effective. I have a robe dedicated to wearing while it soaks in. The one thing about it, it's not a don-and-dash kind of lotion.

I use L'Occitane's shea hand cream on my feet. And L'Occitane make a perfectly serviceable foot-cream, but I prefer this for some reason. When it snows, I put on lashings and then woolly socks and my L.L. Bean boots. I'm terrified of slipping on the ice and they're the only footwear I've learned to trust, and somewhat love them. Plus, the salt here is ghastly and would ruin any of my beloved flats.

Scoop arm sofa

Thankfully, I'm not on the market for a new sofa. What a huge purchase that would be! Right now I have a roll arm, but I think if I were looking again, I would want something in this scoop arm shape. I love the side profile it creates (especially to open sight-lines in a small room) and how elegant it is. I'm particularly fond of the one from Ochre with the high back.


As I was looking at these, I thought that this would be a gorgeous profile for an upholstered bed too. Ochre clearly thought the same thing: This bed might just knock the current front-runner off my bed wishlist.

Book report: Cheating at Canasta

I just finished the last story in William Trevor's Cheating at Canasta. This is a marvelous collection of short stories. Each moving, yet not all crash bang emotion, more restrained and resonant than that. There's a moral of some kind to most of those stories, but it's delivered in a gently passive way.

Trevor doesn't want us to love or hate characters, he wants us to smile gently at their foibles, recognizing our own, and the story-tellers, unique stance outside of the drama. I loved William Boyd's review of from the New York Times, which contrasts Trevor's style to Chekhov's.


Recipe of the week

I couldn't find lovage and didn't feel like creamy pasta, so opted instead to make this stuffed potato recipe from the Avoca cookbook. I don't eat spuds very often, but naturally, I love them. The recipe calls for roosters, a floury delicious potato readily available at home. I used russets instead.


Here's the recipe:
4 large rooster potatoes
1 courgette (zucchini)
half aubergine (eggplant)
1 yellow pepper
6 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sun-dried tomato paste
100g goat's cheese
2 tbsp roughly chopped semi-sun-dried tomatoes
50g pitted olives roughly chopped
1 tbsp shredded basil (to serve)

Preheat oven to 180C / 356F. Bake the potatoes, pricking once or twice, for 45-60 mins / until cooked. Dice all the other vegetables, toss in olive oil, season and grill for 10 mins / until lightly charred.

Cut the top off each potato and scopp out the inside. Mash it, adding the pesto and crumbling in the goat's cheese and vegetables. Season to taste and fill the potatoes with the mixture. Return to the oven for 10 mins / until warm through. Sprinkle over basil and serve.

Variations: Use the same method to use leftovers such as ham, spring onions, mayonnaise, mange tout, tuna, chives, sweetcorn.

Saarinen meets tradition

My roots are clearly in traditional European furniture. But I also love modern furniture and art. What really gets me excited is when the two collide. Like those great Paris apartments with amazing historic architectural details and wide-planked floors, filled with Saarinen and Eames.


It's such a great mix and I love the brazen defiance in creating coherence from< incongruity. My current favourite mix is the Saarinen tulip table paired with traditional chairs. It brings out the best in both strong designs and takes the decadant edge off the chairs, and the minimalistic edge off the table.  


Images: Veranda tearsheet / "So Chic" by Elle Decor / Tom Scheerer / "Decorate" by Metropolitan Home / Tom Scheerer / Tom Scheerer / Eric Piasecki / O at Home current edition

Reading nook

I found this image on the site of Eric Piasecki.  I love the idea of upholstered panels with nailheads used to frame a nook like this - it makes it seem so cozy. This feature definitely goes on my "dream home" wishlist. I also like the idea of concealing some extra storage beneath the seat.

I want to see this

I would watch Daniel Day do anything. Rumour a few years back was that he was going to play Beckett in a biopic. I think he's the only one I'd ever tolerate doing so. Couldn't you see him take on that hawkish stare?

Alice Stevenson

I am completely, utterly, whole-heartedly smitten with these prints from Alice Stevenson.

Stop talking

Sometimes I have a real noise-sensitivity. I have an upstairs neighbour who goes through "buffalo jump" phases - all thump thump wallop thump. And there's that coworker who could stand to use about a third of his voice. He screams for attention, quite literally. Thankfully, I have noise-cancelling headphones that come in handy on such occasions. But wouldn't it be lovely to walk up to one of those kinds, demurely hand them one of these, smile and walk away? From Set Editions.

Denis Cotter

If you liked the sound of Avoca's lemon curd cake (which I highly recommend) you might, like I am, be jonesing to try this Lime Curd & Sour Cream cake from Oooh you tasty little things (a blog title after my heart.) Holy smokes it sounds tasty.

On the savoury side, I'm thinking about food a lot as I delve into all my recipe books. So far, the forerunner for new recipe of the week is Oyster mushroom ravioli with a truffled lovage cream and peas, from Denis Cotter's Cafe Paradiso Seasons. He's a Corkonian and a vegetarian chef (not an easy thing in Ireland). I'm mostly curious about lovage. It's not an herb you often see in recipes, and I'm not even sure the Whole Foods will have it.


Avoca

Coats from Avoca. I picture over jeans with Tretorns. And a bike. Or a gangly silly puppy out for a Sunday gallivant.(P.S. - I bought BFF a blankie from Avoca for Christmas. It arrived within 5 days, with no duties, amazing service from good ole Eire).

Cookies

There's no better way of celebrating a clean-bill from the dentist than eating something that would make his face blanch and washing it down with coffee. For dinner tonight, I'm having these cookies and my favourite mug filled to the brim.

Speaking of food, I'm going through all my recipe books to see what I'll cook tonight as part of my "one new recipe a week" plan. I actually just wrote that to ensure I do it... this blog makes me get things done (and spend money, but we won't talk about that). The cookies are from J&M Foods. Did I mention they're delish?


Christopher Pratt

I've been a big fan of Christopher Pratt for nearly a decade. He not only is a wonderful and moving artist, he's a great husband. While many Canadian artists of Pratt's age met their wives and partners in art school, Pratt is rare in that his wife still paints.


In fact, Mary Pratt's work stands just as tall as her husbands. Artistic temperaments and creative egos are difficult things so this speaks of a huge respect and self-assurance in each of them. Pratt's work is available through the Godard Gallery here in Toronto. But he lives in Newfoundland, a place that clearly inspires his work.


Mary prefers the city, so they work in separate home studios. In that way, they maintain their separate identities. There's no sense, when reviewing their work, that you're hearing that married drone about what "we" think, "we" like, "we" find inspiring... These are two great artists who just happen to be husband and wife.

Bev Hisey

I'm breaking free of the monopoly Madeline Weinrib has had on me. It's been nagging me for a while that the zig-zag isn't a wool rug, so isn't exactly going to be something that you could sit on. And I like to sit on the floor sometimes. But take a look at Bev Hisey's fabulous rugs. This Canadian began her career as a fashion designer before she began designing for the home. I also love her laser-cut felt room dividers / wall panels.

Alex Marshall

While I was smitten with Sophie Conran's dinnerware collection for Portmeirion right off the bat and I liked it in person first time around, it didn't have the same impact when I visited it a second time.

But, worry not, I've found a new lust: Alex Marshall - many more colours, fabulously mix-and-matchable, the same irregular ruggedness that attracted me to the Sophie Conran. And it's sold at Hollace Cluny one of my favourite Toronto stores. Also available online at Sundance.


Peter and Jane

The first book I loved is a simple story about a brother and sister who clean up their garden shed and sweep and dust and turn it into such a lovely space that their Mum and Dad say they can have it as their very own garden playroom. It's not exactly the Citizen Kane of books but I fell for it and wonder about the ways it shaped me.

Am I a cleanaholic because Jane is? Did this little tale create an indelible connection between cleaning and rewards in my toddler mind? And for ages I really wanted a breakfast set that had blue and white stripes and I had no idea why. The original book (the one I grew up with) got lost on one of our family's many moves. But I found this on Alibris in a bookshop in Florida. If I needed a reason to love the internet, that would be one.


Bedroom inspiration

I've had this picture for ages - I think it's such a clever bed treatment from Antony Todd; the look of a four-poster bed that even the manliest of men could stomach.

I'm also loving this clean-lined wraparound headboard with oversized nailheads that I clipped from Veranda (I think...) I tend to vacillate between these thoughts and my French bed The ridiculous price of upholstered headboards is one thing that holds me back. If I had a workshop, I'd whip one up in a second. Finally, I love the drapes in the other image - perhaps it's something I could do to customize a pair of readymades?


Anthropologie

The very second one season's stock is old, I get hungry for the next. I can't wait until Spring and these images from Anthropologie help me along.

Remember daffodils? And the bright perfect green of new buds on the trees? Maybe we evolved imagination to get us through winter without hibernating? And although there's only a 2 month window before it gets too hot for me (and then I crave Autumn), I'm also fantasizing about clothes like these. Listen to me, wishing my seasons away...


Electra bicycles

Electra bikes are the most reasonable choice for a gal like myself who lives in a city where you can't ride your bike for 5 months of the year. Okay, I know there are those who do.. but they're all complete and utter nutters.

I live near a ginormous cemetery and, morbid as it sounds, everybody treats it like a huge urban park. There are amazing specimen trees from all over the world and fabulous mausoleums that tower over the houses across the fence (I like to reflect with some glee on how it must gall those home-owners that some guy's grave is larger than their million-dollar home).

And I want to ride my bike around the cemetery, and maybe to the bakery, to buy some macaroons. You can paint the picture easily enough. Electra's new catalogue is just out. I love the champagne pearl Townie though I also like the buttercream Amsterdam Sport. Of course, either would get a basket. Ooh, and a skirt-guard. Perfection.


Once

I finally caught up with the rest of the class and watched Once today. It's strange seeing Dublin in film, especially those shots that are painfully familiar but I can't quite place. Most of all I liked the way that the nameless main characters like each other.