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Tuesday
Sep082009

comfort food goes potluck 2009 style!

photos: corn chowder by ashdmarcin, beef stew by jetalone // CC BY 2.0

Way back in 2003, scientific findings linked the body’s stress-response system to cravings for high-energy foods—many of which we think of as comfort foods. It should be no surprise then that comfort food is the most common theme for the latest surge in potluck gatherings.

While images of barn raisings and block parties come to mind, so does community, friends and family all supporting each other in these challenging times. As we watch our expenses and look for moral support, we’re sharing meals in similar fashion. What better way to console, raise spirits, network—and share costs and prep-time—than lingering over traditional favorites such as mac and cheese, hot dogs and baked beans and homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Today’s comfort foods are anything but bland—it’s all about spicing up basic ingredients and the presentation! How about seasonal corn chowder in silo mugs, marinated beef stew in sleek modern bowls, and organic apple pie a la mode on zoid plates?

Let your imagination run outside the cookbook. We believe easy, inexpensive and tasty recipes are out there. For a quick search, check out the Top 25 American Comfort Foods and Recipes, at Home Cooking on about.com and share yours with us. Who knows, maybe you’ll see it in a future catalog?

Thursday
Sep032009

inspiration: barcelona

This summer, I took the opportunity to visit Barcelona since I’d been wanting to go for years. For four sun-filled beautiful days I swam in the sea, walked the streets, admired the architecture, devoured the fish, and left with lasting impressions.

The two most outstanding? First, everyone was incredibly gracious and seemed to possess a sense of peace and happiness along with a modest pride in their homeland’s culture and language. Second, the architecture is absolutely amazing.

 

All the works by Antoni Gaudi are wonderful in their whimsy and define unique. Gothic and Modern are equally prevalent—and quite often they’re mixed with sheer genius.

Much like home it’s a very bike friendly city—for both tourists and locals—and the transit system is efficient and easy. While wandering the neighborhoods I found modern hotels in the industrial area, and storefront windows of thick glass flush to the weathered walls that make up the winding streets of the Gothic quarter.

A few favorite spots: Parc Guell for its Gaudi architecture, colorful mosaics and expansive views of the city and sea. Mil for their vintage storefront and exceptional millinery for men and women. La Vinya del Senyor at Placa Santa Maria—a wonderful spot for wine tastings and tapas—just outside the Santa Maria del Mar. Do see the Gothic cathedral, the beauty is in its architecture, age and grit.

And lastly, Salero for lunch. Tucked in La Ribera, their mix of vintage with modern—of worn wood tables and white chairs, of mirrors and lighting—topped by delicious cuisine served on simple tablewares, altogether the experience was a highlight. 

Photo: Restaurante Salero

The trip was very refreshing and inspirational. I bought a stack of music to recall the mood and took hundreds of photos. Isn’t this the perfect mix of old and new?

Wednesday
Sep022009

we <3 a good tattoo

tattoorug

Whether temporary or permanent, it’s been quite a while now that tattoos have gone from drunken sailor days to biker chic to everyday—and almost every age.

And it’s become pretty common to see fashion walk off the runway and into home decor. Have you noticed the proliferation of yellow in both ready-to-wear and shelter magazines?

Artist Sophie Conran designed the muscle tattoo pattern—that transfers wonderfully to a hand-tufted rug—complete with a banner draped heart. It could be the most radical way to liven up a beige room.

Can you imagine it in your space? On the floor—or as wall art?

Tuesday
Sep012009

furniiture design 101

http://www.flickr.com/photos/larryncelia/ / CC BY 2.0

This past Wednesday night, Sandra and I had the honor of critiquing student design projects here in Chicago. Our five person panel was invited by our friend Paul, who teaches a architecture and furniture class at IIT’s College of Architecture.

During the semester, 14 students refined their prototypes with Paul’s guidance and presented them with their thought process and budget. Held in the timeless and inspirational Crown Hall (designed by Mies van der Rohe and shown here), we reviewed photo frames, tables, chairs and stacking bookcases.

To say we were impressed with their creative designs, and ingenious use of select woods, would be an understatement. And it isn’t often we get to see hand-crafted solid wood modern furniture using age old manufacturing techniques—ie. mortise and tenon joinery, 50-degree mitered slip joints, etc.

The initial assignment was to visit CB2 and design a frame and a piece of furniture based on our aesthetic. There were a handful that we’re so crazy about, we’re checking to see if they can be manufactured for CB2. If they make the cut, watch for their story and remember this is when it all began.

In the meantime, the event brought back memories of all-nighters at design school for Sandra and high school shop class for me. What about you? Ever put pencil to paper to sketch out your furniture ideas?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/yusunkwon/ / CC BY 2.0
Wednesday
Aug262009

the prairie avenue bookshop

http://www.flickr.com/photos/vinzcha/ / CC BY 2.0 This past Saturday I walked into the Prairie Avenue Bookshop for the last time. It will be closing on Monday, August 31st.

Started in 1961 as the Prairie School Press, the bookshop opened in 1974 in the historic Printer’s Row neighborhood in Chicago to support the Prairie School Review, books on the Chicago School, the Prairie School and related subjects. Over the decades the shop grew and moved to Wabash Avenue. Tucked under the elevated mass transit system, it was a modest gem.

One of the greatest pleasures of living in a city committed to architects and architecture was a carefree afternoon at the bookshop. Just walking in the door and breathing in the musty air was sheer joy. Air that was filled with the scent of books—old, new, out-of-print, imported—the broadest range of just one subject: the spaces we live in.

Whether about construction techniques or materials research, famous and/or controversial architects, furniture design and decorating indoors and out, multi-million dollar projects, city planning or village homes in Vietnam; Prairie Avenue was world-renowned as the best resource for print materials on architecture. And thankfully, it was right in our backyard.

As much as we love new technologies and all the information at our fingertips, we recall all that we’ve learned from the books we bought. We will miss you.