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Monday, June 23, 2014

The Hip List // Productivity Boosters

I blame the fact that we never really had a winter here in Southern California. See, down came the Christmas Tree and suddenly, I had my sights on summer and all the playfulness that is supposed to ensue in said season of fun. I dragged my way through the warm and sunny work weeks of spring, knowing the pool sat right outside the door to my home office. But then things took a turn and I found myself scheduling warm weather soirees, taking my coffee break on the patio and toasting along with the weekday happy hour crowd.  We even worked quickly through our typical spring spruce up around the house and just like that, weekends that were once chock full of projects were suddenly full of leisure to enjoy. That's the way it should be, isn't it? All work and no play makes Erin a dull gal. 

The rub is that I still have to report into my 9 to 5 five days a week... even if the pool and summer fun beckons. To keep me on track and distract me from all the playtime I've so easily indulged in these past few weeks, I decided to scout out a few pretty effects for my home office. I spied these beauties at Target - easily accessible, affordable and sure to boost productivity through the long, dog days of summer. 

one | two | three | four | five | six

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Recent Floral Work

Over the years, I've done quite a bit of floral work for weddings, showers, holidays, birthdays and other events. There was also a time when I would fill the house with flowers each Saturday morning, tucking arrangements onto every bookshelf, table and counter. These days, my focus is elsewhere and when we host parties of our own, I prefer to keep floral statements simple. 

But occasionally, I get to pick up a floral project or two and I'm reminded of just how much I really love to design an entire floral scheme, go to market and select the blooms and transform my kitchen and dining room into a studio workspace for the day. 

Through experience, I've come to know what works for me. I usually work alone and because there are limitations that come with that, pre-planning is essential. I inventory, order and assemble all my supplies well ahead of time, as well as prep my workspace. There are times when I've shipped the floral to my doorstep because a client or I wanted something very specific, but I always try to get downtown to the flower market to hand pick fresh blooms and greenery when possible. I work against a written schedule and keep the house quite cold when I'm designing. Music and coffee fuel a day that starts before the sun comes up and depending on the scale of the project, can even go into the wee hours of the next morning. 

This most recent project was focused on my Mother In Law's Retirement dinner at a favorite local mexican restaurant. We took over the bar for the evening and dressed it up a bit with some table floral. Lighting was dim so it was important to choose varieties that would not only compliment our setting, but most importantly would add color amongst all the brown wood in the room.

 I mentioned recently that I've picked back up my old habit of bringing weekend flowers back into the house. It's good practice and keeps the creativity flowing. But event floral can be an entirely different beast.  Thankfully, this larger project exercised that languishing skill set. Most of all, it was reassuring to know that I could rely on my background and past experience and pick it right back up when needed to take on an event from time to time. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Cornflake - Marshmallow - Chocolate Chip Cookies

Celebratory holidays always call for a special dessert. We played host to Father's Day festivities here at Holtwood House. So I rose early Sunday morning to whip up a batch of some very special cookies based on a recipe by Christina Tosi of 'Momofuku Milk Bar' fame to mark the occasion. These cookies are soft and gooey, crisp and crunchy - a win/win to please a table full of family members with varying opinions on just how they like their chocolate chip cookie. They required a few out of the ordinary steps and a watchful eye, but I'm here to tell you that the end result is worth the extra effort. The hardest part of preparing these cookies will be holding out and waiting for dessert before you tear into them (and I can tell you that four of my family members- you know who you are- did not). 

I always take time to read user reviews before embarking on a new recipe. While I usually try and stick closely to the original version, the reviews on this particular recipe equipped me with information I used to my advantage in developing a modified ingredient list below. I reduced the granulated sugar, added a 1/2 cup to the flour and because I realized mid-way through preparation that I was out - substituted almond extract for vanilla. I also was out of baking soda and in lieu of that, upped the amount of baking powder just a bit based on some online advice.  I'm pretty sure this last modification helped these sugary cookies to rise just the way they outta. Outside of that, I followed the step by step directions as is right from the Martha Stewart website where I saw the original recipe published.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons coarse salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups Cornflake Crunch* (prepare this first- see below)
2/3 cup mini Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 1/4 cups mini Marshmallows

1/2 (12-ounce) box cornflakes (about 5 cups)
1/2 cup milk powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon coarse salt
9 tablespoons melted butter

A few more pointers based on my own experience with this recipe:

- Reduce your baking time. I had my hand on the oven waiting to pull these at the 9-minute mark. They were out when the edges just started to turn crisp right at 11 minutes.

- Equal portions in each scoop. Try and make sure you have the same amount of marshmallow and chocolate in every scoop. Those with more marshmallow or chocolate had a more gooey consistency and the edges almost mimicked a caramelized florentine style cookie.

- Scoop and cool the dough first. It's important to use cooled dough that's been in the fridge a minimum of 1 hour. I left my scoops in the fridge for two before baking them off.

Seriously. The best cookie I've ever had.  I hoarded one away and I'm already counting the hours before I can gobble it up for dessert tonight.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Hip List // Summer Re-fresh

While I always keep an eye out for new products that will enhance our home or my own daily routine, I feel a stronger commitment to a quarterly re-fresh of sorts - one to match each season. I'm influenced by texture and the way certain fabrics will feel against the skin at different times of the year. I also try and give a boost to my olfactory sense as well. Certain scents just make more sense to me under the warmth of summer or chill of fall. Here I've pulled together a few products that would surely make life more pleasurable around these parts as we plunge head forth into the season ahead.

[one] We left little room in our landscape plan for a full sized hammock, but this hammock sling chair from Terrain would be a perfect place to chill by the pool | [two] Easy-care throw rugs like this one from Nate Berkus will help protect our floors from wet feet  | [three] By far, my favorite scented hand soap. In fact, I'm quite sure it will become a staple scent in our home (maybe even year-round!) | [four] Some take to books, but my read of choice in the summer is a magazine. This bamboo magazine holder from ZARA Home will corral all my favorites | [five] I recently chopped off my locks for a no-fuss 'do' this summer. I plan on using this texturizing spray all summer for a fresh from the beach look.

Monday, June 2, 2014

New Art at Holtwood House

We recently added some new art to our walls here at Holtwood House and today, I thought I'd share a sneak peek at two of the bigger statement pieces hanging in the living and dining areas. In both cases, we had looked for quite a bit of time to find just the right works - the right image, the right scale and ultimately the great dictator as far as these things go, the right budget. In the end, we took our own camera out on a couple of deliberately planned outings and I snapped some photos - hoping we'd land one or two we could work into our plans. 

As luck would have it, we had a few to choose from and together with a little editing, were able to print off and frame the two large scale pieces shared here.  We stayed true to our love of California, paying homage to both the towering Mexican Palms and Joshua Trees that line our beaches and deserts. 

We wanted to go big with both and outsourced the large scale prints to a shop here in Los Angeles. The shot of the Palms was snapped while walking near the Balboa Pier in Newport Beach and measures a lengthy 36" x 70". To save on the expense of framing, we sandwiched the print between the wall and a piece of plexiglass we had cut at Home Depot. Screws and caps finished it off for a clean, modern look. 

I talked a bit previously here about our day trip to Joshua Tree and the hunt for "the one" image we wanted to use above our dining table. With a bit of cropping and editing, we were able to capture the shot we wanted and enlarged it to 36" x 36". We purchased an inexpensive metal frame online that we put together ourselves and had the plexiglass custom cut at a shop around the corner from our house. 

We are so satisfied with the end result- two statement pieces, very personal to us, both hung for under $250. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Inspired Weekend Floral

I've been trying to get back into the habit of arranging fresh floral about the house. I was once pretty diligent about doing this every Saturday morning - either by way of my local Trader Joe's or Farmer's Market. But somewhere along the way, be it a result of continuous wedding or party floral work or as a by-product of focus (and budget) spent on other house projects, I fell out of practice. The long weekend seemed a perfect occasion to pick it back up.

I took inspiration from a recent Goop luncheon - images of a table arrangement that seemed to pull in some of the flavors of the meal served - lemon, artichoke, asparagus... My modified version borrowed from the colors, textures and plantings around our house and garden. Our lemon tree is overflowing with over-ripe citrus right now, begging to be plucked and put to use. We also tend to favor succulents and cactus around these parts, so I pulled smaller plants from other areas of the house and incorporated them into what became a long, textured buffet of floral, foliage, fruits and veggies.

Memorial Weekend sits right on the cusp of both the spring and summer seasons and I think this hodge podge arrangement is representative of both.  The base was constructed from various materials as well- enamelware, glass, petrified wood and basket vessels.

Over the weekend, we had an impromptu dinner party and deconstructed it to make room for food on the table. It was easily put back together and has lasted nearly 5 days now. It's such a versatile set up. I may even replace the blooms and foliage and give it new life to make it last through the next weekend. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Around Here // Shibori on the Patio

Over the past few weeks, we've been getting pummeled by unseasonal winds here in SoCal. They caught us by surprise in the wee hours of the morning that last week in April. Just the week before, we had finished our landscaping projects and fancied up the area around the fire bowl. We were quite pleased with ourselves for being ahead of the summer entertaining curve for once. But then those Santa Anas blew in and made a mess of all we'd planted and prepared. Daylight finally came and we had nary a moment to survey the damage. We made a mad dash to secure anything that had not yet blown into the pool (or the neighbor's yard) and bring what we could inside to protect it from further damage. 

Such it was that the deep seated bench that once sat around the fire was relocated to our enclosed patio and tarped over to spare what was left of the cushions. Two steps forward, one step back as they say... 

When the winds eventually subsided, it was evident some of the outdoor cushions I made just last season would need replacing. The truth is, we had left them outside most of the year and they had become weather-worn long before that gusty week. While I was not happy about the added expense,  I was thankful to have a good reason to replace them with a softer pattern and easier on the skin textiles.

I was lucky enough to find inexpensive white linen-like pillow cases, along with a couple of flat weave rugs and linen place mats that would eventually become additional pillows. To give them a little color and bring this mish-mash of materials together, I decided to try my hand at shibori.  There are so many tutorials out there on this hand dyed technique, picking it up was fairly easy (here's one of my favorites yet). Supplies were inexpensively acquired and one night after work, I outfitted our shower area with Home Depot buckets and created a dye bath station.

I soaked my twisted, banded and knotted fabric in basic black Rit dye, alternating the bath times to result in contrasting tones. I even tried my hand at painting fabric, sketching dozens of lines down the face of one pillow with screen-printing paint.  The once brown, grain-sack place mats I found on the clearance rack at Home Goods were sewn together and stuffed to create a couple of striped accent pillows.

Once they dried and I had a chance to iron them,  I was pretty tickled at how well they turned out on my first attempt. 

The winds have passed now (hopefully for the rest of the season), but we have not yet moved the bench back out by the fire bowl. The display of plush, shibori pillows makes for nice visual transition walking from indoors to out.  Just beyond our kitchen door, this little area has also become a favorite, cozy spot to thumb through magazines or just curl up in our bathing suits while having lunch on weekends. It may eventually be relocated, but for now, it's a good place to settle in for the lazy days of summer that lay ahead.