Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Faking Spring

This weekend the family "gal group" will be heading out to Worcester to try to fool ourselves for a few hours that it is not still the dead of winter. The Central Mass Flower Show seems like the right place to do that, doesn't it?

As soon as the ground thaws out there I'm going to start digging my flower beds in front of the house. At the moment there are four very lonely looking yews. I plan to extend the beds out a few feet forward and sideways and add as many flowers as will grow! I'm hoping to get a little inspiration and maybe some practical recommendations as to what will actually grow in my very sandy, part sun soil. (I know, I know, not much that flowers! Bah!)

I imagine myself having a beautiful, colorful English style garden with a nice mix of perennials and annuals:

Photo courtesy of:

But then when I think practically about all the plantings all my brain comes up with is a bunch of sunflowers and marigolds... and roses, which will take a couple years to grow in.

Last summer hubby and I took a day trip down to Newport, and while wandering the waterfront we plucked off a bunch of the seed pods from the wild rose plants thinking that if they grow by the beach they must love sand! We stuck some in the ground by the mailbox in the fall (along with our crocus and tulip bulbs), and I'm fascinated to see if anything comes up.
The biggest challenge will be remembering that I planted them while I'm out there weeding so that I don't rip them right up!!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Longing for Spring

I went to the grocery store yesterday and was SO excited to find SUNFLOWERS! On sale! For $5! Somehow, despite the fact that the Copley Sq. farmer's market has sunflowers year round, their presence in the grocery store made my mind go "Oh, spring is going to be here soon!"

Don't those just look like spring?
Right, well, then my gaze drifted downward toward the cart and the pile of hat, scarf and gloves I'd just taken off and I realized, no... despite the sunflower excitement, there's a good solid three more months of winter blah to get through. Sure, there will be a few surprise beautiful days thrown in there, and there was even a solitary brave bird chirping away outside today (until it began snowing anyway...) but until we're within spitting distance of June it's still unlikely to break 65 more than a few times. And really, unless it's 65, my body-and most of the garden- still thinks it's winter!

I also have a very unlikely arrangement in my living room:

That would be all the leftover dill from dinner the other night. My recipe called for 2-4 sprigs, but the grocery store was selling it by the armload! The mint bunches were pretty huge this week, too, but while I have no idea what to do with all that dill, I'm more than happy to drink mojitos and Moroccan mint tea until the mint is gone!

TIP: This is also a fabulous way to serve fresh basil for DIY salad and sandwich set-ups in the summer!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bocado Valentine's Dinner

All right, I know I'm a bit late on this one (what's new?!) but Happy Valentine's Day to everyone!

Hubby and I decided that Valentine's Day would be a perfect excuse to get out dancing for the first time since we moved away from the city. At first the plan was to drive out to Boston to have a nice Tapas dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, then head over to Ryles in Cambridge for a little salsa.

This is the image from the banner on their website. You see that hot headless chick in the black top there? That's me! From about 6 years ago... but it remains a source of great pride : )

I realized, however, that whenever we try to do a special dinner followed by a night of dancing, the dancing almost never happens. So in a effort to avoid this problem, and also to be clever and avoid the V-Day restaurant crowds, I decided we'd do dinner on Friday and dancing on Saturday.

Now, it's only about an hour out to Boston, but that's a lot of driving two days in a row (especially after a full work day) so I picked out a tapas place in Worcester called Bocado that's only about 20 minutes away. When I called to make a reservation I requested something for 8:30 or 9:00 so hubby would have time to shave and change, but the place was booked solid until 10:00! So much for beating the crowd! But the hostess said the kitchen was open until 1:00, and we usually eat late, so I took it.

Google maps said it would take about 20 minutes to get there, but since we were ready a little early (a miracle!) we had 30 minutes. Turns out that was a good thing since this place was kind of hard to find! But find it we did. It was tiny! I mean even in Boston it would have seemed small! In the North End it would have seemed normal. There were two long narrow rooms that were mainly bar area, and then a small square room in back for dining. Makes sense why they were booked till 10:00!

Anyway, we ordered our Sangria and sat down to check out the menu. There are certain things that you'll find on just about any tapas restaurant menu, and we have our set things we order just about every time we go out. Bocado, however, seemed to specialize rather heavily in the beef line, with two different kinds of Kobe beef, beef tar tare, beef carpaccio... and we don't normally eat beef. But in a spirit of gameness and a desire to give the restaurant the benefit of the doubt, we ordered all the fancy beef the waiter recommended! We supplemented that with olives, roasted stuffed eggplant, and mussels in a cream sauce, as well as the requisite Saffron and cream potatoes. And I have to say, our overall opinion of the food was: MEH.

The sangria tasted very nice at first, a bit like they'd stewed some cinnamon in, but after a few sips it became sharp like maybe they just used cinnamon schnapps instead, and the rest of the meal pretty much followed suit.

The roast eggplant tasted like it had been accidentally boiled. The beef carpaccio was kind of drowned in chili-oil and badly needed a sweet counterpoint, like maybe they forgot to add the rioja syrup altogether. The Kobe sliders were ordered medium rare and came medium well and lacked any flavor (except the red onions on top.) The mussels were actually quite good, the cream sauce was just rich enough without being overpowering and a combination of fresh and sun-dried tomatoes rounded the flavors perfectly. The olives were, well, marinated olives- saltier and with fewer herbs than I prefer, but perfectly edible.

All in all it was disappointing enough that we didn't bother ordering dessert.

One thing they had that WAS EXCELLENT, however, was the musical trio playing in the bar. The website says they are called Pueblo Nuevo, and they played with all the subtle nuance that the food lacked! Oh so good, so good, and no room to dance! They played a beautiful Rumba into Cha-Cha version of Bessame Mucho, which is exactly what hubby and I danced to at our wedding, and we were kicking each other under the table with the urge to dance!

On the upside of our Valentine's festivies, dancing at Ryles was as fun as we remembered (that's where we met eachother- salsa dancing at Ryles!) I danced so hard I LITERALLY made myself sick! For hours afterward I felt like I was going to vomit! (I didn't.)

Now that's what I call a solid night of dancing!

Happily, I was a little exhausted but otherwise perfectly fine on Sunday.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

When Vignettes Just Happen

How great is it when you're just moving things around to do some cleaning, and all of a sudden you look up and realize- hey! Those things look pretty darn good together!

That happened to me when setting up for a nice dinner for hubby the other night.

The silver branches came in from the living room to make room for something else in there and just sort of got plopped on the table (because what else is a kitchen table for if not clutter collection?)
The rest of it came together when I pushed the fruit bowl and sparkly red mosaic candle to the corner of the table to make room for the food, and brought the wooden candle sticks in from the dining room for a little ambiance.

And LO! A vignette was born!

And Jack looks so good presiding over it all!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Roasting Eggplant

I just roasted my first ever eggplant, and I had to share because my house smells AMAZING! Forget about French Vanilla or Lavender scented candles, I want Roasted Eggplant!
It smells like heaven!
Ok, no, heaven probably smells more like dryer sheets, this is much too sinful a smell for heaven. But ooh so yummy!

I just hope it tastes like it smells and not how it looks:

Dirty Little Feet and Dread of the Spring Thaw

The first piece of "real" furniture my husband and I bought for ourselves was a beautiful down mix filled couch from Jordan's Furniture. It is large, super comfy, and almost $1000. It was a splurge, but when hubby fell asleep on it while I was investigating other options, I knew it was coming home with us. When selecting the fabric I wanted something that would be versatile enough to go with any of my eventual homes (we were renting at the time) and the color schemes I most often used. My top two choices were a red stripe that hubby vetoed because he said it looked like striped pajamas to him, and a cheery sunny yellow that we both loved. So yellow it was!

There it is in our last apartment. (And yes, if left to my own devices my whole house would look something like this- I love clutter! But hubby does not...) And I love my couch.

Okay, so I did realize pretty quickly that yellow, while lovely, was not exactly practical. Even without kids or pets of our own it needs weekly vacuuming, and hubby tends to spill when he eats, so a Tide pen lives in the side table. But I could deal with that.

BUT THEN! I bought a house. Which came with two cats. And this hasn't been a problem for the couch because when the walls were tan and blue I had a cover on the couch. And since I've uncovered it, it's been too cold for the cats to go outside.

But today the thaw that the rest of the country has been enjoying for a few days finally made it up here to New England, and the cats were THRILLED.
They went outside!
They frolicked and played!
They came inside and begged for lunch, at which point I wiped the mud from their tails and backs and- I thought- their feet. And then I sat down to check my email, and lovely affectionate Toby came over to hang out with me while he cleaned his feet- on the yellow couch!

BAH! A brisk buffing with a clean cloth did remove most of it, and my trusty Tide pen made a dent in the really dark parts, but if this keeps up I'm going to have a seriously dingy couch!

And what is going to happen when the spring thaw finally hits? Months of mud! I guess I'm going to have to dig out one of those slip covers again!

So what have I learned from all this? Patterned furniture is the way to go!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Adventures on Craig's List: Kitchen Table

About a month ago I started searching Craig's List for some new tables for our house. Our formal dining table at the moment is our patio set, and the kitchen table is an awful particle board thing leftover from my husband's grad-school days that sags slightly in the middle. So you can see why I feel we are in need of upgrades...

Just about a week after I began hunting, I found a listing for a table that looked very promising- heavy solid, dark wood with nice detail work and the thick legs and apron I was looking for- and for a price I was willing to pay ($95.) So we drove up to look at it, saw it needed a little cleaning and touching up, but I definitely wanted it. It looked like it had a good story behind it, you know?

The very kind, very very patient woman agreed to hold it for us until we could arrange to pick it up, which we expected to be in a few days. Unfortunately, one thing after another went wrong, two weeks later we had that impromptu trip to Vegas, and going on three weeks later we still hadn't picked up the table.

My brother had said he would help move it in his pickup truck, but the darn thing kept breaking down! I was feeling a little guilty about this poor woman who was stuck with this table on her sun porch when she thought she was going to be rid of it nearly a month before. (Although she didn't seem all that bothered when we kept calling and apologizing...)

So finally this past weekend we decided enough was enough and we were just going to rent a UHaul and go pick the thing up! So we did.

Isn't it great? You can see on the end there where the finish needs to be touched up. Looks like that end was against a wall for awhile. I also need to rip off those white pads that are currently under the feet.

Aren't those legs great? I love how substantial it is. It has two leaves you can put in so it seats 8 squish-ily... We're not sure yet if it will stay here in the kitchen or move over to the dining room. We'll have to live with it for a bit and see what feels right.

So in the end we spent $95 on the table, and $90 on the truck to pick it up... which was a little frustrating while I was in the truck, but now that the table is finally home I'm totally okay with it!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Chocolate Dipped Shoe, Anyone?

I received my latest issue of Lucky magazine in the mail a couple days ago, and inside the front cover was this ad for Nine West's frequent shopper program:

And my instant reaction was: OOoooohh... yum... I want that....

Which is completely illogical because what am I going to do? Lick the chocolate off the shoe? Wear a shoe covered in chocolate?

Totally illogical. And yet...

Somehow the image of a chocolate covered shoe has created instant want in me, without my actual wanting the object in question. Fascinating. And it makes me think that there are some brilliant marketing people over at Nine West.

Although this doesn't make me feel any more like dropping $100 on a pair of shoes than I did before, so maybe it isn't so brilliant. Then again I did go to their website to see what it was all about and checked out their new season while I was there, so maybe...

Either way, I now need to go eat some chocolate!

Just out of curiosity I showed my husband the add and asked what his reaction was, and he shrugged.
I asked, "Do you kind of want it?"
And he quite logically answered, "What the heck am I going to do with that?"
Well, he's not a woman...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Everyday Glamour: Glasses

As readers of my blog may have noticed, I love anything sparkly. And the drinking glasses I had registered for and received back at my wedding (3+ years ago) while pretty and serviceable they were never sparkly or glamorous, and were actually beginning to peel!

The lovely blue color was apparently NOT blue glass, but clear glass with a fine blue film over it. A film that after 3 years of going in the dishwasher had had enough and was leaving. They looked leprous. Not attractive.

(CAVEAT: These particular glasses were from Pier One, but this also happened with some amber colored glasses from Anthropologie.)

So! In advance of setting my first ever official holiday table, I decided to treat myself to some new beautiful drinking glasses!

I chose these double old fashioneds by Cristal d'Arques Longchamps at Macy's. They look so elegant, and the price is unbeatable! (currently $16.99/set of four, but they periodically go down to $9.99, which is what I paid!) AND they're dishwasher safe, to boot.

The only problem with them is that while they look fab with my formal china, I sometimes like to set a fun, ethnic, colorful table with my everyday china, and these don't quite fit the bill.

That's my fine china on the left (Madeleine by Noritake) and everyday on the right (a few years ago from Pier One).

Fortunately, my brother got me some great colorful glasses from Pier One as a Christmas gift!

Perfect, aren't they? A little sparkly, but all the right colors to match my plates! (and if you adore them and want to get your own, you may be lucky enough to find some still on the sale rack for about $.90 apiece!)

Now, I do suspect that these glasses will have the same problem my others did (the website said they are dishwasher safe, but they are marked hand wash only), so I will be washing them by hand. Which means that the fancy crystal ones have become my new everyday glasses!

Which really works for me, because they even look pretty sitting there dirty on my end table...

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Fantasy Coffee Table

I love this coffee table from Plantation Design:
But at $1795.00, that's SO not going to happen! I love the thin gold edge, I love the mirror (or is it glass?) top, and I love the two tiny tables hiding under it to pull out when company comes. Adorable. And versatile. Love love.

So I'm kicking myself because Pier One had a VERY similar coffee table back in the late fall/early winter that went on sale for like $150 just before Christmas. Instead of having two little tables under it it had two semi-circles at either end of the rectangular table that pulled away. And now it's gone. Gone gone gone...

After I got back from... did I go somewhere just after Christmas? Oh dear, memory failure... anyway, shortly after Christmas I realized that the peacock blue living room had to go, and when I began working on the redesign I figured out that my current coffee table (while near and dear to my heart) wasn't going to cut it, and that the one I had seen at Pier One would be ideal. But when I went online to find out who had it in stock, it had disappeared. Sad sad me.

So now the question is, what does Pier One do with their items that don't sell out? Should I keep hoping to find it at Homegoods one day? Is there an auction? A warehouse somewhere guarded by a person I could bribe with delicious cookies? (which I'll have to ask my sister to make because I really, really don't bake!)

Does anyone know??! Or where I can find a similar table for under $200ish?

Monday, February 2, 2009

New Kitchen Hardware

Don't you just LOVE it when you wander in to a store to get something boring like say, more paint, and you happen upon a table piled high with unbelievably priced clearance stuff?

Well, my local Lowes apparently decided it had to make room for some new curtain rod designs, so I got a new rod for the sliding doors in my kitchen and the french door in my dining room, under $25 for both of them!

This is the rod that used to be in the kitchen:

It, umm... well, it matched that gawd-awful chandelier I just replaced. (and was charmingly held onto mismatching brackets by wire)
But I think the new one is a bit nicer:

And goes better with the decor:

It matches the cat food dispenser so nicely....

And this one for the dining room is great because it extends up to 144 inches!

Which means I can hang the brackets wide enough to open the curtains beyond the edge of the door so that I get the full light coming in from the porch.

I'm also working on new cabinet knobs. I picked up a couple options from another great clearance bin at Anthropologie.

These were the most like what I had in mind- something a little sparkly and colorful- and came in green and garnet.

And these were nothing like what I had in mind, but absolutely adorable!

Unfortunately, the second ones kinda sorta clash with the wood.

And the first ones are almost distractingly sparkly and colorful...

And I kind of feel like they're watching me...

This is what was up there before:

Which isn't offensive or anything, just... boring. And at first I was thinking I'd just leave up the kind of creepy spying ones, because at least they're interesting, but now I'm thinking "but if I do eventually paint the cabinets cream like I'm planning, those other ones would look really cute..."
So maybe I'll return the creepy spying knobs, and keep enough of the coral ones for the lower cabinets (they're a little too large for the uppers) and paint or decoupage those wooden knobs for now...

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Meet Jack

I bought a new little something for the house while in Vegas.

My hubby has named him Jack.

As you may perceive, Jack is a carved wooden camel's head holding a pierced metal lantern in his mouth. His expression is a little mischievous and a little smug, much as I imagine an actual camel might strive to have. I think he has plans for that lantern...

I purchased him at a store called ZGallerie, which I am now in love with. They do have a website, but the greatest part was how well the displays at the store were put together- such inspiration! And that doesn't come through online. Oh well. Gives me someplace to visit next time I'm in Manhattan.

And to answer those of you who might ask, "Why the hell would you buy that?!" I will tell you that we actually have a small collection of carved wooden and dark brown clay items hanging on the wall in our dining room. One is a carved elephant head that hubby bought in India before I met him, there are also a small holy water fountain from Capri and carved god's heads from Sicily, so I thought Jack would fit in quite nicely!

Besides, he's so damned cheeky! And sometimes you just have to have around you whatever it is that brings you joy, no matter how much shit your sisters will give you!