Since the holidays just ended, I’m sure you have acquired some new threads (either as a gift from someone else or a gift to yourself) or need some new threads for winter. So what better time is there to go through your closet and get rid of the stuff you never wear (come on, you know you’re never going to wear that again) or the stuff that’s out of style. And make sure you add some of these items to your wardrobe:

1. A nice warm sweater. Or sweaters.

Pullover, zip-up, cardigan… I see a lot of stripes out there. I love bundling up in the cold weather and I live in sweaters and scarves.

2. Wool pants.

Especially if you don’t own a long coat. Who wants their legs to freeze in the winter? Brrr!

3. A warm coat.

Down, wool, whatever material works for you as long as it’s warm!

4. Pencil skirt.

You can still wear skirts in cold weather. Pencil skirts with tights or boots work well.

5. Boots.

My favorite thing about winter is being able to wear boots. And every year I struggle to find just the right pair (and my indecision usually leads to not buying any).

6. Hats and scarves.

Crucial for cold weather. Don’t freeze because you’re trying to look cute. I wouldn’t have survived one winter in NYC if I didn’t wear hats and scarves. And there are so many styles out there that even people who don’t think they look good in hats can find something that will flatter them.

A few ideas…

Winter Outfit #1

Winter Outfit #2

Winter Outfit #3

(click on the photos for merchandise information via my Polyvore account)

~Christina

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

Here’s a New Year’s resolution you can actually keep: get that kitchen organized. We’re all busy people and it’s easy to let things go and put things off but the beginning of the new year is all about making changes for the better and starting it off right. If you find yourself digging around in your kitchen drawers and moving everything around to find the pan you just know is in the cabinet somewhere, this post is for you.

First of all, don’t let the nature of the task overwhelm you. Even small changes can make a big difference. But think of how much easier life will be if you can actually find what you’re looking for in your kitchen. Even if you’re not a person who cooks a lot, having a less cluttered and more organized kitchen will be good for your well being. The place where you store your food should never be dirty, dusty, cluttered or scary. If you need some inspiration, look no further:

Tip #1: Group like items together

It sounds like a no-brainer, but you should store items together by type. So, cereals should be on the same shelf, pot holders and kitchen towels in the same drawer, pots in the same cabinet, etc. By the same token, items should be placed in the area of the kitchen where you are most likely to use them. So store pots and pans next to the oven and glasses next to the fridge.

Tip #2: Use containers inside the fridge to prevent messes and clutter

Many of us limit ourselves to the drawers and shelves that are built into the fridge but there’s no reason you can’t purchase additional containers to organize your food. The fridge always ends up dirty because jars topple over and spill or produce goes bad and leaves that yucky brown juice in the drawer. But if you use containers that can be removed easily and washed out, your fridge will be easier to keep clean and keep organized.

An organized fridge. Source: Container Store

Tip #3: Use clear containers to store grains

Not only does storing your grains in clear containers look more appealing but also helps keep your food fresh and prevents little bugs and critters from infesting your food.

Clear Canisters Source: Container Store

Tip #4: Use hanging racks and insertable shelves to store pots and pans

Pots and pans are the most annoying items to organize. I always end up pulling them all out of the cabinet to find the one I need which is usually buried waaaaay in the back. A hanging rack (I’ve always wanted one of these) or even a removable shelf can make your life so much easier. I would also recommend a Lazy Susan or cabinet carousel (yes!).

Hanging Pot Rack Source: Target

Cabinet Carousel Source: IKEA

Tip #5: Put utensils in an easy-to-reach area by hanging them on the wall or storing them in a caddy on the countertop

Instead of keeping your utensils in a drawer, where they’re piled on top of each other and jumbled together, hang them on the wall using a bar and hooks. Or, an easier solution is to keep them in a container on top of the counter. They will be within reach while you’re cooking and you won’t have to hunt around in a drawer to find what you need.

Source: Contempoo

Ceramic Rooster Utensil Holder Source: Amazon

Italian Utensil Crocks Source: Sur La Table

We would love to hear your best tips for organizing the kitchen!

~Christina

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

I’ve been searching for gifts for the people in my life. I’ve finished shopping for almost everyone. Even my sister’s dog got a gift. But I haven’t gotten anything for me. So I made a list of some things I’d like, and I’m sure the foodie in your life would like them too:

1. Yolka Chocolate Ornaments: You can hang these on the tree. But why would you? These cute little chocolates are meant to be eaten.

2. Bamboo Cheeseboard Set: Super cute that you can hide the tools in this board. Somehow my knives end up getting separated and go missing. I think my husband may be hiding them to prevent me from eating cheese. He doesn’t know I’d rather eat gooey cheese off my fingers than go without.

3. Tocca Candle: This beautiful candle comes with a stand reminiscent of Morocco. Elegant and sophisticated. (Maybe too sophisticated for that friend you were thinking of…)

4. Starbucks Mug Ornament: For all the coffee freaks out there. I know, I know, there are Dunkin’ Donuts ones too, but these are cooler.

5. Vosges Holiday Chocolate Collection: These chocolate truffles come in all sorts of holiday flavors, like eggnog, candy cane and plum pudding. Festive!

6. In the Cheesemonger’s Kitchen Book: See gift #2. These two would be great to pair together.

7. Brownie of the Month Subscription: A batch of blondie or chocolate brownies a month? Yes please, sign me up. An of-the-month club is always a great gift for those of us that love to eat, and love surprises.

8. Skull and Crossbones Decanter Set: A little twist on a classic decanter. I love this because it’s decorative and something you can leave out on the countertop.

9. Olive Oil Gift Sets: Good olive oil doesn’t come in the grocery store. This oil is hand selected, and is packaged in a cute, giftable box.

10. Crushed Can Vases:  These vases are a little different than your typical. Clearly you need to give these to someone with a sense of style, (Read: No Grammy) who can appreciate a little quirkiness.

Feel free to buy one (or all) of these gifts for me for the holiays.

Enjoy!

~ Dana

Casa is participating in Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

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