Friday, December 20

link it up

Welcome back to blogging to me, huh? It's been a icky/relaxing/stressful week of recovery, but I'm lucky that my hugely massive face wasn't in too much pain and I'm hoping I'm good to fly this evening. D and I are heading North to be with my family and I can't wait.    

If Buzz from Home Alone had an instagram...(Buzz's girlfriend, woof)

A video worth watching for a good giggle about my favorite holiday movie: 19 questions everyone asks about Love Actually.

Want to try these gorgeous, glamorous finger waves for a holiday party this weekend. The instructions seem very straightforward.

Heard of Catalog Living? It documents the lives of catalog dwellers. "So many chalkboard to-do lists, so little time"!

This foodie tour through "the South's tastiest town" (durham) is interesting for obvious reasons. I'm proud to say that I've tried (and adored) all the places listed here except one...the bar! Bar Lusconi, you are on the short list for a visit in January.

Monday, December 16


Hi there. Posting may be spotty this week, as I'm getting my wisdom teeth out this afternoon. Oh joy!

I've been prepping recipes for my liquid diet these next few days. Obviously the Glowing Green Smoothie is playing a primary role, but I picked up the ingredients for a kale and pear smoothie as well.

For a heartier meal, I'm looking forward to trying this sweet potato soup and a broccoli soup. Whenever butter or olive oil are called for, you can use coconut oil instead.

If you're wondering how I'll get my ice cream fix, never fear: one-ingredient soft serve to the rescue.

Friday, December 13

link it up

There are too, too many awesome things going around, making this a long link up, even after I've moved some of the less time-sensitive ones to next week. I'm in Dallas, enjoying the remnants of an ice storm, but can't wait to get home tomorrow for a relaxing weekend and a dear friend's holiday party. AND, there might even be a rare siting of the nearly extinct D (it's been a hellish month of applications-are-due-for-summer-internships-that-almost-always-dictate-your-first-job along with finals-for-tough-core-classes-with-which-you-have-no-experience. Oh joy!)

Sesame Street disorders. This is so clever that I almost think they're onto something...

Thanks to my friend K for this article on an insanely aggressive and disruptive vision for one of my favorite companies.

A thoughtful response to your child's Christmas List. Laughed out loud (at the Marriott).

The greatest Christmas surprise ever, from an airline I've never even heard of.

What your grocery store says about you. But if my two favorite stores are Trader Joe's and Costco...WHAT'S MY POLITICAL LEANING?

And finally, my personal favorite: The most shared videos of 2013. So many classics. "I just shipped my pants", "hump DAAYEE", and a few I actually hadn't seen yet.

Thursday, December 12

bibliophile [angry house wives eating bon bons]

Another weird title, another fun read.

This was my book club's second read, after Orphan Master's Son. It was almost equally long, but a bit lighter in content: the story follows the lives of 5 book clubbers, all married and living in Minnesota. Here, a blurb can do it better than I can:

Five friends live through three decades of marriages, child raising, neighborhood parties, bad husbands and good brownies-and Landvik doesn't miss a single cliche as she chronicles their lives in this pleasant but wholly familiar novel of female bonding. Their personal dramas are regularly punctuated by reflections on political milestones ("First Martin Luther King, Jr., then Bobby Kennedy. As if we didn't have enough to worry about with this stupid war..."). While some scenes are touching and genuinely funny, readers of Fannie Flagg, Rita Mae Brown, Rebecca Wells and many imitators will feel that they've seen this before.

I actually wasn't as moved with this as I was with The Supremes, although they're a similar story line. My biggest complaint is the predictability- I was never bored, but I often saw where things were going. Seriously, every plot line you can imagine is in here: AIDS, war, infidelity, homosexuality, PTSD, cancer, abuse, alcoholism, the kitchen sink, divided among 6 (!!) different narrators. And amazingly, every one of these issues get's resolved in a the best way! Hooray!

I'm being flippant. It was fun to read and I enjoyed it, perfect for a beach read with your girlfriends, but I just don't think it invited too much conversation...then again, I was sick on book club night, so perhaps the debate was lively and varied. That's what I get for catching a bad cold.

Wednesday, December 11

DIY [gold lamp shade]

I'm fully convinced that classy, elevated spaces are made so by their lighting. Sophisticated lighting creates the mood and atmosphere more than anything else, in my opinion, and isn't the feel of a room the whole point of decor?

I've come to this realization through my many, many nights in hotels, both the good and the bad. We can all relate to the harsh, sterile white light  the JW Marriott on Central Park, for example, has an impressive, multi-dimensional lighting scheme that completely blew me away: dim but effective motion-activated track lighting under bathroom sink (no more blinding yourself when you need to brush your teeth or visit in the night), back-lit artwork to bring subtle attention to the room's best features, ceiling lights, bedside scones, standing lamps, all creating many layers of light and tone. Truly gorgeous and special and pretty inexpensive for the impact. Oh yeah, and dimmers on EVERYTHING.

Since I had this realization, I've been trying to create an intentional lighting scheme for our home...tough, as a renter, but not impossible. My tripod floor lamp and a table lamp on our dresser give almost enough light to make the dreaded apartment ceiling light unnecessary, but I needed one last source to round out the room and provide functional bedtime light: a lamp on the nightstand.

Until I can afford my dream lamp (don't ask what color, I want them all), I head to Target. I was drawn towards this simple base from Target and a matching shade, $9.99 each. I think the geometric faceted shade is reminiscent of the Robert Abbey, no? (humor me here people)

It's nice, but a bit blah at the same time, and I don't love the transparency of the shade with the light on. I've always wanted to try painting the inside of a shade, and this was the perfect opportunity to choose my first victim. It's a fun pop of color and a cheap way to add the small, layered details that make a house a home. Fortunately, it couldn't be easier. Here's how:

First thing to do is protect the areas you don't want painted. I learned this trick somewhere along the way: use a plastic bag to help with your spray painting projects. It can cover large areas so you don't use a whole roll of tape. Tape it around the rim and you're good to go.

Spray several light coats over the interior, allowing it to dry for 20 minutes in between. Light coats are crucial here, because you shouldn't sand something so fragile if you can avoid it. At this point I got quite excited by how reflective the paint is off of the angles, even sans filter (#instalife).

If you've taped well (make sure to protect the inside rim!), you will be able to peel away a clean line. You'll need multiple small pieces of tape to work your way around the curved edge. Quick tip: by layering one piece of tape over the one before it, you can remove it in one long pull.

Et voila! This was a one-hour project  including drying time, cost me nothing, and added a little somethin' somethin' to a generic, mass-produced lamp. And the best part: check out this shine! Especially compared to the first image, where the tone was white and the shade transparent, I'm appreciating my opaque shade and golden glow.

Tuesday, December 10

Monday, December 9

cheap eats [candied nuts]

My friend had D and I over for dinner and made these butternut squash stuffed shells with sage...oh yum. We were in charge of bringing a side and a drink, and if there's anything that I and D know, it's vegetables and alcohol, respectively.

My first thought was a light salad, since the shells will be warm and heavy. I love a good harvest salad, and there are endless combinations- apple or pears for fruit, craisins or grapes for sweetness, gorgonzola, blue, or goat cheese for creaminess, pecans, walnuts, or pumpkin seeds for crunch, and of course a sweet, vinegary dressing to top it off. Don't even get me started on the variety of lettuces that work here.

Don't get me wrong, I love nuts, butter and sugar, but I don't love becoming a chubster over the holidays, so I hunted down a healthier version of candied nuts. I loosely followed this recipe (cut out the white sugar entirely, added the vanilla extract to the wet mix rather than the dry, and almost doubled the spices).

brown sugar and mucho spices
Instead of your traditional candied nut recipe, which calls for butter and lots o' sugar, this version uses egg whites and water to coat the nuts before they get their light brown sugar bath. Trust me, they bake up crunchy, crispy, and plenty sweet. For my salad, I mixed 'em up with goat cheese, dried cherries, granny smith apples, and a raspberry vinaigrette).

bake until they lose the wet, shiny look. they smell DIVINE
These make an excellent gift as well- try doing a homemade gourmet gift basket for friends, including these nuts, candied citrus peel, rosemary pecan bark, maybe some apple butter, and the DIY beef jerky and cocktail bitters here.

(P.S.- for drinks, we went with an amaretto sour, but used this recipe so we could add 100 proof bourbon. our deer approves.)

Friday, December 6

link it up

I'm having a lovely time in DC and Baltimore this weekend, before Dallas next week. Then I am done-zo with the travel until the holidays, and THAT is a Christmas miracle. I was adding up the numbers for my friend: 8 flights in November, 7 flights in December, no wonder I'm so sick right now. I'm battling a cold that I hope doesn't progress into the's so offensive to me when I get sick, like my body is betraying me despite the absurdly healthy lifestyle I like to think I live. Guess not. Moving on.

That there is a decorated fiddle leaf fig. A Festive Ficus, if you will. I'm not above using Latin classifications for holiday alliterations. This is the end result of my christmas tree replacement post from yesterday. No figgys were harmed in the making of this decor (they're only hanging off the ends, very precariously, I might add).

11 awkward things about email. Accurate and amusing.

I bet you never thought you could get your amazon order delivered in 30 minutes. This creeps me out for some reason.

My friend L and I want to host a party just like this after the holidays.

Pantone's color of the year will be released soon. It's like double Christmas! Here are a few predictions from folks who should know.

The latest issue of Lonny. Bring on the lovely.

Thursday, December 5

DIY [christmas tree replacement]

Decorating for the holidays is fun but can be expensive- I get so must-have-it when I see great decor, but it really isn't something to spend big bucks on, since it'll only be used a few months out of the year. That makes it a great candidate for DIY.

My first round of holiday decor DIY is all about finding a replacement for the Christmas tree that is not meant to be this year.

1. Spray paint some branches, or use spray adhesive and cover with glitter. Cheap replacement for flowers/tree and they'll last all season, if not longer. All you need is a vase to hold them!

2. If you have a string of white lights and some thumbtacks, you can make a tree. Great option if, like us, you have no floor space for a Christmas tree.

3. Ok, these next two take up almost as much space as a tree, but if you already own the ladder it's cheaper and WAY less work and up-keep.

4. This one is similar to the ladder. You could use wooden dowels to make the tree form on the cheap. I like this one because you can easily hang ornaments, rather than just lights.


Wednesday, December 4

bibliophile [The Supreme's at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat]

Although the title is super annoying, the book is super good.

The Supreme's at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat, by Edward Kelsey Moore

I thought the title was a bit silly, but I had heard such good things that I decided to overlook it. I'm so glad I did- this was a heartwarming tale of friendship with a good mix of drama and humor. Blurb time:

Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat is home away from home for an inseparable Plainview, Indiana, trio.  Dubbed “the Supremes” by high school pals in the tumultuous 1960s, they weather life’s storms together for the next four decades. Through marriage, children, happiness, and the blues, these strong, funny women gather each Sundayat the same table at Earl’s diner for delicious food, juicy gossip, occasional tears, and uproarious banter. With wit and love, style and sublime talent, Edward Kelsey Moore brings together four intertwined love stories, three devoted allies, and two sprightly earthbound spirits in a big-hearted debut novel that embraces the lives of people you will never forget. 

This was a feel-good read for sure. I got a little teary at points, and laughed out loud once or twice, but for the most part I just floated along with the chronological plot and endearing characters. This was better than most books of this genre, because the characters went through defined and appropriate development and they were all, in the end, strong women (nothing I hate more than a weak-willed protagonist). Honestly, this is a great book club pick. Let me know if you pick it up.

Tuesday, December 3

cheap eats [thanksgiving edition]

I planned on sharing our Thanksgiving menu BEFORE the holiday, but late is better than ever, right? Especially when it's this good.

Below are some of our recipes from Thanksgiving. Not shown are the wonderful things that come from my mother's experience/head, including stuffing, mashed potatoes, creamed onions, and gravy, and the things that came from my father's frier, like the turkey(s).

Also made three types of cranberry sauce: a horseradish from Gourmet, a classic cinnamon spice, and a citrus port (my personal fave).

Dijon-Braised Brussels Sprouts, from Smitten Kitchen
(followed recipe but added way more shallots and broiled just before serving. this was killer.)

Bacon Bourbon Whipped Sweet Potatoes with Fried Sage, from How Sweet Eats
(completely eliminated the brown butter, still awesomely delicious)

Cranberry Ribbon Apple Pie, from Bon Appetit
(have made this for the last 5+ thanksgivings. 4 lbs of apples? yes please.)

Triple Chocolate Cheesecake, from Martha Stewart (but with a gingersnap crust)
(the ganache was the best part, probably b/c we used low-fat errything for the cheesecake part)

Citrus Pumpkin Pie with Grand Marnier Cream, from Bon Appetit
(yummy but simple pumpkin pie (Grandpa's favorite) and absurdly easy to make)

Monday, December 2

Christmas wishlist

Hey there. I assume you were too busy on turkey and online shopping this past Thursday and Friday to notice the lack of posting (that's what I was doing, anyway).

I love a good Christmas list, but it can be tough to think of things that make good gifts (rather than things I want to go buy for myself). My most frequent purchases are clothes, which I personally feel don't make a great gift- sizing and preference are too tricky. Lauren Conrad has a rule that all gifts need to be able to be used up- think candles and gourmet goodies. While I don't agree, I really liked the idea and I'm sure it helps her manage her possessions.

Here are the most crave-able things I've found this season. Perhaps one or two may work for your own loved ones, or you can just ship 'em my way. Don't forget that today is Cyber Monday!

Gold Flatware

Want. So badly. These babies are from West Elm ($104 for a set of 4, really a good deal, but of COURSE you need 8). A lot of the items I crave this year are the kinds of things you register for. Just because you're putting off marriage until later in  your adult life doesn't mean you have to put off owning adult things. AND West Elm is doing 25% off everything at the moment with the code STOCKUP. That's a deal if I ever saw one. While you're at it, I'm in love with this pillow.


I posted about this company before, but I just continue to love them, the Ryan T in particular. As you can see above, they run big, so be careful- I'm not a small girl, but I wear a small. Check out their cashmere, silk, and fine leather goods while you're there!


My brother has this mandoline from Crate and Barrel, and says it's excellent. If you need something cheaper, I hear this one is great, too.

Plaid Scarf

Isn't this the sweetest? At Zara. Or if I've been really good, a Johnstons of Elgin (100% cashmere from Scotland, stalking the hell out of a few on Ebay).

Kindle Paperwhite.

My brother gave me a Kindle years and years ago, and while I love it, it's started acting squirrely and needs to be replaced. I think the paperwhite best suits my needs (just a clean reader).

Silk Long Underwear

Don't knock it 'til you try it. Super lightweight and super warm, but not thick.

So what's on your list this year?!

Wednesday, November 27

DIY [gold monogram phone case]

I like this project because it fixed an actual issue, the issue being my terribly ugly phone case. I wish I had taken a picture of it to show you- I bought this Cimo frosted clear phone case for my Samsung Galaxy last April, which is not that long ago if you ask me. D has the same case in black, and it still looks great. Mine, however, became discolored- it wasn't dirty, but the clear plastic took on an amber hue that just looked yucky.

Perfect opportunity to turn lemons into lemonade, no?

First, pick a design. I love a good monogram- I think it's a bit playful and fun, but still professional. Pull up the font you like best (I just used one from microsoft, but there are TONS of free fonts you could use available online). I traced the outline onto contact paper, being careful to think about the direction of the font. Cut it out with an exacto or scissors, and slap it on the inside of the phone case.

Step two, tape up the back of your phone, which you won't want painted. Make sure to cover the holes as well, because spray paint has a sneaky way of settling everywhere you'll allow it. Cover it with a light, even coat of paint. You could use a brush, but I like the even, uniform application of a spray paint in this case.

Peel off the stickers and voila! The inside is so sparkly and glowy that it totally bums me out to turn it around, but thus is life. I think that, if the case hadn't turned amber, the gold would be more pronounced. Either way, it's a big improvement.

One more of it hanging out with my office supplies.

Monday, November 25

DIY [paying down debt]

**If you're bored to tears by money talk, a DIY with some shiny gold paint is coming your way tomorrow.

We're just kicking off a season of celebration, and in that spirit I wanted to share something I'm celebrating on the personal side this week: I paid off the $23,000 private loan used to afford my wonderful, worth-it undergrad degree in 43 months, or 3.5 years. Made a final lump payment on Friday evening, and it feels so. good.

the view that was worth $500/month to me
Paying off debt is a huge concern for me, and if conversations with friends and family are to be believed, it is for most of my loved ones as well (for real, I can't remember the last conversation I had with a friend that didn't have some financial/debt element). You can call educational costs "good debt" 'til the cows come home, but it's still debt and it still cripples your vision for the future (and your budget).

We all struggle with finding answers- should I pay more than the minimum? Should I refinance? Am I eligible for loan forgiveness? Should I prioritize debt repayment or building savings? That last one is a debate I've been losing sleep over for years, and a question I pose to anyone even loosely related to the financial industry in hopes of collecting good advice and data to find the perfect balance.

Ultimately, I made the decision to prioritize my private debt, because (1) it had a higher interest rate, and (2) my generous and supportive aunt and uncle co-signed on my loan in 2011. Although they could afford to carry that debt in their portfolio, I wanted to relieve them of that burden as soon as possible out of respect and appreciation. Thanks to their willingness to co-sign, I was able to move from a 9.8% interest rate (holy hell) to a 6.5% interest rate, which clearly saved me thousands and let me focus more energy and resources on attacking the principle balance, rather than just covering interest. This Christmas, I'm asking Santa to bless everyone I know with affluent, supportive family members to help them lower their interest rates, for real.

If my experience with paying off my private loan has given me any perspective, I have two takeaways:

1. It is worth taking on debt for something that is worth it. I have a deep affinity for my undergraduate education, and a lasting loyalty to the Jesuit liberal arts degree I received. I'm feeling a bit emotional as I write this, but the friends I made, the service and community projects I participated in, my introduction to development and non-profit fundraising, and the philosophy degree I earned were, undoubtedly, worth the debt. I don't think this is a message that gets shared as often as it should, as the opposite view of most-colleges-aren't-worth-the-cost is much more popular with my un- or under-employed peers, their parents, and the political sentiments of current society. I try not to complain about my debt, because it is something I willingly signed on for, as I believed it was worth it. If it wasn't a good investment, I had every ability to decline a loan, and with it my Loyola education. I'm a big believer in personal responsibility, but also a supporter of stretching your resources and energy to achieve something you deem worthwhile.

2. Spend your money before it spends itself. If I waited until the last day of the month to pay my loans, there wouldn't be any money left. Get your paycheck, pay your rent, pay your loans, put whatever % you can afford into savings, and what's left is what's left. Reading this post rang so true for me, because we used similar tactics to tackle debt (be careful, her blog is called "the hyperbalist" for a reason). If I didn't actively manage my finances through Mint and LearnVest, I would never have gotten this done. You don't need those tools, but they sure make it easy to track your spending over time, to zero in on problem areas, and to get the 30.000 foot view of your financial health. I endorse both programs whole-heartedly.

If you're concerned that my life will become listless and unfocused now that I don't have debt to tackle, never fear: I still have 5-figure debt with the feds, too. Bring it on (that one is for you, sister).

Friday, November 22

link it up

Let's make this a light week of link it ups, shall we? I head to chilly Buffalo Monday night and need to go out in good cheer.

my favorite thanksgiving tablescape (here)
The ultimate Thanksgiving drinking game. Family? Yes? I will DEFINITELY be doing a lot of these, including unbuttoning my pants, falling asleep, citing tryptophan as the cause, saying my diet starts tomorrow, trying to sneak something healthy on the table, eating too much pie, and starting the Christmas tunes (gotta admit, I've been cheating on Thanksgiving, but only because I had to hear Clarkson's Wrapped in Red). Basically, if we play this, I will be drunk.

these are just great: 24 clever print ads. Some advertisements really are top notch.

Bad engagement photos. People are dumb.

Mean Disney Girls. Combining two of my great loves.

Who has seen this incredible before and after photo? It sparked some heated debate on Reddit about the value and deception of makeup. And then I found this. #gameover

Women in STEM people, women in STEM (says the Philosophy major).

Thursday, November 21

Wednesday, November 20

bibliophile [await your reply]

Ooh a good one. Put it on your list for sure.

Await Your Reply, Dan Chaon

Straight to the blurby blurb:

The lives of three strangers interconnect in unforeseen ways--and with unexpected consequences--in acclaimed author Dan Chaon’s gripping, brilliantly written new novel.

Longing to get on with his life, Miles Cheshire nevertheless can’t stop searching for his troubled twin brother, Hayden, who has been missing for ten years.A few days after graduating from high school, Lucy Lattimore sneaks away from the small town of Pompey, Ohio, with her charismatic former history teacher. My whole life is a lie, thinks Ryan Schuyler, who has recently learned some shocking news. In response, he walks off the Northwestern University campus, hops on a bus, and breaks loose from his existence, which suddenly seems abstract and tenuous.

Await Your Reply is a literary masterwork with the momentum of a thriller, an unforgettable novel in which pasts are invented and reinvented and the future is both seductively uncharted and perilously unmoored.
I'll admit that my favorite reads involve characters I truly care about. This is not that. This is plot driven, with lots of tension and truly thriller-like pacing...almost like a Gone Girl (I hate that GG has become the litmus test for every novel/thriller I read, but there we are). You can just tell how intelligent the author must be to have woven such a complex story, and how imaginative (code for f'ed up). The Times gave a review, with which I largely agree, especially their categorization of Await as "unrelentingly bleak"; when I was 1/3 of the way through, I told a friend in my book club that I was pretty sure the main theme was a wasted life and unmet potential. I like The Times' use of the words "domestic novel" to describe the exact opposite of what Chaon writes- this is far more like a feral cat than a cuddly kitten, that's for sure. But then they liken Await to White Noise, a self-indulgent novel I hated, so it's agree and disagree over there. 

Monday, November 18

discover [oyster]

Something new to share with you all today: Oyster, AKA Netflix for bibliophiles.

You know how much I enjoy reading, far more than any other leisure activity (unless eating ice cream is considered a leisure activity). When I heard about Oyster, I was totally impressed and excited. For $10 per month, users can download unlimited books from their library of 100,000+ titles. Similarly to Netflix, they won't have the uber-new available, since licensing takes a bit to sort out.

Although my initial reaction is positive, I'm growing a bit more suspicious, probably in cohesion with how close I get to pulling out my credit card and setting up an account. Isn't Oyster pretty much a library? Yes, there is no waiting for titles, but you can only read one book at a time anyway, so putting novels I'd like to read on hold doesn't bother me. I can see it being an excellent decision for someone in a book club, because you need to read a specific book at a specific time, and would quite possibly have to buy it for $10 anyway.

I'm going to give their free one-month trial a shot anyway, most likely over the holidays. I want to get the most bang for my buck, what with all the travel time and relaxing by the fire with a good book...or 100,000 of them.

Friday, November 15

link it up

It's a tid bit chillier in NC than it was in Miami, where I spent the week. I don't mind the cooler temperatures, as I'm spending the weekend in the mountains with a few new girlfriends. I'm bringing cozy sweaters and leggings, taboo, a jug of wine and some mulling spices, so obviously this will be good.

I don't think this is what our cabin looks like...but we just won't know until we're there, right?
Hmm. Apparently it matters what kind of onion you use. I'm guilty of buying whatever is on sale...

Incredible. A man buys 10,000 undeveloped negatives at an auction. Check out what he found.

I can't wait to try a few eggnog dishes this season- it's one of my favorite flavors, but I don't think my family or D are big fans. I'm thinking these cheesecake bars or this cocktail.

Thoughtful piece on bringing Catholicism into the 21st century (thanks CM). One thing I've noticed about the South- almost every couple I've met belongs to a congregation. D and I have checked out a few non-denominational variations through the years, but none we connected with. Going to do some Durham exploring for sure.

One of the reasons I look forward to having kids is to mess with them. Dinovember seems like a wonderful place to start (some parents are truly creative geniuses).