Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Use Your Senses of Taste and Smell

Italy is one of the places in the world where good, fresh food has always played a central part in living a high-quality life. The taste and smell of Italian produce is intoxicating, ensuring dining experiences that frequently border on transcendent.

It's rare to find a fruit or vegetable in a market when the variety is out of season. Tomatoes, for example, are at their best in Italy in the late spring and early summer. Most of the tomatoes in Italian markets come from Sicily, where the hot and sunny climate produces fruits bursting with flavor. When tomatoes are at their peak, Italians make great batches of passato al pomodoro (fresh bottled tomato sauce) to stockpile in their larders during the winter months when tomatoes and other vegetables are no longer in season.

You might think about getting the best tomatoes you can so you too can preserve the bounty of the seasonal produce and create a well-stocked pantry. See below for my tips on canning and preserving.

  • Canning in huge quantities can seem like a daunting task. Start with smaller batches - even six or eight pints of sauce will go a long way toward making at least a few of your meals feel fresh and summery in the wintertime.
  • Be sure not to use any jars with chips or cracks, as this can lead to bacteria.
  • Make sure to sterilize the jars completely. Start by washing the jars, lids, and bands with hot, soapy water. Next, completely submerge the jars in boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove with tongs.
  • Do not use any butter or fats when canning, unless specified in a tested recipe. These ingredients don't store well and tend to have a higher rate of spoilage.
  • Do not thicken with starches, flour, or add rice, barley, or pasta to canned products. These items will absorb liquid quickly and slow the way the food heats, resulting in under-processed and possibly unsafe food.
  • Don't use jars larger than specified in a recipe, as excess air could make the food unsafe.
  • For more tips, see Ball's website.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Patterns Past and Present: Bold Florals

Whether they're vintage or modern, florals are always fashionable. Recently, they've been hitting the runways and migrating into our homes in dark, bold color combinations. Inspired by a beautiful vintage botanical print, check out our fave floral finds!

Notebook Set | Wreath | Phone Case | Scarf | Backpack

Monday, July 22, 2013

Pat's Biscuits and Sugar Butter

This recipe has its origins in the pioneer era and has been handed down through four generations in my family. My mother's classic biscuit is very much like the version that is eaten widely throughout the South. I believe that the sugar butter may come from Virginia, where my great-grandparents settled after emigrating from Wales. Like many truly great recipes, this is one that has survived many generations and carries with it the love with which the food is made.

The saltiness of the biscuit with the praline flavor of the sugar-butter syrup is a tasty treat not to be missed. Serve with scrambled eggs and fresh bacon. Set your table with special "Sunday breakfast" dishes that you use every Sunday. To round out the meal, brew a pot of black tea or fresh coffee.

For a shorter, richer biscuit, use 6 tablespoons butter in the dough. For a lighter, airier biscuit, use just 4 tablespoons.




1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 - 6 tablespoons salt butter, at room temperature, plus 3 tablespoons melted butter
2/3 - 1 cup whole milk
Accompaniments: butter, jam, marmalade, and Sugar Butter (see below)

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a baking sheet.
2. Put the flour, baking powder, and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the room temperature butter and pulse until the mixture is the consistency of cornmeal.
3. Add 2/3 cup milk and pulse until just combined; add more milk a little at a time, if necessary, to make a soft dough. When the dough forms one large ball, remove from the processor.
4. Lightly knead the dough on a floured board for 30 seconds, roughly 10 folds. The dough should be moist and light; heavy dough will make tough biscuits. Gently form the dough into a ball and roll it out 1/2 inch thick on a floured board using a floured rolling pin. Cut the biscuits with a round biscuit cutter or with a mid-size drinking glass.
5. Brush the tops of the biscuits with the melted butter. Bake for 12 - 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from the oven, but keep the biscuits on the baking sheet until ready to serve.


Sugar Butter


1 cup salted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream, or more if necessary

1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, then stir in the brown sugar and cook until the mixture bubbles. Add the cream, and turn down the heat to keep the cream just below a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes on low heat, until the sugar is dissolved and the flavors are balanced. The syrup with be creamy in texture. If you need more, just add a bit more cream.
2. Transfer the sugar butter to a gravy boat-type server. Use a small gravy ladle to serve the syrup.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Table Wear: Alphabet Studio

It's no secret why our Alphabet Studio collection is everyone's fav: quirky details, vintage type and unexpected color combinations can turn even the most mundane desktop situation into a tiny tray party. At $12 a pop, you can't afford not to give one to your best bff forever. 

Fashion-wise, this porcelain playground shifts into an anything-goes attitude where little details make a big difference and personalization is key. 

watch | earrings | pouch | t-shirt | pants | scarf | nail polish | shoes

Monday, July 15, 2013

Pasta Estiva (Summer Pasta)

Here, the soft, small mozzarella balls are cut in half so they melt throughout the dish of pasta. The combination of the sweet, tangy tomato sauce with the crunchy, buttery pine nuts and soft, oozing mozzarella makes a very special eating experience.

This pasta dish is easy and inexpensive to make. It is a dish that is rich in protein and carbohydrates, making it a wonderful one-dish meal. A simple green salad or crudités with small bowls of extra-virgin olive oil and sea salt for dipping served alongside is perfect, and a crisp dry white wine like Greghetto or a Pinot Grigio makes the meal complete.

SERVES 4 - 6

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
10 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped, plus more whole leaves for garnish
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound dried short pasta (such as penne or campanelle)
15 small balls fresh mozzarella, halved
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the tomatoes, basil, and garlic.
2. Cook until the tomatoes are soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat.
3. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente; drain well, then transfer the pasta to the sauté pan with the sauce. Add the mozzarella balls and toss to combine them with the tomato sauce and pasta. Add the pine nuts and toss. Add the salt and mix again.
4. Serve immediately on a large oval platter, garnished with large basil leaves.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Déjà Vogue: Hot Pants!

Who wears short shorts? Raquel, Daisy Duke, and Brigitte sure did! A hot trend this week is hot pants to fight the summer heat. Pair them with some heels to really show off those stems!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Making Guests Feel Welcome

Ensure your guests have a comfortable stay when visiting your home with these tips!

guest room

  • Bedding - Lush bedding (including high thread count sheets, quilts, comforters, and pillows) will be a welcome sign for any visitor, especially after a long trip.
  • Mugs - I like to give guests some personalized mugs to take home with them as a souvenir of their trip. It's perfect for morning coffee and tea, too!
  • Robe and slippers - Make sure each guest has a soft robe and pair of slippers on hand for cozy nights and after baths. These ones are lovely and machine-washable, too!
  • Candles - A wonderful scented candle can do wonders on making a space feel (and smell!) more inviting.
  • Steamer - For getting out stubborn wrinkles that suitcases can often cause.
  • Universal charger - In case your visitors' tech gadgets need some juice during their stay.
  • Luggage rack - I love wooden luggage racks to keep suitcases and knapsacks off the floor.
  • Extra toiletries - Have travel-sized shampoos, soaps, toothbrushes, lotions, etc. on hand in case someone forgets or runs out.
  • WiFi password - I like keeping a small notebook on the guest room bedside table with the WiFi password inside so the guest doesn't need to ask.

Enjoy your visitors!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Patterns Past & Present: Honeycomb

Inspired by one of nature's most beautiful geometric shapes, honeycomb has made it's way into our homes and lifestyles.  It has a decidedly modern vibe but can also be playful or ornamental when shown in various configurations and colors! Check out our currently coveted honeycomb items below!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Ricotta Tart

BBQs and picnics are two of the best ways to spend Independence Day, and every outdoor meal needs a tempting treat for dessert!

ricotta tart

This simple, classic tart from central and southern Italy is similar to a cheesecake, but fluffy and light, and without the heavy flavor and feel of cream cheese. A slice of this tart makes a perfect after-dinner dessert during the summer or an ideal midday snack.


2 cups part-skim ricotta
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 recipe (1 ball) My Mom's Extra-Flaky Pie Crust Dough

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, combine ricotta, eggs, sugar, cream, lemon zest, and milk. Set aside in the refrigerator.

Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out into an 11-inch circle. Slip a pie pan under the dough and gently adjust it to fit a 9-inch tart pan. Use your knuckle to form a fluted edge around the pie. Fill with the ricotta mixture. Bake for about 50 minutes, until a knife inserted into the filling in the center comes out clean and the crust is browned.

ricotta tart