site we’re psyched about: the new sprouthome.com

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Chicago-based Sprout Home has been one of our favorite garden sites and stores for ages. They make gardening seem accessible and possible in even small urban spaces. They recently relaunched their site and we have to say the new and improved sprouthome.com has us counting the days until winter’s thaw hits. Now blogging from their outposts in both Brooklyn and Chicago, they offer fun, informative posts on everything from Venus Fly Traps to tips on how to choose the perfect house plant . If you’re looking for inspiration, click around their garden area for some of the gorgeous projects they have designed. And, if you’re thinking of planting something, check out their collection of mod containers, which will make even the brownest thumb seem mildly chic.

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swank toy: moma modern play house

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I secretly enjoy many of Isadora’s toys: The smell of Playdough. The soft comfort of a stuffed bear. The endless possibilities of a pile of wooden blocks. But one of her new toys has got me tinkering nonstop. It’s the MoMa Modern Playhouse, a clever kit that allows mom and kid alike to act out their mid century home dreams. It comes with six colorful cardboard nesting boxes, eight pieces of chic furniture and several rug or floor coverings. There are also some vinyl stickers that look like Eames clocks and lamps, but I had a hard time getting them to cling. No worries! A matching kit with a dress up family keeps our imaginations active. Created by the smart people at Chronicle books, $19. — Angela M.

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ready for the new year with a little tangerine tango

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I love it when one of my style constants becomes a trend, like leopard print this season. That’s why I have a great feeling about 2012. One of my favorite colors — reddish orange — has already been declared color of the year by Pantone. They are calling it Tangerine Tango, but lucky for me it looks exactly like the color of the Eames Eiffel chairs we splurged on for our dining room last year. So for the next year our dining room will be THE place to be! Hooray. Imagine the fabulousness when I wear my new Jcrew Minnie pants in Vibrant flame and my Kat von T lipstick in A Go Go red. Yes, friends, I already have all these Tangerine Tango-ish shades at home. I am all set.

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If you are not already a orange worshiper like myself, perhaps now is the time to start. I recommend picking up a Pantone color of the year mug, $25, and starting a new tradition. In just a few years, you’ll have yourself a vibrant set. — Angela

Will you be adding Tangerine Tango to your life? Let me know.

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our no fail hostess gifts: part 2

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Megan Barone: Yummy smelling body butter or candle
My favorite hostess gift of late? Something from Pacifica; either a body butter or soy candle, depending on the host/hostess. I discovered their yummy smelling and nourishing body butters on a trip to Hawaii, and have been obsessed with all of their scents ever since. There really is something for most everyone in their line, as the scents run from guava (perfect for my 10year old niece) to Coconut (my favorite) and earthier, unisex scents like Sandalwood and Juniper. And they just happen to be all natural, cruelty & GMO free, and made in the USA. Best thing, however, is being able to conveniently pick up those hostess gifts while running around town. You can find Pacifica products across the US and Canada at Whole Foods and Sephora locations.

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Katie Donbavand: Mermaid bottle opener
My favorite part of any party is always the last few hours. Your shoes are kicked off, the dawn is peeking over the horizon, and everyone (and everything) is mellow. It’s the perfect time (if your host is game) for a hand of cards and one last beer. My standard hostess gift has you covered for the last, dwindling moments of the party. Combine these dazzling, silver playing cards from Kikkerland ($11) with this fantastic, cast iron mermaid bottle opener from Fishs Eddy’s ($19) and your hostess will always be ready to entertain those last few stragglers.

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Becki Singer: Feather tray
If you’re planning ahead, these gold-plated feather trays from Vanillawood (a favorite local shop of mine) are my latest obsession. The tiniest size is just $32, and is one of those little luxuries she’ll treasure. It’s perfect for catching her jewelry next to the sink or on her nightstand. For the last minute, I read recently that Ina Garten frequently gifts her hostess a pound of coffee from a favorite micro-roaster and a bag of homemade (or bakery-bought) granola. I love the idea of not interfering with their serving plans for the evening, but instead making sure they have a delicious breakfast the morning after. Happy Holidays! –Becki S.

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Ginny Figlar: Monogrammed mug
My go-to gift right now is Anthropologie’s Homegrown Monogram Mug for $8. I bought one for myself this Spring, and have since bought others as thank-yous and gifts for my daughter’s preschool teachers (filled with fleur de sel caramels … yum!). You can go with first name initial, last name initial or both, or spell out a word like “joy.”

From our partners

cataloguing the holidays: retro renovation helps us buy american

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Well, I think my holiday shopping may finally be drawing to a close: if I can’t find something worth buying from the more than EIGHT THOUSAND made-in-America holiday gifts that Retro Renovation’s Pam has hunted down, I think I’ll have to officially give up this year! Okay, Pam concedes that she hasn’t literally listed more than 8,000 gifts, but she has provided enough links to American-made goods that readers could find that many if they really try. So think locally (as far as the planet goes) and check out the enlightening list here. — Mary T.

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