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We haven’t posted in a bit. But not because we’re lazy. It’s because we are working on something cool and amazing. Stay tuned…

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This year I made a resolution to take better care of my skin. I work for a beauty company, get free products, and really have no excuse to not have flawless skin. Yet I still go to bed with makeup on and refuse to exfoliate. But this year, my kitchen is getting a facelift for sure. Not that it needs updating (it’s brand new), but it needs designing. I’m doing a few simple things to make it look more stylish, whether my husband likes it or not.

1. Adding Backsplash: I love mosaic tile backsplash. There’s something about the little squares that can be mirrored and matte and metallic that add dimension to backsplash. No chunky tiles in my house.

2. Updating Pendulum Lighting: I have pendulum lights over my kitchen island. Cool, if only they weren’t the crappy ones the builder installed. I want to modernize them and make them a talking point — and maybe coordinate with my backsplash.
3. Add some color: Any way I can. While I’d love to get multi-colored cabinets like the ones below, I could always paint a wall, add countertop decor or get some cool accent chairs for my dining room table. Either way, there’s going to be some pops of color coming up.
4. Glass cabinets: My neighbors, instead of buying new cabinets, took their existing ones and had holes cut into them, and had glass cut and set into the doors. Love this idea. Now mind, you, the dishes on display have to be somewhat presentable. I somehow have to get rid of my husband’s football mugs before this happens.

Here are some beautiful kitchens, for inspiration:

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Enjoy!

~ Dana

This year I am making some resolutions to really push myself in terms of entertaining and dining. I need to get my act together and make 2012 amazing. And I need to figure out a way to trick my husband into helping me clean for the parties, but that’s another story. (When I figure out how to make that happen, I’ll post it, ladies…) Here are some things I want to do:

1. Learn to Arrange Flowers:

And I mean for real, not just putting some flowers in a vase. My friend Kirti does this crazy thing where she almost peels open roses so they’re big and beautiful. She talks to them, spritzes them with water and puts them in a vase full of water and a capful of Clorox bleach. She sticks them in the fridge until they’re ready to go.

I figure if you don’t have a Kirti, you can take a class.

DC:

San Francisco:

New York:

2. Eat at a restaurant with a Tasting Menu

I always order the same sort of food when I go out — pasta, cheese, pasta…So I think this year, I am going to do something different. Eating at a restaurant with a tasting menu allows the chef to select the food for you. It’s a surprise and it doesn’t allow you to be so picky. It expands your palette a little bit. True, it’s more expensive than your typical burger joint, but oh so delightful. And the cherry on top is that they typically have a wine pairing with each course.

Some places to check out:

DC:

San Francisco:

New York:

3. Create a specialty cocktail as part of a menu

A true hostess supplies one specialty drink for her guests. Well, for the ladies at least. My husband drinks Hennessy only, and wouldn’t be caught dead with mint or fruit in his glass. But regardless… Get the book Artisanal Cocktails by Scott Beattie. You won’t regret it. It gives all sorts of ideas for condiments, simple syrups and garnishes. Here’s a link to the recipe for an Autumn Apple Cocktail if you’re still doubting specialty cocktails. Amazing.

4. Make a hostess gift and bring it to someone

While it’s appreciated when a guest shows up with a bottle of wine, as a host, we know that all you’re going to do is drink it. Let’s be real. I would love more thoughtful gifts when I slave over a stove. So I decided, I’m going to bring one when I go to my next dinner party.

Here are some ideas:

  • Gourmet Food: Non perishable, please. Don’t bring something and force me to have to eat it right there. Olives, crackers, spreads. Try crackers from Gilt Taste and pestos from Bella Cucina.
  • Wine Accessories: Not wine, but coasters, napkins and wine stoppers are always great. For those of us who drink wine, we can never get enough. Try napkins with cool prints from Caspari, and coasters from Spit Bucket.
  • Candies/Sweets: Vosges. Done.
  • Candles: Love, love, love. Try ones from Voluspa. Delish.

More resolutions? Let us know!!

~ Dana

Basque Cake from Jaleo (kevineats.com)

I am not so much a dessert person. I mean yes, I love my Vosges. And I love my ice cream sandwiches. But I am someone who would much rather stuff my face with cheese and waste my calories on that. When some friends of mine and I went out to eat at Jaleo, José Andrés’ restaurant in Bethesda,  we were so full after chicken croquettes, pan con tomate, and paella, I could barely stuff another bite in. Until I saw the basque cake with semolina ice cream. I had to give it a try.

I got your basque cake right here, baby...

José Andrés has been to the Basque country a million times in his PBS show Made in Spain, telling the world about food and traditions from the Basque Region. He mentioned this basque cake. I had a particularly good basque cake with dates at Olea in Brooklyn. (Along with a really great guitarist singing Spanish songs. Super cute date spot…) This all said, I wanted to give Jaleo’s a try.

Image from Whisk Blog

Basque cake is a specialty of northern Spain, close to France. In France, it’s called Gâteaux Basque. It’s a kind of cake-pie. The outside is a shortbread-type thing, and the inside is a cream. Often times basque cake is filled with cherries or some sort of compote. Jaleo’s Basque cake was an individual shortbread cake with a fluffy, custard-y, slightly almond-y center. Sweet but not too sweet, and with an amazing almond flavor.
I haven’t ventured to make it yet, but here’s a step by step from Whisk Blog. (Original Recipe from Le Cordon Bleu at Home.)
Enjoy!
~ Dana

I had been looking for months to get my interior design itch scratched here in DC. And it finally happened, at the Apartment Therapy Meetup in DC. I have been stalking the Apartment Therapy site starting when I was trying to update my pre-war apartment in Queens while living with Christina. It never happened, but it wasn’t for lack of ideas. It was my 60+ hour a week job. (Gotta love NYC…) The site was amazing for decor inspiration, recipes and eco-friendly ideas. In addition to their site, across the country, ambassadors for the site organize meetups which are usually panels with design experts.

I have to be honest — I wasn’t sure what type of design experts were in DC, with its government and politics-centric scene. But I was pleasantly surprised. The featured guest was Supon Phornirunlet. He runs Naked Decor, a home decor business he started after closing his design firm.

Naked Decor Clock

Naked Decor Pillows

Naked Decor Queen Pillows

He had an amazing story. Supon is a Thai immigrant, who started a creative design firm with a few employees shortly after moving to the country. He did a lot of design work for the government, designing logos for national parks and the FDA and stuff like that. He grew that firm until it was purchased by a larger company. He said he was working so much, traveling all over the world, and the company became so structured that he became far removed from the work he loved to do.

After being diverted to Hawaii on 9/11, and having time to think about his life, he decided to quit his own firm and start fresh. He redesigned his apartment based on his travels around the world and was featured several times in Metropolitan Home, for his design work. The magazine had so many calls for his homemade pillows that he decided to start his own line. He was funny and left us with several words of widsom:

  1. Don’t be afraid to try something new. If you fail, you’re not going to drop dead.
  2. Use common sense. Calculated risk is really just common sense.
  3. Self promote. The way he got into Metropolitan Home? He sent in photos.
  4. Make yourself seem better/smarter/bigger than you are. First impressions are key. Do whatever you need to do.
  5. Be proud of your differences. His name is Supon, which is hard to pronounce. He once designed a campaign to get prospective clients, scanning all of the misspelled junk mail he got to his address. He had labels saying “coupon, soup, super…” you name it. Prospective clients loved it. They remembered his name.

I’ll leave you with this great story, which I thought was brilliant:

Supon wanted to work on the FIFA campaign (that’s World Cup Soccer for all of you who don’t know…) when it was coming to the USA in 1994. He sent a letter to Switzerland (FIFA Headquarters) with his portfolio (self-promotion). At the time, he was working out of an apartment in a so-so area of town with 5 employees.

He got a letter a year later (patience), saying he was on the short list for design firms they were considering. The FIFA folks said they wanted to come inspect the offices before they made a decision. He almost crapped his pants. Within a few weeks, he signed a 5-year lease on a new, beautiful, fancy office building (risk-taking). The day FIFA came to visit, he hired 20 temps to fill all of the cubicles (make yourself seem bigger than you are). He said when the temp agency asked what they should be doing, he said for them to “look busy”. He got the job and designed the pieces for the World Cup games, an amazing feat for a tiny company.

Loved it!

~ Dana

Casa is participating in Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

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