"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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Friday, June 29, 2012

American Tradition: S'Mores

Last Spring, while staying at a guest ranch on the western rim of the Grand Canyon, we found ourselves gathering around a campfire to toast marshmallows and make S'mores with an honest-to-goodness singing cowboy and a diverse group of fellow campers hailing from around the world.

Fun, friendly and curious, the folks from Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia had no idea how to make a S'more -but they were willing to learn.

First how to prounounce the name, (as in, saying "some more" with your mouth full) -or indeed, what it is: a staple of the classic American camp out consisting of gooey, toasted marshmallows and chocolate bars sandwiched between a couple of graham crackers.

They caught on quick.

I think it's the little discoveries that make traveling fun. Traveling half way around the world to see the Grand Canyon, these tourist found yet another American treasure and perhaps a handy souvenir recipe: S'Mores!

 The preferred way to make S'mores is by toasting marshmallows (until lightly browned and crispy) over a campfire in the great outdoors, then sandwiching the gooey goodness immediately between two graham crackers and a piece of chocolate.

However, if you find yourself lacking an open flame and camping gear, they can be prepared just as easily in the microwave. 

Microwave S'mores
Put one marshmallow in the microwave for 10 seconds on high. Then, place it immediately inside the S'more sandwich. Voila! Instant summer classic.

You might want to eat it outside under the stars, or in the shade to enjoy the full summer experience (and keep the stickiness out of the house!).

 Happy Summer!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Trial by Fire: Furniture Designer David Rasmussen

Material possessions, our stuff, the things we love and live with are temporary -just ask furniture designer David Rasmussen whose studio in Carbondale, Colorado burned to the ground one night last November along with more than $100,000 of equipment, tools and hand-made furniture.

"It felt like my career was over," says Rasmussen who describes watching the small factory burn on a night so cold the water froze in the fire hoses. It was gone. "All gone." He was not insured. "Mistakes happen," he says, "and sometimes we pay dearly.

Luckily, talent and spirit are impervious to fire. "I haven't lost everything," says Rasmussen in a fundraising video. "I still have my hands, my mind, and the momentum...it's from inside that ideas are sketched, lines made smooth and shaped into the designs that drive my existence." 
With a new goal of rebuilding a studio that will allow him to produce the high-end furniture he describes as, "a post-modern, mid-century mix", Rasmussen intends to standardize some of his designs so he will be able to produce more of them. 

To fundraise, Rasmussen has applied for grants and held an art auction. He is also seeking financial backers on a fundraising website, called, Kickstarter

 Kickstarter works by allowing supporters to "pledge" to buy an item (from $5 and up) in order to meet a financial goal and deadline. In Rasmussen's case this goal is to reach $15,000 dollars in pledges by July 13, 2012. If he receives enough pledges to meet that goal, the fundraising project will be considered "funded", the credit cards of the donors will be charged, and the items purchased shipped accordingly. If the goal is not reached, the donors will not be charged, and the project will be over.

As of this writing, Rasmussen has 30 backers pledging $1,930 dollars. With less than 20 days left, there is a long way to go.

"The pieces I'm making right now are being made from wood burned in the fire. There's something powerful in taking something out of the ashes to build something new."    

Rasmussen's WUD plates and trays -part of the Kickstarter project -are made from a single piece of walnut or maple wood and were on display at the Dwell on Design show in Los Angeles last week. The plates are finished with oil to allow years of maintenance-free use and finished with brightly colored rims in lime, blue, orange and yellow.

"Maybe someday I'll look at these months and only see the positive reflected back at me," says Rasmussen, "because then I'll know where this is leading me. But right now it's hard to see..."

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Stylish Storage: Cool Kids Company

Anyone with kids knows storage is critical -who knew it could also be so cute!
I spotted these colorful multi-functional cabinets at the Dwell on Design show last week and was impressed by such a creative solution for storing all of the stuff kids tend to accumulate.

Designed by Kast van een Huis, the cabinets are part of the Amsterdam Collection and are inspired by the unique architecture of Amsterdam's canal houses from the 17th Century.

The thoroughly modern furniture is available in a range of colors and painted with non-toxic paint.

The sweet storage solution was also a Winner of the 2010 Prix Découverte at Maison&Objet, Paris and will coming soon to U.S. shops through the American distributor of European furniture, the CoolKids Company

And on second thought, why should kids have all the fun? These clever cabinets in the perfect paint shades might be the answer for grownup storage as well...

Monday, June 25, 2012

Dwell on Design: Los Angeles Show


Last weekend I attended my first Dwell on Design show (June 22-24) at the Los Angeles Convention Center and found enough inspiration to keep me blogging for weeks!

Billed as the West Coast's largest home and lifestyle show, the 3-day modern-design event curated by the editors of Dwell Magazine was open to the public and featured 350 exhibitors as well as a series of speakers, demonstrations and tours.

Although a modern aesthetic prevailed, I would bet my Miele vacuum that design enthusiasts of every stripe would be intrigued by the innovation. 

"Design is driven by exploration and touches every aspect of our lives," said Dwell media president Michela O'Connor Abrams, "from the technology and products we use, to the way in which we communicate [and] the spaces in which we live."

Game on. The cool factor was high. 

The concrete ping pong/dining table with reinforced steel frame by James DeWulf was a winner! But perhaps for $7,000 we should call it table tennis? Love-Love!

Inflatable domes by CasaBubble tickled the imagination as well...Grammy coming to town? Blow up the guest room! Feel like sleeping under the stars? Need more office space? Or perhaps just a bigger dining room for what would definitely be a  magical dinner party?

The bubbles are available for purchase or rental.

According to CasaBubble, the instant additions made from recycled material can be set up anywhere and require no permitting since they are removable. Ranging from 11 feet to 16 feet in diameter, the bubbles (offer different levels of privacy) and are inflated by a silent turbine which allows them to keep their shape, circulate air and eliminate humidity and condensation issues.   

Designed in France by Pierre Stephan Dumas, the bubbles are delivered with wooden floors and optional furnishing.

In many instances the designers themselves were on hand to talk about their products and the inspiration behind the design. 

"Bdoja", A one-of-a-kind sculptural chair, by recent Art Center grad, Amaya Gutierrez was clever and covetable. 

Gutierrez explained she used custom-designed 'knitting needles' and hand knit the super-sized sweater seat from rope-like strands. The resulting fabric was draped over a strong metal frame. How perfect would this be in a beach house ($1,900)...

 In addition to creative upstarts, the show was also a place for established heavy hitters like Kohler to showcase their latest. The Kohler booth featured bathtubs converted into couches and publicly declared their devotion to C-O-L-O-R!

Sometimes, the best design is a simple fix...a notch in a patio chair by outdoor furniture company Loll Designs holds a stemmed wine glass. Brilliant! Another deck chair featured wide arm rests and concealed a handy bottle opener. I have a feeling these folks, based in Duluth, Minnesota, know how to party...

In keeping with the theme of knitters gone wild, I was drawn to this giant sock featured at the Design Preis Schweiz showcase featuring the winners of last year's Swiss design competition. I'm not sure what it's supposed to be, but it would look cute draped over a chair. Of course, it's match seems to have gone missing -where do those lost socks go?

 Although I am personally not a fan of Lladros' freaky rabbit-like-alien collectibles entitled, The Guest, which were front and center at the show - I was enchanted by the delicately detailed, Metropolis collection. The porcelain city is from the Lladro Atelier and allows collectors to design their own fanciful cityscape. Pretty. Cool.

If you had a chance to see the show this weekend, l'd love to know which booths and exhibits you liked best -please share!

In the meantime, I promise more Dwell posts to come. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Cherry Picking!

For the past several years, our family has made a tradition of cherry picking at Hobart's on Father's Day. This year, however, since we didn't make it to the farm I decided to take a trip down memory lane (with photos from a previous excursion) instead.

Our favorite Pick Your Own (PYO!) cherry farm is located in the heart of Leona Valley in Palmdale, California. The family owned farm welcomes city pickers like ourselves during cherry season June through July. 

For sweet cherries go in June, sour pick in July.

Although we have a fondness for Hobarts, the non-profit website, PickYourOwn.org provides a list of places cherry seekers can grab a bucket and get busy.

What you pick is what you pay for. Your bucket will be weighed when you are done foraging for fruit -and (speaking from experience) you may want to keep an eye on the kid's buckets. It's easy to get carried away...

Every now and then, you should probably taste one to determine the sweetness...right?


A couple of years ago, in search of a good cherry crumble recipe, I discovered Martha Stewart's Sour-Cherry Pistachio Crisp. Since I liked the way the recipe sounded and felt confident it was something I could attempt, I ignored the fact it asked specifically for 'sour' cherries and blazed ahead.

 There are those who may be shaking their heads at this, but sometimes ignorance really is bliss -and the crisp turned out so well I have been making it with whatever cherries I have on hand ever since!

A couple of tips, invest in a good cherry pitter (or two or three) -and get the kids involved in helping! Dress them in something you don't mind getting stained and situate them outside if possible. Go ahead and pour yourself a glass of wine while you wait... It takes them a while to figure out that the task is actually work disguised by gadgets and cherries and by then, you should have what you need...I love summer!

By the time you've driven out to the cherry farm, paid for lunch (or picnicked!), bought several buckets of cherries, cold drinks, and ice cream for a job well done -you realize that buying fruit from the store is probably cheaper.

It's what you won't find at the market, however, that is priceless.

Martha Stewart's Sour-Cherry Pistachio Crisp


  • 1 3/4 pounds pitted fresh or frozen sour cherries
  • 1/2 cup chopped unsalted pistachios
  • 1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons packed light-brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • Pinch of ground, cinnamon


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. If using frozen cherries, spread them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Let stand at room temperature until cherries have thawed almost completely but still hold their shape, about 30 minutes. Drain off any accumulated liquid.
  2. Whisk together the pistachios, flour, oats, baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Put butter, brown sugar, and 1/4 cup granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until creamy.
  3. Stir pistachio mixture into butter mixture until just combined. Work mixture through your fingers until it forms coarse crumbs ranging in size from small peas to gum balls; set topping aside.
  4. Stir together cherries, remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar, the cornstarch, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Transfer cherry mixture to an 8-inch square baking dish. Sprinkle the topping evenly over cherry mixture. Bake until topping turns golden and juices are bubbling, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool on a wire rack 1 hour before serving.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Shop: The Lab

When I first visited The LAB in Costa Mesa, CA on a photo shoot for California Apparel News in 1993, the "Antimall" was a revolutionary retail space devoted to "combating retail monotony" -and one of the first of its kind.  It was an edgy, eclectic mix of small businesses united in a quest to explore and celebrate urban youth culture and the beginnings of eco-chic.

Last week, almost 20 years later I returned (with my kids!) to revisit the space and find out how the concept had aged. Like most things in Orange County, it seemed The LAB had been nipped and tucked in all the right places -just enough to look young, fun and refreshed in spite of the fact the landscaping had matured and there were inevitable signs of wear. My kids were intrigued.

A news stand and gathering area with communal table for hanging out and chillaxing (mom word?) with friends.

Creme Tangerine, an itty bitty Airstream trailer parked outside of Urban Outfitters sells old-fashioned vinyl (and even 8-track tapes!) for those who believe in kicking it old school. The album covers alone would look cool on the walls of a teen's room.

In fact, I spotted quite a few nifty design ideas that would raise the game of any teen-inspired space. Check out the spray painted polka-dots on the front of the Japanese-themed shop, Popkiller  -and the unexpected mosaic on an outside wall that included nuts and bolts in the mix.

Emerging artists are given opportunities to show their work at The Artery, and public art installations are featured prominently throughout. I found this graffiti art by Jennifer Mercede on an interior wall -love it!

The fountain of recycled barrels was just as I remembered although the design is not as novel as it once was, I still like it and the kids thought it was great.

The Mode Bikes trailer was a draw for us -you can buy one ready-made or create your own custom cruiser. Sweet rides! (Hey! Was that an eye roll?)

During our visit, the Cricket Trailer, touted as the "covered wagon for your new frontier" was on display in the community spaceCreated by Garrett Finney, former space architect for NASA and previously responsible for the "habitation module", the sanctuary on wheels would be perfect for a camp out or perhaps hanging out between surf sets. Lookout Airstream,  the competition in the rear view mirror may be closer than it appears. I can imagine these being equally as collectible.

I let the teen and preteen wander in Urban Outfitter while I checked out the super stylish (yet wearable!) frames at Eye Society.

When I went to retrieve the kids, I realized I hadn't set foot in an UO lately...I didn't remember it being this, um, "edgy". When my middle schooler wanted to buy what he thought was a cool looking water bottle (actually a stealth flask) and fake soda labels that attach to cans (Cool stickers! He thought!)...I knew it was time to leave. I won't even get into the book selection. I guess shocking the parental units never gets old.

The LAB, which is actually an acronym for Little American Businesses, offers an impressive array of directional design from the aforementioned eyewear, to sneaker culture, featuring limited edition and hard-to-find shoe styles at Blends and the hat boutique, Arth (a combination of the words Art and Hat). You may have guessed by now, although the vibe is young and alternative, the price tags are not kid stuff.

Dad (AKA Justin) met us for lunch at the Gypsy Den Cafe, a funky, American eclectic coffee-shop with a fresh menu of offerings (including some Vegan fare) -and once again my memory of the place was put to the test. Had there always been paintings of nudes on the art-covered walls? Um...as we waited for our meals, the middle schooler thought it was pretty funny to count them...what happened to coloring our place mats...

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