no brainer mother’s day presents: birchbox for the garden

Have you tried Birchbox yet? It’s a subscription gifting service, where for about $10 a month you receive a little box full of goodies — mostly beauty product samples customized to you — in the mail. The startup has been taking off since its founding a couple of years ago, and now is branching out into the gifting space. What better time to give it a try than for Mother’s Day? We would love to get (and give) their limited edition Birchbox for the Garden — though it should be retitled Birchbox for the Wannabe Gardener. Inside is a small collection of lovely spring scents and treats: There are mini jars of jam from Sarabeth’s, TOCCA’s Crema da Mano Luxe, and L’OCCITANE’s lovely Jasmin & Bergamot Eau de Toilette. The lucky plucker will also get a seed kit, a flowery utility knife and handy tote bag. Best of all, it arrives prepackaged up in a beautiful box for only $32 (valued at $87). Take a look at today (and be warned you might just find something cute for yourself, too).

jonathan adler goes to the dogs. thank goodness!

One of our favorite home designers has been lending his sharp skills to everything from toilet paper to makeup lines to handbags, and we have been wondering, is he spreading himself too thin? Luckily, he hasn’t abandoned the medium that made him a star — ceramics! — and has introduced a new critter to his delightful menagerie. Meet Jonathan Adler’s Terrier, available in white and black, starting May 1st for $138. We think he’d be the perfect wedding gift for a canine-obsessed couple.

snowbound pottery brings the sunshine in with delicate berry bowls and bud vases

Last week, when the frost was keeping the ground hard and our blooms hidden, we discovered Snowbound Pottery, a love-made design shop in Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA that makes gorgeous, delicate vessels. Whether you use for your morning berries or first buds of the season, these hand-crafted porcelain clay pieces are delicate yet sturdy enough for everyday use. Creator Anna Kasablan has a way with words as well (she’s written 12 books) so we thought we’d let her tell us a bit about how Snowboard Pottery was born.

How did you began creating pottery?

In 2003, I began to work in bisque and then glaze after drawing for years. But I then wondered what I could do with raw clay. I took some lessons, and after five or six I realized I did not like the wheel, but LOVED working in my hand, or with minimal equipment to hand build what I could not form in my hand. There’s a wonderful creative freedom and surprise that came when I stopped concentrating on making things perfectly round and symmetrical.

I migrated pretty quickly to porcelain clay because I felt it would allow me to create unusual and unexpected forms that would be ultra thin.

We love your berry bowls. What was their inspiration?
That is a great little story. I was invited to do a trunk show in Marblehead, Ma at MacKimmie & Co. The owner, Doris asked if I ever considered doing a berry bowl. I hadn’t, but went home and created a bunch of individual berry bowls and decided to name them after her! My berry bowls were featured in House Beautiful in the July/August issue and have been a popular item since. I have expanded the berry bowl theme too, and now have Full Bloom berry bowls that recall flower blooms. I can make them with an under-dish but generally don’t because as single serving dishes they can look beautiful on any dish or china someone has—maybe even prettier.

Tell us a little bit about your technique.

Well, it all starts with a ball of clay in the palm of my hand, and then I just sit and keep working it into a shape with my fingers stretching and moving the clay. I do have a secret way to hold those wavey shapes, but I can say it’s absolutely nothing mechanical!

How do you recommend people use your pieces?
My bowls, trays, servers and now my newest Petal Pours are all food safe and can be used for anything—for storing a special ring or bracelet, floating flower buds across a table (instead of big bouquets), ice cream, jam or a poof of whipped cream. Or, as one customer did, lined up a row on her fireplace mantel. Not everyone can afford to spend thousands of dollars on art glass or ceramics, yet each of us appreciates it.

The big idea is to live with and use affordable art at your table, or in your daily life.

We couldn’t agree more. See more of Anna’s work and her gorgeous studio here.

a birthday mug worthy of an oscar: the lincoln from catherine’s table

Lincoln’s been having a quite a year and today, February 12th, is his birthday. Between public muses from Obama himself to Hollywood attention and hopeful Academy honors, you could easily say that he is the hottest politician of the moment. All the more reason to nab one of these hand-crafted mugs by Justin Rothshank from Catherine’s Table. Loosely wheel thrown, it has gentle nubs and dents for your fingers; each is a one-of-a-kind. But don’t worry, Abe ain’t delicate. This mug is sturdy and meant to be used every day. A special treat at $42. Order one now for your smart sweetheart before they are sold out. And don’t worry, if politics isn’t your thing, other mugs by the artist feature authors, poets, or musician icons.

we tried it: the verdict on DIY Cheese Kit

The Claim: Got some fresh milk in the fridge? Have about an hour to plan ahead before serving your next Mexican-themed meal? Why not make your own Queso fresco, with this kit from Urban Cheescraft. The Portland, OR company brings the local food wave right into your kitchen. They supply most of what you need — a plastic cheese mold, a fine cheesecloth, cooking thermometer, a bag of citric acid and cheese salt — along with easy to follow instructions. Use this kit and you’ll have delicious, salty, crumbly Queso Fresco to sprinkle on huevos rancheros.

The Situation: It’s a Friday night tradition with our friends Jenn and Gordon. One week it’s their house, the next ours. The other Friday, Jenn wisely had a crock pot full of tortilla soup brewing, and was eager to host. “I’m making cheese,” she said. I got there and discovered she was just cracking open this kit at around 5pm. Could we really start this now and have cheese done by dinner tonight? We had three kids under 5 running around, phones beeping, beers pouring. Distracted though we were, we managed to make this cheese! The hardest part was making sure we didn’t let the milk boil. It tasted yummy and was the perfect topping to the soup.

The Verdict: This cheese kit is not cheap ($30 at When you consider that it makes 10 7 oz. wheels of cheese, it is not too expensive, but it doesn’t really save you money either (especially when you pour in your own two gallons of milk). We have some great local stores and farmer’s markets near us where you can easily buy the stuff. Unless you really really love Queso Fresco or want to bundle it up and give them as presents or something, I think it’d take a long time to use this whole thing up. Like a year. This cheese kit is a great learning tool, but it is more a novelty than a must-have.

Still Curious: Visit