"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
_ William Morris
, 19th century craftsman, designer, writer

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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Gather: Leaping Lemon Bars!

 February 29th comes around every four years...I think that's something worth celebrating!

Bring on the baked goods!

So, with my friend Leslie's permission I raided her backyard lemon tree. There's something very gratifying about picking your own fruit...

I was in full virtuous, organic earth-mother mode...except for the fact I had every intention of making something marvelous, fattening and not-necessarily healthful...
In honor of Leap Day, (i.e., something rarely seen) I decided to make lemon bars from scratch instead of buying them from the local Bake & Broil like I usually do...

Although my good friend, Lynne, swears by Martha Stewart's lemon bar recipe (which, in fact, is phenomenal) I chose to work from my girl, Ina Garten's cookbook, Barefoot Contessa Parties!

My husband gave the bars a thumbs up and said they reminded him of lemon curd -rich & creamy. Quite an endorsement!
Barefoot Contessa: (Leaping) Lemon Bars
Makes 20 squares or 40 triangles

For the Crust
1/2 pound   unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup   granulated sugar
2 cups   all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon   kosher salt

For the Filling
6    extra-large eggs at room temperature
3 cups   granulated sugar
2 tablespoons   grated lemon zest (4-6 lemons)
1 cup   freshly squeezed lemon juice (this took about 6 lemons)
1 cup   all-purpose flour

Confectioner's sugar for dusting (I may have gone a bit heavy here...)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until  light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and  press it into a 9x13x2-inch baking sheet, building up a 1/2 inch edge on all sides. Chill.

 Bake the crust for 15-20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.

For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the filling is set (this took a little longer for me). Let cool to room temperature.

Cut into triangles or squares and dust with confectioner's sugar.

Enjoy! No actually, savor -tangy, sweet, delish!

Happy Leap Day! (and did I mention that since this day barely exists the calories don't count at all...)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Walking Daisy: A Simple Luxury

In reading one of my favorite blogs last week, Black Eiffel, I read a post advising us all, "To build in little daily luxuries..." The idea got me thinking. How much do I do this already? And what do I consider daily luxuries?

I think taking time for myself feels luxurious. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more grateful I began to feel for what I already have. Kind of nice since I've been grumbling about rising gas prices and all the things that need to be remodeled and/or fixed...but I digress...

What do you consider small luxuries? Using the good china? Scented candles? Taking time for crafts or art?

I challenge you to gift yourself with a simple luxury each day & see what happens.

Here's a beautiful walk I took Daisy on last week with her good friend, George. I think she felt luxurious too... 
Taking time to smell the daisies...
  We walked along a partially paved path in a rejuvenated wetlands area along the Los Angeles River. We saw rabbits, squirrels, red-tailed hawks, ducks, geese and a few other lucky dogs. Sometimes horses ride along the path too...watch where you step...

Nature + Urban

Beauty and inspiration are everywhere. I think they look different to each of us -even Daisy...who was very inspired by the wildlife...
The charming fences are faux-wood -and actually made of stone! Durable yet decorative!

Spoil sport.

Okay, now it's your turn. Your mission, should you choose to accept it: practicing the fine art of simple, daily luxury. Start now.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Shop: Anthropologie

I think one of things that makes shopping so much fun is the element of surprise. In this, retail guru, Anthropologie, is the master.

Their stores never disappoint. In fact, you don't have to leave with a bag (although that is preferable!) to take home a trunk full of inspiration.

The trends they feature, the products they select, and the way they display it fosters imagination and a spirit of creativity.

I asked the manager at Newport Beach's Fashion Island store if I could take photos for my blog and she enthusiastically agreed. "That's what we're all about," she said, "providing inspiration."

What a wonderful mission!

Lampshades & pattern. I'm feeling partial to that splashy floral...

A couch that looks like it's been upholstered with a brightly colored Mexican blanket. In the right spot: fabulous!

I found this chandelier completely inspiring! The entire fixture had been covered (decoupaged?) with printed pages from a book. I feel a project coming on... 

  Thousands of cone-shaped paper were strung from giant arched 'branches' -beautiful! It's like an art installation. I wonder what they do with that when they're done?

 A giant, wooden sphere. Sort of thought provoking...I'm not sure what I'd do with this, but somehow I want it...

 Pretty plates. Octo-platter! Love it!

Fantastic idea for wall-covering! These are squares of heavy canvas painted to look like tiles and nailed to the wall. Imagine the possibilities!

This table is a stunner. It's got a heavy, wooden base and metal top. I tried to capture the detail of the table top (not the best pic) to give a idea of how they used gold nail heads to contrast with the silver.

Kitchen towels so cute I'd hate to use them...They would make very special gift wrap though, wouldn't they? Maybe tucked around a loaf of banana bread?

 This large sketch of a bunny absolutely captured my heart. Wish he'd hop on to one of my walls...

Friday, February 24, 2012

Movie Interior: It's Complicated

The 2009 romantic-comedy,  It's Complicated had an amazing cast, phenomenal set design and a wonderful, funny, touching story -except for one thing. The plot revolves around a divorced woman who's decided to renovate her kitchen -finally after all these years! The problem (as I see it): her kitchen didn't need renovating! It was absolutely gorgeous and inspiring to begin with! See for yourself!

Really? What would you change?
Created by the dream team of Oscar-nominated Production designer Jon Hutman (Something's Gotta Give) and Oscar-nominated Set Decorator extrordinaire, Beth Rubino (The Cider House Rules; American Gangster), the home's interiors were shot on location in Thousand Oaks, California, while the film's exterior scenes were recreated on a movie set in New York. 

In spite of the Hollywood magic, the fantasy of living amongst the Bouganvilla in Santa Barbara had me browsing real estate in the area for weeks... 
Maybe part of the fantasy is that it also looks so neat and clean...all the time. So add live-in cleaning crew to the fantasy...

Okay, maaaaaybe I would change that tile by the sink...If I were really going to be picky...

Beth Rubino told the Hot Off The Set blog that this dining table was found at Lucca Antiques and the chairs were custom designed by the set decorator herself! She had them produced by Berkshire Home & Antiques. The cushion fabric is from Donghia. b4 Housey Movies: Its Complicated

Did you ever notice how lighting is everything? I think we often forget about it, but when it's done right the room really works. Slip covers, wicker, color fruit in baskets and just the right amount of clutter: Casual California chic.

Even the garden shed was charming. White washed brick, galvanized buckets and a shabby chic-style potting bench filled with hand tools and herbs fulfill a gardener's wish list.

An outdoor room is created on the covered loggia -perfect for Santa Barbara's year-round moderate temps.
Santa Barbara has an ordinance that all buildings must conform to certain aesthetics -one of them is the terracotta tiled roof. This one, covered with vines and flowers is especially beautiful.
Flowering vines climb the walls of a charming brick patio. Olive trees, planters and over-sized lanterns set the stage for romance. 

 With a house like this, how could there not be a happy ending?  

Photo Credit: Many photos on this post can be credited to the super-stylish blog, Hooked On Houses. Check it out!

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