With the holidays performing their patented surprise attack once again this year, I again find myself (predictably) balancing big ambition and little time. In the interest of realistic planning, this means I had to make a choice: take the time to snail mail invitations to our holiday soiree or holiday cards, but not both. Weâ€™ve long been psyched about Pingg.comâ€™s online invitation service so I decided to do some reseplace to that end and was delighted to find Paperless Post. Another alternative to an everyday Evite, Paperless Post allows users to send fully customizable cards and event invitations to everyone on their list for a small fee. The site also offers a handy R.S.V.P. service that allows you to save an address book, keep track of your guest lists and send notes and reminders to invitees. Two standout features include the ability to have the envelopes addressed to each person individually, as opposed to a generic â€œopen your inviteâ€ message and the option to assign a number of guest R.S.V.Ps to each piece, allowing the system to tally your count correctly without sending an invite to each individual person. Stamps start at $5 for 30, while custom coins (which allow you to select special customizations like envelope liners and logos) start at $5 for 25. As an added bonus, we earned 25 stamps just for registering, and have the potential to gain an additional 10 for each friend that registers. With my party invitations done and managed online, Iâ€™ll be able to devote time to keep up the holiday tradition of popping some handwritten seasonâ€™s greetings in the mail. Anyone else have a great online card service to share? â€“Sarah C.
Here at Shelterrific, weâ€™ve learned that a great way to spur charitable contributions is to appeal to the cravings of the almighty sweet tooth. Weâ€™ve found two tasty options in Baking for Good and The Sweet Potato Project, and hereâ€™s a third to outfit that holiday spread: This year, Give Pie. An initiative of United States Charity Fundraising, Give Pie allows you to give back to the community in two ways: by signing up to sell pies, on your own or with a team, or by buying a pie yourself. The organization hopes to sell more than 10,000 pies in each location to aid a variety of local charities, including this yearâ€™s featured beneficiary, SkillsUSA. Visit GivePie.com to get involved or stop by United States Charity Fundraising to learn about local opportunities for giving back to your community this holiday season. â€“ Sarah C.
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.
I love feeling fancy. I doesn’t happen often, which central to its allure, but it’s a welcome soul vacation in my otherwise happily down-to-earth lifestyle. And little luxuries like these Kate Spade coasters bring on that feeling. The bright circles and shiny gold polka-dots would pop right along with the champagne at your next soiree. At $20 for six, they’re far from a necessary expense, but that’s exactly why they might be the perfect gift for the next hostess who enjoys a bit of sparkle. Unnecessary? Yes. Fancy fun? Absolutely. — Sarah C.
When it comes to invitations or holiday cards, Iâ€™m usually the type to camp out in a stationery store with a cup of joe and a critical eye, preparing for a decision-making summit of epic proportions. With my card fetish, thatâ€™s no surprise, but recently Iâ€™ve been considering trying online stationers for their ability to offer a greater variety than many stores. One company with enviable street cred is tinyprints.com. Featuring lines by some of our favorite designers, (Dwell Studio, Oh Joy!, Louella Press and Wedding Paper Divas, to name a few), the site offers a massive yet expertly-curated selection of customizable designs for all occasions and business needs. Beyond cards, the company also prints photo books, calendars and address books and offers mailing services and an RSVP manager. Stop by this weekend to take advantage of the sitewide sale, or visit on Thursdays to reveal the Deal of the Day. Standard domestic shipping starts at $7.50 for 500 cards or less. â€“ Sarah C.
Have a favorite online stationer? Tell us in comments!
The last thing I need is another wooden cutting board. Despite this, the cheeky design and versatility of the Puzzleboard by OOOMS Dutch Design Studio has earned it a place of distinction in my kitchen among its rectangular peers. Ideal for chopping and displaying treats, the board also features an open end perfect for cradling a glass of wine while entertaining. Stick with one or indulge the design by snagging a few for $26 each at Supermarket. â€“ Sarah C.