Saturday, November 28, 2009

Vintage Holiday Style: Clark Griswold Eat Your Heart Out!

So hear me out. If you're like me, you're finally starting to come out of your turkey and mashed potato cranberry coma, and starting to realize Christmas is already coming rapidly around the corner. I typically allow myself to start to thinking about Christmas on the drive back to Charlottesville from my family homestead post-Thanksgiving (this is also the first time I allow myself to listen to Christmas music, although, I snuck a few tunes early on Pandora this year.) My family refuses to participate in Black Friday shopping, especially after watching the news and seeing some poor woman trampled in line trying to get in Best Buy at 4AM or hearing about some lady getting in a cat fight over the last cotton/poly blend twin set and 2 karat diamond ring at JC Penny. I love a good sale, but I'm not trying to buy a ticket for that hot mess express. Nothing quite dampens my holiday spirit like taking an elbow to the throat over sportswear.

That being said, what does get me in the spirit is starting to decorate the house and yard. I always like to start with the yard and get it out of the way. I was raised in a home with several Holiday decor rules, especially when it came to the outdoors. As a small child, I was obsessed with plastic blow molds, especially the nativity scenes. You know, the plastic light up Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus. Mary is wearing blue, Joseph in hot pink, and Jesus, small in white. All is calm, all is bright. Occasionally someone would go all out and get the wise men, a few angels, some straw, making me even more excited. I don't know what it was, but I thought they were the coolest, prettiest things I had ever seen. I even asked for one from Santa one year. I used to force my parents to drive me around to look for nativity scenes at houses and churches. They were good sports. However, despite my neon Bethlehem fetish, my parents also thought having a light up nativity scene in our yard was somewhat sacrilegious and didn't match our classic, colonial, Cape Cod holiday decor. My dad's always had a rule about only using real greenery. He makes his own wreaths, real evergreen garland, and we always pick out real Christmas trees with white lights. If it's artificial it doesn't belong outside. Candles in the windows, simple bows, some old wood snow sleds, and we're in business. I have to say, it's a nice, classic, old Virginia look. Very pineapple Della robbia around the door, "I'll be Home for Christmas" playing in the car when you pull in the driveway, "come on in, y'all" kind of look. A lot of this style has rubbed off on me. I always get real garland for outside, real wreaths, and a real Christmas tree with white lights (I know it's more work, but I love the smell in the house and I even like going to pick it out and strap it on the car. However, I also like to have a little fun, and I figure now is my chance to live out my dream of a colorful display in my yard this Christmas.
Photo Credits:

I do have to say, now that the time has come and I have the opportunity, I have no interest in the light up nativity scene (I guess my parents were right). I still get a kick out of seeing a nativy scene in front of a church or in someone's yard, but just not my yard. I'm also really, really, really anti-inflatables. To me, they're too big, they're random, and they deflate when you turn them off. It's the most depressing sight, looking at a sad empty sack of a Santa or Snowman laying on your lawn like he's been shot. Also, have you ever seen one of those guys in a wind storm? It's also equally as depressing to see Santa about to go airborne without his reindeer and sleigh, whipping back and forth like one of those "Come in here" inflatable tube men at a cell phone or Cash Advance store, luring folks inside to trade their car title for $500.00 and an unexplained interest rate.
Nothing quite says Happy Holidays like the cast of Winne the Pooh and a wheelbarrow, made out of wind breaker material.
Needless to say, I wanted something fun, spirited, yet classic and classy for my yard this Christmas. What I found was a wood, 2-dimensional, vintage inspired Santa and sleigh that mimics the cuts-outs of yesteryear that folks used to buy and paint in the 50's and 60's. The best part is this one comes already painted, meaning I won't have to try to paint by numbers this holiday season. All I'll have to do is stick these guys in the ground and put a spotlight on them. I think the wood cut outs are unique, festive, and will look great with the 1950's Cape Cod charm of my house. It's by Department 56, the company that produces those Dicken's Christmas villages people collect and put in their homes during the holidays. Sounds pretty fitting to me.
This is what I picked out. You may not like it either, but I think it's fun. Several of the families on my street have small children, and if they're anything like me at their age (minus the light up nativity scene fetish), they'll get a big kick out of the display.
Photo Credit:

If you like the vintage look, I came across these fun blow-mold reproductions from Sundance. I know you can still buy plastic Santas and Snowmen in major chain stores, but these are based on vintage, original designs and add that unique charm at your house. They also have a lot cuter faces and expressions than today's versions. The old Santas always remind me of the classic Santas on the Coca Cola bottles.
Photo Credits:

I'm excited to go pick out my Christmas tree and evergreen garland tomorrow. After that, the lights will start going up, then Santa and his red reindeer will take center stage. I think the holidays give us a great opportunity to showcase our homes, our style, and our creativity. Explore holiday decorations that fit both your style and the style of your home. It's difficult to pull off Colonial Christmas in your 1970's modern A-frame, but it doesn't mean it can't be done if that's what's going to make you happy this Christmas. Take inspiration from holidays of the past and incorporate the fun of modern design. You're certainly in store for a fun holiday season. Until then, have fun untangling your lights.


Friday, November 20, 2009

What He Really Wants: These Are a Few of My Favorite Things.

Sorry friends, no girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes, or snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes. However, I figure since the holidays are rapidly approaching, you may be looking for some fun, new gifts for the special man in your life, not that he didn't love the sweater and target gift card you gave him last year. I thought I would share a few of my favorite things, both things I own, and things I covet/lust after (and no, this is now my subtle way of putting my holiday wish list out to my family. However, family, if you're reading, wink wink, nudge nudge.) I mean, if Oprah can do this, why can't I?

In no particular order:
1. Monogrammed Pajamas. Because sometimes you want to leave a little something to the imagination. Perfect for a lazy Sunday in bed with the New York Times Crossword Puzzle, Christmas morning, or when you really do have a headache and just want to get your sexy little sleep on.

To Buy/photo credit:

2. Jonathan Adler Needlepoint Pillows. Who says your sofa or favorite easy chair shouldn't have a little whimsy?

To Buy/Photo Credit:

3. Postalco Notebooks and Journals. It's like Back to School shopping for big boys. Staying organized is sexy. Great, chic little notebook for your shopping lists, to-do lists, and the perfect place to jot down your next great book idea.

Also to Buy/Photo Credit:

4. The RayBan Clubmaster Sunglasses. The original design was launched in 1986, and it's still a bright idea.

To Buy/Photo Credit:

5. The Jonathan Adler Whale Collection. Call me Ishmael. Ishmael, pass the butter, please. You know I love the whales. Who says a pitcher has to be just a pitcher and a butter dish just has to be a butter dish. It's time to have a little fun at the breakfast table. A whale of a gift. The best part? You can get them at "Oh, Suzannah" in downtown Charlottesville.

To Buy/Photo Credit:

or Oh, Suzannah of Charlottesville.

6. The original Hunter Wellington Boot. Because you can plan a pretty picnic, but you can't predict the weather, Miss Jackson. Available in myriad colors from classic "Hunter" green to orange. Stay dry, in style from the English countryside to the city streets.

To Buy/Photo Credit:

7. The Converse Jack Purcell Sneakers. The classic is back and better than ever. The quintessential Saturday, walk the dog, trip to the farmer's market shoe. Dress them down with a pair of shorts and a basic T, or dress them up with a casual blazer and your favorite jeans on a night out. Jack would approve.

To Buy/Photo Credit:

8. The Vintage-Inspired Graphic T. Let him show the world a few of his "favorite things." Perfect for a lazy Sunday or perfect under a casual blazer/jacket on a night out at the bar. A fun alternative and a good way to get him to stop wearing his old fraternity crawfish boil tshirt from 10 years ago.

To Buy/Photo Credit:

9. Mint Condition: A favorite from one of my Favorite Cville Boutiques. Grab a fun toss pillow from Pillow Mint of downtown Charlottesville. They're sure too add a bit of fun, class, and whimsy to your sofa, favorite chair, or guest bed.

To Buy/Photo Credit:

10. Heavy Metal: A Bitchin' Kitchen. I fell in love with this vintage-inspired metal kitchen collection from Sundance. Shelving inspired by old gym locker/wire storage units, and these heavy duty chairs and stools. A fun, masculine way to shake things up in the kitchen, home office, or mud room.

To Buy/Photo Credit:

11. The Crab Polo by Jimmy & Sook. A Virginia staple (Irvington, Virginia to be specific) by Jimmy & Sook (Their Clothes and Things.) Perfect pique for a summer day, barbecue, or next vacation. The embroidered blue crab adds a little fun to your everyday polo.

To Buy/Photo Credit:

12. Will Cook For Sex Cookbook: A Guy's Guide in the Kitchen. I love this cookbook. It takes you through several multiple course dinners, as well as what to make for breakfast the next morning, if you get my drift. Not only is it funny, there's an amazing salad called "Hidden Greens" I make all the time. The difference between this cookbook and other cookbooks? It's the difference between "I'll call you." and "I'll wake you."

To Buy/Photo Credit:

13. Shade Shop Lamps. Your Christmas tree and the Little Star of Bethlehem aren't the only things that can light up your night this holiday season. You probably saw my previous post about the lamp I won from this fine local establishment. So many fun styles, brands, and unique, one-of-a-kind pieces for your home.

To Buy/Photo Credit:

14. A Little Night cap. Literally. If you're like me, you wake up in the middle of the night craving a nice glass of H2O.Thanks to this recycled glass water bottle, all you have to do is reach over to the nightstand, take the glass off the top and pour yourself a drink. Keeping the glass on the top cuts down the chance of spilling in the middle of the night. The best part? It looks great on your nightstand. Fun, functional, and aesthetically pleasing.

15. The Cabot Apron by Lucy & Michael. Get your cook on, stay clean, and look hot while doing it. One of those great aprons you won't mind running around in when your guests arrive less-than-fashionably early at your next shindig. You should check out Lucy & Michael if you're in the market for some gifts for the little ones. They have adorable play tents and kids aprons. Bon Appetit.

To Buy/Photo Credit:

16. I am Not a Paper Cup. Do you feel all warm and toasty walking down the street with that t0-go paper coffee cup and cup huggie in your hand? Well, now you can do it and be friendlier to Mother Earth. It's the James Burgess "I'm not a Paper Cup" reusable coffee cup. Enjoy your Macchiato and do your part for the environment. Remember, One Earth.

To Buy/Photo Credit:

17. The Stanley Thermos. He may work in an office cubicle, but he can carry a thermos like he works in a coal mine. This vintage-inspired piece is perfect for those 3 cup kind of days. Simple, clean, masculine, classic, yet modern. Great for camping, tailgating, or just the regular Monday-Friday commute.

To Buy/Photo Credit:

18. The Snowball Maker. You're never too old for a Snowball fight. With this helpful gadget, your hands stay warmer and dryer, and you get the perfect snowball almost every time.

To Buy/Photo Credit:

19. Smathers and Branson Needlepoint Belt. Anything else is just a waist. It's like bling for your waist. Dress up your jeans and khakis with these fun, needlepoint belts. Show off your favorite hobbies, places, and even your alma mater.

To Buy/Photo Credit:

20. Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook. Down home, Southern, Comfort food done right. Matt and Ted Lee take your appetite down South in this fun cookbook. Ever wanted to know how you can cook with Royal Crown Cola? It's time you learned.

To Buy/Photo Credit:

And a Grab Bag for Boys and Girls, alike. Well, maybe more for the girls, but I still love it.

21. Cartier I Love You. My favorite photographer, Bruce Weber and the jewlery house without an equal pair up in this centennial celebration of 100 years of Cartier luxury. The book is even made to look and tie closed like a Cartier jewlery box. Worth a look.
To Buy/Photo Credit:

So, while it's no raindrops on roses or crisp apple strudel, these are just a few of my favorite things. You may not love all of these items, but they may spark some new ideas and inspiration for your holiday shopping. Maybe you don't love the Jack Purcell sneakers like I do, but it may make you think "hey, he sure could use a new pair of everyday shoes," giving you a chance to be creative and enjoy the hunt. Either way, you're sure to end up on the Nice list this year, that is, unless you'd just prefer to be on the Naughty list...that's a whole other post.



Monday, November 16, 2009

Seaon's Eatings: Easy Apps.

Ok, so it's time for us to kiss and make up again. I have to be honest, I recently invested in a new relationship with the gym and a personal trainer. I do have to say, it's nice to have a new man in my life. Unfortunately, our dates consist of him laughing at me while I lift heavy things over and over again, but even with that being said, it wouldn't be the worst relationship I've ever been in. At least I can fit in more of my fall/winter suits again. I also have to admit, when I started this Trieste with blogging, I was overly inspired by "Julie and Julia" and thought I would kick it off at a feverish pace and stay up every night and burn the midnight oil to share some new design secret from the South. However, I've also realized, I'm no Carrie Bradshaw (I guess my blog would have to be called "No Sex in the City.") This has also been one of my busiest seasons at the University. To put it in perspective, if I were an accountant, I would have just finished tax season. Either way, it's nice to be back.

So, the holidays are about to be upon us. Here in Cville, we'll be celebrating with the Grand Illumination of the downtown Christmas tree on Friday, officially kicking off the holiday season, and officially making it a little more socially acceptable for me to listen to Christmas music at the gym, already. However, we can't forget Thanksgiving. I feel like we all have our own turkey glazes, pumpkin pie recipes, 100 ways to make stuffing, mashed potatoes, etc. I don't know about you all, but in my family, you have to get through Thanksgiving cocktail hour before Thanksgiving dinner. And let's just put it this way, sometimes that hour lasts a few hours, especially when the perfect dinner isn't right on schedule. So, you have to give the people a little nosh while they slosh. I feel like people spend all day fasting in anticipation of stuffing their faces at dinner. However, I think you need a little nibble to get things going and to keep yourself from gorging. So, from my table to yours, a few quick, super easy, seasonal appetizers for your holiday.

Cranberry Goat Cheese Crostini
I don't even know if I can call this a recipe, because the name of the dish lists all 3 ingredients and the finished product in it.
1 french baguette
1 small package of goat cheese (plain, not herb-infused, etc)
1 package of dried cranberries (organic, if you can)

Ok, this couldn't be easier. Slice the baguette on the diagonal to make the crostini. Lay the sliced baguette pieces on a cookie sheet. Place the slices in the oven on 375 degrees for 10 minutes or until they start to brown/crisp up/dry out. Remove the crostini from the oven and allow them to cool. Once cooled, spread the softened goat cheese (about one tablespoon) on each piece of crostini (let the goat cheese reach room temperature, it will spread a lot easier and won't crumble so much). Then top the crostini with a small handful (5-7) of the dried cranberries. And guess what, you're done? They're so good, seasonally appropriate, and beyond simple. It's a great combination of sweet and savory, and your guests will love them with a glass of Prosecco or a nice Riesling. A perfect combination of savory and sweet. Don't try to make it perfect, it's meant to be rustic. If you're feeling really saucy that day, feel free to garnish with some walnuts for an additional texture/crunch.

Easy, Baked Brie en Croute.
1 wedge or wheel or Brie (double creme)
1 package of Pillsbury or store brand Crescent rolls
1 package of pecans
1 package of water crackers or your favorite mild cracker
2 Granny Smith Apples
1 small jar of apricot or raspberry preserves/compote

Ok, this is beyond easy. Take the package of crescent rolls (you may want 2 packages depending on how big the wheel or wedge of brie is). Lay all of the dough triangles on a cutting board and pinch them together to make one big piece of dough. Be sure to pinch all of the edges together well. Lay the Brie in the middle of the dough and begin to wrap it like a present. Pull all of the sides together and pull the dough until the brie is entirely covered. Using your clean hands, make sure the Brie is totally covered and that there are no holes (if there are any holes, the cheese will ooze out). If you have any extra dough left, feel free to use your favorite cookie cutter to put a decorative shape on top of your baked brie. You could do a monogram, a holiday shape, or if you're me, you could do the Commonwealth of Virginia. Yes, I have a cookie cutter in the shape of Virginia. Don't judge.

Place the Brie on a greased cookie sheet or cake pan in the oven at 350 degrees for about 12-15 minutes or just until the crust is golden brown. Once the Brie is nice and golden brown on the outside, all melty goodness on the inside, serve it on a platter with the water crackers, pecans, slices of Granny Smith apples, and apricot preserves/compote. (You can place the preserves/compote on the wedge of brie before you cover it with the crescent dough and bake it. When you do this, the preserves heat up and bake inside with the cheese. However, I just serve it on the side so those who don't like the preserves and just want the cheese, apples, etc. they don't have to have it.) Just leave it all with a spreader for the preserves and a knife for your friends and guests to slice into the Brie. Bread? Cheese? Apples? Can you go wrong? The best part, Granny Smith apples are in season right now.

These apps. are so easy and sure to please all of your guests. While they're seasonal, they're great anytime and perfect for an engagement party, happy hour, dinner party, or any gathering of friends. When you make things stress free and easier for yourself, you have more time to enjoy the holiday and your guests. So this time, skip the Green Bean Casserole with the friend onion rings, and volunteer to bring some appetizers to Thanksgiving dinner. Throw in a bottle of Prosecco, or hell, even better, get a bottle of Cranberry juice to mix with the Prosecco, and you're so beyond in business. Folks will forget all about the bird when they get down on these appetizers.

Season's Eatings, y'all.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Baby & The Bathwater: You Better Shop Around.

My Mama told me, you better shop around. And hear me out, she was right. I think one of the biggest mistakes we make that breaks the bank is that we don't shop around enough. We've grown accustomed to "one stop shopping" out of pure convenience and sometimes, laziness. I must warn you, you're talking to a guy who would much rather spend a day running errands than hitting one large chain store. If I could do it every Saturday, I love to get things at the local Farmer's Market downtown, buy wine from the Market Street Wine Shop, get stationary at Rock, Paper, Scissors, get my pants at a men's shop, and then pick up my dry cleaning. As the son of local business owners, I grew up kind of anti-bring the giant chain store to town.

In addition to isolating privately owned and operated boutiques, hardware stores, markets, etc. I just really have no desire to look down into my shopping cart and see a pack of blank CDs, a pair of khaki pants, a box of holiday cards, 2 spare tires, a bolt of fabric, a car battery, some windex, a head of lettuce, and a pound of ground chuck. Doesn't do it for me. However, I'm not here to tell you how to shop, and as my friend Ted likes to say in reference to my ramblings "what does Ed know?" Exactly. Not much. You all have to have learned by now that I like to circle the airport a few times before I finally land this bad boy.

This is not new news, so don't call the press. I've just learned that if we take our time and look around, we can really start to save money. I think we're guilty of getting one catalog in the mail and seeing something we don't think we can live without, and what do we do? We assume it's exclusive to that company, no one else makes anything like it, and we convince ourselves our lives are going to a little less beautiful and meaningful if we don't buy that one thing at that moment (or guilt our significant/insignificant others into buying it for us.) This is especially true with design catalogs and magazines. For example, I fell in love with this Good Housekeeping print when I saw it in a Ballard Designs Catalog. This kid looks just like I did as a child, I have a dog, I grew up with dogs, his washtub is the color of my bathroom. (I also thought it would be fun to have because I grew up with my mom always having Good Housekeeping, Southern Living, etc. around) We were a match made in heaven. However, Ballard was selling it framed for over $200.00. While I loved it, I'm not paying $200.00 for something that's going to hang over the john. So I went searching and I found the exact same print in larger, poster form from for $25.99. Add in a $25.00 frame from the craft store and for $50.00, I have exactly what I wanted and I can still afford to eat and go to the gym.

The same thing goes for the following piece. A large, stretched canvas version of this guy sells for between $150.00-$200.00 from various design companies and chain stores. However, a still large, but smaller than the others, version retails at Target for $40.00. It raises a good point, no it's not going to be the exact same frame, or stretched on the exact same wood canvas, but in my book, who cares? It's about getting that look and that same feeling. Hell, between these 2 purchases alone, I've almost saved enough money to rent my friend Tom's beach house in NC for a week (it's available and gorgeous, if you want details, let me know).

So, next time, skip the one-stop-shop if you have the time. Let go of that immediate desire to hit the "add to cart" button when you're online shopping, and shop around for a little while. Even if you find it at another store and it's the same price, maybe they do free shipping or have a coupon. You never know. It can't hurt. It can only help you save. If you shop around, come back and the item is now sold out, it wasn't meant to be. It's like I said back in one of my first posts "it's a pretty dress, Christy. It's just not your pretty dress." That, or you can blame the new void you now have in your life due to the lack of buying that now, sold out lamp you coveted, on me if it makes you feel better. I won't hold a grudge. Do a Google search, try Ebay, Craigslist, or hit some stores one weekend, you never know. You might just find exactly what you were looking for. Mama is right, you better shop around.

P.S. Much love to my Lovely Ladies of Peabody Hall aka The Real Designing Women. Julia Sugarbaker, eat your saucy heart out!


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