Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Get me out of this scrape

Like my blog friend Serena, I have a special relationship with my mixer.  She is reliable, hardworking, and very, very utilitarian chic.  But lately, I've been having some problems with the attachments: maybe I washed them one too many times in the dishwasher, but a rusty residue has been issuing forth from the top of the paddle and whisk attachments.  This hasn't affected my ability to use the attachments, but it just seems a bit . . . yucky, you know?

Rather than ordering new Kitchenaid attachments, I decided to try out the new blades that promise to scrape down your bowl while you're mixing -- no spatula necessary.  I compared the Beater Blade with the SideSwipe, and I decided in favor of the latter, since it got a better review from America's Test Kitchen and because the silicon fins just seemed like they would do a better job of scraping down the bowl.


Last week, I made a few batches of compost cookies for my husband's medical interns and med students, and I thought I'd share my initial review of the SideSwipe.

Pros: The SideSwipe easily attached to the mixer -- you simply attach it to the beater shaft the same way you'd attach the Kitchenaid attachments.  Additionally, the SideSwipe did exactly what it promised to do: it scrapes down the bowl fairly effectively, and there's no need to turn the mixer off and use a spatula.

Cons: The SideSwipe scraped almost a little bit too hard: the silicon blades pushing against the side of the bowl caused the bowl to screw into the base so tightly that it was almost impossible to get the bowl out of the mixer again.  It also caused the mixer to vibrate so much that a screw came off!  Nothing that a general tightening of screws wouldn't fix, but it was still a little disconcerting that bits of my mixer came flying off.  Finally, it's hard to clean batter off the fins.  We have a great dishwasher, and I usually never have to rinse anything off.  Not so for the SideSwipe.

Despite the few negatives, I'm still liking the SideSwipe.  It seems to do a much better job of mixing than my old paddle attachment, and it does save time not to have to manually scrape down the bowl each time I add an ingredient.  Plus it's not leaking rusty residue (yet).

And those compost cookies?  I made them with cheddar Goldfish, kettle chips, and chocolate chunks.  And they were awesome.

Have you tried the SideSwipe or the Beater Blade?


Oh, it's on bitches.

Glee + Jon Hamm + Tina Fey + Joel McHale?  And Springsteen?  Awesome.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Living Room Eclectic (on TV!)

Just caught Secrets From a Stylist, the new show from Emily Henderson of Design Star and the Brass Petal blog, and I have to say that I adore the living room she designed.  Of course, she had a gorgeous space to work with -- I'd take those built-in bookcases to dinner, buy them roses, and take them home to meet my mom -- but her eclectic, warm, and quirky style totally makes the room.  (I will even excuse her for that god-awful set of antlers mounted to the bookshelf.  And you know how I feel about animal heads and antlers.)

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Emily's design gives me much-needed courage to try out some of my crazy ideas for our living room.  I mean, if she can make "FDR chic," "British mod," and "Backpacker" work together so beautifully, I might have a chance of melding mid-century modern, rustic, and chinoiserie, right?  (Then again, I have neither a hot carpenter, an industrious seamstress, nor a team of painters who don't seem at all pissed off to have to paint and repaint the bookshelves over and over again.)

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Anyhoo, I'm just curious: if you had to pick three terms to describe your design aesthetic or style, what would they be?


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Living Room Eclectic

Just a few mood boards for our living room redo.  I've been staring at these objects so long that can't tell if these are crazy fugly, like some color-blind and drunk dude's rec room rejects, or eclectic fun.  Where's Tangerine Queen Kors or Grampa Gunn when I need them?

Here's the media/tv area:

The sectional, media cabinet, Noguchi table, and pillows (imperial trellis and chiang mai dragon) we either own already or have already purchased.  The giant Surya rug I bought on impulse during last week's Gilt sale, and I might already regret it (though it's redness might be mitigated by layering a soft, neutral rug on top).  Everything else is up for discussion/debate/dismissal.

And here are some ideas for the seating vignette on the other side of the room:

The Sanna chairs are the only things that must stay.  Do we like them with the Meryl arc floor lamp and Ginger side table (which is a burnt sienna color) from Crate and Barrel?  This is a slightly more industrial look, as the Meryl has a silver finish (which may or may not clash with the brass accents on the other end of the room) and the Ginger table is made out of laser-cut steel.

Or do we like them with the Gourd lamp from West Elm and a more explicitly Chinese side table, which would be painted red (it looks more orange in this photo)?

Another option is to get an inexpensive Chinese garden stool.  The sculptural lamp is the Cleo lamp from Crate and Barrel.  You can't really tell in this photo, but it has very handsome brass tripod legs.

The rug in the three boards is the Chevron Knot Rug from West Elm, though I'm also playing with the idea of getting a herringbone patterned set of Flor carpet tiles instead.  I love the idea of mixing a menswear pattern with the more feminine Schumacher fabrics I have on the other side of the room.

What do you think?


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Diary of a Secret Housewife: Creamed Corn, Ad Hoc Style

The last time I had creamed corn, it came out of a can.  In fact, every time I've ever had creamed corn, it's come out of a can.  And I'm not complaining: after all, it's corn (good) and cream (good), so what can possibly be bad about this?

I've come to realize, however, that the right question to ask is not "How could this possibly be bad?" but rather "How could this be even better?"  And the answer to this question is: fresh creamed corn, Ad Hoc style.

Here's what you need for this super easy recipe:
  • 6 ears supersweet corn, shucked
  • 1 large lime
  • 3 tablespoons butter, unsalted
  • Salt
  • ¾ to 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 ½ tablespoons finely chopped chives
With a sharp knife, cut vertically down each ear of corn to slice off the kernels.  (Hint: To make this process easier, put an upside down bowl in a larger bowl.  Propping the corn on the upside down bowl will allow you to slice the corn freely, without slamming your knife into the edge of the bowl or sending corn flying everywhere.)

Put the kernels in a large bowl, then hold each ear of corn over the bowl and use a spoon or the back of a knife to scrape any remaining corn and the milk from the cob.

Grate the zest of the lime, preferably with a microplane grater; set aside.  Cut the lime in half.

Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Add the corn, squeeze about 1 tablespoon of the lime juice, or to taste, over the corn, and season with salt.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until all of the liquid has evaporated, concentrating the flavor, and the corn is beginning to sizzle, 15 to 17 minutes.

Stir in ¾ cup cream, the cayenne, and lime zest.  Continue to cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the cream is absorbed by the corn.  Add up to ¼ cup more cream if desired for a creamier texture.  Add salt to taste and stir in the chives.  (I didn't want to go out to the backyard in the middle of the night to get chives, so I went with thinly sliced scallions in stead.)

The result is a surprisingly complex and flavorful dish: the corn flavor is intense, the cayenne adds a nice kick, and the texture was a nice juxtaposition between the unctuous quality of the cream and the toothsome crunch of the corn.  

I definitely added too much lime zest and lime juice, though, and the resulting dish was a bit too tart for my taste (though my husband actually quite liked it).  And the corn didn't absorb the amount of cream I was hoping for, so the end result was still a bit liquidy.

So in the end Ad Hoc's creamed corn was . . . good.  Could it have been better?   Yes, definitely.  But creamed = good, and corn = good, so I'm not going to complain. 

How do you feel about creamed corn?


Friday, August 27, 2010

"I'm saving by spending."

As you know, I love to shop.  And even more so, I adore bargains.   This drives my husband crazy, as he is convinced, with all of his b-school training, that there is no such thing as a bargain: where there is a sale, he says, there was a mark-up.

"Is that a sale over there?"

Well boo to him and his nay-saying.

I just discovered today that Overstock has opened a new, invitation-only shopping site called Eziba.  I just checked out the site, and it looks like it's fairly similar to One King's Lane or the Gilt Groupe home sales section.  Today, for example, they had Kitchenaid mixers at 50% off.  And tomorrow (Friday), they'll have the Cricut Cake machine (which would be awesome if I could bake).  Here's an invitation, if you're interested.

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While I'm at it, I thought I might as well share my other favorite invitation-only shopping sites:

Gilt Groupe

Of course, my longstanding favorite is still Gilt Groupe.  When I was wedding planning, Gilt was the source for some of my favorite dress bargains, including the tres chic Badgley Mischka cocktail dress I wore for my rehearsal dinner.  Now that I am an old married lady and have no reason to dress up anymore, the section I browse first is the home sales.  I mean, how excited was I to score my new living room rug last week?

Here's an invitation.  They're having a Kitchenaid sale on Friday.

One King's Lane

One King's Lane is like Gilt Groupe (timed sales, some pretty great bargains), but for furnishings, housewares, and decor items only.  I haven't shopped from them all that often, but they sometimes have surprising sales on quirky and fun items like office essentials from Russell + Hazel or Orla Kiely.  I also like browsing their weekend designer tag sales, even though I could never afford to do anymore than browse.  (And if you like to throw $8000 on an old barn door, this blog is probably too ghetto for your tastes.)

Here's an invitation.  They're having a sale on teak outdoor furniture, among other things, on Friday.

Rue La La

Rue La La is a lot like Gilt Groupe: timed sales on men and women's fashion and on home goods.  Aside from shearling boots, I haven't purchased anything from them.  But there's always a lot of tempting goodies, like the Paige Premium Denim sale on Saturday!  Here's an invitation.

Haute Look

Like Gilt and Rue La La, Haute Look has timed sales on fashion and home goods.  The lines they feature don't seem to be as high end as Gilt, but consequently, the prices are somewhat more palatable.  I haven't made any purchases from them yet, but here's an invitation if you need one.


Ideeli initially had a two-tier model, in which those who paid for premium access had first dibs on sales, and all the hoi polloi didn't really have a shot of finding anything worth buying.  But they've recently changed their model to be more like Rue La La and Gilt, and I think they've done away entirely with the hierarchical sales access.  Here's an invitation.

Swirl by Daily Candy

Swirl is Daily Candy's attempt to seize on the Gilt Groupe trend.  I haven't ordered anything from there yet, but here's an invitation.

Snappy Tuna

Snappy Tuna is like One King's Lane, except its inventory is mostly kitchen stuff.  It's pretty new, so I haven't had the chance to familiarize myself with the site and its quirks.  But here's an invitation; check it out and tell me what you think.

Groupon and BuyWithMe

I've been finding my best bargains lately on Groupon and BuyWithMe.  Through these new social media bargain sites, I've gotten amazing deals on cupcakes, a photography session for Jellyby, and custom photobooks.


Lastly, do you know about Ebates?  When you use Ebates as a portal for shopping, the site gives you a cut of their referral fee, which is a small rebate that is a percentage of your purchase.  There are so many stores on this site -- from Crate and Barrel to Ebay -- that it's silly to make any internet purchase without first checking whether there's a rebate via Ebates.  (Rebate via Ebates.  Say that a few times fast.)

Ok, that's all I've got.  Please share your favorite bargain sites!!!!!


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Scandinavian Style

Lately, it seems like all of my favorite sources for decor eye-candy are Scandinavian.  I don't know what is in the water ice in the Nordic countries, but they seriously have an impeccable aesthetic: generally minimalist and stream-lined, but with a touch of whimsy and fun.

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Post-Domino, the shelter mag I love most has got to be Sköna Hem.  One can "read" it online, via Google Translator.  But let's face it: I "read" it the way a frat boy "reads" Playboy -- not for the articles.  In fact, if you scroll to the very bottom of the mag's webpage, you'll see a whole section of just photos.

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A recent discovery is Emmas Designblogg, which is written by a Stockholm-based decorating assistant.  Browsing the well-edited photos on the blog is like spending some time with a stylish friend with an impeccable eye for chic, beautiful spaces.

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And then there are the stores!  I have already posted about my love for the Danish homegoods store, House Doctor.  This line is like the love child of a sexy menage-a-trois between Anthro and Jonathan Adler and the Brimfield Antique Fair.  Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately for my wallet), House Doctor products aren't available anywhere in the U.S., but I still like perusing their website and catalog for inspirational vignettes.

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Last but not least, my blog friend Jessica, of the uber-gorgeous Delicatessen blog, just introduced me to CAR möbel, which is a German company that markets a number of Scandinavian lines (including House Doctor!).  CAR möbel also has its own furniture collection that is full of personality.  And their website is full of lovely vignettes that mix high and low, found and purchased, modern and vintage.

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How do you feel about Scandinavian style?  Is there another region of the world or country that consistently serves as a source of inspiration?


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Rustic, Repurposed, or Reclaimed

As we've been furnishing our place, I'm realizing that often I'm making purchases based on the mid-century aesthetic that complements the house.  But I haven't been paying enough attention to the types of pieces to which I'm intuitively drawn . . . the more rustic, rough-hewn, and natural.

Kitchen under previous ownership (it's not currently this clean or neat!)

In fact, what really sold this house for us was the kitchen, and something not even actually attached to the kitchen: the gorgeous center island that the previous owners purchased from the Sundance catalog and (with my super smooth negotiations, i.e., begging and pleading) left for us.

So here are some pieces that I've had my eye on lately that go both with the mid-century aesthetic of the house and with my love for vintage, repurposed woods:

What style of decor are you drawn to? Does it work with the aesthetic of your house? Have you been able to meld the two together?


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

1001 Nights

I took a belly dancing class this weekend, and afterward, I was inspired to decorate with a Moroccan flair.  Any thing here catch your eye?


Sheherazade by Jellyby on Polyvore.com


Monday, August 23, 2010

Design Star

When we were house-hunting, I used to watch a lot of HGTV.  But after a while, seeing countless other people's fabulous homes gets tiring and sad: sooner or later, one has to acknowledge the fact that Vern Yip and a team of carpenters and stylists are never going to arrive at our front door to transform our IKEA crap into custom gorgeousness.

So I went back to my old standby TV diet of Food Network and "Law and Order" reruns.

Last night, however, I happened to catch the last half hour of "Design Star" and developed an immediate style crush on Emily, the winner.  She has an eclectic, restrained, and warm aesthetic that I adore.

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The rustic wood ottomans . . . the Jens Chair (!) . . . the gorgeous open shelving . . . I would move into this living room she designed for the penultimate challenge.

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Speaking of living rooms, check out Emily's own living room.  I love the juxtaposition of the mid-century table, chair, and sofa with the leather ottoman and the rattan or bamboo side table.  It's totally boho chic.

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And you know I love her show concept, which is to use one's fashion style as home design inspiration -- outfit to room, Domino-style.

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Check out Emily's blog, The Brass Petal, for more inspirations.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Season's Bounty

When we first joined the CSA, I wasn't sure that the cost and effort was worthwhile.  But now that we are used to getting a huge haul of fresh vegetables each week -- and to washing, prepping, and planning around the goodies in our mystery CSA box -- I have to say that I can't imagine being without it.

This week, for example, we have zucchini, yellow squash, cucumber, tomatoes, apples, peaches, haricot vert, potatoes, broccoli, cantaloupe, and lettuce.  Oh, and we have armloads of white and yellow corn, which we're not only eating on-the-cob grilled or sauteed and mixed with Israeli couscous, but also in the form of Thomas Keller's famous creamed corn (I'll be posting on this later in the week).

Unexpectedly, though, what I like most about being a part of the farm share is that we meet such lovely folks from the neighborhood each pick-up day.  Nothing has made me feel as much a part of the community I live in as standing in line with others, chatting about the weather and the goings on in the neighborhood, guessing what will be in our farm share mystery box, and swapping fruits and veggies and recipes with other CSAers.

If you're part of a farm share, how is your season shaping up?  Are you getting tired of squash yet?  Looking forward to peppers?


Modern Chinoiserie

With the spare, mid-century modern aesthetic of the furniture we've selected for our living room, I would so love to add a few whimsical, Chinese-influenced touches.  And the bright, candy-colored finishes of the pieces pair so well with the Imperial Trellis and Chiang Mai Dragon pillows we already have on the couch!

What do you think?  Do you have any bright, cheerful pieces in your living room?

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