Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wednesday Eye Candy and More Blogs to Love

What is it about Wednesdays? I always have grand plans for the posts I hope to blog about during the week, but if I write during the week instead of over the weekend, I am just too pooped by this point. So the I-am-in-a-pinch-and-just-need-something-to-post post is rapidly becoming a fixture: Wednesday Eye Candy. This gorgeous pic is from the newest issue of Rue.

I adore those blue/grey walls, the fun patterned prints, the splashes of persimmon, and the brass lamp that is a shinier version of one we currently have in our living room. Maybe this pic will even inspire me to polish it. I could do without the cowhide, but I would take all that lovely mid-century modern furniture in a heartbeat.

If just one pic is not enough to get you through this hump day, head on over to the following blogs that I have recently added to my "Blog Crushes" list:

Sara of Russet Street Reno has a wicked sense of humor, takes on inspiring projects, and has a keen eye for color. Her writing is so addictive, before you know it, you will have read through the past year of posts. You've been warned.

Michelle over at Ten June is no slouch either. Her home is an elegant and fresh take on the more traditional. Her blog had just undergone a facelift, and she is in the midst of a bathroom reno, so now is a great time to check her site out.

We're halfway there!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Potager 101

Potager: A Potager garden is no mere vegetable patch—with a perfect blend of aesthetics and utility, it's a stylish garden offering both edible and visual delights. The fruits, flowers, herbs, and vegetables you grow and harvest there will feed you and your family—and your spirits. (Inspired definition from here.)

You've got to start somewhere, but this is what I am hoping our front yard veggie garden could one day look like:

Pretty, no? I love that it doesn't scream veggie garden at you, but if you look close, you can see the yummy stuff mixed in with the ornamentals. Both gardens are by Michelle Derviss, a Marin-based landscape architect that you can read more about here.

She bordered both gardens in boxwood to define the space, mixing in edibles and decorative plants around the gravel walkways to create beautiful yet functional front-yard gardens. I really love how both pics have a plotted plant in the center for some vertical visual interest. I can almost picture a bench off to one side. You can definitely pick up on the English kitchen garden roots that these potager gardens grew out of. (Pun intended.)

This idea of taking back the front yard is gaining momentum. Many landscape architects are urging Americans to rethink the traditional lawn as front yard, including Fritz Haeg, whose "Edible Estates" program is discussed both in the link above and the resources below.

I still have to dig into many of these links and books (the puns just keep on coming, I tell ya!), but I have skimmed them and am dying to find the time to really educate myself.

This article is my favorite that I have run across so far on this growing trend:

Here are some other sites I have been perusing in the last couple days:
Lastly, here's some books I would love to get my gardening gloves on: might just be getting a small chunk of my paycheck this month. These are by no means an exhaustive list of resources. That said, I would *love* to check out any other resources or ideas you have, so drop me a comment if you feel so inclined.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Where Does Your Vegetable Garden Grow?

I ask only because ours grows in the front yard. It's unconventional, I know. We decided to plant our tomato crop and other summer staples in the front yard for myriad reasons: one, it's our largest yard; two, there are no dogs to mess with it; three, it gets the most sun; and four, there is actually soil instead of concrete/wood like the back and side yards. Before planting, we worried that our neighbors (some of whom are quite old and set in their ways), would find the tomato stakes an eyesore. Truth is, they still might; but we are quite happy with the finished product.

It's a vast improvement on the front yard, which is pretty darn sad. Here it is the day we first came to tour our house.

Our little organic garden is off the screen to the left, but it pretty much looks like the terraced area to the right. (I really need to get better at taking before pictures!) Trust me, it's far better than the weeds that were taking over before.

Here's another view from the house looking out onto the street.

The stakes are for our sugar snap peas, the middle row is "Fire Red" lettuce, punctuated by an artichoke at the end...

and the last row to the left are five different varieties of tomatoes.

(All are from McShane's Nursery in Salinas, for those local folks out there.)

We still have the zucchini and some herbs (basil, cilantro, chives, and parsley) to plant in the side yard. I'll share pics when we get there.

The stakes were meant to model the staked garden at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, but since I didn't have a picture, and I did not find the one below until that night, I was working from memory.

We didn't quite get it right (the stakes I was hoping to replicate are on the left, all perfectly identical), but I am looking at it as an excuse to get down there for a visit instead of beating myself up.

This garden will not be a permanent fixture. We really need to redo the retaining wall that is falling apart - *hopefully* this summer - and settle upon a landscape design. We know we want one retaining wall instead of the terraced look we have going on now, but we are not sure if we want to keep the stairs where they are or move them towards the driveway. (We need to look at more pics and sit down and really hammer out or vision. I will share the inspiration pic that we have been coming back to, but if you have any resources, send them my way!)

But one thing we are seriously excited about is creating a portager, a garden that mixes edibles in with ornamentals. I like to think of it as a discrete veggie garden. I am so amped on this trend in landscaping that I will be back tomorrow (and likely Wednesday) to share some pics and resources that have us ready to rip up the front yard and replant. There is a lot out there on front yard vegetable gardens; cynics, get ready, and those ready to embrace this movement, get excited!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fashion Friday: These Boots Are Made For Raining

I am sorely in need of some rain boots. Although I have been cursing myself all week for not already owning a pair, I am hoping to snag an end of the season deal. With my luck, a purchase will signal the end of the wet weather and the beginning of spring. Wait! Who am I kidding? That's a win, win either way!

I have had my eye on the original - Hunter Wellies - for a couple of seasons now.

They are perfect, in my opinion, except for the price. I can't seem the find them for cheaper than about $125.00 except for on ebay, where all of the new boots have what's called "blooming," meaning they look like they have a white circular film on them. Not nearly the deal I was hoping to snag.

I found this pair on Piperlime as well.

I am loving the herringbone and buckle details, the charcoal color, and the price: $59.99 plus free shipping. The silhouette does not seem as flattering around the ankle as the Hunter boot, but it's hard to tell without seeing them on someone.

Target has a Hunter knockoff for $24.99, but it's not getting the best reviews; there are multiple mentions of soaking wet feet, and if that is the case, then it is not really a deal.

I ran into these Tory Burch boots in the latest issue of InStyle magazine, and I am loving their playful, retro vibe:

Unfortunately, even on ebay they are more than the Hunter boots I adore, so I think they are out.

The Chooka herringbone boots might be the winner here, but I need to sleep on it. What are you wearing on your tootsies these days in this wet weather? Any recommendations for me?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I Want To Go There

That one's for you 30 Rock fans out there. But really, I did not want to get out of bed today thanks to a double combo of still-stormy weather and feeling wrung out from grades. Here's where I'd rather be:

(Image via Lonny)

Doesn't all that natural light and soft bedding just look serene? DwellStudio has done it again! (The bedding is from their Spring 2011 line.) Maybe this could be the inspiration for the still torn apart guest bedroom...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wednesday Eye Candy

Grades are in and I am pooped! So I thought on this gloomiest of hump days - at least here in Northern California - I would leave you with something pretty to look at from the latest issue of Lonny.

I know I have mentioned before that I prefer rooms with colored walls to white walls, but I am loving the rich blue rug, pillows, and that playful pouf on the floor.

Plus, the combination of the layered blues with the brass accents feels just right to me. We have a lot of brass fixtures in this house and our old casa, and I always thought that they made the house feel dated. But 2011 may just be the Year of Brass; I am seeing it *everywhere* and I am loving it, so I am starting to rethink my loathing of brass. Maybe this is just the exhaustion talking, but once we slap some paint and art on the walls - you know, modernize things around these parts - our brass might just need some polishing and metal complements elsewhere around the space to fit right in. Am I alone here, or are you embracing brass these days too?

Either way, happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Creating Boundaries: The Final Chapter

I came home today from a long day of teaching, grading, and entering the mountain of papers graded over the weekend to this surprise:

Our fence is finished! (Don't mind the blurry picture. The storm had temporarily cleared but the sun was setting.)

The gate (and the whole fence) are gorgeous! My husband is so talented; he carried out my vision and improvised on it to perfection. (I wish I would have saved my original drawing that I gave him to work with. It was laughs!) The finished product wildly exceeded the vision in my head.

 And just in case you forgot, this is the fence we inherited with the house...

... and here's what it looked like after Phase I.

And let's not forget about Phase II! 

We've come a long way, baby! And this is only project numero uno. What do you think? Have we met our goal: containing the pooches while retaining the view? 

Now we're dreaming up how to improve the front yard. More on that later in the week! 

Monday, March 21, 2011

My Love Affair With DwellStudio

I adore our new (but vintage patterned) duvet by DwellStudio. Just in case you are not in Northern California, it poured and stormed all weekend - and it shows no signs of slowing down. But even so, our bedroom was markedly cheerier thanks to the lively print and happy aqua of Ocean Trellis.

Here's some more glamour shots of the new duvet.

And here's the view from the door.

This picture just makes me want to get my paint on. Unfortunately, the next two weekends are jam-packed, so the painting will have to wait at least 3 weeks.

I guess that will give me time to figure out what color to pair with the new duvet. That brown bedskirt is not working for me, and either are our beige sheets. When I tried holding up a pillowcase to grey sheets, that didn't seem to work either. I am not sure if I want to stay muted and beachy, or bring in a more saturated hue like the navy from my inspiration photo. Hmmm... Any suggestions?

But back to DwellStudio. It seems as though I was not the only one clamoring for one of their vintage prints: last week they re-released three of their prints from seasons past, and Trellis is one of them! Their aptly calling this line DwellStudio Vintage.

Here's the original Trellis in the other colorway, a deep graphite (I think):

And here's the re-release:

Notice the color change and the larger scale of the print. If you are fawning all over that soft grey like I am (I even questioned whether I purchased the best Trellis), there is some good news: they have committed to keeping the DwellStudio Vintage line at its original price point. So you can snag this baby for $170.00. It's still not the $85.00 + shipping I scored my Trellis for on ebay, but it's about half the price point of the rest of DwellStudio's line.

As a side note, has anyone ordered Undecorate, the new book by Christiane Lemieux, the Founder and Creative Director of DwellStudio? I can't wait to get my hands on a copy! It was excerpted in this month's Lonny, and although the home featured was not my taste, I loved the candid advise and down to earth approach to design.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Fashion Friday: Laser Cut Lovelies

I am having a moment with laser cut shoes. I bought this pair from Target a couple of weeks ago for a mere $22.99, and I have been wearing the heck out of them.

I am contemplating going back and buying them in some of the other colors they come in. They have them in a rainbow of colors, including a fun raspberry, electric blue, and yellow. They a comfy, springy, and it's fun to get peeks of my painted toes through the laser cut design.

As a side note, I am loving OPI's Ski Teal We Drop - a deep peacock blue - that I was a bit scared of in the nail salon, but which looks really flattering against my ghostly pale skin.

I just found it on Amazon, and will be ordering it soon. It feels just right during this transition from winter to spring, and I bet it would be great in the fall too.

But I did miss out on these gems from Anthropologie: the Shimmering Trellis Heels

They went on sale a couple of days ago for about $75, but I wanted to wait till I showed them to you all and got some feedback since I was on the fence. Now I am really regretting not buying them (especially since I have a gift card for almost the full sale price), since I could have returned them if they did not work out. I thought that the pink might read as almost a nude against my skin, and if so, I could get a lot of mileage out of them. I had visions of pairing them with this dress for Megan's wedding next month.

(The reception, not the ceremony, Meg. Don't worry. I have some flats for the ceremony!)

My question to you is should I hunt them down like General Zaroff in "The Most Dangerous Game"? Or should I try to find something else? (I have had luck calling Anthro in the past when they have sold out of stuff online.) Are you as smitten with these beauties as I am? Or are they too much?

P.S. The new duvet really livens up the master bedroom. Can't wait to share pics next week!

Have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

(Insert Your Favorite Primary Color Here) Velvet Cupcakes

If your wondering what dessert to serve with your Shepherd's Pie in honor of St. Patrick's Day, look no further than these [Insert Your Favorite Primary Color Here] Velvet Cupcakes. Today I am sharing my recipe (adapted from Epicurious) for Blue Velvet cupcakes, which I made in honor of our school colors. Go Eagles!

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 T cocoa powder
  • 2 ounces water
  • 1 ounce food coloring in your color of choice
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 t white vinegar
  • 1 t baking soda
Preheat the over to 350 degrees and line cupcake tins. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and blend well.

Make a paste of cocoa and food coloring, like so:

Add to the butter mixture. 

One at a time, stir in the following ingredients: buttermilk, vanilla, and water. 

A third at a time, mix flour and salt into the butter mixture until just combined. Do not overmix! 

In a small bowl, combine vinegar and baking soda. Gently fold it into the cake batter. Make sure it's incorporated; don't beat it. 

Spoon batter into cupcake tins until they are 2/3 full. Bake for 15-20 mins, or until an inserted fork comes out clean of batter. 

While your cupcakes are baking, start on the Cream Cheese Frosting...

Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 12 ounces cream cheese (I use Neufchatel cheese - a creamy cream cheese alternative with less fat)
  • 1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 t vanilla 
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 t lemon juice or extract (optional - to cut some of the sweetness)
Cream, cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and lemon (if using). Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, and beat until smooth. (Note: If doubling your cupcake recipe, this frosting should be enough for a double batch.)

Let cupcakes cool completely before frosting.

** I would post pics of the frosting-making process and the finished product, but Blogger is refusing to upload the rest of my pics right now, and I am too tired to try to figure out what is wrong. Sorry. Now I guess you will really have to make these delicious treats to see what they look like!

Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone! How are you celebrating this year? Is there a tradition that you honor each March 17th? Either way, I hope you get out there and have a green beer for me so I can celebrate vicariously through you! I will be curled up under our new duvet - it came in yesterday! - grading papers for the rest of my life...or until next Wednesday when 3rd quarter grades are due.