Wednesday, April 16, 2014

My Favorites from Jonathan Adler

I've always been a huge fan of Jonathan Adler, mainly because I love a little quirk in interior design. I think we can all agree that nobody does quirk quite like JA! My Muse Noir candle (pictured above) is one of my favorite items, because it's so eye-catching and unique. I'm a big fan of Jonathan Adler's sense of fun and whimsy - I mean, what's a room without a sense of humor or a little wink? I also love the materials that he chooses for his pieces. He uses lots of gorgeous, shiny brass, and my Muse Noir candle is rendered in ceramic. Ceramic feels to me like somewhat of an earthy and rustic material, which I think provides a great contrast to the modern eclecticism of the piece.

Jonathan Adler has tons of fun new arrivals for spring, as well as classics that I've known and loved for a while. Here are some of my favorite products that would add a little fun to any space:

I have a thing for elephants (especially my little newspaper-covered guy you saw in this post). I think this brass elephant box would look so cute on a coffee table tray along with a few stacks of books. 

As I said, obsessed with my Muse Noir candle. So of course I'm loving this amazing Muse d'or gold-glazed version. Every room needs a touch of metallic!

I love studs. And I love that this box is white on white, rendered in a matte porcelain. Edgy + elegant + classic. I seriously love this so much - it's simple, but not boring. Boxes like this are perfection for corralling ugly stuff like remotes. 

This is pink, which I think is a sufficient explanation for why I love it. A bubblegum candle? How cute is that (and well-priced!)

Again-every room benefits from metallic! This is just so dang pretty. A champagne candle - I love it. I can just imagine how fab it would smell!

Um, hi. This trivet is gorgeous. Agate with gold edging...just lovely, and neutral enough to fit into anyone's decor. Every room needs some natural materials, like agate. 

How cool is this brass magnifying glass? It feels like something that would be in the library of a grand old English estate (like very Downton Abbey-ish or something). 

Cool fact I recently learned about Jonathan Adler while perusing the site: he was actually a potter before he became the brand-name interior designer/maker of home goods that he is now. How cool is that? He was an artist first and foremost. His pottery pieces all still originate in his Soho studio, where he and his team design them and make the prototypes - love that. If you want to learn more about him, click here and scroll down to his "About" timeline - it's seriously laugh out loud funny.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sprinkles Cupcake ATM New York City

Sprinkles has this thing called a Cupcake ATM. Yes, that's right. An ATM. For cupcakes. For the longest time they only had one in California (where they originated), and if you know about me and my penchant for sweets, you can imagine my jealousy as I saw people posting about their adventures at the Cupcake ATM on Instagram. So then you can also imagine my utter delight when I found out that Sprinkles had finally opened one here in New York City! And just a short little jaunt from my apartment, no less. Unbelievable luck. That's something I love about this city: you never know what wonderful establishment will pop up right around the corner - and all the better if it's one that's offering up cupcakes in the most charming way possible. Of course I had to hightail it over there as soon as I could!

Here's the touch screen where you choose your flavor and swipe your credit card!

My selection. 

Not pictured: me almost missing out on grabbing my cupcake/almost getting my hand chopped off because I was trying to take a picture of my cupcake in the little window that opens to deliver it. Smooth move.

And what's that next door? Sprinkles cookies and ice cream coming soon! Not just cupcakes anymore, folks. 

The full selection inside...gimme. 

The Sprinkles Cupcake ATM is on Lexington Avenue between 60th and 61st. As with anything in this city, if you want to avoid waiting on line I recommend going earlier in the day or especially on a weekday, when you will have the ATM all to yourself (I passed by on a weekend and there was a line down the street, and also a television camera). The ATM is open 24/7 and is stocked at regular intervals until 2AM, then restocked at 9AM. My recommendation at Sprinkles: the Triple Cinnamon. So good!

all photos by me

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Charming Upper East Side Home

I have a lot of favorite Instagrammers, and Jessika Goranson is at the top of my list. From her shots of gorgeous architecture on the Upper East Side of NYC (obviously I have a soft spot for that :), to her jaunts to the English countryside (seriously amazing), to the glimpses into her charming shop Holiday in Boston's Beacon Hill, there's just something about her taste and eye for photography that I love. Best of all though, have been the peeks into her cozy UES apartment, complete with working fireplace (love), dashes of leopard, and antiques galore. So I was surprised and excited when my friend Alexis mentioned that Jessika's home had actually been featured in a past issue of Lonny (can't believe I missed that!). I was beyond thrilled to see a full tour of the gorgeous space that I've loved getting glimpses of on Instagram:
Love the wallpaper and that gorgeous little print! 

Who wouldn't love to stay in this adorable guest bedroom, with the pom-pom pillows and the Hermes blanket? So inviting. (Also I have to say I love Lonny's use of the term "intimately proportioned"-that's a really good way of describing apartments in NYC!)

Another view of the amazing living room. It feels like a room in an old country house in England, doesn't it? That's what I love about it. It's got that cozy, eclectic, antique-y vibe, with the mixed patterns, the leather couch, and the secretary in the corner. It feels very sophisticated, but still fun and interesting. 

Have you ever seen a black and white color scheme look so warm? The whole apartment is just so cozy and inviting. Also, feminine, but not TOO feminine. How elegant is that wallpaper, and the demilune table? And those lamps! That's actually kids wallpaper, which I think is brilliant - so great to pull from unexpected sources. 

Ok, and once I read this quote from her, I became convinced that we could be decor besties:
I couldn't agree more. I've always dreamed of having a library room so large that it requires a ladder. That's partly how I justify buying so many books-gotta fill my future library!

Be sure to check out the full home tour in Lonny's Jan/Feb 2013 issue - tons more to see of this charming abode, and all of Jessika's design advice is spot-on. 

All photography by Patrick Cline via Lonny 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Straight Leg Sweatpants

Sundays are all about lounging, right? So let's discuss my ongoing search for great pairs of straight leg sweatpants. It might sound dumb, but even though I just wear sweatpants around my apartment (I will never master that whole J. Crew, wearing sweatpants with heels to go out look), I still want them to be cute. And a good straight leg pair is seriously hard to find! They need to fit well - as in, be fitted enough that they're not huge and droopy, but also not be tight because duh, they're sweatpants (not leggings). I especially like when they're banded on the bottom, like guy's sweats. I recently snagged a pair at Old Navy that I think hit all of the right notes, and they come in tall which is a necessity for me:

I'm loving them because they have a good slim fit but are still totally comfortable, and they're really lightweight, which is great (I hate when sweatpants are suffocatingly heavy). I got them in black (just nice to have something different from gray). They also show a bit of ankle, which I like for the warmer months ahead. Also they're crazy well-priced. They're on sale right now, AND Old Navy is having 15% off on sale merchandise, so you can practically get them for pennies.

Here are a few other straight leg sweats that I'm loving:

These just look so cool and slouchy. Love the color options too. I used to have a similar pair and they were very comfortable....actually thinking back to how much I liked that pair makes me want to buy these. 

Love the color of these, and they're on sale too! Don't they look kind of soft and romantic? (I'm really liking that lace top too) I happen to know that Aerie makes good loungewear, because I got one of my favorite, softest sweatshirts ever from there about a jillion years ago. 

Another Old Navy pair, which means they're crazy well-priced. I like the banded bottom on these and the pockets, which come in handy when I'm doing my laundry (need to bring my keys). Gosh, I have such a glamorous life. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Perfectly Perforated

I have a major thing for perforations. I've realized that I have an obsession with clothing and accessories that are covered in circles, whether it's grommetsdotspearls, or studs...and perforations are just the latest iteration of this. Luckily for me this seems to be a pretty big trend at the moment, so I shouldn't have too tough a time fulfilling my hankering for perforated pieces! My absolute FAVORITE at the moment is this:

I have the regular Transport Tote in black, and I can't even tell you how useful it's been. I love the raw leather, the contrasting handles, and the fact that it's light while having enough space to hold a ton. It's versatile, simple, and goes with's got the unfussy, downtown vibe that Madewell does so well. It's just incredibly easy to wear, and it's held up well over the years that I've had it. So when I saw the perforated version...I instantly fell in love. It pains me how badly I want it, and how much I do NOT need another tote bag. 

I'm really liking Club Monaco's perforated espadrilles too:

I like how the black leather and perforations take the espadrille out of it's typical prepster territory, and to an edgier place. They also come in white, for a more spring-y look. 

Also obsessed with Kelly Wearstler's perforated jewelry pieces. So, so amazing. They're edgy, but still simple and elegant:

Perforated Cuff | Cubist Ring | Idealist Cuff | Perforated Ring

Are you guys into perforations, or are they a little too out there for you? I think they're a perfect mix of being kind of funky, but not too "look at me!" 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Photography Class in Review

Late last year, as readers of this blog may know, I got my first DSLR and made a short-lived attempt to teach myself how to use it by reading the instruction manual and the first few pages of this book. I found myself giving up pretty quickly when within first few pages the author instructed readers to take pictures using the camera's light meter as a guide, and I had no clue what the light meter was or where to find it. With a growing sense of frustration, I realized that a photography class was the only option that was going to work for me. A friend of mine had positive things to say about a beginner's course that he had taken at Photo Uno on East 46th street, and that was enough to sell me. I'm the type of learner who needs in-person instruction and someone to ask questions of, so I knew this was the only way for me to get a grip on how to use my camera. For anyone who might be considering the same course of action, I thought I'd share a quick overview of my experience.

My equipment:
The cameras that people showed up with for class really ran the gamut, from Canon Rebels, like mine, to more advanced models of Canons and Nikons, to fancy schmancy professional-level Nikons that cost in the thousands. But all you need for class is a DSLR and one lens. I had bought the Canon Rebel T3i because it's a good, basic, entry level camera and very affordable as camera bodies go. My personal opinion now is that the lens is more important than the body anyway, so that's where you're better off investing your money. I chose to forgo the kit lens and just get a 50 mm f/1.8 prime lens. This is great for most of my blog photography and food photos...not so great for wide shots, which is why I'm currently eyeing a wide-angle lens. My teacher also happened to mention in class that she didn't consider the kit lens to be worth spending money on because it's just not a great lens. It's not horrible either, it's just that your money could be better spent. 

What we Learned:
The class took place over the course of several weeks, for two hours every Saturday morning. We would go over the homework, then learn the new material, then practice, either inside the studio or outside (in the rain and snow, since one of these inclement weather conditions was present EVERY SINGLE TIME we had class). We learned about focus points, bokeh, ISO, aperture, shutter speed, white balance, panning, painting with light, and more. The big takeaway for me was learning how to use the camera in manual, where you control all of the settings (versus auto, where the camera sets everything automatically). To put it simply, when you shoot in manual, you set the ISO, then the aperture, then the shutter speed, and voila. You've controlled all of the factors. In my own personal opinion, if you're going to spend the money on a piece of equipment that can do so much, you need to learn to use it in manual. Otherwise, what's the point? As my teacher said: "A camera has one eye. You have two eyes and a brain." So who's better equipped to make the judgments on what will be the right settings for a picture? We also learned a little about equipment that you need for your camera, like a memory card (I got this one), a card reader (transferring your pictures from the card to a computer by plugging your camera directly into the computer can damage the camera, we learned), and also a UV filter and a lens hood (neither of which I've gotten around to purchasing yet). 

I went from knowing nothing about my camera to now shooting pretty much exclusively in manual, and for that alone the class was worth it. At first shooting in manual felt like doing a complicated math equation and I was incredibly slow, but with practice it's gotten easier. The class size was small, just about twelve people when we started (which dwindled to like, seven by the end), so there was room for individualized help. The class was also just really, really motivating. At the time it was always hard to drag myself out of bed and get down there, but once I did, I was always happy I'd done it. I usually found myself wandering around after and taking pictures on my own, so basically it was just very motivational and kept renewing my interest in practicing. Also, being there and seeing what other people were shooting helped me to expand my horizons beyond just shooting stuff specifically for blog posts. I didn't even really realize it until now, but I think the class was what piqued my interest in starting to shoot things around the city - Central Park, landscapes, buildings, bridges. Before the class I really thought that I wasn't interested in photographing those types of things, but as it turns out, I am!

Pretty much my only complaint was that I felt the class could have been tighter - meaning it could have been much more condensed. There seemed to be a lot of time wasted or kind of spent dawdling, so in effect I thought the material could have been taught in a shorter period of time, or we could have learned more within the allotted time.

Should You Take a Class?
I would say to consider what type of learner you are. The things we learned were pretty basic, and if you're the type of person who can pick things up just by reading about them, you could probably learn most of what we did by Googling around and looking at online guides and tutorials. However, it's also worth considering whether you might enjoy the social aspect - bouncing ideas off of other people, getting your work critiqued, individualized attention and the ability to ask a teacher questions, hanging out for a few hours per week with like-minded people who share an interest, etc.

My Advice: 
If you do take a class, do the homework and bring it in to be critiqued! I didn't, and that's my only regret. This was because I felt uninterested in shooting the things she assigned for the homework (panning shots, portraits, etc), and I also felt shy about showing my work. Only towards the end did I realize that having my work critiqued might have been helpful, and you don't really have to stick to the assigned subjects. It would have been good to bring in a picture and see how people thought it could have been improved composition-wise, lighting-wise, and so on...I totally missed out on that and it definitely could have been helpful.

I still have SO MUCH to learn when it comes to photography - I've barely scratched the surface, which is why I'm super excited to be starting Photography II on Saturday! I decided it was time because I just suddenly realized how much I missed being in a photo class. While Photo I was pretty much just the basics in terms of learning the technicalities of using the actual piece of equipment, I'm hoping that Photo II will get into more stylistic considerations - composition, framing, lighting, editing (I so need to learn about editing)...who knows what else! I'm excited to find out and to get back into learning and practicing more. AND I'm so happy to be taking it in spring, when there will be pretty foliage and flowers and grass all over Central Park and the whole city to photograph. Can't wait!

all photos by me 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Homemade Dulce de Leche Samoas Girl Scout Cookies

Homemade Girl Scout cookies

No offense to the Girl Scouts, but I always find their cookies to be a bit of a letdown - they just never taste as good as I expect them to. I've always wanted to try my hand at making a homemade version, and I finally got around to it a few days ago. I followed this recipe for Samoas made from scratch, but I added a little twist! The night before I made these, I happened to have an episode of Good Eats on in the background, and Alton got to talking about dulce de leche. He showed how to make it, and it looked to me exactly like the process of making caramel. (I'm still not really clear on the difference between the two). It looked delicious and I filed it away in my head as something to make at a later date (I even Googled "dulce de leche" recipes and settled on this one, which I still want to try). Then the next day while I was in Williams-Sonoma buying caramel for my Samoas, what do I see next to it but a jar of dulce de leche! I figured, why not sub that in for the caramel? I also subbed out the semi-sweet chocolate for milk chocolate on half the batch. 

After making the dough I used a cookie cutter to cut circles, then just used a knife to cut out the middle circles free hand. In the recipe I followed she uses a cool donut cookie cutter , which I can't really justify buying, but it would save a ton of time.

Sweet, silky smooth dulce de leche. Still not totally clear on how it's different from caramel, but they do kind of have a different taste. 

 Piles of cookies, waiting to be dressed up. 

The coconut and dulce de leche are in place...just needs chocolate now!

The finishing touch...bottoms are dipped and tops are drizzled. 

These dulce de leche Samoas are SO delicious, it's crazy. To be honest, they're also crazy time-consuming and kind of a pain - they took me the better part of an entire day to make (but that was also because I burned the coconut and had to run out for more). However, anything homemade is better than the boxed version, as you know that these have no oils or weird chemicals in them. So if you do decide to undertake this recipe, know that it's not a quick and easy one, but the results are well worth it!

photos by me


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