Friday, January 29, 2010

Travel identity crisis

I thought we were going to Paris for our honeymoon, I really, really did.  But a few days ago, we were looking at my parent's timeshare book and all the awesome places we can visit, and friends -- we have been swayed. 

Now our thoughts are floating to Hawaii, Thailand, Spain and more. 

Peter and I like to say to each other, "Whatever we decide, it will feel like the right thing."  We say this about a lot of things, like whether we should have sushi or Thai, go skiing Saturday or Sunday, look for a new apartment or stay put, and the answer is usually, "Whatever we decide, it will feel like the right thing."  It's a surprisingly reassuring answer.  You can do no wrong! 

The problem was, we could not decide. The options were too good, and they all felt like the right thing. I can imagine a fantastic vacation in all of those places.  They all feel like the right thing.  So we put in a bid for Spain, France, and Hawaii resorts, and we may add more to the list.  Fate will decide for us!  Scary, but kind of fun, right? 

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Valentine's Day Gift Guide for Him

A little inspiration for Valentine's Day shopping.  Mostly under $25!

(Clockwise from top left.)

1. The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon.
2. Pig butchering classes!  Brooklyn Kitchen is supposed to offer great ones.
3. The Bright Mississippi by Allen Toussaint. 
6. Bingo Card Games.  Someone please get these and tell me how fun they are...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Decoration of Houses

On January 24, Edith Wharton was born.  She would have been a darling 148 years old. 

From the Writer's Almanac:
Edith spent much of her childhood in Europe, and she enjoyed writing, and published some of her poems. She completed a novella called Fast and Loose when she was 15. But when she was 17, it was time for her "coming out" in society. And when she was 23, she got married to a wealthy man named Edward Wharton.  With him, she could enjoy the lifestyle she loved, time to travel and time to write. But the marriage was an unhappy one. Edward did not understand his wife's literary or intellectual interests, and throughout their marriage he drank more and more. Edith was depressed, and so she focused even more on writing and publishing her first book, a book about architecture that she wrote with Ogden Codman Jr.: The Decoration of Houses (1898). 
Well, her marriage is certainly not a model for me, but I love her house. And that seemed as good a reason as any to love her and want to hold our wedding reception there. 

The house was in shambles a decade ago, having long served as a dormitory for the neighboring Shakespeare and Co. actors.  When the restoration team got to work, they decided that they wouldn't try to recreate the home as it would have looked during Wharton's time, but instead honor her avant-garde design sensibilities and decorate the house as she might have during modern times.  Hence the leopard carpet. 

The three rooms above are where we'll serve dinner at our reception (with most of the existing furniture replaced by dining tables). 

Oh, I get so excited looking at these photos!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Monday, January 25, 2010

Not Your Fiancé’s Hot Sauce

Ed. note: A very special post this morning from Peter! Enjoy.

After I graduated from college (almost five years ago – I can’t decide if that makes me feel old or young) I moved into an apartment in Arlington, Virginia with a friend who grew up in Texas. At that point, I was not an experienced hot sauce consumer. I found spicy foods distasteful. But they like spicy food in Texas, and our fridge quickly filled up with salsas and hot sauces that I never would have bought for myself.

Slowly my palette changed. I began to crave spicy food. Like an addict, the more spicy food I ate, the spicier I needed it to be to get my fix. Today, few spicy things scare me.

Julie and I are not on the same spicy food page. Flavors that I find mild she finds very spicy. Luckily, that is a problem that hot sauce was designed to solve. I like to keep three different sauces in the fridge at a time, so I can vary the flavor according to the dish (that’s not weird, right…?)

For a while Julie has been telling me that I would find it fun to make my own hot sauce. I agreed, but never did anything about it. Last week I was picking up a few things at the market and saw a display marked “hot peppers.” My curiosity was piqued. “I like hot things,” I thought to myself. And they had me. I’m not always the discerning consumer I pretend to be.

I bought twenty serrano peppers even though I didn’t know how to turn them in to hot sauce. I also bought two poblano peppers, because the sauce had to have more than one ingredient, right?

At home I chopped up the peppers and a medium onion and sautéed them with a little oil and salt for around fifteen minutes. Julie got home from work around minute seven, and quickly asked, “Why does our house smell like peppers?”

“I’m cooking peppers,” I responded. I’m also quick and witty.

Julie put her face over the pot of peppers and inhaled, a mistake, as it turns out. It sent her into a coughing fit. “Are you okay?” I asked, trying to conceal my delight that I was on the right track to an awesome hot sauce.

She was okay. She did not smell the sauce again.

After the fifteen minutes, I added around three cups of water. I let it all cook for another fifteen minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When the water was almost gone, I took it off the heat and put it in a food processor. I added a little more salt and pepper, and some dried basil. I remembered once eating a spicy green curry at a Thai restaurant that had basil in it, so I copied them. I pulsed the sauce a few times, and then added small amounts of white vinegar until it reached the consistency I was looking for.

That’s it. It turned into a tasty hot sauce. My first taste of it was vinegar (reminiscent of a salt and vinegar potato chip), but that was quickly replaced by heat. It was a good heat, not as intense as I was hoping for, but still, nice. For about four dollars worth of peppers, I made enough sauce to fill up an old pickle jar.

Update: Four days later, the taste of the sauce is coming together. The vinegar taste is gone, and the heat was not so immediate. Instead, it is slower and less intense. It creeps up on you. Right now I’m eating it with tortilla chips, and it tastes like a hot salsa. Definitely spicy, but next time I’d like it to be even hotter. Any tips?

Basil Serrano Hot Sauce

You will need:

20 serrano peppers

2 poblano peppers

1 medium onion

Vegetable oil


White vinegar

Dried basil (maybe fresh would be better?)



Sauté the peppers and onion with a couple splashes of vegetable oil, salt, and pepper. Let them cook until everything gets nice and soft, and inhaling their vapors makes you cough. Add about three cups of water, but I’m not sure the amount matters. Cook it in the water over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the water almost disappears, about fifteen minutes. Remove from the heat and put it all into a food processor. Crumple some dried basil over the top of everything, and sprinkle in a little more salt and pepper as well. Pulse a few times, and then add in some white vinegar, a little at a time, until the sauce reaches your desired consistency.

Put it all in a glass jar that seals well. Store up to six months in the fridge.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Paper heart garland

I still have a giant roll of pretty papers from Crane, so I made this little heart garland a few nights ago to hang in the fireplace in the bedroom. 

It is a bit cheesy, but I like looking up when I'm reading in bed at night. 

Happy Friday, everybody!

Thursday, January 21, 2010


I'm thisclose to officially deciding that I want the bridesmaids to try to wear silver shoes in the wedding.  To me, this seems like a very annoying, little detail that won't make a difference in the grand scheme of things.  But my Mom keeps saying, "People love direction!"

Do they? 

Anyways, here's a little sampling of some fun silver accessories (along with Lilly perfume, because, why not smell good in your metallics, right?). 

Clockwise from top left:
10. Sea Petal earrings

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Maine Home + Design

I know I've been on a little bit of a Maine kick lately, but I just discovered Maine Home + Design.  Every issue is available in full online. 

I really love the look of the home they featured above in the October 2009 issue.  Isn't that blue and white couch fabric pretty?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Continue showing off

Everyday, Butternut sends a photographer out on to the slopes to capture a photo of the day.  Whenever I see the camera guy, I ski right in front of him multiple times so he can get a good shot.  I try to keep my skis parallel, and gracefully hold my fuzzy hood on my head to keep it from flying off in an unattractive fashion. 

Honestly, it's quite exhausting.

When we get home from a weekend of skiing, I can't help myself.  I always check the daily photo page.   

(Do you see where this is going?)

Butternut, why haven't I been in the daily photo gallery yet?!  I try to monitor my camera hog tendencies, but I'm afraid I will have to continue showing off until I make the gallery. 

*Photo from the highly-coveted daily gallery

Friday, January 15, 2010

Pin wheel squares

I have been a sewing machine this week.  Look at this progress.

I have four pin wheel sqaures just like that one, ready to be sewed together into a giant square. Then the mysterious quilting process shall begin!

Let's get a quiet "whoot!" for the weekend.  It's been a long week, right?  We're going up to the Berkshires and Peter and I are skiing with my little cousins Allie and Matt on Saturday. 

Total aside about Allie: she is going to be a flower girl in our wedding, and she is so freaking excited. She got an American Girl doll for Christmas that she named Julie.  Julie the doll has a dirty blonde bob and brown eyes.  Familiar, no? 

I have reached the height of my fame.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Bright, busy

Have you guys read the latest Lonny Mag?  It's fine -- very nice, in fact.  But the best thing I found in the whole issue was an ad for Kathryn M. Ireland Textiles and Design.  I love her fabric in all these rooms. 

I'm very drawn to rooms with lots of white with a bit of suble color, but the bright, busy patterns she incorporates into these spaces are so fun!  And cozy and warm -- exactly how I want my dream house to feel. 

Kathryn M. Ireland rooms, can we hang out?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Registry faves

It seems to me that if you are getting married, you are supposed to make a bit of a fuss about how much you don't want to register for things, how honored you are that people are simply attending your wedding, ect.

Well, of course I am honored that you will be attending my wedding.  It will mean so much to me.  Really.  Much more than any gift will mean.

But that doesn't mean that I didn't have an awesome time at a giant Crate and Barrel on Saturday afternoon, clicking away anything that struck my fancy.  I was there with three patient friends (who also happen to be three members of my lovely bridal party).  They were so encouraging and helpful and funny, it made me love them even more. 

See how powerful a registry can be?! 

Here are a few items I found and added to the list. Inexpensive, fun additions to any home, whether or not there's a wedding involved. 

(Clockwise from top left.)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Happiness found in a bottle for around $10

Peter's Dad Pete gave us a case of wine for Christmas.  Such a lovely present. 

There are four different wines in the case (three bottles of each).  Pete takes pride in finding delicious, affordable, versatile wines.  And lucky for us, he also loves to share. 

So far we've opened the Vina Zaco Tempranillo and the Oyster Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Both delicious.  The Oyster Bay is a touch sweet for the first sip, but then it gets a lot more complex and citrusy.  

Anyone else discover a yummy new wine lately? 

Monday, January 11, 2010

Valentine's Day Crafts

Last night at book club, one of the girls asked if anyone was actually into Valentine's Day.

"Yes!" I said.  Kind of obnoxiously.

I know it's not everyone's favorite, and that it's sort of a made up celebration.  But can I just blame my enthusiasm on a deep love of all things pink?   And chocolate-based? 

I found these cute ideas on Martha  (Where else?)

Friday, January 8, 2010

The look

We haven't had a wedding post in a while, have we? 

Well, Peter and I hit the six-more-months-to-go mark earlier this week.  Wheeee! It's starting to feel not so far away.  In the last few weeks, we've found our photographers, decided on bridesmaid dresses, bought Peter's suit and reserved space for the rehearsal dinner.

Pretty good, right?

Next on the list: music, flowers, transportation and, my personal fave, the honeymoon.   

Here's the look we've settled on for the bridesmaids. Sarah, my sister and maid of honor, will wear the dress in the middle.  Other bridesmaids can pick from any of the other dresses.  Except the flower girl dress.

(So funny, I know.)

Our two flower girls will probably wear this dress, but we'll have the sash custom made with the fabric from the bridesmaid dresses.  Because weddings make you anal about these sorts of things.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Ringing in the New Year, Block Island edition

Hello, Block Island neighbors!

Except that we had no neighbors, because almost all the houses were empty.

But still.  Fun to look at the empty houses.

We also went to the empty beach.

Isn't it strange to be wearing snow boots on the beach?

And then...

You guessed it!  Empty lighthouse.

On January 2, we woke up to 8 inches of snow.

The house felt so cozy.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Patchwork pillow in progress

One of my favorite Christmas presents this year was a sewing kit my Mom put together that came with a sewing box filled with needles, scissors, pins, and all that jazz, some fabric to get me started, and a hilarious book called Your First Quilting Book (or it should be!). 

This little patch is one sixteenth of a pin wheel pattern for a pillow.  I'm half way done with it now.  I'm aiming to have the patchwork part finished by MLK weekend, when we'll be back in the Berkshires and she can show me how to do the quilting part.  I'm still confused about what that entails.  I think it means more sewing to make it puff up in some way.  Curious, indeed.

Anyways, I love making it, and I've started searching my quilting book for the pattern I want to make next.  I'm thinking a giant pink and red heart, but I am probably being swayed by an unnatural anticipation for Valentine's Day. 

Any one else have a fun new project they're working on? 

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

36(ish) hours in Portland, Maine

Day one:

1:00 PM: Arrive in the city and head over to Duck Fat for a bit of lunch.  Have lots of trouble deciding  what should accompany your duck fat fries.  Curry mayo?  Raye's mustard?  Roasted garlic aioli?  Curse life for being so hard.  Then enjoy your fries and locally brewed Maine root beer to the utmost.

3:00 PM: Hop in the car with two locals for an excellent driving tour.  See South Portland, the up-and-coming East End, that gorgeous rugged coastline and even swing by the most photographed lighthouse in America.  (One that this blogger failed to photograph.  Are you really surprised?!)

5:00 PM: Go to Grace for a drink.  Try not to be weirded out that you are drinking a gin martini in the upper deck of a beautiful former church.

7:00 PM: Let's have another drink, shall we?  It's vacation after all.  This time, head to Hugo's.  Sit at the bar, and nibble on some chorizo dusted pig ears and their delicious butcher's block of charcuterie.  When the sweet bartender asks if you are walking to your next destination, it is so cold, can she call you a taxi?  Try to look stoic and strong when your fiance insists that you will be fine.  You are New Yorkers who walk everywhere!

8:30 PM:   After walking four blocks (and oh my gosh, it feels like 20 below), defrost in Street and Company.  Sip on gin and tonic, eat some local oysters, and share some buttery scallops.  Everyone else at the bar works at another restaurant in Portland.  Does everyone in Portland work at a restaurant?

11:00 PM: End the night with a beer at Gritty McDuff's.  Feel old, but tell yourselves that Portland must be a very young city to have so many fresh-faced 21 year-olds around.

Day two:

11:30 AM: Head over to Hot Suppa! for brunch.  Eat that famous corned beef hash -- it will live up to the hype.  Any place that has the enthusiasm to include an exclamation point in their name must be great.  

1:00 PM: Drop your shopping-adverse fiance off at Sebago Brewery while you visit a few stores.  At Sebago, ask for the special one-batch seasonal beers -- delicious, apparently.  See lots of lovely things at this fun place, but ultimately just purchase some gummy bears and Swedish fish from the bulk bin at a fancy candy shop.

3:00 PM: Head a little bit out of town to go the Allagash Brewery for a free tour and tasting.  Learn all kinds of things about making beer, and promptly forget them all.

8:00 PM: Reservations at Fore Street.  Think that sweetbreads and roasted oysters have never, ever tasted so good.  Think that the hanger steak is perfectly cooked, perfectly beefy (if you can imagine that?), and that the halibut is light as a cloud.

Day three:

10:00 AM: Breakfast sandwiches at 158 Pickett Street Cafe.  Get in the car and feel very sad that you are leaving Portland, but take comfort in the fact that you may be there on a permanent basis in the not-so-distant future.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Much to look forward to

Does this time of year make you feel sad?

After all the parties and games and giant meals, I tend to get a little sad.  I feel like all that's left is a long, frezacovia winter.  No more glitter or special songs or loads of personal mail waiting to be opened at the end of each work day.

Of course, there is so much to look forward to.  New sewing projects and ski weekends and birthday parties to attend.  And I still have to tell you about what a wonderful time we had combing through New England (later this week -- stay tuned!).

But right now, I keep looking at that space above my loveseat where my Christmas tree used to perch.  And it looks very empty and lonely over there.

I must say, though -- while I am slightly sad to be resuming non-holiday life, I am very happy to be back in this space.  A break from the computer was so nice, but I missed you guys.
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