Friday, June 28, 2013

Taking a Stand

Occasionally we weigh in on political issues...through a store display, a window or even a pattern.

Our Obama Birther Certificate Tray
Usually we're preaching to the choir, but I’m not going to lie, voicing our opinion on politics sometimes ruffles people’s feathers.  ‘Stick to doing dishes Julie’  ‘Retail is not a place to make political statements’ they'll say.
Then I remind them that a lot of retailers from Kenneth Cole to Manhattan Mini Storage use their businesses as a platform to take a stand. In fact, in 1969 Dave’s Uncle Miles took an ad in the New York Times on behalf of his business to protest the Vietnam War. Dave's Uncle Miles and Aunt Lillian owned Coach Leather.

Aunt Lillian and Uncle Miles, founders of Coach

Immigration reform is at stake and this small business knows first hand the passion and inimitable  work ethic  that first generation immigrants contribute. How can we be silent?

Me and Mike at the Pro-immigration rally - Union Square
The first person to run our shipping department (basically a desk in the back room) was from the Philippines. And one of our very first visual merchandisers was an amazing talent from Cypress. And then there was our very much loved manager from Slovakia. 

With a lot of patience and time with immigration lawyers  we proudly helped to get them working papers - which eventually turned into green cards.

But then something happened. It was 9-11. Suddenly the rules changed and what was already a tremendous feat became impossible. So it was a very sad day when we said goodbye to a truly unique talent... from Mexico.
I'll call him Renaldo for this blog.

Renaldo helped build Fishs Eddy with his intellect and his fierce, 
I-want-to-be-here, drive. His footprint is still felt. But politicians like Iowa Republican representitive Steve King, think Renaldo is a threat to American jobs - when in fact all Renaldo did was raise the bar for all of us. All Renaldo ever wanted was to pay taxes and be here legally, so he too could be part of the Fishs Eddy team... and the American Dream.

When Renaldo is forced to stay off the grid we all lose. It's hypocritical and downright un-American to turn our backs on the millions of people living in the shadows of a country that was founded on an open door policy. It's time to put the welcome mat back. 

The same welcome mat that was there in 1936 when Dave's Aunt Lillian emigrated from Hungary, came to America and met a young entrepreneur. Together they went on to build an iconic American brand, employing thousands... and of course, giving back. Now it's Renaldo's turn. 

Dave's father (left), Aunt Lillian (right) and the other siblings, shortly after coming to Ellis Island
this is for you Renaldo, wherever you are.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Soup's on!

A few summers ago I went to CafĂ© Sabarsky, the restaurant in the Neue Gallery up on Fifth Avenue. You actually feel like you're in Vienna there. I had this delicious cold sweet pea soup with fresh mint, I had never tasted anything like it, it was so good! Admittedly, it was the first time I'd even heard of being served cold soup…at least intentionally.

But as I was busy bragging in the design studio about my culinary sophistication oh I just love a good cold split pea soup especially with fresh mint how 'bout you guys? everyone  jumped in with 
yes Julie we have tasted cold pea soup and we also have great recipes for cold this and chilled that and blah blah blah…

So apparently I'm surrounded by talented  people who know how to bring all of our amazing bowls to life with great summer soup recipes. And they were gracious in explaining that their recipes would be a new cooking experience for me because I wouldn't need a can opener.

Corn Chowder in Diner Whites

Corn Chowder (Martha Stewart Living) - Sara, Product Development 
I love cooking in the summertime because so many of the ingredients for most recipes can be found at the local greenmarket. 
This flavorful corn chowder encapsulates summer and the bounty that is available in the upcoming months.

4 tsp bacon, cut into 1/3 inch dice
1 small onion, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice (1 cup)
2 ribs celery, strings removed, cut into 1/2 inch dice (3/4 cup)
8 sprigs thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 cups homemade or low-sodium canned chicken stock, skimmed of fat
3 ears yellow corn, kernels removed (about 2 1/2 cups)
5 ounces small fingerling potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
1 poblano chile, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 1/2 cups half and half

Place bacon in small stockpot over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until bacon is deep golden brown and all the fat has been rendered, about 4 minutes. Remove bacon with slotted spoon, transfer to paper towel, and set aside. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of bacon fat. 
Serves 4.
Sara scrutinizing at the Union Square Green Market

Spicy Vegan Gazpacho - Kristen, Graphic/Web Design and Photo
I've had a hard time finding a gazpacho that I like in the city... so finally, I decided to make my own. It's easy and light, and most people are into it. For extra awesomeness, serve with sliced avocado. 

Gazpacho in the Golden Rimmed Cereal Bowl
3 cups tomato or vegetable juice
1 onion, diced
3 tomatoes, chopped
bell pepper, any color, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cucumber, diced
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp tarragon
1 tsp chopped fresh basil
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
1/4 - 1/2 tsp hot sauce, to taste
2 tbsp cold pressed extra virgin olive oil

Mix together all ingredients well. Place half of the mixture in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Recombine. Chill thoroughly before serving.

Fresh ingredients!
Watermelon Soup - Abby, Assistant Designer 
My favorite summer foods are watermelon and popsicles (in any flavor available). If I let myself, which lets face it, happens more often than not, I will buy a whole watermelon and then have it for every meal until it's gone. I'm that obsessed. This summer soup easily subsides my summer cravings; fresh, refreshing and delicious! 

Watermelon soup in the Mint Rimmed Cereal Bowl
4-5 c. Seedless Watermelon
1 pt. Raspberries
8 oz. Strawberries
1 Mango (if desired)

Blend watermelon, raspberries, and strawberries in a blender until thoroughly liquefied. Chop Mango into small pieces, do not add to blended mixture. Chill for a few hours (up until overnight). Ladle into soup bowls, sprinkle with mango.

Chilled avocado and cucumber soup in the Diner White Soup Plate

Chilled Avocado and Cucumber Soup - Jennifer, Buyer
From the Once Upon a Tart cookbook; they are a very awesome little bake shop down on Sullivan street. Great tarts (obviously), but also wonderful sandwiches and soups and salads…

2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 cucumber, peeled, halved, seeded, and coarsely chopped
1 ripe avocado, halved and pitted
1/4 cup cold buttermilk
3/4 cup water
2 tablespoons fresh dill
2 teaspoons salt
pinch cayenne pepper
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice

Put the garlic, cucumber, and avocado into the bowl of a food processor (or a blender) fitted with a metal blade, and puree.  Add the buttermilk, water, dill, salt, peppers, and half the orange juice, and blend until you have a smooth soup.

Taste, and add remaining orange juice in increments until you have the taste and consistency you want.

Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Taste for salt before serving. Serve chilled (serves 4)

Friday, June 7, 2013

So little time, so little wall space!

Last week, twelve years overdue, I painted my apartment…yellow.
I was satisfying a new obsession. Yellow feels under-appreciated and can be very beautiful if used right…which I thought I did. But then Susie called screaming that the color was making her anxious and sweaty and she was running away from home if I didn’t change it - followed by a courtesy call from her brother offering to help her pack.

Yellow turned into green. It's either get on the painter's bad side or Susie's bad side .

I also painted an accent wall, or as Susie calls it, an accident wall. I was going for Poppy red but got primary red.

So it takes me a few rounds to get the color right, but I do think I have a “knack” for what comes next. In fact, I really had our apartment painted as an excuse to take all of our “stuff” down and give it a total refresh.

For whatever it’s worth, here are just a few ideas for hanging art, and other stuff.

Don’t get all hung up.
I never hang all of my pictures. Leaning paintings on shelves or on the floor creates a lot of movement - it takes away from the flatness of a room. It distracts from the corners and the limitations of the space. I personally feel more spontaneity and less rigidity in a room where art shares the environment.

A while ago Dave and I found this crazy painting of some random military guy. The painting is six feet tall with an Officer Pilsudski nameplate on the bottom. For $150.00 Pilsudsky was a no-brainer. He rests on the floor and leans right smack in the middle of my longest wall, dividing it in half. This painting has grown to be one of my favorites, not only for how odd it is, but for what it does to the rest of the room. I love hanging lots of little paintings and Pilsudsky’s height and girth divides my wall of smalls into two sections so that the little paintings don’t turn into a run-on sentence like the one I am writing right now.

Measure not.
A lot of people will tell you to space art evenly and to hang it at a certain “viewing” height. At 4’’11, few people would appreciate my viewing height. I say get rid of the measuring tape and anyway, what a bitch to measure. I lay a lot of art out on the floor and start playing with subject matter, shapes, and how the art works together. Artwork that has the same intensity of color can cancel each other out. I have a portrait and a floral that are the exact same value and hue. If I hung them next to each other and took my glasses off I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. So along with shape and subject matter, I look for contrast.

Once I have a general idea, I hang a cluster of work as the nucleus and spread out from there. I keep the spaces in-between the paintings consistently inconsistent and the end result is a wall of art that feels both deliberate and comfortable.

Refresh... ing

It takes two.
I’m a big believer in how a painting and a frame age together. If I come across a beautiful framed vintage painting, chances are, it’s spent a lot of time nestled comfortably in that frame, housed in many antique stores and flea markets. I couldn’t possibly separate the two after all they’ve been through. I’m just happy to rescue it and give it a good home where it can live out the rest of its life being appreciated on my wall…as one art unit.

Save the frame!

So little time…and even less wall space.
I have no problem blocking parts of paintings by layering them. Life is short, I’d rather have all of my favorite art out to look at and enjoy. Let's put it this way, you’ll never hear me say ‘I’ve run out of room’. If the majority of a painting is revealed, that's probably enough to enjoy it.

But then there’s the lone painting that’s asking for its own space because it's simply out of context anywhere else. Right now I'm in love with this one floral painting that Ben did, but it just doesn't feel comfortable near any other paintings. So, like Ben and much of his youth, the painting is in time out! But I love it madly!


My favorite part is the final layer…all of the dishes and funny little things that Dave and I have amassed over the years. I like to keep everything near and dear. Sorry Manhattan Mini Storage!

Wood foundry molds give things a lift

After hanging a perfect wall of art there’s a lot to compete with. So I use wood foundry molds as risers and platforms, blocks of old wood, and cake stands to give my little relics a needed pedestal.

Ladies on a pedestal!

Now if only I had a "knack" for getting the color of a room right the first time around. Of course I could have listened to the experts and painted a small swatch first, but that’s way over my attention span and anyway, I’m not known for listening to experts.

My Mexican painting worked perfect on the accident wall.