Sunday, March 31

Happy Easter!

Missed my link up, but I'll get it up soon. For now, wanted to wish you all a Happy Easter (or Passover  if that's your bag, or just plain happy Sunday for everyone else). I've had a lovely few days home, relaxing with the family and, of course, decorating Easter eggs. More on that Monday, but for now, some inspiration.

I loved some of the more natural eggs I saw this year. Yummy Mummy used tea to stain her eggs...

...and Design*Sponge used fruits and vegetables, like cabbage, carrots, and blueberries, for their eggs.

I also learned of some new ways to paint. Martha the great taught me how to do a marbleized pattern...

...and Spoon Fork Bacon created these painterly eggs and the soft colors.

Off to eat a few more Cadbury eggs and take a nap.

Thursday, March 28

Discover [where I find the books I read]

I try to establish myself as a resource for good literature, particularly non-fiction novels. I actively share my favorites, make referrals to perfect strangers, and enjoy assuring fellow book lovers that I have indeed read their favorite novel, have my own opinion, and would like to debate the merits/failures over coffee.

Sometimes I get asked where I find the books I read. There are many, many ways to discover great reads- I think the most important tip I can give is to just keep your eyes open and be willing to whip out a pad and pen when someone gets on the topic of great lit. There are, however, a few standard sources that I return to consistently that I'd like to share here. Yes, I'll continue to read and review the books I read (both positive and negative), but many aren't on topics I enjoy and thus I skip them, meaning you may never hear about an acclaimed sci-fi or mystery that I choose to pass over. If you look where I look, you may find things more in tune to your interest.

Book Brackets

There are many book brackets throughout the year that I look forward to- I encourage you to follow the bracket, but also to click around the sites that host them and see what else you can dig up, whether it be other reviews or past years of the same competition.

The Morning News Tournament of Books (brought to you by one of my favorite companies, field notes, which makes rugged and attractive paper memo books in the US of A)

Nobel Prize in Literature- not exactly a bracket, but there is an elimination period that is as thrilling as any March Madness (maybe)


Oh lists. How I love you. Give me a list of 100 books and consider me done for days. I print them out, I highlight and star ones I've read or want to read, I ruminate angrily on books I disliked that made said list, it literally consumes me.

The best lists? If you want to be in the know regarding every book your friends will hear about (if you're a young-to-middle-aged middle class white person like me), you need to check out Oprah's Book Club. Cliche? Perhaps, but I didn't mind getting a head start on The Help. Besides, O and I share an affinity for Wally Lamb and Toni Morrison. Respect. The only book from her list that I deeply disliked was We Were the Muvaney's, and I've loved many.

The main list I respect is The Random House Best 100 Novels (published in 1998, so don't expect to find Gone Girl), and Radcliffe's Rival 100 Best Novels. I trust anything coming out of Cambridge, and you should too.

You can check out the NYT Bestsellers, if you can handle a ton of James Patterson. Sometimes the masses lack class.

Powerhouse Websites

NPR Books. Live it, love it. I get a TON of my ideas here, as they have so many lists (yay lists!!): Best Books of 2011, 3 Books to Read Before the End of the World, books sorted by topic, books sorted by ratings, books sorted by author, books about xyz, book podcasts, mobile book app, EVERYTHING. You could get lost here for eternity. Really reminds me of how many books there are and the fact that I will never, ever be able to read them all (which is why I rarely read a book twice and why I rarely read a book I haven't read reviews for...there's just no time to go in blind, people).

Goodreads. I mean, their tag line is "meet your next favorite book", so you know you're in for something special. They have extensive lists, but beware: these books will be voted on by the goodreads community, which I have limited respect for. I mean, I'm one of them, and I put Harry Potter at 5 stars. You may be thinking, "um of course you did, he is 5-star material", and I agree; however, HP is the only young-adult-fantasy-novel that I would rate so highly, and I'm now constantly being recommended to "Percy something olympics", "circle of magic thing", etc etc that I have no interest in. And for every admirable HP lover, there's a despicable Twilight lover, so expect their "best books" and "must read" lists to be curated by your average American rather than professors, authors, editors, and industry insiders. I'm pretty sure 50 Shades of Gray won a Goodreads award or something. How uncultured.


And I don't just mean referrals from people. I mean referrals from Amazon, from your local library, etc. Almost everywhere I borrow/buy books from offers up a "if you liked this, you'll LOVE this!" list. On Amazon, take a look at the "others who bought this book bought:" area, as you'll be sure to find great books in the genre you like. Be careful, though- if you look at Jodi Piccault, you'll be inundated by her other novels or novels that are exactly the same. You may love them, sure, but you should pursue a book in a different style first. I for one prefer to vary my reading, so that I don't become immune or desensitized to writing styles, pacing, genres, narrators, and the like.

One last thing: don't pay for your books the first time you read them. Seriously. It's dumb. I'm all for supporting the system, but the public library is not napster. Use it, respect it. What are you going to do with a $16 book that you bought and disliked? Give it to a friend and waste their time as well? Or better yet, give it to a frenenemy? Donate it so poor people have to read shitty books? No, I say read as much as you can via the library and buy the books you love- that way, you'll have a collection of books worth re-reading, loaning/gifting, and recommending to your own circle of trust. If you feel the need to contribute financially, excellent emotion. Give to your public library.

Any other tips for where to find wonderful reads?

Wednesday, March 27

WOW I've been MIA

Very disappointed that I missed two days of blogging. To be fair, I am traveling for work (NYC on to Boston on to Chicago, it's a marathon), but regardless, I apologize. Great and long post coming tomorrow if you're a literature lover like myself. For now you get to re-live my weekend. Yippee!

Started the weekend at the Gilt City Warehouse Sale in DC. It was amazing, truly. Does anyone know where one finds out about these types of things? One of my alumni works for the company and alerted me, but I doubt I'll be so lucky again. Open bar and free admission didn't hurt either.

It was D's birthday! We started the celebration with champagne and blue shirts, followed by dancing and drinking on U St (Marvin and Dodge City, to be exact. Highly recommend Marvin if you're in the area). He also got accepted to B school this week (had I told you that yet?) so it's an exciting time.

Next up was bowling in Baltimore with some of my college friends. Despite dealing with remnants of the night before, we had a lovely time reliving our childhoods and wearing hipster shoes.

Check out that fancy presentation! After bowling, D and I checked into an Inner Harbor hotel and headed to Roy's for dinner. My brother and J gave me a generous gift card when I graduated college, and D and I let it age nicely over the last few years. Absolutely delicious.

I think it's absurd that I've never been to the top of the Empire State Building, though I'm in the city a few times per month and have been visiting family here regularly for the past two decades. I'll get to it at some point, but for now I admire it from the ground.

If you're an east coaster, enjoy the warm weather! I am SO ready to hang up my down jacket.

Friday, March 22

link up

Friday again, and D's birthday! Lots of celebration this weekend, including a bar crawl around U Street, a trip to Baltimore for some good clean fun (bowling), FINALLY using a generous gift card to a Charm City restaurant, and more. Some light reading to kick things off on a positive note.

Guns are bad. Thumbs up are good.

If you've heard that Bobby Jindal's Gridiron Dinner speech was hilarious, you would be correct. I think both sides of the political aisle got a good laugh, and I was personally giggling at my desk. Check it out here.

Need an alternative to Google Reader? This list of options is pretty thorough. I feel like I'm losing a good friend, but so far I've given Feedly a shot and it's working just fine.

Really enjoying all the buzz Sheryl Sandberg has been getting for Lean In. Thought her TED talk was good as well. 

Who has seen the new Style Me Pretty "Living" blog? Haven't spent too much time with it, but I hear we may end up best friends.

And a quick thought for your weekend, from the man with all the answers.

Thursday, March 21

Bibliophile [book lust]

An interesting choice of reads for me.

Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason

This is not so much a book as it is a book-about-books. I truly can't imagine anyone paying for this, as it's pretty much a recommendation of what you should read next based on what you've read before...and Amazon will give you that for free. Here's your blurb:

What to read next is every book lover's greatest dilemma. Nancy Pearl comes to the rescue with this wide-ranging and fun guide to the best reading new and old. Pearl, who inspired legions of litterateurs with "What If All (name the city) Read the Same Book," has devised reading lists that cater to every mood, occasion, and personality. These annotated lists cover such topics as mother-daughter relationships, science for nonscientists, mysteries of all stripes, African-American fiction from a female point of view, must-reads for kids, books on bicycling, "chick-lit," and many more. Pearl's enthusiasm and taste shine throughout.

Like, right? It's a kitschy and fun idea for an article, perhaps, but a book? I found her writing to be funny, and her persona was tangible and likable. I felt some camaraderie with her as she pointed readers to various literature, thinking, "oh yes, I agree, I'd tell my friend to read x after enjoying y, good idea Nancy", but for the most part I felt like I could get more accurate predictions from genome, a literary friend, or a friendly staff at Barnes & Noble. She comes to us from NPR fame, and maybe it should have remained a radio-show rather than a full-blown book, in my opinion.

Wednesday, March 20

bag it up [man gifts]

I have presents on the brain again as we approach D's quarter-of-a-century birthday this week. I think shopping for men can be tricky, so I'm happy to share what I found for Christmas this year and hope you can take some inspiration.

Christmas gifts were haphazard this year in that they weren't really cohesive. I like to give themed gifts (last year was the bar cart suite, a favorite), but couldn't get it together in time.

First, D loves fashion and D loves sports. So why not a gift that combines them both? Yes, I considered an NFL jersey, which he would have loved, but that would eat up too much of our dramatically-reduced budget (business school apps will do that to you). I found these instead:

No, those aren't just goosebumb-resembling cufflinks. They're cufflinks made from a game-used football. By the Giants, in 2008, for a game they won. Sweet! 

The company, Bottom of the 9th, sells cufflinks featuring different sports memorabilia, including baseballs, basketballs, footballs, plastic from the seats of the original Yankee's stadium, you get the idea.

If you'd like a more expensive (and probably nicer) version of the same thing, Allen Edmonds is selling baseball cufflinks for $170. Ouch. Mine were $50.
D and I are big fans of Field Notes, a US-based stationary company, though stationary is a weak word for this multi-purpose, tough as nails brand and products. Isn't their summary so rugged?

INSPIRED BY the vanishing subgenre of agricultural memo books, ornate pocket ledgers and the simple, unassuming beauty of a well-crafted grocery list, the Draplin Design Company, Portland, Oregon in conjunction with Coudal Partners of Chicago, Illinois bring you “FIELD NOTES” in hopes of offering, “An honest memo book, worth fillin’ up with GOOD INFORMATION.

I bought a few sets of their notebooks (I use them for work, too) and found this amazing leather case on Esty. I think it's a bit over the top for a $3 paper notebook to be encased in a handmade leather embrace, but I bought a Cole Haan cover for my kindle, so I'm probably not a good judge of these things.

Isn't packaging everything? Look how amazing this is. I even get a leather tag with my initials (should have thought to put D's, oh well).

As you can see, the company is Of Mud and Coal, and I'm a big fan. It takes awhile to get your product, but only because the one-man shop is hard at work crafting it just for you. Worth the delay I'd say, and it was only two weeks or so.

Man it's a beauty. Leather on leather. $50, but I can see it lasting longer than our fickle interest in paper notebooks, so it's fine. Besides, my favorite kind of Christmas gifts are the cool stuff that you would like to own but wouldn't buy yourself because it's impractical, something you already own a shittier version of, you wouldn't have thought of it yourself, you don't need it, etc.

Holds so much stuff!

Ok moving on.

The rest of his gifts were smaller. I got these Tevolo ice cube molds to make giant spheres. They work very well, and produce a drink-chilling option that won't water down your drink as much.

Don't forget to boil the water you use if you'd like clear spheres. Otherwise, they still look pretty amazing:

At one of our many speakeasy experiences, we heard from the bartender that the Museum of the American Cocktail's Pocket Recipe Guide was the way to go for classic recipes. In fact, she told us that, with this book, we could make every basic drink and easily make alterations to cover almost anything we'll ever imbibe. I'm all for being thorough.

That may have been it. One last image, because it was just too funny: my stack of presents for D next to his stack of presents for me:

Bigger isn't ALWAYS better, folks.

Tuesday, March 19

St. Patrick's Day recap

Anyone do something special for St Patrick's Day this year? Something other than a bar crawl? I'm a little boozed-out after my mini-vacation in Miami, so we opted for the delicious food options instead. My mom used to make corned beef every March 17th, and I wanted to try my hand at it for the first time.

I used this recipe for a honey mustard baked corned beef for the main dish. The recipe is awesome, but I don't get the point of putting the delicious sauce on top of the fat, which neither D nor I will eat. Next time I'll trim the fat, layer the mustard and brown sugar right on the meat, and boil the meat before cooking to remove some of the salt. I also did a more traditional brisket as well with just spices, so friends could pick their own.

To prove my point that there is no such thing as an attractive picture of corned beef (even Martha Stewart's instagram of her St Patty's day meal was so-so), here is the finished product:


It tasted good, and the sweetness of the sauce was contrasted with the sharp sauerkraut. I also did a sauteed cabbage with garlic, onions and olive oil, and traditional boiled cabbage as well. Don't forget the rye bread.

We made the broth for the vegetables using Guinness to give it an extra kick, but I have to say I didn't notice the flavor much. It looked much nicer than the meat, though (in my new cast iron pan, whoop!)

Although I said I wasn't feeling boozy, it wouldn't be a party without at least a little juice. Bon Appetit provided the recipe for a Port o' Call, a cocktail involving Guinness, cognac, bitters, and a few liquors to sweeten things up.

While this meal was good, it was no where near as good as the corned beef hash I made D for dinner last night with the leftovers. May be having it tonight as well...

Monday, March 18

Miami Recap, AKA the reason I didn't blog for a week


Just returned from Miami this morning, and am slowly recovering from too much fun in the sun and on the dance floor. It was such a good trip, but I'll let my photos do the talking.

Had fun packing all my summer things.

Landed by 10, on South Beach by noon. Miami Vice slushie from Wet Willie's on day one.

 Went to Fontainebleau to see Club Liv. WILD night of dancing and bottle service.

Starbucks double-fisted recovery mode the next morning.

 Day two at Key Biscayne, the ice cream man came by which more or less made my day.

The sights of Ultra in the distance when we arrived in downtown Miami! We went out in the Brickell neighborhood.

Many hands of rummy while catching some rays in Coral Gables.

Other things not pictured: lots of time by the pool, an amazing cuban meal at Havana Harry's, some quality girl time and MUCH needed relaxation. Regular posting to resume, missed this.

Wednesday, March 13

DIY [more advanced glass etching]

This is NOT for beginners. Just kidding. It's still super easy, but I'm trying to lend some gravitas to the simplest DIY ever. I feel like I write those words too often. 

This may be my last glass etching project for awhile. 2012 = liquid gold leaf, 2013 = glass etching, what will the next season bring?!

Let's get down to business: it all starts with some tracing. Find a font or design you like, and copy it over to contact paper. No need to be perfect.

Next we take our handy dandy exacto knife and cut out your letters. Make sure you keep your thoughts straight regarding negative space- any area that is cut out will eventually be filled with the etching cream and will end up frosted. For example, I had to remember to keep the middle of the "R" (called the "counter" in typography).

Peel off your design and stick it on the bottle. Contact paper is strong, so you only get one shot to get it right. Press down all the edges carefully, as you don't want any bleeding, especially when your project calls for clean, straight lines, like a graphic print or lettering.

I waited about 20 minutes- as I've said before, Martha Stewart's etching cream is weaker than armor etch for sure.

Ta-da! A few more shots so you get the full feel of the bottle:

J and I worked on these while watching a movie, it really is that low-impact. Anyone else taken the plunge into glass etching? Here is my dream level of expertise:

Helllooooo New York.

Maybe next Christmas. For now, my new gift idea: when someone new moves to town, you make them a nice casserole or something in a rectangular pyrex, and you etch into the side of the glass the skyline of your city! Then you wait a few weeks and if they're good neighbors you obvi let them keep it, but if they're weirdos who hang art at 3am and blast music and let their dog bark in the morning, you can just say oh I need my dish back, the gift was the food. Thanks.

Tuesday, March 12

link it up.

Apologize for being absent for a bit. I'm momentarily back in my groove until vacation starts tomorrow! Posting the missing link-up from Friday for your enjoyment.

This is the most creative music video I've seen in a long time. Remember when they all use to be art? Little movies we watched on MTV and Vh1? Loves it.

The colors in this art are killing me. I love me some mint and coral.

Marbling with nail polish? That is too cool and looks super easy. Already thinking of all the things I own that would look better in swirls...

Making these for dinner tomorrow, gotta cook 'em all up before I head to Miami Wednesday!

Speaking of which, I've been using this city guide to get some ideas, and part 2. I'm also going to follow this list for my caffeine, and this one for my shopping addiction.

Thursday, March 7

Discover: Flapcast.

Like podcasts? You'll love flapcast. I'm looking at you, father and brother.

Flapcast is a free web app for managing and listening to podcasts. Tired of the constant plugging in and downloading of the latest shows? Skip the hassle, as everything is based on the cloud. Subscribe to your favorites and they'll queue automatically and update with new episodes. The best way to describe it is a Google Reader for podcasts rather than blogs. It also helps you discover new shows based on your interests, and you can see what your friends are listening to (reminds me of spotify).

What do you all listen to? I know my brother likes Radiolab, my dad likes Stuff Mom Never Told You (from, one of my all-time fave websites), and EVERYONE likes This American Life. Give me more!

Wednesday, March 6

bag it up [anthro test tube vase]

I have a somewhat recent purchase that is bringing me so much joy I have to share it with you all: the Anthropologie Test Tube Vase.

I'm so glad you love it too. I found it for $39.99 and 30% off sale, so needless to say (though I'll say it anyway) it was a steal. I picked it up with a graciously-given Christmas gift card (thank you!) to make the story even sweeter. Did you know that Anthropologie will ship any item from the store for free? Bring any item you like up to the register, and they'll search all stores to find the color/size you want. I found this vase while on vacation in Florida, but one of the test tubes were broken and I couldn't have flown it home anyway. They shipped me one no problem.

It looks even better with bushy blooms, like dahlias, mums, or hydrangeas, but I like the clean simplicity of tulips, too. Tulips may have moved into first place as my favorite. Got this bunch for $4 at Trader Joe's, in my experience they have excellent blooms.

You could do cool things with all the blooms at the same level, or even use it as a candle holder (if you're game for the major clean up). I do have to refill the water every few days, but thus far, every bouquet I've arranged in here has lasted two weeks. I do use plant food, and re-trim the stems once per week, but I've been happy with the long life span. Really brightening up my entryway!

Tuesday, March 5

DIY [wooden frame]

I have a DIY for you today to make up for the fact that I didn't post yesterday. Whoops. In my defense, we're ONE DAY away from my big event. Yippee!

It all starts with some unfinished 1x4's from Home Depot. I bought the wood for another project, but had them cut these scraps to the right size. Find a friendly guy in an orange apron, they do cuts for free.

I used some leftover stain from wedding projects (holy! I have a bunch of old projects to fill you in on). I stained the raw wood on the left, which left it like the wood on the right. Once you wipe off and rub in the stain, you're left with the middle. Pretty!

Let's do this the simple way- I don't want to use screws or nails or anything that costs money. Because I'm cheap and lazy. I used some Gorilla glue and potato chip bag clamps for Christ's sake!

But I think it paid off. Simple doesn't have to mean junky. With some free scraps, wood stain, and gorilla glue, we have a nice, hearty frame.

Another view. It fits in well in our entryway and matches our knockoff Eames chair (from Craigslist of course) and Fab Habitat indoor/outdoor rug. The photo is quality (aren't they always...promise I'll invest in a real camera soon), but you can at least get the idea for the play between purples and oranges. Take my word for it, it's vibeing.

Friday, March 1

link it up.

Link it up is on the lighter side this week. Some jokes, some pretty things, some dance moves. For my job, the culmination of months of hard work is upon us, and I could use a laugh to lighten the tension!

If Disney acquired Hogwarts, it would look like this. Ha!

Perhaps the coolest safe house ever.

What an Ikea looks flawless.

Too bad D and I didn't know this trick before our New Year's Eve party...would have made his life MUCH easier.

This is the greatest: GOD I love Jennifer Lawrence. We should be best friends. You need to watch this.

If you've been part of the Harlem shake craze, but want to know what it REALLY looks like, check this out.

Everyone enjoy the weekend. Anyone else weirded out that it's March?