"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, August 31, 2012

At The Beach House

I took this photo on 'Sconset Beach in Nantucket after an amazing lunch with treasured friends at The Beachside Bistro of The Summer House. I love the way it captures the dunes, the gray shingled houses and a dreamy expanse of sky. Maybe it's going barefoot, maybe it's a lack of homework, or the fact that big bowls of ice cream and vacation days are not just acceptable but encouraged  -in my book, summertime seems synonymous with freedom.

Happily, for the past three weeks, I have enjoyed that freedom (Dunkin' Donuts, fried clams, historically low lobster prices , sand castles, kayaking, sightseeing, exploring...and did I mention the lobster prices?) to it's very fullest.

In the Sand Castles gift shop in Rockport I found a great card (and bought 2!) by a company called, How To Live -and I think they really do, know how to live, that is. (Their website is charming -and definitely worth a look-see!)

 I absolutely agree with the artist's take on summer (not to mention a few ideas I will be adopting for the rest of the year as well):

At The Beach House
Let sandy feet in.
Give everyone a turn in the captain's chair.
Plan on a little rust.
There's no such thing as over grown.
Put stuffy in the yard sale.
The Good Humor Truck will always stop for you if you want some.

Sink into contentment.
Fly your flags.
Draw how much you've grown on the walls.
Some days it feels just right to be fishy and salty and crabby.
Don't let the fire go out until you toast the last marshmallows.
A boat is for napping (but hold on to your fishing pole).
A dock is for looking underneath.
Screen out the pesky.

Kids need water to grow.
Make room for mistakes (and wet towels);
It's not the furniture, it's who's sitting in it that matters.
A yard is to put shells around.
What you find is always better than what you buy.
Front porches are for lemonade and blowing kisses.
Fences are for inviting the neighbors over.
Let the hard stuff soften and fade.
Be thankful.

Fall is undeniably in the air and the promise of a new season awaits. It's a quieter season of more richness and texture. And in a way, I'm ready for it...almost. But not. quite. yet...

Friday, August 10, 2012

Project: DIY Masterpiece

 The large canvas hanging over Lynne Matlock's fireplace is an expressionistic study of movement and color. Light and dark, like life itself. It is the kind of work one can look at often and see something new -and she did it herself. Really.

You can too.

Lynne swears she is not an artist and when her good friend, photographer Paula Barron suggested she create an art piece for over the fireplace. She balked.

Then she dove in, literally, to a process filled with paint and creativity and perhaps just a teensy bit of anxiety. In the future, Lynne suggests a glass of pre-project wine...

 "The scary part is taking the first step to put paint on that clean, white canvas," Paula agrees. But, "once you do it, it's so much fun."

"I always tell friends to look for pictures of art or other things that inspire...then go buy your canvas."

Paula advises keeping an eye out for the 1 Cent canvas sale at Michael's, or head over to Big Lots to find smaller ones.

"Don't worry about the thickness of the canvas," she says, "you can create the illusion of a thicker canvas with your framing."

Here's Paula's process:
1. Get a large canvas, the bigger the better.

2. Buy large tubes of cheap acrylic paint at the craft store. "Buy all of the colors that you want to incorporate," says Paula.

"I also buy a bottle of gesso to thicken areas (for texture) as I layer the paint."

3. When it's time to begin, "Pull out all of your supplies and dig out a couple of old, used gift cards to do the paint application. Also gather things like jar lids (for making circles), pages from books (collage effect), etc."

"Now, start squirting colors on and lightly pull the paint in different directions."

 Just go for it. Cue the music and open that wine. Get that artistic mojo on.

  (Note here, acrylic paint is permanent and will stain clothes and anything else it lands on. Beware. Stains are so not fun.)

"I like to layer," Paula continues, "so once you've covered the canvas let it dry for a few minutes and then layer on more paint and gesso. There are no rules as to when to quit or when to apply paper or stamp shapes. It is all up to you."

4. "After the painting is dry, I use a glossy polyurethane over the top. It can be lightly guided by your gift card. You can also use the matte finish (or both) to create shine and matte finishes in different areas of the painting."

"This gloss is like putting glass over your painting and it brings it to life and also blends a few of your colors to mix in a beautiful way."

 Paula says after her painting is dry, her husband builds a frame around the canvas, but unframed can look equally artsy.

Most of all, Paula says, "...have fun, and don't be afraid to experiment because if you don't like it you can paint white over it and start again!"

Berets are optional, but encouraged.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Gather: Sylvia's Creme Brule French Toast!

I believe the art of hosting house guests is easier with a stocked fridge and a couple of tried and true, crowd pleasing recipes on the menu.

(That, and candles and wine. No one will be able to see the dust by candle light, and with the wine they won't care...but I digress.)

My friend Sylvia Sagrera introduced us to just such a recipe and what we now refer to as: Sylvia's Creme Brulee French Toast. Sylvia served it up on a ski weekend several years ago, and now she is basically required to make it on every trip -or we hide her lift ticket.

One of those ingenious breakfast dishes that is made the night before and popped into the oven pre-coffee in the morning. It's a breakfast party on a plate.

The only way I can think to improve it is to make more than you think you need.

Sylvia’s Crème Brulee French Toast
(serves 6)

½ cup unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tablespoons corn syrup
6 1-inch slices of challah bread (I use as many as it takes to cover the pan)
¼ teaspoon salt
5 eggs
1 ½ cup half & half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
powdered sugar

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.

Mix in brown sugar and corn syrup, stirring until sugar is dissolved.

Pour mixture into a 9x13 baking dish.

Remove crusts from sliced bread and arrange in the baking dish in a single layer.

In a small bowl whisk together the eggs, half & half, vanilla extract and salt.

Pour contents of bowl over the bread.

Cover and chill for at least 8 hours; best overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Remove the dish from the fridge and bring to room temperature.

Bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes until puffed and lightly browned.

Dust top of each piece with a sprinkling of powdered sugar.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Drift Studio: Furniture With Flex Appeal

The furniture designers at the artist collaborative, Drift Studio, in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin take their trend direction seriously. 

I mean it, like, go North on La Cienega, take a left on Sunset and go up three blocks.

 Who knew furniture could tell you where to go?


Created from Baltic Birch plywood, the panels that provide the foundation for the studio's collection of tables, chests, wall-mounted cubes and modular utility carts ($249 - $1199) feature designs imprinted with ink that permeates the wood and a clear top coat finish.


 What makes these pieces special is the ability to customize the cabinetry by choosing from an array of panel art (like maps or trikes), or requesting something more personalized. The possibilities are endless, and unique.

Although some pieces ship (almost completely) assembled, much of the modular furniture is packed flat for easy shipping and assembly.

Think Ikea to the highest power, cubed.

I know, you thought there wouldn't be math...


All photography courtesy of Drift Studio.

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