Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day!

My kids were greeted by these adorbs mice from Steiff.

Happy Pink & Red Day!  I put my Valentine's efforts into a crazy balloon installation and crafting party this weekend.  Panoramics below; hoping to have some good pics next week or so and a breakdown on how to install one in your own home.  Because I'm sure everyone wants to.  Also--how groovy are panoramics?  Kind of want one of all my rooms.....

If you haven't checked out Ben Kling's portrait Valentine's, you should.  James Polk might be my favorite (the obscurity really adds a few points in my book).

Hope you consume plenty of sugar!

Friday, February 3, 2017


The main thing I checked out at the Kitchen & Bath Show was Tile.  I am longing to shop for tile.  And more tile.

There were a ton of Chinese companies there, adding legitimacy to my almost purchase of brass mermaid tile off of Alibaba years ago.  Honestly, the quality was really nice.  Stone and glass mosaics.

My major find was Barbie Kennedy.  A small booth by the back, the designer (Kate, not Barbie) has all the mosaics waterjet cut in Central Florida.

Designs are scalable, so you can size up or down (custom) based on the application.  The mosaics use a variety of stones, wood mirror and metal, and her new line incorporates agate.  No agate on her website yet, so this is as good a photo as you'll get.

This is my new favorite wood floor (with that agate hexagon mosaic on top as my new backsplash/bathroom tile of choice).

Walk Zenger is Walker Zenger.  Fabulous.  And Ann Sacks....it was all so lovely, just as you would expect.  I was, however, happy to see this in person as I've been trying to imagine it.

While the tile is lovely, I was not a fan of the pattern w/seams--so close, but not quite loving the grout interruptions.  Reasonable minds could differ.  These two are remaining on my daydream list:

I talked to the guy from Merola tile (operating under several trade names, including SomerTile), which is supplying Home Depot with all of its cement tile knock-offs.  The guy said that porcelain tile might run you $8/sqft vs $40 for cement.  And you have to reseal cement on the regular--maintenance is not my forte so cement tile may go in the same basket as soapstone and carrerra marble....nice for other people.

They had a ton of patterns in both ceramic and porcelain.  This is my new fave front porch tile.

I'm pushing tile for outdoor spaces (you'll need porcelain tile or cement tiles).  I've been looking at Moroccan courtyards and decided that pavers are sad and overrated.  But if you are doing pavers, do these guys:

Tumbling block 4EVA.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Kitchen & Bath Show

So I accidently found myself at the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show in Orlando earlier this month.  I was there for the International Builder's Show, which focuses on residential new construction.   I was just there, supportin' the business and all in my branded attire.  No one even mentioned that the shows were joint--each exhibit hall was split roughly in half, with builders on one side and kitchen&bath on the other.

First highlight was definitely SMEG.  I mean, SMEG.  I'm not even sure I had seen one in person (I'm racking my brain...maybe its all shelter mags?)...and by "one" I mean adorable European fridge.  I was happy to see the expanded size, for people who don't walk to the market everyday to see what inspires them.  And they make small appliances and stoves, also in adorable enamelled colors.  Not pictured were some high-tech, stainless fridge + stove set-ups.  Apparently SMEG runs the gammut.

The only other appliance news was Suzanne Kasler's licensed colors for La Cornue.  They are pretty, and she has excellent taste, but this seems a little hokey for a $20K stove.   Otherwise, fancy appliances are just that--fancy.  So, so fancy.....

Faucets at Kohler showing all their finishes was lovely marketing.  Lots of big names were offering colored faucets (and kitchen sinks).  Everyone was pushing a black finish.

A lot of kitchen sinks had these sliding work spaces--the sinks were enormous, and had cutting boards and colanders incorporated/drop-in.  I remember the first time I saw one of these on Divine Design (so that should say something) and I was pretty skeptical....but I think the designs have improved.  Also, as one rep mentioned, its much more efficient use of linear space--if you can chop at your sink, you don't need separate prep counterspace.  Somewhere near the fancy sinks I saw the Property Brothers, but was so exhausted I wasn't going to fight for a selfie.  Plus 90% of my selfies have crazy-eye, so there is a good chance I'd have to delete it anyway.  But I didn't really take a great pic of the sinks as I was distracted by the debate.

Carla Aston has some good coverage of the sinks here.

The other technology that was cool and I have, like, no pictures of is the high performance ceramics.  They look more like stone (or concrete, if that is your jam) than any quartz I've ever seen.  They are so strong and heat resistant, you can have your induction cooktop built into/under your counters.  So it looks like you have no range, but that pot on your counter is boiling water.  And before you're all like "that's dangerous", remember that induction only works when the pot is touching the surface and only heats the pot...so accidental burns are unlikely/impossible.   Or so the charming Italian man told me.  Major downside--seams.  They max at 8ft or so.  Not that I have more than 8 ft of continuous countertop but you know.....

Sorry for the bad pic, but I have a point:  The hardware is extra "tall" so there is more space between the handle and the door....resulting in less contact between your dirty hand and the cabinets.  And if you saw my painted cabinets right now, you would know why this matters....so gross around all the handles.  Oil is a dirt magnet.

Some beautiful marble from Italy....in trend with the busy stone/deco vibe people are tagging.

And random good ideas.....these floating shelf brackets.  Genius--available in custom sizes from  www.shelfology.com, which is where the photos are from 'cause mine aren't great.  Superstrong, welded brackets.  And they are selling kits (i.e., with the wood ready to go) soon.

And blackboard and whiteboard surfaces from Formica.

Stay tuned for tile!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Sugar Magic (i.e., DIY Lollipop Tutorial)

For Molly's Gingerbread Party favors, I decided to delegate the candymaking to my brother.  But because everyone doesn't have a Walter handy, church member Sharon was nice enough to photograph this tutorial from Walter.  Because lollipop making is pretty magical and simple enough to try at home, there is plenty of time to kick some Valentine's Day ass.  

What you need to make the lollipops pictured here:
We got most of these supplies at Candylandcrafts.com.  Amazon will also have everything and your local Michaels will have everything except molds (at least that is true for mine).  

Capital Investments:
  • Molds (we got our's here)  (This recipe yield is 12+ 2.5" diameter)  
  • Candy Thermometer
Hard Candy Base:  
  • Sugar
  • Corn Syrup
  • Water
  • Vegetable Oil  (for mold release)
Some people like to use Isomalt (in lieu of sugar) but we find it doesn't taste as good and it is  A LOT more money than sugar.  And it's a laxative.  Also, glycerin is the gold standard for mold release but vegetable oil works well (it was used here because Walt was out of glycerin).  

  • Candy flavoring (we recommend 2 bottles of flavoring per batch--these are tiny bottles, btw, "drams" from LorAnn Oils).  
  • Candy coloring (not food coloring)
  • Disco dust 
  • Star Sprinkles (Wilton)
These little metallic stars work well and look awesome.  In our experience, "Sequin" type sprinkles work well--like the little snowflake sprinkles they sell this time a year.  Decorations made out of sugar should be good, but watch out for decorations made of wax.  One batch of Christmas lollies ended up a brownish black mess when the red and green jimmies melted into the sugar.
  • Lollipop sticks
  • Candy bags and twist-ties are handy

Step 1:  Get your molds ready
Clean your molds and clean them again.  Dust, hair, etc. are not good.  Paint the molds with vegetable oil or glycerin.  Decorate the molds with glitter and stars (or other sprinkles if you are doing your own thing).  Lay out the sticks.

Also, get a large bowl of cold water ready--large enough that you can put the bottom of your saucepan full of molten sugar in the cold water.

(not pictured, adding the sticks)
Step 2:  Boil the sugar
Add sugar, water and corn-syrup to a pot and boil--2 cups of sugar, 1/2 cup water, 2/3 cup of corn syrup.  Bring it to 260 degrees.  Add coloring and glitter (eye-ball it, but 1/4 tsp sounds right).  Don't stir, the bubbling of the sugar mixes the glitter and coloring in.  Get to 300 degrees, take off stove and add flavor (2 drams)  Put bottom of pot in cold bath, wipe it off well (don't want to drip water in the lollies).  

The cold bath stops the temperature from continuing to rise.  By 310 degrees, your flavoring will have burnt off, and the sugar will caramelize (darken) so it is a not a good step to skip.  

(A standard candy thermometer works just fine--no need to steal one from your immersion circulator.)

Step 3:  Pour the lollies.  
First, a safety warning--hot sugar will burn you very badly as it envelops and sticks to your skin at ~300 degrees.  So make sure kids are a safe distance from the molten sugar.  And don't think a little drip on the counter is exempt--as pretty as the sparkly sugar is, it feels lava until it is semi-solid.  If you do get some on your skin, stop the heat source (cold water) but only as long as it takes to make the sugar cool/wash off.  Otherwise, the longer you leave it in ice water the more it will hurt (per the internet).  After that, follow standard burn first aid.  Terrified?  Prime yourself some sugar work gloves used for pulling sugar or some weird grilling/heat proof gloves.  

There are fancy candy pourers you can buy, and some people transfer to a warmed pyrex measuring cup, but if your hand is steady you can pour straight from the saucepan.  If you use a second container to pour, warm it up in the oven first.  Even with that step, just know that the outside will start to crystalize and you'll loose some hard candy that way.  Per online resources, you can remelt the sugar in a 250 degree oven, but we haven't tried it.  

Typically, 10 minutes is enough for the lollipops to set, but it will depend on the temperature and humidity.  The harder the candy is (i.e., the closer to fully set) the more likely you are to get them out of their molds without warping or fingerprints (yuck).  However, if you overfilled the mold and want to try and save the lollipop, if you carefully remove it while soft you can use scissors to trim the blobby edge off.  

You want to wrap the finished lollipops in plastic bags.  Walter recommends a stiffer, thicker plastic if you have a choice.  Lollipops can be stored a long, long time, but only if you keep them in a dry place.  Humidity is not their friend.  

See, you can do it!

P.S.  Walter posts his lollipop adventures on Instagram under Azalea_Circle, the name of his freshly started Etsy shop (should be stocked next week).  

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Looking back....

I'm trying to figure out where to put my decorating dollars this year, so I'm perusing a few best-of round-ups....

Elle Decor's Top Decorating Trends of 2016:  Yay granny florals and black stainless steel.  Boo for bidets and ginormous bathrooms.

Domaine made a dream home out of the top pinned rooms from their Pinterest feed.  Food for thought.

My living room made big strides in 2016, now we need some finishing touches.....although AD's Top Living Rooms of 2016 is probably just material for discontent.

Elements of Style has some predictions for the next year....

Mark Sikes

And this roundup has nothing to do with year end or year beginning, but the best libraries in Vogue is a great slideshow......

Carolina Irving

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!!  I've had this image forever (from a tumblr link that is no longer good) but it's never relevant, so I thought I'd pretend it perfectly summed up my attitude about 2017.

Did everyone have a good holiday?  My company shuts down for the week so it is a very nice break.  Sadly, I did not plan my break very well and spent the first two days in a post-hosting stupor, then had 1 productive day, then got some flu/cold thing for the remainder and desperately regretted not doing anything Monday and Tuesday.  I did see LaLaLand, which was excellent, but grand plans of organizing the basement, sewing curtains, finishing the dollhouse we started last December, and finally moving this blog over to SquareSpace.....not even started.

But there were small victories.  We cleaned up the Christmas mess and I have a 2017 planner.

 (mine is green), from Mochi Things

I organized my batteries in a tackle-box like thing which warrants mentioning only because it makes me ridiculously happy.  We made a restaurant emergency kit because Henry is in a difficult dining phase.  I'm mentally prepared to do the Goop Cleanse in 2 weeks.

I'm starting a new "100 goals for 1000 days" list.  I lost the last one I made but it was good priority check, and I love the time period--low pressure.  I also fixed my Mac (finally) and tested my new Silhouette machine.  So ring-a-ding-ding....

Stay warm!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Book Report

I've been reading a little, but mostly looking at pictures.  So here are my notes on some good tomes to curl up with this winter.  Also remember your public library--you might be surprised, but the tax dollars keep going there even though most of us don't.  But most have design books!

Parish Hadley Tree of Life

This was hard to put down.  All of the alumni of Parrish Hadley write about their experiences, which is published surrounded by their own designs.  Genius!  Its like a short story collection.  And while I thought I knew plenty about the firm's history, I definitely learned a ton.  The eye candy is no joke either--it is really amazing to see how well good design aged.

Not what my 80s looked like....

This one is both educational and enjoyable.

A House in the Country

I think we all remember the AD coverage of Katie Ridder and Peter Pennoyer's country house.  I mean, that atrium?  Best. Skylight. Ever.

The beginning is a little more about them working together which was both sweet and not what I was looking for off the bat.  But it reads well overall, and it is interesting to think about the possibilities of collaboration (says a control freak).  The garden is pretty amazing, too.

Katie Ridder and I share a love of color and pattern, so it is no surprise this is one I plan to reference often.  Because in my plans I'm out of touch with reality and forget that time and money are the problem not a lack of ready color schemes and fabric picks.

If you like this one, I do recommend Katie Ridder's last book, Rooms too.  And now I know I'd totally hire Peter Pennoyer if I could afford it.  He is dead on--Greek Revival is an under-appreciated style.


For me, this was the "should have checked it out" buy.  I love Mark's blog, and it is hard to find fault with his level of taste.  But its hard for me to take away a lot of lessons. I do seek out books that are not quite me but that I feel will stretch my design sensibilities, but I'm not sure this was it.  That said, it is a solid tome of eye candy.

For me, I'm not sure you want to do this look unless you have a shit ton of money.  Because if you piece it together with Ballard and Potterybarn it will not be pretty.  Your upholstery better be on fleek, and you should be punctuating the space with some heavy antiques.  Like a-year-in-state-school-at- least antiques.

It is both more approachable but less "me" than Suzanne Kasler's work....which seems like a good topic to discuss in therapy.  But for those who are way too afraid of color to dive into A House in the Country, this may be exactly what you need to inject some boho-free California vibes into your library.  And a deeper study may teach you how to avoid looking liking a pottery barn catalouge while wrapping yourself in neutrals. It's all in the details and layering of finishes.

Next on my reading list:
the new Domino and Cecil Beaton at Home.
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