Thursday, October 31

Happy Halloween [and a drinking trick]

Happy Halloween amigos. I've always liked Halloween, but it gets pretty awk post-college. Can you still dress up? Upon which weekend do you celebrate, the one before or the one after? Is it acceptable to buy boatloads of candy even if you won't have any trick or treaters?

Here's one classy idea I found and adore. What a great place setting for a spooky dinner party.

Alas, I won't be doing much celebrating this year, as I fly to Chicago tonight for work. Don't worry, I watched Hocus Pocus last week, so I'm good.

I also have a drinking trick to share. D saw me do this yesterday and was stunned at its genius. I only learned it myself a month ago, and if we two drinkers were unaware, perhaps you are, too. To chill wine or beer quickly, wrap it in a wet paper towel and drop it in the freezer. I had a beer chilled in just a few minutes, a smidge longer for wine.

So, back to my Halloween. I'm planning on trying Jenis tonight with my old roommate know, the absurdly over-priced, over-hyped, hopefully life changing ice cream shop based in Ohio but with a scoop shop in Chicago?

I'm hoping it's splendid, so I don't need to overnight ship myself a few flavors on dry ice (I'm not kidding, people do it. Please tell me you've heard of this, it's absurd and has my hopes outrageously high).

Enjoy the night!

Wednesday, October 30

cheap eats [pickled radishes]

I love all things vinegary- pickles, kimchi, saurkraut, olives, the whole gang. My grandfather got into making pickles a longggg time ago, and they're kindof a family staple. So when I came home with these two beautiful, big radishes, but couldn't use them fast enough, I figured prolonging their life through vinegar was a good call.

These are truly cheap eats, friends- the radishes were 2 for $1 (the little green peppers are 5 for $1, the padrones $2.50 a pint, the potatoes were $1 for both, 1lb of arugula for $4, can't even make this stuff up). I'm telling you, southern living is gonna save me a boatload.

I used this recipe for pickled radishes, They turn a lovely rosy color after a few yours. Aren't they pretty in pink?

Pretty, yes, tasty, no. I'm damn sure this is a fine recipe, but know what you shouldn't do? Read teaspoon as tablespoon when measuring out your sugar and salt. Yeah, don't do that.

One last shot of the Durham Farmer's Market. In Durham, we match our veggies to our flowers.

Tuesday, October 29

DIY part II [reupholster bergere chairs]

Check out my inspiration post and part I (stripping and prep work) before we move on to the good stuff: upholstery!

As I've said earlier, we were lucky to have good bones and a simple set of chairs for this project. No tufting, no separate cushions, no tricky shapes or unwieldy size. This was especially helpful as we approached reupholstery, since it was a straightforward cut and staple operation.

Don't forget that you can use the original upholstery piece to trace, but the back of the chair was such a simple shape I didn't worry much. The steps are easy, pull the fabric tight and staple as you go. A good starting place is to staple a cross: a trio at the top, bottom, and each side. Continue to work in this way to ensure your pattern is perfect and the fabric has equal tension all around.

I found it helpful to have D push down the padding so the upholstery would be as taut as possible. The real focus is keeping the pattern in line. I used the spray adhesive mentioned in my last post for some added security. 

Make sure things are how you want them before you trim off the excess fabric beyond your staples, but then you're good to go. Eventually you'll want to cut the fabric close enough to cover with trim, but there's no turning back from there, so be careful.

Last note: staple like a madwoman. They don't need to be overlapping, but the entire perimeter should be secured. If you're pulling the fabric tight enough, any area that isn't stapled down will have less tension and can create ripples. Ripples are no good.

Friday, October 25

link it up

Weekend fun is here again. I'm finally venturing out to the only Trader Joe's in the area to stock up on pumpkin goodies (if there are any left). Going to swing by a Habitat for Humanity Restore, too- I've never been to one, but apparently they're your typical thrift store but with a focus on big home items (washers/driers, furniture, etc). Other than that, enjoying the crisp fall weather.

Very inspired by the wood board Oh Joy used in a fondue post. She said it's from Ebay, but of course it's really from the forest and I plan to make one. If you don't have woods at your disposal, I've had my eye on this Acacia Wedge Server from the great C&B (which happens to be 20% off and free shipping through Nov 11th).

All about the french press at work these days. I've been using these instructions from Intelligentsia with my Misto Box- remember, it's a subscription box that sends "the world's best coffee to your door". Get in on it.

Saw this from cent girl and LOVE: the voices of classic Disney characters.

Do I love everything she does or what? Mah gurl Jenny (from LGN) is now a contributor to the recently reincarnated Domino, and shared this amazing Ikea closet hack.

D and I both connected with this article: how to say no and have it be effective.

Wednesday, October 23

bibliophile [open city]

Not sure this was worth the read, to be honest.

Open City, by Teju Cole

This is supposed to be just amazing, a bold book from a new author, a wonderful narrative and a creative viewpoint, the next Jack Kerouac, yadda yadda. Here's the blurb:

Nigerian immigrant Julius, a young graduate student studying psychiatry in New York City, has recently broken up with his girlfriend and spends most of his time dreamily walking around Manhattan. The majority of Open City centers on Julius’ inner thoughts as he rambles throughout the city, painting scenes of both what occurs around him and past events that he can’t help but dwell on. Readers who enjoy stream-of-consciousness narratives and fiction infused with politics will find this unique and pensive book a charming read.

I actually like the idea of a sprawling novel with very little plot but an interesting, disjointed narrative, even if that's only one guy's rambling mind. The main problem here is that the author is, well, boring. His thoughts on politics, racism, travel, and all that weren't new, they were dull. I'm of the mind that people who say omg I loveeeedddd are full of it. Straight hipster, trendy but not actually any good.

Wow, this was harsh, but to be fair I'm not sure I've ever written worse than a lukewarm review, so maybe it was time to get down and dirty.

Tuesday, October 22

DIY part I [reupholster bergere chairs]

Started things off over here with the inspiration for this project, but to recap, I reupholstered a pair of bergere chairs for my brother and his wife as a wedding present. And trust me, no amount of chairs could gift them enough for one the experience of being a part of their celebration.

Let's get rolling, no?

Step one, as you might guess, is stripping the fabric, but hold your horses: it's not as cut and dry as you'd think. It's incredibly important to remove the fabric while retaining the shape, as you'll use the dimensions when you cut your own piece of furniture. It's much, much easier to trace an existing perfect fit than to attempt to measure the uneven nightmare that is a cushion.

Aside from being careful to retain the fabric shape, you need to get all the nails out. This is a real bitch, no other way to say it, and is where enlisting some help is a great idea (credit here goes to D). It's mindless, but it's difficult. We used needlenose pliers for the most part. Do your best to pull straight out, rather than wiggling or pulling at an angle, to protect as much of the wood as possible.

We were lucky enough to find chairs that were in good shape and had good bones- we probably paid a bit more for that, as I'm sure you've seen how cheap destroyed furniture can go for, but I think it's worth it, at least for my first bigger project. The wood was well cared for, and most of the padding was solid (we did need to replace the arm pieces, though). I would gravitate towards foam padding if you can, because fixing springs is a wholeee different ball game. If the padding was in bad shape, like the kitchen chairs I redid a few years ago, it's inexpensive and pretty easy to replace. If you aren't as lucky and your piece needed some help, now would be the time to strip the finish, sand down the wood, re-stain, and then condition or coat with a protective layer. Once that was done, cut your padding to fit (again, much easier if you retain the original) and attach it. 

I didn't get a shot of the chair completely stripped, but here she is with the start of the arm upholstery.

For this project, I used a good amount of spray adhesive, which you can get at any hardware store, for fabric and foam. I would use that, plus well-placed staples, to attach your foam. Once the fabric is in place, it will hold things together.

Next Tuesday (my favorite day for original content, clearly) we'll go over the upholstery, then it's attaching trim and the finished project!

Monday, October 21

discover [blogs I dig: foodies]

This is a continuation of a mini-series I started, where I'll be sharing some of the blogs I admire know, in case for a song isn't hitting every single note (see what I did there).

Next up are the foodie blogs.

How Sweet It IsLove the recipes, love her photography, love her quirky, personality-filled posts. Lately she's posted a bit more about other topics that interest me less (beauty products, personal life, tv shows...), but she's surely earned that right by creating such a popular blog and cultivating such devoted followers. She's truly a "brand", in my mind. She does a great mix of meals, desserts, apps, cocktails, you name it.

Not Without Salt: Aside from being a salt fanatic and having an obvious affinity for the name, Not Without Salt consists of gorgeous, often moody photography and truly beautifully written posts (for an example, check out this one, or this one). Her writing is so personal, which fits with the topic in some regards- she's inviting us into her kitchen, sharing her recipes, and chatting with us all the while. I really like this one and I think it's a great example of how truly great, solid blogging is done.

She has a background as a dessert/pastry chef and a boog coming out February 2015 (I want it).

The FauxMartha: This is a fun one. My favorite posts of hers are the "tip of the week", which are usually simple yet ingenious. Her recipes are good, but she likes to cook from scratch, which is inspiring and lovely but impractical for me personally (I'll take all the shortcuts I can to get dinner on the table). 

Smitten Kitchen: can't leave her out. I'll admit I don't have the cook book yet, though it's on my wishlist this Christmas. Her recipe file is EXTENSIVE, and I like that you can search it by season. Photography is great (kinda a requirement for me with food blogs), and you can even purchase prints of her photos very inexpensively. I especially like the "ingredient" gallery for beautiful shots of fresh fruits and veggies.

Of course, don't forget Thug Kitchen, which still gets me giggling every post.

Friday, October 18

link it up

Welcome to the weekend party! It's been a lonely week for me as D studies for finals. They don't end until tomorrow afternoon, which means tonight is a Mexican dinner date with a few book club friends. Once his last exam is done, we're going to explore Chapel Hill (drinks at The Crunkleton, seriously, check it out, followed by Mediterranean). 

We're both off to Texas next week. It'll be my first time, but I'm pretty sure I'll fit right in. #bighairdontcare.

This is such incredible work. Maybe it's the final push I need to get started marbleizing paper.

Loving this story about excellent customer service. Might as well have some laughs while on the job, no?

I do think decorating is an art, but this article shows how it's also a science. I appreciate the concrete guidelines and specific measurements.

Wow. Some of these are absurdly true. Especially 2, 8, 10. Oh and 20, 27, 29. And don't forget 31, 22, 33. 35. 36. Ok go read it.

Construction workers react to Miley Cyrus' wrecking ball. Yes. Where is your hard hat.

Wednesday, October 16


I've come across a few beautiful images lately that I wanted to share.

Isn't this a unique and gorgeous way of lighting? Especially for a small nook.

I really like this gallery wall. It's a bit more organized and clean-cut than most.

And finally, the most incredible chairs I've ever seen. Ever. I'm already trying to think if there is any way, ever, that I could recreate this.

Tuesday, October 15

cheap eats [cider bourbon apple pie]

I am deeply wary of Sundays, as they usually bring me the blues. Even with a job I like, and post-work yoga scheduled for Mondays, the end of the weekend feels like, well, the end. It has a heaviness, a finality, a spirit of don't-bother-making-plans-because-you're-out-of-time.

D and I have combated this a few ways: having things to look forward to during the work week, planning an active Sunday and a restful evening, or, most frequently, with an ice cream date.

It was so gloomy outside Sunday that I had my heart set on a cuddly, quiet evening. A little Frank Sinatra, some hot cocoa, and a good book (more than half way through my book club pick).

Know what goes well with my intended evening? The smell of apple pie in the oven.

Cider Boubon Apple Pie with Oatmeal Cookie Crumble I
I've posted a few recipes from How Sweet Eats before, and she's really knocked it out of the park again with her Cider Bourbon Apple Pie. Oh, don't forget the oatmeal cookie crumble on top. Next on my list is to try an apple pie with a cheddar biscuit crust. I'm searching for a great thanksgiving recipe, as I'm always the pie girl, but I may just resort back to my all-time-favorite Cranberry Apple Ribbon Pie from Bon Apetit '03. Don't mess with the best.

Cider Boubon Apple Pie with Oatmeal Cookie Crumble I

Monday, October 14

discover [blogs I dig: fashion]

My dear friend (no initial to protect her laziness) has been less-than-inspired by work lately. Frankly, she's absurdly over-qualified and completes her tasks in a fraction of a normal work day. She mentioned that she's been using my sidebar "blogs I dig" list to do some light reading when bored.

To be honest, I'd completely forgotten about that list, and was a little put out when I realized a few of them weren't even actively blogging anymore, and a few of them, sadly, suck. It has now been updated, and I hope you'll take a gander.

So! I'm going to be doing a few spotlight posts on other blogs to give you some additional reading. I've been particularly drawn to fashion blogs of late, since they're typically very short posts and image heavy, meaning you can read 10 in about 2 minutes. Some new-to-me favorites include:

The Chronicles of Her: I won't pretend everything is completely wearable in the average life (is she in a leather 3-piece suit up there?) but her writing is clean and simple, her style is one of my favorites (a little rough, a little borrowed-from-the-boys, a little sexy, basically all the ways I don't-but-wish-I-did dress), she does occasional tutorials and giveaways, and she's got hook ups (Hermes, anyone?)

Tuula: absurdly aspirational wardrobe here, but I do appreciate that she'll re-wear the same $3,000 coat or $$ shoes all the flipping time. And she's just so beautiful. And she is in a different country in every post (for real) and her photos can be just incredible. I've honestly saved a few to potentially print out for my gallery wall. THAT good.

A Pair & a Spare: Very cool girl. Most of her posts are inspiration from top designers and trends or DIY's where she re-creates those styles on the cheap (like the jeweled Burberry trench, above).

Look Linger Love: maybe more lifestyle with a heavy favor for fashion. This woman is so likeable, so warm, so colorful, and so NOT your typical fashion blogger (i.e., all those posted above). She's a mom, a business owner, a woman of average size, and a fun read.

Don't forget Primer for the boys, Atlantic Pacific because you HAVE to, or my tried-and-true Capital Hill Style (even if I'm not in DC anymore, Belle rocks).

Friday, October 11

link it up

Oops- a little late on the posting. I got back from Chicago late last night, and didn't think to post the link up. It feels great to be back on the road fundraising (especially when one of your favorite chefs has a restaurant in your airport). Looking forward to catching up on some zz's and D time this weekend.

Still love this gilded centerpiece from Martha Stewart weddings, especially in fall. Great for a wedding, sure, but also great for seasonal decor right through the holidays.

Though it's not my FAVORITE HGTV show (which is prop bros, duh), I like house hunters. Except for the people you love to hate. This is spot on.

Hate doing two buzzfeeds here, because it's such a cop-out, but I always jump at the opportunity to continue my grammatical education.

It is indeed apple picking time, and these recipes have me more ready than ever. To find a few pick-your-own farms near you, check out this site.

My post yesterday discussed some of my favorite travel resources. Check this out from one of them- my dad grew up there, and said this was quite good.

Thursday, October 10

discover [travel resources]

I travel a good deal for my job, about three trips a month, some lasting the full work week. I like to get out of town on my weekends if I have it my way, too, which means I spend some serious time in foreign places. I wanted to share some of my favorite resources for discovering what to do in a new city, or what to do as you get there.

The Design*Sponge city guides are truly excellent in that they are very true to the blog's brand: if you like D*S, you'll love their guides. They tend to gravitate towards where to eat, what neighborhoods are fun to explore, where the cool art and design stores and galleries are, that sort of thing. Their guides won't direct you to the latest techno club, but they are written by creative souls that live in the actual city, and they do updates periodically, especially for the heavy hitters (New York, Chicago, etc). Heading abroad? They've got that too, so you can save yourself hours of trolling TripAdvisor. I've only been in Durham a month, and I have honestly heard about 90% of the restaurants, businesses, theaters, and local flavor that they highlight.

Brightleaf Square, super cute Durham neighborhood where I work
The Scout Guide is pretty similar, but maybe a bit more varied in the highlights they include. Again, the focus is on having locals really give you the low down on visiting a new town (their tagline is "scouting the best of local"). They have 25+ city guides (with more concentration in the south), a frequent blog, features, and more. They really target local businesses, so if you need something specific or know what you're looking for, it's a great place to start. Each city has an editor, a guide, a directory, and a blog. Check 'em out.

I've told y'all about Roadtrippers before, but it really is a cool system. Use their google-map-esque function to find attractions along your route, from your basic diner to your esoteric giant spool of thread.

PureWow has a general "national" email subscription that I adore, but they also do a few major cities (NY, Chicago, Dallas, San Fran, etc). I follow the cities that I travel to frequently, and can keep up on some really cool stuff- for example, an author I love is having a reading in Chicago this week.

The more practical travel info: I use (keep an eye out for great sales and free cancellation), Marriott (call customer service to find out how you can accelerate your gold membership status, it is SO worth it), National (easiest service through which to earn free day rentals), and try to fly the same airline consistently (right now that's Southwest and US Airways, based on my work regions).

Travel safe, friends.

Wednesday, October 9

DIY [dip dye ombre shower curtain]

Another DIY where the only skill involved is gathering the tools and committing to one hour of activity...or more like 30 minutes. D and I were in need of a shower curtain when we moved into our apartment in DC, but were low on cash. Naturally, we decided to turn a sheer Ikea curtain into a fun, bathroom-brightening shower curtain.

We used this dye from RIT, for $2.99 at any hardware store:
And these cheapy curtains, literally $8 for a pair (and we only used one because I think I lost the other):
The only other tool you need is a big pot, and you're in business.

Boil water and mix the dye according to the box instructions. Take a few minutes to decide what you really want- should the whole curtain be in varying saturation of color, or do you want it to fade to white? How wide should each swatch be? Do you want sharp delineation between shades, or more gradual ombre? The look you want will determine your technique.

I wanted a gradual, even fade to white, which was easy to accomplish. Dip the bottom 2/3rds of the curtain into the dye as briefly as possible. The color you have is the lightest you can get without the added hassle of diluting the dye in another pot. If you have steady hands, you can slowly pull the curtain out, understanding that the longer the curtain sits in the dye, the deeper the color will be. I instead dunked the fabric up and down slightly, as I didn't want any harsh lines between saturated hues. When done, rinse thoroughly, allow to dry completely, then put through the wash. This way you know the color won't run- just make sure to send it through a cycle solo.

I've definitely seen worse, and for $4, it was a low commitment and a fun first exposure to dye. I ended up using orange ribbons to attach the curtain to the plastic rings that held up the interior shower curtain, like so:

We never had any issues with this- it stayed clean, probably as it almost never got wet, and didn't wrinkle or lose color in the two years we lived there.

It also helps that I was able to find a cigar box collection in matching orange and yellow. After our dark blue bedroom, having a bright bathroom was so cheery and a nice contrast.

Tuesday, October 8

closet conundrum

I like to tell D I'm a minimalist at heart, which is hilarious when you look at my closet (you're lucky I'm not showing my shoes, or the entire left side of the closet, which holds my dresses, dress pants, and jeans, or the dresser, which holds all sweaters, t-shirts, tanks, and work out gear UGH).

I love to shop, but I also love to find deals, so I tend to balance likability with price. Say I only want a wardrobe of 8's on the 10 point scale of adoration. For me, a 5 can jump up to an 8 if it's deeply discounted. But, once you get it home and forget the great price, it goes back to being a 5 and is continually pushed aside for the few pieces you truly love. You wear only those pieces you love, of which there are too few, which creates the "full closet and nothing to wear" conundrum and sends you back out to the mall. Vicious cycle sustained.

As D and I continue to move (and move, and move), it feel silly to transport all these clothes that I never wear. You know the old 80-20 rule...20% of your time produces 80% of your output, 20% of the firm does 80% of the work, 20% of Meaghan's wardrobe is worn 80% of the time. Time for a change, no?

Here was my excellent idea: every time I wear something, I turn the hanger around. I'm not allowed to re-wear ANYTHING until I go through all my things. I thought this would really expose my wardrobe, build some appreciation, make me be more creative in my combinations, help me feel less guilty about my overflowing shelves. I've been doing great over the past month, building new outfits and working in pieces that haven't been worn in ages. I've actually worn my least favorite, least often utilized clothes first, trying to get them out of the way and "save" my best looks for later.

But...I haven't felt confident or excited about what I've been wearing, since I've been forcing myself to wear things I wish I didn't own. A good idea in theory has turned out to be a poor idea in practice. In retrospect, I think I should have worn all the clothes I love the most first, and when I got to the point where I reallllly wanted to cycle back through, donated or tossed the rest of them. Then I'd be left with clothes I actually want to own, rather than forcing myself to work with looks that don't suite my taste or lifestyle any longer.

I'm so far into my first experiment (and honestly, so proud of my hanger-turning-progress), that I don't want to switch it up just yet, but I'm thinking Closet Pare-Down-Part-II is going to be far more successful at achieving my intended goal.

If you've stuck with my first-world saga this far, it's your turn to share. Do any of you have strategies that have worked for you in the past? Who has successfully edited down a closet of 5's to have a smaller, better quality, well-loved wardrobe of 10's? Any mantras that help you focus on resisting the sales and bringing home only the best? If you exist in the universe, I need your advice.

Monday, October 7

bibliophile [girls in white dresses]

A light read, and not very sticky, but an interesting character study of my "peers" for sure.

Girls in White Dresses, by Jennifer Close

This book was on almost every "must read for the summer" list I saw, toted as a great beach read, fun chick lit, etc. I thought I'd give it a try. Here's your blurb:

Wickedly hilarious and utterly recognizable, Girls in White Dresses tells the story of three women grappling with heartbreak and career change, family pressure and new love—all while suffering through an endless round of weddings and bridal showers.

With a wry sense of humor, Jennifer Close brings us through those thrilling, bewildering, what-on-earth-am-I-going-to-do-with-my-life years of early adulthood. These are the years when everyone else seems to have a plan, a great job, and an appropriate boyfriend, while Isabella has a blind date with a gay man, Mary has a crush on her boss, and Lauren has a goldfish named Willard. Through boozy family holidays and disastrous ski vacations, relationships lost to politics and relationships found in pet stores, Girls in White Dresses pulls us deep inside the circle of these friends, perfectly capturing the wild frustrations and soaring joys of modern life.

This was a lot like Girls the TV show; you just want to slap every one of them. This book follows the lives of a group of friends from post-grad to marriages to babies, but they're all flipping dumb. They make bad decisions, they settle for the path of least resistance, they don't pursue lives of meaning. I kept reading it, and was truly interested in how things would turn out, but it was like watching a car crash more than really being engaged by the story. Your call, but I rolled my eyes through this one.

Friday, October 4

link it up

What's up for the weekend? D and I are excited to try out Google Glass, which is coming to the American Tobacco Campus in downtown Durham. From there we'll head straight to the World Beer Festival. Good thing the bus will get us door to door, huh?

I hate when I discover "link it up" additions too early in the week, because by the time we hit Friday, you've already seen them all. But, this is SUCH a good parody, too good to leave out. I love Tina Fey.

Appreciate all things Jay-Z and Bey.

Did you see this country cover of Cyrus' Wrecking Ball? Is it still the same song if they keep their clothes on?

If you've ever loved a dog...

To me, this was an unexpected result of the shut down. Keeping perspective, I suppose it's not a big deal, but for that couple? Ouch.

Thursday, October 3

cheap eats [party snacks]

I'm hosting book club tonight, and have made some autumn-themed snacks to enjoy along with a few bottles of wine. If I stumble across and tips or tricks, I'll do a follow up. Do you have any quick and dirty, go-to recipes for fall parties? I feel like I make muddy buddies all the damn time in football season.

Greek yogurt pumpkin pie dip, with ginger snaps and apple chips

Pumpkin spice rice krispie treats, but I may just go classic peanut butter after the dip above...

Apple Brie Crescent Rolls

Chocolate Caramel Popcorn

via, but adding caramel to the chocolate