Abigail Cahill O'Brien

Archive for June, 2010|Monthly archive page

Calling All Eccentric Wallpapers

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

Via Dust Jacket Attic

This post was a long time coming.  For months I’ve been tagging wallpaper images, trying to define what appeals to me.

Apparently it’s clouds, oversize florals, black and white graphics and winged creatures.  How’s that for an airtight point of view?

Ah, well.  It all depends on the room anyway, and I haven’t a particular spot in mind.


Amy Butler for Graham & Brown via Design*Sponge

Designers Guild via Red Ticking



Tracy Kendall via Daily Imprint

Nama Rococo Collection for Hermitage

Tracy Kendall

Fine Little Day via Poppytalk

Cole & Son via If The Lampshade Fits

Tres Tintas via Lushlee

Hygge & West Collection for Hermitage via Made By Girl




Jill Malek Collection for Hermitage


July Playlist

In Flotsam on June 29, 2010 at 3:32 pm

A bit of flotsam I may occasionally throw in the 5thjoy mix: playlists.  The focus will remain food, fashion, and home – but isn’t music almost always the backdrop?

Would you like to see this become an once-in-a-while feature?

I used to listen to music on my laptop in our little New York studio, ensconced in a private auditory bubble.  Now here we are in a rambling house, hosting generation-spanning dinners and a revolving cast of weekend guests, and the wordless music I write to won’t do.

The July list has to please a crowd:  it’s got to have a little folk, some really good 80s tunes, a mostly sunny disposition, and it can’t drive me bonkers.

Side note: we haven’t invested in a music system, mostly because we’re convinced whatever we choose will be obsolete in 3.2 seconds (although this looks promising), but also because we’re fond of this radio.

In no particular order:

  1. Sweet Disposition / The Temper Trap
  2. This Time Tomorrow / The Kinks
  3. Unthought Known / Pearl Jam
  4. Here Today / The Beach Boys
  5. I’m Amazed / My Morning Jacket
  6. Summertime / The Sundays
  7. Under African Skies / Paul Simon
  8. Elenore / The Turtles
  9. Touching the Ground / Brandi Carlile
  10. Never Going Back Again / Fleetwood Mac
  11. Head Full of Doubt Road Full of Promise / The Avett Brothers
  12. Six Different Ways / The Cure
  13. Amongst the Waves / Pearl Jam
  14. America / Simon & Garfunkel
  15. Two of Us / Aimee Mann and Michael Penn
  16. In Your Eyes / Peter Gabriel
  17. The End / Pearl Jam
  18. Home / Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
  19. Nick of Time / Bonnie Raitt
  20. No Reason to Cry / Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
  21. The Weight / The Band
  22. Cool, Clear Water / Bonnie Raitt
  23. Bright Side of the Road / Van Morrison
  24. Something Good Coming / Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
  25. Fugitive / David Gray
  26. Living for the City / Stevie Wonder
  27. Maybe I’m Amazed / Paul McCartney
  28. Heaven Can Wait / Charlotte Gainsbourg
  29. Far Away / Ingrid Michaelson
  30. Sound and Vision / David Bowie
  31. White Blank Page / Mumford & Sons
  32. Kathy’s Song (Live) / Simon & Garfunkel
  33. Wildflowers / Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
  34. The Way I Am / Ingrid Michaelson
  35. Maybe / Ingrid Michaelson
  36. Be OK / Ingrid Michaelson
  37. Chicago / Sufjan Stevens
  38. Plundered My Soul / The Rolling Stones
  39. Giving Up the Gun / Vampire Weekend
  40. Finer Feelings / Spoon
  41. The Mystery Zone / Spoon
  42. I Should Have Known It / Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
  43. Gloria / Van Morrison
  44. Tenderness / General Public
  45. Ten Thousand Words / The Avett Brothers
  46. Laundry Room / The Avett Brothers
  47. Loving Cup / The Rolling Stones
  48. (Don’t Fear) The Reaper / Blue Oyster Cult
  49. Well Respected Man / The Kinks
  50. You Still Believe In Me / The Beach Boys
  51. God Only Knows / The Beach Boys
  52. Cecilia / Simon & Garfunkel

Scallops, Zucchini and Peas in Lemon-Bacon Broth

In Food on June 28, 2010 at 10:06 am

When it comes to my tendency to eat large quantities of pasta, I have a couple tricks up my sleeve.

Sometimes I buy individual bird nest servings of fresh pasta at Duckworth Beach Gourmet, a double-whammy win that’s a huge treat by virtue of its quality, but also automatically controls serving size.

More often, though, I recreate pasta dishes with summer squash as a base.  This works well in CSA season, or for anyone with an overload of zucchini on their hands.

We made this dish on a whim over the weekend.  If you’d like to omit the broth, salt your julienned zucchini first and allow it to drain in a colander for 30-40 minutes.  The salt will draw out the water.  Be sure to rinse and pat dry after to avoid over-salting the whole dish.

Now, that’s much too complicated for my usual dinner mode – you won’t find me dunking blanched veggies in ice baths on a Friday night either – which is why we ended up with this bright-tasting broth.  By the time you serve it, the broth will be warm but not steaming, so it’s still suitable for all but the hottest summer nights.

A final note: don’t use a non-stick pan.  It’s hard to get a good sear on the scallops in one.

Scallops, Zucchini and Peas in Lemon-Bacon Broth Serves 4

  • 3 slices of bacon (or substitute pancetta)
  • 5-6 small summer squash or zucchini, julienned
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh English peas, shelled
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup Parmesan, grated
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper
  • Scallops, 12-16

Eyeball the zucchini and select a pan big enough to hold all of it.  Heat the pan and cook the bacon in it; set bacon aside.  Drain off all the bacon fat save 2 tbsp.  Add the diced onion to the pan and cook until softened and translucent; add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes more, stirring often.  You may have lowered the heat to avoid burning the garlic;  if so, crank it back up before adding the zucchini.   Turn the zucchini in the bacon fat, onion and garlic until it begins to soften but isn’t limp.  Test a piece; it should have some give to it when you bite down, but not be noodle-y.   Add the peas and stir for one minute, or until the peas begin to deepen in color.  Crumble bacon into the pan.  Add the lemon zest and juice; stir.  Remove from the heat and add the Parmesan.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Scrape the entire zucchini mixture into a large bowl and set aside.

Wipe out your pan and put it over fairly high heat.  Add even portions of vegetable oil and butter, enough to coat the pan and then some.  Add one scallop.  If it sizzles, the pan is hot enough.  Add the remaining scallops, making sure they don’t touch to prevent steaming, and don’t move them after they hit the pan.   Cook 3 minutes on one side, 2 minutes on the other.  They should develop a nicely caramelized sear on both sides.

Mound zucchini in a shallow soup bowl, spooning the accumulated broth over it.  Top with 4-5 scallop per person, and serve with a fork, spoon and crusty bread for dipping.

Friday Flotsam

In Feathering the Nest, Flotsam on June 25, 2010 at 5:30 am

1. Affordable, fun studs by Kendra Scott Jewelry.  Via The Neo-Traditionalist.

2. If you don’t fancy paying $40 for a rope knot here, try Design*Sponge’s DIY version.

3. Add Paperfinger’s stylish return address stamp to your registry.  Via The Neo-Traditionalist.

4. Love this DIY chessboard from Centsational Girl.  Oh, what a little stain and a steady hand can do.

5. Kahler Omaggio’s vase, via Bliss.

6. This blanket, via Seesaw.

7. A moleskin notebook jacket for your Kindle, via Unclutterer.

Summertime, And The Return Of The CSA Share

In Food on June 24, 2010 at 5:30 am

It’s CSA season, if you hadn’t heard.  My share from Farmer Dave’s of Dracut, MA started last week.  I really must sharpen my knives before picking up today’s share; there’s a lot of chopping involved.

Here’s what I did with the loot, the sad bits first.

Snap peas: Opened the bottom vegetable bin Tuesday morning to find them sodden and rotting.  Ashamed.  I vow to either eat these immediately this week or at least get them into a Debbie Meyer green bag to prolong their life.

Beet and radish greens: Left to languish til yellowed.  Drat.  Must sauté them immediately this week, and then doctor with poached eggs for breakfast.

Three gorgeous heads of lettuce: Devoured in simple salads with balsamic vinaigrette.  I’m not sick of salads yet, but if that day comes, I’ll try Savory Kitchen’s lettuce soup.

Garlic scapes: Diced and thrown into a quick sauté with one zucchini.  Next time I’ll make pesto; everyone raves about scape pesto.  Or this white bean and scape dip as an alternate.

Beets: Food and Fiction’s pickled beets went over so well, I didn’t even get a chance to take a picture.  I’ll make them again when I have a bigger hoard in the drawer.

Bok Choy Stirfry: (Pictured above.)  In a small bowl combine 1/3 cup chicken stock or water, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch, and two dashes dried ginger or a tbsp fresh grated ginger.  Heat a wok or skillet, and add 2-3 tbsp vegetable or peanut oil.  Add two diced yellow onions; cook until translucent.  Add 12 thinly sliced garlic cloves and cook, stirring so as not to burn.  Add two heads bok choy, washed and coarsely chopped.  Cook until bok choy greens are tender and stalks wilted.  Add the reserved marinade and cook for another minute or so.  Transfer to a bowl.  Drizzle with sesame oil, toss and top with roasted sesame seeds.

Pickled Radishes, From The Kitchn: Mine turned this lovely salmon color after one day.  I hope the color continues intensifying.

3/4 cup hot water (can be from the tap)
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar ( I substituted apple cider vinegar for my second batch.)
6 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 bunches red radishes, rinsed and drained

Combine water, vinegar, sugar and salt in small bowl, whisk until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Set aside. Quarter the radishes, place them in your container of choice, cover with the brine and replace the lid.  Refrigerate for at least 3 days and up to one month.

Thyme Zucchini: Heat 1-2 tbsp olive oil in a skillet.  Add one diced yellow onion, two diced garlic cloves, and several tbsps fresh thyme.  Sauté over medium heat for several minutes, until onion and garlic are cooked.  Increase heat.  Add three small diced zucchinis.  Add more thyme if you like.  Cook until zucchini is tender but not mushy, stirring often.  Salt and pepper to taste.

And now for two bonus recipes, not from the CSA but still timely (okay, there’s no local watermelon in New England right now; I caved to an early summer craving at the market).

Mint Simple Syrup: A terrific way to use leftover mint.  Combine 3 cups water with one cup sugar in a saucepan.  Heat until boiling, stirring occasionally.  Boil for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add several handfuls of whole mint leaves and allow to steep for one hour.  Remove leaves.  Syrup will keep for a good long while in the fridge, likely months.  We’ll add it to cocktails all summer long.

Watermelon Salad with Mint and Basil: Toss cubed watermelon and basil strips with this minty honey pepper vinaigrette.

French Wire Baskets As Candleholders

In Feathering the Nest on June 23, 2010 at 10:38 am

The Goodie Life featured this lighting idea and I couldn’t agree more: it is genius.

Imagine hanging them from a tree (accessible via a homemade pulley system) or perhaps attached at various heights from the inside of a picnic table’s umbrella.

Buy this exact wire basket here (though they’re vague on US shipping costs), or go to Remodelista’s roundup for similar options.

Our Den Before & After

In Feathering the Nest on June 22, 2010 at 5:30 am

For the past year, this is what our den looked like.  Don’t you just love the blank walls?  The makeshift lilliputian coffee table?  The awkward photo in the corner that’s actually a wall-mounted air conditioning unit?


Me neither.  I’d taken to watching TV on my laptop in the living room.  My husband had to drag me in here to watch “big screen” movies, waving bowls of freshly popped popcorn under my nose and then backing into the room, snapping the sliding doors shut behind me.  We avoided the room so thoroughly that we eventually shut off the heat.

Enough torture!   Here’s the “after,” thanks to the interior design leadership of Amy Meier:

Image by Michael J. Lee Photography

Did you notice the drink shelf behind the couch?  The man of the house suggested that.  Smarty pants.

Image by Michael J. Lee Photography

Remember all the brass accessories I dug for on Etsy?  They live here now.  Amy wisely tempered them with a dose of handsome wood.

In the era of DIY, it may surprise you that I work with a designer.  I’m surprised myself.   I’m not sure I would have if Amy and I hadn’t been fast friends for going on seven years, and if she didn’t just happen to be a terrific designer.

I know what I like. For instance, I like grey (not in this room, but most everywhere else).  The thing is, all the grey paint samples I pick out turn out to be various shades of icy blue.  I know enough to know I don’t know the first thing about furniture scale or floor plans.  Amy’s guidance prevents big, fat mistakes, the kind that might ruin the room or my wallet.  Since we collaborate so much, the results feel very much “mine,” even though I couldn’t get them without her.

It feels like we’re setting the house’s bones, and while I’m an active participant, I’m glad there’s a doctor present.

Lest this sound too serious, you ought to know most of our sessions are fueled by good cheese, wine and dark chocolate.  After all, this is about creating a home to enjoy.

Bonus: here’s a peek at some of our family pictures hung in the den.

Care for Croquet?

In Fashion, Feathering the Nest on June 21, 2010 at 11:27 am

Janelle Monáe plays croquet – what’s not to love?

When it comes to the singer-songwriter-self-described High Funkstress and the lawn game (excellent barbecue addition), I’m a convert.

Here’s a good source for new croquet sets.  Better yet: go chippy, vintage or antique.  Don’t forget a short set for the short set.

As for Janelle, has anyone had such a fresh take on menswear?  Few and far between are those who successfully channel both Hepburns, with a dash of Colonel Sanders and Elvis thrown in for good measure.

Friday Flotsam

In Fashion, Feathering the Nest, Flotsam, Food on June 18, 2010 at 5:30 am

Get a load of this peony!

It popped up in our yard and we have only the previous owners to thank for planting such a beauty. As it aged the petal tips turned electric purple.

All right, on to an especially bountiful Friday Flotsam.  I hope you enjoy this week’s random roundup.  It’s a baker’s dozen.

P.S. I am off to pick up the first CSA share of the season, so expect recipes next week, plus an exciting before and after reveal on our den project.


1. Bowtie necklace by Baptiste Viry via Caroline of It Looks to Good to Me ‘s insanely good wish list guest post on Camp Comfort.


2. Pickled radishes via The Kitchn.

3. Erin Fetherston’s entire resort collection via Design Love Fest. Very Victor/Victoria.

4. An herb garden in tea tins via {wit + delight}http://desmitten.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/iosseliani.jpg

5. Stacked rings by Ioselliani via Desmitten (and their brilliant flea market version).

6. Ikea goes soft on us via Love. Obsess. Inspire. I love it.

Steve Madden 'Kinnetic' Flat

7. Steve Madden’s sparkle flats via Design Love Fest .

8. Slowood Studio’s table via Design*Sponge.


9. Steven Alan’s beach blankets via {frolic!}.

10. 5 plants even I can’t kill  – or so says Apartment Therapy.

11. Tops that make your old jars reusable via Shelterrific.

12. A church pew headboard via Design*Sponge.

13. Retro iphone charger (with functional handset!) via automatism.

C is for (Fish) Chowder

In Food on June 17, 2010 at 10:10 am

Photo by Amy Meier

You can’t see the fish chowder in this picture, but trust me, it’s in the mug.  And there’s a “C” on the mug, so, at least we have that.

How do you feel about clam chowder?  Personally, I’m conflicted.  Having never developed a love for clams (are they supposed to be chewier than sun-dried taffy, or are they often just overcooked?) I eat around them, which makes me feel like a chowder fraud.  After all, it is clam chowder.

Now, the creamy broth and potatoes can do no wrong, except to my health.  Eating a bowl of cream in any guise is fun right up until putting down the spoon and realizing you just ate a bowl of cream.

Thankfully my mother (and now the rest of us) makes a satisfying alternative: a barely-kissed-with-cream fish chowder.  She calls it “healthful,” and I’m inclined to agree.

Usually I’d start with a little bacon for flavor, but when cooking for non-meat eaters, fresh herbs and white wine add plenty of complexity.

The proportions are malleable.  Using my largest stockpot calls for one bag of potatoes, four or five onions, two handfuls of thyme, a whole bottle of white wine, six pounds of chowder fish, and a half a cup of heavy cream.

If I were making a small pot for four people I’d use one onion, a few tbsp of fresh  thyme,  three potatoes, a pound of fish, a cup of wine and two tbsp heavy cream.

New England Fish Chowder

  • Olive oil
  • Yellow onions, diced
  • Fresh thyme
  • Yukon gold potatoes, diced (peeling optional)
  • Water
  • Dry white wine
  • Chowder fish (halibut, cod)
  • Heavy cream (just a splash)
  • Salt and pepper

Add oil to heated stockpot, then sauté onions in oil until they begin to soften (4-5 minutes).   Add thyme and cook another 1-2 minutes.  Add diced potatoes and stir.  Pour water over the potatoes until they are barely covered, and then add wine.  Bring to a boil.  Lower heat, cover, and simmer until the potatoes are fork-tender but not falling apart.

Lay chowder fish over the potatoes, cover again and cook until fish is cooked through (white throughout, with no translucence.)  For a huge stock pot this could take 12-15 minutes; check smaller pots at 4 minutes.

When the fish is cooked, add the desired amount of heavy cream to color the broth.  Stirring the cream in will break up the fish into spoon-size chunks.   Season with salt and pepper and serve.

It’s terrific the second day.