Thursday, July 24, 2014

its a classic for a reason

I mentioned in one of my Instagram/Facebook posts about my desire to eat my weight in tomatoes this year, and I think the garden is going to accommodate my wish.  Summer is only halfway through in Los Angeles (it really doesn't end til after Halloween weather-wise), and I've already got more tomatoes every other day than Drew and I could ever eat.  I have had to get creative so that I am sure that we don't waste a single fruit. 

My go-to right now is classic bruschetta.  It seems like the birthright of any Italian gardener/cook, and Drew and I have been perfecting our version.   I based it on a recipe in one of my fave books about cooking with seasonal foods from the backyard, Vegetables From an Itailan Garden.  I've made it as the first course for two parties so far and we eat it at least once a week.  Rest assured, if you are a dinner guest at my home this summer, you will be served bruschetta.  It is a classic for a reason.

I'm not really a recipe posting sort of girl, but this is more assembling (it is just tomato salad on toast, after all) than cooking, so here goes:

You'll need 10 tomatoes, chopped,  2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil (the best you can get your hands on), salt and black pepper to taste, and a handful of basil leaves, chopped fine (or not, just as good without).  Combine everything in a bowl and refrigerate (I like to make my salad at least 30 minutes before so that the flavors marry nicely) until ready to serve.

A little extra condiment that we have been making for this dish is a simple balsamic syrup for drizzling over the bruschetta just before we serve.  Totally unnecessary, but it makes everything extra delicious.  The whole process is just putting 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan and cooking on low until it has reduced by half and is just a bit syrupy -- about 15 minutes or so.

To make your toasts, slice your bread and brush it with olive oil.  We used a bread from Sadie Rose Baking Co. and it was delicious, but you can use any bread you like.  Grill your bread until its nicely marked on both sides.  When cool enough to handle, rub each toast with a clove of raw garlic.  Add a couple of spoonfuls of tomato salad to each toast, arrange on a serving platter or board, drizzle with the balsamic syrup.  Devour.

Our components -- tomato salad, grilled toasts with garlic, balsamic syrup.  Our test toast.  I didn't even have a chance to take a photo of the finished platter of bruschetta because they were so quickly devoured.

My plan B of late is canning my garden tomatoes.  I'd made jam and pickles, but had never canned tomatoes (although I watched my grandmother do it almost every summer of my childhood).   I used the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving as a guideline for the processing of my tomatoes, but it really is as simple as putting a healthy pinch each of salt and sugar  and the juice of a lemon into a (warm -- make sure the jar is warm or it'll break -- I know from experience) quart mason jar and filling the jar with whole, peeled tomatoes.  After the jars are processed, the perfect summer tomato-ness is sealed in.
My first canned tomatoes.  I love opening the pantry and seeing jars that look like these.
Got an awesome tomato recipe?  I'd love to hear all about it.  I'm guessing I'll have plenty of tomatoes to give it a try, too.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

how does your garden grow?

I have discovered, as Drew and I have been working on the studio garden for this past year, that the cycle of of the of the garden has a nice rhythm to it. A period of not much at all is always followed by intense periods of growth and productivity that yield more produce than two people could ever eat.  We find ourselves pickling and preserving and giving a LOT of veggies to friends and neighbors.

Since March of 2013, we've grown many, many pounds of lemon cucumber, eggplant,  beets, crookneck squash, bok choy, carrots, radishes, mirlition, zucchini, bell, cherry, jalapeno, banana and cayenne peppers, parsley, basil, dandelion greens, kale, Swiss chard, strawberries, lettuces, red and Walla Walla onions and endless varieties of tomatoes.  I've made a habit of photographing my hauls each time I harvest anything and posting the photos to Instagram.   I get lots of feedback from people near and far who are amazed that we are able to produce all of this food in the urban crush of Los Angeles  (and also in the midst of a drought -- we use very little water).  But here we are, growing everything you see in the photos here in just two 5'x5' planter boxes.

Does any of this stuff look good to you?  Then please, pull out that (so not drought tolerant) lawn -- even a little chunk of it -- and grow your own food.  City dwellers without garden space can do it, too.  Just a little planter box or a couple of big pots will do just fine.

Friday, March 7, 2014

on the list

Almost every day of my working life I have made a list.  

When I worked in offices, design or otherwise, I'd start each morning by sitting quietly at my desk with my coffee and my blank page.  I'd list all of the aspirations/tasks of the day ahead in three columns on the page.   Then, with my list from the day before, I'd transfer all of the uncompleted items from that list on to the current day's list. Writing things down made them somehow less scary when everything to to accomplish, handle, absorb was all in front of me on the page.  

I don't remember who taught me to make lists, but I still do it.   I count it as one of those little rituals, this writing down of the contents of my brain, that has sustained me, given my life and work structure.  And I'm more than a little bit results-oriented  so I LOVE that feeling of crossing something, anything, off the list.

In the year or so since I purchased this property and for the 4 years I ran my business from my spare bedroom, "MMD STUDIO" was an item on nearly every list I made.  On February 10, 2014, I finally, happily, got to cross it off.  

If you missed it, you can check out my post about the transformation of the studio exterior here.  

The interior of this space looked like this when the project began:

Scary, dark and hot as the garage was at the outset, only a few elemental changes had to happen to get the ball rolling:
Windows and a door.

Drywall and trim, primer and paint.

Now its my sunny Melissa Mascara Design bubble.
A view of the palm trees and the vegetable garden, my beloved desk, my comfy new (frickin' rotating) desk chair and a pair of classic Nikki McClure prints = awesome place to work. 
The fab fabric on my (frickin' rotating) desk chair.
The homosote pin board - built it, covered it with dressmaker's muslin and hung it over an IKEA Expedit bookshelf.  The printer/scanner lives here, and there is plenty of storage for project binders and catalogs and design magazines.  Good Fucking Design Advice has found its perfect spot, too.
A  little inspiration from the Panyl blog  helped me to IKEA hack a couple of Expedit cubes, a couple of sheets of plywood and  some caster wheels into my (rolling) work table, library and sample storage.
The cord lights brighten the entire space.  They are especially great over the work table.

The lighting was IKEA hack #2 on this project.  I started with 8 Hemma cord sets, added a roll of plastic tarp, 3 cans of high gloss spray paint and lots of patience. I LOVE how they look.
After super-scrubbing the concrete floors, I covered the bulk of the space in a rug made of 2 colors/textures of FLOR carpet tiles (Feelin' Groovy in grass and Reverb in lime).  
Remo is serious about his role as design dog, and spends most of his time (when not in my lap) in this exact spot doing exactly this.
Half of the wall opposite the new windows was tricked out with storage shelving.  The other half became a workbench.

Remember that narrow door from the original garage?  Its been recycled into the tabletop for the workbench.  An old baker's rack provides the base.
Here's the workbench after shot.  And, um, can I mention how much I love pegboard?  I had to hold myself back from putting it EVERYWHERE.  And the fact that all of my tools and paints are visible and organized is nirvana.
IKEA hack #3 transformed Kvartal curtain track, 6 Mariam curtains and lengths of chain into a wall of sky-high orange draperies that slide open wherever I need them to.  Best of all, especially for a neatness nerd like me, they camouflage the storage and the fabulous work bench when closed.  A pair of gorgeous chairs gifted from a dear friend have found a happy home here, too.

I predicted a "build it and work will come" effect about this studio, and so far I've been working at a steady hum since move-in day.  I'm still pinching myself a bit that these are my digs, but I also feel incredibly at home here.  Its been well worth all the work and the wait and it still feels like the best of the year is to come.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

what a difference a year makes

I have long been obsessed with having a studio space separate from my home (but still on my property -- I love solitude and I love to come to work in my bathrobe).    My design business has been up and running for nearly 5 years now, and pretty much after year one, I was exhausted with working out of the spare bedroom in our little house.  I coveted the tiny garage that was behind the house (made more painful by the fact that my landlord used it for his personal storage) but knew it would never be mine.  I lusted after the detached garages of all my neighbors, too, even if they (gasp) stored their cars in them instead of tricking them out for studio space.  The worst was when I'd be walking my dogs past an open garage door and see that the inside was packed, hoarders-style, from floor to ceiling with stuff.  That happened more times that I than I care to recall.  Totally heartbreaking.

When Drew and I started shopping for a house, I figured that it was the perfect opportunity to satisfy my longing.   I added that item to our must have list.  Detached garage.  Check.

Here's what we got:  
When we moved in, the garage had zero windows and a single door to the backyard that was so narrow that we had to step out sideways if we were carrying anything at all.  Luckily, it was a sturdy building, and after seeing lots of homes with rickety old garages that we could have easily pushed over by leaning too hard on them, I was glad to have a structure that wouldn't fall apart when I tried to remake it.  Plus, it was a big, blank space.  To someone like me, there is nothing more exciting.

Removing the metal awning and the concrete are projects we tackled this spring (photos of that day here), so the next step was taking a sawz-all to the spots where the new windows and door would be. 
Demo day is always my favorite.
After framing the windows and door and hanging them, we had to rebuild the space in the wall where the old door had been and to repair all the stucco.
The old door was half as wide as the new window.


Here's the after shot.  Did I mention that Drew and I painted the whole building in the happiest, most vibrant red I could find?  Drew built the fab little deck and patio (with the last of our concrete from the demo), too.
I am absurdly excited about this joint becoming the new MMD HQ.

I've done so much research about remaking garages and home studios this year.  My favorite is a post from Tue/Night written by a fellow Angelino creative-type named Jenna Briand.  You can (and should) read it here.  I'm not a mom, and my offices in the past decade haven't been quite as fancy as Jenna's, but I relate to pretty much everything else she expresses here.  In the decade before I started working for myself (in that tiny spare bedroom), my offices have been in a guest room of what was originally a motel built for the Seattle World's Fair, a 10th floor corner cubicle with a view into downtown Seattle, a desk in a design and architecture studio a block from Venice Beach.  As interesting as all of those experiences were (some definitely more than others) I can't help but be reminded that to do my best work I need my own kind of space -- something of my own creation and in my own control -- where I can go and make stuff.  I've also long subscribed to the idea that if I had the right space to do my work then lots of it would come my way.  Now there is a little red studio in my backyard, and I already know that its going to be a space where my business, my creativity, my life, will flourish.

And that leads me to gratitude. 

Drew and I moved into our house on December 30, 2012.  It has been a crazy blur of a year filled with so much change and so many moments of joy and satisfaction.  I can't believe what we've managed to accomplish here so far, and I'm so grateful for the awesome community of people in my life who love me, dream with me, and help me make things happen.  I'm grateful for the opportunity to live and work in this amazing city and to feel, after so many years on the move, that this is my home.  I feel incredibly lucky to have this life.   Each time I have that thought I am reminded that the best way to express my gratitude is to put something, anything,  positive into the world.  So that's the plan, for the year ahead and beyond.

I am already dreaming about the interior design for the studio, so I'm all up in Pinterest.  If you're a Pinterest person and would like to take a peek at what the studio interior might look like, take a look at my MMD STUDIO board.

And so I'm on to the next.  Lots of stuff in the works for 2014.  I can't wait to see what sort of surprises are in store as well. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

its all just a bunch of vibrations

Its been forever (mid- May!) since I last posted.  The summer has been a blur, and since its now the last day of September, the end of summer wrap-up is an imperative.  Here's  a bit of what I've been working on these past months, plus a little summer vacation design inspiration for good measure.

In Santa Monica, I've been remaking a living room, kitchen office and lounge for a family of 6.  Since lots of people live here, and they are all musical or artistic, we needed to make space for all of their stuff in some not so big spaces. 

Here is where we started:
A big room with all the wrong stuff in it.  You can't see the fireplace because its the same color as the walls.  The beams in the ceiling are sage green.  There's a GIANT sectional sofa blocking your path into the room. A favorite old chair is covered with a blanket because its stuffing is coming out. The sconces are a bedazzled mess that don't have anything to do with the (beautiful) iron chandelier.  
There is cement tile still remaining to be installed on the fireplace, and a couple of pillows and tchotkches to perfect, but the living room is looking really good these days.
The fireplace and beams got lovely new colors and there's a creamy new white on the walls, too.  That's the old favorite chair, reupholstered.  The triptych on the wall is from the clients' collection.  The new sconces and floor lamps make much more sense with the chandelier.
 A small sofa and the big lounge under the window replace the sectional sofa.  There's a wool rug and rich linen draperies.  Lots of space to play and display the family's musical instruments, too.
The cement accent tile for the fireplace.
The fab combo of the lounge fabric and the super-luxe rug.
The family needed an office and workspace.  There was a spot in the kitchen, so we had a nice, big desk created to mimic the style of the cabinetry.
The new desk has lots of desktop space as well as storage for office and art supplies.  The magnetic board above it captures the chaos of a family of 6 in an ever-changing exhibit of photos, kids' art, schedules and notes.
I love designing chairs, and this niche in the dining room was dying for this pair.  These clients had some really fantastic art in storage, in the garage, elsewhere around the house.  THE CARESS OF YOUR GLANCE is my favorite piece from their collection, and has finally found its perfect home.

In Las Vegas, some simple but essential changes have occurred in the living room and the office.

This is the living room built-in before.  Like, way, way before:
When we started working on this room, we nicknamed this built-in "the beast."  You can't really get the scale from the photo, but its about 11 feet high and 13 feet wide.  It was also not centered on the wall and made the room feel slightly off balance.  And the speakers.  And that giant, old TV.  Ugh.
This is the way, way after: 
Beautiful zebra wood is the perfect material for the clean lines of the new design.  Although its nearly the same size as the original built-in, it fits the space much better because it is centered.  The TV is smaller and will float in the niche in the center.  The speakers are now elegantly camoflauged in the ceiling.  The luxe furnishings and accessories help the fab new look of this room, too.
A couple of years ago when we started the design process for this home, I suggested diptych by the artist Janet Bothne, and my client became a fast fan of her work.  Her paintings are lush and colorful and the perfect scale for the office wall behind his heavy, carved desk.
The warm yellow is the perfect backdrop for this piece, called MEASURING LOSS AND GAIN.
The library, still in progress but fast becoming my favorite room in this house, is just across the entry hall from the office.  There's a fantastic view of the new art if you're sitting in here, too.

I went to King's Valley, Oregon this summer, and it was a magnificent reminder -- and a huge shock for an L.A. girl -- of the power of nature.  Nothing but trees and water and mountains and quiet.  The stars had more wattage than the city lights, too. 
Here are a few shots of the beautiful home of our fabulous hosts:
A reminder each time the switch is flipped.

A little red cottage with a purple front door.

I was also lucky enough to get back to my beloved Seattle, where I find it impossible not to be inspired by all of the flowers and food and art and architecture and music.  I found some of the coolest design details in the homes of my family and friends.
Little details like the built in planter are what give my sister in law's little craftsman bungalow so much charm.  Plus, I love this vintage sofa and I'm a sucker for the orange-red color combo.
Accent pillows with fantastic color and texture.

Fab shag.
This glorious, ever-evolving magnetic chalkboard wall was one of my favorite things in a BFFs new home.  Everyone who comes to the house leaves their mark.
Okay.  So I'm back in L.A. and back at work.  I'm excited for all of the things that are in the works and ready to see what the new season has in store.  It is always an adventure.