Friday, November 30

Berlin, day 5

Hola amigos, and happy Friday! Going to finish up my vacation posts through the weekend, and return to regular posting on Monday. I have some more wishlists coming (one for men too!), some great DIY inspiration, some of the best books I've read all year, and a few new things to discover.


So day 5 was Thanksgiving for us, which they don't celebrate anywhere but America (savages). We spent the morning doing research on Berlin and what we wanted to see once my sister, M, arrived in the afternoon. She's been studying abroad in Rome since the summer, and was looking forward to a weekend trip that she didn't have to worry about in terms of travel, planning, etc, so we wanted to make sure we had a good handle on things.

After a hearty breakfast, we met M for a wonderful family reunion! It was so good to see her, since the last time was at my brother's wedding. We immediately started the long trek out to the Berliner-Kindl-Schultheiss brewery (that's a mouthful). This place was huge, as you can imagine it would need to be to support multiple brands. We got some great technical knowledge on beer making (which M and I already knew, via Dad AKA the renaissance man), as well as a lesson on the history of brewing in Germany.

The tour was just excellent. Our guide was a total sweetie- when we got out of the cab, he walked right over and asked, "Miss Gibbons? We are waiting for your tour!". Very personal. The tour was for just the three of us in English, so we were able to ask questions and chit chat freely. 

We weren't allowed to take any pictures, which was odd, but we did snap a few in the tasting room. The brewery operates for 3 different brands, so there were quiteee a few to sample. They included a meal (sausage and potato salad, yum) for 12 euro. Annnnnnd that's when we realized how cheap Germany was going to be, at least compared to Copenhagen.

After the brewery, we went to the longest remaining strip of the Berlin wall, called the East Side Gallery. It's located very close to the Ostbahnhof station, and continues for 1km. The murals are painted by international artists in 1990, which they repainted in 2000 and again in 2009. I read surprising but understandable criticisms of this area of the wall: apparently, some feel that it's disingenuous and inauthentic to continually repaint and touch-up this historically significant landmark. However, there are many other less creative, less decorated areas of the wall remaining throughout Berlin, so if you feel that these murals are pulling away from the gritty reality of a divided city, all you have to do is walk around the block. I'll admit, it's a bit awkward to smile in front of the kiss of death. We walked together and debated the value of freedom when up against a controlled, but safe and regulated, society. I think my sister may be a socialist based on this conversation :)

We got beers at a "nightshop", a store that is open all night and caters to the open container laws. I tried a wheat beer, while M continued her love affair with the "green beer", or beer with a green woodruff-flavored syrup added (you can try red beer as well, which is a raspberry syrup). We walked through Treptow Park with our drinks, and visited the soviet memorial. It was pitch black at this point, and let me tell you, this park was NOT well lit. I couldn't see 5 feet in front of me, so we used M's flash to see the monument (here), a big hulking black chunk of rock. It was very severe, very oppressive, and probably very representative to how Berliners remember the U.S.S.R. Though it would have been nice to have a better vision of it, it was an eerie and memorable experience to see it under a bright moon on a foggy night.

After our freezing and protracted walk in the park, we were ready for a warm and inviting restaurant. We visited Marjcellchen for our Thanksgiving dinner, and it COULD NOT have been better. It was voted Travelers Choice 2012, and I can see why. The decor was like your weird grandmother's house, everything a dusty pink and fancy candles and dark oil paintings on the wall, and the food was like your awesome grandmother's cooking. It's a German restaurant, so we went with German dishes: M ordered the only thing on the menu with cranberries, I tried goose for the first time (as close as I could get to turkey), and D had a meat stew. All of us were blown away. We stayed there for hours, talking and joking and eating and drinking.

In an effort to prolong the evening, we tried a traditional German dessert, Baum Kuchen, which literally means "tree cake" because of the 20-30 layers that look like tree rings. It's covered in chocolate and sits in an orange sauce. Honestly, it may be one of the best meals I've ever had. German wine, however, was less impressive. After eating we headed back to the hotel and packed- day 6 would bring a new hotel in the Mitte region, the heart of Berlin. Stay tuned, Saturday post coming to wrap this fairy tale up!

Thursday, November 29

Discover: Denmark Day 3, Berlin Day 4

Crazy town around here- quick overnight to NYC yesterday AND one of my roommates is moving out as of 2 seconds ago, literally, so we are doing rapid-fire interviews. So, posting in double time tonight.


After another yummy breakfast at the hotel, we headed up to the Danish Design Museum. We skimmed through the porcelain and ancient artistry (there's no time for fake interest when you have so little time abroad) in favor of an exhibit on album and record art and the international music trends of the last 100 years. My favorite part was the Danish furniture, duh. I've been a huge fan of Danish design for ages, and enjoyed learning more about the iconic Eames, Klint, Jacobsen, Wegner and more. D is very into functionalistic furniture, which is at the heart of Danish design; it's all about  "creating clean, pure lines based on an understanding of classical furniture craftsmanship coupled with careful research into materials, proportions and the requirements of the human body". I, on the other hand, am ok with a little non-functional, inefficient beauty now and then.

Towards the end of the museum was a living exhibit of Finn Juul's designs. It was so cool. It's one thing to see gorgeous designs on a pedestal, and quite another to sit in them, especially as Danish design doesn't look like it will be as comfortable as it always is. Note the big smile (and the statement chair).

After the museum, we went to the Vestebro neighborhood for some thrifting and a good meal. We swung by Granola for a perfectly made coffee and snack, and took pictures of the beautiful flower shops.  We tried to get traditional Danish "fish balls" at Fiskebaren, which doesn't open until 5:30pm, and settled on more pizza at Mother's, which I found using this New York Times article on eating frugally in Copenhagen. We tried MadGlad (also from the article!), a family-owned small shop that cooks just one meal per day (but does so very well). Then it was back to the airport to head to our second city.

We looked into booking overnight trains, but there just weren't great options and the process was cumbersome. Instead, we flew via Easy Jet, which was, well, easy. It was just $40 for a one-way trip, which took less than an hour. We dropped our stuff at our Berlin hotel, The Gates Novum in the ritzy western neighborhood Charlottenburg, and headed out to a bar. Yes it's a Tuesday, yes it's 12:30am, yes all the bars (and restaurants) are still open. This city put NYC-energy to shame. We quizzed each other on German phrases (hello, please, thank you, do you have beer) over a drink, planned out our day trip to Potsdam, and got some much needed sleep.


We had a glorious sun on our fourth day, and we took advantage by heading half an hour outside Berlin to visit Potsdam. We didn't want to do anything in Berlin that we'd have to repeat with Molly, so Potsdam was a good option in that it was absolutely worth the visit but not vital to the Berlin experience. We went to the "New Palace" first, which was a unique salmon-brick, and walked through Potsdam park to reach the main buildings. Potsdam was placed on the map by Frederick the Great, king of Prussia, who built his summer palace here. 

And what a palace. It's called Sans Souci, meaning "without worries". I mean, they have swans, what is there to worry about? You could see how the vines on each level would make this sing in the summers. Even now it was stunning.

We played in the leaves in the park on our way to the museum of Potsdam, which gave us some great Prussian history. In retrospect, I think we both enjoyed moving through history chronologically in Berlin- our first history lesson while in Germany was on the Prussian dynasty; next, we spent two days on WWI and WWII; finally, we reached the post-war reconstruction, the drama of a divided city, and toured their parliment at 10pm on our last night. Interesting that it worked out that way.

We had our first German sausage in the Dutch Quarter, washed down by "gluhwein", a mulled wine with brandy or rum. Both were everything I had hoped for (though they need to get some proper buns, no?)

I don't have pictures of the rest of our evening, but we met a German born-and-bred friend of D's for dinner and drinks. What we assumed would be a quick bite turned into hours of good food, good drinks, multiple venues, and flowing, insightful conversation on the German culture, their national identity, their perceptions of Americans, and the counter-intuitive nostalgia for an isolated east Berlin, called Ostalgie (fascinating concept, worth getting the idea here). M was such a resource of cultural and social information, and had answers to even my most random questions (apparently there was the opposite of a baby boom after the wall fell, to my surprise, as "freedom" from the Soviet Union also meant uncertainty, unemployment, poverty, and lack of childcare). It was an absolutely charming evening, and solidified my opinion that personal relationships are the most valuable asset; a conversation in a cozy bar with a thoughtful yet discerning man from a different perspective sounds just about perfect.

Tuesday, November 27

Discover: Denmark, day 2

No comments from yesterday, which must mean you enjoyed my Danish opinions. Or my American opinions on Danes. Whatever.


After the worst night sleep of my LIFE, D and I slammed down a massive Danish breakfast at the hotel. The bread here, and in Berlin, was absolutely delicious, some of the best I'd ever had. Go to the bakeries, for real.

Check out our canal tour! After breakfast, we headed to Nyhavn, which means "new harbor" and hopped on a boat. We were some of the last to get on, so we had to sit indoors, but the windows actually roll up so it wasn't too bad. And the heat was nice (did I mention it was COLD?)

The canal tour took over an hour, and was a great way to get a better perspective of the city. I like to do big tours on the first day, so you can scope out the things you want to do, visualize the routes, and get some history. 

Of course we took pictures of The Little Mermaid statue, commemorating Hans Christian Anderson. 

After the canal tour, we walked along the water to visit the library, commonly called "the black diamond". It's right on the water and is such a unique looking building. And you know how I feel about books.

We had to visit Lagkagehuset, a famous Copenhagen bakery. We stopped by the first establishment right over the bridge on Torvegade Christianshavn, though there are many throughout the country now. We got a strawberry confection and a "kartoffelkage", which apparently means potatoes (though there are no potatoes in it). It's pretty much a giant cream puff with a chocolate marzipan hat. It was literally the best pastry I've ever had IN MY LIFE. D agrees. The owner was there, and I told him it was super yummy, but we don't think he understood me.

Next was a climb to the spire at the top of Our Savior's Church. Let me just say, this was the rickety-est, unstablest climb I've ever done at a historic site. I have to say that in the U.S., they would NEVER keep a site like this open. I was scared enough to move very slowly and very cautiously, but the view was worth it. We happened to have some rare Danish sun too!

Next was a visit to Christiania, where we                                                                                                   

                                                                                                                                                          . .

Sorry had to censor. Drugs are free in Christiania.

Just kidding Dad.

But really, Christiania was very cool to visit, even just in concept. It's a freetown, a self-proclaimed autonomous region within Copenhagen. It's basically a commune protected by law. We didn't expect what we got- when you hear a place is full of hippies, wall art, cannabis trade, smoking, cafes and the like, you expect to meet some pretty friendly people. Not the case. We kinda just walked around and kept to ourselves- I'm not going to say people were hostile, but they definitely were not trying to make new tourist friends either. Which I get.

After, we walked along Stroget, the upscale street of shopping, like Newbury in Boston or Georgetown in D.C. Talk about your change of scenery! We considered buying his and hers Skagen watches, but decided to wait for Christmas.

At this point my phone died, so I had no more pictures. We went to Ruby for cocktails. I had heard of them while doing some digging for cool bars, and was drawn to their "spirit sessions", educational gatherings of 6+ people in the private bar downstairs. I had emailed ahead of time to ask if we could join one, but apparently they're for private groups. I got a very welcoming email back:

Just come down. We'll be as educational as we can. We don't do scheduled sessions with open attendance, but we love drink, and we love talk, and we especially love talking about drinking.

Don't have to tell me twice.

It's tricky to find, as all the best places seem to be. It's relatively unmarked, and is a few steps above street level; we walked by it twice before we made it. SO worth the trouble. This place is amazing. I know it's just a cocktail joint, but truly it was our favorite thing we did. We happen to really like booze though, especially artfully made booze by intelligent, witty, and generous bartenders. It's in a flat with high ceilings, wallpaper, dim lighting, comfy seating, dark wood bar, multiple rooms, two floors. Gorgeous, really. Rather speakeasy-esque, which is ironic, as the bartender later explained, because speakeasies (when they were necessary) involved easy-to-get liquor and a quick mixer in a dive, not the craft/art of today's nostalgic bars. And oh were they artful! The drinks were creative and delicious- I had a Currant Affair, Angastora rum with muddled currants, and D tried the Rapscallion, a smoky Scottish version of a Manhattan.

As much as the decor and drinks played a part, the true asset of Ruby was the bartender (I asked if he'd rather be called a mixologist, and he said that title is for post-grad poor kids slinging rum and cokes and beers. So that's a no?). I've just never met someone so utterly aware and educated on everything around him. First I say I like the lighting, so he explains where they're from and their custom design and how they debated the height for days. I mention the wallpaper and he goes into a monologue on the values of a raised wall covering. We wonder about the showmanship vs. use of burning an orange peel for a drink, and he shares that the founder of the trick said it was "just for tips", as a quick light only registers 70-80 degrees celsius, where as 110-112 is needed for true carmelization. Is this guy for real? He showed us how to make vanilla infused salt and best apply a salt rim, he let us sample at least 5 types of bitters and shared where to find them in the U.S., he poured us tastes of Ricard Pastis and Absinthe and explained the difference. He made D an "unreproduceable" cocktail (though not irreplaceable, as he corrected me) using a Danish dill-infused liquor, grapefruit juice, and campari. When I questioned how I could use up the remainder of my St. Germain, he recommended a French old-fashioned, made with brandy and chocolate bitters. When I questioned sloe gin, he poured us a taste and explained its origin. At one point, he walked out from around the bar and said he'd love to take us on a grand tour- we naturally obliged. We went downstairs and through a literal vault door into a smaller, sleeker, fancier room. Worn leather chairs, shelves of expensive booze, beautiful wooden table. He pointed out the chair where the US Ambassador to Denmark sat, saying she was a very classy lady and preferred Plymouth martinis. While all guests are VIP's, some people, like Metallica, prefer the extra privacy. Through this room we went to the downstairs bar, a heavier, more traditional room than the airy coziness above. He gave us a small clipboard with the drink recipes and information from the last spirit session, which involved the uses of butter in alcoholic beverages. We spent 3+ hours here.

Seriously, just check out their website. It's almost as cool as the physical spot. Are you judging me less for saying a cocktail bar was my favorite thing in Copenhagen?

With a nice buzz and a wonderful memory, we went to Gorms for pizzas, just a block away. Tried the margarita and the smoked duck with pickled cabbage, the best meal we ate in Denmark. 

Walked back to the hostel, after stopping at the ubiquitous and always-open 7/11 for 6 tallboys. Drank them all while listening to the badly outdated pop music on D's iPad. Got a call from the front desk that we were being too loud. At 11. Went out to a nearby microbrewery called Mikkeller, voted the best bar in Cope by Politiken in April '12. Their website is pretty cool too actually.

Phew! That's day 2.

I realize this may be a pretty boring week for any reader interested in my usual posting topics, but I wanted to share our tips for the trip, ways we saved moolah, places you shouldn't miss, and the memories we made. Our moms like it, so there. Regular design-based posts to continue after this week! Thank you for your patience and understanding :)

Monday, November 26

Discover: Denmark, day 1

Hiiiiii! Happy belated Thanksgiving! We are happy to be home and really looking forward to Christmas with our families, but I'm mourning my European trip already. It was absolutely fantastic. International travel can be expensive, stressful, and planning-intensive, but once you're there it's incredibly rewarding and exciting to navigate a new culture, a new landscape, a new language. Obviously worth the investment.

I'm quite jet-lagged and sleep-deprived, but I wanted to start the process of sharing what we did, where we went, what we would recommend, and what wasn't worth it.


Graffiti is ubiquitous, but more artistic than I see around the US.
We got into Copenhagen after an overnighter from DC. It's a direct flight with Scandinavian Air, which is part of the Star Alliance (good news for me, as I usually fly United for work). The flight was perfectly fine, though we were in the two middle seats of a row of 4 (yuck) and so were a little crowded. At the airport in Denmark, we visited the tourist desk to get maps, check out the discount flyers, and to buy the 72-hour transportation passes, which were quite worth it. 

We were tired when we arrived, but managed to make a morning of it after dropping our luggage at the Hotel Ansgar, where we stayed. Fantastic location just minutes from the main train station, technically in the trendy red-light district of Vestebro. Super small rooms, like the smallest in the world- couldn't even get my carry-on-sized roller luggage around between the bed and the wall. Private and clean bathroom, small desk and closet. Awesome breakfast included, and as Copenhagen was pretty expensive, this was a big plus. Free and fast wi-fi, which as we would come to find out, is rare.

We used for all our bookings, as they have an indiscriminate stay-ten-days-get-one-free across many hotel brands and frequent site-wide discounts. Oodles of choices (and reviews, and photos, and booking options) across the entire globe. Worth checking out!

D in the cemetery
We went out to the Norrebro neighborhood, which is to the Northwest. It's known for amazing thrifting, authentic Danish shops and restaurants, and the Aissistens Cemetery (burial place of Soren Kierkegaard). Weather was iffy and we were sleepy, but I'm glad we made it out there. We walked along Norrebrogade, Ravnsborgade, and Ryesgade, checking out vintage home decor, glassware, lighting, and clothing. We ended at Abningstider (Ryesgade 1) for a delicious and relatively inexpensive breakfast (for us, lunch, though it was only 10am). D went with an American meal of eggs and bacon, but I tried the traditional Smorrebrod (open-faced sandwich) with pickled herring, cabbage, and dill on dense Danish rye bread. I liked it, especially once I removed the fish skin, which apparently they leave on. Good coffee, too- be careful, because many places in Europe use machines to make their espresso drinks, which I think makes them watery, weak, and not worth it.

Russian-themed Christmas decor in Tivoli

After lunch in Norrebro, we checked in, took a quick power nap and much needed shower, and headed out to Tivoli Gardens, literally less than a 5 minute walk from our place. It may look very dark here, but it was only 4pm- there was so little sunlight it was comical.

Tivoli is the second oldest amusement park in the world, mainly a pleasure garden with holiday decor. Apparently it was an inspiration to Walt Disney himself, and I could see why. Happy music, exotic buildings, a varied and beautiful natural landscape, plenty of tourist-focused shopping and eating. They had their Christmas decor up already, which I greatly appreciated, as we missed most "Christmas markets" in Denmark and Germany by just a few days. 

Though D refused a roller-coaster ride, we did get to experience a very well done laser light show on the main lake. Lights, lasers, and fog machines rolled over the fountain perfectly orchestrated to the score from the Nutcracker. This is a personal favorite, probably because it's been a family favorite for as long as I can remember. Got a little teary eyed, standing with D on the bridge, watching the show, remembering all the wonderful evenings I associate with this music and my family. It was a great moment of my first day.

It went on for at least 20 minutes, and we only happened upon it by accident, so I don't know how much we missed. I felt like this spontaneous activity was common during our trip, and perhaps in Europe, at least to tourists. Maybe this light show, the highlight of our night, was actively promoted and marketed online, on signs around town, at the entrance to Tivoli (in Danish, of course). Maybe it's an annual tradition, and the Danes knew about it already. Or, maybe it was meant to be a surprise, which is how it felt to me when we walked curiously towards the music. Whether because of our ignorance or because of their whimsy, many of my favorite memories had a flavor of spontaneity and unplanned revelry, which made the trip that much more exciting.

For dinner we got Schwarma, which was everywhere in Copenhagen and later in Berlin (called kebab or donor). Yummy, cheap, and quick, as it was time to go back to bed.

One other note from our first day- Danes are reserved (yes, I'll use this week to make sweeping generalizations based solely on a few days in a nation. Feel free to comment and correct). They are private but sincere- they may not ask how you are, but only because they consider questions like that to be intimate and requiring of a real response, making it an awkward or inappropriate question for a store clerk or ticket seller to ask. We thought they were cold and unfriendly on this first day, which was challenged later in the trip. In any event, it doesn't seem to be a translation-error when they said things they were very fond of were "ok" and "fine". On one tour, a guide made fun of a few Swedes who admitted that if they truly loved something, it was "very fine". Ha! Quite the contrast to Americans, who at least verbally find everything to be awesome, great, amazing. In fact, I often have a hard time coming up with new adjectives to describe my weekends. Just an observational tidbit. More to come all week!

Monday, November 19

Radio Silence

So I'm currently sitting on a very large plane, preparing to depart for Copenhagen and Germany. Nothing like the last minute! Will return with wonderful stories of beer, history, danishes, and the little mermaid. Until then, my friends, be well and have a restful and meaningful holiday.

Friday, November 16

Friday extras: twofold

Hey ya'll, hope you're enjoying a lovely Friday afternoon. My friend G posted something interesting on the 'book today that I wanted to share.

If you're free around midnight, head outside to see the Leonids meteor shower (near the Leo constellation). 

I remember being woken up by dad at 1am, walking over to a field near our home, and drinking thermoses of hot chocolate while staring at the sky (love you Dad!). Regardless of what you're drinking at midnight tonight (spiked hot chocolate, perhaps?), take the time to participate in this. Even if meteors aren't your "thing" (who are you?), it's powerful to imagine the community of star gazers, dreamers, drunks, and sleepy children all sharing in the same moment.

Point two: while I was looking at the Leonids meteor shower Wikipedia page above, I got a little pop up to donate to Wikimedia. Now, I'm not just saying this because I'm a fundraiser, but I'm sure I do have more tolerance and understanding than the next guy when it comes to asking for money. And Wikipedia does it the right way.

Wikipedia is non-profit, but it's the #5 website in the world. With 450 million monthly users, we have costs like any top site: servers, power, rent, programs, staff and legal help. To protect our independence, we'll never run ads. We take no government funds. We run on donations: $5 is the most common, the average is about $30. If everyone reading this gave $5, our fundraiser would be done within an hour. Please help us forget fundraising and get back to Wikipedia. 

  I mean, how many college papers did Wikipedia help you write? How many times have you played "6 degrees of Wikipedia" to see who could connect the two most random things in 6 clicks using only Wikipedia pages? How often do you click over there on your iPhone mid-conversation with someone smarter than you to quickly figure out what the f they're talking about? #keepitfree, folks.

That is all- enjoy your weekend and let me know if you see the meteor shower!

DIY Nature Inspiration

This Friday, I thought I'd share some DIY projects I can't wait to get my hands on. Literally. All of them seem to involve nature, oddly enough, so we're going to run with it.

My sister found this on Pinterest (links back here), and I love it. Lay a fall leaf on porous paper, cover with a paper towel, hammer hammer hammer, remove. Genius! I love natural art, and I love free things, and who doesn't love fall, making this an excellent project. Good for kids too!

How gorgeous is this? I wonder how tricky it is...I suppose if you have a very inky pen it could work alright, but I wonder about breaking the dried out leaves. Either way, this is a gorgeous idea for place settings, and obviously very cheap.

I'm literally planning on making this when I'm home over Christmas. I'd personally like to see more color, but still, it's a fantastic idea. I'd prefer the wood to be a deep mahogany color to contrast more with the gold. Sounds like this is faux flowers and rub n' buff in gold, but you could also use real plants and gold spray paint at almost no cost.

May not look nature-related, but wait! The dyes are made from flowers and vegetables, like dahlias and beets. And they're biodegradable planters, which everyone loves. Design Sponge just has the best ideas.

My roommate has a candle holder just like this, made from driftwood and bought at Anthropologie. I think it's beautiful, and would love to make one of my own. I would need to think a bit about the best way to do this, but at worst you could just attach sticks to a vase.

Spending any time with nature this weekend?

Wednesday, November 14

Discover [Snail Mail my Email]

Guess what?

Ivan Cash, a pretty cool designer, is reviving his "snail mail my email" project! Simply email his team of artistic volunteers from around the world a short message (100 words), and they'll turn it into a work of art and send it out.

For one week only (Nov. 12-18), we invite you to type an email message to anyone— family, friend, secret crush, or congressional representative— and email it to us. After you hit send, we'll handwrite your message and post it via regular mail to the recipient of your choosing, for free!

It truly is THAT super easy and super cool. Opt to include something special- a spritz of perfume, a lipstick kiss, a coffee stain, or an add-on from your own imagination. There's even an interactive letter map to show you where letters are coming and going to and from, and a gallery of letters that have already been created.

I'm a big fan of the written word- I send letters regularly (mainly to older family), though I don't get many responses. I'd love to have a good friend or two that love letters as much as I do that I could force to be my pen pal. There's the design aspect- the tactile pleasures of good paper, the intimacy and personality of handwriting, the innovative and charming stationary available. But really, it's the content- you're never going to send a written letter that constitutes a to-do list, a catalog of your recent movements, an "update" of epic boringness. In my experience, if one is writing a letter, one is sharing something of value, be it an idea, an expression of emotion, a memory. Letters are packets of identity and character, delivered to your doorstep and welcoming you deeper into the life and heart of the sender.

So get on it! If you can't think of anyone to send it to, my mailbox has been lonely lately :)

Tuesday, November 13

Bibliophile [is everyone hanging out with me?]

If you let it warm up, this is a really fun read.

Is Everyone Hanging Out with Me?, Mindy Kaling

I had heard this was a younger, more inappropriate version of Tina Fey's book, with a lot less advice and guidance, maybe just another "quirky memoir-slash-observational-essay collection" kinda thing. Blurb:

Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress.
Perhaps you want to know what Mindy thinks makes a great best friend (someone who will fill your prescription in the middle of the night), or what makes a great guy (one who is aware of all elderly people in any room at any time and acts accordingly), or what is the perfect amount of fame (so famous you can never get convicted of murder in a court of law), or how to maintain a trim figure (you will not find that information in these pages). If so, you’ve come to the right book, mostly!
In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka.

Let me preface this review by saying I don't like comedy memoirs. I hate David Sedaris, Augusten Burroughs and other such comedy memoirs, because I always feel at the heart of their jokes is a woe-is-me victim vibe (oh no, my troubled childhood has given me plenty of material to exploit for financial gain! booooo!). But this wasn't that.

To be honest, I always thought Mindy Kaling was exactly like Kelly (her character from the office).   But she's actually a very intelligent writer. The first few chapters were a bit disjointed for my taste,  funny but not meaningful or memorable. Again, if you go for the comedy memoirs, the first half of this book is probably amazing. By about half way through, things changed- she started coupling her humor with relevant and poignant takeaways. This is where I really got hooked. She has a few really classic passages, like a discourse on the differences between boys and men and what traits make a best friend, and a sprinkling of her life philosophy (take it easy, be kind, be tolerant, love is everything). Quick read, easy laughs, worth it!

Monday, November 12

Affordable Art

D and I have a lot of art in our room. From cute in the closet (working on it) and over-sized and over the bed to DIY state love printsbible quotes and paint chips, we love it all (jesus I post about art a lot more than I realized). Art is important, people. It defines a space. It communicates far more about you than the type of couch you buy, the sheets you use, or the lighting style you prefer. I think your preference in art is highly personal and very communicative, and should be cultivated and curated throughout your life and your home.

I've been wanting to add some flora and fauna to our space, and thought I would share with you some works I've found, ranging from $10 to a smidgen over $200. In my opinion, art makes a wonderful present, as long as you know the person well enough to be able to guess what they'd like to look at every day of their easy task. On second thought, gift cards are nice. is a go-to, and I assume most of you are already familiar with their ever-growing stock. The simple colors in this fine art print keep it grown-up, and I like the melancholy feel and haphazard design. Plus, it's $12. I mean really? There are a few similar prints in this series, which I always appreciate- a line of them horizontal or vertical could be stunning and sooo inexpensive.

Room For More I, $11.99
Lets move to good ol' Etsy. This piece by Kevin Inman, cubicle-man-turned-California-painter, is a nice abstract oil painting. Not crazy about the pink and blue, but that's the beauty of Etsy- you can easily and appropriately commission your own versions. This one is just $85. I wouldn't mind some persimmon roses on a deep royal blue or plum.

Pink Rose, $85
This print by Bella Foster is just gorgeous to me. I love abstract florals (Lulie Wallace is my phone AND computer background), especially with a bit of black or moody blue to cut the sweetness. You can get prints from Wayne Pate, signed by the artist, for just a little over $100.

Bella Foster, $115
Speaking of my darling Lulie, I'm smitten over this 11x14 acrylic on wood painting, Flowers for Carson. For an original painting, I don't think the $225 price is unreasonable. Personally, I'm waiting to send her an image of my bridal bouquet, as her commissioned work is so meaningful and personal. I just really love those pops of red.

Flowers for Carson, $225
Hope you enjoyed my fiscal climb through the fine arts today! Do you have a favorite? Do you prioritize art, or does it fall by the wayside?

Friday, November 9


Mixin up my Friday routine here people. 5 things that I'm inspired to pin, for your viewing pleasure.

I think this wallpaper, in small doses, is pretty incredible. Maybe lining a pantry or in a butler's kitchen? I'll admit that the wallpaper plus dried flowers plus floral fabric is a bit much for one room, but sometimes I like things overstated.

From the house of I can't see how this kind of art works anywhere but in a closet. 
Or, you know, at the house of Dior.

Baked pumpkin fettuccine alfredo over at How Sweet it Is? Don't mind if I do!

This is something I could see myself doing for my save the date, found at The Natural Wedding Company. It's the vibe I'm going for, communicates some quirky fun while still being graphically clean and fresh.

How I feel every day of my life.

Have a pinteresting weekend everybody! I have a Fall Feast to attend (omg recipes coming soon, once I've sampled the fare and deemed it the best meal ever), a brewery tour to drink my way through, a flag football double header to win, and hopefully some Bond, James Bond. Updates via Twitter and Instagram, obvi.

Thursday, November 8

bag it up [wishlist volume 1]

Is it too early to be dreaming of Christmas presents?

I am actively trying to focus on buying less quantity, focusing on more quality. Do I really need 20 so-so skirts, or do I need 5 that are well-made and fit like a glove? It's hard to stick to, but by focusing on superior items for all material goods (clothes, makeup, home furnishings, food), they'll go farther and be more satisfying. 

In the spirit of high-quality items, then, here is my current wish list. Having a list of dream products also keeps me from making impulse purchases- sure, those H&M shoes are only $20, but that leaves me $20 further away from the $300 boots I want. Are you with me? Let's get started.

Who doesn't need a french press? Seeing this brassy number from Bodum every morning would wake me up as much as the caffeine.
Most Beautiful French Press
If you travel as much as i do, maybe you wouldn't consider this such an overly-indulgent-mother's-day-esque gift...cashmere eye mask. Arlotta makes this $34-version of cashmere and silk and comes in this beautiful soft blue, but this $50-version is 100% cashmere, the the gray on white stripes are sweet.
Speaking of cashmere, what about cashmere-lined leather gloves? So many brands design leather gloves that it might be worth waiting until the late winter/spring to purchase. The Coach basic glove is beautiful and durable, and sold at Macy's (where you can take advantage of great holiday sales). Love the contrast trim on this pair from Ted Baker.

Coach Basic Gloves- classic & timeless
I've shared my adoration of this Lo & Sons bag before, and think it may be time to pull the trigger. I believe there's a 20% off coupon if you sign up for their emails, and I have 25% off thanks to LearnVest. Might this be my present to me??
THE Stylish Commuter's Bag
Who doesn't need a few good kitchen appliances at the holidays? All the baking and cooking forces you to take inventory and dream of life-easing tools. I have a few friends who are doing alternate research for me, but really, is there any substitute for the Vitamix. I realize it's half a grand, but you can find brand new versions for $250 on ebay.

Too bad D and I have decided to take it easy on the present-giving this year, as I clearly have big eyes. I'm hoping this means meaningful and sincere presents- my favorite kind. Without a doubt my best gift to D was his bar cart last year...gotta get working now if I'm going to top it!

What are you wishin' and hopin' for this year? (Coincidentally, Wishin' and Hopin' is a hilarious Christmas-themed novella from my fave author, Wally Lamb. Check it out.)

Wednesday, November 7

Post Election Hangover

Hi ya'll, living in a swing-state and being bombarded by campaigning 24/7 has left me politically-hungover. Whether your man won or lost, you gotta admit we have an amazing great pretty good functioning means of participating in our government and having a voice, which is rare and significant. Democracy was a chilly endeavor at 5:45am yesterday, but one in which I was proud to participate, as I hope you were too.

I'm only fake complaining about the endless stream of campaign-related propoganda. In reality, it was very energizing to vote in a swing state and feel like my vote mattered. Plus the Obama/Romney drinks last night were funny (but apparently yucky).

And with that, we can all start complaining about Christmas commercials instead of political ads! In that vein, I have a wishlist of fantastic, lust-worthy products coming at you tomorrow.