Monday, August 30, 2010

Richard Avedon @ the MFA

I took a break from packing this weekend to see the new exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Avedon Fashion: 1944-2000 (running through January 17). Richard Avedon was a fashion photographer who worked for Harper's Bazaar and Vogue, to name a couple.

The bulk of the exhibit features shots from the 1960s, so in addition to the amazing photographs, I really enjoyed the 60s fashion.  The curators did a great job with the exhibition design, with basic white and dark gray walls to complement the black and white photos.

Here's one of my favorite photos from the exhibit. I love how the elephants are pulling up on their chains like they're trying to escape. Plus that Dior dress is amazing.

Dovima with Elephants, Evening Dress by Dior, Paris (1955)
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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Nautical Tableware

In the midst of packing up my entire apartment this weekend to move, I've found some belongings I had completely forgotten about. Most of them are things like old 3D glasses, dust bunnies the size of my head, and mix tapes. But these little plates were a hidden gem. I bought them earlier in the summer at the Cape Ann Whale Watch gift shop in Gloucester, Mass, and had never taken them out of their box. $10 for the set, which I thought was pretty good for being in a tourist trap.

Yes, they say Nantucket. Obviously not a local Gloucester product. I just love those cute little whales. I plan to actually use the plates at my new apartment, and they'll be perfect for breakfast or dessert.

They're made by Boston Warehouse, a company I recognized from their "Animal House" line, which are little kitchen gadgets in the shapes of animals.
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Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Perfect Trench

My friend Kase is lusting over a trench coat (included below) and got me thinking about trenches as well. The past few days in Boston have been a little chilly, so I've yet again rediscovered my favorite gray trench coat from NY&Company, circa 2007. But who doesn't need another one, since they're perfect for fall and spring (and maybe winter, depending where you live). These are a few of my favorites, from the extremely affordable to one I'll just fantasize about.

Under $100

Old Navy $49.50

Victoria's Secret $98

Under $200

MICHAEL Michael Kors

Banana Republic $198


J. Crew $298

Karen Millen $630

p.s. In case anybody's wondering, Kase is after the Banana version.
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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Lilly Craft Tote

Lilly Pulitzer, one of my favorite too-preppy-for-its-own-good brands, had a crazy summer sale last week, so I took the opportunity to pounce on a tote bag I had been eying. I wanted it mainly for use as a craft bag, to carry yarn and supplies, so I wasn't really willing to spend the normal price of $88. But at $38 I couldn't resist!

The print is called "Queen of Green;" I really like all the little recycle signs and light bulbs. Granted, it's completely summery and fall is pretty much already upon us in Boston, but I just don't care.

Voila - full of crafts. It also has an inside zipper pocket to store your thimbles.

Added bonus: because the Lilly Pulitzer website apparently has really crappy bandwidth, the sale crashed the site for awhile. Thus, people were pissed. Thus, Lilly attempted to remedy this by including a free key fob in with all the orders placed that day. I didn't have a problem with the site, but still ended up with this cute key chain that goes with the bag (and let's face it, many more of my possessions):

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Dirty Martini

Nothing starts a Friday night like a nice martini. I like a lot of the fancy specialty martinis you can get at bars, but my favorite is just a classic gin and vermouth mix. I've seen a lot of arguing online about what exactly makes the perfect martini, but in my opinion, the perfect martini is whatever fits your tastes. See my method below.

1. In a shaker, combine 3 oz of gin, a splash of dry vermouth, and lots of ice.

2. Shake! Strain into a martini glass.

3. Add a couple of olives (these are blue-cheese stuffed green olives) and a tiny bit of the olive marinade.

4. Enjoy slowly.
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Friday, August 20, 2010

Shoes Dot Com

People ask me a lot where I buy my shoes, and they're often surprised that I purchase so many online. Once you know a brand, though, it's pretty easy to guess what size you'll be, and many websites offer free return or exchange shipping. Although seems to have the most name recognition in this market, I've never purchased anything from them. Instead, I browse a number of other sites, ranging in variety and expense, to find the perfect shoe. Here's a roster of my favorites:

For recognizable brand names:
These sites offer designer names at discounted prices.

Owned by Nine West, ShoeWoo sells a selection of brands including Bandalino and Anne Klein.
Free shipping on orders over $50.

Like Zappos, Endless is owned by Amazon. When they first started, they offered "negative $5 shipping," meaning free shipping plus $5 off your total order. That promotion is gone, but you can still enjoy free 2-day shipping.
Free 2-day shipping and returns on all orders.

Not that different from the other big sites. However, I found a pair of Jessica Simpson pumps here for $15 less than any other site, and they've become my go-to black heels. Thus, makes the list.
Free 2-day shipping and returns on all orders.

You might be looking at last season's offerings, but DSW always has at least a few great finds. Unlike bigger sites like Endless or 6pm, you can't go looking for a specific shoe. Just browse and see what comes up.
Free shipping on orders over $35 for DSW Rewards members (free membership).

Pretty similar to Zappos, actually, but I like the selection better. No free shipping deals that I could find, though.

For off-brand, inexpensive options:
These sites offer brands no one has heard of, with prices ranging from $15-$50. You won't find any genuine leather, but these are great places to look for fun shoes you don't expect to last a lifetime.

This site is full of fun shoes and trashy apparel.
Free shipping on orders over $50.

Honestly, these sites are all pretty similar. But they have slightly varying selections and different prices, so comparison shop.
Free shipping on orders over $50.

FlyJane has a (I think) better selection than comparable sites, but the prices are slightly higher.
Free shipping on orders over $75.

Confusing - is this the same company as FlyJane? No idea. But they have cheap shoes, so enjoy.
Free shipping on orders over $50.

I want to love ShoeDazzle, Kim Kardashian's shoe-child, but I haven't had any luck with it so far. You need to sign up for a free membership to start browsing, and you get a selection of 5+ shoes emailed to you each month to choose from (all priced at $39.95). I joined 3 or 4 months ago and haven't seen anything that I have to have. It's a neat idea, though.
Everything is $39.95, free shipping on all orders.
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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

All That Glitters

I love multi-strand necklaces and I've recently been craving a new gold one for fall. Here's a few different styles that caught my eye:

Top Row

Arden B, $34.00
I love the gold/silver/black combo and the pure bulk of this one. Might not be good for your posture though.

Aldo, $25.00
Messy but feminine with charms galore.

Max & Chloe, $175.00
This one's the most traditional option here; the little crystals make it extra dainty.

Bottom Row

Forever 21, $8.80
The attached flower makes this look vintage-esque, and I love the pearls thrown in the mix too. Plus you can't beat the price.

Simply Vera, Vera Wang for Kohl's, $36.00
One of my favorites! I absolutely love the mix of textures and colors in this one. And who doesn't love Vera Wang for 36 bucks?
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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mini Berry-Tella Tarts

For my birthday last month, my roommate made a brownie peanut butter pie, which combined all of my favorite things into a deathly-rich dessert. (And I dare say it was even better than the chocolate/banana cream pie she made on my birthday three years ago that ended up with the consistency of a thick soup.)

Anyway, I digress. Her birthday was yesterday, and I love a) her, b) birthdays, and c) creating desserts. Thus, the mini berry-tella pie was born. (Oh right, I also love all things miniature.) It's based on a chocolate raspberry tart my dad makes, except it is mini instead of full-sized, nutella instead of dark chocolate, and mixed berries instead of just raspberries.

Mini Berry-Tella Tarts
Makes 6 single-serving pies

1 package Pillsbury pie crust (or if you have time, make your own)
2 cups berries of your choice (I used a frozen berry mix of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries)
1/2 cup sugar
3 Tbsp corn starch
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
3/4 cup Nutella (or more!)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
Graham cracker crumbs (optional)
Mini foil pie pans (mine were 4")

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Thaw pie crusts and fruit (if frozen).

2. Unroll pie crusts and cut out 5" circles.

Did I have 5" biscuit cutters? Of course not. Did I have a martini glass? Of course.

3. Mold 5" circles into individual foil pie pans and flute the edges. With a fork, poke holes in the crusts. The only pans I could find that were the right size were the kind that have Keebler graham cracker crusts in them. I dumped out the graham crumbs and saved them for later.

4. Place crusts on a cookie sheet and bake for about 15 minutes or until light brown while you make the filling. Rotate the sheet once during baking.

5. In a medium saucepan, combine fruit, sugar, corn starch, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix and simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes.

6. Let everything cool. When the crusts are cool, spread Nutella into each to coat the entire tart. Then spoon cooled berry filling on top of Nutella.

7. With an electric mixer, whip cream with vanilla until fluffy, about 5 minutes. (If you like sweet whipped cream, add sugar too.)

8. Spoon whipped cream onto each tart. Top with graham cracker crumbs if you have them leftover from the mini pie pans, or with cinnamon and nutmeg (or all of the above, which is what I did).

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Recycled Izze Arrangements

I like flowers. I like Izze. I like recycling. I needed something to make my kitchen a little prettier, so these likes all came together.

Izze is pretty much the only soda I like, as it's just sparkling juice. It comes in loads of flavors, although my favorite is blackberry. I've always really liked the clean design on the bottle, and after I saw a couple coordinating colors of them in my fridge, I had the idea to make them into home decor.

I don't really like the orange flavor, but I forced it down to save the bottle and complete my color scheme.

I peeled off the back label with all the nutritional information and scrubbed them clean, making them flower ready! Fresh cut flowers obviously look great when you have them, but I have these fake gerber daisies (purchased for about $3 from the Christmas Tree Shops) on hand when needed.

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Raspberry Lime Pink Lemonade

Today felt like a good almost-end-of-summer day for some pink lemonade, spruced up with some fruit. I was lazy, so I made the instant version this morning, but here is a great recipe from Ina Garten with a splash of cranberry juice.

I added some (Trader Joes frozen) raspberries, lime juice, and a slice of lime to each glass, along with plenty of ice. Bendy straws make any drink seem like a vacation, so I use them whenever possible.

I also love any chance to use this polka dotted pitcher made by Zak Designs, one of my favorite summer purchases.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

PJ the Penguin

So I recently decided to (re) learn how to crochet and knit. My mother is an avid knitter, so I initially thought I would start with that, but then turned to crocheting first as it is so much simpler! I'm now doing both, with moderate success.

Side note: Many people seem surprised that knitting and crocheting are two different things. See my easy reference above.

I had completely forgotten how to crochet (I last did so in high school), but taught myself with the help of lots of online tools. I pretty much just YouTubed my way through every stitch I encountered and was able to produce a pretty respectable stuffed animal. I found videos by "ExpertVillage" especially helpful; here is a good one to get you started. If you plan on making stuffed animals (or hats), you'll probably need to crochet in the round; here is a great website explaining an easy way to start circular rows.

PJ = Penguin Jack

I bought this amigurumi pattern on from LuvlyGurumi. All the patterns/products she sells are beyond adorable - check out the little bee! Amigurumi is the Japanese style of knitting/crocheting little animals; aka it results in the cutest things you have ever seen made of yarn.

I picked up all of my supplies at The Windsor Button, located near Downtown Crossing in Boston. In addition to an ungodly amount of buttons, they have a nice selection of yarn, ribbon, trimmings, and general craft supplies (which can be hard to find in Boston without venturing to the suburbs). For three skeins of (cheap acrylic) yarn, two crochet hooks, two tapestry needles, a pack of "safety eyes," and a big bag of fiberfill, I think I spent around $22.

Stuffed animals are a great craft project and gift because a) they're not season-specific and b) all ages seem to love them. So if you're searching for nice handmade Christmas gifts, you have a good three months to learn amigurumi.
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Thursday, August 12, 2010

New Shoes

I thought I'd share my newest pairs of pumps, chosen by me and bankrolled by my boyfriend (happy birthday to me). DSW might have a lot of really fugly shoes, but if you take the time to explore, you can always find some gems.

Karro Glitter Pump | SM by Steve Madden (photo © DSW)

I think these will look awesome with a cute LBD and a multi-strand gold necklace. I wore them out last Saturday night with shorts and a halter top and a homeless man told me I looked like a model - ANTM here I come.

Cover Look Polka Dot Platform Pump | Not Rated (photo © DSW)

These called to me from across the store. For the price, I thought they'd be of really cheap construction but they feel and look high quality. They also come in black/white but I thought the blue and red had more character. I think they'd look adorable with a romper (something I don't yet own, but Arden B has a great selection that caught my eye), but it's hard to decide what color matches best with them without getting too patriotic.
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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mini Donuts

So my friend Carol recently purchased a mini donut making machine that she is a little obsessed with. As someone who loves both donuts and all things miniature, I too was pretty psyched to try this thing out. She's owned the thing for like two months, she lives in the building next door, and FINALLY she invites me over for donut making. Here are the results:

The donut machine filled WAY too full (we corrected the next round):

Hot off the press!

With Betty Crocker dark chocolate frosting applied:

Carol applies sprinkles:

All sprinkled up:

Nom nom nom:

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Salade Nicoise

So I'm back in the blogosphere, and perhaps I'll stick around this time. My goal with The Pumpkin Patch is to photograph and otherwise chronicle recipes, clothing, craft projects, restaurant recommendations, books I read, and other things of interest in my life. Hopefully another person or two can benefit from the posts.

To start off, I thought I'd post the recipe for Salade Nicoise, which I made myself for dinner a few nights ago. (For those out there like me who do not speak French and have been terrified of ordering this dish in a restaurant for said reason, Nicoise is pronounced "nee-SWAHZ" or something like that.) The recipe below is adapted from one on Simply Recipes to fit my own tastes.

Salade Nicoise - for 1 large entree sized salad or 2 smaller salads

Butterhead lettuce (i.e. Boston Bibb)
2 hard boiled eggs
3-4 Yukon gold creamer potatoes
8-10 cherry tomatoes
1 cup green beans (fresh or frozen)
1 can (6 oz) tuna (or if you aren't as lazy, a tuna filet)
1/2 cup olives (I used garlic-stuffed green olives here)
Salt, pepper
Olive oil
Garlic (optional)

1/2 tsp brown/dijon mustard
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
Dried basil and oregano to taste

1. To make vinaigrette, whisk all ingredients together in a glass measuring cup. Set aside.

2. Scrub and quarter potatoes (no need to peel) and bring to a boil in a quart of salted water. Boil uncovered for 7-10 minutes or until they're the texture you like. Drain and top with salt and pepper.

3. Sautee green beans in a small amount of olive oil and garlic, if you like. I use Trader Joe's frozen green beans and they are delicious.

4. Peel and quarter hard boiled eggs. (See this SimplyRecipes link for the perfect hard-boiled egg.)

5. Halve cherry tomatoes and olives.

6. Assemble salad! Place your washed and cut bibb lettuce on a platter, drizzle dressing over lettuce. Then arrange eggs, tomatoes, olives, green beans, and potatoes. Top with the can of tuna. I like to add a touch of salt and pepper to the tuna fish.

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