Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Designer Spotlight: Mad Imports

I first discovered Mad Imports on Hey Susy (a very chic blog written by stationery designer Susy Jack) and then met the lovely Laurel Brandstetter (the one who started the business) at the NY Gift show and I thought it would be a great addition to the shop. Their product is not only designed beautifully, it is well-priced and made responsibly- oh and of course it's useful! Not only does the sale of their products help the weavers in Madagascar and Kenya gain economic independence and self-sufficiency but it helps promote environmental conservation.

Laurel started Mad Imports in 2003 with the initial help of a relative, James Sellers, who was working on a development project in Madagascar. Laurel has a well rounded background in community development, urban planning and has volunteered in public health. She saw a great opportunity to help the poverty in Madagascar and Kenya through the fair trade selling of traditionally handmade accessories. She now has the help of dsesigner Jamila Hubbard in creating wonderfully chic bags. Mad Imports has been feautured in several major magazines and the Today Show and CNN Headline News. They work with a local orphanage to provide supplies, training and funding for their craft workshops. They conduct market readiness workshops for small artisan groups and small businesses. And they have facilitated the construction of several clean water wells in rural Kenya with the help of private donors. Laurel believes in "trade not aid" and all their weavers received a fair salary.

Now, is your current clutch doing all that! Talk about cocktail party conversation!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tuesday Series- The Eco-Elitist- Getting Rid of Stuff

As the weather gets warmer, we all start to take a hard look at our messy garages and packed basements in an effort to to organize and "purge". This is certainly a great exercise and much needed in most houses as we all have way too much stuff. The first thought is to rent a dumpster and send all your unwanted things to the landfill. I suggest you take a little extra time to try to find new homes for those things or to dispose of them properly. You'll be surprised at how many options you can find. My suggestions are as follows:

1. Ebay, Craig's List, local Consignment shops and Tag Sales- Why not make some extra cash on your collection of LPs, beer signs and costume jewelry? There are plenty of people who like to collect what you don't want anymore. I've never tried Craig's List but Ebay is very easy to set up and Tag Sales can be fun, especially for children.
2. Good Will, Salvation Army, etc.- Donations are almost always welcome at places who need good quality home products, furniture and clothes. Call first before you schlep the couch because they might not want it. Unfortunately many of them don't take toys anymore.
3. Children's Agencies such as the FCA (Family Children Agencies)- they will be happy to take your car seat, breast pump, crib, high chair, etc for their new mothers who really need gear. 4. Charities that look for very specific used items such as (I was thrilled to find some of these suggestions in the new issue of O The Oprah Magazine): they will take your unwanted athletic clothes, basketballs, soccer balls, volleyballs, baseballs, cleats, shinguards, running shoes and jerseys they will take your old tennis balls (yeah- we have so many!) and restores their bounce so that they can be resold at a discount for practice balls. Landfills get over 20,000 tons of tennis balls a year. want your gently used orthotics such a wheel chair, crutches, canes, ankle splints, knee braces, etc. they'd love to have your used dumbells, in-line skates, treadmills, skis, etc. They are a retail chain with more than 360 locations in the U.S and Canada. They resell these items at a great deal. This one of my favorite organizations. They take your gently used work clothes and pass them on to disadvantaged women who are trying to take "charge of their lives" in finding a new job. Your clothes and their support team will give these women the self-esteem and much need confidence to get them back on the road to self-sufficiency. I love this concept- they help organize local groups that get together and exhange things (clothes, housewares, children's toys, electronics, etc) all for free and fun!
5. Old Electronics and Hazardous Waste- Check your town's website for information on the proper way to dispose of old electronics (eg. tvs, monitors, vacuums, outdoor equipment, etc) and oil pant, turpentine, bleach, oil, etc. There should be designated days to drop these items off for free. They will also take your old batteries. It is very easy once you find out the date. Store your unwanted items until the day, bring it to the site and drop it off and drive away knowing that you did the right thing! Please don't send these items to the landfill! Thanks!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

For the Birds

found on Modern Printed Matter

I'm into birds right now. It's finally getting warm and they just sound beautiful even into the late evening. Birds have always been desired in art, design and decor. They are truly amazing creatures. The print above is by an artist called the Mincing Mockingbird. Isn't it wonderful? I love the turquoise blue background and his little yellow chest is stunning. I found it at a lovely blog by the designer Anna Cote of Modern Printed Matter. I love her work and plan to carry it for the store soon. Click on the image to check out her blog.

And I've always love Naomi Murrell. This is one of her most well known prints.

Found on Naomi Murrell's Etsy Shop

These are some of the bird images we have at

Top Row (left to right): Skinny LaMinx Eep Tea Towel, Thomas Paul Aviary dinner plates
2nd Row: Morris & Essex Gocco printed cards, Jonathan Adler bird bowl
3rd Row: Thomas Paul Aviary dessert plates, Sukie Special notebook


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

$10.00 Notebooks!

I love notebooks and journals . . . but I might have gone a bit crazy. . . so we are offering a select few for $10.00 for a limited time. I must have a notebook or journal handy at all times (sometimes I have several- one for the desk, one for the purse, one for a trip or a trade show). I'm also really into writing things down- in the car, in the grocery store, on a train, while I'm waiting for someone, waiting at the gas station, etc.- one has to fill each moment with quality thinking, right? I've tried writing notes on my Iphone but it just doesn't feel right. I'm not that old but I'm definitely at the point where if I don't write things down- I'll forget. And doesn't it feel great to write something down and then cross it off? Done! Check! Finito! Call me crazy, but I've been known to write something down after I've already done it just so scratch through it! That little fleeting feeling of accomplishment is just so great! It's like a drug, man.

I need to have my little notebook handy for when I see a great product, or have a marketing idea or someone recommends a great site for me to check out or simply to call a friend or buy cat food- not romantic but certainly reality.

Now, they have to be small enough to fit in a purse and sturdy enough to write when standing up. And they have to be good looking because it's just nice to have something that you use everyday make you happy. It's the little things in life. Orla Kiely's notebooks are just beautifully made with a cool pear print or her signature stem design embossed on the cover. The inside of her journals are lined with a modern print and she always has a ribbon handy for marking your spot. Sukie is a husband / wife team based in the U.K. I fell in love with their retro, chic and witty images. The paper inside their notebooks are recycled and ruled. The travel notebook is quite unique with little pockets sewn in the binding to store business cards, receipts, love notes, who knows? Delphine's mini notebooks have letterpress covers with a scroll design or a pretty image of a polar bear or penguin. It comes with a colored band to hold your place and you get 2 journals in a set!

So, add a little excitement to your bag, have a handy journal for all those big ideas that pop into your head! Maybe it will amount to the next great American novel! Or give them as gifts- great for teachers, new graduates or just about anyone. For $10.00, why not?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tuesday Series- The Eco-Elitist- Packing Lunches

For those of you who are new to the blog, I'm doing a Tuesday series discussing easy ways to make changes in your life to be a bit more friendly to our earth either by reducing the garbage that you send to the curb, your carbon dioxide output or by just reducing your use of our precious natural resources. I practice as much eco-friendly tips as I can- but I'm in no way perfect and I call myself an eco-elitist with "tongue in cheek."

Today, I'm into packing lunches. Maybe because I'm writing this post close to lunch time, who knows? The food industry has done so much to make our crazy busy lives (mine included) easier and more convenient (and of course more sterile). But, by doing this they have encouraged us to create more waste. I've done a post on reusable water bottles. There are so many great options out there, from Kleen Kanteen to Camelbak and Sigg. Check out this article: There is simply no need to use juice boxes. They are made with paper, coating, metal and plastic and just cannot be recycled properly. I have found a great lunch box from Pottery Barn that allows you to stand up a sippy cup. There are so many lunch boxes or bags that will allow for this.

1. Sandwich bags- the plastic ziploc kind - try not to use them. They just sit in a landfill for thousands of years or get eaten by a poor whale or fish. No need. They are so many cute, fun reusable bag options that will add a little pizzazz to your lunch or your child's lunch. By doing this, you might even encourage someone else to follow suit. I'm going to first reccomend you check out one of my favorite sites for eco-friendly shopping and for great information. Below is an image of a great set of sandwich sacks called Happy Sacks. They come in fun colors and are velcro and very easy to clean and use:

Etsy is another great resource for sandwich, snack and lunch bags. Etsy is a website that allows millions of crafters, artists and collectors to sell their designs, creations and wares. Many of the crafters have created (wow, that's a mouthful) many fun options for just this thing. I love Julie Meyer. She makes sandwich and lunch bags in oil cloth which is quite easy to clean and wipe off. They are perfect for small sandwiches or snacks. Just click on the picture to go to her shop on Etsy. Below is her gingham and polka dot prints in yellow but she has many more prints.

These are from Green Street (also on Etsy).

Then, I saw these on Decor8. They are just so chic and fun and perfect for an adult or a child. They are designed by DownhomeAmy - also on Etsy.

2. Try to buy bulk snacks (in one large box) and transfer it to plastic containers (or metals ones) that are reusable. Of course look for plastic ones that are BPA free like the ones above from Pottery Barn Kids. I'm not perfect here. I am definitely guilty of throwing the mini gold fish bags in their lunch or for a car trip but I try to do the "transfer thing." It is so much better. Sigg makes a great aluminum set for snacks (and sandwiches also).

As for utensils, why use disposable? It's pretty easy to throw the silverware in the dishwasher when you get home. The idea is that your lunch box or bag comes home with only the containers or bags that held your food to be washed or wiped down. You should not have to throw out anything!

For more info on waste-free lunches. Check out:


Monday, May 18, 2009

The National Stationery Show- Sub Studio

picture from Sub-Studio Design Blog

I spent all Sunday in the lovely (with sarcasm) Jacob Javits conference hall in NYC at the National Stationery Show. And although my feet still hurt from all that walking, it proved to be a fun, lively and inspirational show as usual. It always amazes me how incredible cool, fun, talented and nice the people are in the Stationery industry. It makes being in the awful Javits Center such a pleasure. Perhaps it is because fine stationery and letterpress is so close to fine art and I have such a great appreciation for contemporary designers and artists. I find this group particularly calm, smart and as I said before just darn cool. I took many business cards and catalogs and was happily inspired by the lovely Erika Firm at Delphine who has a beautiful new collection of monogram stationery and the chic bamboo stationery by Smock Paper and the aways totally cool and fun Susy Jack. It was also such a pleasure to meet the lovely women behind Linda and Harriet at a great line that I'll be carrying soon.

I was especially taken with the Sub-Studio booth. Their line is modern, vintage, fun, chic and unique. I really loved their nursery rhyme prints (don't they remind you of the beginning of a James Bond film)?

And I absolutely love their sealife cards:

They have a very nice blog also. Check it out:

Please - I beg you, don't let technology, Iphones, Evites, emails, etc. kill the fine stationery industry! Keep sending beautiful cards and invitations to friends for birthdays, thank yous, celebrations or just to say hello. I get so much junk in the mail but a simply hand written note on a beautiful card just makes my day! Thanks!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Why do we love Snowden?

Snowden Flood.

Ok, first things first-her name. It's just darn cool. But, come on. That's not why we love her. Oh there is just so much more to Snowden.

Snowden Flood is an interior designer who studied Fine Art in London and then later came to New York City to pursue a Master's degree in Sculpture at the Parsons School of Design.

After graduating, she worked at the Brookyln Museum of Art in the Design department and then with the amazing architect Peter Marino as a designer and a textile specialist. There she worked with clients (and we are going to "name-drop" here) such as Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, Chanel and the Four Seasons Hotel.

Snowden is back in London now and working on her really cool collection of tabletop, cushions, tea towels and aprons.

But why do we really love her (aside from the fact that she is such a pleasure to work with)? She takes the landscapes of London and recreates it into a chic, fun, graphic and colorful image. She places these images on things we can use such as tea towels, mugs and aprons-we love great design that is also useful! She sees the lines of the building, the shapes, the patterns- the beauty of human creation and ingenuity. She sees beauty where others just ignore it. These images are great for those who have traveled to London or lived there and can relate to them. But I love them just because they are modern, simple and fun.

first row (l to r): Tate Modern apron, Albert Bridge tea towel, Battersea Power Station apron
second row: London River Series mugs, St. Paul's Cathedral tea towel

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I'm not trying to be eco-elitist . . .new Tuesday Series

My first "eco-post" was inspired by the term "eco-elitist" that I had just read about. It's true some people can take this whole green thing quite seriously and I'm sure it upsets people to let go of their comforts and habits. I get it. But being more aware of your impact on the environment is a good thing and rewarding those who have fully embraced it (eg. parking spaces for hybrid cars only) is also a good thing. So, in my opinion being a eco-conscience is also a good thing and if that makes me an eco-elitist and if that is meant to be a derogatory word than so be it- sign me up! Every Tuesday, I'm going to post more tips in my newly created "The Eco-elitist" series. It should be fun and hopefully helpful (for me too). Only 2 tips this week but big ones.

1. Buy local- this is the best time to bring this up as it is nearing Farmer's Market season on the East Coast. When you buy local you are- supporting local farmers in your area (that's a good thing, right?), you are saving on the gas that is used (and the carbon dioxide that is released) when food is trucked or flown to the place where it is sold. And even better- you are buying food that is in season which tastes better and is better for you. Taking a child to a Farmer's Market is a great way to teach children about where our food comes from (it's not just from a store) and to appreciate good, healthy food. The best way to demonstrate this is to create a vegetable garden and let your children be involved in the maintenance of it. I know this isn't possible for everyone especially if you live in a city. I don't live in the city I know it's hard to find the time for such a big project! Look, I'm not perfect - I still buy bananas and avocados which cannot be purchased where I live and I buy berries out of season because they are a staple in our house but when I can I try to buy locally. Here are some other good reasons:

Also, if you don't know where the local Farmer's Markets are, you can try this site, simply type in your address and they will give you a list.

Lastly, if you really love to cook and love fresh food, join a Farmer's co-op. For a yearly fee, they will deliver their "harvest" of fruit, vegetables and sometimes their meat and dairy. Check out this site:

The importance of this way of eating really became evident to me when I traveled to Italy. In almost all of the regions of Italy, it is customary to eat what's in season. You just don't have fresh fruit in the winter. You have dried fruit. You don't order a Caprese salad (tomatoes, mozzarella and basil) in the winter- it's just not good and they are so right! Read Francis Mayes, Bella Tuscany. She talks about this also.

2. Teach your Children (or nieces, nephews, grandchildren, friend's kids etc.)-
It is amazing- I think the young generation really gets this. It is so natural to them. My daughter will pick up litter at the beach and throw it out. It home, she'll ask me before she throws something out whether it should go in the sink (for recycling) or the garbage. She is in no way a perfect angel but when it comes to being eco-aware, she's further along than most and she's only 5 and believe or not we don't spend that much time talking about it. My two favorite books for kids are below (click on the books to go straight to Amazon):

Laurie David's book is great for any child 4 and up. It is colorful and easy to read and gives you and your children or little friends great ideas and tips. Laurie is the ultimate eco-elitist and proud of it- her website is one of the most well-known sites about fighting Global Warming.

Definitely put this site on your radar. It is a great one. Now, Dr. Seuss's The Lorax is simply amazing. Many people don't know about it but let me tell you it is brilliant and will bring you to tears at then end- I swear. It was written in 1971 before being green even became trendy. It is a simple story of a man / creature (who knows?) called "The Once-ler" who discovers a tree called a "Truffula Tree" that once chopped down can be used to create a "Sneed" which of course "everyone needs" and proceeds to chop down all of the Truffala trees to keep "biggering" his "Sneed" company. The Lorax is the defender of the land where these trees grow and tries to stop the "Once-ler" from killing the birds, fish and all the animals that thrive off this habitat but cannot-but the lesson is finally learned in the end. It is a great book that you'll enjoy reading and will learn from!

Look, we all like to have beautiful things for ourselves and to give as gifts. You can buy products from companies that have found ways to make great things with sustainable material (so no resources are being depleted to produce it). Such as Smock Paper (made from bamboo)
Or candles made from soy from Kobo. Or growing your own ingredients like our friends at Soap and Paper Factory who grow their own Verbena to use in their amazing candles, soaps, drawer liners and bath powder. Lastly, purchase good quality so that it lasts. Avoid the desire to buy cheap and then dispose- it is this terrible cycle that we need to stop. Thanks!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Coral and Turquoise

I love color, especially summer colors. I don't always have the bravery to wear them but I certainly plan on doing it. There are two colors that I will always gravitate towards and they are turquoise and coral (or is it coral and turquoise?). They are tropical, fun, sophisticated and always easy to wear back to white. They make me think of Palm Beach and Capri and great vintage enameled jewelry. I read almost every magazine and I'm not a fashion diva by any means but I do get excited when I see a spread that speaks to me. OK, let me clarify- there is no spiritual "speaking" going on- I mean it's only clothes and it's not life changing- just inspirational. So, I scanned this great InStyle spread from the June issue because they choose my favorite summer colors so I just had to get all fashioney and talk about them. And, what's really uncanny, is I just received a new delivery of our extremely popular Matta dupatta scarves in (and I kid you not) white, turquouse and coral. Weird, huh? OK, maybe there is something spiritual happening? OK, maybe not. So, I had fun putting together a collage of what I have in store at in turquoise and coral (and in coral and turquoise). I guess I've been so inspired! Yes, I know, some of my items are orange and not really coral but I really love them all together- they are just shades of coral, right? Just . . . work with me here.

1st row (l to r): Hable Construction photo album, Matta coral scarf, John Derian winged insect
2nd row: Helene Batoff leather orange frame, Sukie notebook, MZ Wallace "Olivia" bag
3rd row: Marianella soap, Mad Imports tophandle clutch, Matta turquoise scarf

Free shipping over $75.00 and 20% off to my loverly blog readers, using code: coralturq, now through May 22nd. Thanks!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Fellow blogger friends and students

I have just finished a blogging course taught by the most knowledgeable Holly Becker of decor8. It has been 4 weeks of inspiration, challenges, great tips, criticism and thoughtful praise and the all too familiar anxiety of not getting one's homework done in time! The class was called "Blogging Your Way" and 200 people were logging in each week to discuss all the joys and frustrations of starting a blog for the first time- answering and discussing questions such as-

What do I write about?
How do I attract readers or advertisers?
Should I embrace Twitter and why?
How do I find my voice?
How do I overcome fear and negativity?
and more simply- Is my blog header OK?

I found it most enjoyable, satisfying and useful and I got to meet some really cool people and read some really great blogs- I love discovering so this was quite fun for me. Since blogging is truly about sharing at its core- most of our assignments were focused on sharing our thoughts on blogs that we liked (and why), blogs we would most like to emulate and this week we were asked to post the blogs that we discovered through this class. I did a collage of the blogs that I found and now love and here they are:


Fresh365 is one of the most beautiful food blogs I've seen because of its photography and simplicity. You will love perusing her close-up shots of peas, fiddlehead ferns and risotto. You will want to stop what you are doing right away and cook and eat and keep cooking and eating. She knows how to inspire! It's also all vegetarian!
Inspired Bride is pure eye candy. The writer, Maddy is sharp, witty and has a wonderful taste level. Her choices of dresses, cakes, gifts, flowers, you name it will have you rushing to the alter just because it can be fun to plan a wedding. It can be (sometimes). I only wish that the internet existed when I was married- she'd be my gal- oh boy, I'm so aging myself! She is also quite prolific- posting several times a day.
Hardakerandpope- is a sweet, lovely blog written by two women who live in the Cotswolds in England. The love great design, great food and have an eye for beautiful fabric and crafts. They have children and often share the wonderful baking or craft creations that come up with-I fully envy their talent and patience. I only wish I had a crafty bone in my body- but I do appreciate it!
WhenIGrowup- Everyone should have their own personal life coach. Hmmm. Do you think that could ever happen? Like every college student has a laptop now? Could there be a time when insurance requires a life coach along with your primary care? Just imagine-you could bring them with you everywhere and ask them how you should handle a situation or they could talk you out of an arguement before it happens or even better- get you off Etsy and Facebook so you can actually get some work done!? Hmmmm. I think I should lobby for that. OK, until that day comes, Michelle is your girl. Not sure how she always knows the problems or stress that I'm dealing with the second I log onto her blog-but she does. She has great ideas, great wit and is just so darn simple in her advice and most importanlty- she's fun. We all need a little moment to breathe- take a breath and check her out.
CityChicCountryMouse- this is a new blog about a Mom and a Daughter starting their own Etsy business making aprons, ironing board covers and clothespin holders. The daughter, Jamie, writes the blog and has a great eye on all things crafted and beautiful!

Thanks Holly for the great class and for your fabulous inspiration.

If you are interested in future classes, click on the BYW button to the right to get more information.