It’s hard to imagine a better name for a kid’s music bluegrass band than Astrograss, and Astrograss delivers on the promise of their name on their new album The Colored Pencil Factory. From the first song, “Make It Up”, Astrograss launches into an upbeat jam of bluegrass fun, encouraging kids to use their imaginations. The genius of Astrograss is how they use bluegrass to create fun songs since bluegrass, at least played up tempo, is inherently active and fun music with fiddle, picked guitar and banjo giving the music a jumping quality that makes you want to move. Equally impressive are the lyrics and vocals, such as on the title track, where kids are told how life can be fun seeing the world in terms of colors, mixing them up for an explosion of saturation. Or on “Freak Out” where Astrograss sings “just bust out a move and play”. It also speaks to Astrograss’s understanding of the traditions of bluegrass and how they incorporate those traditions in their vocal approach, with ensemble singing and the utilization of call and response.
Even when the pace slows on songs such as “Brand New Nose”, which is a ballad of being sick and dreaming of being better, there is an element of fun in the plea for dreams to deliver a new nose so the protagonist can breathe. And that is one other aspect of The Colored Pencil Factory which works, a blend of points of view: some songs like “Make It Up” are from the point of view of an adult talking to kids in a way that encourages them, while other songs such as “Minutes Into Flowers” are expressed from the child’s voice, doing well to see the world in terms that a child might, especially in this song where the passing of time cannot go fast enough, “when will we get there/I would like to know/I don’t care where we are going/but let’s not go so slow”. In the end, The Colored Pencil Factory by Astrograss is a great album for kids, introducing them to the delights of bluegrass in fun songs that engage kids imaginatively and physically.
Another fashion hot spot for the week, Barney’s Warehouse sale is now online. If you’ve ever tried to navigate the actual Warehouse sale, you’ll really appreciate this. Shop for Men, Women, Home and Kids at huge discounts off Barney’s fabulous designer wares without even the hint of a fight. But, if you still feel like experiencing the trill of the hunt in its natural environment, real thing is coming soon: The New York City Warehouse Sale, February 14th- 24th, 255 West 17th Street.
There are subscription services for just about everything now, so why not art. For just $200 (plus shipping), you can sign up for Eight Emperors Quarterly subscription service and receive a lovely piece of art for each of the 4 seasons. The subscription begins with the Spring piece, The inaugural piece for Spring, ‘We are building’ is shown here
(curved cut-score on a single sheet of acid-free archival
Dior has a new tumblr, which will be even more lovely as time goes by.
Karen Walker's newest Eyewear collection, Forever, arrives February 13th. On the Forever theme, Walker had Ari Scott Cohen of Advance Style shoot the line with 4 of his favorite Advanced Style Icons: Ilona Royce Smithkin, Joyce Carpati, Linda Rodin and Lynn Dell. See a sneak peak of the line at Advanced Style. You can also find her Anthropologie Collaboration Made in Kind Karen Walker Runaway Collection right now. 3 of my favorites are below.
On March 19 & 20, London will be home to the very first Global Kids Fashion Week, presenting 2 shows featuring some of the most fabulous fashions for kids. The first show, for the media, will feature AW13 trends from leading children’s labels worldwide, while a second public event will showcase fashions from the alexandalexa brand portfolio for SS3013. Ticket proceeds will go to Kids Company, GKFW’s charity partner.
Current designers on the roster are:
Paul Smith Junior, Junior Gaultier, Chloe, Little Marc Jacobs, I Pinco Pallino, Suzanne Ermann, Anne Kurris, Supertrash, Tommy Hilfiger, Diesel, Scotch Shrunk, Scotch R’Belle, Wildfox, Rachel Riley, Finger in the Nose, Munster Kids.
Since fashion week is now upon us in NYC and because the very first Global Kids Fashion Week (see our post for details) has just been announced, this week it’s all fashion for little people. I have loved fashion since I was a very little girl. When I was very young I used to draw horses and design dresses. I loved designing gowns, beautiful ball gowns, even though I refused to go to dance class, and elaborate wedding dresses, even though I had no intention of ever getting married. I still remember buying my first Ralph Lauren blouse, white oxford cloth with a ruffled placket, at The Fairfield Store in Connecticut. The price was fabulously expensive and just shocked me so much that I even remember the price to this day. It was the very first arrival of such fashions in the girl’s department and I was very, very excited. I also remember not long after, having my mother track down a purple Fair Isle cardigan, also Ralph Lauren, that I had seen in the the New York Times magazine and shopping trips into San Francisco & New York City with my father when I was in High School. Way back then, children’s fashion was not quite what it is today, but I managed. Now, I’m still shopping for children’s fashion (more so than my own) for my 4 children and I am still having fun from stripey socks right on up.
Last weekend, because the windchill was a very nice 3 degrees, we decided to begin working on Spring. First we potted some bulbs in the hopes of a few flowers coming up around the house in the next few weeks. And then, we began on a few seeds. We will begin our real big seed push a bit later for the garden, but we decided to start working on our indoor plant life right now. While we’re freezing and impatient and need a bit of green in our days. Normally, we’ve used jiffy pots as seed starters, but this time I decided to try making our own. At first I was considering getting a pres to make tiny newspaper pots, but then I saw a tiny seed pot made out of a toilet paper roll and decide that was our best best. It may not be very glamorous, but it works. It also give our vast supply of cardboard rolls a use in life. And, even better, they aren’t constantly being fished out of the recycling for use as telescopes and binoculars only to end of a shredded mess on the living room floor or a soggy glop in the sink when the telescope turns into a funnel.
It’s really very easy. I just cut the tubes in half and then cut 4 slits half way up one end. To make it easier to fold the ends in, I flattened one end a bit so that I could cut 2 slits at once. With 2 squeezes, I had 4 nearly equal slits that lined up well. Next I folded the ends under in turn, and then inserted the last flap edge back under the first, just like closing a box. That’s it. I quickly made 16 in just a few minutes. I also tried paper towels rolls, but, being narrower, they were much harder to fold together at the end.
Once all 16 were folded, I turned 12 of them over to my helpers, who
filled each with dirt and planted the seeds. Because 4 of my helpers are
7 and under, we placed the mini-pots in a low plastic container which
we’re leaving next to our kitchen window. We wanted a sturdy,
stable container that my children can easily watch, but we can also
easily move if needed. (Personally I wish it were a bit more attractive,
but it’s doing it’s job.) . In a perfect world, we’d mix up our own seed
starting soil concoction, but instead we bought a small bag of seed
starter pouring soil to give the seeds a good start. We dropped a few
seeds into each pot, lightly covered then with more of the soil and
misted the lot. We’ll continue to mist them as needed and hopefully
soon, we’ll have a few spouts. We are covering the container loosely with a bit of plastic wrap until they get going.
Next, we’re working on propagating from cuttings- Cilantro, Sage, Basil & Mint so far- and planting some lemon
& avocado seeds. As soon as it’s a bit warmer, we’re going to attempt to take some Budleia cuttings to root as well. I’ll post updates on how it all works out.
In the past week we’ve had single digit wind chills and temperatures near 60, so that means it’s winter in lovely New Jersey. Which means, of course, we are beginning to desperately long for Spring. Spring, when the temperatures are at a slightly more civilized range, but still a bit rude on occasion. Spring, also means houses- looking at houses, selling house, thinking about how to redo houses. My 5 year old will be attending his first open house of the season today, after a visit to the Science Center. And his brothers and sisters are very jealous. He’s requested it as an add-on to his special trip out today with Daddy. We are an eclectic bunch. We also suddenly find ourselves looking for a new realtor as we attempt to finally get our pretty house ready to sell, if we can manage to tear the 6 of us out of it. Way too much to think about and a sudden need to get the house super spiffed up for relator visits and whatnot is not a very happy thought. It’s was much easier to think of getting the house in perfect condition when we had until be all pretty a month form now, not today. I feel like I should be cleaning something or hiding something else right now. Or making plans to sneaks toys out into the garage in the middle of the night. Or figuring out where I’m going to get plant life that looks alive to brighten up the front yard when everywhere is still closed up tight for the season. Interviewing realtors means our house full of 4 horridly messy children (and 2 not even close to tidy adults) needs to be pretty right away. And we still haven’t even has the windows cleaned from the hurricane yet and that was in October. We even still have a tiny bit of tape on one of the windows. So, this week instead of thinking of fashion, I will be scrubbing floors, rearranging furniture and thinking of all things house.
This is the first year that I will have 4 children in school and will have to produce a collective 80 plus valentines. Normally, I design the Valentines myself to hand out at school. But I think 40’s my limit, so this year I’m printing all of them. I spent a bit of time the other day running through lots of examples of DIY Valentines and free printables and I was so impressed with so many of the super clever and stylish cards I saw available. We’ve found an option for everyone and my work will be well within my limits. The 5 year old has chosen a very cool set of free animal printables that’s perfect for him and the 7 year old, after looking through endless online options, is recycling a redbird subway design I did for him 4 years ago. In the mix of all those lovely handmades & ready to prints, though, I found Invy.com’s Valentine Maker, which allows you to customize various Valentine designs for free and email yourself a pdf for printing at home. Yes, it’s super cool. My 3 & 4 year old and I did 4 very quickly and they are really cute. We customized colors & fonts to give them exactly what they wanted. And all I have to do now is print & cut about a million times, but everyone will be happy.
Here are a few lovely things for the little ones. We are working on “modernizing” our decor a bit now that everyone is getting a bit older and I’m becoming less of a nervous nellie. Here are a few items & images that are inspiring my search to make changes that express the idea that this is in fact our home instead of a daycare center. The first few beautiful pieces are from the fabulous Vintage Enfant, which carries vintage items for children (in case that wasn’t obvious). I’m always a crazy nut (to put it mildly) about safety and whatnot, but whenever I can overcome my child-related insanity, rational or not, I do love to mix in some vintage items whenever possible. If France ia a bit too far, Etsy is a great place to pick up vintage children’s items, like the little yellow school chairs I recently bought for our dining room or these super cool Vintage Casalino chairs I spotted today.
As an alternative to real vintage, vintage inspired items are a perfect alternative. You can feel secure in knowing that the products are designed to be safe for your present day baby, while adding in a bit of super cool style to the nursery or playroom. And it’s a great way to make a room that will grown with your child. Land of Nod is a fabulous resource for injecting some modern/vintage dash into your little one’s room without going way overboard on the budget. I’ve pulled in a few of the newer options below that I love. Another way to add some style to your child’s room is with art. Forgo the usual kiddie pics in favor of vintage prints, book plates or home made art projects that reflect a bit of modern pizazz. Not only will you love the look, but you won’t feel like you have to swap out the images every time you pass another birthday. The project below from The DIY circle punch art project from mer mag is a great way to make a stylish art piece that will grow along with your child instead of grow old as they get older. I also love the idea of a modern mobile (like that super cool Twizzler from Hop & Peck below) to add some movement for little eyes.
2 16 oz cans of good quality cannellinibeans, such as Progresso, Goya, or similar white beans, rinsed and drained
1 medium red onion, peeled and finely chopped
4 leeks, white and light green parts, cleaned and finely chopped
4 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
4 stalks of celery, cleaned and finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cleaned and finely chopped
stems from a bunch of Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely diced
1 fresh jalapeño pepper, seeds and ribs removed, finely diced, or a pinch of dried red chili flakes
4 to 6 cloves of garlic (to taste), peeled and thinly sliced
1 28-oz can of good-quality canned tomatoes, such as San Marzano, crushed by hand with the juice from the can
3 or 4 bunches of Cavolo Nero (sold in US as lacinato kale, dinosaur or tuscan kale), thick stems removed, roughly chopped and reserved, leaves finely sliced (you can substitute other types of kale, or cabbage such as savoy cabbage, escarole, spinach and include other bitter greens such as, collard, mustard, turnip or beet greens. (Availability and balance are the key consideration)
good-quality stale bread, or lightly toasted fresh bread, the quantity will vary, but you will probably need at least 3 or 4 thick slices of bread
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
Pistou (you can find our recipe here) or your favorite home made or purchased pesto and Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving.
Heat a large heavy bottom pan or Dutch Oven with a splash of olive oil over medium-low heat and add the onions, leeks,carrots, celery, fennel, garlic, jalapeño, parsley stems and kale stems, with a pinch of salt. Sweat the vegetables slowly with the pan partially covered until they are soft, about 15 to 20 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice and simmer for a few minutes.
Add enough water to cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil and add the Cavolo Nero or other cabbage with a pinch of salt. You will probably need to add the Cavolo Nero in stages, as each previous stage cooks down. When the Cavolo Nero has wilted, tear several slices of the stale bread, add to the pan and stir gently. Add additional water, if necessary. After about 15 minutes, add the cannellini beans, stir gently and cook for about 30 minutes. Taste the kale, it may need a few more minutes. The soup should be smooth, and somewhat thick. Taste to check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve in a large bowl with a sprinkling of shaved or grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, some pistou or pesto, perhaps some good bread and a drizzle of good quality olive oil.
Chianti is the logical choice for this dish, but a good French Rosé or Italian Rosato works really well with it too.
The Niner Wine Estates Sangiovese Rosato is also one of my favorites.
This recipe can be easily made a day in advance and will taste better as well. Just let it cool before refrigerating and let it return to room temperature the next day before gently reheating it. It may be necessary to add some additional water, as the bread tends to absorb the liquid. Stir gently with a wooden spoon as it reheats. Again, taste and adjust the seasoning.
Serve with pistou, grilled or toasted bread, some Parmigiano-Reggiano and some good olive oil.
If you have more leftover soup, you might want to try the “day 4” stage. Simply heat some olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add several cups of the soup (about 2 cups, drained, for a 6” pan) to the pan and press down.
Continue to cook until the liquid has evaporated and the ribollita is golden and crispy on the bottom. Shake or swirl the pan occasionally to make sure it is not sticking and also check to make sure it is not burning. Flip the fried ribollita over or place a dish over the pan and turn it along with the pan. Then just slide the ribollita back into the pan. Continue to cook until the other side is golden and crispy.
Remove from the pan and serve with some Parmigiano-Reggiano, shaved red onion, pistou and a drizzle of some good olive oil. It makes a great light lunch or starter. Enjoy.
Ribollita, which means “reboiled,” is an incredibly delicious vegetable or minestrone and bread soup from Tuscany. It is another one of those recipes that varies from region to region in Italy and each individual cook seems to have their own personal version. The basic recipe has been around for over several hundred years. It grew out of the poverty of the time and the need to give new life to leftovers.
On the first day, vegetable soup (Minest ra di Verdura) would be made from whatever vegetables were available. Although a key ingredient in Tuscan Ribollita is Cavolo Nero or winter black cabbage. The second day the leftover vegetable soup would be reheated with the addition of some stale or toasted bread rubbed with some fresh garlic (Minestra di Pane or Bread Soup). On day three the bread and vegetable soup would be baked in the oven (375º F for about 20 minutes), perhaps with some additional stale or toasted bread, as well as some thinly sliced onions and olive oil on top. (Minestra di Pane al Forno or Baked Bread Soup). Finally, on the fourth day, the remaining leftover soup and bread would be cooked, or reboiled, in a pan on the stove until it was brown and crisp on both sides and thick enough to eat with a fork (Ribollita or Recooked Vegetable Soup).
There are also numerous 3 day versions of Ribollita as well, but our recipe tries to retain the history and the flavor of the dish in a manner that can be prepared in one day. Although, I should stress that it is even better if you prepare it the day before and reheat it. In any case, enjoy.
These are both collections that I love and for similar reasons. Both collections offer beautifully cut dresses with striking detail- lovely color and cut with beautifully intricate intricate lace and embroidery. Saab of course produced a run of beautiful gowns, but it was the gorgeous party dresses that really held my attention. I always love Elie Saab, but Valentino hasn’t really captured my heart very much in awhile. That is until last season. This season Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli have done it again and I just adore what I saw. I’m normally not a big fan of red, but I loved the use of red in both collections, strong and vibrant. Valentino is of course known for his red and Chiuri & Piccioli used both red and white stunningly. The collection, in both the more austere looks and the more elaborate, had a very dramatic, almost liturgical feel, with a bold mix of the pure and the carnal, a bit pious depravity at its best. You could almost feel the Borgias watching from the wings. Being couture, the hours of hand work that have gone into the creation of each piece is as breathtaking as the pieces themselves. And they are breathtaking. As beautiful as each piece was from the front, many were even more amazing from the back, as seen above. The cut and float of each piece was etherial. Be sure to not only watch the videos below, but click though to Style.com’s complete coverage shots of the individual pieces (you can even make them move) and close ups of the exceptional details. Fashionologie has some gorgeous shots of the Valentino as well. The complete shots of the Elie Saab runway show can be found here on Style.com as well. I’ve also pinned my very favorites from both collections to our Things I like Pinterest Board.