Friday, August 29, 2008

Back, and ready for another vacation.

Thankfully, for us stateside ladies Labor Day is here. Nothing like coming back from vacation, working for a day or two and then settling right into a long weekend. I am so ready for Fall to begin. Cozy clothes, brisk mornings, my two little ones headed for preschool three mornings a week (9 whole extra hours to myself!!!). It's totally going to rock. And while I'm sure I'll spend a good chunk of those 9 hours right here at the computer desk, I still feel the need to get ye olde wardrobe back up to speed. Which means...SHOPPING.

I'm going to kick my own personal fall fashion fest off with a little girls' shopping trip this weekend. Jen of She Takes The Cake, did some sluething and found a Becky OH! trunk show in our area. Becky's unique and fashionable bags are little symphonies of color and pattern. I also have a great appreciation for the shapes and forms she uses in her designs. Thanks to the internet I've known about Becky's work for a while, but I'm looking forward to checking out these goodies in person.

Enjoy these last few days of summer everyone! Of course I realize it will still be very warm, even where I live, into much of September. But I can't help but think of breaking out my boots, shawls, and smartwool knee socks. These are the BEST socks ever and they come in super sweet damask, herringbone, and stripey styles. HAve a great weekend and I'll be back Tuesday with regular posts and lots and lots of design ponderings. After all, it is EVERYWHERE.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Sounds in the Studio: August Day Song, Bebel Gilberto

When I'm in full-on design or production mode I like to listen to music. Oh, how I love you and your smart playlists itunes! I am a longtime fan of bossa nova music and I'd love to travel to Brazil someday, kick back with a capirinhia on a balcony somewhere and watch the sun set with corcovado in the distance (can you tell I'm on vacation?). My first love when it comes to samba is the music of Astrud Gilberto. Who doesn't love the sultry sounds of Summer Samba: So Nice, and of course Girl from Impanema? I actually had the pleasure of seeing Astrud in concert years ago in the city I'm writing this post from, Chicago.

But these days, when I reach for some beach music to brighted a dreary day, I go for the more modern Brazilian sounds of Bebel Gilberto. August Day Song is my favorite and I had to mention it before August fades away. Every once in a while, on a snowy winter day, I'll bring a little summer to my work day. I just slather on a little Hawaiian Tropic sunblock (just for the beachy scent), mix up some minty iced tea, pop on this song, and let those bright and sunny designs flow...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Still Hot? Stay Cool.

I love me some beauty products, but nothing sounds worse than loading on makeup on a hot summer day. Thankfully, I've gathered a treasure trove of refreshing bath and beauty products over the years. I figured while it's still pretty warm out, it might be fun to beat the heat with one or two of these cooling ideas.

Purology HydrateCondition: Hands down the BEST conditioner I've ever used. Period. It's expensive, one of my few splurges, but I've got some seriously color treated hair and Purology's products have astounded me with their antifade and color retention properties. This conditioner smells so deliciously minty and gives my scalp an invigorating wake up call with each use. Rinse with cool water for an extra treat.

CO Bigelow Mentha Lip Tints: Last winter I did an article for where I mentioned the shine and sheer color of this gloss. The bonus—peppermint oil used in the formula actually freshens your breath and imparts a pleasant cooling sensation. Lip balm never looked (or smelled) so good! If you're not such a mint fan, you can try one of their refreshing soda fountain or citrus flavors. Of course there's always the original Mentha Lip Shine for ladies that want the same moisture and breath-freshening features without the tint.

Fragrance + Fridge = Heaven: Years ago, on a hot summer day I got a tip from a Bath & Body Works clerk that I still use today. Take your favorite body spray and stash it in the fridge for the summer. Whenever you need that quick, pick-me-up it's chilled and ready to go. My all time favorite spritzer for this purpose was Bath & Body Works Cool Citrus Basil. It was discontinued in stores, but looks like it's back online as part of a Signature Classics Collection (happy dance!). Not too feminine, and leaves behind the nicest low-notes, especially for such a reasonably priced product. Anyone got an indie B&B spray they like? I'd be interested in trying some new ones and am always up for spreading the indie love.

Kiss My Face Moisture Shave in Cool Mint: Yet another obsessively natural KMF product that I wouldn't want to go without. While it does come in other scents, I love the tingly sensation of Cool Mint best. A little goes a very long way, and I love the pump dispenser. No nasty propellants or rust stains in my bath anymore! Best of all this formula is kind to sensitive skin and offers superior smoothness unlike any other shave gel or cream I've tried. I know, I sound like a saleswoman for these guys but I just honest to goodness love how their products work for me time and time again (and all while being earth-friendly).

Evian Brumisateur Facial Spray: Years ago I received a sample from a friend who was working a fashion show. I on the other hand worked in book publishing. Wonderful, but not as exciting. Ever work in front of a computer for hours at a time in an overly warm office? I'd do OK for most of the day, but about an hour after lunch I could feel sleep setting in. Enter my trusty bottle of Evian Brumisateur Facial Spray and some instant refreshment. Some people use it to set makeup or for moisturizing purposes as well. If you do jump over to the Evian site you must check out the Christian Lacroix "Prêt-à-Porter" 2008 Limited Edition Evian that's designer water! I've also used Burt's Bees Complexion Mist over the years (the lavender scented one was effective), but they seemed to have discontinued the majority of their offerings in that department.

So next time you feel hot, or feel like you're looking not-so-hot thanks to some steamy weather, enjoy a cool rinse, swipe a refreshing tint, or grab a chilly spritz. You'll be glad you did.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Off the Rails

Sorry I've been out of touch for a few days! I've been finishing up some large projects and getting ready to take (gasp!) a break from the office. I guess I shouldn't say I've been "off the rails" as that implies some damage or abnormality, but I wanted to choose a phrase that went nicely with this 1930 poster design I found at, of the Storm King New York Central Lines by Walter L. Greene. I could honestly look at vintage travel posters all day long! It's pretty easy for me to sit and daydream about the adventures I'd have in some exotic or scenic locale. What's great about vintage posters like this one is that it inspires you to not only ponder the location, but also the time period as well. This one got me thinking about a line from an Ani DiFranco song "I dream of touring like duke ellington, in my own railroad car. I dream of waiting on the tall blonde wooden benches in a grand station aglow with grace..." I can almost see myself there with a cute pencil skirt, gloves and a hat of course. Maybe wearing something like this.

Daydreaming aside. I've been eyeing this print up for a while and wanting it for my home. Being from the Hudson River valley, Storm King Mountain is a familiar sight. During the times when I commuted from Poughkeepsie to Grand Central Station on a regular basis, I had the fortune to soak up the landscape originally labeled 'The Water Level Route' by New York Central Lines. Sure the "upwards of sixty luxurious passenger trains a day...that coddled patrons in leather and mahogany, offering fine meal service in well-appointed dining coaches and restful sleep in hushed Pullmans" has changed into the Metro-North Commuter Rail or Amtrak, but in many areas the river landscape still retains the charm it had back in the 1930's.

There's a few new sights added to the line as well. These days the Storm King Arts Center sits beneath the mountain's gaze. Gorgeous in any season, this outdoor museum celebrates nature almost as much as it does sculpture. But as their website notes it's really about the relationship between the two, which is also what I've found most captivating on my visits. I live a few hours away now, so I think this poster would be a nice reminder of home (and some excellent fodder for additional daydreaming). I'll be out of town the middle of next week into the week after, but I promise to have a few posts to share while I'm away. Gotta love blogger's advanced scheduling feature!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hit the Deck! Design samples on display at the Cooper-Hewitt

Photo from
Sample plate, Chantilly, France, ca. 1920s Glazed earthenware
Museum purchase from Charles E. Sampson Memorial Fund, 5/5/03

One of the things I miss most about living in Manhattan (and Chicago and Providence as well), is convenient proximity to a huge amount of art and design. One of my favorite New York museums is the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. If you are ever looking for inspiration this is a great place to visit. Currently they are hosting an exhibition called Multiple Choice: From Sample to Product which looks completely fascinating! The exhibit looks at sampling media from the Cooper-Hewitt collection and Smithsonian Institution Libraries. From Pantone books, to earthenware plates transfer-printed in rainbow colors, this collection highlights the many beautiful and different ways manufacturers marketed available design options throughout history. The exhibit also connects samples to the final products they inevitably become.

Multiple Choice: From Sample to Product is only running until September 1st of this year. So if I've piqued your interest and it's possible, get there now. Although I do have to say, quite a bit of info and inspiration can be gained just by looking at the exhibit's website. I do have one question for all you designers, decorators, planners, and artists out there. Have you ever done anything creative or inspirational with an old sample deck, be it one for color, pattern, wall coverings, or paper finish? Do tell!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Must-see Mondays: Jen's Cake-tacular Grand Finale!

Last Wednesday I blogged about assisting my friend, and collaborator over at Sweet Talk Boutique, Jen Comfort with an incredible She Takes The Cake project. When I say assisting, I actually mean that I stood around gawking and providing a few laughs while painting fondant. These beautiful cakes were for a New York City Movie-themed wedding. There were 16 (count 'em!) centerpiece cakes each depicting a different movie. The name of each movie provided the name for that table. I'd tell you more about the actual wedding cake, but I'd rather send you over to Jen's blog to hear the scoop direct from the sugar artist herself. Jen's amazing project is finished and you can read about it, and check out pictures HERE. Enjoy fans of weddings and just wild creativity in general! Beautiful work Jen!

Friday, August 08, 2008

What's in Your Widgets?

Yesterday's post conveniently gleaned from my Typographica widget, reminded me that there are lots of things I love about my mac and computing in general (yeah, I just used the word "computing," So '87!). Widgets, those lovely little apps that keep me tuned in, make life a little bit easier (or offer the illusion of convenience), and add a pinch of fun to my desktop or home page are certainly one of those internet perks I enjoy. The widgets I use (or as google calls them, gadgets) are either part of my mac dashboard or my google home page. I like to let a widget hang a while in either of these locations to see if I use it or not, or how useful it is. Honestly a few wonderful sounding widgets have let me down (I'm looking at you Sing that iTune!, but perhaps I'll give you another try with your newly updated parser.) And a few I was feeling "eh" about have shown themselves to be very helpful. For example, the epicurious widget has served my hungry family well. I'm thinking this Delivery Status widget sounds fabulous, but again the proof is in the pudding. I'll let you know how it goes.

I use my google home page widgets most frequently (what does that say about the time I spend on the net?). I even have a second home page tab expressly for wedding related widgets. My favorite google gadgets are Be Twittered, The Onion, Flickr, and Gmail. I love the convenience of opening up a single page and seeing new twitters from those I'm following, recent entries to my gmail inbox, newly uploaded photos from my flickr contacts, and of course hilarious Onion headlines like "Soundgarden Inadvertently Reunites At Area Cinnabon."

I'll admit it, I always swear I'm going to take greater advantage of the apple dashboard, but I never do. It takes a long time to load and I'm only patient enough to wait for the most useful of widget apps. Those would be The Weather, The Calculator and my all-time, hands-down, most frequently used...The Dictionary/Thesaurus Combo (love it!). I'm pretty sure those may all come with the operating system. Still, the dashboard looks pretty and I am always on the hunt for new toys, especially those of the freeware variety. So do tell readers...what are your favorite widgets? I need something to keep me occupied while I save up money for an iphone.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Dangerous Curves

After reading an interesting review of Doyald Young's book Dangerous Curves over at Typographica, I'm thinking it's got to go on my reading list (or should that design eye-candy list?!). Of course it's a little on the pricey side and I've got about 15 books about parenting my (spirited, persistent, insert other adjective here...) child gathering dust on my night stand, but I'd like to get to it down the road. I spent almost my entire sophomore fall semester in design school hand-drawing roman type. Think Trajan's Column, or the modern day all-caps version of this beauty by Young himself which has a little more finesse than my version (no pun intended). A dastardly assignment that I secretly sort of enjoyed, my endless attempts at drawing the perfect roman "O" left me deeply intrigued by the creative process of designing fonts, drawing letter forms (be it on computer or by hand), and the improvement and editing that goes into such an endeavor. It sounds like Young's thoughts on that last note are very informative. So many little time!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Wedding Wednesdays: Caker In Training!

One of the many things I love about my job is the opportunity it has afforded me to meet (be it virtually or actually) other creatives like myself in the stationery and wedding industries. I'm sure I've blathered on about this in the past but I count myself especially fortunate to have met Jen Comfort, the butter and sugar to my pen and paper over at Besides being a great inspiration and a dear friend, Jen is also owner and sugar artist at She Takes The Cake, and right now she has got an EPIC project going on for a very special, movie-loving, bride and groom!

Jen is in the process of creating SIXTEEN centerpiece cakes each with film canister cakes and on top of each a pastillage film reel with filmstrip matching the movie poster on a pastillage plaque that will be positioned on each reel. I KNOW, right? It's going to be AWESOME. So awesome, that I had to go see Jen at work for myself. I also delivered her some dinner and $20 worth of cotton candy which may or may not make it into the final cut (a little film humor there...). We'll see. For those who have not experienced driving with a huge (very clean) hefty bag full of 20 or so bags of cotton candy riding shotgun, I need to let you know that it smelled very yummy. I love my job (and my baker friend, who of course sent me home with cupcakes).

During my visit, Jen was working on the actual wedding cake. Yes, there is an incredible pièce de résistance to go along with all those amazing centerpieces. I don't know how much I am at liberty to give away and Jen is chronicling the progress of her amazing work over at her blog, so for the real scoop you'll have to check it out. What I can say is that I think it is going to ROCK. While there, I got to assist in adding and painting fondant, doing some measuring and also some general standing around and gaping with awe at what Jen does. I also snapped a picture of her putting a portion of the cake together. We laughed and had a great time and I hope I was a slight bit of help. I learned a lot about a different aspect of weddings and I saw first-hand something I already knew...that Jen puts true love and passion into every single one of her designs and every last morsel of delicious cake. I can't wait to see the finished product girl!

Thinkin' Christmas

It's August so I don't even have the "Christmas in July" excuse, but for some reason the holidays have been on my mind! I even picked up a few Christmas gifts today while shopping for supplies (gotta grab it while it's on sale!). As a completely custom stationery business, I do holiday cards but I don't have to deal with drop dates and advance orders from retailers. Still, I'd eventually love to produce more greeting cards and come up with a holiday line since it is my absolute favorite time of year.

Again, there's no real reason for me to think about Thanksgiving or Christmas now except for the fact that I love to enjoy the actual holidays themselves (when they're happening) so advance organization is key. One weapon in my arsenal: organized I certainly don't take advantage of all this site has to offer, but I do love their Christmas Countdown printable calendar and checklists. I'm sure it's a little over the top, but honestly it's helped me feel less stressed at holiday time. This were my personal cards last year. Gotta love the October photo shoot I did with my girls when the Hanna Andersson stripey Christmas jammies arrived in the mail. Sometimes that's all it takes to catch the Christmas spirit!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Must-See Mondays: Mad Men

Alright, so I'm new to Mad Men on AMC but I am already in love. The clothes, the style, the times (1960's New York), the somewhat soapy yet cinematic vibe. This show was made for me. The success of Mad Men definitely lies in the details. The show's creator Matthew Weiner obviously cares a great deal about production design and has researched everything from what sort of drinks should be poured at the office or how a 60's psychiatrist would treat his patient, to what shade of lipstick the ladies should be wearing and the exact look (and girth!) of a Xerox 914. I personally loved how the premiere episode of season two featured Jacqueline Kennedy's 1962 Valentine's Day tour of the newly-restored White House and used it to link various story lines together. But I must admit design nerd did kick in when copywriter Peggy presents an ad mockup to creative director Don Draper using the typeface Zapfino designed by Hermann Zapf in 1998. Quell 'horror! Still, I'll overlook that little blunder (aaah the blinders one wears in a new romance), but my eyes are now very peeled and looking for some authentic 1960's advertising design. C'mon Mad Men, show me what you've got!