29 April 2010

A Love-Hate Relationship

I've been absent from posting lately, and I do apologize. I suppose it's time for a digression. I started blogging as a creative release. And I released. And now on some days, it feels like another to-do. And I don't want it to be that way.

I was certain it was going to get me to explore the city more, and it has. Or maybe it's helped me become more aware of the special things that I love about the city and want to share in a more explicit way other than a 140 character post.

Or maybe the last few days have just been blah, I don't know. But I did have a fabulous lunch to start the week at Braddock's, the restaurant inside the Renaissance hotel. It is a lovely modern setting with a great lunch menu. I love the Croque Madame, but supposedly the Reuben is a Pittsburgh specialty. I took a couple acquaintances who grew up here and had never set foot into the hotel and were absolutely delighted by the experience. That is the reason I share what I find. And will continue to do so when I discover things that bring that excitement.

And another random side note on the poster above. It was distributed for the primaries as part of the Partisan Project a couple years ago. By no means am I suggesting anything political here; there is plenty of that in Pittsburgh already. But the statement continues to resonate in so many ways.

25 April 2010

Must Make Cupcakes

Cupcake lovers, eat your heart out.

Ming Makes Cupcakes features a list of 31 interesting cupcake recipes complete with an accompanying photograph that makes you drool. She's also starting to catch up on cookie and savory recipes as well.

Above is vanilla with lemon meringue filling. Below, sour cream chocolate with Nutella. Mmm.

She also has a recipe for homemade thin mints!

And these tiny scones with blue cream cheese frosting would be perfect for a Mother's Day brunch.

The site is simply adorable. I couldn't figure out if she was a baker with a knack for design or vice versa. Turns out she's both: a Yale art alum currently at Harvard, she was featured in the NYTimes holiday cookie contest last year.

22 April 2010

A Glorious Morning

I was treated to the experience of Bryant Street in Highland Park last Saturday morning. Our first stop was on N. Highland for coffee at Tazza d'Oro, which was packed with young, hip families and singles sipping, surfing, and chatting.

We were on a mission, so we took our coffee to go and around the corner onto Bryant Street and in line at Food Glorious Food. A catering and pastry shop (also offering technique classes and European culinary trips), it is open by appointment only and on Saturday mornings, where they bake every sweet good you could crave and remain open until it's all gone. Fruit tarte, quiche, macaron, cupcakes, chocolate cake, nutella pie, need I go on? We took a piece of Jewish pizza (a doughy cookie with almond, apparently from a recipe first found in a ghetto in Rome) and a few treats to bring home.

Finally we hit E2, Enrico's new weekend brunch outpost. The simple, intimate setting from their strip location is recreated here. They list a rotating menu of fresh, delicious selections on a large chalkboard. My poached eggs, served with a bed of greens and tomatoes, were perfectly cooked and I sopped up the goodness with delicious wheat toast.

We also took a peek at the downstairs space, where they can host events, both public and private. On Tuesday, E2 is hosting a BYOB dining event with a screening of the food documentary FRESH, benefitting Grow Pittsburgh.

Our plan to visit the park was cut short from the rain, but I certainly will be returning to this charming area very soon.

20 April 2010

Latte Art and Experience

Real coffee fanatics rejoice! After a long, anticipated wait, 21st Street Coffee is officially open for business downtown. Tucked in the backside of 3PNC and the new Fairmont Hotel, the shiny new location reveals that owners Luke and Alexis are as meticulous about creating the right ambiance as they are about making the perfect cappuccino (2 percent milk, please.) The blue walls complement the coffee, the Clovers, and the giant Japanese contraption for cold brewed coffee that takes 16 hours. And the schoolhouse lamps are gorgeous!

The 21st Street baristas are so passionate and knowledgeable about all things coffee, and were part of the reason Intelligentsia's co-founder came to Pittsburgh to discuss direct trade with the World Affairs Council.

This offers a small taste into the art of espresso, so elegantly done.

18 April 2010

All the Possibilities

I had some time this weekend to properly peruse the latest Lonny magazine and come away with a few more ideas to consider. Or more appropriately, bring vision to some possibilities I've considered. On to its fourth issue, Lonny has set its aesthetic tone-- bold, chic, slightly bohemian luxe. I'd like to think my style falls somewhere in that mix, although my budget definitely dictates the final direction.

What I do love about Lonny is that they share talented young interior designers who can work with just about anything. I would love to see the before for this bathroom. The bones remind me of many Pittsburgh bathrooms I saw on house tours last year. Apparently, he took down a shelf (probably some cheap, plastic thing) and replaced it with a glamorous antique mirror, prints and tiny cameos.

This little kitchen could be an outdated windowless box. With a wallpaper decal, chalkboard paint and a gorgeous fixture, it's anything but boring. I love how the paint goes right up to the ceiling and visually enlarges the space.

We're in the midst of painting our kitchen and I wanted to reserve a corner for chalkboard paint to write memos and menus. Seeing this affirms my decision.

I suppose because Lonny is published in New York that many smaller spaces are shown. Having once lived in a 300 square foot studio (charming exposed brick pre-war, nonetheless), I respect the importance of having a place for everything and working within boundaries. Perhaps that's from where my fascination with organization stemmed?

I prefer empty surfaces than those that are styled with unnecessary accessories, dining tables in particular. I believe there is a fine line between displaying trinkets and looking cluttered. The clean lines of the lacquered table paired with the nautical-inspired chairs and natural rug is so appealing.

However, I'm seeking ways to work with the mishmash of artwork we've ended up with. This issue seems to have a lot of images of well curated collages.

In addition to the usual features chock full of ideas, this issue is all about being eco-chic and has interesting facts about the impact of organic and sustainable options. Modern furniture retailer West Elm is aiming to become completely green; such initiatives have led them to source from different vendors and artisans all over the world. 

The inspiration board for West Elm's green collection. Very excited that the retailer is coming to Pittsburgh later this year.

The magazine also illustrates repurposing when something just isn't right. Lonny editor-in-chief Michelle Adams cleverly used old drapery as a table skirt for a piece that couldn't be properly repaired. Certainly green living just as much. And isn't design all about creating possibilities within constraints?

15 April 2010

Going West

I've been off the map for a few days, therefore limiting my ability to explore the latest things here in Pittsburgh. I just returned from Arizona, where I attended a design conference (which was great and deserves its own post.)  I managed to step away one night, zip over to Scottsdale and join the Twilight Tour at Taliesen West, Frank Lloyd Wright's winter home.

Of the 500+ attending the conference, it coincidentally happened that four of us from Pittsburgh recognized the need to partake in this excursion. Perhaps because we are lucky enough to have Fallingwater, the most famous non-royal house in the world right in our backyard, we all immediately found this opportunity very compelling.

There were striking similarities to me between Taliesen West and Fallingwater. Both are integrated into the natural landscape with such attention to detail. However, this tour offers much more insight behind the visionary so much ahead of his time.

Frank Lloyd Wright loved red. All the doors here are red. And placed in the most unusual spots. He wanted his visitors to explore and experience each step. He said a building was not a place to be, but a way to be. He also said he was the world's greatest architect. He was right (ego aside.)

The question always asked about having someone at your dinner table past or present-- I finally have an answer. I want to dine with Frank Lloyd Wright. In his dining room overlooking the desert mountains. And then camp under the stars, just like he did.

12 April 2010

Lovely Lawrenceville

Lots to do in lovely Lawrenceville this weekend! Yes, I am already thinking about the weekend: strolling down Butler Street in and out of the boutiques, drooling all over the gorgeous fabrics at T's  and envisioning my living room all reupholstered, having Intelligentsia and a red velvet cupcake at Dozen.

The latest:

Laura Berger, a Chicago-based illustrator, will showcase her work at Wildcard this Thursday night, April 15 from 6-9pm.

Lawrenceville Blossom Tour. 24 participating storefronts will be distributing a variety of flower and herb seeds from Friday to Sunday. Many of the shops will have garden-themed displays and tips too.

And Little Flea Market is in action this Saturday.

Who would like to join me?

To Serve in Style

How adorable is this vintage white compote dish?

I can just picture it filled with ripe red strawberries sprinkled with sugar. I am always looking for fun platters and serving pieces to mix and match. I am co-hosting a tea party next month and this would look perfect on the table...

09 April 2010

In Full Bloom

The unexpected warm weather has completely ruined my transition into Spring wear. I have barely had a chance to switch out the wool from my closet and determine what I need to replenish this season.

After stumbling upon this site, I do know that need one of these handmade linen bloom brooches by emersonmade. Poppies, dahlias and roses in a variety of vivid colors are secured with a clip for the lapel, shoe or hair. What a Spring statement!

I love the simplicity of the LWD with the gorgeous blue bloom, offset with the little skinny belt.

Transforming the classic nautical stripes.

Add this to a party shoe for a little kick. I can totally imagine this for bridesmaids.

08 April 2010

Easy Being Green

Earth Day has turned into a seasonal event in Pittsburgh. There is a plethora of activities to celebrate our city's green initiatives and appointment as North American Host City of World Environment Day.  See Pittsburgh Magazine's latest feature article about the buzz and other local events.

A couple fun green happenings:

Spring volunteer days to participate in beautification projects with the Pittsburgh Parks conservancy.

Anthropologie in Mt. Lebanon will be hosting a children's potting workshop on Sunday, April 18 from 11am to 2pm.

The Frick Cafe is hosting a special four-course dinner and dessert on Thursday April 22, all made with local organic goods.

Any others?

05 April 2010

Graceful Swans

There are still some tickets remaining for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's performance of Swan Lake, on April 16-18. (We have long booked tickets to the symphony this weekend, though I am hoping I can convince my husband to partake in two cultural events in a row.)

The classic Tchaikovsky piece was first performed in 1877 in Moscow and is known for its breathtaking costumes and choreography that makes your heart skip a beat.

Here's a look at the costume design. Intensive labor and lots of layers.

Other events from the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre:

In conjunction with the Friday performance is a Young Professionals Happy Hour prior to the show at the Westin. $20 per person includes parking and drink tickets.

As a benefit to the PBT School, a brunch will be held in Shadyside at Palm Place this Sunday from 11am to 1pm. Lilly, bellinis and ballet!

02 April 2010

Anything but Quiet

There are an overwhelming amount of activities at tonight's Unblurred, the evening of open galleries and events in the Penn Avenue Arts District held on the first Friday of the month. And could you ask for better weather for strolling around?

A few of tonight's highlights:

Take a peek at the new Glass Lofts, where an art exhibit and model unit will be open to the public

Grow Pittsburgh farmer's market and a benefit dinner at Quiet Storm, the quaint and quasi-kitschy post with a delish vegetarian and vegan menu. ($25 per person, reservations recommended for tonight. )

The ongoing GA/GI (Geek Art/Green Innovators) Festival, showcasing local projects and initiatives supporting technology and ecology. At the Sprout Fund office.

Image above from flickr/lollyknit.
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