Ever since we got our makeshift old wheelbarrow firepit going, we’ve been completely obsessed with one thing: s’mores!* We’ve branched out from the classic (milk chocolate & graham cracker) in so many ways — using Nutella (thanks, Greta), belgian 72% dark chocolate, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and, my favorite, Petit Ecolier cookies (chocolate and cookie in one!). It’s gotten to the point where I just put everything out on a tray, so we can choose on a whim what we want. What would be on your s’more station? Sound off in the comments! — Megan B.
*Full disclosure: on nights where we don’t go outside, we’ve taken to making them on the couch, with our own tea lights; an arduous yet rewarding task.
Last year I had quite a few outdoor parties, and went through a lot of cups, utensils, and napkins. You name it, it probably got thrown away after one use. Ugh. I decided to cut down (some more!) on disposable glasses, but after losing two somewhat-expensive wine glasses at a lively party, I knew I needed to find another solution. So, I picked up a dozen glass goblets from a local second-hand store and designated them “outdoor only” use. But their “mis-matchiness” bothered me and I wanted a way to tie them together. Then it came to me â€“ frost them! I ordered some etching liquid online and dipped the glasses in the solution, and presto â€“ matching outdoor drinkware! While the etching liquid is a little tricky, and not very forgiving, I got the hang of it after a few glasses. Now, if one happens gets broken, it will be inexpensive to replace and I donâ€™t have to worry if it’s exactly the same style as the others. Just frost and it will instantly become part of the set! — Rebecca F.
Photo credit: Rebecca Firlik
When I grow up I want to be like Paola Navone. The renowned artist and designer exudes warmth and a love a life that is evident in all her work, whether it be Anthropologie’s vibrant color-pop bedding, overly-tufted, welcoming sofas or her new vibrant and playful pieces at Crate & Barrel. She’s also a not-to-be overlooked Italian who gained prominence in the male-dominated design space, and displays a short hairstyle and a prominent nose that I can’t help but identify with. If I can’t grow up to be like her, perhaps we could have dinner one day?
I’m not sure how or when that may happen, but in the meantime I am going to take some inspiration from Crate & Barrel and channel a little Paola for my gatherings this fall. She’s created three collections all centered around entertaining.
The Como collection features bold blue on white designs with organic swirls and patterns. It reminds me of dining al fresco in Sicily, with smells of almond pastries mixing with Mediterranean breezes. Splashes of red wake you up.
The Mallorca collection is more calming, with white on white ceramics that have delicate, feminine edges. Aluminum trays with gentle dimples appear ready to elevate any dish.
All three themes bring a worldly sophistication to the table, without being stuffy or too precious. As the holidays encroach it’s easy to get drawn towards Northernly designs, but a few Navone bits sprinkled about will make sure your dinners always have a sunny disposition. Here’s a little peak at the artistry behind the work.
As if her new designs weren’t enough to inspire some noteworthy dinners of our own, Crate & Barrel even offers up a few recipes from the master herself. This one below, pasta with zucchini, in an interesting take on one of my favorites. I would add a sprinkle of crushed pastachios before serving, to give it a final hint of richness.
Pasta with Zucchini by Paola Navone
What You Need:
2 lbs. baby zucchini; no more than 1¼’ in diameter
Extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 cup fresh mint (smallest leaves only), thyme, rosemary
Saffron threads, a pinch
Fresh cracked pepper
Ground red pepper
Coarse sea salt
1 lb. uncooked dried mezzi rigatoni – shorter, ridged rigatoni
1/4 cup coarse sea salt to season pasta cooking water
To pass at the table:ricotta di bufala *
** Buffalo milk ricotta is less sweet than cow’s milk ricotta.
How To Make:
1. Wash and drain the zucchini. Slice into ¼-inch-thick “coins” and set aside. If using larger zucchini, slice lengthwise, core out the seeds, then slice.
2. Place a large, nonstick sauté pan over low to medium-low heat. Glaze the pan with olive oil. Add crushed garlic, herbs and saffron to the pan to flavor the oil. (Reserve a small handful of the herbs for garnish.) Stir and cook until the garlic just starts to color and become fragrant. Do not let the garlic burn. Remove garlic.
3. Add the zucchini to the pan and season with ground pepper and sea salt. Sear the zucchini until slightly soft and the zucchini begins to brown and caramelize. Remove from heat.
4. Remove ½ of the zucchini mixture; place in a food processor and puree.
5. Add a small drizzle of olive oil to the sliced zucchini still in the pan; gently fold in pureed zucchini. Add more olive oil to taste, but sparingly. The consistency of the sauce should be creamy, not thick.
6. Fill a large pasta pot ¾ full with cold water and place over high heat. Add ¼ cup** of course sea salt to water and bring to a rolling boil. Add dried pasta and cook according to package directions for al dente.
7. Drain pasta (reserving a cup of the pasta cooking water) and place in large serving bowl. Drizzle with a small amount of olive oil.
8. If needed, thin zucchini sauce with a bit of the pasta cooking water. Add zucchini sauce to pasta and toss gently. Garnish with fresh mint and serve immediately. Pass ricotta di bufala for guests to stir into their pasta, to taste.
Note: This post is sponsored by Crate & Barrel.
Thereâ€™s nothing like a trip home to spark a fierce bout of nostalgia. This past weekend, a short visit to my parentsâ€™ out in the suburbs served not only as a brief respite from the congestion of the city, but also as an invitation for the most bittersweet of childhood nostalgias for this city girl: yard nostalgia. The wistful longing for summer nights spent running around barefoot on freshly cut grass. As kids my sister, brother and I would hang around outside with the neighborhood kids playing all sorts of yard games. A favorite was croquet. Even though we didnâ€™t know the rules, weâ€™d often get the set out and knock the bright balls around with the colorful mallets. Bocce was another we played, albeit with our own rules, that has become popular in the city, even with its lack of yard space. Some bars and apartment complexes have designated areas for the sport, but nothing compares to the beauty of an expansive yard in the summertime. If I had one, Iâ€™d be right back at it, and would love to introduce some giant, yard-approved versions of table games, like Jenga, which can be made according to this how-to at Instructables, or even this larger-than-life game of Scrabble, found at Sunset.com. Click here to read about an Ohio couple who made an even larger paver Scrabble board in their backyard. How cool is that? Readers, do you play summer yard games? — Sarah C.
photo by Flickr member RLHyde
When it comes to cooling off in the summer, Iâ€™d much rather have ice cream then sit in air conditioning. Hands down. If you follow my line of reasoning, the pole dweller ice cream scoop from Mod Cloth ($12.99) is a necessity for your utensil drawer. Penguins too mainstream for you? The pole dweller ice cream scoop also comes in walrus. -â€“ Katie D.
Memorial weekend marks the official start of grilling season, and for me, that means one thing: HOT DOGS. There’s just something about them — I couldn’t rightly enjoy summer without one. Veggie, turkey, polish, or kosher beef, one thing’s certain — everyone likes them a particular way. Often, that varies by region, like my current crush the Seattle dog (with cream cheese, grilled onions & cabbage, and a dash of Sriracha), or the famous Chicago-style dog (pictured above). Hot dog lovers represent! Do you dare to put ketchup on a dog, or are you strictly mustard? Will you be grilling up a batch for your holiday BBQ? — Megan B.
Chicago dog photo courtesy of Flickr user midiman.