Monday, September 30

to grandma

I didn't write any posts last week. I had a few that I'd written earlier, but I wasn't around to do anything interesting and wouldn't have felt like sharing anyway. My most loving grandmother, Sheila, passed away over the weekend.

grandma being sassy and stylish

She was an artist in every sense of the word, surely in her beautiful paintings and sculptures but even more so in the world she created for her partner and seven children. I like to think I inherited my creative spirit and love of art from her, and maybe even my commitment to family.

She could be goofy and playful, like when she'd pull her long blond hair out of the trademark bun, flip it over her face, and become the dreaded witchypoo, whom my cousins and I feared and only made us appreciate our gentle grandma more.

She could be funny- she threatened me that she and grandpa would be dancing (or "shuffling as health would allow") at the airport waiting for me when I decided to spend spring break with them in Buffalo. I wish all of us grandkids could have spent more time in their presence.

She could be serious- I still have a moving, traditional note from her on the occasion of my confirmation about taking the patron saint Catherine as my confirmed name, and what that meant to her and grandpa. She was so faithful, in such a practical and open way.

She was motherly,with a twizzler after lunch or a worthers from the glass jar, always with a hug and an "oh, my darling girl" and a smile. For every inconsequential holiday (think halloween  valentine's day, st. patrick's day) we'd get a handmade card, $5, and a note: "have a little treat on us and remember that grandma and grandpa LOVE YOU". I have many of her notes and drawings to remember her by, because she was so giving and thoughtful to us all.

She was a wonderful woman and I'm so sad that she's gone.

Friday, September 27

link it up

Friday it is. Enjoy some light reading as you enjoy the first weekend of fall.

my favorite fall image right now, also my computer background
My friend C posted this on the book. #sofunny #JT4eva. If you can't get enough Jimmy Fallon, who has really come into his own brand of comedy, this is good too (LOVE joseph gordon levitt.)

Are you REALLY that busy?

I love to travel, I love boutique hotels, and I love budgets. This may be the website for me.

Truly one of the most interesting and valuable DIY's I've ever seen. Seems pretty easy, considering what you get...may have to give it a try so I can have my own little indoor fireplace.

This certainly fits with my healthy eating lately: a dessert that's vegan and gluten free and generally good for you. I'll let you know how my batch comes out.

Wednesday, September 25

cheap eats [apple chips and sweet potato chips]

So easy to make that it doesn't even deserve its own post. But I'm doin it anyway. I've made these 3 times in the past week, using a new friend's recipe. You should too.

1. Heat oven to 225 and roll out some parchment paper on a baking sheet.

2. Slice up the apple or potato as thin as you can (if you still don't own a mandoline, like me). Spread it out in a single layer, and cover with whatever you want (salt and cinnamon).

3. Bake for 1.5 hours, flip, bake for 2 hour.

4. Try not to eat all at once.

Tuesday, September 24

DIY inspo [driftwood wall hanging]

I need to do some convincing, and I'm hoping the internets will help me out. 

Who needs convincing: D, of course, dramatic decor destroyer extraordinaire.

What he needs convincing of: how cool a piece of driftwood on our wall would be.

Here's the sitch: we have a huge and wonderful piece of art that used to live over our bed, like so:

But it turns out this piece of art doesn't work well over our bed anymore, as one side of the bed is up against the wall. However, it is perfect over our $20 campaign dresser:

That leaves our above-bed area blank, and it's driving us crazy. I'm not ready to commit to full-on gallery wall craziness, because it's a ton of work AND inhibits the free movement of furniture. Case in point, how dumb does this look without a dresser under it??

So, I think I should be allowed to hang my beautiful piece of driftwood, found on the grassy area next to the tidal basin in our beloved D.C., on the wall. Like the image below from this post...minus the functional hooks.

Here's another example, except I only have I feel inadequate.

I'll admit mine isn't as uniquely shaped, but I here's some more inspiration.

I think an industrial hook (or even a big ol' nail!) in the wall, some bleached string, and a piece of wood could make a statement that's both modern and rustic, interesting but with a thin enough footprint to not be distracting.

Plus, as my roommate points out, this is a wonderful tool of self-defense, especially considering all the nights I sleep alone while D studies. Win win!

Monday, September 23

cheap eats [avocado basil dip]

Remember all the pesto recipes I shared earlier? Well, I gave one a try, and it was so delicious I wanted to share it here. Plus I already have edited photos thanks to instagram, so this is as easy as it gets for me :)

It's hard to call this pesto, when it doesn't include parmesan, mozzarella, or olive oil. When is pesto not a pesto? Reminds me of the ongoing debate about cauliflower pizza crust. If you change almost everything about it, maybe you should embrace a new name. Hence, avocado basil dip.

The ingredient list is truly simple: 1 avocado, the juice of half a lemon (2T), 2t garlic, and 2C of packed basil, plus salt and pepper to taste. Unless you are tripling the recipe, don't try to use a Vitamix like I did- there just isn't enough volume to make sense. Instead, use a small food processor. Start with just the avocado and basil, then add the lemon juice, crushed garlic, and any spices. I added in a bit of arugula as well, since I have a lot on hand, just to make the pesto go further. So far I've eaten it as a dip with veggie sticks, stirred over baked green beans, and thinned out with a bit of olive oil as a salad dressing. I think it would be AMAZING on a sandwich...any sandwich.

The one drawback to this type of pesto is the shelf life. I didn't think of it before I whipped up a batch, but we all know how quickly avocado-based dips turn brown and yucky (I'm looking at you, guacamole). You can either commit to eating the whole bowl in one sitting, or you can try this trick: slowly pour a 1/4 inch of water on top. It'll stay separate from the dip, seal out air, and will pour off easily when you need it next. I've done this twice in the last two days with this same batch with no downside.

Friday, September 20

link it up

If it's Friday when you read this, I am happily vacationing with my parents up in Boston, hopefully seeing some early New England fall and celebrating an old friend's wedding.

I appreciate Primer's advice on how to update and improve cheap furniture: add wood! I particularly love the bar stools...I know I've seen similar options for hundreds of dollars.

Homemade fruit roll-ups? Heck yes. Next time you're at home for 12 hours straight (a rainy fall day, perhaps?) give this recipe a try. I'm a complete sucker for trader joe's licorice nibs, hopefully this can be my healthy alternative.

This is something I haven't tried: when making your cold brew, you can add different spices. i like this recipe for a Mexican cold brew iced coffee.

I watched this at work and snorted so hard one of my coworkers came to see if I was ok. #thenewgirlisweird

One last video on this link it up: I'm such a sucker for spoken word poetry. I wanna be this guy's friend, and hang out with this crowd.

Thursday, September 19

DY [duct tape decor]

Closets are dark places, naturally. They take up floor space without the need for windows, which makes them convenient but also difficult to photograph. I haven't shared my DC closet project because it's so damn hard to capture it in a flattering way, but as I've since moved away, it's now or never.

As with most of my decisions, I need things to be affordable and temporary. I've had four addresses in three years, and I'm not about to buy property, so I've accepted the fact that I won't be able to really invest in a space for a little while. That doesn't mean you can't have fun, it just has to be one-night-stand-fun rather than long-term-committed-relationship fun.

I was inspired by the DC Kate Spade store. Who doesn't like gold foil striped walls?

Contact paper is affordable, easy to work with, readily available (order through Amazon!), and removable, making it a great medium for temporary decor projects. This reminds me of Joy's old studio:

Yep, contact paper sounds like a great way to go. But the day I was inspired, i didn't have contact paper on hand.

I had gold duct tape.

I mean, it kinda worked?

Let's just say, now that D and I share a closet, there will be no duct tape decor.

Wednesday, September 18

apple cider vinegar [jump on the bandwagon]

Do you ACV?

I think I'm relatively open to new trends. I search Craigslist for campaign furniture. I try color blocking in fashion and decor. You know I love a good monthly subscription box. I own a fiddle leaf fig for cryin out loud. And as you've seen recently, I'm getting pretty committed to the homesteading, DIY food movement.

I'm particular fond of a trend when it's cheapy cheapy, like using apple cider vinegar, or ACV. Go with a raw, unfiltered, organic version that still has "the mother". I use Bragg, couple bucks at Whole Foods, and read up on some ways I can use it from this super fan.
I've been using ACV in three ways, all to different effect. 

One, I drink 2t a day. This is supposedly good for balancing out your pH, and could be particularly useful if you suffer from heartburn (which I was, a few days prior to starting a daily dosage). I dissolve it in 20 fl. oz. of water to avoid the side affects like burning your throat or damaging your teeth. I really don't know if this does anything. Everything online is mixed reviews, and personally I feel more or less the same, but I haven't had any heartburn, so that's a win. The acetic acid is supposed to aid in weight loss, too. If I see a significant change, you'll be the first to know. It breaks down mucus too, so try this if you have a cold or allergies.

Two, I use it as a toner, and this I think is actually working. Mix 1 part ACV with 2 parts water and swipe or mist on face twice daily after washing. My skin tone is more even and I haven't had a breakout since starting this a week ago. Now, it's obviously early days, but I'm so tired of adult acne I'll try out ANYTHING.

Three, I use it on my hair-  it makes a great clarifying rinse. Many places (like the Huffington Post) can explain the benefits better than I can, such as treating itchy scalp, preventing hair loss, and probably curing cancer and finding the perfect pair of jeans.

Tuesday, September 17

cheap eats [homemade almond milk]

I've never liked milk. 

I'm sure my siblings are clicking away from this post in disgust, since milk (1%) was an absolute staple in my household. A big, cold glass with dinner every night was necessary. But I've never liked it. Whole milk, cream, ice cream, cheese, yogurt, pretty much every other form of dairy I devour. But not skim, 1%, or even 2% milk. Watery dairy? No thanks.

My old friend L got me into soy milk when we lived together after college. It was such a thick, flavorful change of pace in cereal, oatmeal, and coffee. I visited a soy-producing co-op in El Salvador that year, and was even more impressed with the health benefits, the availability, and the ease of production. Did you know plant-based milk sales have grown in the billions, while regular milk has seen dramatic drops (the lowest in decades)?

Then came the endless, endless accounts and news stories about the risks of soy. I don't know how much of it is true, but I was using soy every day, and that much negative press on something I ingest 7 days a week was enough to catalyze my search for a substitute.

Then came almond milk. Others agree: almond milk commands 55% of the market for non-dairy milks, with soy at 35%. Creamy, nutty, the lowest in calories from everything I'd searched (30 calories/cup!), it has no saturated fats, plenty of nutrients, and is all-natural. However, store brands still have some extra, unpronounceable ingredients, and it's not exactly cheap at $4 for a half gallon.

Enter trusty Vitamix, and this recipe from the Kitchn.

I made some adjustments to her recipe to match the thickness and calorie count of store-bought almond milk.

Soak 1C of almonds in filtered water for at least 10 hours, and up to 2 days. I hear the longer you soak, the creamier your almond milk. I changed out my water every morning and night for 2 days. Some commentors think this is a lot of work for little reward, but how difficult is it to take less than 20 seconds in the morning to pour off then re-fill water? I think you'd get almost the same product by just soaking the almonds over night, rinsing them in the morning, and blending them up. No biggie.

Anyway, throw your 1C of soaked almonds in a blender with 4C of water. Blend on the highest power for 2 minutes, strain, and drink. Hold on to that almond meal for use in baking! It's good in the fridge for 3 days, so only make what you'll drink, or pop it into ice cube trays to use in smoothies.

I added one date for sweetness, a pinch of sea salt, and a tiny shake of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom to bring out the nuttiness. It's absurdly delicious. Many people add unsweetened cocoa powder for a chocolate variety, or some honey or agave or stevia or sweetener of choice. I skipped the straining, because I'm lazy and I don't mind the graininess. This batch is only for smoothies, so texture doesn't matter.

Drink up!

I'm a big fan of coconut milk too, but only the full-fat canned variety, which makes it great for a treat but a poor choice for daily use. You can make it yourself using just shredded, unsweetened coconut and water, but the canned version is healthy and natural as-is.

Monday, September 16

ode to the vitamix

Oh Vitamix. Where do I start to discuss your value, your beauty, your importance?

You are the multi-tasker of all multi-taskers. You provide me with healthy green smoothies every morning, with the promise that no matter what else I eat through the day, at least I got my nutrients early. You even allow five vegetables to virtually disappear when blended into anything I make, allowing me to sneak vitamins to the unwilling.

You even make most of the base ingredients I use in said green smoothie, like my almond milk and my nut butter. You do so without complaint, without needing a cleaning after, and without the addition of unhealthy things found in store-bought products (booooo preservatives, boooo hand washing).

Don't even get me started on how expertly you grind my coffee, both fine for a nice poor over or coarse for a good soak in the cold brew tub.

You make hot soup (or cold soup) at the press of a button!  You make frozen desserts at the press of a DIFFERENT button! You look sleek and expensive on my counter, and generally communicate my sophistication and style to all kitchen passerbys. 

So regal! So imposing!
What's more, you've recently expanded your certified reconditioned series! Although this shaves two years off the 7-year warranty, it also shaves some dollars off the price tag. Not that you aren't worth it, because you obviously are. I love how you come with a recipe book, full of wondrous pictures, and even a video of how to use your Vitamix through a 5-course dinner (watched that one with bated breath with K). You make dough, you make flour, you make salad dressings, you make my life worthwhile.

(P.S. I have the Standard Programs, $379, 5 year warranty, and you can always get free shipping. I have used it once a day since the day I bought it, and at least 3 or 4 days a week I use it more than once.)

Friday, September 13

link it up

Friday AGAIN? Aren't we lucky! 

My dear friend and former co-worker J (check out her life coaching blog here) made a point a few weeks ago that perspective is everything: instead of feeling like the world is out to get you, try thinking that the world is out to do you good. The idea comes from the somewhat chimerical Jack Canfield, who encourages us all to "become an inverse paranoid".

I totally dig it. Sh*t is gonna happen anyway, you may as well leave the victimization and woe-is-me at the door. Perception > reality, AND has a bigger effect on my mood. If I'm thinking the world is out to get me, I'll latch on to every negative (the coffee pot is empty, the AC in my office is too high, traffic blows, etc). With a different mindset, you're more apt to latch on to every positive (whoa I found that parking spot quick, what a sweet text from a friend, it's so nice to take a  walk at lunch).

These examples are small enough that they really don't make or break your afternoon, but if you're going to tally up the little things, why not let it be the good ones instead of the bad?

If your tired of my philosophizing, enjoy some curated links (and add them to the positive column, please).

Did I know Etsy had a blog? Did you? Did we collectively know that they teach you how to do things?

Loving all the ways plaid can be worked into a home. It's so autumnal. Some day I'll have the budget to have different decor for every season, and fall will definitely be plaid-heavy.

Tried this recipe for pasta carbonara last night. D said it's a 7.5 out of 10 (which is not bad, considering I substituted sausage for bacon, pepper for onions, and 2% milk for basically, the recipe was irrelevant. #badatfollowingdirections)

Look at that D! Our rug on the cover of Tom Scheerer's new eponymous book. And was on the cover of House Beautiful last month. And makes my heart sing. (D and I are in an unending battle over the rug).

A good giggle on behalf of some of my dumber neighbors.

Thursday, September 12

discover [vegetable art]

I found out about the lovely vegetable prints of Jen Kindell via Instagram, and I'm so glad I did. I'm already envisioning my future kitchen decked out in her art. She's based in San Francisco, but of course ships all over the world. Aside from prints, she also does so sweet tea towels.

Here are a few of my favorites:


rainbow chard

Wednesday, September 11

cheap eats [healthy pesto]

With all my fresh and cheap basil from the farmers' market, I needed a good recipe for pesto. Traditionally made with lots o' cheese and oil, I was on the hunt for a healthier version, and found a few options. I think this week I'll try the first, and next week the second.

zucchini noodles with pesto
This version relies on fat-free ricotta for the creamy texture, and uses a minimal amount of olive-oil and parmesan. Though it calls for pine nuts, I think I'll try walnuts, as I prefer the flavor and have them on hand more often. As we approach fall, this idea sounds interesting: use pumpkin seeds as the nut addition.

This version I'm even more interested in, and uses an avocado to get that smoothness and healthy fats. With less than 1/4 the calories of olive oil, this seems to be a very healthy alternative. The recipe is vegan, low-carb, low-calorie, and all that nonsense to which I should probably pay more attention. Then again, this recipe has absolutely no nuts, oil, or cheese, which pretty much means it's not really pesto.

Maybe the third week I'll try the traditional, full-fat version and let D enjoy it- this NY Times recipe (and subsequent uses) sounds perfect. To make it go further, the same author makes an arugula pesto and broccoli pesto, too.

Pesto can live in the freezer for months, though the NY Times article recommends freezing just basil with oil and salt, and adding in the crushed garlic, nuts, and cheese when ready to serve. It's good in the fridge for about a week, so think about making smaller batches.

Tuesday, September 10

discover [Durham Farmers Market]

If you haven't been following along on Instagram (for shame), you may be unaware that the Durham Farmers Market is the bomb. It's one of my favorite new discoveries in Durham, and somewhere I think I'll spend many a Saturday morning and/or Wednesday afternoon. Being walking distance from the office doesn't hurt, either.

plentiful peppers
Things are affordable, farmers represent their own crop, there are plenty of dogs and babies to oogle, all the food trucks line up, and to be honest, I'm pretty sure it doesn't rain in Durham (at least that I've seen in two weeks). I loved visiting Eastern Market in DC, but that was more of a novelty, since the prices were much higher than the local grocery stores and the produce often wouldn't last as long. As long as you remember to keep cash on hand, this market seems to be an affordable way to get your fresh fruits and veggies.

week one, $12: arugula, baby tomatoes, padron peppers, green beans, basil, green peppers
I've found a few new things I like, such as padron peppers, fresh banana peppers, and a million new ideas for goat cheese (fig&honey, jalapeno&sea salt, roasted red pepper, and so on). I'm exploring healthy pesto recipes, since HUGE bunches of the herb are just $1 here. I've been storing my herbs on the counter like flowers, as Real Simple suggests. You can also check out this video from The Chew that I once posted in a link-up.

week two, $15: basil, heirloom tomatoes, banana peppers, green peppers, arugula, sweet potato
Just in case you're intimidated by the amount of fresh produce above, I want you to know I also indulged in a cronut this week (look it up). The sweet older woman who made them said it takes her 36 hours per batch. It's basically a fried, doughnut shaped croissant stuffed with cream filling (I tried blackberry, and I picked D up a chocolate) then rolled in sugar and topped with glaze. AKA heart attack in a breakfast pastry. It was worth the hype.

blackberry cronut, now a part of my weekly routine

Monday, September 9

autumn DIY decorations

If it's officially two weeks into September, does that mean we have to embrace the fact that summer has come to an end?

I've found something that's making it easier on me. Kate (over at Centsational Girl) has compiled a wonderful "best of DIY" list for fall. I gravitate towards the classy over the fun, seeing as I don't have children and wouldn't really decorate for Halloween. Fall, on the other hand, deserves some serious decor.

I'm putting in a concerted effort to not buy things, so I appreciate that many of these could be done with things you already have or free things (like leaves. Thanks, nature.).

Here are a few of my faves, with links to the project.

Friday, September 6

link it up

Fredericks & Mae
Friday!! Today kicks off the epic "camp out", where D and his "team" will be sleeping in a U-Haul for 36 hours straight in order to check-in at randomly appointed times throughout the weekend, all in the name of having the right to enter a raffle to possibly win Duke basketball tickets.

^^crazy. I will be getting peaceful slumber in bed, thank you very much, but you can bet I'll be doing some coffee and booze runs.

This interactive guide to my favorite type of booze is way cool. Here's hoping he makes a printable piece I can download and hang above the bar.

Totally downloading this app for fall fun (I'm sensing a trend in my post...)

To break the mold, this posthumous note is both hilarious and touching. (The author is still alive, FYI).

This end-of-summer playlist is really good. Been listening all week.

Watch this, and then lament the fact that you'll never have such a perfect union (although they aren't married). She's been one of my favorite spoken word poets since I saw her TED talk like 5 years ago.

Thursday, September 5

unexpectedly perfect color combinations

I've been seeing some color mixes lately that have caught my attention, specifically from Apartment Therapy's unusual color post and my recent J Crew catalog.

In my purely anecdotal opinion, I think that fashion and interiors often mirror each other. When mixed metals are on the runway, they're also in the shelter mags. Same goes for natural elements, animal print (that clothing-to-decor connection is so obvious and ubiquitous it's absurd), and, more recently, pairings of pastels with deep, saturated colors. From clothing to interiors, here are some new combinations that I'm going to try to emulate.

Navy & Bubble Gum

forest and cornflower blue (LOVE color names, and wish I worked for Crayola, OPI, or Pantone)

Persimmon and Thistle Pink

Finally, I loved this combo from Little Green Notebook so much that I copied it for an outfit. I'm calling it jungle green and coral, and see my interpretation (I'll admit, more of a forest) at my instagram. Jenny commented, NBD :)

Wednesday, September 4

the fiddle leaf fig [ficus pandurata]

Remember this innocent post from February, where I shared a picture of my new unknown plant? It was this cute, 4ft tall shrub that I picked up on an impromptu trip to Home Depot with my sister M.

Who knew I had a fiddle leaf fig in my midst, the trendiest of trendy indoor plants. Emily Henderson loves them (but cites the cost to be $150-$500+, depending on the size). $500?! I can't quite swing that, so I've decided to share with you the affordable way to get a fiddle leaf fig: go to Home Depot, buy ficus pandurata for $17 (or order online and ship to store to ensure they have it), enjoy.

 I'll say, they do grow aggressively. Here's my baby shrub after 5 months at well over 6ft tall:

That's a good lookin shrub right there, at a significantly lower cost. I'm hoping one day it'll look like so:

Hooooly moly. That's incredible. The guy at Home Depot did tell me it'll eventually crawl across the ceiling, so my dream is within reach. They're pretty easy to care for- they like a good amount of sunlight and weekly waterings, but I haven't found him (The Dinosaur) to be finicky or delicate when I stray from that prescription. Mine doesn't look too tree-like yet, as I'll need to let it get fuller on top before stripping the bottom leaves to give it that shape. All in good time, if I can stand it...I feel disproportionately sad when leaves fall off.

Here are a few more inspiration images, if you're on the fence. I'm pretty sure we'll be adding another to our home this season. Join me!

Anna Burke via Lonny