In which the author tells you how to run your life -- or at least how to make the most of the fun parts of it.

For instance, inside these pages you will learn how to weather a mortar attack in good spirits; how to avoid booking yourself on the Internet into a bed and breakfast full of twee quilts and dusty tchotkes; and how to plan a dinner party that will stun your guests with deliciousness and style and not destroy your will to live with the amount of work you have to do to pull it off.

These are things I know firsthand, and things people who know me often ask me about (though I usually just book them into bed and breakfasts myself -- identifying ruffled death traps is an acquired skill). I am almost always right about everything (food, style and travel-related, anyway, and often many other things) and if everyone would just do as I say, dinner would taste better, cupcakes would not be dry, your parties would be more fun (for you), and mortar attacks... well, they always suck. I can't do anything about them.

*except laundry. I can't manage my own laundry, much less yours.

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Friday, December 2, 2011

Hot Young Farmers! And I am beside myself with joy!

This cover and the 10 pages inside was the culmination of months of work. It was an awesome;y fun shoot: 29 farmers, 6 toddlers, several dogs, a stray cat who has adopted Mount Vernon farms as home, christmas decorations from Home Goods, fantastic chili, corn bread, and whiskey in the barn, a hari dresser and a make up artists, and a makeshit dressing room (sheets hung from barn rafters...). The whole story just makes you happy to be alive. I think if you click on the photo it will open in your screen. Available on newstands next week! Tell your friends!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

How do I make Steve buy a tiny house on wheels?

OK, so Steve has been given acreage in the woods where he grew up, with access to the gorgeous, icy mountain stream that runs through it. It's void of all infrastructure, and he's thinking about what kind of house to build, on the cheap. We've had many discussions. The land is heavily wooded, and I favor an Ewok type village of raised paths -- docks really -- between the trees, with little structures perched here and there. Hither and yon, if you will. They would all lead to a large communal deck. This kind of plan can grow over time, and minimizes the effect on the trees and landscape, and, not incidentally, is based on a public bathroom on the roadside in southern New Mexico. So there's that.

Anyway, clicking around I found THIS marvelous structure -- ready to go and just $20,000. It's about 7 X 13, is on a trailer, and is already plumbed and electrified. I LOVE it. There is a sleeping loft above, a generous desk below, a kitchenette and a bathroom with a shower. What could be better? tow it inot the woods and structure 1 is done. Done done done. Observe:

Leave it to me to only download pics of the kitchen. sigh. Pink fridge!

There's a remarkable amount of light thanks to big windows, a skylight, and lofted ceilings. I refuse to give you a link because I want HIM to buy it. And furnish it thusly: everything is collapsible, moveable. The teak chairs can be dining chairs inside in inclement weather, but can live outside on the communal deck most all the other times.

Also, how about that sauna? he loves saunas. $7,000.

I rule. You're welcome, Steve.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

How to make your house smell like green heaven:

You know what the best smell in the world is? No, not Pumpkin Spice Latte or whatever it is you people drink.

It's the smell of the green leaves on a tomato plant. It's so clean and fresh, the very essence of what green should smell like. I think its the smell of chlorophyl. It's just... perfect. Wonderful. Smells nothing like a tomato itself... And its only something you can enjoy if you bother to grow tomatoes yourself.

Remarkably, Jonathan Adler understands this, and has somehow captured the scent in his (ahem) $38 candle. Worth every penny. Now if I only had the pennies.

I am normally a sucker for all things grapefruit -- but this. Heavy sigh. I'd roll in it if I could.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I Loves Me Some Hooks

I think this might be what Martha calls a Good Thing?

I have issues with coats and jackets (too many of them and I love them all and my coat closet is beyond full of coats) and shoes (hate to wear them) and bags (several, hate to throw them out, usually hanging over my banister).

So this is my answer! a few hooks on the stairway... the entry to the house is the stairwell just below. It's where I kick everything off (shoes, coats, bags). One of the hooks is for my keys, one for bags (gym bag, work purse, casual purse), and the other is for the jacket of the day. Except there are at least 3 jackets on each hook currently. It's a problem. But hooray! a place to hang shizzle up! I feel very proud. Only took 2 minutes per hook and I think it looks cool. Shippy. As in a ship captain might like it.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

How to Make New Friends

One of the pleasures of being a journalist is you have the absolute imperative to talk to people. Don't and you'll be out a job. And it's quite easy when you have a deadline... you have a snese of urgency that allows you to overcome any sense of shyness.
So talking to strangers not a problem for me.

Separately, I've always been very interested about how adults make friends outside of work or other organized activities. Massive studying has ensued, mostly by asking people how they may friends outside of work.

Further separately, I'm interested in barflies -- people who hang out at bars alone and chat up strangers and bartenders. What do they say? I know some of these people, so I've asked them.

Here's what I've come up with. It's kind of stupid. But it works.


It helps if it's said in kind of a singsong voice, not like a scary aggressive hello.

You say hello. Not hi -- hi is overly familiar, assertive, seems to expect something. Simiarly, hey is offputting too -- it can precede either hey, how are you, or hey I was sitting there. You don't know where it's going.

Hello is polite, and funnily formal, and necessitates nothing more than a hello back. But because of that, you often get a lot more back than just hello -- you get interest, an ear, a potential new friend... a person who likes that you have acknowledged them, and done so in a friendly way, and not overly familiarly. Hello checks so many wonderful boxes.

Most people are desperate to be talked to, and are usually too shy to reach out themselves, and are so consumed with how they are being perceived etc. So dont worry about how you will be perceived yourself -- because they are so busy worrying about themselves, they dont have time to judge you.


Try it, report back. I am making my friend Erin my guinea pig. She has to say hello to five people (of the male persuasion, in her case) next week.

How to Be Fancy in the Bathroom

Silverplate, bought for a song at garage sales. Tarnish, schmarnish.

My toothbrushes are standing up in mini salt and pepper shakers, without the tops and my tampons are hiding in that gorgeous flasky-shaped piece.

With God as my witness I will never be not fancy again!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Apparently you do wanna see my kitchen. Here are some more shots, per Brad's request. Taken with a Blackberry...sorry about quality.

The much talked about sink.

The baking center.

I keep my bowls in drawers -- everything goes in drawers. Much easier to find and take sutff out than rooting around in cabinets.

My cooks tools are in an old tool&dye holder which keeps them straight. Notice the crumbs on the floor. The cleaning team comes next week.
The cook top, which I prefer to a range (though if you gave me a Viking I would happily accept.) That allows you to cook things undisturbed on the stovetop while your Thanksgiving turkey is tended by someone else.

My pantry. It's about 7 feet wide, 2 feet deep. Makes good use of mason jars. Vastly more space than 8 feet running of cabinets would be.

This I particularly like. It's an old coat closet. Most of it was used for the wall oven and microwave on the opposite side but about 6 inches was left. So I had shelves installed, painted it Bronze Gold, and use it to store my glasses. I love it. It feels like I'm walking into Williams Sonoma everytime I have wine. Which is a lot. I used to work at Williams Sonoma and ironically I got repeatedly scolded for not dusting the glassware well enough. Can you tell my favorite libation is champagne? I think I have 22 champagne glasses.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

How to Stock a Dinner Pantry

OK, we did the baking pantry, so you can make pretty much any dessert or baked good you can imagine without having to run out to the store provided you've got butter and eggs. So now we're onto a dinner pantry... the things to have on hand so when you just don't feel like going to the store you've got something delicious to eat, and when you bring home fresh ingredients you have myriad options for how to prepare them.

Most dinners of course require something fresh -- I rarely make garlic and oil pasta without a fresh lemon to zest over the top -- but you'll be able to feed yourself directly from the pantry in a pinch: black beans and rice, risotto, lentil soup, pasta with a great sauce of oil and garlic or a quick tomato sauce, chick pea stew

I will break this up into categories that make sense to me:

Pasta/Italian Dinners
olive oil (extra virgin, cold pressed)
hot pepper flakes
pastas in all shapes and sizes
jarred sun dried tomatoes in olive oil
jarred pesto, unless you make your own and freeze it in the summer.
Sundried tomato paste in tubes (or tomato paste in tubes.) (or cans)
San Marzano plum tomatoes in cans
arborio rice
stock (beef, chicken veggie, veal)
bread crumbs
fennel seed
dried coriander
coarse salt
pepper and grinder
truffle oil for finishing a risotto
bay leaves
real parmesan cheese

Asian Dinners
fish sauce (mixed with lime juice, brown sugar and fresh grated ginger, fantastic dressing for noodles)
cocnut milk
soy sauce
toasted sesame oil
sake (with brown sugar, white miso and mirin, an unbelievable marinade for sable or chilean sea bass,which you shouldnt buy but you do, oh well. me too)
bean thread noodles (fantastic in the fish sauce sauce mentioned above, with or without fresh julienned veggies, scallions and cilantro and mint)
udon or ramen noodles (easy soup with stock and a few veggies and aromatics)
black vinegar (perfect on its own as a dipping suace for dumplings)
spring roll wrappers (you never know when the desire will hit)
jasmine rice
fresh ginger (keep it in the freezer)

Mexican sort of

black beans (canned or dry)
basmati rice
white beans (canned or dry)
dried chiles -- guajillo, japon, ancho
canned chipotles
canned tomatillos
corn tortillas (fresh)
tortilla chips
salsa of some sort
chili powder
coarse salt

garbanzo beans (chick peas).. with tomatoes and onions and saffron and garlic, an excellent stew
tahini (right there you have hummus)
lentils (green de Puy)(for soup or cold or room temp salad in a vinaigrette)
walnut oil
canola for making popcorn
popcorn kernals (easy to make, and easy to make kettle corn or caramel corn when you need something sweet in a hurry)
smoked paprika
rosemary (fresh is better. grow it on your window sill)
curry powder (or your own mix of garam masala)

nuts: walnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds
dairy: sour cream, heavy cream, greek yogurt
meats: as you wish to keep in the freezer, but I like grass-fed beef flat iron steaks -- they defrost quickly -- frozen line caught wild salmon and tuna, pastured chickens (whole for roasting, and parts. chicken breasts are easy but we eat way way too many of them), grass-fed hamburger (grassfed is better for you, for the environment, and certainly for the cow).

One of my easiest dinners is a salmon filet, covered in coconut milk with a minced jalapeno and a grated knob of ginger, and a good sprinkling of salt. You bake it till the salmon is done -- 10 or 15 minutes at 375 or so -- and serve with rice and haricots verts. The vaguely indian sauce (I learned it from the wife of the Indian press attache in DC) is great on the rice and beans too...

Wanna see my kitchen?

Interesting things to note:

Because I am tall I had my terrible very bad awful human builder lay down 4 X 4s on the floor and then install my Kraftmade cabinets, which I like much more than the builder. I got them delivered unfinished so I could stain them myself. I hate hate hate the shiny plastic finish on cabinets. Why buy wood then cover it in plastic? My house is funky and old, and new cabinets would look totally out of place. So I stained them and gave them a beeswax finish.

The kick plates are extra tall because of the 4X4s, so I put mirrors on them. Its awesome though my cats go crazy. They bounce a lot of light around and they make the cabinets look like standing pieces of furniture. I highly recommend this treatment of your kickplates.

I used pieces so of my wall studs (that I removed to make a doorway) ... 150 years old if they are a day -- to make "legs" for the cabinets.

My dad is the tile and marble king of Florida, so I got to cut my granite counters myself. The ragged edge you see as a backsplash were the trimmings from the original slab. The sink was a total triumph: I designed a granite apron front sink and my dad built it. And then drove the whole mess (with my bro) up to DC from Florida (16 hours) with everything in a van. The sink fit to within 1/16th of an inch (we just shaved the wood base cabinet a bit. The install took 12 hours. I f eel like I've told this story on this blog before...

I know I've told you I hate upper cabinets. They look like buckteeth and I believe I've shared when the cabinets in the law office I was working in as in-house chef pulled from the wall and fell on me on my first day of work. So. No upper cabinets for me. I have a large pantry -- 2 X 8 - in the hallway next door. Not pictured are my fridge (SubZero. I grew up with them, and everything else just doesn't feel like a real fridge to me) and my microwave and wall oven (Kitchen aid). The fridge is next to the pantry.

Anyway, that's my kitchen. It functions pretty well for being 10 X 10.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Jeanette's Old English Moroccan Safari Basement with Mexico in there too, somewhere.

My friend Jeannette has just had her basement redone (during a hurricane and flood, which is fun). Dug out the foundation, reinforced the underpinnings (good thing because the earthquake would have been very interesting otherwise), added a bathroom -- the works.

The contractor now is trying to convince her NOT to paint the cabinets (which are made of furniture grade plywood). I oppose on all fronts. Its going to be the millennial version of that horrible 70s paneling in the basement. However, contractor promises to paint it over if she doesn't' like it stained. I will do my damnedest to make her not like it because what kind of life runner would I be if I let people decorate willy nilly without a thought to the final product?

Not a very good one.

So I spent an hour or so putting together a mosaic of furniture choices for her. The Lazy Boyz are a must, apparently -- bad backs all around. The couch is 9 feet long and covered in velvet. My couch is velvet and so far its resisting stains pretty well.

The room is painted a buttery yellow.

So: two leather LazyBoyz in a reasonable design -- she originally wanted the basement entirely paneled with bookshelves and books, and to be a library, and I think these recall that look. Something she can snuggle into with a cup of tea. There is a wet bar; I want 18 inches of Moroccan tile as a back splash (no wee back splash. let them make a statement), with a faux animal head above it. there would be a shelf above the tile -- hard against it, no gaps -- for blue hand blown glassware (the kind they sell in Tijuana). The niche above the tile would be painted -- either green or gold - something drawn from the tiles, and something that will make the head pop.

She really wants something zebra, so some pillows I think. Maybe a zebra rug from west elm across the room under the game table. More on that in a second.

On the floor, two 5X8 rugs (so 10 X 8) from West Elm.

Two mismatched blue poufs to bring the blue from the tile into the room and get out of the earth tones for a second - additional seating, or to put feet up on. Some cocktail tables here and there -- I like the rough-hewn wood one. One or two rush ottomans -- these are 24 inches diameter and -16 inches high. They are on wheels which is important because there is going to be yoga done. The coffee table needs to be easy to move.

The glass lamps are great looking, tie into the Mexican glasses over the bar, and go with anything, anywhere.

Across the room from the tv area will be a table for games and puzzles. It needs a strong downlight and this Moroccan silver one is AWESOME. Its about 18 inches I think -- so a great size.

A good round oak table -- antique and sturdy, bringing us back to the English library for a second.

Sparkle and light in the form of Mexican tin mirrors -- a bunch of them , maybe over the couch. Clustered, wherever they are -- not spaced out. They need to be clustered.

She needs a huge photograph -- something modern and wonderful -- maybe over the couch too. (Its a big couch). Something has to break up all this Out of Africa thing and bring it into 2012.

Finally a big tin bucket for newspapers and magazines... a receptacle.

I did a slightly altered second mosaic -- new rugs (West Elm and Dash and Albert) to take in some of the colors she likes (golds and orange), a new sided table-- more leggy and airy, and a new zebra element - a long bench.
If you're interested in this stuff I can tell you where to find it. Hit me in comments.

And if you want me to do a mosaic for you, let me know! Tell me the function of the room, the size, and the style you think you want -- and send me a link to a photo of a room you love and you want to inspire your room. It keeps my occupied while I am waiting for my art director to finish his work.

Friday, September 9, 2011

How to Stock a Pantry: the first in a series

Between the earthquake, hurricane, tornadoes, and epic flooding, clearly end times are upon us. This is a good time to stock the pantry, because when zombie hordes are in the streets, you won't want to have to run outside for baking powder.

It is my strong opinion you should buy lots of mason jars with tight fitting lids. They look nice, and they keep out pantry moths which are a living HELL.

So first: How to Stock a Pantry for Baking

Here's what you need. If you have all this in the pantry, plus some butter and eggs and maybe milk and heavy cream, there's almost nothing you won't be able to make at a drop of a hat (or zombie attack to distract you lululu).

  • flour (large bags, in a large crock with a tight fitting lid that is big enough to dip your baking cup into)

  • whole wheat flour

  • baking powder

  • baking soda

  • yeast (envelopes are convenient. you can get a jar to keep in the fridge)

  • corn starch (you can use this to make your flour into cake flour. Google it)

  • sugar (extra points if you get organic cane)

  • light brown sugar. dark too if you're felling fancy

  • powdered sugar

  • sanding sugar (the large crunchy kind, perfect for Naked Scones)

  • honey (for bread and granola bars)

  • corn syrup (for pecan pumpkin pie and spiced nuts)

  • molasses (NOT blackstrap)

  • salt (kosher or sea, fine grain)

  • salt (sea, large crystal)

  • cocoa powder (dutch process and the other kind, if you are particular. I don't really notice a difference)

  • good vanilla

  • vanilla beans (for fancy times)

  • almond extract

  • rose water (nice to have! and keeps for ages. ditto orange water)

  • baking chocolate squares -- a must for homemade brownies

  • oatmeal

  • dried cranberries

  • walnuts

  • pecans

  • sliced and or slivered almonds

  • oooh, almond meal

  • chocolate chips

  • raisins

  • currants

  • ginger

  • allspice

  • fresh nutmeg (ie, the nutmegs themselves and a grater)

  • cinnamon

  • cardamom

  • cream of tartar in case you make snickerdoodles, about the only possible use you could have for it. that and a souffle.

what am I missing?

next: a dinner pantry

A Few Random Notes

Remember BLT on a stick? My friend Laura H. made em for a party using thick-sliced bacon (no slabs to be found... I'm telling you people: Eastern Market. Don't make me say it again). SHe said it made her a hero. So now you guys go make it. Thanks for the pic laura!

And: lurkers please explain why, consistently, in the top 10 Google searches that lead you to this site, your search term is "Nate Berkus feet."

Nate Berus Feet. Nate Berkus Feet. Nate Berkus Feet.
(driving page views)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Neelish's New Pad : Decorating, part 1

So Neelish just moved back to DC from Afghanistan and has a new apartment to decorate and no idea wehre to begin. Enter... ME.

These are the parameters: mostly western light with great windows. Several pieces of Cuban art -- paintings mostly -- emphasis on red. A bedroom, living room, study. No furniture currently.

Red is hard to live with as a color but as an accent it's awesome sauce. I lurv red. So that is going to figure into the room. I'm recommending a warm gray for the walls, white trim. It's masculine and neutral and will be good with the red.

The study should be a deeper shade of the same gray.

I'm still dealing with the parameters on the bedroom -- he has a navy blue and sand silk chinese duvet that I havent seen or wrapped my head around yet. So we're just going to address the living room in this post.

Neelish doesnt have or want a TV. He wants to entertain, cook, have cocktails... he's in a happnin downtown neighborhood so is a potential first and last stop for nights on the town.

With that in mind, I found these pieces at Miss Pixies and Good Wood online -- not sure if they are still available, but are a good guideline to what he should consider. Masculine, with personality.

Every room needs a great mirror. Any of these would do, but I especially love the standing silver mirror in the back. The foxing -- the spots -- are awesome.

This floor pouf is excellent. Gray, to work with the walls, soft. Looks like an old timey medecine ball. Can be used as a foot rest or sat on or leaned against. Multifunctional, plus a great patina. Good Wood.

Everyone needs some instant relatives in the form of weird old paintings. I love this one. Good Wood.

Masculine objets: can be hung on a wall or balanced on a table. I like mixing up art -- not all paintings. And these industrial molds or whatever they are are cool and speak to action and industry. Very manly. Good Wood.

These are in a random order -- sorry. Here is a great bench -- either to cover with stacks of books against a wall or as a coffee table. Picks up the red in the painting. I want most everything else to be neutral. Miss Pixies.

This fabulous cart would be the most EXCELLENT bar/cocktail mizing station EVER. Miss Pixies.

I cannot resist white pleather, and this chair looks weirdly skeletal and great to me. A good side chair for a sofa. I'm suggesting something leather, from the Restoration Harware outlet in Leesburg.

You need cocktail tables for all those cocktails you'll be mixing up. These can flank a low sofa, or go next to the cool chairs.

These are the cool chairs. Miss Pixies. The mushroom color, the tubular 70sness -- masculine luxury. It's good to buy things in pairs -- not too many pairs. But you can never go wrong with a pair of great matching lamps, chairs, cocktail tables. Gives a room rhythm and serenity. Then you can do some really strong art and weird objets, and it all makes sense.

MEn need poker tables. This can also be used for dinner parties. Looks to be about 48 inches. You can fit 8 friends around it.

Now -- we just need lamps, a great rug, a couch, and some dining chairs. He'll be good to go.

Monday, August 29, 2011

How to Make the Most of Every Season

I have 2 related problems.

One, and this may be because I am a lefty -- we are visual organizers, apparently -- I can't remember to do a thing unless it's written right there in front of me.

Two, I devolve into panic as each season ends because I havent done all the things I intended to do and life is slipping away inexorably and soon I will be dead or dying and wondering why I didn't fit in one last swim at Beaver Dam before the weather turned and condo developers took over the site?

So when I went to my friend Heidi's house (a Victorian mansion in Oak Park, Illinois) I was delighted to see a piece of butcher paper tacked to the kitchen wall with all these very summer specific activities listed on it. She explained that at the onset of each season the family makes a list of all the things they want to do (and have to do: ie, read summer school books) before the next season begins. Whenever the kids are at a loss ("I'm bored!") or the family is wondering what to do with their weekend, the List is right there, ready and wiling to tell them.

So let's all do that! Tack up your butcher paper, get your pens out, and start writing.

Fall is fast approaching.

Here is my list, which I will shortly transfer to paper. (share yours in the comment section so I can crib from your list)

Go apple picking

make apple pies

carmelize the last of summer cherry tomatoes and freeze for sauce

slice and freeze peaches for pies

hike old rag mountain

help out at a winegrape harvest

clean my gutters

sweep my leaves

make carrot potato soup with dill and cheddar

make a chocolate cake and invite friends over on a saturcday afternoon for a walk and cake

go to the museums (they are free in DC, its awesome)

walk to brunch at the Tabard Inn

hike Old Rag mountain

go to the Brimfield flea market

make fires in the fireplace

make chili

paint my dining room chairs

knit a scarf for my niece

have an apple fritter party

make donuts

make cheese fondue

go to a corn maze (the last time I totally freaked out and ran for my life and sprained my ankle)

go to a pumpkin patch and pick a pumpkin

make one of them martha stewarty gorgeous pumpkins

do something scary at my house for halloween (or just hide inside with the lights out)

go to trapeze school

ride a horse out at Desert Rose winery

buy/make xmas presents in advance

deep clean every room

learn arabic (I keep saying that)

plant baby lettuce

spend the day in Baltimore

eat crabs before the weather turns

make popcorn

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A new favorite blog. OK blogs.

click on architecture. the rest of it is a little too inaccessible for me. But the tree houses! the prefabs! oh my word. observe:

and if you haven't discovered it, check out

The boy is a CHILD (a sophomore maybe at NYU) but is both brilliant and hilarious with impeccable taste and none of the terrible snobbiness that afflicts many design bloggers. He just is, and I love.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

How to Master Vinaigrette



Do not invite me over and serve an undressed salad and give me a choice of bottled dressings.

Bottled dressing is hideous. Overly acidic, full of weird emulsifiers (truly: do this. Pour a little bit of bottled dressing on your spoon. Place contents of spoon in your mouth. Hold it on your tongue. You will feel it first, rather than taste it -- it will feel thick. Then slowly you'll get a hit of acid -- probably citric acid. Then it will feel viscous again and you'll start to get the honey-mustard-oregano-Russian whatever it is you bought it for).


This is a waste of money and an insult to Ms. Life, not to mention green leaves everywhere.

Your delicious little leaves deserve the utterly minimal effort of a homemade vinaigrette, and they deserve to be dressed ahead of time, lightly. You wouldn't want your host putting you out in front of guests naked, would you? (Maybe you would. I don't know you.)

Nothing worse than tossing your own salad (stop it!). Individual salad bowls do not have the room to do it yourself at the table, so some leaves are covered and others are dry. Totally unacceptable.

If you are a remotely interested cook, and I mean remotely, you probably have everything you need on hand: It's three parts good olive oil to one part acid - vinegar or citrus, or a mix of the two. That's it.

Got it? pour three tablespoons of cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil in a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon acid -- balsamic vinegar is sweet, red wine vinegar less so, cider vinegar works on and on. OR squeeze in a lemon (not the whole thing, just a tablespoon, or maybe a hair less). Whip it together with a fork until its thick and cloudy (this is called emulsifying... the natural way). That's it. You're done. Less time than opening the fridge and plunking that nasty cold bottle on the table.

You can gussy it up with all sorts of stuff -- I usually add a touch of Dijon mustard (not regular mustard). You can grate in citrus zest. The juice of a tomato. A wee bit of honey. A tiny bit of coarse salt. Lime juice (fresh only). You can put in grated ginger and replace a little of the oil with sesame oil (then add in just a splash of soy sauce). Minced garlic. Minced shallots or scallions. But let them all float in a sea of three to one, olive-oil to-acid.

Put this mixture in the bottom of a salad bowl. Not too much -- too much and your salad is limp and wilted and you don't taste any green. Put your cleaned greens on top (I am partial to JUST greens -- a mix of baby lettuces, especially arugula, maybe purslane, snipped herbs -- basil, tarragon, dill -- edible flowers for gorgeousness (try the lavendery basil flowers you snip off your herb garden). Toss gently, scooping up from the bottom. As the leaves touch the bottom of the bowl they will get a nice touch of dressing.

If the salad is too dry, add a bit more, toss gently.

BANISH THE BOTTLE. In this case, it shall be I who thank you.

("You're welcome, Pam!")

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

OK, I know I promised Special Face But I have a Half-Assed Craft to Share: Industrial Swing Arm Lamp




Ta Daa!

The Problem: My marvelous bed (handcrafted not by me of 4 industrial pallets from the 1920s with a canvas dropcloth canopy) is under the eaves of my roof. We like to read in bed. Affixing sconces to the limited headboard area not an option... you would smash into them at night. Bedside lamp is on my side and I usually close my book first, so then it would shine in my eyes.

The Solution: In Los Angeles a couple of years ago I absolutely fell in love with these Jean Prouve swing arm lamps. There is an excellent DIY tutorial online to make a reasonable facsimile but I am too lazy for it. It requires a blow torch and bendy tools and steel. Fergit it.

I like things easy, like Tonka Toys and Lincoln Logs.

I also like things cheap.
So I hied on over to Fragers Hardware, most fabulous hardware store in the US, and started piecing together copper pipes, elbow joints etc. Then a nice lady found me a lamp kit and I searched and searched and finally found a silver-tipped lightbulb -- necessary so as to avoid blinding.

Here's how you make it!


-One length of copper pipe. You can use the other kind but I think its heavier .. they call it white or electrical pipe. It's silver.

-One pipe cutter. It's like a little ring thing that works like a pasta machine, sort of. You afix it to the pipe where you want to cut it, then turn 1/4 turn, then clamp it down a little harder. Repeat all the way around the pipe a few times until the pipe is cut.

- 2 elbow joints in the appropriate width for your pipe (mine is 1/4 inch I think)

- a pendant lamp kit (no harp)

-2 c-shaped copper things that you screw down to hold the lamp to the wall.

-4 screws

- a drill

-a screwdriver

-a sliver-tipped lightbulb

- all your moxie because you are about to be a light-making bad ass.



1. Cut your pipe into 2 pieces. One will be the swing arm, one will be the "base." Measure how far you want the lamp to swing (3 feet? 4 feet?) and proceed thusly.

2. Thread your lamp cord through the base piece of pipe, letting the plug swing free like a little bird.

3. Affix one elbow joint to the top end of the base pipe. Pull the cord through.

4. Now screw the swing arm into the other end of the elbow joint. and feed the lamp cord into it. You'll have a floppy L shaped bit of pipe.

5. Continue feeding the lamp cord through the pipe. When it comes out the other end, put on another elbow joint and pull the cord through.

6. Follow the directions for threading your lamp socket. It's easy. But you'll need a screwdriver.

7. Now you'll have a finished lamp socket hanging out of your copper pipe. You're almost there!

8. Decide where you want the lamp to go on the wall. Put the lamp down. Hold up one of the C-shaped thingies on the wall where you want it to be and mark the spots where the screws will go.

9. Drill holes with a bit more narrow than your screw. Hold the lamp in place and place C shaped thingy over the holes. Now screw in srews with your screw driver. This works best if you've found a wall stud. If not, buy anchors for your screws and follwo the direction on the package. It will probably involve a hammer.

10. Repeat with second c-shaped thingy. Lamp should now be firmly affixed to wall. It will rotate on the elbow connected to the base (you'll want to make sure those have a snug fit).

11. Read in bed, and swing that bad lamp outta your way when its time to sleep.


lamp in action over bed.

How it attaches to the wall. See? C-shaped thingies.

Total Cost: $30.00

You're welcome.

(yay I'm back!)

(I got the copper to tarnish/go verdigris with a mix of salt and vinegar. didn't take but an hour or so to turn green)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

How not to Play Blackbird. Also, My Mysterious boyfriend.

If you've ever wondered if I can play Blackbird poorly, here's the proof.
Also, I've been very busy with the magazine and my Insanity workouts (ha, not really). So. Hello again! Next up: How to Look Good in Pictures. It's called "Special Face."

Friday, May 27, 2011

Ciara and Jason's wedding: My pitch for Black and white stripe and sunflowers and black-eyed susan and then I will forever hold my peace

The stripe pictures come courtesy of my brand new favorite wedding blog:

seriously look at this:

I should also state unequivoally here that I don't like round tables at weddings because everyone has their backs to everyone else -- each table is self contained. I like me a long table or two. Nothing more wonderful than seeing people sitting like that eating with wine glinting in their glasses. With outdoor chandaliers overhead.


How to Make the Other Best Appetizer Ever and: Crowd-Sourcing a Wedding

Behold the perfect picnic appetizer!

BLT on a Stick!

But let's back up. My friend Jason proposed to my friend Ciara last week in a veeery Washington (I mean this in a good way) manner: through pulling some personal strings, he arranged an exceedingly rare tour of the Capitol dome. That is, up in the dome, next to the frescoes and the windows, and on the balconies around the dome... places most people don't get to see, unless they are a senator. Gorgeous views, rarefied air, and a romantic, on the knee, will you spend the rest of my life with me thing.

The Affianced

Ciara, thank heaven, said yes. This came at the end of a long week of planning. First there was the tour to arrange, then the ring to procure, and then, of course, a surprise (for her) cocktail picnic in the summer house on the grounds of the Capitol for a handful of close friends. That, as you might imagine, was my department. I have long dreamed of being an elf like this -- setting up something gorgeous and wonderful and public. So public that this happened in the middle of it:

A posse of Segway riders came trundling through, lululu. Very strange. Don't you like my dress? it has polka dots. Pay no attention to the foot wear. I was busy and carrying A LOT.

But back to the important part: the best hors d'oeuvre ever: BLT on a stick

1. Get yourself some slab bacon. This is not necessarily an easy task. Whole Foods didn't have it, but Canales Meats in Eastern Market did. I got a pound of unsliced bacon. Took it home, cubed it, then roasted it at about 350 for 30 minutes, till it was crisp.

2. I drained it on a paper bag, then speared an organic grape tomato, some lettuce leaves (baby lambs ear) and cube of bacon. Voila! I made an avocado mayo to go with (pureed ripe avocado, a little lemon and a bit of mayonnaise to smooth things out).

3. I laid it out on a bed of more lamb's ear lettuce. Super hit. Delicious. Make. You can do it while you're watching the Barefoot Contessa on your couch.

Let's see some more pictures, yes, before we get to crowd sourcing their wedding? Because they are getting married in August at her family's home in Rhode Island (yes, there's a sweeping green lawn, shingles and a water view). They figure just get er done so they can go to Sudan or wherever.

Happy Couple

Where the deed was done. In the background! Way up!

The Summer House, a Frederick Law Olmstead folly. Lovely and cool and a little sheltered in case the threatened rain came, which it didn't.

A view of the party

There they are again. It's like it's about THEM or something, instead of my BLTs On a Stick.

The last of my peonies and globe allium, tucked in front of the grotto (above the food, for some decorations).

In case you're wondering I also made FABULOUS dates stuffed with goat cheese and marcona almonds and wrapped in prosciutto. Sweet, salty, soft, crunchy. Yum. a great make ahead nibble.

There was also shrimp in a grapefruit, avocado and serrano salsa (homemade, of course), a smattering of pates and cheese, parmesan palmiers and plenty of champagne.

So now on to the crowd sourcing.

Ciara has NEVER even thought about a wedding, so she and Jason are forming a Tiger Team (its a State Department joke, ha) to plan it (instead of having bridesmaids and groomsmen, they have the TT.)

So: start throwing out ideas!


  • the wedding will be at the end of August in Rhode Island

  • They love love love good food

  • They (I think) want it to be more of a party than a traditional wedding, take off the garter thing (I think)

  • They don't want a nautical theme

  • The rehearsal dinner, however will likely be a crawfish boil/clambake in honor of both their roots.

  • The expect around 120 to 180 and it will be a destination wedding for most people.

Here was my first pass at ideas. You guys throw out your thoughts -- with links to helpful pictures -- in the comments please, and I'll piece them together for a separate post. Jason and Ciara are depending on you! Deploy your best ideas! They are reading!

1. They need to start somewhere -- maybe with the menu they want to serve, and let that dictate style -- or with a color palette, or a flower (sunflowers?). I'm currently pulling for black and white stripes, with sunflowers and black-eyed susans. Or maybe dahlias in orange and hot pink? That would be kind of fun and mad hattery.

2. write the seating chart on a giant chalkboard (made with chalkboard paint). I love chalkboards.

3. write the dinner menu on a chalkboard. I can't get enough chalkboards.

4. serve ginger limeade or lavender lemonade to guests during and before the wedding. It will likely be hot and they will appreciate it.

5. have paper parasols for guests. pashminas if its cool.

6. do guest photos as stop action video -- they pose for stills in front of a set back drop with props -- picture frames, vintage umbrellas, what have you -- photog strings those together at the end as a stop action movie. v cool.

7. use luminarias and lanterns everywhere

8. have a lounge seating area with a fire pit nearby for relaxing during the reception

9. have a good solid cocktail hour with lots to eat. everyone is always starving at weddings

10. convince the caterer they really want to grill dinner on site. chicken? sliced flank steak? whole sides of salmon with fresh salsas? Much better than old meat steaming away somewhere. And lots of room temperature side dishes that take advantage of local produce. great tomato salads, corn salads, grilled veggies. flavored butter (honey? strawberry?) for breads or biscuits.

11. wild flowers in mason jars
12. they are not wedded (ha) to a wedding cake so maybe a dessert table of homespun pies and cakes and cookies?

13. toss lavender blossoms instead of rice

14. have the ice cream truck come by during the reception. Open bar !

15. sparklers make for great pictures

16. they have to have kettle corn. it's a thing for her.

17. set up an old typewriter at a table with a long roll of paper in it for people to type their wedding wishes. pieces together and framed later it will make an awesome piece of meaningful art.

Your turn! Congratulations Ciara and Jason! and thank you for letting me be a wedding elf. SO FUN.