Kitchen Chemistry: Savory Shortbread

Happy Friday, readers! Here's my easy (and tasty) recipe for Parmesan Thyme Shortbread to try out this weekend...

Enjoy! See you on Monday...


Springing Forward (a little early)

Northern California can't seem to get its act together, seasonally speaking. We put up with a chilly Summer and a very summery Autumn. Our tree didn't start turning colors until Thanksgiving and didn't lose its leaves until after Christmas. It seems like Berkeley, in an attempt to get back on schedule, has skipped over Winter and gone straight into Spring in January. Fine by me.

After many months of inattention, our landlord sent out his landscaper (read: sullen teenager in headphones) to tidy up the yard. He managed to miss the tangles of ivy encroaching the path to our door, but he was very thorough about weed-whacking the many large stands of paperwhites. *sigh* I went out with a shovel (read: serving spoon) and rescued some of the most at-risk bulbs. They're now quite happily blooming and perfuming our apartment. Spring is in the air, indoors and out- and it's heavenly!

Spring has a reputation for stirring people into action- to get outdoors, to clean house, possibly to act on their New Year's resolutions. For me, it's time for a fresh start. Time for new projects, new looks, new motivation, and hopefully, new collaborations...


The Finishing Touch

Just as jewelry lends sparkle to an outfit, this pillow could certainly dress up my settee...

Jaime Pearl Pillow from CB2 (Thanks for the tip, Ann!)

On the positive side, a classic, Fornasetti-esque illustration. On the negative, Adam would probably hate it!


A Dare to Dream Come True

Last Spring I fell madly in love. With a kitchen island. I blogged about it, daydreamed about it, and knew I couldn't afford it.

On more than one occasion I found myself in Crate & Barrel, doing an elaborate and probably creepy-as-hell pantomime of rolling out dough on its cool marble surface. In the summer I spotted one (moderately dinged up, but persuasively discounted) at the outlet store in Berkeley. I spent an afternoon wracking my brain for legal and illegal ways to bring it home, but it couldn't be done.

Then, on Christmas morning, after opening enough gifts to consider myself terribly spoiled, my parents handed Adam and I a last package. My Mom called it a combined Christmas-Engagement-Adam's-Birthday present. Adam unfolded a picture of the kitchen island, on which my Mom had written (somewhat hilariously, given my above-stated obsession), "if you still want it." Adam was astounded, and I am fairly certain that I teared up and exclaimed something silly like, "this is the best Christmas ever!"

Isn't it just a thing of beauty? It solves several major issues that we've had with our kitchen. First, it's a much more comfortable and functional work space than the existing tiled countertops. I baked a pie this weekend and was able, for the first time, to have every ingredient out at once!

Our corner kitchen was never ideal for our frequent dinner and cocktail parties. It was strange to cook with our backs to the table, and even more awkward when our guests stood at the edges of the room, leaving a huge void in the middle. Floating the island in the center of the room provides a space for people to mingle over drinks and appetizers. It allows our guests to be more involved in dinner preparations, but also keeps them from getting in the way! It's a visual improvement as well. The icky non-matching rental appliances used to be the first thing we'd see from when entering the apartment. Now the island is a beautiful distraction (but the open base prevents the room from feeling cramped).

And then, of course, there's that glossy marble top.

So, thank you again to my generous parents who have recognized our passion for cooking, and have given us a platform on which to do it well! In celebration, I'm baking up a batch of savory shortbread, and I'll share the recipe this week!


Dare to Dream: Downton Abbey Attire

Have you all been watching Downton Abbey on PBS?

Downton Abbey is marked by the perfectionistic attention to detail, historical accuracy, and vibrant rendering of characters that I've come to expect from Masterpiece Theatre productions. Add to that the superb Dame Maggie Smith, dashing young gentlemen on horseback, and a plot of household drama (upstairs and down)... and I can hardly wait for Sunday night.

The intrigue isn't the only thing taking my breath away. I'm absolutely swooning over the costuming. 

Lady Mary may grumble about her black mourning attire, but I thought it was stunning! There aren't many occasions in my dull life when it's appropriate to be swathed in black lace and dripping with jet crystals, but a girl can dream, right?

Care to Decadence Dress from ModCloth, Necklace from eBay

How do you suppose Adam would feel if I started "dressing for dinner?"


Dare to Dream: My Cup of Tea

My girl Kalin is a helper. Not only does she write an excellent blog about food and beer and more food (with recipes I can try at home), she also helps me update my wish list.

A link to these absurdly cute teacups appeared in my inbox the other day, and now, regardless of cost, I must have them.

Imm Living Hidden Fox & Owl Teacups

Very helpful, Kalin.


Wedding Inspiration: Gold & Glowing

I often wish I had a dozen more rooms to furnish, just so that I'd have enough space to implement all of my decorating ideas. Likewise, I think I'd need to get married a dozen times (only to Adam, of course!) to realize all of my wedding concepts. 

My vision for our wedding is becoming more and more specific as I narrow my color scheme, establish themes, and select my favorite flowers. However, I still love delving into blogs and magazines for more inspiration! Take this golden, summery tablescape...

Yellow isn't my color, but I love the upbeat elegance of this arrangement. It's formal (complete with gold chiavari chairs), but the mixed and matched elements keep it sunny and playful. Brass urns and candlesticks alone might have been stuffy, but king's thumbprint goblets are bright and unexpected- as is the combination of real and fabric flowers. And the "dandelion elixir" on each plate? Charming!

Photographs by Ryan McVay for Seattle Metropolitan Bride & Groom Magazine

The take-away from this tabletop? Variety - of flowers, of shapes, of textures - makes my heart sing!


Here & Now: Fetching Phineas

I love my cat. Well, both of my cats, but Phineas especially. The squeaky little fellow just melts me completely. What's not to love? He's about 11 pounds of purring, snuggling, tabby goodness. And he does tricks!

I can tell that you're skeptical, so you have to indulge me by watching this video montage of my darling Phinney playing fetch.


Under the Tree: Victoriana

Another installment of fabulous things Elizabeth got for Christmas. This time, presents with a Victorian flourish from my Mother. As I've shown you before, she truly is a masterful giver of gifts.

This quartet of tiny embellished bowls will certainly do my table proud. Standing on swirled pedestals, they're like miniature stages for Adam's creative sauces and garnishes. 

However, they're also a brilliant match for another gift I received...

Isn't that bracelet gorgeous? Moody cameos in shades of fog and inky black, and feminine trimmings on brassy chain. It couldn't have been more "me" if I'd made it myself!

Don't they seem made for each other? Now I'm tempted to leave one dish on my vanity desk to catch stud earrings and charms!


The WarLock Wedding: Seating Arrangements

My family can attest to fact that on each of our wedding venue tours, I asked one question...

"Can we bring in different chairs?"

I suppose it won't surprise my readers that my dare-to-dream wedding fantasies have centered around furniture. I envision an autumn evening, dark flowers, flickering candlelight, and a room full of graceful golden chairs.

Where slipcovered conference chairs merely add bulk, these chairs are an airy complement to my elegant (and slightly gothic) theme. However, Chiavari chairs can be an expensive rental- and I'd never choose chairs over the guests sitting in them!

Doesn't it seem fateful, then, that the venue we've selected already has hundreds of gold chiavari chairs at the ready? Meant to be!

PS: For those of you wondering, "WarLock" is a combination of our last names (Adam Wargacki & Elizabeth Lockhart). In my opinion, it's another thing that's meant to be, but for some crazy reason Adam seems reluctant to use WarLock as our married name...


Under the Tree: Potent Gifts!

I'm a bit late to it this year, but I thought I'd continue a tradition and share some of the gifts that I found under the tree. Because, let me tell you, I did pretty well. 

First up, some gorgeous updates to our bar from my favorite brother. Last Christmas Drew amazed me with this tidbit stand, which makes frequent appearances at cocktail parties. I'm beginning to wonder if Drew reads this blog, because he seems to have a darn good understanding of my taste. Look at this clever corkscrew!

To top things off, he gave me this set of beautiful architectural stoppers. I think a wine & cheese party is in order!

And, for Adam, this bottle of wine. Not only is it the natural companion to my gift, the elemental label is a chemistry reference! Perfection!

Who would've thought that a college-aged frisbee-playing younger brother could be such a thoughtful gift-giver? You're a man of many talents, Drew. Thank you!

PS: Thank you, thank you, thank you for all of your kind words about our engagement! Get ready for the first of many wedding posts tomorrow...


How We're "Ringing" in the New Year

Welcome to 2011, friends!

I suppose I need to account for my two weeks of vacation? How's this: several lively holiday parties, approximately 36 hours on the road, visits with family and friends in Seattle, Olympia, & Portland, the most beautiful prime rib I've ever seen (and eaten), a pile of presents, an epic New Year's Eve bash in the winter wonderland of Spokane, many champagne toasts, and...


Adam and I are getting married! He proposed on December 20th, and we surprised our families with the announcement of our engagement on Christmas. Needless to say, best Christmas ever!

My ring is an Edwardian solitaire from 1915, which we fell madly in love with at Lang Antiques. To me, it's perfect, and proof that the best gifts come in small packages!

I hope you all like talking about weddings, because we've jumped into planning mode and I can think of little else. Cheers to 2011! I can't wait to start sharing ideas...