Abigail Cahill O'Brien

Archive for March, 2010|Monthly archive page

Make it at Home: The Standard Grill’s Snap Pea & Radish Salad

In Food on March 31, 2010 at 5:30 am

How about a new series on 5thjoy?  Every so often I’ll recreate a particularly delicious (and relatively simple) restaurant dish at home, and share the results with you.  Seemed like a lot of you liked the first one on popcorn.

Last month I started to get spring cravings, and began scouring menus for anything fresh, sweet, tart or crunchy. At The Standard Grill, I ordered the snap pea and radish salad with cider vinaigrette.  It arrived delicately shredded and lightly dressed, neatly checking off all the spring boxes on my wish list.

Side note. When radishes show up in my veggie box during CSA season, I never know what to do with them.  Usually I just shrug and toss them in the back of the fridge to languish.  So finding good radish recipes is on my radar.

Back to the salad: it was yummy, and I kind of recreated it at home.  “Kind of” because the texture of really finely shredded peas is lovely, but I’m just not going to do that kind of prep work at home, so I took the short cut of just slicing the peas in half vertically.

The second time around I tried a sesame-soy sauce dressing for variety, and have to admit I liked that version even more.

Snap Pea & Radish Salad with Cider Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 lb snap peas, sliced in half vertically
  • 5-8 radishes, sliced into thin rounds
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp grainy mustard
  • 1 tsp agave syrup
  • 1 tsp shallot, finely diced
  • 1 pinch Kosher salt

Whisk together salt, vinegar, mustard, agave syrup and shallots, then whisk in olive oil until combined.  Add to vegetables and toss.  Feeling frisky?  Sprinkle with goat cheese.

Snap Pea & Radish Salad with Sesame Dressing

  • 1/2 lb snap peas, sliced in half vertically
  • 5-8 radishes, julienned into strips
  • Sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1/2 English cucumber, julienned
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
  • Dash of sesame oil
  • 1 tsp soy sauce

Mix olive and sesame oils, vinegar, soy sauce and sesame seeds until combined.  Dress vegetables shortly before serving; the cucumbers will release water as they marinate in the dressing.


Discovery: The Roving Home Online Boutique & Blog

In Feathering the Nest on March 30, 2010 at 5:30 am

The Roving Home’s Cabinet of Curiosities

Once upon a time in our little New England town, okay, last year, there was a boutique called Sycamore Hollow.  It carried oversize vintage maps, tripod lamps, and all sorts of curiosities.  Managing to be of this place with caricaturing this place, it gave locals hope that good design could be found in our own backyard.

Then it closed.

Was I bummed? Of course. Did I cheer myself up? Most certainly.  How?  Well, first I engaged in some good old fashioned complaining to anyone who would listen.  Then, before the doors shuttered, I managed to score the store’s crowning jewel: an amazing black counter with a crazy-shaped hole in front. All it needed was a thick marble slab on top and a metal cow-milking jug.  Ta-da!

Yet even with this honking piece of heaven at home, I still missed the boutique.  Lucky for me and more importantly you, it’s been born again online under a new name, The Roving Home!  Sweet home decor salvation!

Some of my favorite items, all available online:

1920s Map of North America, $95 at The Roving Home

Vintage Tripod Floor Lamp, $245 at The Roving Home

Handmade Whale Notecards, $12 for set of 5 at The Roving Home

Round Recycled Glass Bottle, $29 (small) at The Roving Home

Octagonal Mercury Glass Pendant Light, $46 at The Roving Home

As if that weren’t enough excitement, there’s an accompanying blog, full of smart commentary on everything from renovations to collecting to furniture scale.

P.S. to Cape Ann locals: word is there will be pop-up Roving Home shops later this year – stay tuned.

On the Hunt for: Striped Shirts

In Fashion on March 29, 2010 at 11:54 am

Coco Chanel wore them.  Need we another reason?

Mine is a cheapy – the stripes are too small and tend to blur together, and it rides up at the hip.  So I’m on the hunt.  And I’m convinced wide (or wide-ish) stripes are key.

Let’s start with two classic takes, from J.Crew and Boden.  Timeless base layers – nothing flashy.

Bateau top, $32 at J. Crew

Textured Breton Top, $38 at Boden

The Gap t-shirt below isn’t quite what Coco wore, but I dig the painterly stripes and flattering v-neck (bateau necklines  emphasize shoulder width).  It would look great under a boyfriend blazer.

Boyfriend Watercolor Rollup Sweater, $49.50 at Gap

And this is a great length over skinny jeans or leggings.

Amberwick Striped Jersey T, $80 at Net-a-Porter

Ken Meissner’s Famous & Healthy Oatmeal Cookies

In Food on March 26, 2010 at 9:37 am

Cookies, especially chocolate chip cookies, have a special place in my heart.  I like to eat one slowly with a huge frothy glass of milk, and woe to anyone who sneaks a crumb off my plate or makes a pass at the milk.  When you grow up in a big family, you learn to share and hoard in equal measure.  I’ll gladly lend you clothes, but if you touch my milk and cookies, I will slap you.  On the hand.

Recently a whole other category of cookie caught my eye: The Healthy Cookie.  It all started with Ken Meissner, a yogi with a serious cookie habit.  Or perhaps a cookie lover with a serious yoga habit?  Either way, he’s dedicated.  And balanced.

Ken brings a bag of oatmeal cookies to almost every yoga classes he attends, and gives them away.  For free.  So you do yoga, you’re starving and sweaty and blissed out, and then someone says, “Here, have a free and delicious and healthy cookie.”  It’s pretty much heaven.  These cookies are solidly packed with oats, flax seeds, and dried fruit.  Yes, there’s butter and sugar in there too, but they deliver a whole lot more nutrition than the average cookie.

Of course I had to ask him, “Do you sell them?”

“Nope. I make two hundred a day and ship ’em to friends all over – California, D.C., Texas, Peru.”  Naturally, he has friends in the Peace Corps in Peru.  It’s a good feeling knowing there’s someone out there who makes cookies everyday for other people.  Just because.

So here’s his recipe. Make them, give some away, and raise a glass of milk to Ken.

Oh and I made mine extra large, with an ice cream scoop, and they come to 250 calories each.  I consider them a small meal and have been eating them when I’d normally have a Clif Bar.  Of course if you made them the recommended size they’d be half  as large.

Now I know for a fact some of you have amazingly healthy cookie recipes.  Ahem, you know who you are.  Come on, spill the beans in the comments!

Ken’s Famous Oatmeal Cookies

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose or whole wheat or bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup steel cut oats
  • 1/2 cup oat-bran
  • 1/2 cup flax seeds (Ken uses ground, I used whole)
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 cup raisins or cranberries or dried cherries or dried fruit or all the above
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Grease 1 or more cookie sheets, or use baking paper
  3. Using an electric mixer, cream together, butter, and sugar in a bowl until fluffy.
  4. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until mixture is light in color.
  5. Add buttermilk.
  6. Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice; stir into creamed mixture.
  7. Fold in oatmeal, raisins, walnuts, dried fruit blending well. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto cookie sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until they are light brown and no longer soft. (Mine were so large they needed more like 20-25 mins.)
  8. Put on a drying rack to cool.

Inspiration: Flowering Branches

In Feathering the Nest on March 24, 2010 at 5:30 am

via style chronicle

Since moving in almost a year ago, we’ve studiously ignored our outdoors, as if our neglect might coax a few maintenance-precluding high rises from the dirt.  Nope!  Turns out we still live in the suburbs.

Landscaping is one of those adult things that makes me raise both eyebrows: Seriously, I am in charge of actual earth an dhow it should look?  Everyone’s okay with this?

Enter the professionals.  We’re meeting with two landscape designers on Friday, and with their help we’ll hatch a master plan for the whole space. They’ve asked for a list of what we love, hate and wish we had on our property.  In that order:  massive trees, a cantankerous L-shaped gravel driveway, and bushes with flowering branches.  (What’s more fun than pie-in-the-sky lists?  Before we get all budget-y I’m going to throw in a driftwood arbor and a gym/sauna outhouse.  Just for giggles.)

Flowering branches add drama without adding bulk.  Their transparency keeps everything feeling light, and I bet they last longer than the supermarket tulips practicing synchronized wilting in various corners of my house.

While I populate my tabula rasa with landscaping ideas, take a gander at some of my favorite interiors featuring flowering branches.

via the city sage

via this is glamorous

via the brass petal

La Chamba Cookware

In Feathering the Nest on March 23, 2010 at 5:30 am

La Chamba 3-qt Crockpot, $72 at La Chambaware

I’ve had a crush on La Chamba cookware for quite a while. Wouldn’t they look stunning on a rough-hewn farm table?  They take direct heat (gas flame only) and go from oven to table.

Made in Columbian, the shapes are hand molded rather than thrown on a pottery wheel.  The pots are red to begin with, turning black via an intense firing process called “smoking.”  The slight sheen is not a glaze.  The finish is achieved by burnishing the clay with agates and semi-precious stones before firing.   Read more about the process here.  You can buy La Chamba here, here, and here.

La Chamba 3.5 cup Casserole, $30 at La Chambaware

La Chamba Large Ladle, $15 at La Chambaware

Sneak Peek: Eugenia Kim for Target

In Fashion on March 22, 2010 at 7:47 am

Here’s a cherry atop your Monday Morning:  Eugenia Kim’s hat collection for Target hits stores April 18th.

If you’re a longtime fan of the milliner but have never ponied up the cash for one of her hats, this is the time to dip a toe in at a lower price point.

Her inspiration for the collection was Old Cuba: “I was obsessed with the old-school Latin resort thing,” which should mesh perfectly with all of S/S 10’s bright patterns.  She also reveals a surprising design inspiration (Tiffani-Amber Thiessen), a killer role model (Elsa Schiaparellli) and an unorthodox design method (involving Microsoft Excel).  Read the full Fast Company interview here.

Etsy Find: Naomilingerie Eye Masks

In Fashion on March 19, 2010 at 9:24 am

Satin eye mask, $18 at Naomilingerie on Etsy

I love the idea of eye masks, especially on long flights, but too often the designs veer way into Cutesyville.  Someone along the way decided that any woman interested in eye masks loves sequins, ruffles and pink in a big Miley-Cyrus-meets-Moulin-Rouge kind of way.

Enter Naolimingerie.

The tiny Etsy store offers lingerie, yes, but also these lovely eye masks.  They exercise their sense of humor – the stripes, the houndstooth, the demure bows – while keeping a modicum of dignity.  If you have a friend who’s always in the air, one of these would make a great gift.

Soft Satin Eyemask, $16 at Naomilingerie on Etsy

Soft Cat Eyemask, $18 at Naomilingerie on Etsy

Dress Challenge: Black Tie, Warm Weather Glamour

In Fashion on March 18, 2010 at 2:47 pm

3.1 Philip Lim Sequin Broomstick Pleated Dress, $895 at La Garconne

A very dear friend of mine is getting married in Arizona next month, and naturally this has me thinking of dresses.  The locale is the Royal Palms Resort:  an opulent 1920’s Spanish mansion nestled into a citrus grove.  Needless to say, it calls for a little glamour, preferably of the Old Hollywood sort.

The above sequined number by 3.1 Philip Lim manages to be both interesting and effortless.  Add stud earrings, heels and a clutch and you’re done.

Issa Silk-Jersey Plunge-Front Gown, $950 at Net-a-Porter

This Issa gown has the prettiest berry color.  Nudes may be chic, but many of us are still sporting pale winter skin, and a deep fuschia shade like this would work well.

Another Issa Plunge-Front Silk-Jersey Gown, $545 at Net-a-Porter

On the topic of nudes, I like that this one has plenty of warmth to it.  Long sleeves aren’t usually a draw, but they balance the plunging neckline, and they feel unexpected.  I also don’t love fussing with wraps at outdoor weddings; the sleeves would keep arms toasty after sunset.

Robert Rodriguez Bright Bodice Gown, $100 to rent at Rent the Runway

The pink goddess gown above is my very solid backup.  Cheery color, easy to accessorize, and low-commitment since it’s rentable from Rent The Runway.

And now for the complete, utter fantasy portion of this post – I mean, come on, it’s ZAC POSEN:

Zac Posen Angelica Crepe-Jersey Gown, $2,225 at Net-a-Porter


Unexpected modest cutouts, dramatic silhouette, vibrant color.  Thoroughly unattainable, but isn’t this dress perfection?

The Fruit of Goodwill

In Feathering the Nest on March 16, 2010 at 6:30 am

Remember the Goodwill online auction discovery and the ensuing flurry of ridiculously good deals?  The mint green Big Ben clock, the flapper photo, the brass justice scales?  Well, they’ve been arriving in drips and drabs and reams of bubble wrap, and I’m starting to find homes for them.

Several landed on the fireplace mantle.  Eventually I’d like a painting there, but for now the ever-changing assemblage of books, pictures and accessories is doing just fine.  The cherub in the oval frame?  Yep, that’s Goodwill, too.  Oh and yes, those are the Penguin Classics I’ve been after.  My husband knows the way to my heart.

The picture below is the chest/bookshelf combo near our entryway.  The orange pitcher and the antique kitchen scale are both Goodwill scores, as are the brass justice scales. You can barely make out a turquoise Dansk pitcher on the second shelf.  DING-DING-DING!  Goodwill online!  I’m telling you, there’s nothing more satisfying than thrifting from home.

The justice scales, which are destined for our den when it’s finished, are decidedly lopsided.  Should I straighten them out, probably by bumping up one side with a piece of adhesive felt, or just leave them as a visual commentary:”Life’s Not Fair”?