Monthly Archives

February 2007


Donna Hay Magazine + Food Therapy

February 13, 2007

I don’t talk food much because there’s already a slew of expert bloggers on the subject and I’m admittedly not one of them. But after discovering Donna Hay magazine last month, I can’t think of anything else to talk about except food. Well that, and the many reasons why I’ll never host a show on the Food Network, which I’ll expound upon below.

Donna Hay Magazine + Food Therapy
Given many near-death cooking incidents by either flames leaping from forgotten pans, or my blouse on fire thanks to sleeves gracing a red hot burner due to my lack of attention, I’m not someone you’d call a cook in the full sense of the word. A pyromaniac perhaps, or a circus entertainer, but not a chef.

Here’s what I’ve determined to be my chief issue. Inability to focus on the task at hand. Give me a copy of War and Peace and I’ll read it cover to cover in one big gulp. Show me your space, and I’ll transform it into your dream room. Put me in the kitchen, and I feel like the velvet curtain opened, I’m naked, and all lights are on me as I anxiously fumble around looking for cover. Nervous by the thought of screwing up perfectly good groceries (performance issues?), I morph into the queen of multitask.

While cooking, you’ll find me singing lots of cheesy pop songs (those seem to stick in my head most, “Sexy Back” is my current song of choice), chatting on the phone, cleaning out the fridge, rearranging the glassware, folding linens, reading, anything to keep busy while the salmon bursts into flames. I’m so preoccupied with everything else that I try to brush aside the reason why I’m there in the first place. To cook an edible meal that won’t cause sudden death.

Do I lack culinary passion? Why am I not into this?

I never gave my kitchen behavior much thought until Donna Hay walked into my life. Something about this magazine spoke to me on every level, but mostly on the level that knows that my cooking skills suck and I clearly need to take more of an interest, slow down, and prepare food with passion. God, that sounds so hard.

Before declining my next dinner invitation, don’t get me wrong, I love to experiment and have no fear when it comes to jumping in and emptying the fridge into a wok. Sometimes I pull off a harmonious fusion of something that tastes quite good. Like Thai food. Surprisingly, I’m the master of Thai. And I can make a mean red sauce from scratch, and killer quiche (killer in a good way). But despite the array of cookbooks I own (what, owning them isn’t enough?) I flip, stir, and roast perfectly good food into limp unrecognizable lumps of coal. I feel a bit hedged in when dealing with a recipe. Oh, the boredom of rules! Throwing things together to save time and my “get in get out”‘ mentality is not passionate cooking, right? I mean, women lose their husbands over many a charred lump.

Sure, I can cook, but I’m not a cook. There is a difference, which I’m learning thanks to Munich foodbloggers Delicious Days and Australian chef Donna Hay. I’m starting to realize that being a cook doesn’t have to be so darn stressful because it’s not about acheiving gourmet perfection nor is it about canned soup, casseroles and crockpots (not crackpots).

Thanks to food goddess Nigella Lawson, who I think pioneered this whole passion in the kitchen movement, there seems to be more of a focus on cooking from the soul and less on calories, five hour meal preps, and then the guilt that follows after eating what you’ve made. Just watch lovely Nigella lick her fingers in absolute pleasure, and you just know she’s not running to the bathroom to hurl the moment the cameras stop rolling. That woman lives to bake her cake and eat it, too.

Donna Hay Magazine + Food Therapy
I’ve only been married for 5 years. Most of my life was spent as a non-cook. I lived with roommates or alone, and either ate out, circled the office floor for post-meeting food remains, or dined on Lean Cuisine. My friends and I didn’t talk about food or the latest cookbook. None of us would ever confess to baking cupcakes, inhaling all 6 of them in one night, licking the spoon, and then vegging on the sofa in post-cupcake bliss ala Al Bundy. We’d kiss and tell, but never eat and tell. Only spinsters and the cat lady in 4B did such things. When I married and suddenly had to whip up meals, I felt like a cat being thrown into a bathtub. Extremely uncomfortable and really, really pissed that I wasn’t rich enough to hire someone to cook for us.

Over the years, I’ve evolved as a cook. I’m getting better. But I still burn things and need to focus. Cooking should be more about the rolling up of the sleeves and having fun vs. the getting down to business Martha Stewart perfection. Sure, I love me some Martha, she’s the queen diva of all things domestic. I dream of meeting her someday with hopes that she’ll adopt me so I can live on her big Connecticut farm, chat about entertaining and the beauty of organization as she braids my hair, and hopefully all that Marthaness sinks into my pores turning me into Holly Stewart… But the fact is, I’m totally intimidated by all the gadgets and gear. I refuse to purchase a blow torch for creme brule’, and you’ll never see my hand up the rear of a turkey to pull out its parts (we’d never even kissed!). I don’t get hot thinking about spending a Saturday night at home basting some bird, and doubt I ever will.

Is that okay?

So, starting now, I vow to follow recipes, subscribe to Donna Hay, and work on my fear of cooking. I will show my food that I am more emotionally involved. I will use beautiful photos to become more inspired, and duplicate as many images as I can. My husband will not lovingly smile through another fusion cooking experience. I’ll graduate from Thai cooking school. I will not burn down the house.

About Donna Hay: An Australian cook, food stylist, and author of several cookbooks and who has her own amazing magazine (available at your Barnes + Noble), Donna Hay is the newest “it” girl in cooking for me. I love her food photos, the products she features in her bi-monthly magazine, and some of the super easy cooking features like 10 dishes in 10 minutes and Everyday Easy. If you haven’t heard of Donna Hay, I highly suggest digging into her latest issue and taking in the entire experience.

(images from donna hay)

Reader Questions

Reader Q: Contact Paper Resources?

February 13, 2007

A reader from Austin, Texas, Miss Meredith, needs our help. Let’s see if we can all pull together some ideas for her.

“I just moved into a circa 1969 rancho fabuloso. I was wondering if you had any ideas about some groovy contact paper I could use in my walk in pantry. Your wallpaper links have been very inspiring, and I wondered if you had any suggestions about contact paper or shelf liner that is cute. All I can find around Austin, TX is country kitchen stuff.”

Reader Q: Contact Paper Resources?I suggest using vintage wallpaper, or head to the nearest Target store because last I checked, they had a few cute patterns that didn’t have a rooster or quilt motif going on. There’s also Aubuchon Hardware, they have several patterns to choose from, and they’re online for easy shopping. But when it comes to really great patterns, contact paper doesn’t seem to be something that some great designer has picked up on yet. There clearly is a need for someone to design great adhesive contact paper…

(image from aubuchon hardware)


Jan Constantine Embroidered Collection

February 12, 2007

With a background in fashion, interiors and styling, and a loyal following in the UK, there’s no question Jan Constantine has a unique style and good taste that appeal to many. Her collection of hand-embroidered soft furnishings show that the art of embroidery need not look dated, only to be retired to storage, rather it can seamlessly blend in with today’s interiors. Jan’s goal is to keep this ancient, hands-on skill very much alive and desired. When you peek at her online collection, I think she’s well on her way.

Jan Constantine Embroidered Collection
(images from jan constantine)

Decorating Tips

Reader Q: The Hunt for the Trendy White Table

February 12, 2007

Audrey from Australia wrote in, “I was wondering if you and the decor8 blog readers might be able to help me…” Seems she’s on the hunt for a trendy white table featured in a recent NYTimes feature about The Penthouse restaurant at the Huntley Hotel in Santa Monica, CA designed by Thomas Schoos. Audrey continues, “I’d like to get my hands on it (or something similar) to use as my desk. I love the white square top with the round base.”

Reader Q: The Hunt for the Trendy White TableShe adds that it would be helpful if someone could point her to a resource in Australia.

Since that is wayyy out of my territory, I’m leaving this up to other Aussie readers who may be able to give her a hand. Or in this case, a table!

Anyone know where to get something like this?

Audrey – My first reaction is to contact the design firm to see where it was purchased, but given your location, you may do better to DIY it. Locate a vintage cast aluminum saarinen tulip base (Knoll) and work with a carpenter to create a laminate rectangular top and viola! You have exactly what you want. You could also contact 20th Century Design in Melbourne to see if they’ve come across anything like it… Mondo Trasho and Frhapsody 20C are great mid century design resources in your country that may also be helpful for you to contact.

Anyone else have a few clever ideas for our friend, Audrey?

(image from the nytimes)

Arts + Crafts, Books + Magazines

Book of the Week: Simple Sewing with a French Twist

February 12, 2007

Meet my new favorite book, Simple Sewing with a French Twist by the popular Parisian designer, C?line Dupuy. Her work is regularly featured in Marie Claire magazine and her portfolio can be viewed on her website. Simple Sewing with a French Twist showcases C?line’s talents offering all of us a glimpse into her stylish world.

But wait!

It does much more than delight the eyes. It provides the necessary tools to jump right in and create our very own Paris right at home with over 50 projects for all levels – from ohmygodwhatwasIthinking beginner to beentheredonethat advanced. It offers clear instructions, illustrated patterns, and images of the completed project that encourage you to take your idea from your head to the work table.

Meet C?line…
Book of the Week: Simple Sewing with a French TwistBook of the Week: Simple Sewing with a French Twist
I love her eye, from the things she creates and how beautifully she styles them, giving everything such care and consideration, paying close attention to each detail without coming across too fussy… Absolutely beautiful. Lots of great patterns to sew up for your home, from placemats to pillows, as well as fashion accessories (love the totes), gifts, and super creative customizing ideas for your furniture (i.e. the buttons sewn on the back of this chair below. What a fantastic idea.) Here are some images from the book for a sneak peak.

Book of the Week: Simple Sewing with a French TwistBook of the Week: Simple Sewing with a French Twist
Book of the Week: Simple Sewing with a French Twist
This title is in English and is also available in French. Simple Sewing with a French Twist is exquisite on every level, a real gem for crafty girls everywhere and only $18!

(images from C?line Dupuy)

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