October 31, 2008

happy halloween!

We had a Halloween Potluck lunch today and my contribution was an old favorite - Dirt Cake! Decorated to look like a graveyard, of course, with little headstones bearing each of our names. The cake was a hit, and I had a ton of fun making it with Kate. As you can see from the photo above, we don't have a lot of leftovers!

Here's the recipe for anyone who wants to make this super easy, super tasty treat:

Dirt Cake
1-1/2 lb. bag of Oreo cookies
3/4 stick butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 c. powdered sguar
4 c. milk
2 sm. packages instant French Vanilla pudding
12 oz. Cool Whip topping, thawed

Crush cookies (cream and all) in a food processor, set aside.
In a large bowl mix milk and pudding until thick, set aside.
In another large bowl blend butter, cream cheese and powdered sugar until creamy.
Slowly add pudding to cream cheese mixture and stir until well mixed.
Fold in whipped topping.
Using a 13x9" pan, starting with cookie crumbs, layer cookies and pudding, ending with cookie crumbs.
Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

(As you can see this is a truly decadent dessert, but if you wanted to cut a little fat and calories, you can use skim milk, reduced fat oreos, reduced fat cream cheese, sugar free/fat free pudding and fat free Cool Whip. It tastes exactly the same - and no one will ever know it's a "healthier" version!)

October 30, 2008

lavender's blue, dilly dilly

Lavender's green
When I am king, dilly, dilly, you shall be queen.
Who told you so, dilly, dilly, who told you so?
'Twas my own heart, dilly, dilly, that told me so.

Do you remember that nursery rhyme? I played it for a piano recital once in Elementary school, and now that I've brought home a bottle of lovely Caldrea Lavender Lotion, every time I put it on (or even see the bottle, for that matter), that little ditty pops into my head.

Did I tell you that I'm obsessed with lavender now? It's my new favorite scent. Ever since we went to Mexico (which I am now realizing I have not talked about AT ALL... oops!) I started to love it. We were lucky enough to have a room with a balcony that overlooked a huge garden of lavender. Rows and rows of it. We were still a few weeks away from seeing the flowers bloom, but the garden was so pretty nonetheless. The owner of the villa grows lavender for soaps and lotions, and so there were bunches of the dried flowers hanging all around leaving the most amazing aroma in the air. And even though it’s been months since our trip, every time I smell it, my mind goes right back to our time in Mexico. (Hence the Caldrea Lotion – who wouldn’t want to be reminded of a perfect trip?)

Now I'm on a mission: to find inexpensive bulk dried lavender so I can try to copy the idea in the photo above. (If anyone has any suggestions for finding it, I'd really appreciate it!)

{Photo above was taken by me at the office of the villa.
They had bunches and bunches of dried lavender strung from wall to wall.}

October 27, 2008

all that glitters

What girl doesn't daydream about getting a shiny new piece of jewelry now and then? You'd have to call me a liar if I said I didn't keep an eye out for new and sparkly somethings to add to my jewelry box. And if it's the right time of year you can bet that I'll be putting it on my birthday or Christmas wishlist and hoping that a certain someone is paying attention. {Very lucky for me – he usually is!}

Well, guess what's right around the corner? That would be my birthday AND Christmas, and like any good list-maker would, I’ve decided to put these lovelies by Emily Amey at the top of my list:
Clockwise from top left: Seafan Stack Ring with Two Diamonds, Urchin Ring, Bubble Stack Ring, Custom Made Ring.

October 16, 2008

halloween decorating - on the cheap!

I love this cheap and easy Halloween decorating idea. The eye-catching results are a treat and not at all tricky to recreate.

To paint pumpkins - use painter's tape & self-adhesive paper to mark off stripes, circles {or whatever designs your heart desires}, and then spray with glossy black and white paint. Let dry and remove the tape/paper. It's as easy as that!

If I were to try this, I think I'd definitely do the polka dots - since I am really in to those lately - and I'd also see about getting different letter/number stencils to create words or maybe even our monogram. Or ooh!... I could put four pumpkins side-by-side and paint one number from our address on each and put them outside our door. Hmm... now there's an idea. I also really like the mix of painted and plain pumpkins like in the photo above and do currently have an empty fireplace...

Painted Pumpkins come from Good Housekeeping, an excellent resource for holiday crafts and decorating. Definitely worth checking out if you're looking for some ideas.


My friend, Betsy, and I met for dinner last Saturday night, and as we were leaving the restaurant with full tummies - but not so full that there wasn't room for a little more - we decided to stop by Argo Tea that was right up the street. Neither of us really knew what we wanted, but when we got to the counter we saw samples of the newest flavor creation - the Pumpkin Chai Tea - and after just one sip we both said, "I'll take one!"

This is my new favorite drink, and I haven't stopped thinking - or talking - about it all week, and so I was very happy to be reminded this morning that there is an Argo Tea right there on the first floor at the Merchandise Mart and I could get myself another of those yummy drinks. Now I am happily sipping my tea as I type.

I'd never had chai tea before... and I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I actually thought it was a coffee drink. (Even though I am aware that it says nothing of coffee in the name, I still thought it was coffee. Probably because of all that other coffee lingo that non-coffee drinkers never learn - lattes, macchiatos, frappuccinos - I just figured this was another one.) So, anyway, now I'm happily hooked on (non-coffee!) chai.

But let me get back to the pumpkin-y goodness that is the Pumpkin Chai. Warm and spicy and with a nice pumpkin flavor - it's almost like eating a slice of pumpkin pie but without the calories. (Actually, I don't know that, because lord knows I've seen the calorie counts on a few of those other drinks posing as harmless. To tell the truth, I don't even want to know what's in this... I'd rather enjoy it blissfully ignorant of what's inside. Although I do order skim milk just to be on the safe side.)

So, I don't know if Argo's are everywhere or if they're just a Chicago thing, but if you get a chance to stop by, be sure to try the Pumpkin Chai Tea. It's the perfect fall drink.

(Can I just say how annoying it is to type chai again and again? Especially when I repeatedly mistype it as chair. Thank goodness for spellcheck!)

so we meet again

"Hello, Internet? It's me, Kristin. I know we've met, but it's been a while since I've been here so I just wanted to re-introduce myself. I do hope I can start visiting regularly again because oh how I've missed you."

Sorry that I've been m.i.a these last couple weeks, dear Readers. I've been quite swamped at work and haven't had the energy to turn on the computer when I get home. I've got several ideas in mind to tell you about and hope to get into back into the swing of things real soon.

October 7, 2008

chicago fave: the examiner

Chicago Dessert Examiner is one of my new favorite stops when I'm surfing the web. It's always full of the latest and greatest on the dessert scene here in the Windy City, and I'm usually left with a mouthwatering list of treats to try after I stop by.

There are nearly 50 cities covered by the Examiner. You should check to see if yours is listed too.

west germany studio pottery

Fat-Lava is a veritable treasure-trove of beautiful pottery! {I wish I could take credit for finding the site, but it was actually my boss who read about it in a magazine.} Anyone looking to start a pottery collection – at prices that those new to collecting can actually afford – should take the time to check it out.

After doing a little reading on the subject, I discovered that the production of West German Studio Pottery was at its height during the 1950’s to 1970’s when the innovation of bright colors, unusual patterns and distinct shapes pushed the boundaries of traditional pottery. The pieces vary so much that I'm sure all of us could find at least one that we love.

Fat-Lava features a large collection of vases – big and small – as well as other decorative objects. The site is divided by factory, but you can also do a specific search. For those of us stateside, the only problem is that prices are quoted in Euros, but I have heard that there are tons of pieces on eBay.

Look for more West German Studio Pottery at Outernational, where prices are quoted in US dollars.

October 2, 2008

design inspiration: black & white bliss

Aha! I found another one!

Check out this super sophisticated yet totally liveable foyer. The black casework is so very chic and creates such a lovely background for the furniture and art. Who would have thought that black would be so wonderfully liveable? The cane bench and black and white dresser are total opposites stylistically, but when you put them together in this room they form the perfect union. And it all has to do with the colors. See how you can bring different styles and ideas together so long as there is one unifying element? I also really like how the framed art is casually displayed along the molding.

I told you I was digging black and white lately!

(This image was also lovingly torn from an older issue of Elle Decor. I apologize that I don't know which or who to credit.)

design inspiration: from the files

It seems like it's been forever since I've had a chance to just sit and look at interiors that inspire - be it online or from magazines - but then I remembered that a couple weeks ago, we had an office clean up day - you know the kind, when you go through all your files and drawers and clean out all the junk that doesn't matter any more - well, anyway, I dug up a bunch of magazine tear-outs that I'd been hanging on to for this client or for that. Even though most of the projects have already wrapped up, I still didn't have the heart to throw these out. They still inspire just as much as they did the first day I laid eyes on them.

In no particular order...

Such a feeling of romanticism is evoked when I look at this image. It begins with that amazing oversized, gold frame mirror leaning on a mantle filled with a teepee of birch logs. A pair of classic daybeds in a simple neutral fabric sit side-by-side beneath an intricately carved chandelier. The pair of standing candelabras flanking the fireplace in a polished black finish add such an interesting contrast to the rest of the very pale room. And I think this is a great example of how to style a monochromatic room - with just a single pop of color for contrast and by using a mix of design styles to add interest. I love this room - it's just so pretty and so wonderfully girlie. Too bad it would never ever ever work at our house... for too many reasons to go into.

Ah... here is exactly the kind of dining room I would have in my dream house. The bookcase lined walls - complete with a ladder on a rail - create such a cozy feeling that I'm sure I could sit in there for days and not tire of it. And look at the detail on that ladder! The nailhead trim is so clever. What's so great is that the bookcases don't overwhelm and there is even still a huge spot of wall left for art. It's a library - dining room - gallery in one, and to me, it is perfect. And wow... take a look at those floors.

Maybe this kids room is a little less formal, but it's not one iota less inspiring. It's kid-friendly yet uber-stylish. A high chair rail - so I'm not sure what exactly you call it then since it's not at chair level - separates white painted walls above from a genius corkboard below. What a fabulous way to have an ever changing gallery of art on display. The bold colors of the upholstery are so refreshing and lively. And I adore the combo of stripes, color blocks and bulls-eyes. Toys are cleverly stored in a big cabinet with different red-doored compartments and a pint-sized table in vivid blue is a great place for playing games or making more of that art to display.

(I apologize that I don't have the details for either of the top two photos to note who is behind these fabulous interiors, and all I know about the third is that it is from Elle Decor. Like I said, these were ripped from magazines - some of them years ago - and I never thought at the time that I might be writing about them on a blog some day!)