31 March 2010


Latest adorable Etsy find: original nature-inspired watercolor prints from United Thread. Created by a freelance illustrator-slash-gardener, the works are playful enough for a kids room or to add a little character in the living area.

29 March 2010

A Sense of Harmony

The Spring Flower Show is in full bloom at the Phipps Conservatory. I went this past weekend-- perfect rainy day activity that gave me subject matter for my photography class, and inspiration for my garden.

I love the Tropical Fruit and Spice room-- of course, because it holds a chocolate and coffee tree. And papaya, cinnamon and banana. Yum.

I think my favorite is the Sunken Garden, with the bountiful hanging baskets spilling with hydrangeas, and rows of every Spring flower you've ever imagined.

In the Fern Room. Which came first, the pant or the plant? 

The cactus on a wreath entering the Desert Room.

Doesn't this look like something for the grandest package ever?

Pittsburgh's own jardin in the Broderie Room. 

My senses were already overwhelmed by the beauty, but an audio tour is available to experience the interpretation of each room to an opera, as part of a collaboration with the Pittsburgh Opera. Bravo, indeed!

28 March 2010

As Good As New

We've been in the house for 8 months and we've added our personality throughout the rooms at a pretty good pace. Of course, I still see all the things we haven't yet done. As I walked through my living room earlier today, I stared at the Louis XV chair that was a generous hand-me-down, trying to figure out how I might be able to reupholster it myself (I was given a quote of $450 plus fabric to get it done!)

So I went to one of my favorite sites, Design*Sponge, and scrolled through many, many amazing, inspiring Before & Afters to see if I might get some tips. I still have no idea how to upholster my chair, but now I just want to run out to every single tag and estate sale around Pittsburgh to see how I can enhance the rest of the house.

Can you believe? The vision. I am duly impressed.

I found similar tables in my husband's grandfather's garage, so I think they're coming back with us after our next visit.

Of course, I immediately trolled through craiglist and found some amazing pieces on the antiques post. Like this vanity, or this Thonet rocking chair. Or this set of chairs! Can you imagine them sanded and reupholstered with a gorgeous bold pattern!? Pittsburgh has a treasure trove of pieces floating around. Any favorite outposts?

25 March 2010

Judged for its Cover

I finally saw one of the newly designed Penguin Classic clothbound books, created by British typographer Coralie Bickford-Smith. I understand all the fuss. Each hard-bound book cover represents a central theme of the story it is wrapping. There is even a stitched-in bookmark ribbon! The collection is gorgeous and would add dimension to one’s bookshelf in so many ways.
In full disclosure, I haven’t picked up a classic since it was required reading. These might be the motivating factor. I want a beautiful hard copy to curl up with and read classics like Alice in Wonderland, or Pride and Prejudice. You can’t get that experience with a Kindle.

But you can get the latest set of classics from Amazon for a sweet $13.60 each, also eligible for super saver shipping. Anthropologie is also carrying the collection.

22 March 2010

Filled with Character

1. A playing card whose value can vary as determined by its holder.
2. A symbol that stands for one or more unspecified characters, used especially in searching text and in selecting multiple files or directories.
3. An unpredictable or unforeseeable factor.

I couldn't think of a better description for Wildcard, the new gift and stationery shop on Butler St. in Lawrenceville. The beautiful, renovated storefront is filled with handmade and unique pieces, mostly made right in Pittsburgh. Letterpress lovers will rejoice. I also loved all of the beautiful wrapping paper and gift bags.

The shop carries Jetset stationery: Moleskines and cards cleverly handprinted with recognizable area and airport codes, as seen in some major magazine gift guides.

I'd even consider donning black and gold in one of the cute Pittsburgh tees they carry. And this Thursday from 6-9pm, they are holding their first trunk show for Iron City Upcyclery. How cute is this Dovetail blouse, handmade from a ruffled tablecloth?

And while you're there, be sure to enter the raffle for a basketful of handmade goodness, with proceeds going to the BRESMA Orphanage in Haiti.

Purposeful Prose

There are still tickets available for author Audrey Niffenegger's lecture tonight at Carnegie Music Hall (the second to last of this season's Drue Heinz series.)

The talented writer will be discussing her new novel Her Fearful Symmetry, a supernatural story set in London. I wouldn't label myself a sci-fi fan, but I was completely captivated by Niffenegger's debut novel, The Time Traveler's Wife

21 March 2010

Spring in My Step

I am so happy to be eliminating socks from my rotation, now that Spring is here. I hate socks. I love wearing flats. They're comfortable, can be pulled off for work, and have a strong association with pixie Audrey Hepburn.

When I lived in the Upper East Side, I'd always find myself at the French Sole shop on Lexington getting a new pair for Spring. Nordstrom just started carrying them, and Zappos does too (what is better than free shipping both ways?)

I just ordered the Welsh in cognac (above), which look an awful lot like Ferragamos. French Sole has the best patterns and the price point is palatable. Now, which ones to choose?

The Yacht pattern is appropriately nautical.

The Sloop cut in navy lizard.

19 March 2010

Spring Dance

It's Friday! And it's (unofficially) Spring! I love that outdoor seating is an option now, don't you?

If you're looking for something to do before dinner this weekend, join Dance Alloy Theater for the Alloy on Alloy presentation: choreography by the dancers set on each other. The company of professional artists always offers a captivating performance that leaves the interpretation up to the viewer.

Call to reserve a seat, as they fill up quickly! $10/ ticket. Friday, March 19 and Saturday, March 20, 7pm at Dance Alloy's Studio on Penn Avenue.

17 March 2010

Irish Pride

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Have a Green Vanilla cupcake from Dozen. Wear your Irish pride with this cute t-shirt from Jupe Boutique. Dance the jig and have a stout at the Harp and Fiddle in the Strip. Or listen to Irish prose and enjoy authentic fare at Gypsy Café in the South Side. Erin go bragh!


15 March 2010

Mellow Yellow

As the weather gets warmer, my wardrobe gets more colorful. Since seeing these adorable Kellie pumps at the Kate Spade shop in Ross Park last week, I can't get them out of my head. My favorite combination as of late is yellow and gray, and I have enough of the latter in my closet to compliment a splash of sunshine at my feet. A perfect transition into Spring wear.

According to Pantone, yellow is the color of change, hopefulness, warmth and good cheer. I hope that feeling never goes out of style. Some other adorable ways to wear some positive cheer on your sleeve or around your neck:

Yoana Baraschi fringe tank at Anthropologie.

Ruffled Spring Celosia cardigan at J.Crew.

Lemon-yellow bead and pearl necklace at KEP Designs.

Fringe scarf with metallic stripes, beautifulbridget on Etsy.

14 March 2010

Information is Beautiful

In between his upcoming trips to Washington, Edward Tufte is coming to Pittsburgh. (See last week's announcement from the White House of Tufte's appointment to help track and visualize stimulus spending.)

For my local designer friends, if you haven't made it to his day-long seminar usually held on the coasts, here is the chance to experience this rite of passage.

For others interested in presenting information in a clean and compelling format, I strongly recommend the seminar. In fact, most of the attendees have a variety of professional backgrounds and leave with a greater appreciation for simple data presentation and relinquishing PowerPoint and its phluff.

The day-long session includes copies of the Yale statistician's four beautiful, self-published books, which he gladly autographs during pre-registration. He is a wonderful presenter (naturally), and highly entertaining, providing vivid examples and stories of good (and horrific) information design. A student and group discount is available. Register for the seminar, scheduled for Friday, April 9th.

12 March 2010

Intimate Acoustics

A few upcoming musical performances in some great venues:

They Might Be Giants
Saturday, March 13, 2 pm & 5pm @ New Hazlett Theatre
Tickets are $10. Call 412.237.8300.
Presented in conjunction with the Andy Warhol Museum in this beautiful revitalized space on the North Side.

Thursday, March 25, 8pm @ Carnegie Music Hall
Tickets start at $30

Blue October
Thursday, April @ Mr. Smalls Theatre
Tickets are $22
In the Ocean is on our playlist often.

11 March 2010

Public Offerings

As if the Strip District isn’t already an eclectic experience, two more establishments are being added to the mix.

The Pittsburgh Flea at 21st and Railroad Street is labeling itself as the city’s premier good flea market with quirky finds. Slated for Sundays beginning April 18th and lasting seasonally through November, the Flea has already committed some favorite Pittsburgh food and accessories vendors, including Franktuary, Neighbor Teaze and designers from the Pittsburgh Glass Center.
I am excited for a possible décor resource. This vintage furniture vendor from Bethel Park looks promising. $45 each for these chairs.

The Pittsburgh Public Market is opening in the historic Terminal Building on Smallman St. in May. A year round market with comestibles and local goods (some of which are already available in the Strip), it is striving to one day reach the ranks of Seattle’s Public Market. I’m still curious about this one. There is controversy with the displacement of current wholesalers, and they're still searching for committed vendors. Already locked in include 21st Street (quite possibly the best cappuccino in Pittsburgh, by the way), Dozen Bakeshop, and Enrico’s Biscotti. Will parking in front of the auction building still be allowed? Or will we now have to pay $10 in the other lots? On the flip side, a marketplace will support the distribution of local goods, potentially encourage more diverse offerings, and allow us to enjoy one of Pittsburgh's amazing architectural landmarks.

09 March 2010

Cheerio, Cheap and Cheerful

Liberty of London, the British label known for cheery floral print patterns, is the next respected designer pairing up with Target for a fun, affordable collection of goodies. The collection is available in stores on March 14th, with a preview shopping event in New York tomorrow in where else, but Bryant Park.

The 134-year old company has previously provided patterns to other labels including personal favorites Theory and Kate Moss for Topshop. This is one of the most extensive collections Target has ever offered with an outside brand, and it includes home accessories (bowls, lampshades, candles, pillows), mens and womens wear (ties, flip flops, adorable dresses, swim) and more (storage, bicycles.)

As part of their campaign, download the new patterns to decorate your mobile device gratis, and take a quiz to determine your patternality.

08 March 2010

Pretty Pretty Prints

I am loving this new collection of archival photos by John Murphy, now available at Penhollows in Shadyside. The collection is inspired by Indian miniature paintings, antiques, tapestries and modern art;  a blend of nature and fantasy alike.

After being completely inspired by color during my vacation and enjoying the endless sunshine since my return, all I want to do is be enveloped in signs of spring and life. Any of these prints would add a punch of color and conversation to a room. The hand finished frames are gorgeous too and are available together or separately.

Red Carpet Recap

Sandra Bullock scored twice last night, in my opinion: best actress and best dressed. She looked beautiful, elegant, and stood out from the sea of ruffles. I loved her Marchesa lace gown, her goddess hair and rouge lips. Perfection.

Honorable mention to supporting actress nominee Maggie Gyllenhaal. I liked the unexpected bright blue pattern on the Dries Van Noten. And she smiled a lot.

Most disappointing. The way the pleats sat on Kate Winslet's YSL made it look like a Jetsons pantsuit. She usually does better.

Most improved. I am happy that Meryl Streep decided to go appropriately sexy. And that she supported up-and-coming former Project Runway alum Chris March. I'm really sorry she didn't win for Julie & Julia. She dressed for the moment.

Finally, most creative goes to SJP. In classic Carrie fashion, pushing the envelope but putting it all together and standing out. The silvery gray detail against the yellow on this Chanel piece works for me. Makes me excited for SATC 2.

06 March 2010

Fête and Feast

The Oscars are tomorrow night: time to get the ballots filled and prepare for a viewing party. I just returned from Trader Joe's with the necessary accoutrements (side note: I love Trader Joe's. But who doesn't? Now if only Pennsylvania allowed the sale of Two Buck Chuck.)

I'm planning on making one of my favorite festive hors d'oeuvres: blinis with smoked salmon. A little mini pancake topped with salmon, crème fraiche and dill. (Everything tastes divine topped with a dollop of crème fraiche.) Quite possibly my most repeated recipe from Barefoot in Paris. I made them for my husband's 30th birthday party and they were a smashing success. Because we made almost everything that day, I cheated and made the batter earlier in the morning using multi-grain organic pancake mix. Here's the original recipe.

The other starter I'm serving is dried turkish apricots with goat cheese and crumbled pistachio. Found this one in the Gourmet Today recipe book I received for Christmas, which is a must-have for every modern kitchen. It features over 1,000 tried and true recipes from the institutionalized magazine. It truly is an encyclopedia of everything: menu suggestions, techniques, quick recipes, and a glossary of ingredients.

Any other favorite hors d'oeuvres to share?

04 March 2010

Cocktail Classic

Upon discussing my newfound fascination with the variety of libations from the Prohibition (research for a side project, I swear), I learned that there is a group that embraces just that. The Pittsburgh chapter of Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails ( LUPEC) announced its next social: a night at the Frick in conjunction with the current exhibition, 1934: A New Deal for Artists.

Mingle on Tuesday, March 23rd and enjoy cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in the gallery at 7pm, followed by a screening of 1934 Oscar winner It Happened One Night at 8pm. Tickets are $8 for Frick members, $10 for other ladies. As part of the throwback, it's also dish night.

Knot Easy

Although I haven't worn a scarf in a week, I love wearing one to complete a look, sometimes even when not necessary for warmth. (Of course, that is if I'm not wearing a cowl. But I love wearing a light raw silk or linen scarf in the spring and summer months.) Tired of the loop or a simple wrap-around knot, I am intrigued by this way to tie a scarf. This was featured last week on the Sartorialist and I know I'll need to watch the video a few more times to get the hang of it. I like the seemingly effortless, elegant twist.

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