Sunday, September 28, 2008

agrarian Russia

The image above is from a thoughtfully told visual essay of Russian country life by James Hill of The New York Times. It reminded me of the simple summers at our family dacha.

monochromatic sunday

The view from my window is paled by the misty rain that has been falling for the past three days. Three dimensional objects appear as flat cut outs. The bright colors sucked out by the greyness of the day. There is poetic beauty to this, as if a scrim has been pulled over the world. If one could create a table setting capturing the misty quality of today, it would look like the above still life images by Gentl and Hyers.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

beautiful batik

margotbianca uses hemp, linen, bamboo or silk for her batiked and naturally dyed tablecloths and napkins. The batik process is incredibly labor-intensive, I once tried it in Girl Scouts. My pieces looked nothing like Margot's gorgeous work.

Friday, September 26, 2008


Photograph by Mikkel Vang for Martha Stewart Living.

When I think of my family dacha, a Russian summer house, the aroma of apples fills my memory. We spent September picking apples from our many apple trees. One designated room would be filled to the waist with apples. Their smell permeated the entire house.

The image above reminds me of those apple-filled days.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

garden inspiration

Michele Paladino at Gowanus Nursery has asked me to create some planting containers for her. She has gorgeous plants, and if you have a chance, stop by at 45 Summit Street - Brooklyn, NY before it gets too cold. Michele has created an oasis in sight of the BQE and the shipping yards.

Above is the inspiration Michele sent me, all from her gardens.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

still life

My grandmother had a painter's eye for creating gorgeous table settings. She was a master at water color still life. Above, she poses with some of her painting.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

giorgio morandi

The subtle and poetic style of Giorgio Morandi exerts a powerful influence over my ceramics. I was originally introduced to him by Joelle Hoverson, also a mesmerizing painter, now applying her talents to Purl. A few years ago we were both working at Martha Stewart Living, and enjoying our lunch over conversations in Bryant Park.

A retrospective of Morandi's work is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through Dec. 14. A must see show for all in New York City. Here is what The New York Times says about Morandi's paintings:

It is a form of thinking that frees up thought. It is time-consuming, but time-slowing, isolating but self-fulfilling. It is a part of life, but also a metaphor for how life should be: with everything in place, every pattern clear, every rhyme exact, every goal near.

Monday, September 22, 2008

misty monday

Today is one of those gray misty mellow days that put me in a contemplative mood. Just like Gwyn Pigott Hansen's ceramics, shown above.

Friday, September 19, 2008


photograph by Gentl and Hyers

I needed a little inspiration to get me moving this morning, and have turned to Gentl and Hyers for a still life of peaches and melons, which have been scumptuous this season.

On days when I have to travel to NYC for photo shoots, like today, I take the 5:45 am Acela train out of Providence. The train ride is lovely, going right along the ocean, and when the sun rises, the views are spectacular.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

sensual table linens

photograph courtesy of Jennifer Pellman

Jennifer Pellman of Plait makes sumptuous napkins and table runners. Hand-woven in her studio in Madison, Wisconsin, "A love of cooking and tasting inspires the designs of Plait textiles".

I love what Jennifer wrote about her work:
We live through our senses. There is an intimacy in soft, cotton cloth on your lips, and pleasure in attention to the details of every day living.

The photography of her creations is beautiful.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

subtelty of light

This coming Friday I am working with Con Poulos. His work is exquisite. And his light takes your breath away.

It was Con's photography which defined the style of Donna Hay, a gorgeous Australian food and entertaining magazine.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


photography by Mikkel Vang and Romulo Yanes

For every story I art direct, I look for inspiration for emotion, color, light, and setting. I am working on a story for our Jan/Feb 09 issue, and above is the inspiration I pulled to show to the stylist, as well as the photographer. These images came from Gourmet.

I like the cozy, intimate style of these settings. You can tell that people are present, yet no people are shown. I also love the painterly quality of these images, Gourmet's photography always tends to have a dreamy/magical quality to it.

the last of summer tomatoes

photograph by Anna Williams

The saddest thing about the end of summer is the thought that just in a few weeks, I will have to go back to eating mealy, tasteless tomatoes. There is nothing like biting into a warmed-by-the-sun tomato just picked from its vine. Not even salt is needed then.

Here is a good article on the health benefits of this luscious fruit, from Body+Soul.

Monday, September 15, 2008


This beautiful vegetable is a staple of Russian cooking. Here is a great article from the NY Times on eggplant's health benefits as well as instructions for roasting it: The Misunderstood Eggplant

Some eggplant recipes from the NY Times Health section:
Eggplant and Tomato Gratin

Sunday, September 14, 2008

rainy sunday breakfast

I woke up to the rain pounding on my skylight. That sound immediately put me in a great mood. The light in my loft is beautiful on overcast days.

Breakfast is a time for me to ease into the day, read news on line, and enjoy pieces from my ceramics collection. Pictured above from left to right: a bowl made by Larry Bush, my instructor at RISD (he was throwing it away and I had to fish it out of the garbage), a Fiesta egg cup, a handmade tea pot I purchased at Studio Hop, a wonderful little store on Hope St., and a cup made by gleena.

how to make the perfect soft boiled egg
1. Fill a small pot with cold water
2. Place two eggs in the pot
3. Place the pot on the stove, and turn the burner to hi
4. As soon as the water comes to a rolling boil, remove the pot
5. Run cold water over the eggs
6. Place in an egg cup and serve with salt on the side

Saturday, September 13, 2008

from mama to daughter

This post was contributed by Asya's mama.

My own mama Jenya (Asya's grandmother) was an architect and an urban planner. In the former Soviet Union when the food was scares and variety did not exist she applied her creativity to building beautiful table settings and dishes. From her I inherited the special delight of setting the table as if you were ready for a still life sketch. By the way, she became very good at drawing still life watercolors later in her life (the skill I did not inherit!).

Quick Jenya's fresh cabbage salad:
You need one average white cabbage, salt, sugar, dill.

1. Discard top damaged leaves and cut cabbage into quarters lengthwise.
2. Chop cabbage finely cutting across the leaves leaving the core and the thick parts around it.
3. Sprinkle some salt and a little bit of sugar on the pile of the cut cabbage and squeeze it with your hands until in releases juice and becomes softer. Do not overdo or it will become soggy!
4. Chop dill and mix with cabbage. You may add oil, mayonnaise, vinegar, pepper or actually anything you fancy will 'decorate" this basic Soviet Era delight!

susie theodorou

For ideas on how to present food, I often turn to stylists' websites. Susie Theodorou, a food stylist in New York city, has such a natural, yet stunning, way of arranging the simplest meals. I also pay close attention to the ceramics used in the styling and try to guess who made them. I believe the small bowls in the image above were made by Mud, one of my favorite ceramics studios based in Australia.

Friday, September 12, 2008


My friend Alec and I visited my mom and Mark, my stepfather, in Cleveland last weekend. Alec is crazy for blinis, traditional Russian crepes, and requested stacks of them for every meal. Mom is an excellent cook, and served the blinis with her special filling of ground turkey and mushrooms. Sour cream was then added on top. Mom prepares the blinis before hand by cooking them on one side only, stuffing them with the meat filling, and then heating them right before they are served. Not only did we have them for every meal, but we also took some home with us and shared them with Alec's parents in Brooklyn. The blinis traveled very well, as did Alec and I.

My mama's blinis
about 1.5 lbs. flour
4-5 cups fat free milk
2 eggs

To prepare
1. Mix together egg, flour and a cup of milk until thick creamy mixture

2. Add milk until the mixture is fairly thin and all lumps are gone. If too thick, add water
3. Pour small portions on hot griddle and fry, turning once to cook on both sides. Finished blinis should be about 8" in diameter

4. Spread the meat and mushroom filling on top of the blini and roll them up, halfway through the roll, tuck in the sides and continue rolling
5. Serve warm with sour cream on handmade plates