Friday, January 31

link it up

Ellipsograph 9 by Erik Barthels
Ellipsograph 9 by Erik Barthels
Man the South can't handle their winter weather. Hope everyone has stayed safe and warm. I've been in Florida all week, but before you get too jealous, I had 3 cancelled flights getting down here, and though I finally made it, it's been 40's and rainy every day. Today should be a gorgeous sunny 75, but alas, I head to the airport. I'm spending the weekend in DC with some of my favorite people in the world, so I'll trade in the sunny weather without complaint.

This is very well done. I've always loved spoken word and also supported immigration. Give it a watch.

Ok, I don't want to go here as much as I want to go to Disney University, but it still looks pretty baller. Imagine the things I would learn. This coincides well with my re-commitment to Downtown Abbey, which I had abandoned after season 1 when Netflix stopped carrying it. Guess where you can get it now? FREE with an Amazon Prime membership. Too cool.

D sent me this time waster (for the intellectual). I'm enjoying it.

I'm staying in a lovely hotel at the moment. Guess what's around the corner and I have ABSOLUTELY NO TIME TO VISIT? J, you'll find this as upsetting as I do. Next trip, I suppose.

If you have some spare time this weekend, maybe you can take the first crack over here and inspire me to get moving on my resolution for 2014: learn this.

Thursday, January 30

imbibe [thyme simple syurp in two cocktails]


Remember the thyme simple syrup I wanted to make last week? It turned out quite well, and I've used it in two different recipes to give it a real working over. We've got something for everyone, both gin and dark rum. With gin it's a bit like the classic bees knees, and with dark rum it gets a limey apple kick. 

For the Thyme Simple Syrup: boil 1 C water with 1 C sugar. Add 15 sprigs of thyme, about half of a package that you get at the supermarket, and reduce to simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Strain syrup into sealable jar.

Make the sugared thyme by tossing the freshly strained thyme with sugar and allowing to dry.

Tuesday, January 28

DIY [industrial lamp]

The thing is, I'm not THAT into industrial decor. I mean, I like it, very much, but it's not like I dream of living in a warehouse with bare bulbs hanging and reclaimed wood pallet furniture and scrappy paint jobs. I think industrial design gives a raw, unrefined element to more sophisticated spaces.

What I'm saying is, it's all about the contrast. I'll be especially happy to contrast around this lovely little lamp for sure.
I can take no credit for this, besides perhaps inspiring a love of Edison bulbs in D, who made me this lamp for Christmas. It's very similar to the pipe side table we made last year in terms of the materials. You can pick up a lamp kit for $10 at Home Depot as well.
Gah how good does it look on?! Using an Edison bulb (we like these) are your best bet for exposed bulbs, so you don't hurt your eyes or get too much glare. There are so many lamp DIY's going around now- it's wonderful to create something so functional that sees daily use (I'm blogging in bed by the light of my tripod lamp at the moment). Here's to more functional projects this year.

Monday, January 27

cheap eats [homemade vs store bought]

I've gotten pretty kitchen-domestic in the last few years, prompted by a few different things- certainly I enjoy the process of DIY, the accomplishment, the pride, but my more health-conscious side also likes knowing EXACTLY what I'm eating and my cheap side likes the opportunity to save a few pennies. I think the best way to decide what you should be making at home is to consider what you eat most often. It would make sense (financially and health-wise) to switch out a store-bought (and arguably less-healthy, more-expensive) staple.  For example, I'm eyeing these homemade Larabars. Plus, if it's a weekly or even daily consumption, you won't need to worry about your lack of preservatives!

I'm already down with making my own almond milk, and I've been doing nut butters every since my trusty Vitamix came into my life. Don't even get me started on the vast and varied list of sauces and dressings I'd like to tackle. There are a few things I'd like to add to my homemade repertoire in 2014, below- please let me know if you have any tips or tricks to share!

Homemade Sauerkraut (this is already fermenting, details coming soon)

All things pickled (I've tried a few but haven't had much luck)

Apple Butter (sans sugar)

Hummus! I want to try this (meat-less) "buffalo chicken" version, too.

Preserved Lemons (supposedly awesome with most veggies!)

Friday, January 24

link it up

I'm sensing a theme in my Friday love of dark florals...maybe there's a DIY in my future
Friday at last, and man I'm sleepy. Even for a short week, I just didn't get the (ahem, 8 hours worth of) sleep that I prefer. D is off doing important business-y things, so I'm taking this evening to clean like a mad-woman for one of my best friends' visit on valentines weekend! That tub is gettin' a scrub a dub. Don't feel too bad for me though, D's triumphant return to the triangle on Saturday night leads straight into a double date for Durham Restaurant week. Yum. What are you up to?

I love a good dialect quiz. It knew exactly where I was from.

I'll be making homemade Thai basil rolls tonight, which my aunt introduced me to this past weekend.

My friend E is requiring her Superbowl guests to watch this short video before they come. The animation is AWESOME. There's something for everyone: yes, it's educational for "ladies, liberals and limeys", but if you know a bit about the sport their under-the-breath comments are hilarious, too. #RIPpats

Everyone should get this app. And then send me things. Best submission gets a virtual hug.

Ever since Beauty and the Beast, I've wanted a ladder in my home. Living without ladders = SO provincial. Until I have the library, I'll make this.

Thursday, January 23

imbibe [whiskey thyme smash & crushing ice]


Time for a pre-Friday drink, no? This recipe comes from Julibox, our favorite monthly subscription box that features spirits. I wouldn't have minded a sugar rim with this, as it was a bit tart. I'm going to try making a thyme simple syrup with the leftover herbs to see if that punches up the flavor as well. All in all a wonderful, slightly herbal, fresh tasting cocktail.

If you're new to crushing ice, as you need to do for this recipe, a Lewis bag can be bought here. You'll want one for crushing ice, a necessity for mint juleps and most smashes. The canvas absorbs the water and is very sturdy. D and I used plastic bags in the past, which tear as soon as you pound them. Any thick material will do if you'd prefer to DIY (I've heard canvas and denim work best).

Wednesday, January 22

discover [vayable]

The more I vacation, the more I want to vacation. Ever had a few days out of the office, traveling, being with family and friends, and instead of satiating your need to get away, it just expands it?

D and I are trying to orchestrate a trip back to Spain, where I studied abroad and he visited, this spring. He'll have a bit of time between school and his summer internship, and our dear friend (who also studied abroad with me outside of Madrid) is interested in joining us. If this happens, it'll be the best trip EVER.

I recently heard of Vayable, and it's getting me even MORE in the mood to hit the road. It's essentially Airbnb for activities, rather than lodging. Search for regions, activities, or cost, and you'll get a list of locals ready to take you on an adventure (it'd be like me hosting a food tour in Durham for out-of-towners). It's very reasonably priced, a great option for groups, and a chance to see another side of the city; think scouting for street art in San Francisco, a vintage and antique hunt through Berlin, or a midnight street food crawl through NYC.

On a social and cultural level, it's a wonderful idea. They're proud to "enable entrepreneurship, cultural exchange, and worldwide exploration", making it a feel-good operation as well.

It left me thinking- if you could host any Vayable trip, what would it be? I think I'd like to do winery tours in Virginia, a cocktail tour in DC, or thrifting here in Bull City.

Tuesday, January 21

pinned [it's all about the glass]

Welcome back from your long weekend! I hope you did something memorable.

Why oh why does glass need to be so expensive? I am very much in envy of these panes. Here's a hint: the last one is anodized aluminum adhered to the glass, rather than individual panes. Someone recreate it with a step-by-step stat.

If you're still here, I'll let you in on something I just learned. Stat isn't an acronym. Weird.

Statadverbwithout delay IMMEDIATELY
from stat, an abbreviation for the Latin statim, meaning "at once"

Friday, January 17

link it up

It's a long weekend friends! Which bums me out on the one hand, because I'm FINALLY at an airport that will do my TSA Pre Check interview and guess what, they're closed for MLK day. My dreams of soaring through pre-9/11 security are on hold yet again. BUT I'm spending a few days in Atlanta with a whole buncha family I don't get to see nearly enough. Hope you all have something fun on tap.

I hadn't heard of mental floss before, but I'll follow them on YouTube now. This video on my favorite non-alcoholic beverage was funny AND enlightening.

Ever have vegetables about to go bad? I certainly do, weekly it seems. This is a fantastic use for them.

He is SO GOOD at impersonations. My favorite is still Neil Young, but this one is great too.

Diggin the Trader Joe's Broccoli Kale Slaw? Try this instead.

Everyone go take this test and then tell me your number. By taking a quick survey (less than 5 minutes), they can estimate how large your vocabulary is. Maybe all the novels I read are paying off.

How incredible is that picture up there? I wish I had a source for you all. Those hues plus a pop of persimmon is everything to me right now.

Thursday, January 16

Imbibe [shaken or stirred]


Sorry, James Bond. You may be handy with a gun, but you drink your martini all wrong. In the debate of shaken vs stirred, I have a few words.

Shake when there's fruit juice, a dairy product, a thicker liquor, or egg whites (duh). Otherwise, we're stirring. Simple as that. Shaking when unnecessary means you're clouding the drink, melting too much ice and diluting your drink excessively, making some more sensitive liquors bitter, and killing the bubbles in your carbonated beverages. The Boys' Club (hate the name, love the blog) did a fun animated video on this.

I have plenty of shaken cocktails I could share with you, since egg white drinks are my forte, but I'm going to go with the East Side Press, my favorite drink at the moment featuring Domaine de Canton, a ginger liquor.

I read the recipe wrong on their site, and instead of adding brown sugar we used it to make a sugar rim- VAST improvement if you ask me. D, my resident bartender, wanted me to add that he recommends a dry shake if you're using egg whites, which means shaking all the liquid ingredients vigorously, then adding the ice and shaking again (although not everyone agrees: here's a differing opinion, and a great cocktail recipe to boot).

I'm extra partial to this drink because I fed it to Murray the Moose deer, my faux-taxidermy friend, as you can see in the picture below. I tagged it in a competition by Julibox, my favorite monthly subscription cocktail club, and won a free box! Those people rock.

The moral of the story here is always share your drink.

Wednesday, January 15

discover [skimm your news]

I've posted on this topic before, but today is National Skimm Day, where Skimm'ers (like myself) are encouraged to invite friends to join in the fun. Skimm is a great news source for the busy- they abbreviate the top stories and give you what you need to know in a compact, 5-minute-to-read email every morning.

Click here to sign up for the news email, which comes Monday through Friday.

DIY [industrial coffee table reveal]

Hey y'all, thanks for sticking with the project. The inspiration for our Ikea hack began here, and you can find the step-by-step process here. Today I'm showing you the finished product.
Hopefully you get a feel for the dimensions and shape here. You can see there's still a pretty good shine using the satin finish polyurethane, so keep that mind as you decide what protective coating to use.
Here's a good shot of the sexy legs: aluminum coated in chalkboard paint never looked so good. You can also see the gold-leafed bolts- do you agree with me that they're a bit too yellow?
We were lucky to get a truly beautiful piece of walnut at Home Depot. The stain we used really brought out the grain with a great, saturated contrast. 

See our Raleigh Durham Chapel Hill Scout guide? It's hiding under my DIY matchboxes and above the best home decor book ever :)

Tuesday, January 14

DIY [industrial coffee table]

This is a very simple project. The more DIY's I do, the more convinced I am that it's not about talent or skill but more about having the tools, the time, and the vision. Heck, you don't even need a vision, that's what Pinterest is for, and most tools you can rent out from a home improvement store or buy for cheap (the only "tool" we needed for this project was sand paper for $3/4 pack).

D and I weren't too keen on our Ikea coffee table, which was too modern and sleek for our preferred aesthetic. Glass isn't really our thing, so we knew we wanted to swap it out for some wood.

The table had great legs, which I coated with chalk board spray paint to mimic wrought iron. I've tried matte blacks before, but they just don't give the same texture as the chalk board paint-- believe me, I had plenty of time to experiment when DIY'ing for my brother's wedding here, here, and here. I taped off the nuts and bolts and lightly sanded everywhere to be painted- you want the paint to have some texture to stick to, and I wasn't going to bother with primer. Remember: multiple light coats of spray paint is the best way to get even coverage with no drips.

For the table top, we bought a 1/4in board of walnut at Home Depot for $25. We needed only a fraction of the board, but unfortunately this isn't sold by the foot but by the sheet. We don't own a saw, so we made sure to visit Home Depot at a quiet time so the man cutting our wood would have time to make exact cuts. We brought home the rest to save for another project, and D got to sanding.

The sheet itself was in great shape, but we needed to round the edges to mimic the frame. I debated busting out the orbital sander, but this took less than 5 minutes to do all four by hand.

Next up was staining the wood. If you're new to working with wood stains, go hang out with my boy Bruce Johnson. I use Minwax products, so it makes sense I would listen to their experts. D and I worked as a team here: he would paint on the stain, and I would almost immediately rub it in/off using a clean dry rag. We like this rich walnut hue (which we already had on hand), but didn't want the color to be too dark for this project, since we already have a honkin' big leather club chair in the living room. Gotta think about balance.

For any piece of wood, painted or not, stained or not, you need to use a protective product. Otherwise, your wood will get dry and crack. I used Minwax Polyurethane in clear satin for the table top. 1 quart is $10 at Home Depot. I did 3 light coats over the wood, and don't forget to sand with a fine grit (I used 220) between each coat after 4 hours of drying. Satin is the least shiny option in the Polyurethane/Polycrylic family, which we wanted to use for waterproofing and protection qualities, rather than a wax. In the picture below, the right half has been coated with Poly, the left has not. It really saturates the color and adds a richness.

All that remains is painting the knobs, which I did with my trusty liquid gold leaf. i actually don't like the result- it's a little too yellow to be brass- but I'm leaving it for now. I'll show you the end result tomorrow, along with my amateur attempt at styling a coffee table.

Monday, January 13

DIY inspo [ikea hack]

Ikea how I love you. You give options to college students and recent grads, you overwhelm craigslist, you make cheap and cheaply made minimalist Sweedish furniture available to all! I love visiting you, strolling through your showroom (even more so since 500 Days of Summer) and buying way more tea lights and meatballs than a girl needs.

But for the big ticket items- the bed, the couch, the table, basically anything that's going to define my home- I don't want you. Even if you're a free coffee table inherited from god knows how many generations of renters in our capitol hill row house, eventually you've gotta go.

Or get hacked.

When D and I found ourselves in possession of said coffee table 3 years ago, we decided to make it work. It saved us cash at the time, and we certainly haven't prioritized upgrading communal items, as we've always lived with friends (which is WHY WE CAN'T HAVE NICE THINGS). But as the much anticipated solo-living horizon approaches, I'm getting excited to focus on previously neglected areas, like the living room where this table may live.

From what I can gather online, this baby was made in 1983 and discontinued in the early 2000's. There's even an Ikea MOMENT Table Flickr album (don't ask me why). Well, sorry to ruin a retro classic (??) but it needed a new look.

Come back tomorrow to see what we did.

Friday, January 10

link it up

We made it through that first week after a long vacation. How'd you do? I think I'd be fine if all my favorite retailers would stop sending out info on their resort line. I get it. Rich people head south in March, and they need fantastic palm print shorts and gauzy tunics and lace up sandals to wear. Life is hard.

Need a calendar for the new year? Download and print this graphic simple beauty.

A very powerful (scary, violent) PSA regarding domestic violence

Go ahead. Spray paint a vinyl chair. I won't tell.

Make 2014 the year you truly devote yourself to your personal brand. I'm not all weird slick business guy about this, but I have been interested in the idea of cultivating your personal identity for years.

I have a few weddings coming up in 2014 that I truly could not be more excited for. In preparation, I'm sharing a best man's speech from a wonderful source.

D and I are exploring Raleigh for the first time on Saturday, hopefully I'll have some cool places to share soon. Have fun out there and stay warm.

Thursday, January 9

cheap eats [vegan organic protein sources]

Hope you got a few new green smoothie ideas from the recipes I shared yesterday

A good friend of mine, who sells nutritional supplements to richer people than me, suggested that I should get more protein in my diet, based on my goals and workout plan. The best way to add in a protein powder for me is to add it to my green smoothies. I don't want to mess up all that wonderful vegan raw awesomeness, so I was on the hunt for an organic, vegan protein source. 

I found two that I use almost daily. 

The first is hemp protein. I buy this exact one from Amazon- not cheap exactly, but worth it. Hemp is considered a complete protein, meaning it has adequate amounts of all eight essential amino acids, just like your traditional meat-and-eggs protein sources (but without the fat and calories). It does have a very mild plant-y taste, but in any of the recipes I shared yesterday it's undetectable. There are 20 grams of protein (!!) per 30 gram serving, which is just 110 calories. That's a great ratio, trust me, I've been doing the research. I usually half or even quarter the serving size, depending on what other proteins I plan to ingest through the day.

The second is chia seeds. YOU CAN DO SO MUCH WITH CHIA SEEDS! The little seeds suck up the water and create a gel which you can drink on your own or make into a paste. My dear friend over at Eat Simple Love Yoga has shared this recipe for chia water. I make a chia paste every Sunday (1/3 cup seeds, 1 cup water, shake a few times in the first 5 minutes then toss it in the fridge for a week) and use it in my smoothies. Make a healthy pudding by mixing 1/4 cup of seeds, 1 cup of nut milk and any spices or sweeteners you want, like honey and cinnamon. I add chia to oatmeal and hummus as well.

Just two tablespoons give you 7g of fiber, 4g of protein, 5g of omega-3's, and some substantial calcium, which is great if you're cutting out dairy. I thought about good ol' flax seeds, but you need to grind them to access the omega-3 fatty acids, and they can go rancid, where as chia seeds are good for-ev-er. 

Plus you can always grow a chia plant if you want, which is a great option to have in your back pocket.

Wednesday, January 8

cheap eats [a week of green smoothies]

I know I've written quite a bit about green smoothies on this blog, but I wanted to share some of the recipe combinations I explored last month.

I've often wanted to try juicing or vegan eating for a week, but it's very difficult if your job requires eating out daily or if you're trying to maintain a social life. Getting my wisdom teeth out was the perfect opportunity: I could only have liquid(ish) foods anyway, I certainly wasn't traveling for work, and I didn't plan on hanging out with friends and being tempted by sweets or booze.

To be clear, I did this to detox between gluttonous holidays, both for my internal health and my external appearance. In the most self-serving of ways, this is about looking and feeling good! I think vegan and gluten-free and paleo and raw and whatever else is awesome, but I don't identify with any specific diet personally.

These recipes are pulled from dozens of sources, then edited by what I had on hand and my own preference. I didn't use amounts below, but typically I use 2 big handfuls of spinach, one big handful of kale, 1/2 of most fruits (apples, oranges, beets, lemons), 1/3 of bananas (they are very sugary!), 1/2 a cucumber, a cup or two of watermelon or pineapple (gotta get the flavor), big bunches of herbs (mint, parsley, cilantro) and 1 in pieces of ginger or turmeric. I use just enough liquid to blend the whole thing up, which varies based on ingredients and their temperature. The great things about smoothies: keep editing until you like the taste. If you end up with too much, pour it into ice cube trays for the quickest blended breakfast the next day.

We'll chat tomorrow about my favorite add-ins and take-aways from the experience. If some of you  have resolutions for 2014 that involve health, or getting your veggies, or losing weight, or feeling superior to your bagel-bingeing boyfriend, I am a BIG fan of a juice/smoothie week.

Beet and Berries
spinach, large beet, green apple, berries, almond milk, almond butter

Coco Lilly
spinach, kale, parsley, cilantro, celery stalks, cucumber, coconut water

Spicy Pineapple
Kale, pineapple, cucumbers, lemon, ginger, mint

Mean Green Juice
kale, green apple, cucumber, celery stalks, lemon, ginger, water

Mean Green Juice 2
spinach, pear, apple, celery, cucumber, pineapple, parsley, ginger, coconut water

Kale, pear, orange, banana, coconut water

Red Fountain
spinach apple, beet, carrot, celery, ginger, water

Cold Shower
cucumber, watermelon, celery lime, mint, parsley, salt, water

Ginger Green Juice
½ c filtered water, 1 large cucumber, 1 ½ celery stalk, 2 large apples, 2 c kale, 1 in ginger

Spinach Ginger Juice

1 C water, 2 mint leaves, 2 c fresh spinach, 1 c pineapple chunks

Tuesday, January 7

pinned [and some pre-DIY]

I did a little DIY in this first week of the new year that I'm looking forward to sharing next week (the toughest part about blogging during the winter is that it's dark when I leave the house and dark when I return, making decent photography of my projects impossible until the weekend).

It could be my recent perusal of Scandal, but I'm very drawn to sleek lines, neutral colors, and fine, luxurious MATERIALS. It's all about materials people, whether it's your tweed peplum blazer and silk blouse or my personal faves, stone, marble, wood, and metals. Maybe our next project, D?

This bathroom is undeniably gorgeous. I don't even want to guess the cost of this much marble, but it's the most incredible couples sink I've ever seen. Oh yeah, the chrome legs and sleek faucets and plank floors are none too shabby either.

More of the mix: sleek but with industrial, natural materials. Uneven brick work, a beautifully stained desk, and a structural chandelier. My kinda office.

I really like this shelving unit- wonder if it's made from brass, or maybe painted industrial piping if you had to do it on the cheap. Defined but delicate lines strike again.

Ink blot art, high ceilings, soft gray and gilt, beautiful flooring...what's not to love about this muted, classic living room? It pulls together the brass, wood, and marble I like above, and adds in some lucite for sparkle. Lovely.

Monday, January 6

bibliophile [the book thief]

What with my recovery and my holiday break, I managed to fit some good reading in. This one was worth it.

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

I'm sure you've all heard of this one- it made the NYT best seller list for quite a while, plus it's now a movie (which I'm looking forward to seeing). Here's your blurb:

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement. 

In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak, author of I Am the Messenger, has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.

So, yeah, Nazi Germany does not exactly make for a feel-good novel. Don't go reading this for a good time, but definitely for good prose. It's beautifully written and comes from the highly unique narrator of death. The characters are pitiful and lovable and you'll care about the story from the start. I haven't seen the movie, but I'm glad I read it first. Check this one out.