tie me up, tie me down

You may want to spew raw silk from every orifice after reading this post, and for that I apologize. But I have to share my latest accessory obsession, just in time for summer! A few years back I bought a yard of beautiful emerald green raw silk to hang a vintage pendant I got in Greece when I was young. Last night I decided to wear it as a bracelet by wrapping it around my wrists, and I'm totally hooked. Don't be surprised if you see me rocking all or any of these silk "wristbands" this summer. I'm about to make artbeads.com's day! I hope their server doesn't crash.

Here are a few of my favorites:

 Pink/Orange blend - basically a tie dye pattern

Royal Blue (yes that's metallic trim!)

 Purple with Black Edges

 Olive Green with Brown Edges

 Autumn Leaves


Blue/Green with Lime Edges

All images courtesy of artbeads.com


the district of columbia

Forgive the cheesy title of this post (it was originally spelled Cool-umbia, ba-dum-dum) but I have been meaning to share some of the highlights of my visit to Washington, D.C. a few weekends ago. 

The purpose of the trip was a mini-reunion with seven friends from college, and I stayed with my friend Stephanie and her boyfriend Rob in their Mount Pleasant apartment.  It was my first time visiting this part of the city and I really liked the vibe.  I passed lots of Hispanic businesses and eateries on the 15 minute walk from the Metro, and the smells and sounds of the neighborhood reminded me a lot of The Mission in San Francisco. The "hola, mami" catcalls, however, were reminiscent of a trip I took to Mexico with the same group of girls about 12 years ago.  On Saturday we got coffee and bagels at this little cafe (where I'm quite sure the most miserable people in the world work - but why??) then we checked out the farmers market.  Here are a few snaps.  Have you ever seen such lovely asparagus?

The last two shots were taken in Stephanie and Rob's apartment, including one of Steph whipping up a delicious cake for our friend's birthday.  Unlike many other cities where I've lived, it's not taboo to live in a basement apartment in D.C.  In fact, all the ones I've seen have been quite nice and have great layouts.  This photo was taken from the entrance to the living room, which was a good 20' x 15' itself. Another bonus of these basement apartments is that they stay much cooler in the sticky summers.

Now, onto the food. On Saturday we had brunch at the Hotel Tabard Inn, and after inhaling a freshly fried donut, I changed gears and opted for a healthy chicken and beluga lentil salad over one of their famous savory breakfast treats. It was so fresh and flavorful, and it photographed quite well, don't you think?

Menu at the Hotel Tabard Inn

Finally, one of the highlights of the weekend was attending a puppy adoption fair with Stephanie on Sunday.  A few minutes after we got there we met this little guy.


Rob came to meet us and spend time with the puppy, then after almost an hour interview with the adoption agency, Stephanie drove me to Virginia where I had to work on Monday.  In the car she received a call to let her know that she and Rob were the proud new owners of the furry fellow above. He's a lab/shepherd mix of some sort, and they named him Rooney.

I'm looking forward to getting back down to D.C. to visit Rooney (and my friends) soon!  Next time I'll blog about some of the great shops I found.  Unfortunately, I lost the notes I took on this last trip.


baked kisses

My affection for Mark Bittman is no secret, and I recently tried a banana bread recipe from his Diner's Journal column in the NYT.

The bread was a bit drier than I normally like it, but the exterior crust was so golden, crunchy and delicious, it's really the perfect bread for toasting and smearing with butter.  Also, the recipe only calls for 3/4 cup sugar, so this will not be the sweetest banana bread you've ever tried.  Just to compare to other banana bread recipes, I did a little research and found one that calls for 2 1/3 cups sugar! Holy hell, that's a lot. But the recipe is from Boston's own Flour Bakery, so I'm sure this would make a decadent treat.  I brought the finished loaf to a BBQ.

Even though Mark says that this is meant to be a bread not a cake, the next time I make it I'm going to add more banana or possibly a little vegetable oil or buttermilk to add some more moisture. The coconut adds a really nice "what's that?" flavor, and I'm looking forward to using this secret ingredient in other baked goods.

The recipe can be found here.

beantown sunset

Behold the Boston skyline as viewed from the roof of my friends Louisa and John's apartment in the South End.  Damn, I'm lucky to live in this city!

two old soles

1998 - 2010          ~  R.I.P.  ~         1997 - 2010

Have you ever heard a story of an elderly couple, so in love, that when one dies, the other follows so closely thereafter it's as if they couldn't live without one another?

I bought my first pair of Pumas (the dark green Californias) heading into my Freshman year of college, and the blue and white pair the following summer. I think these shoes were made for my feet, and if you've ever owned a pair you'll agree that they are remarkably comfortable.

A few weeks ago I tripped on something while wearing the blue ones, and looked down to find a chunk of my sneaker sole on the sidewalk. A BIG chunk. A few hours later I had resorted to tearing off the rest of the sole because it threatened to cause a major accident. I felt like I was amputating a relative's leg. Then yesterday I reached for the original greens and found that their soles remained on the floor when I lifted them... sadly, they too, had passed on.

Before I send them off to sneaker heaven a.k.a. my trash pile, I wanted to document them together one last time. While those are indeed Band Aids holding them together, these puppies covered a lot of ground with me over the years and they will be missed.

cheeky spring colors

My mother snipped these beauties from her yard recently.  For a few short days they filled my apartment with such a lovely smell, confirming that spring really has arrived.

Then, as if I needed further proof of how smart the buyers at my favorite lingerie store are, I returned from a trip with these colorful undies.  Whether or not I was aware of the impact the lilacs had had on my subconscious, I would say that these reflect the colors of the season, wouldn't you?

I've got about 20 pairs of these (really), and while they may not last quite as long as their prototype, you really can't beat $20 for 4 pairs of comfy thongs. I can hardly tell the difference, and they come in really great colors and patterns.

Speaking of great finds, here are a few other things I picked up at Target recently that I think are pretty special.

These "greennotes" notebooks are slim and small with a pretty Greek key motif. They come in a pack of three for about $5, and I brought one to work and left another one in my car (where I always seem to be looking for something to write on).

Then, perhaps the best Target score of my life, the $9.99 Liberty of London Violet Fig Jar Candle.

Is this not a gorgeous candle? It only took me a second to recognize the scent, and I mean it when I say that it smells identical to the Jo Malone Wild Fig & Cassis Home Candle that retails for an unreachable $65.

I think I'll take my Target candle! I bought two at the store, then, in a move I must have inherited from my mother, ordered three more online. I now have a nice Violet Fig candle stockpile that should last me quite a while.


a chance encounter with john derian

First let me begin by saying that dinner at Craigie on Main was delicious. There were a few issues with service (drinks took far too long to arrive and the kitchen accidentally prepared the Pig Head instead of the Roasted Chicken.. oops), but the incredibly friendly and knowledgeable staff more than made up for it by sending over several complimentary dishes. One of these dishes turned out to be my favorite of the evening - a smooth, spicy hot chocolate served in a shot glass with a tiny spoon... blissss.

But the whole point of this entry is to tell you all that I met John Derian today. I MET JOHN DERIAN TODAY! I can hardly believe I'm typing that.  In preparation for a trip I'm taking to Washington D.C. on Friday, I decided this morning that I was really due to get my bangs trimmed.  I was about five minutes early for my appointment when I parked around the corner from my salon, so I popped into Lekker Unique Home Furnishings, a fantastic home store in the South End.  I had passed the store last week, and noticed that there were quite a few John Derian plates being displayed in the window, as well as what looked like several of his beautiful, minimalist traditional furniture pieces. When I walked in today, it looked as though they were setting up for an event, but I ignored this and bee-lined to to the wall of his signature decoupage plates.

My love affair with John Derian's plates started after my sister pointed them out to me about seven years ago. I dropped a hint (a BIG hint) to my boyfriend at the time, and for our first Christmas together he bought me this plate which I think is so unique and romantic.  Six plates later, it is still my favorite.

The owner approached me as I stood, transfixed, in front of the wall, and told me that all John Derian plates were 20% off today.  "What a bargain!" I thought, and then gushed about my obsession with the artist, gasping, "I am a collector!" (who the hell do I think I am!) Then the owner said to me, "Well, John is here today, he just stepped out for a moment. We're having an in-store event with him from 3 to 7, you should come say hello, I'm sure he'd love to meet a fan."  I practically ran to get my bangs trimmed, came back, and saw John standing alone in the store.  Not to be dramatic but his man is kind of a celebrity to me! I just really admire his creativity and style, and if I had the money, I'd stock up on his Hugo Guinness prints, paper/glass candleholders and Moroccan poufs next.  You just can't go wrong.

I picked a gorgeous heart-shaped plate off the wall and carried it over to John.  We chatted for a few minutes, I told him about my sister's grouping of his citrus plates above her stove, and then asked him if he'd sign my plate.  He told me the story behind the plate I chose.  He found the hand-cut tin heart in an old warehouse.  Being equal parts archivist/historian and artist, he told me that he suspects the original tin cutting dates from the 1890's.  I can't help but think of some poor, heartsick worker carefully cutting out this image in some factory.  While John grabbed a Sharpie, I told him that this was a real treat for me as it was my birthday the other day.  I thanked him and left, and when I looked at the plate in my car, I was so touched to read the message:

Thank you Vanessa Happy Birthday John Derian

My plate in its new home

The lesson my friends? Don't put off that bang trim.. you never know who you could meet on your way there.


spring flavors

 Image from here
Yesterday was my birthday and we're celebrating tonight by dining at Craigie on Main.  I don't think I've been this excited for a meal since I ate at Blue Hill in December. I only hope I can give it the same rave reviews! I cannot wait to tell you about it, fair reader... readers?

I already have my eye on a few things on their seasonal tasting menu, but knowing me I'll probably go for the Prix Fixe option.


window box fever

Spring has sprung on Beacon Hill! Here are just a few of the lovely and creative window boxes on my block.



camera happy

I had the joy of spending yesterday afternoon with my niece and nephew while my sister was at an appointment. One of my favorite things to do with them is to hand them my camera and let them run wild. Athena (3 1/2 yrs) has quite the eye, and while she usually favors taking photos of my face at point-blank range with a flash, she got pretty creative yesterday.  Teddy's (22 months) hands aren't quite big enough to hold the camera and press the shutter, but he's getting there and I have high hopes for his photographic future!
 Coco buried under a pile of pillows and blankets
Coco's feet (in need of a pedicure)
Detail of cheese stick and hair bow (I love the composition here)
Detail of needlepoint pillow

this guy

I have no intention of turning this into a fashion blog, but I need to introduce you to this character I met heading to the Lupe Fiasco concert at the House of Blues last week. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw this animal tail wagging from his Louis Vuitton belt, so I stalked him for a few blocks before finally approaching him to see if I could snap his photo.

When I asked if it was a raccoon tail, he proudly corrected me, "No, it's fox!" (poor fox)



Tonight I attended a networking event hosted by my high school at The Butcher Shop, one of super-chef Barbara Lynch's restaurants. I had been anticipating the evening for over a month because Barbara herself, one of my culinary idols, would be there. If you aren't familiar with this James Beard Award-winning firecracker of a woman, you probably do not live in Boston. But even if you do, here's just one interesting and entertaining article about Barbara that ran in Boston Magazine this winter. To call her a fascinating and brave woman is an understatement, and before showing up tonight I tried to imagine what I'd say if given the opportunity to speak to the chef herself.

When I arrived at the restaurant I was not feeling well at all, and actually only planned to stay for 20 minutes. But then I saw Barbara chatting with a few women several feet from me, and I was suddenly struck with nervous excitement. There were copies of her new cookbook, Stir, on the massive butcher block in the center of the restaurant, and she greeted the group warmly and genuinely. As she read an excerpt from the book's introduction, I was both inspired to hear HER talk about her tough upbringing in Southie, and also felt just a tiny bit jealous that she was able to find her passion for food so early in life. On my best of days, I am just another foodie and slightly-better-than-average cook/baker who will feed anyone willing to be fed. But I harbor a deep desire to do something related to food for a job. Now that I am not chained to a desk all week, I've been able to make my passion for food a much bigger part of my life because I actually have the time for it. It's grown into more than simply a hobby, but still I wonder... could there be a career for me in the food world? And, if so, what would it be?

After Barbara finished reading, we were invited to buy her cookbook and have her sign our copies. I can only speculate that some of Barbara's ballsiness rubbed off on me, because as I stood second in line, I quickly thought of something to ask her that could lead into a short discussion. Who knew, maybe this woman who proudly admits to always following her instincts would get an instinct from me! I started by shaking her hand and telling her that I really admire her and her ambition. Then I launched into a breathless speech about being trapped in corporate America, yet all I can think about is food, how to get it, how to make it. She chuckled and asked what I do for work so I told her. At this point I had already been standing with her for far too long, and there was a line of people waiting with their cookbooks behind me. But then some fire in my belly inspired me to say, "I don't know what your next venture will be but..."... and then more spewing... "I'm always interested in hearing how other people have been able to take their skill set and apply it in a field they're truly passionate about!"... and "Have you ever considered developing your own products?" At this point, likely exhausted from hearing me over-share for 30 seconds, Barbara Lynch turned to me and said, "Do you have a card? We should get lunch." Jaw. Dropping. Must. Remain. Calm. By some miracle I dug a business card from the depths of my wallet. Knowing full well that she was probably just being generous and trying to move the line along, I passed her my card and thanked her again for having us at the restaurant. (Did I mention that she just opened her latest location FOUR days ago?) As if this encounter wasn't enough to send me into the streets clicking my heels, I had the nerve to approach her yet again on my way out, and she stole a business card from one of her employees, on which she wrote her email address with a Sharpie. Barbara Lynch's email, in her writing, in my hand. A memento, in my sister's words, worthy of being stashed under my pillow.

I don't know what spirit possessed me tonight, but if I do have the fortune of meeting Barbara Lynch again, you will read about it here. You know, just don't expect me to share our latest business idea...