Friday, August 30

link it up

Although the LAST thing D and I need in this cramped apartment is more art, I really want to get this one printed and framed. Wouldn't it be awesome in a bathroom? I'd probably use this printing technique from my favorite blogger.

Very funny: Trader Joe's circa 1877.

I'm always looking for descriptors that I would apply to myself. Similarly to "if I don't instagram it, it didn't happen", I ascribe to "if I can't label it, it isn't fully developed". Perhaps my interior style is "rustic utilitarian"?

Cauliflower crust pizza? I'll give it a try and let you know how it is.

I'm sure we all got a little beyond these, but of course, I like this one because I can relate to it.

My friend K sent this along with the subject line, "Introducing the WORST article I've ever read". Do you agree with him? Are you vehemently opposed?

Hoping to get some unpacking and organizing done with my long weekend. Hopefully some of you are taking better advantage!

Thursday, August 29

LearnVest LIVE next month!

Hi friends, wanted to share this with you all ASAP. LearnVest, my favorite women's financial advice site, is hosting their second-annual LearnVest LIVE event in NYC and LA (sadly, not in Durham). 

If you can get there, I HIGHLY recommend it. The theme is "financially fearless". I did a Discover post last year, as well as a debrief after the event. Don't be afraid to go alone- there were plenty of friendly people to chat with, not to mention the swag and food to keep you occupied. Oh, and the speakers. Not a bad lineup for this year, either:

Looks like they'll be in NYC on October 1 and LA September 24. Pre-tickets are only $25, so what are you waiting for?!

Wednesday, August 28

cheap eats [tostones]

My brother married into a wonderful Puerto Rican/Ecuadorian family this past year. Combine his love of cooking with his wife's heritage, and you've got a slammin' recipe for tostones (fried plantains). R made these for the family when we were in Boston, and I wanted to share the recipe here.

Fill a skillet with oil, like canola or vegetable. Slice up your plantains into 1" pieces- they should be close-to-green. I typically wait until my plantains are black, then fry them up and eat them with rice and black beans, but for tostones, you want them to be much firmer.  Heat the oil to hot hot hot and drop those babies in for about 6 minutes (3 minutes each side if they aren't submerged). Once-fried plantains are on the left:

And on the right  are the flattened plantains. Use a flat surface (a plate would do) to squash your once-fried plantains. Then we'll make them twice-fried plantains, like so:

Double frying, though suggestive of a heart-attack, really gives them that perfect crisp. This dip in the hot oil is much shorter, maybe 1 or 2 minutes each side. I read online that some people dip the squashed once-fried plantains in water before their second dunk, but we didn't.

If you're thinking what I'm thinking, you're thinking "plantains are a fruit, which means their healthy, which means we should add butter". Good idea. Slather on a small pad and watch it melt into the fried crunchy goodness. Add salt, too!

Ta-da! Crunch on the outside, a bit of chew on the inside, and a wonderful flavor (not at all like bananas). And no, there is no healthier way to make these. I asked. I think these would be good with more of a sear using coconut oil, but it wouldn't be considered tostones if they weren't fried. Or maybe leave the butter off, but if you're going to go twice-fried, you might as well make it buttery. Our diet starts tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 27

DIY inspo [reupholster bergere chairs]

I've been waiting to post this for awhile, but couldn't, because the chairs in question were a yet-to-be-delivered wedding present for my brother and his wife. Since I finally handed them over last month, I can share with you now!

This project took ages and is more expensive than most of my DIY's, but still absurdly affordable compared to buying two custom made chairs. We got to be very selective with the bones and shape of the piece, plus the fabric and finishing touches, which is worth quite a bit.

I'm going to start with the two blog posts that taught me how to reupholster. No joke. You don't need to take a class, you don't need to be an expert, you need to have access to the internet or a book and be a bit brave. Trial and error, folks. If my chairs don't hold up well, R and J can always come back (they have a life-long warranty called sibling love).

This post is so, so well done, by my girl crush Emily Henderson. It has great information, though not really a step-by-step (when she gets to the ACTUAL reupholstering part, she tells you to go to a professional). Still, it's worth checking out if you're looking for pieces to work with and want to get your head around the general concept.

Now my other (and probs deeper) girl crush, Jenny Komenda, really did share a tutorial. Her five posts on how-to reupholster (see part 1, then follow on for parts 2-5). She's right, it's super labor intensive and takes some time, but obviously I think it's worth it. What worked out well for me was that the chair she re-did, above, is almost identical to the chairs I did for J and R, below.

should have taken better "before" pictures...
Found this pair on glorious Craigslist, I think for $150. Stay tuned to see what we did to them, using this chartreuse green chevron fabric they chose:
The plan is to post the project next week, but I wanted to get a start on sharing the journey. Today is my first day as a full-time employee at my new job (although I spent two days in the office earlier this month), so it's a light week here at for a song.

Saturday, August 24

Anthropologie free shipping code [and a few picks]

Y'all need to know how badly Anthro is killing it with their fall look book of black&white chic. Get free shipping through the weekend on $150+ with the code FALLFWD (not sure why they don't have free shipping all the time yet. I believe it's a consumer right). Happy shopping this weekend!

Ombra Shift

Friday, August 23

link it up

The packing is justttt about complete, which means I can enjoy an evening or two with friends. Hope you're able to sneak away from obligation long enough to have some fun, too!

a message to rival last week's picture
This video CRACKS me up. No word from D yet on whether it's an accurate portrayal of male-female problem solving or relationships.

I didn't know this existed on YouTube: a full concert (live in LA, no less). My sister went to one of his concerts last week, and I was supremely jealous. Or you could just buy the CD, but this blog is about affordable living, so...carry on.

Need a new cocktail to try as our seasons transition? I'm interested in the Pineapple Trainwreck. Aged rum and ginger speak of fall, but pineapple and lemon keep it summery.

What an interesting re-framing for how to talk to children.

For my next party, I'm going to do these in ombre. Perfect for a wedding or baby shower, no?

This line from Woody Allen, ahh, I love it: "If you're born with a gift, to behave like it's an achievement is not right."

Thursday, August 22

discover [cheeky art]

Ali Graham's series of illustrations, 99 problems, has me cracking up. Dear brother and wife, you can expect this to come into some iteration of a present for you some day. She's considering doing T-shirts and note cards in the future, so fingers crossed. #HOV

She's selling them all for $19.99, so you can snap 'em up for pretty cheap. Would be fun to do a set of three in a more casual space, like a bathroom, dressing room, or bar area.

the face. classic.
probably my favorite
JT not impressed
girls, girls, girls, girls
so cavalier with his board flipping!
makes me think of R

Wednesday, August 21

bibliophile [the dinner]

Picked up this international bestseller last month, and didn't regret it.

The Dinner, by Herman Koch

I recently read a quote, reputed to be from Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project fame, that the more you say about a book, the less likely someone else will be to read it. The less attractive you make it. I hadn't thought of this before, and I don't have her context, but I can see how it might be true. For example, if you said Twilight was a romantic story, I'd think, huh, sounds lovely. If you continue on to tell me it's about vampires and angst-y teens and perversions of love, I'm less likely to grab my kindle. In a less dramatic fashion, what the reviewer pulls from a book may be just a small part of the entire experience, but it could be enough to deter you from what you might have enjoyed without their filter.

In that vein, let me give you a blurb and some brief remarks:

A good unreliable narrator is one of the most satisfying characters a novelist can dream up--and Herman Koch takes us on a hell of a ride through the mind of Paul Lohman, the deliciously sinister host of The Dinner. Paul's 15-year-old son, Michel, has committed an unspeakable crime; his brother, on the cusp of becoming the Netherlands' next prime minister, has a delicate wife and two teenagers who share Michel’s secret; Paul's wife, Claire, will do anything to protect their boy. As the two couples inch through an excruciating meal at a chic restaurant--their children's whereabouts uncertain--Paul peels back the layers of their situation, weaving to and fro through time and truth. Koch's finely structured story gives away just enough on each page to keep us riveted, feeling like private investigators on the verge of discovery, until the shock of an ending. It's no small feat for the author that the less we trust Paul, the more we want to hear what he has to say. --Mia Lipman

I typically hate unreliable narrators (which is why I loved the trustworthiness of this protagonist, and no I'm not joking), but this guy I dig. And in some ways, you can trust parents: they'll do anything to protect their kid. So no matter what they're saying, you know the ultimate motive. Paul reminded me of the heroine of this novel, one of the best I read last year: crisp, unapologetic writing, colloquial but eloquent, and a healthy dose of his own crazy. I agree with one reviewer in that this is pretty much a 300 page monologue, but if it's an interesting one, who cares? Don't expect much character development- the book spans just one dinner, and each course is a chapter- but the plot and people are weird enough that you won't miss them growing and changing.

Perhaps I just like the macabre when it's sprinkled over good writing, but I'd give this one a read.

Tuesday, August 20

on ethics [craigslist burn]

Though I told you I was attempting more mind-casting than life-casting posts, this is a straight up life-cast comin atcha.

I'm deeply frustrated, more so than I should be, by the following situation: I recently sold this beloved couch to a kind girl. I had my boyfriend and roommate, who were not benefiting from the sale, move it for her, just because it seemed kinder than letting her struggle alone. We went back and forth in person and via email for weeks to secure the sale. She had a sob story to bring the price down, which I accomodated. 

Today, I found it up on Craigslist again- for more than my original asking price (let alone what  she paid for it, almost 1/3 less than what I'd posted), using my EXACT verbiage and images. Images that include my blog watermark and are of my home.

I'm not smiling right now. Even though it's nice to see my couch again. Hi couch!

Anyway, I emailed her (after alerting Craigslist) and BCC'ed D. By the time he replied to me 12 minutes later, it had been removed. I flagged the post and sent an email to the Craig right before contacting her, and they replied. They take the sharing of personal info very seriously, which I appreciate.

I'm all for reselling furniture. Hell, I want a career in it. And if I'm the dummy that falls for your sob story and lowers the price, than good for you, re-sell that bad boy- I agreed to it, meaning it was a fair transaction. But her verbiage was obviously untrue (talked about where I got it, how long I'd owned it, which of course couldn't be true for her), and the pictures were clearly mine, and included links to my blog and all the genius I share with you here.

Let's be clear: the reason I'm upset is because I was duped. I'm going to try not to let it sour my future Craigslist exchanges, of which there will of course be many. I've often wondered what someones problem is, as they watch me struggle to move my newly purchased dresser or ignore my genuine but low offer for their Eames chair. Maybe they've been Clist burned in the past, too. Let's keep the karma going people.

Anyway, I'm over it. Enjoy this contemplative picture of the green monster on its last morning in my bedroom (I told you I was attached to it. We took goodbye pictures. What we had was real).

Monday, August 19

discover [skimm]

If you like your news with a side of sass, I suggest you sign up for the Skimm

Here's a quick overview, from their website:

We are an online newsletter that simplifies the headlines for the professional who knows enough to know she needs more. Our concept is simple: we read, you Skimm. After developing careers as producers in network and cable news, we realized three things: Reading the news is time consuming; Wanting to read the news is a hobby; Lastly, not everyone has the time or interest. It’s time for you to be the conversation starter. All you need to do is Skimm.

Fun, right? They send an email Monday-Friday, early morning, with some snapshots of the big news. There's always a funny or interesting quote of the day before they break down international news, politics, and entertainment. I read it on my commute, and really appreciate the familiarity with current events. No one wants to be the person who has no idea there's unrest in Egypt or Snowden is still in Russia or which baseballers are in trouble for a trip to the Miami clinic.

I've enjoyed it so far. Join me in Skimming!

Friday, August 16

link it up

aw yeah it's the weekend. Which for me means eating at all my favorite DC establishments (who would like to join?) and packing a wholllllle lotta stuff. 

I love infographics, and I love Ryan Gosling, so I love this.

Homeland. Season 3. Get stoked. Also intending to begin Breaking Bad this week, what with all the free time I'll have. If you include all the sleep I won't be getting due to moving anxiety, I may actually have a second or two to spare.

I read this post a few weeks ago, and it's re-framed how I blog. Can anyone tell? Some great tips and ideas for fellow bloggers from a funny writer.

Of the high, medium, and low version of these, I went with the low, and I don't 

Can't stop thinking about sinking into this gorgeous, oversized piece. That color may play a big role in my next space. What say you, darling?

Wednesday, August 14

discover [updater]

If you have a move coming up, you will be happy with this post. If you don't, you should bookmark it until you do. 

Updater is a free service that helps you change your address without missing a beat, or a mailing. They file your new address with USPS, which sets up your forwarding for up to one year, but they also update your info with all your accounts, subscriptions, charities, and more. Instead of visiting my alma mater's website, Jet Blue's customer service, my town library, and, I just add them all to one master list and updater takes care of it for me. They even make suggestions for places you may want to update.
I really appreciate that I was able to set it now for a future date (end of August) when I actually move. Sure, it's easy to remember the most important mail to forward (my Visa account, my tax information, my J Crew catalog), but this way I'll be able to add things to my forward list as they come the quarterly restoration hardware, or my Starbucks rewards info. You can pay $10 to have yourself exempt from junk mail for 3 years, but honestly, I don't mind tossing out a few things if I also get to discover new brands (hello, Boden).

I'll let you know how it plays out, but I'm looking forward to letting Updater do the heavy lifting for my move.

Tuesday, August 13

Durham bound [and Craigslist creepin']

Many of you may know my news already, but I've accepted a job in Durham and I'm moving on down later this month (who knew my "about me" line about falling down the East Coast would be so apropos?)

To bolster my excitement, and yours, I'm going to share some of the goodies to be found in the Raleigh/Durham section of my beloved Craigslist. Let's be real, it was the first website I checked once I knew the move was official. Check out all my Craigslist tips, though I may need to add to this as I've learned a few new tricks over the past year.

Corona Sofa, originally from Macy's, $185. Shut up.

Super weird gold and glass etagere, identical to this one ($2,800 at First Dibs), just $100

amazing chrome and glass table and chairs, $175 and recently reupholstered in slate blue. If gold is more your thing (like me), this set may be even better

blue campaign dresser, $250 but you could talk them down, this should be more like $150

TONS of steamer trunks. What's with that? More for me, like this one for just 25 bones (or this one, or this one...) 

Who doesn't need an antler lamp from West Elm, especially at $60? Guarantee they'd take $40, maybe less.

Now you'll have to excuse me while I go email some sellers...

Monday, August 12

bibliophile [the handmaid's tale]

This one is a classic that I finally got around to reading, and I'm so glad I did.

The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood

This is pretty much Orwell's 1984, but the government is a patriarchal theocracy and the narrator is a woman, not a man. Blurb time:

In a startling departure from her previous novels, respected Canadian poet and novelist Atwood presents here a fable of the near future. In the Republic of Gilead, formerly the United States, far-right ideals have been carried to extremes in the monotheocratic government. The resulting society is a feminist's nightmare: women are strictly controlled, unable to have jobs or money and assigned to various classes: the chaste, childless Wives; the housekeeping Marthas; and the reproductive Handmaids, who turn their offspring over to the "morally fit" Wives. The tale is told by Offred (read: "of Fred"), a Handmaid who recalls the past and tells how the chilling society came to be. Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, The Handmaid's Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force.

The narrative is circular and segmented, but by the end of the novel I felt like the full story had been told. And what a good story it was. I like these post-apocalyptic, dystopian novels and imagining how terribly the world can spin out of control- I find them comforting, maybe because it makes our lives seem not so shabby by comparison. I like the fantasy-like atmosphere Atwood creates, this "republic of Gilead", believable but also absurd. I think this is less a "feminist" novel and is more a study of man and all we are capable of: of inflicting, of enduring, of re-framing, of ignoring, of enjoying.

I also wanted to say something on book covers. I know I've talked about them before, but they truly are a dying art. For a classic like this, there are so, so many versions of the cover, and even more once a novel has been made into a movie. I really connect with this version, because it's the one my mom had at home when I was a child. I just think it's interesting that we feel such a pull towards certain covers over others- for another example, I hate most LOTR trilogy book covers, since my family has such a beautiful leather-bound set, to which nothing can compare.

Saturday, August 10

DIY frame wrap up

Short little post for you on this weekend- I wanted to make sure I shared with you the final wrap up of a few wedding frame DIY's I did. The seating chart I made has been re-purposed into a bulletin board for now, though I think it may eventually return to being a mirror:

It's nice when things can be reused! I really like the combination of the chalky black paint, the texture of burlap, and the tiny gold pins.

Remember these gold frames I painted in chalkboard paint?

I don't have images of all of them, but they eventually became lovely signs sharing the signature drinks, instructions for the photo booth, and so on. They could be used on a gallery wall now, or stored to be used as signage at a future party.

Friday, August 9

link it up

Friday again. What are you all up to? I'll be visiting D in Durham for a few days, trying to catch up on his whirlwind first month of B school. Make sure you're enjoying these final summer weekends, we're going to be running on empty soon enough. 

This graphic cracks me up and is soooo true it hurts.

Saving all my pennies (or waiting for the ever ubiquitous 40% off sale) to buy this. I deserve a fall treat, right? Ew I just talked about fall like it was here.

I thought my dear friend Lindsey had an excellent post recently on the late 20's crisis. When we discussed this last week, I said I think I've staved off an existential crisis thus far by setting myself minor, month-long goals, planning things to look forward to, and investing in my romantic relationship. Are you crisis? What are you doing about it?

We all know and love Amazon user comments, but these ones have really outdone it. You really can buy anything on Amazon, huh?

I've done this before and I'll do it again: best way to store fresh herbs for cooking.

This woman cracks me up. Maybe you need to have her sense of humor, but I look forward to every post. Go read this and everything else she's ever done, including her memoir.

Thursday, August 8

cheap eats [carrot pasta with gyoza]

I shared my recipe for zucchini pasta with you last week, and have another version worth sharing. I still haven't purchased my mandoline, but my brother (a top chef, duh) recommends this one from OXO. It's $40, but comes with a lifetime warranty and won the top spot on America's Test Kitchen's product reviews, so I trust it.

On to the recipe!

This meal was a perfect detox-esque salad after a weekend of sinful eating. I did add a little protein in the form of Trader Joe's gyoza, a freezer classic in our household. I usually eat 5 (140 calories, 3g fat, 21g carbs, 8g of yummy protein). They're only $3 and have at least 4 or 5 servings in each, depending.
Anyway, toast these babies up in a frying pan (I do a light squirt of my coconut oil spray) with a slice of fresh ginger and garlic for a few minutes, then add 3T water and simmer, covered, for a few more. Meanwhile I steamed my broccoli in the microwave, shredded two carrots with a peeler, and sliced up a lemon. Once the gyoza were done, I tossed the shredded carrots and steamed broccoli into the pan to heat it up, and squeezed lemon juice on top.

I've instagrammed and tweeted about Wisteria Gardens before, but I'll share it here, too. The company is based in West Virginia and makes prepared foods, sauces, hummus, salsas, and the like to sell in DC. If you've been to Eastern Market before, which is where I stock up, you've seen the crowds around their table for tastings. The peanut sauce they do is out of this world, and I use dollop on my carrot salad. Check out those flavor pairings! Since they're all-natural, they only last two weeks, so I keep mine in the freezer. Any peanut sauce would do, but theirs is healthier and additive free, which is always a plus.

It's a good day when the base of your meal is just two carrots. Doesn't get more "cheap eats" than that.

Wednesday, August 7

bibliophile [the elegance of the hedgehog]

I've read quite a bit in July, what with all my travel and D being gone. Enjoyed this one quite a bit.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery

Let's start this off with the blurb:

Renee is the concierge of a grand Parisian apartment building. Over the years she has maintained her carefully constructed persona as someone reliable but totally uncultivated, in keeping, she feels, with society's expectations of what a concierge should be. But beneath this facade lies the real Renee: passionate about culture and the arts, and more knowledgeable in many ways than her employers with their outwardly successful but emotionally void lives. Down in her lodge, apart from weekly visits by her one friend Manuela, Renee lives resigned to her lonely lot with only her cat for company. Meanwhile, several floors up, twelve-year-old Paloma Josse is determined to avoid the pampered and vacuous future laid out for her, and decides to end her life on her thirteenth birthday. But unknown to them both, the sudden death of one of their privileged neighbours will dramatically alter their lives forever. 

Basically, a secret genius concierge and a bright but disturbed little girl become buddies in this both sad and humorous novel. You have to be in the mood and aware before you get into it, but the plot is relatively simple and would probably take just a few chapters to relate. The majority of the book are philosophical discourses on class relations, famous thinkers, human relationships, and so on. As a recovering philosophy major, I really connected with this.

I suppose some of it is esoteric- she goes on a rant about phenomenology, a course I barely passed, about which normal, happy, well-adjusted people hopefully know nothing. But when I came across a reference I understood I found her comments to be intelligent and refreshing, plus you feel like you're in a secret society of savants. If you're looking for a story, you can find plots far more involved and entertaining than this. However, I enjoyed reading it, and felt smarter for having done so.

Tuesday, August 6

DIY [industrial pipe side table]

Remember when I recapped my most recent visit to the Brooklyn Flea, and showed some tables that were reminiscent of a project D completed? Well, it's high time I shared his work.

D's been a longtime follower of Primer Magazine, and I'm a fan of their "Intentional Apartment" series- sounds right up my alley, as they focus on building an environment that you love within a budget you can manage. Their post on building an industrial side table really inspired D to crate his own.

Here's their inspiration for the project:

Absolutely beautiful, but pricey for sure. I'll send you to Primer for the step-by-step, but it was simple and enjoyable. D bought the pipes, an inexpensive piece of wood to be stained and banged up a bit, and screwed it all together.

The trickiest bit was attaching the legs, and even that wasn't terrible (of course, he had me as a helper). We were both pleased with the result. The total cost was around $75, and he thinks that with more foresight, he could have done it cheaper.

You can see more of the table top in this post, and because  know you're all DYING for another look at my succulent success, you can see the table top below.