Sunday, September 28, 2008

Superior storage

I was delighted to run across this set of Euro Play Cases/Nested Country Cottages ($36 for two) at Oliebollen (where practically everything for sale is cute). Not only are they adorable, but I already own a set—or at least some that are very similar—and it's always nice to meet up with old friends online. Mine came as a gift (thanks, S&D!) via the Land of Nod a couple years ago, after I had put them on my baby registry. Just like an iPod, though, two years go by and the new version comes out with improved features and more memory: These nesting houses now have velcro doors on the side and hold 16GB of trains and vintage Fisher Price Little People. (via Cool Mom Picks)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Kingdom, phylum, class, order

Where does exquisite letterpress fall in the taxonomy of cute? I've long felt the need to come up with a workable classification system for the vast world of cute, if only to get things straight in my own mind. But why do it myself, when I can cut and paste from Wikipedia—a graphic that explains the hierarchy of biological classification, plus a surprising definition of cuteness—and end up with something that looks almost scientific:
Cuteness is a kind of attractiveness commonly associated with youth and appearance, as well as a scientific concept and analytical model in ethology, first introduced by Konrad Lorenz. It is usually characterized by (though not limited to) some combination of infant-like physical traits, especially small body size with a disproportionately large head, large eyes, a small nose, dimples, and round and softer body features. Infantile personality traits, such as playfulness, fragility, helplessness, curiosity, innocence, affectionate behavior and a need to be nurtured are also generally considered cute.

Konrad Lorenz argued in 1949 that infantile features triggered nurturing responses in adults and that this was an evolutionary adaptation which helped ensure that adults cared for their children, ultimately securing the survival of the species.

I promise to work out a real system of my own very soon. But, whatever their ultimate classification, the letterpress cards made by Product Superior definitely fall somewhere in the kingdom cute:

The company's online shop is breathtaking, but apparently not open for business yet; for now, buy cards and paper goods through their Etsy shop. (via Design Sponge)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Catalog curator: Rockler, Rejuvenation

When I said I page through every catalog, I mean every catalog. There's always something cute, even in Rockler Woodworking and Hardware. Take, for instance, this Hand-Operated Mini-Flocker ($5.99). Not only is the applicator/canister appealing in a found-in-the-basement-at-an-estate-sale sort of way, but think of the many and varied cute uses you could put this toward. Why, you could flock the inside of all your holiday gift boxes, or fancify random wooden containers you own so they are soft and pretty on the inside!
For bigger projects, upgrade to the Air-Assisted Flocking Gun ($59.99)—not quite as cute in its design, but it "propels fibers at a perfect velocity for optimum adhesion on vertical surfaces, corner, and other tricky areas," which is likely worth the tradeoff.

If we ever have the funds to redo our bathroom, Rejuvenation's porcelain fixtures, hardware, and switchplates will be at the top of my list. The Streamline Porcelain lighting collection offers seven styles in black, white, and (my favorite) green; the Chandler Porcelain Bath Hardware covers basics like soap dish, hooks, toilet paper holder, and this adorable cup and holder; and coordinating Porecelain Switchplates add the final touch.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hot for fall: crying food

I'm the first to admit you can't just slap tears on any old cartoon images of food and expect it to be cute. But it works most of the time. I bought There's No Crying In Breakfast on a baby onesie for a friend last year, but it was out of stock in most other sizes. Happily, now it's back! Too bad most sizes only come in royal blue. I thought only free promotional T-shirts were royal blue.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Catalog curator: Crate and Barrel, Eddie Bauer

I’ve got a weakness for plaid, and Crate and Barrel’s Nomad Storage Cube ($299) is speaking to me, even though I can’t certify it as 100% cute. Maybe in the right context? For a few more options (and great deals), skip the grown-up stuff in C&B’s print catalog and go straight to the website. I can vouch for the adorability of the Gus Glasses—now just $0.95 apiece—as earlier this year I bought a set of 12 in the highball size after I got fed up with our dwindling set of mismatched vintage glasses. They even feel cute in the hand:

From the Outlet, I like these Appetizer Plates ($1.50 each), which could also serve as trays to corral keys and cell phone or small desktop items:
And I’m sure the Lacey Felt Placemat ($2.95) could be used in any number of creative ways (I just can’t think of any right now):

Not on sale but cute all the same are the Etch Sheet Sets; I’d buy just the pillowcases ($24.95 for a standard set) and use with plain white sheets:

Next up: Eddie Bauer. Usually, gray, wet days beg for fun prints and cute, cheery accessories (see my post about the Cupcake Land boots I got for my daughter), but EB wisely keeps its rain gear understated, so you can use it even when you don't feel like standing out from the crowd. The dog print on the Mini Travel Umbrella ($16.50) is suitable for most any man, woman, or child:

and I like it in the black/red combo on the Tall Rubber Rain Boots ($49.50), too:
But if you’re like me, you really only need heavy-duty boots when the basement floods. For everyday wear, I have to go with EB’s pièce de résistance, these low Rubber Rain Boots ($39.50) that somehow manage to conjure old-fashioned galoshes and old-school sneakers:

Saturday, September 20, 2008

My perfect grocery store

While shopping last week I was struck, for about the millionth time, by just how long it takes to find any single item at the grocery store, even when you always buy the same brand and size. This is by no means a new or original observation, but still, as they say, it's true. Then, as often happens, a few days later I saw an article in the New York Times that took my fleeting thought and fleshed it out into a relevant, interesting story:
Miles of Aisles for Milk? Not Here
New York Times,
September 9, 2008
HARMAR TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Like cars and homes, grocery stores are beginning to shrink.

After years of building bigger stores — many larger than a football field and carrying 60,000 items — retailers are experimenting with radically smaller grocery stores that emphasize prepared meals, fresh produce and grab-and-go drinks.

The idea is to lure time-starved shoppers who want to pick up a few items or a fast meal without wandering long grocery aisles or paying restaurant prices. Read full article
I have long dreamed of having my very own scaled-back store, a place that carries just one choice for every essential item. I guess this is my winning-the-lottery fantasy: A well-lit, beautiful storefront—a blend of fancy boutique, old-fashioned general store, and pantry of eccentric billionaire recluse—located within walking distance of my house. It would stock either the best (that is, my favorite) or the cutest of every type of item I typically buy at the grocery store, plus the occasional great new thing I might like to try. Others would be welcome to shop there, too, but I think I would be the only one authorized to use the drive-thru.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Random office cute

One of these days I'll have to find another good word for "cute" to use in my post titles, but I refuse to worry about it on this particular Friday. Like many of you, I've been enamored with office supplies—cute and plain—since I was a kid. And although I've had several decades to shop for notepads, staplers, and desk accessories, I still feel like I'm searching for that elusive perfect scented-eraser-and-pencil set that will make my life complete. I'm sure this Miki House pencil case ($15) would have delighted me just as much 30 years ago as it does today. I think it's the back view, with the jauntily tied scarves, that sold me:

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Catalog cute, revisited

So I gave up trying to cancel all my catalogs. Perhaps one day I’ll give it another go. But no matter whether it’s J. Crew, Uline, or the Oriental Trading Company, I just can’t help but look through every page of every catalog that comes through our mail slot and compulsively turn down the corners of pages with stuff that catches my eye, for whatever reason. To hell with the design editors who promise a happier, simpler life if only you would put those unwanted catalogs—and all your other junk mail—directly into a recycle bin by your front door (“Might we suggest a $98 Hable Construction storage box that perfectly coordinates—but not so much that it looks matchy—with the rest of your 8' x 10' entryway?”).

With this realization, then, I bring you a new regular feature: Catalog cute. I would try to articulate my criteria for what is cute, but it’s more difficult than one might think. So much of what people call “cute” just isn’t. What I’m looking for is more than baby animals or appealing and cheery patterns; it has to have that certain je ne sais cute, that special combination of zing and purity that gives me a feeling similar to a completed row of Tetris blocks, disappearing with a quick poof! Brief, fleeting happiness—perhaps not true genius or beauty, but a more human and democratic pleasure. Or something.

First off, then, comes a challenge: Country Curtains. I think I actually solicited this catalog when I was looking for a roller shade to go under our bedroom curtains. I wanted a step up from the cheap polyester kind, but I needed something with a simple mechanism that wouldn’t take up a lot of space and that came in a width to fit our window. Looking around online, this Textured Woven Shade in Natural ($38–$99) seemed to fit the bill, so I sent away for a sample. It really is quite appealing in person, although I never got around to buying one—we rarely open the bedroom curtains, so the cheapy shade that came with the house is just fine. (Plus it’s free.) But I like that I can imagine this shade in both a modern setting as well as a tidy grandma’s sky-blue condo bedroom.

As for the rest of the catalog, well, the curtains mostly seem to be designed for someone else’s house. But the website offers some decently cute home “accents,” including a couple of the hooked-wool variety, which always get me. I love the nostalgia of the “I'm Pining for You” pillow, and the Alice hooked rug’s simple, pretty design and timeless color combo would add a homey touch to a too-modern bedroom or entryway. The granny-square throw isn't bad, although I'm still partial to Garnet Hill's more sophisticated (and, at $328, way more expensive) Haverhill Afghan Throw.

Catalogs photo from

Friday, September 12, 2008

Timeless cute: Painted clogs

Haven’t painted clogs (like these for $128 at Anthropologie) been an almost-trend for more than a decade? I know I’ve been trying to figure it out for at least that long.

In the last ten years, I’ve gone through several clog phases: There were a couple weeks about eight years ago when I really really really wanted clogs with skis painted on them. (I finally ordered some and discovered they were ugly, so sent them back.) Then I dabbled with white woven Bastad clogs that my then-boyfriend/now-husband thought were iffy, stylewise, but that he changed his tune about after a stylish girl on the streets of Williamsburg asked me about them.

At some point I won a pair of Gretel’s clogs—similar to the green-and-yellow ones below—on eBay, but they were too big, even with thick socks. Eventually, I got practical and went the Dansko route for a while.

Finally, I bought some red painted Olsson clogs from Delia’s for about $45 four or five years ago, and that seemed to take care of the itch for me. While I still like and wear them (and always get compliments), somehow I lost the desire for more. Now I can look at the $128 Anthropologie option and know that this trend, too, shall pass.

But maybe you haven’t found your pair yet. If not, check out some of these cheaper alternatives. (I do love Anthro, but you've got to admit their “boutique” prices are annoying.)

Clockwise, from top left: Tessa Clogs Blue Klara, $89; Granna's Pink Painted Clog, $64.80; Gretel's Clogs, Size 37, $36.99 BIN on eBay; Montana Clogs Navy Forget-Me-Not, $110; Dalahorse Clog, $45; Dala Red Painted Clog, $110; Dala Turquoise Anna, $99.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

So much cute, so little time

So sorry for the unplanned hiatus! I'll spare you the drawn-out excuses and just say 1) I have a two-year-old, 2) I work from home, and 3) I have, at best, an average motivation level.

Anyway, there's always a backlog of cute things out there, and I'm pleased to have recently acquired two of them for my daughter—both on sale for about $15 each, which only enhances their cute power. I'm so happy to have a child who—right now anyway—will wear whatever I choose. I love everything about these Chooka Cupcake Land Rain Boots, and although I'm not sure where this Cupcake Land is (somewhere out west, I'm guessing—New Mexico or Nevada?), it sounds like a great destination for a family vacation.

Then there's this Forest Print Jacket from Crazy 8. Patterns are sometimes hard to match, but this is muted enough that it almost works as a neutral. I'm afraid that I don't know my forest animals well enough to say whether that's a chipmunk or a skunk, but he's pretty great either way, right?