31 December 2009

Prosit Prosecco


The German translation for New Year greetings is of course literal-- Prosit Neujahr, or Toast the New Year. Our family always says Prost whenever we make a toast, a habit formed from clinging glasses every night we sat at my grandparents' dinner table in Germany. The other tradition we have brought back from Europe is drinking prosecco instead of champagne; personally, prosecco is much tastier, just as bubbly and festive, and a good bottle is about $14. Fortunately, the PA wine authority does carry a few brands, including Mionetto (shown above is Zardetto, image from ms.tea/creative commons.) I've brought a bottle of the Italian sparkling wine to many birthday dinners and it has always been a hit.

It also makes for a delish Poinsettia cocktail, although I love prosecco straight up.



Cheers to a Happy New Year!

30 December 2009

Pièce de Résistance


I think it's quite impossible to have an unsatisfying meal in Paris. On every street corner is a charming bistro, and Paris 66 has emulated that here on Penn Circle South in East Liberty.

Opened this past summer by a local couple with a Parisian culinary background, they and their staff greet you in French as you wait to be seated at a cafe table. (Note: they do not take reservations and it is BYOB).


The menu has never disappointed. The plat du jour is usually enticing, like the monkfish above, although it's hard not to come for the savory crepes made of buckwheat with fresh fillings. La Pigalle, filled with chicken, sauteed mushrooms and mustard, is my husband's favorite. The menu also has a selection of salads, a quiche du jour, and pizza with puff pastry that I have yet to try. Of course, you must have a sweet to end the meal and I highly recommend La Paris 66: a crepe of butter, sugar, and flambee Grand Marnier right before your eyes. If you can say no to the La Bologne: banana, whipped cream and Nutella goodness.

The ambience is as enjoyable as the food: quaint and usually filled with patrons. Each time we go reminds me a little bit of our trip to Paris. Except that our bill is a bit lighter and we're five minutes from home.

Nutella crepe in Paris.


View from our lunch at a bistro in Saint-Germain-des-Pres.

29 December 2009

Palatable palettes



With all the snow and grey weather, I need a shot of color to brighten my day. Pantone has announced the official color for 2010: turquoise. What a fabulous pick. It is the perfect complement to darker hues, always a favorite in warmer weather, and conjures up images of paradise.

Truly not trying to create jealousy, but I can't wait for our vacation at end of February to Turks and Caicos (and I have looked at this picture to get through the week since we booked. The image is from West Bay Club, Providenciales.) Maybe it should be called Turquoise Caicos.




A splash of turquoise would add punch to the grey or black wool winter coat. Nordstrom always has a good selection of colorful accessories, like this clutch:


And this gorgeous fringe scarf (on after-Christmas sale too).



I suppose this color seems to be more feminine, but it works well with classics like navy as in this men's alpaca scarf:

Pantone has always been spot on with trends, and their site is fun to play with beyond color matching. Adobe Kuler and COLOURlovers also offer similar features. Far before I used these tools for design projects, I created a palette for my wedding. Now I find them useful for planning color palettes in my house.

23 December 2009

Active Endeavors


A common theme this holiday season revolved around activities. Prior to leaving the city for a New England Christmas, we enrolled in the new gym set to open in Bakery Square in East Liberty. Urban Active (a spin off Gold's Gym) had sent us a very effective direct mail piece, enticing us to become charter members. The new gym is taking 50,000 square feet in the former Nabisco factory building, complete with tons of new equipment, a swimming pool, spinning room, and all-inclusive classes. We were fortunate to lock in a very modest monthly rate, which is still available through the end of the year. I hardly have been impressed with the workout facilities in Pittsburgh (having gone to NYSC and Equinox in NY); the monthly rates here rival the New York prices without the same offerings. I think this will now change with Urban Active here (backed by Steeler co-owners.) I recommend stopping by the preview center at Bakery Square to see for yourself.

We also hit REI in South Side Works for last minute gifts and found something for everyone there. Including this cute Sigg water bottle, which now goes with me wherever I go.

21 December 2009

A Glass Castle



As if the Phipps Conservatory isn't beautiful enough, you can visit during Candlelight Evenings, where the leading pathway is illuminated each night (except Christmas) until 10pm through the end of December.

On certain nights, there is a special music performance by local talent, and the Frabel Glass exhibition is still on display. The renowned German glass artist created organic and whimsical figures especially for the Phipps space.





This landmark of history and beauty follows its original intention to prove a source of instruction as well as pleasure to the people: floral landscape, floral design, and botanical illustration are just a few classes offered this spring. And the conservatory is involved in sustainability practices through its Project Green Heart initiatives.

Phipps is no hidden secret; it was on international display when the world leaders attended the G20 Summit opening dinner here last September. Carla Bruni Sarkozy had a look of delight when she first arrived. It is a breathtaking setting.


20 December 2009

Frolic in Frick Park



One of my favorite areas in Pittsburgh is the northern gatehouse entrance to Frick Park in Point Breeze, across from the museum. It reminds me of where the the Frick Collection on Fifth Ave. and East 71st Street meets Central Park. The surrounding area feels like a step back in time and is a sanctuary from city noise and development. According to the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, the Point Breeze entrance was restored as the first capital project in 2000.


The park trails are great for running and hiking (and mountain biking, so I hear) and there are two known off-leash areas in which our puppy loves to run around. The entire park is 561 acres, has the only public bowling greens in the state, clay tennis courts, a baseball field, and is home to over 100 bird species.


After the big snowfall yesterday morning, we took a long walk to the park and within, past sledders, cross country skiers and other dogs and their owners. Frick Park is a gem and I feel fortunate to have access to it.

17 December 2009

Love Letterpress


If I could change my career to a labor of love, it would be in letterpress. Letterpress is the art of relief printing with moveable type or plates on a printing press (a la Gutenberg) to create a tactile impression. I designed the artwork for the plates to print my wedding invitations, and in grad school, I finally learned how to typeset and operate a Vandercook.

My husband is well aware that one day, the half of our one and a half car garage will be useful as my studio. If nothing else, I'd like to find an old tabletop letterpress to start. Although now there is a letterpress kit available to the masses that has actually received pretty good reviews (I would like to see the quality of the impression to judge); either way, the price is attractive.

Kards Unlimited in Shadyside carries a small collection of letterpress stationery by B Designs. Perfect stocking stuffer, or to use for all the thank you notes we'll all be writing after the holidays. And there's something for everyone on Etsy. (Like the card above from Paper Lovely.)

Start off the New Year with this adorable seasonal calendar from bheuer.






16 December 2009

Christmas Spirit of Pittsburgh

On the last week before Christmas, for activities with holiday cheer, here are five suggestions, all with a Pittsburgh twist:

The Nutcracker
We are attending the Saturday performance of this enchanted holiday tale I've only seen at Lincoln Center. The Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre sets the stage here, complete with a twinkling view from Mt. Washington.

It's a Wonderful Life screening at Regent Square Theatre
The classic Christmas movie with a Scrooge-like plot is being shown free from December 18-22 in exchange for a non-perishable item. (This supposedly was Western Pennsylvania native and silver screen legend Jimmy Stewart's favorite to film.)

Take a docent-led tour of the Clayton House in its holiday glory, or enjoy a special menu and seating at Cafe at the Frick.

Holiday Pops with Marvin Hamlisch
See reindeer and sing Christmas Carols in Heinz Hall with the Golden Globe-nominated, award-winning conductor.

Pittsburgh Center for the Arts Solstice Sale
Last. Minute. Shopping. Even better with a coupon.

15 December 2009

Haute Dining

The next focus is the dining room. Fortunately, we have built-ins to store the platters and wedding china we finally unpacked but haven't broken out. On a side note, the debate still continues about whether one should register for china. I love the idea of entertaining with it, and I made sure that whatever I chose would be fun, unstuffy and most importantly, dishwasher safe. But I had wondered if my taste would change once I settled into a house. It probably would have, but I still like my pattern (kate spade pompano point) two years later.

Our main fixture is an ornate Louis XV style crystal chandelier and we have six antique dining chairs from family that need to be reupholstered. To balance out the formality, I insisted we find a chunky farmhouse table, and we did: Haute Hot Haute in the Strip District is filled with a curated collection of bold and eclectic furniture and accessories. Our dining table is 82" inches of sheesham wood with a rippled surface. It's a great piece and seats 8.

We're left to repaint and (hopefully) reupholster for this round. I'm torn with trying to paint the built-ins as an accent wall, or if that will draw too much attention. Even though our room will be more detailed, I still love the clean lines here (from Domino).



Leaning toward a pale celadon or citrus for the walls. These are the top contenders for the chairs (the first two are Lee Jofa, and the Lee fabric on the bottom can be ordered at Penhollows.)



14 December 2009

12 Reasons I Love Dozen



12. Cupcakes, 7 different flavors each day. Vanilla vanilla and milk chocolate are always on the menu for you cupcake purists.

11. Not only does every possible Pittsburgh list rank the cupcake #1, but it also made the list of Top 11 Best in the country by MSN.

10. The cupcake menu changes seasonally: gingerbread vanilla and peppermint chocolate to get into the holiday spirit.

9. The red velvet cupcake is my favorite.

8. They're one of the few food establishments open on Mondays in Lawrenceville.

7. A vegan option is on the menu daily, and they're just as delicious.

6. Baked mini doggy cupcakes made of oats and peanut butter are available in a pack of six.


5. They try to get their ingredients locally, from the dairy to the stout (for the east end stout cupcake).

4. Intelligentsia coffee.

3. The Lawrenceville shop has free wifi.

2. Not only can they bake, but the breakfast, brunch and lunch options are tasty too.

1. There are now five Dozen locations (most recently the South Side), making the city a little sweeter.

13 December 2009

Plates with Purpose



In passing, these frosted glass platters have caught my eye for their Danish modern look. I received one as a thoughtful housewarming gift this fall and I use it all the time-- for take-home sushi, hors d'oeuvres, dessert. What I never knew is that they are made right here; Riverside Design Group's office is on Butler St. in Lawrenceville. They are sold online, at a few boutiques around the city, all over the country, and globally.

The collection is as practical as it is pretty: made with recycled materials, they're dishwasher and microwave safe, and they come in a tasteful palate of colors and designs. The Plates with Purpose collection donates 15% back to charitable organizations in Pittsburgh and beyond.

I love this platter for the Bach Choir of Pittsburgh.



The botanical prints were inspired by the Healing Garden to benefit the Children's Hospital.



Food Bank of Pittsburgh platter.



I love the votives too-- how great would several of them look across a long dining table?

12 December 2009

Shelter Magazine, 2.0

It has been painfully sad watching all these beautiful print publications fold in the past few years. First Martha Stewart's Blueprint, then Domino, and most recently, Gourmet. (Add to the list Cookie, which I had looked forward to receiving once I met their target demographic.) I was a dedicated subscriber, and I have a decent archive of most of the issues. I know I am one of thousands who mourned (relatively speaking) and tried to find other outlets to fill the void. There is a lot of content on Flickr and blogs, some solely dedicated to those publications.

The second issue of Lonny Magazine was released this week. Created by those directly affected by the closings (read: out of a job), these style arbiters have reunited to reignite the creative spark in shelter mags. At first, I was lukewarm about the digital format; there is something so wonderful about sitting on the couch, tearing and folding dogears on pages. But the same time, I love the direct link to all of the featured images, and it's so easy to save and never lose pictures.

The format is modern, interactive, and elegantly presents the familiar typefaces and treatments we all missed seeing. I also completely understand the trepidation (and huge cost) to try to launch a magazine, so if I have to read from my iMac to ensure that it's going to be around, so be it. Plus, it's available rightthissecond without waiting weeks (and paying) for a subscription.

The aesthetic and content has improved second time around. In this issue, there are good gift suggestions, some of which are available in stores around Pittsburgh (or just simply click the link and you're set.)

House of Harlow bangle from Gap/Piperlime.


Diptyque candle (also at Toadflax in Shadyside).


This room! So dramatic, and Western Pennsylvania luxe, maybe?




The feature on J.Crew's new Upper East Side womens store is fab-- what to do if J.Crew wasn't down the street.


11 December 2009

Draped in Style




With the frigid temps here, all I want to do is stock up on winter accessories. Half of the time, I throw on a scarf at the last minute before heading out the door in the morning. But I keep finding myself with it on throughout most of the day to stay warm. And there is a difference between a coat scarf and a warm accessory scarf. The winter scarf has evolved into a practical necklace; an eternity scarf, infinity scarf, snood, whatever you please. I happened to pop into Saks downtown today and they had a few great cable and cashmere ones like the one above.

This Banana Republic neck warmer is adorable.



While I don't often wear pink, this cashmere blossom scarf from Anthropologie is gorgeous.



10 December 2009

Latte Love in the South Side


One strong suit of Pittsburgh is the variety of great coffee shops. I don't have a favorite, but several favorites, depending on where I am in the city. A common denominator: most exclusively brew Intelligentsia. One that is as charming as it is delicious is Big Dog Coffee, set in a Victorian rowhouse-turned-storefront on Sarah Street in the South Side. You can sit in the front room and chat in front of the fireplace with the barista, or lead yourself back to a quieter room and the outside courtyard (in appropriate weather, of course.)

Every time we go, I never want to leave. The owner is super friendly, they are dog friendly (or lax at least, as one would expect from such a moniker.) It is apparent that there is a strong sense of community. We don't live in the South Side, but we make it a point to go there anytime we cross the Mon. I further assume most patrons are able to walk over because finding parking is a challenge. But it's worth it.


09 December 2009

Sydney's Stocking Stuffers

Christmas countdown is top of mind. And now we have a stocking for Sydney, our sweet one-year-old Labradoodle. Though quite honestly, I think she liked the wrapping paper best last year. I was perusing Bella Bean Couture, a Vineyard Vines for dogs.

I discovered the line on a quick stroll on Walnut Street and into the Picket Fence a few weeks ago. They carry several of the leads and collars. Even the sales girl gasped at the price of the dog collar ($36), but then I allowed myself to factor the cost-per-wear, plus the fact that I would easily buy a top at J.Crew for that price. And as a side note, this is not much more expensive than the mediocre options at Petco. I picked the Changing Leaf pattern for Sydney. She gets lots of compliments on our walks and owners ask me where I got her collar.
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