Friday, June 29, 2012

Clever Ways to Serve Ice Cream

Ever since I bought my cheapie ice cream maker, I find myself totally preoccupied with ideas for cool flavors of ice cream and sorbet. I even ordered some pint boxes so I can give some away the next time I make it! It also has me thinking about having an ice cream party someday, but anyone who has ever tried to serve ice cream at a party knows it's a surprisingly tough endeavor.

You're in the kitchen, running your ice cream scoop under the warm water, while everyone is waiting anxiously for their dessert. You have to give it out one at a time, because otherwise it might melt. Plus, if you're like me, your scoops suck and are really half-moon blobs. That's why I've been so glad to run across these cute ideas for serving ice cream with just a little bit of preparation.

 New Zealand-based cake company Decorada had the clever idea of spreading ice cream in a foil pan and using cookie cutters to cut perfect servings of ice cream. I'd imagine this is extra easy if you let the ice cream melt a little, pour it in the pan and then refreeze.

 Real Simple has great suggestions, including dicing ice cream into slices.

 For an outdoor summer party, Pen and Paper Flowers had the idea of scooping ice cream into mini jars and putting them on ice. Adorable, and then people can choose their own flavors.

 Real Simple also suggests pre-scooping the ice cream, dropping the scoops into cupcake liners and keeping in the fridge until ready to serve. No muss, no fuss!
Finally, the ever-brilliant folks at Martha Stewart suggest pre-scooping, rolling the scoop in sprinkles and serving with a mini stick. So cute for kids' parties and bridal/baby showers!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Nora Ephron, I Like Your Style

 "My mother wanted us to understand that the tragedies of your life
one day have the potential to be the comic stories of the next."

"Sometimes I believe that some people are better at love than others,
and sometimes I believe that everyone is faking it." 

 "Reading is one of the main things I do. Reading is everything.
Reading makes me feel like I've accomplished something, learned something,
become a better person. Reading makes me smarter."

"You can settle for reality, or you can go off, like a fool, and dream another dream."

There are girls who are pretty, but maybe not the prettiest. They read a lot, and when they talk, sometimes people laugh even if they weren't telling a joke. They have a way with words, and they're curious, so they read other people's words. They are strong, and tell the truth, and aren't afraid to be girly and aren't afraid to believe in romance as real and flawed as it is in life.

There are girls who fall in love with the wrong man, then the right man, and girls who understand everyone's love lives better than their own. There are girls who find essential human truths, about love and family and life, and capture them so perfectly that the rest of us can only look to them for explanations.

Nora Ephron was one of those girls, and she was one of my idols. No amount of Nora's writing would ever be enough; I long for one last movie, but I'll take what I can get. This is a lovely remembrance, and the LA Times says she was like a cool aunt. She wanted to be Dorothy Parker, and the LA Times is right: We all wanted to be her.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Design Inspiration from Homearama 2012

 On Tuesday, some girlfriends and I headed out to Culpepper Landing in Chesapeake for Homearama 2012, an annual builders' association expo. We always love to go for decorating inspiration (and, let's be honest, to play house and be judgy). Although there was plenty I didn't love, there were so many things I did, and I thought I'd share some of them with you.

 Our very favorite house was House 2, the "Caramel Cottage." I was in love with the Craftsman-style entry, which also had a little mudroom area and...wait for it...

 A hidden safe behind a built-in bookshelf! Loved it!

 My husband HATES TVs over the fireplace, and for good reason, so I thought this was a great solution. **Side note: I think little bits of ivy stuck in every corner is the most annoying styling trick I see everywhere. Hate. it.

 In House 3, the "Cherry Blossom," I loved the gradient-striped nursery, which was also gender-neutral. The soft blues and greens, with a crystal ball light, could work for either gender and would easily work if the room needed to become a guest room down the line.

 In House 5, "The Heron's Nest," all of the bedrooms had window seats — living the dream!

 In the same house, an office ceiling was decorated with a compass. That could be really sweet in an explorer-themed nursery, don't you think?

 We were all head-over-heels for the Moroccan-inspired tile backsplash in the "Made in America" home.

 I first saw this idea in Domino Magazine years ago, but it never gets old. Use an old china cabinet as shoe storage! Easy access, but elevated to art level.

 They drilled tiny holes in these antique bottles and mounted them to the wall for a sweet little art installation.

 I also loved this wood shelving unit...perfect for a dreamy reading area or super amazing playroom.

 I loved the creative fabric interplay in this pelmet, which pulled the whole space together.

Melissa and I gasped when we saw the chevron-tiled bathroom. I keep thinking I'm over chevrons, but they're my weakness.

 At the end of the tour, we voted House #2 our absolute favorite, so we hopped back over there to snag some extra shots. I love when space isn't wasted, like the space under the sink! This is a perfect spot for sponges and brushes.

 Plates always make great art, especially in dining rooms.

 I loved the fabric mix in this screened-in porch.

I usually don't like super cavernous high-ceilinged bedrooms, but this was just breathtaking. Every doorway had transoms, too, which always add charm to a home — new or old.

But at the end of the day, sometimes Mother Nature provides the best decoration inspiration. We've seen some amazing pink sunsets in Hampton Roads lately!

Translated: Florals into Organic Dining Room

Do you ever find yourself attracted to the same clothes and patterns all the time? I find myself reaching for striped sweaters every time I see one, and I'm still not sick of chevron decor. I want to challenge myself into drawing inspiration from the images I find beautiful, and seeing where it leads me. So, with that in mind, I wanted to start a new recurring feature I'm calling "Translated." Sometimes it might be a picture of art translated into a room, or an outfit or vice versa. 

Today, I'm drawing inspiration from Ariel Dearie Flowers, a lovely Brooklyn-based floral designer whose organic white-and-green arrangement caught my eye. I took inspiration from this image and translated it into an earthy and organic dining room:

Organic Dining

  1. Green vase, $32 at World Market.
  2. Paint in "Shale," by Serena & Lily.
  3. Vienna side chair, $119 at Crate and Barrel.
  4. Hammered pendant, $149 at Shades of Light.
  5. Gold cutlery (this kind is plastic, but ideally you'd have the real deal!)
  6. Kim Sebert crochet-edge napkin, $6 at Bloomingdales.
  7. Country trestle dining table, $849 (on sale) from Home Decorators.
  8. Pewter platter, $98 at Tabula Tua.
  9. Reed zinc chair, $149 at CB2.
  10. Allegra Hicks rug, (unfortunately on clearance) from West Elm.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Wino Wednesday: New Zealand Wines!

This post is going to start with a series of apologies: sorry it is late, sorry I forgot to bring a real camera and most of all, sorry you couldn't be there to eat Ashleigh's amazing food! Last Wednesday, Ashleigh hosted our wine club's second stop on our international wine tour: New Zealand. New Zealand is known especially for its Sauvignon Blanc, which we witnessed when almost all of us brought a bottle!

Ashleigh prepared a delicious spread, including veggie pizza, cherries, cucumber feta rolls and my favorite, kiwi guacamole. Omg, I could survive on that.

She also got some assistance from her friend, Chef Chris Hill. He whipped up a sweet chili dipping sauce for our sweet potato fries, and a stout mint sauce to pair with lamb chops. SO GOOD!

My plate of deliciousness. Ash made the most delicious, perfect lamb chops.

Here's the line-up of our many white wines. We found they ranged from sweet to peppery to peppery sweet:

  • Scene 17 Pinot Noir: A plummy berry wine — the only red we had! It was very good.
  • Tiki Sound Sauvignon Blanc: My friends tried this wine the night before and texted me to say it should be my pick. No problem with that! It was a delicious mix of all the flavors we had in the previous wines, with a great finish.
Next stop: Argentina, at my house!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Botanical Gardens, USO Show, Historical Times

 Sorry for the light posting over the past few mommy came to visit! We packed a LOT in over a couple days, but that's the way she and I like it. I thought I'd share some snapshots of the visit, if you'd like to look.

 On Saturday, we spent a couple hours wandering through the lovely Norfolk Botanical Garden, then had a delicious dinner at Omar's Carriage House, where the truffle oil fries are to die for!

 The real excitement, however, was getting to see Swingtime Salute, a recreation of a USO show in 1945, performed on the deck of the USS Wisconsin, which is permanently docked in Norfolk. The show closes on July 8.

It was so sweet and so much fun. The sunset was hot pink, there was a wonderful breeze and we listened to 40s standards on the deck of a ship! It was awesome.

 On Sunday, we headed up to Colonial Williamsburg, where I was seriously tempted by this Les Indiennes-style fabric by the yard. Might have to go get some at some point for pillows or napkins.

We ate at my favorite, The Cheese Shop, where I had my go-to: smoked turkey, edam, watercress, house dressing on French bread. So good.

 Williamsburg, by the way, is a GREAT source for gifts. Because everything is new again, all the old-fashioned, sweet simple packaging (newspaper and twine, kraft paper and ribbon) feels fresh.

 After CW, we headed to Historic Jamestowne, where archaeologists have continually conducted digs every year since the first clues of the original fort were discovered in 1994. Mom and I had to take a moment to commiserate with Pocahontas.

The church was built in 1907 on top of the foundation of a church from of the floor are made of glass, so the original foundation is visible. So cool, and makes me so proud to live here, where it all began.

It was a great weekend and wonderful visit, but went by too fast! Don't they always?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Guinness Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

If you're just joining me here at the old blog, let me catch you up on something I would be remiss not to mention: three years ago, I had never cooked a chicken breast or made a single thing from scratch. Last night, I made homemade Guinness Chocolate Chip ice cream. Seriously.

If that's not inspiration to learn to cook for you, I don't know what is! If I can do it, ANYONE can do it.

I've seen so many inspiring ice cream and sorbet restaurants floating around the internet lately and when I saw a cheapie half-pint ice cream maker at Target for $25 (it's this model), I thought, "What the hey? Let's try it." You can, by the way, make ice cream without a machine; Google it!

I wanted my first flavor to be two things: 1) Not easily available in the grocery store (to make it worth the effort and 2) Not overly complicated. I had two cans of Guinness in the fridge and found a recipe that didn't call for too many ingredients or too many complicated steps. Win!

The first requirement: freeze your ice cream bowl, preferably overnight. When it was actually time to start making ice cream, I began by mixing a cup of sugar with one egg, just stirring it with a wooden spoon until mixed.

 And it looked like this...

Meanwhile I brought the two cans of Guinness to a boil and boiled until it reduced by half. I then took it off the boiler and let it get warm.

I added 1/2 cup of milk to the sugar/egg mixture and stirred that up real well, and then it was time to mix in the Guinness reduction.

I used my best judgment...I didn't think all of the syrup was needed, so I tried to eyeball the right amount.

 Once the Guinness was mixed in, I added 2 cups of heavy cream and stirred it up. I put the mixture in the fridge for an hour (but got impatient and sped up the process by chilling in the freezer a little bit). Now: TIME FOR MIXIN!

 I poured half the mixture in bowl of the machine and churned it for about 25-30 minutes.

After the first 17 minutes or so, it was thickening enough to add chocolate chips, which I made by chopping up some Ghirardelli baking milk chocolate.

 I let it churn for what felt like forever until it got to basically advanced milkshake stage. I didn't know what to expect, but I put it in a glass freezer-proof container and put it in the freezer. I was nervous...what if I just made a bunch of terrible ice cream that was going to be a glorified milkshake? But...

It was amazing! At first the Guinness flavor was a bit disarming, but it totally grows on you, just like real Guinness! Also, seriously, it had the same consistency as store-bought ice cream, which was something the machine directions explicitly said not to expect.

So now, my mind is teeming with ice cream and sorbet ideas! I'm thinking of making champagne sorbet next...but do you guys have any ideas? What's a flavor you'd love to try?