Monday, June 25, 2012

The Room to Live In: Company C Envy and Furniture Dreams

                           (My future room, now)                       (My future my Company C dreams!)
The centerpiece of my new house is the first room on the right as you walk in. I struggle with what to call it. "Living Room" implies formality while "Family Room" leads to images of Legeos bounding out of containers.  And both names demand a TV.  But this room will be TV free.  Here, my sons and I will cuddle on the couch and read books. We will play endless games of Othello, Sorry, Uno, Scrabble. It is where I will read, grade papers, design menus, write, pay bills, sit with friends and a glass of wine and appetizers. It is THE room. It is our center.
(I took these photos at Company C in Portland, Maine)
It has such potential: a long space fixed on one end with a fireplace and built in bookcases.  On one wall are a huge sheet of windows looking out front. I would love to make the fireplace look as cool as this: (photo from
There are so many fabulous things to do with the fireplace. I am going to start by kicking out the fireplace screen. Then I may paint the top half white, put in a mirror, or just paint the mantle. Or I may extend bookcases across the top. Check out the great thick shelves in this photo. They add so much to the room.
I may get rid of the 50s style curvy tops, have toyed with painting the back of the bookshelves to match a future rug and will get new hardware on on the shelves at the base.

The rest of the room is one clean set just calling out for furniture.  There is just one small problem. I have NO furniture for it.  I envision a couch, perhaps a sectional and a few chairs. I want a table that has drawers to hide clutter. I still am trying to figure out how to use the far end of the room. Perhaps a cocktail table/mini bar?

I want to start, though, with color. And my hope is to build my room around a rug. So much of the rest of the house will be water colors: soothing blues and greens.   For this room I am thinking warmth: reds, golds, oranges, yellows.

What I want most of all would be to decorate my whole living room around one of these spectacular rugs from Company C. Each rug is handmade and inspired often by nature: beaches, rocks, mountains.  Angela Adams (also started in Portland, Maine), also has rugs that are works of art.  These modern styles are not only glorious in their shapes and colors, but oh, the textures. Think mixed media on the floor. I could never choose between either company...if I could afford one of their rugs! Alas, they are just not in this single mom's budget. So, instead, they will inspire me!

I would be happy to match the rugs with any of the lamps from Inhabit. There beautiful hand printed cloth covered pendent lamps come in shades of teal, aqua, oranges and reds.

As for furniture, I have yet to see more gorgeous pieces than those from Salem Board and Beam. The owner reclaims boards from old barns. I love his maple coffee tables.  Having just been to SOWA, there are clearly so many other great artisans making furniture with wood. I love this table as an end board. 

I don't have any couches...or at least any under 15 years old. I am just starting to explore the crazy world of seat cushions, chaises and sectionals. And reality means that I will be lucky if I can get one, or at least one that is higher end than Ikea.  In the meantime, I keep checking out this Apartment Therapy blogpost on deliciously comfy couches.

You can see more of my decorating favorites for my living room here on my Pinterest site.  Or, of course, share your own ideas!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Wellesley Farmer's Market

I have only made it once so far, but on Thursday afternoons, tucked behind the Wellesley Whole Foods is the Wellesley Farmer's Market. I got some fresh eggs from the Dover Farm and also snagged gorgeous crisp radishes, snap peas and other beautiful greens. Keep your eyes open for it. And don't miss the eggs.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Strawberries, A Secret Stand, and a Sudbury Park: Our Father's Day

If you are lucky enough to get there soon, you too may be able to pick glorious ruby red strawberries at Verrill Farm.  (We picked 6.3 pounds. Pretty impressive for 4 small hands. And only $20!)
Head inside the farm stand and stock up on fresh rhubarb, the sweetest peas possible, vibrant icicle radishes, and their always tender mixed berry scones.
If you are one of the lucky few, go down the street, peer into Pete and Jen's Backyard Bird's tiny farm stand and choose from tiny pullet eggs or larger ones. We also snagged some fresh wheat berries but saved cheese and homemade bacon for our next visit.
Then, if you are a big kid or have some of your own, finish up with a picnic at the wonderful playground at the Peter Noyes Elementary School in Sudbury. Go home. Eat more the eggs on top of sautéed radish greens. Nap. Make a salad. Make biscuits. Eat more strawberries.  This was our Father's Day. It was pretty perfect.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Inspired by Trees at SOWA

Tables by MBT Woodworking
I went for the pottery and left inspired by wood. I hadn't been to the SOWA Market in over a year. I was searching for ceramic bowls to replace my favorite brought back from the Velvet Antler Studio in Yoho National Park and recently broken in carelessness.  But I was struck by the work of four artists in particular, all crafting beauty out of trees.  You can see the artistry of Michael B. Tobin of MBT Woodworking in the images above. He crafts furniture from gorgeous woods like cherry, oak, maple and walnut. My favorites: the beautiful end sofa tables. My hope? To save enough to be able to have him build me a coffee table from curly maple and walnut.
Brian Schopfer of Shopfer Woodworking uses old wine barrels to make beautiful narrow mirrors which are perfect for fitting in small spaces. He also makes gorgeous lamps and beautiful bookshelves that retain the texture of trees.
Nathan William Murrell (whose business card reads, "maker of things"), runs Hijacked Ceramics.  He layers Japanese papers on wood and places carved wood on top.  These artistic 3 dimensional multimedia pieces would be lovely on any wall.
Bill Phaneuf of Frames with a History had just one mirror surrounded by turn of the century stained glass.  This would be most glorious in front of a large window. I hesitated only because of some lead paint on the edges. I know I could remove it or paint over it...but I am not sure I am talented enough at this type of work...If anyone has a sense of how to do it, let me know.

At times I am overwhelmed by how to furnish and decorate my new house on such a slim budget. But these artists inspired me by their use of materials and what they could create.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Pancakes, sure. Home Renovation? Not so much!

It isn't a fixer-upper-handywoman's special, thank goodness. My hands are full enough trying to make sure my sons arrive at their schools on time with all the proper foot ware each day!   We are moving into our first home in July.  And while it is in relatively good "move in" condition, the house is still calling out for love, care, a good paint job, a desperate need for furniture and, some day, a kitchen renovation.  I am trying to find a balance between my dream decorating ideas and the inevitable financial reality.  On the upside, there is the exciting challenge of making due with what I can salvage from friends, recycling stores and even the town dump.  And there is something I am growing to love about finding the patience to decorate and create a home in stages.  After all, it is truly going to be the first home I have ever had and it is the one I hope we are in for the next 20 years.  Truth be told, my only really DIY project started as a tall kitchen stool...and ended as a lopsided 3 inch piece of wood.  So, check back in to see if my ambition dissolves into store buying frenzy! No matter, what, you can anticiapte upcoming posts as I jump into the world of decorating-renovating-DIY-home blogs, stores, and projects.  And share any success stores (or words of warning!) Let the painting begin!  In the meantime, feel free to jump on my Pinterest bandwagon by clicking on the badge at the right.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Strip T's In Watertown-Watch Out NYC!

Remember when you used to have go to to NYC to get really original food that didn't break the bank?  I am talking about dishes that reflect a chef's unwillingness to stick with one genre, but to mix up the best of Japanese-Thai-Korean-Chinese flavors with New England seasonality.
When you imagine Strip T's in Watertown, think Momofuku meets Craigie on a former diner of sorts.  Yup-just sitting in Watertown is a gem that you may want to catch now before the lines make it too hard to get in.  Strip T's, a restaurant since 1986, was taken over by son Tim Maslow last April.  The fact that Chef Maslow trained at the French Culinary Institute and worked at Momofuku may be the keys to getting best of NYC in MA.
Chef Maslow is thinking fresh. As we drove up he was getting a shipment of bass and tautog caught two hours prior by Ann, harpooning off of a kayak.  In fact, it was too fresh to be served moments later as the restaurant opened.  The restaurant takes some reservations, but for those walking in, 5:00 may be it. In fact by the time we left, at 6:30, the wait was 1 1/2 hours.

I began with one of my hand's down, favorite, all time bites. It was an oyster from Wallace Bay, Nova Scotia. But wait.  The oyster was topped with two seemingly contradictory tastes: pickled rhubarb and knotweed, a Japanese herb (and considered by some as a weed!)  Just go there. Try it. Tell me what you think.
Our first salad of the night consisted of grilled romaine, piled with tender oxtail (similar to short rib), a poached egg hand-delivered from Cepage Farm by Jonathan the general manager.  The grilled romaine was just smoky and crispy enough to scoop up the creaminess of the egg.
We would have returned to Strip T's for the cauliflower alone. It was dipped in hot oil making it  crispy and brown and sat on a golden puree of spicy chorizo. It was topped with cotija cheese and sweet pickled onions.
The japanese eggplant banh mi could easily have been a main dish. It consisted of a chunk of french bread, filled with pillowy fried tofu, pickled daikon and carrots, fresh cilantro and tender eggplant.  It was good, but it didn't knock us to the ground like the cauliflower.
The native squid salad was the unexpected star of the night.  The tender grilled squid were topped with heavenly house cured, thick chunky bacon.  Fresh mint, pine nuts and sweet gently pickled cherry peppers somehow created a dish that brought out the glory of each component. I would return for this dish and for that bacon alone!
I loved the idea of the grilled sweet peas. And in fact, they are the one dish that I may try (and be able) to replicate at home. They grilled the little guys until they were black and then topped with sea salt and the warm aleppo pepper.  I suspect this would work just as well with edamame.
We struggled to choose between main dish. I had read about the buttermilk fried chicken that is served with waffle.  A glimpse at the hamburgers that came with glorious skin-on the edges French fries were clearly the choice of the kids at adjoining tables.  But our lovely server, Kerry, suggested we go for the seasonal speciality: fried soft-shell crab. She sold us on the curry broth that was poured at the table.  The dish was good. It was.  I loved the combination of the chunks of celery root and Japanese yam that nestled in the bottom.  But the rest of the dishes had spoiled us, persuading us that EVERY. SINGLE. DISH would be awe-inspiring.  We still scooped up the broth and nibbled at the crab.  Next time I may actually stick with the appetizers or try another of the main dishes.

We were so full we had to pass on the desserts as well. That begin said both Jonathan and Kerry sung the praises of the pots o' cream. Typically my eyes glaze as I see chocolate pots o' cream (panna cotta, pudding, etc.)  but they pointed out that this one was made with, get this: shitake mushrooms! Perhaps that isn't everyone's idea of dessert, but it is definitely tapped my curiosity factor. Just one more example of the playfulness at Strip T's.

Strip T's, 93 School Street, Watertown, MA

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Our Garden Returns: In Pots. And More Pots. And More...

We are moving. We are buying a HOUSE!  We are going to have a GARDEN! No, wait: a farm! An orchard!  Okay, I am exaggerating (or being wildly optimistic). But the key point is that because we are moving mid-summer, I knew it would be a disaster to start a garden at our current apartment and then pull it out for the move.  So, with little research, we decided to a) start from seeds and b) plant in pots.  We relied heavily on advice from on our fabulous friends now living in Brooklyn, advice from Amy Pennington on the Food 52 blog and the educational (and patient!) staff at Russell's Garden Center in Wayland.  We planted the seeds and to our greatest delight, those little things grew!  In those early cool days of spring (remember those?) my sons checked the weather reports to see if the night temperature was going to drop below 50.  Then I dragged the pots in. And out! Next year: I am definitely building cold frames to skip this step.  That being said, I still can't believe how much more rewarding (and cheaper) it is to start from seeds.  Then, we slowly transferred our arugula, carrots, peas, mesclun, lacinto kale, green beans and pole beans to pots.  (The folks at Russells though the beginning of May was too late to start from seed for the tomatoes, cucumbers and strawberries so we used seedlings.)  They joined last year's blueberry bush and our containers of herbs.  Between the days of rain and the days of heat, I am still in a wide learning curve. For example, I just read about putting gravel at the bottom of pots to help with drainage (which may explain why they are soaked!).  Refusing to spend any more money on my plants, I am trying to use our tomato cages and poles from previous years on the pots.  I am continuing to insist on a no-maintenance and organic garden our plant babies are just hanging out in Coast Of Maine Organic Potting Soil.  My main problem so far (besides the endless rain) is that I continue to underestimate the amount of soil, number of pots and size of the pots I will need for my burgeoning cucumbers and tomatoes.  And because this is a one year experiment, I am hesitant to spend too much money on the pots.  Plastic is cheaper, but those glorious cobalt glazed pots would be far more beautiful on the new deck.  So the good news: I will have about 30 plastic pots to keep my movers busy and to use in DIY-creative ways by next summer or to donate to one reader.  Until then, let the sun shine in.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Yoga at Home: Yoga On-Line, Podcasts and Video Casts

I get that nothing can replace the joy of a fabulous yoga class at a studio.  And, in fact, the more I take classes at Down Under, the more hesitant I become to practice at home. I love being among a community of learners. And, most of all, I love having the individual support and guidance of a stellar teacher.

But between the travel time, the cost and the challenge of being a single mom trying to go to a studio, it is often far easier to make space for my practice at home. I am still trying to find the best sites, podcasts, DVDs to do yoga at home, so feel free to comment and add yours.

Kripalu: Could I sing their praises any more? Why, yes, I can!  You can stream videos directly from their website. While Kripalu only offers 7 videos, each one is a full yoga class with a talented teacher.  They also cover a range of challenges, from restorative to vigorous. These are also a great way to learn more about the Kripalu yoga style.

Yoga Journal has a strong set of videos. Granted some are dated, and I have yet to see the list updated. However, the yoga classes range from 5 minutes to 60 minutes, making it easy to fit a home practice into any schedule.  I am a big fan of Jason Crandall's classes. In fact, I have these videos on my I-Phone so I can practice anywhere.

I just discovered Do Yoga With Me which has a range of free videos to stream.  Obviously free videos from a range of studios means not knowing about quality. But the price makes it easy to try!  I have been impressed with the pilates offerings.

Often great yoga teachers have a video or two that you can stream. I have used John McConnell,

In theory, My Yoga On-Line is pretty compelling. For a set price, you get unlimited streaming of yoga classes.  But I have yet to sign up, as I am already paying for a monthly Netflix streaming option, as well as for all my yoga classes at local studios...If anyone has tried it, please share.

Netflix streaming offers a few classes, but none of compelled me to do some Downward dog poses...

I have yet to find an App that impresses me enough that I do it regularly. Most apps only have enough space to be a series of static poses, rather than a flowing workout.  Nor do I find podcasts useful without visuals to check my footing. But feel free to share any great ones, too.