Blog Vacation

Though unplanned, I will have to take a little vacation from Bring It, Martha! for a few weeks. Check back soon for more design, crafting and cooking goodness. ~ I


Vintage MacGregor Find

Ask anyone who has known me for years, I have a massive vintage collection and/or obsession! When I was in seventh grade I would raid my grandmother's time capsule of an attic and rock all the gear I could find. Let me tell you, for the most part, this did not go over too well - when you are from a small town and it is the mid-1990's. Regardless, I wore my bellbottoms and polyester shirts with pride and to this day, I'm so glad that I did. 

Fast forward 15 years and I'm still in love with vintage! I'm guessing that it is just one of those trends that will never die. At least in my book. These days, I often I make my way to flea markets, yard sales and antique shops (instead of my grandmother's attic) with an eye for a "find." When searching through great heaps of "junk" I have to be somewhat patient (and picky), but the pay off can be huge - like this rare vintage 1960-70's Leather MacGregor Gym Bag. 

sn't she lovely? This bag reminds me of the days of Steve McQueen or even, James Dean. Albeit not in perfect condition, (A little rust here and there!) I just love, love, love this bag - with its black leather, gold lining, oversized zippers and its throwback kangaroo logo. At $45, it was more than I would normally pay for a vintage bag, but it was definitely as steal, as these bags go for anywhere around $150 and up. If you want your own, you can purchase your own here, on eBay or try to hunt one down at your local yard sale. Best of luck!

Anything You Can Do, I Can Do...Too: Jake Walk's Halloumi & Arugula Salad

While in Brooklyn a few weeks back, my fiance and I kicked back a few frosty ones with my parents at a neighborhood bar called Jake Walk. Upon perusing their menu for some good eats, I settled on Jake Walk's Halloumi  & Arugula Salad and fell in love. Instantly, I knew what I had to do... dissect the recipe! 

Although this was not the first time that I've tried halloumi (Zahav in Philly has its own masterful version!), it was this salad that made me realize just how much I like this type of cheese. Why? Well, it's  unlike any other cheeses I've tried in the past. Halloumi, an imported cheese from Cyprus, has an extremely high melting point, thus allowing it to be grilled or fried without loosing its firm texture. Amazing! Since halloumi is super salty, it pairs well with many different types of foods - from sweet date purees to spicy peppadew peppers. It was this spicy combo that really caught my attention. So, without further ado, the recipe breakdown: 

Halloumi & Arugula Salad
1 container Organic Arugula
6 oz Halloumi Cheese (Found at Whole Foods or other comparable market.)
1/2 cup bread crumbs 
2 egg whites
1/2 cup finely sliced Red Onion 
3/4 cup chopped Peppadew Peppers (Another Whole Foods find in their "Olive Bar.")
1/4 cup Olive Oil + 2 tbs
1/4 cup Red Wine or White Balsamic Vinegar (More or less, to taste.)
Salt & Pepper

Heat skillet with 2 tablespoon of oil. Place egg whites in one bowl and bread crumbs in another. Slice halloumi into long, thin slices then dip into egg whites and cover with bread crumbs. Place halloumi in skillet, brown evenly on both sides. While halloumi is cooking, combine all remaining ingredients and toss gently. Top with halloumi and enjoy!

Crocheted Hanger Glory

A few weeks ago, I found a huge lot (The photo shows only a few of them!) of these glorious, crocheted hangers at a flea market for $1. They immediately reminded me of something I would find in my favorite store, so I gobbled them up, brought them home and used them to hang up my new stash of clothes I purchased from said store. Immediately, I was hooked to these simple hanger contraptions. My clothes (including tanks and dresses) didn't fall off the hanger onto my closet floor, there were no weird marks anywhere on my clothing from the hanger and everything in my closet just looked so darned cute. It was as if I had my very own retail store, right there in my own closet. What girl doesn't love that?

All this joy over hangers (Strange, I know!) got me to thinking, these beauties were mostly likely created by some sweet, elderly woman so I knew that it would be difficult to find more. However, I didn't get discouraged and was able to find a simple crochet tutorial online at Redux Designs which will help you through the process of making your own. Lovely!

Wedding Invitation Calligraphy

As I previously mentioned, I spend the weekend in Seattle. But, before I left, I swiftly finished a pretty little wedding invitation and envelopes for a wonderful bride in NYC. Since this was an absolute rush order, and only I finished the last envelope 4 hours before my 5AM flight, I'm a few days late on this post. Even so, enjoy! 

On the sketchboard
Finished invite, pre-letterpress
Envelope calligraphy
Envelopes -  packaged & ready to go!


Starbucks Galore!

Just arrived home from a long weekend trip to Seattle and I thought I would share this absolute ridiculousness... Starbucks has over 50 stores in little 'ole Seattle! Don't get me wrong, I love my Starbucks. But, 50 stores within walking distance of one another? Overkill, perhaps. 

No doubt. Seattle is where the coffee empire got it start, but upon walking the streets for a bit, I couldn't help but find it hilarious that there were several competing Starbucks literally across the street from one another. On top of that, Starbucks owns Seattle's Best Coffee and there were a ton of those everywhere too! Nonetheless, it most certainly made for an entertaining "I-spy" photo shoot!

My photo collage of the hilarity! 


My Two Favorites Battle It Out: Martha v. Anthropolgie

I've been blogging so much about Martha's food, I barely had time to squeeze in a Martha craft project. However, when I saw this month's MS Living, I knew that the Felted Soap project was one that I had to try.


Well it's no surprise to anyone that knows me that my favorite store by far is Anthropologie. I mean, I'm absolutely obsessed to the point that I save their catalogues for inspiration! On top of that, years ago I was almost kicked out of the Anthro for taking pictures inside it for design ideas. I quickly learned my lesson and now I just visit the stores on a weekly basis and daydream about landing my dream job as a buyer as I wander throughout the store for hours. 

On one of these trips, I came across Fiat Luxe's Felted Soap and I had to have it. Despite the $14 price tag, I truly appreciated the innovative idea of soap and a washcloth all-in-one! I brought it home, tried it, loved it and then thought..."this has to be so easy to make!" As it turns out, it is and Martha featured the full how-to in the June MS Living. Score!

Food, Food, Food!

I've had a chance to sample a few more of the June MS Living recipes and here are the results:

Chive Omelet w/ Chanterelles
Rating: 8
Tweaks: I went to three grocery stores and couldn't find chanterelle mushrooms. I ended up buying dried chanterelles and re-hydrating them - which actually seemed to work! I also substituted sour cream for the creme fraiche. 
Comments: Loved this twist on a traditional omelet. At first I was leery about using sour cream as the filling in this omelet but I'm so glad I went with it. It was absolutely delish!

Strawberries w/ Vanilla Syrup
Rating: 7
Comments: These berries are actually spicy due to crushed peppercorns and I loved the combination of spiciness with the sweetness of the berries. This is one super-light summer desert that I will most definitely be serving again!


Manayunk Arts Festival Finds

I'm very proud to say that I live in a very fun, hip and pseudo-yuppie neighborhood in Philadelphia! With that being said, we often have fun events but none get more excited than the Manayunk Arts Festival. Since I missed the past two years due to travel, I was even more excited about this year's festival. (Seriously! I was like a kid at Christmas.)

After walking the booths several times over both days of the festival, my fiance and I made some fun purchases from some of the standout artists/artisans. Here's are some of our favorite purchases: 

Soap Fish Pottery by Cat Audette Holt and Rich Holt of ClayMonster

What can I say. Who doesn't love clay shaped monsters? These were a total hit with me (I bought a few pieces!) and with fair-goers. Too much fun. 

Gouache Illustrations by Greg Stones
L to R - "Moon Sheep," "Zombies Hate Clowns," "Barn & Robot," "12 Penguins, 1 Cannon" 

Loved, loved, loved this dark humored artist and so did fair-goers! (He won first place overall at the festival.) I'm not sure what was a bigger hit with me - penguins shooting themselves out of cannons (or battling with light sabers) or the serene landscapes being attacked in the distance by robots and monsters. Needless to say, we bought several prints and grabbed a business card so we can build our collection of "zombies, robots & nudes." 

Photography by Nick Leh

We picked up a great vintage "Princess" motel print from this super-talented local photographer! 

Hurray for Whoopie!

Looks like a certain good friend has been paying attention to my blog and my fondness for all things chocolate!

I received eight of these authentic woopie pies this past weekend as a wonderful gift and promptly devoured my fair share of these nostalgic treats. Growing up in Pennsylvania Dutch/Amish country, I completely took these sweet treats fore granted until I moved to Philadelphia, where they are more of a novelty than commonplace. Oh how this brings back memories! 

Thanks, love :) Whoopie!


Work In Progress: Tetris Card

It's birthday time for a certain Tetris fan, so I quickly whipped up a cute, throwback Tetris birthday card.  For precision purposes, I used calligraphy ink instead of paint to make the design for a very special eight year old. All I that is left to do is fill in the black background and it should be ready to go tomorrow. Happy Birthday, buddy!

It's Always HUMID In Philadelphia

I don't know who came up with the concept for It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but they totally got the title of the show wrong. It seems like Philly went straight from blizzard-wonderland to humid, ninety degree weather every single day. I mean seriously. Did spring even happen? Sigh. 

I cannot wait for fall! In the mean time, It's Always Sunny - you should really contemplate a good 'ole name change...


All In A Day's Work

A quick preview of how a digital illustration is brought to life!

Day 1 Illustration: Background layout and text placement

Next up - character illustration! 

Vintage Movie Poster Excitement!

I'm really excited about the poster I am working on for my very own Brooklyn Bride! (Blog reference here!) Since she will be having a vintage movie wedding, that will be the direction that I take her poster illustration. In doing my research, I came across these delicious movie poster inspiration photos: 

I can hardly contain my excitement! 


Penned & Delivered

Without an issue to complain about since my favorite nibs arrived, this custom calligraphy stationary set is complete and on its way to a super lovely bride-to-be for print production! Here is peek at the process:
Two versions on the drawing board: Stationary card and return addy envelope
Cut & ready to digitize 

Trout Shout-out! (A.K.A. The Trout-out!)

That's right... TROUT! 

I eat most kinds of fish even though I'm technically a vegetarian (or if you want to get even more technical, you can use the snobby "pescatarian" term). However, when it comes to trout, I always freeze up a bit about putting it on my dinner plate. 

Why? Well, years ago when I was a "SKOOK," (If you don't understand the reference, you're not from Schuylkill County, PA!) I would go fishing with my parents and grandparents to "The Whipporwill" and what did we catch? Trout. Red, Coleman beverage coolers full of trout! I can still remember my family frying up the fish and I wouldn't go near them with a ten foot pole. Perhaps it was the taste or the fact that we caught them ourselves or even the location we caught the fish, but I just plain despised trout! 

Fast forward 18 years and I wearily decided to give trout another chance thanks to Martha. This time around, I purchased my from Whole Foods fish section and prayed that the fish didn't come from "The Whippy." (My luck, it probably did!) Anyway, here are the dinner results:

The Apéritif: Cherry Beer
Rating: 7
Tweaks: Used Whole Foods Tart Cherry Juice in lieu of Cherry nectar.
Comments: Nice, refreshing summer drink and a great way to spruce up a regular, old Stella Artois!
Dinner: Cornmeal-Fried Trout w/ Tomato, Sorrel & Basil Panzanella
Rating: 8
Comments: I dug this recipe, A LOT! The panzanella (which was like a bread salad) helped to bring out the flavor in the trout. I was really surprised how good this was and would definitely make it again. Now, only if my "other-half" felt the same way!
Dessert: Almond-Apricot Tart w/ Whipped Cream
Rating: 6
Tweaks: I used rum and almond flavoring since I didn't have amaretto on hand.
Comments: This tart didn't really do it for me - partly because I'm not a big dessert person and partly because it  didn't involve chocolate! Nonetheless, the homemade whipped cream was awesome. It reminded me of when I first learned how to make whipped cream as a waitress at one of my favorite restaurants, The Greystone. To die for! I think my fiance and I could have eaten the entire bowl and slipped into a whipped cream coma. Joy :)

Martha Squared

Hooray for July! It's a double dose of Martha - MS Living & MS Weddings. Oh joy. 

Since MS Weddings only comes on quarterly basis, I get even more excited when it arrives. I've been collecting Weddings for the past 6 years, well before I ever had a fiance! The ideas are just so fantastic and a great source of inspiration for me, wedding project or not. (Yes! I also have the Weddings issues unbound, sorted, ads removed, in a binder!) I can hardly wait to tackle these projects... More to come.


Sneak Peek: Vintage Poster Guestbook Sketch

Just a quick look-sy at a poster sketch for a bride-to-be in Brooklyn. This bride had the super clever idea of turning my vintage posters into her guestbook. Loves it! 

If you look closely, you will see the bride and groom are perched in a tree, high above the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan skyline. The tree branches themselves will serve as the guestbook, where each guest can sign their name or place a fingerprint to fill in the leaves. Cute :) I can't wait to share the finished digital poster!

If you would like your own vintage posters, you can find them here on my Etsy shop. 


I've Got a Serious Coke Addiction!

Yup! It's true. This type of Coke is a total vice and I drink about two of these bad boys a day! 

I seriously didn't think I had a Coke problem until this past weekend when a good friend of mine intervened. (No joke here!) Said good friend proceeded to tell me how it is better to use Coke to clean sink drains and corrode metal surfaces than to ingest orally.

Sadly, good friend, I know this is true but I think it is going to take a full blow caffeine rehab to break me of my habit!

C'est la vie... I guess there are worse things ;) Bottoms up!


Anything You Can Do, I Can Do...Too: Pizzeria Stella's Tuna & Ceci Beans

I'll admit it. I'm a total foodie! 

Living in Philadelphia, I'm so lucky in this respect. In the last thirty years, the city has transformed from "Cheesesteak Capitol" to a food lovers commune! Acclaimed restaurateur's such as Mark Vetri (
Vetri/Osteria), Steven Starr (Buddakhan/Continental) and our own Iron Chef, Jose Garces (Amada/Distrito), have tantalized Philly's taste buds and have put our city on the map when it comes to great eats. 

As a frequent patrons, my fiance and I sure do have our favorites but we love trying new places. So, last weekend we ventured out to Society Hill to try Steven Starr's newest restaurant,
Pizzeria Stella. Although I thought the pizza was excellent, I was wowed more by my antipasti order - Tuna & Ceci Beans. Although "ceci beans" is just a fancy way of saying chickpeas, the antipasti was so good that instead of just enjoying it, I spent more time trying to dissect the recipe. 

Sorry, Mr. Starr! This one needs some at-home replication. So, tonight I created my own version with satisfying results!

Here is the super-simple (and comparable) recipe breakdown:

1 can of Ceci Beans (Garbanzo Beans/Chickpeas)

1 can of Solid Albacore Tuna (I used Wild Planet's Wild Caught/Low Mercury Tuna - available at Whole Foods.)
2 stalks finely chopped Organic Celery (I try to buy only organic celery because it is the most pesticide ridden veggie available!)
1/4 cup finely chopped Fresh Olives (I used fresh green olives because I didn't have Gaeta olives on hand.)
3/4 cup finely chopped Heirloom Tomatoes (I think Pizzeria Stella used finely chopped sundried tomatoes.)
1/4 cup finely chopped Red Onion
2 tbs. Olive Oil
4 tbs. Red Wine Vinegar
3 cloves finely chopped Garlic
1/4 cup coarsely chopped Flat Leaf Parsley
10 large finely chopped Basil Leaves
Sea Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place tomatoes on foiled baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, combine all other ingredients. Remove tomatoes from oven and allow to cool slightly before mixing with other ingredients. Salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy alone or over salad greens.

I think this is a recipe replication that even Mr. Starr would be impressed with!


Gouache Moustache

Lately, I've been playing around with gouache in my work. You might be thinking, what is gouache? Well, I was in your shoes several weeks ago and did my research. (Yes! I did wiki it!) From what I understand, gouache is a watercolor-like medium but the colors dry opaque. Thus, you can paint overtop of dark colors with light ones. Since I am new to this type of paint, I've been trying gouache out sporadically and decided to work the paint into my father's day card designs. 

On the drawing board
"Golf Moustache"

Calligraphy Woes

I was commissioned through ETSY to calligraphy a stationary card and envelope for a super, sweet bride-to-be in Colorado. Although I was excited to start the project, the "calligraphy gods" just weren't on my side. As it turns out, I ran out of my favorite calligraphy nibs and I had trouble scanning the artwork without it looking pixelated. So frustrating! Thankfully, I have a wonderful understanding ETSY buyer and I'm going to give it another go this week when my new nibs arrive. 

What I'm Coveting!

While at my cousins wedding in Brooklyn last weekend, we attended a "Farewell Brunch" at Robin De Bois (aka Sherwood Cafe). Although I was completely smitten with the eclectic and funky flea market-esque atmosphere of the restaurant, something else there caught my eye.... our waitresses' shoes! Upon arriving home, I quickly found them online due to their novel birdsnest design that I fell in love with. 
I must, I must, I must have them! But at 80 smack-a-roos for jelly shoes, I might hold off until summer winds down and cross my fingers for a super-duper sale! 

Breakfast with Martha

Penne Frittata w/ Basil & Ricotta
Rating: 5
Comments: I was really excited about this recipe because this was the first time I've had pasta with my eggs. However, the end product was slightly underwhelming for me. Perhaps, it was "chef-error" and has nothing to do with the recipe itself. At least it looked good!