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Pepper Design Blog
Thoughtfully Simple
Unchained Kitchen



How to WRAP GIFTS like an EXPERT

I am not the world's most efficient gift wrapper. Oh, I'll admit...my presents look nice when finished, but I almost always end up wasting more paper than I should. I used to carefully watch the ladies at the Marshall Field's wrapping counter, hoping their formidible skill with scissors, tape, and paper would rub off on me but - nothing. I'm always making trims here and there, winding up with a healthy pile of scraps. Not very economical, nor very green.



Someone who's much better at this is Sheryl Oberman, owner and founder of The Stationery Station in Highland Park, on Chicago's North Shore. They're celebrating their 35th anniversary this year (congrats!) and in addition to offering an exceptional invitation and stationery selection, Sheryl and co. are well known for their meticulously wrapped gifts in beautiful, embellished paper. I asked Sheryl if she'd film a quick tutorial on how to beautifully and efficiently wrap presents, and happily, she obliged. Take a look and learn!


Now that you know how to nicely wrap a present, if you're ever in Highland Park (Ravinia starts soon!), stop by The Stationery Station to pick up the perfect paper.


Looking for a hostess gift to put in that beautifully wrapped box? A few suggestions...


Gift box photo credit


WINDOW gardening - grow your own SALAD

You know you should eat leafy greens, which is why you routinely add a bag o' salad to your shopping cart. But really, nothing beats fresh salad greens. Fortunately, growing your own lettuce, spinach or radishes is easy to do, even if you live in a small space. It’s also a great project for children to teach them how plants grow and where food comes from.


Where to plant

To start, you’ll need a bright sunny window. Usually an east or south-facing window will give you the good six or more hours of sun needed for most greens. Think about where your heating vents are placed. Most plants prefer to be away from vents as they blow drying air on their pots, which can dry out tender roots and foliage.


What to plant

Pick out your seeds or transplants. I prefer to grow salad greens from seed as they germinate within about a week and I can get more bang for my buck. As you are choosing types of plants, remember what your family prefers to eat. I like to do a mix of peppery varieties, sweet lettuce and a few with red leaves to add color. Radishes go in a separate pot for easy snacking. Radish greens can add a wonderful zing to salads, too.


Pick a container

Crops do best when their roots have plenty of room, so a deeper container is usually best. Be creative! A square of burlap over a colander makes a great salad bowl that can be featured as a centerpiece. Use new potting soil to fill your containers. A soil with slow release fertilizer ensures your plants will have the nutrients they need.


Grow plants, grow!

It's time to plant! Read the directions on the package of seeds for planting depth and spacing. You can crowd your pot if you plan on using the plants as micro-greens. Space out a bit more if you plan to let them mature. Thin out seedlings to provide enough room for roots.

Keep the pot evenly moist, but not sopping wet. As your plants grow, you may choose to use the whole plant or harvest just a few leaves. Pick leaves from the base, leaving a few to keep the plant going. You may also pinch back the first or second set of leaves of leggy lettuce to keep it more compact.


Reaping the rewards

As you harvest your greens, you can keep adding seed to stretch out your crop. Lettuce and spinach are cool-weather crops, so they may bolt or become bitter when temperatures rise. The good news is you can start a fresh batch around Labor Day for fall salads.



Gardening by Heather Prince

Part of the Second City Soiree Contributor Series. Heather is on Twitter @FearlessGarden. Read her full bio here.


Add COLOR with BLENKO inspired glassware

The arrival of spring seems to bring a cleansing of our collective color palate (pun intended), and this year seems particularly bright; just look at the neons accenting spring fashion or the tangerines, pinks and teals of this season’s trendiest manicures.

Your home is another playground for spring’s cheerier hues. The sun flooding through my window the other day made my translucent cerulean decanter particularly brilliant. It’s a subtly crackled Blenko piece, oversized (I still wonder how it could actually be functional as a container), and the most arresting blue.

I remember admiring it on its place on the mantle at my grandmother’s home. When she moved to a smaller place and parted with many of her possessions, the decanter became mine. Only later did I realize it was collectible. Honestly, that didn’t make it any more special. It’s the color and shape that I gravitated toward then—and now. Noticing it that day sent me down the rabbit hole of Blenko research, studying the motifs and bold colors produced by the West Virginia-based company now inextricably linked to Mid-Century Modern design.

Blenko is abundant—and hotter than ever—but there are numerous alternatives, both vintage and new, that pack the same punch. Cluster any of these monochromatic glass vessels in a light-filled area and enjoy the extended daylight.



Scour flea markets, eBay and antiques dealers specializing in glass, like Glasshouse, for Blenko decanters, vases and other vessels like the ones pictured above from the Blenko Museum. (Hint: Be on the look-out for the charming owl motif!.)

 The work of Joe Cariati is primed for lush magazine spreads--so editorial, as they say. The various shapes and colorways are quite simply stunning.


Colorful glass need not be expensive. Functional pieces like this Bormioli Rocco Ypsilon glass carafe are inexpensive and offered in a variety of candy colors at Cooking.com.


Michael Ruh creates beautiful glassware like this Lime String Mallet (available at Lille, one of my favorite local stores whose taste I always trust).


Etsy is a great resource for Mid-Century Modern glassware (Blenko or otherwise). I love this sweet vase from vendor The Cottage Cheese.


Elizabeth Lyons Big Jars collection (available at select boutiques and showrooms) captures the vibrancy of the Blenko colors and is offered in groupings like Twilight (shown).


Wedding and party superstore Luna Bazaar is a cheap-chic source for colorful glass bottles like the one shown above. At less than $3 each, large groupings are encouraged.

Unica Home carries the iconic work of Finnish designer Tapio Wirkkala, including these truly lucious (and thus predictably spendy) Bolle bottle series for Venini.


CB2, always a reliable standby for affordable accents, offers these Colour glass vases; while simple, they pack a punch.


Also from Unica Home are these Bambu vases by Arcade Glass, featuring a more 21st Century shape and muted palate


Interior Decorating and Design by Christine Sisson
Part of the Second City Soiree Contributor Series. Christine is on Twitter @WordsOnStyle. Read her full bio here.


Three UNIQUE Leftover LAMB Recipes

Last week, I made lamb.

Well, let's back up. I ordered a leg of lamb off of Peapod, sight unseen, and didn't think about how enormous it would be for just my husband and I. (I also successfully boned, butterflied, and trimmed said leg of lamb, but that's material for a different post.) Needless to say, it was a festival of lamb in the Luby household for the following nights.

Maybe you've got some lamb leftover from Easter. If so, try the three recipes I made last week. Each is different enough that you won't feel like you're having lamb...again.


Start with - Yogurt-Mint Marinated Grilled Leg of Lamb (This recipe doesn't call for butterflying the leg, but I did so anyway, and it turned out great)

Leftovers 1 - Lamb Rissoles (These gently fried lamb meatballs are a favorite of Queen Elizabeth II.)

Leftovers 2 - Lamb Curry (I didn't have apples, plus had to substitute chicken stock for beef stock. Both adaptations worked fine.)

Leftovers 3- Lamb salad (Thinly slice the lamb, and sautee in olive oil until carmelized. At the very end, add a dollop of sour cherry jam, and stir until all pieces are coated. Serve on dark leafy greens with chopped roasted beets and grapefruit pieces. Some crumbled feta cheese would be nice, too.)



Today's post is part of the #HolidayHQ Blog Hop. See the links below for more posts from the best party and entertaining experts, and join us tonight at 8pm EST on Twitter for our #HolidayHQ chat.


Happy spring! Did anyone else get a sunburn on St Patrick's day this year? Personally, I've enjoyed this fair weather trend and have happily sent my wool coat and boots to the back of the closet. It's also a time to change up menu offerings, and that includes drinks. I found the four spring-appropriate recipes below, just in time for Easter brunch. Cheers to warm days ahead!


Butterfly Martini Cocktail by Grey Goose

1.5 parts lemon-flavored vodka
2 parts White Grape Juice
3 Basil Leaves
3 Mint Leaves
1 tsp Elderflower Cordial
1 tsp Fresh Lemon Juice
1 Lemon Rind
Fill a cocktail shaker with shredded basil and mint leaves, and combine with all other ingredients. Shake with ice and strain through a fine sieve. Top with a squeeze of lemon rind. Serve in a cocktail glass and garnish with an edible flower.

Lemon Drop Sparkle by Korbel

(12 oz.) can lemonade frozen concentrate, thawed
1 bottle of extra dry sparkling wine
4 oz. Tuaca liqueur
1 1/2 cups sparkling water
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1/3 cup lemon drop candies, crushed

In a pitcher, stir to combine lemonade concentrate, champagne, Tuaca and sparkling water. Using a slice of lemon, moisten the rim of each glass. Dip rim into crushed lemon drop candies. Pour in the champagne mixture and garnish with sliced lemons or lemon twist.



Sapphire Revelation by Bombay

3 parts Gin
2 drops rose water
1/2 part elderflower liqueur

Stir in a mixing glass filled with ice then strain into a chilled martini cocktail glass. Garnish with a single rose petal.



Bacardi 8 Rum Julep

2 parts Bacardi 8 year old rum
6 parts mint leaves
2/5 part sugar syrup
2 dashes peach bitters
Cubed ice
Spring of mint to garnish

Gently bruise mint with sugar syrup and bitters, in the base of a mixing glass. Then pour rum, add ice, and stir well. Fill a high ball glass with crushed ice, pour the liquid from the mixing glass using a strainer, stir, and add more ice. Garnish with a mint sprig.



 Don't forget to pop in on my friends' posts. There are lots of great ideas here...

Housewife Bliss  |  Easter Brunch for Chocolate Lovers
Celebrations At Home  | Spring Garden Tablescape
PaperandPigtails.com  |  Polka Dots & Pastels - Free Printables
The Partybluprints Blog  |  "Little Peeps" Easter Table Centerpiece
Second City Soiree  | Cocktails that say Spring
SkimbacoLifestyle.comEuropean Easter Traditions Galore
Thoughtfully Simple | Simple Easter Brunch
Valley & Co. | Table Top Elements for Marvelous Easter Brunch

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