Wednesday, January 30

Bibliophile [We the Animals]

I know, I know. All I do is read.

We the Animals, Justin Torres

The best word I can think of for this book is concentrated. At just 144 pages, it still packs a major punch of angst, drama, humor, horror, and know, all the things that make up a family.

The blurb is short too, in keeping with the novel:

We The AnimalsJustin Torres's sparse debut novel, is brimming with delicate stories of family, of growing up, of facing reality, and of delaying it. Narrated by the youngest son of a Puerto Rican father and white mother from Brooklyn raising their three young sons in upstate New York, the novel is comprised of vignettes detailing moments spent in the eye of the ferocious bubble of home. Torres paints a large picture through diminutive strokes, evoking envy for the couple’s passion and fear for just how easily that passion turns to rage. The brothers wrestle, fight, cry, and laugh as their family is torn and repaired over and over again. Torres’s prose is fierce, grabbing hold of the reader and allowing him inside the wrenching, whirlwind of a life lived intensely.

This is dark. The plot and even the feeling I got while reading it reminded me of The Glass Castle, another phenomenal book about the not-so-familial side of family. It's very episodic, like glass castle, and is written from the point of view of the youngest child, like glass castle. They are different books though, I checked. I really wish I could figure out what lead me to this novel, as it's a bit of a departure for me while still overlapping with literature I favor. I'm working on a lengthy post on where I find my next book...wish I had tracked it for this one.

The writing style is my very favorite: lyrical prose, that if read in the tempo and cantor of poetry, would pass the test. I get the idea that the author maybe wrote 500 pages and then ruthlessly edited and edited it down to what we're left with, a chiseled, concentrated story. Read it and tell me if I sound like a crazy person.

I also really liked the cover. It makes sense in a perfect way. I always wonder if cover art/graphics/text matters MORE in this day and age (we're so used to seeing fantastic and well done graphics that books need to be amazing to catch our eye whilst strolling Barnes & Noble) or LESS (if you're reading electronically, you may never even see it). Food for thought.

Tuesday, January 29

discover [quora]

Ever heard of quora?

Quora is your best source of knowledge. Ask any question, get real answers from people with first hand experience, and blog about what you know."

Sounds good to me. I haven't asked a question yet, but I've really enjoyed scrolling through the questions and answers of others. The layout is very simple, the concept is very simple, and the content is dependent on the users.

It's like a forum on life.

Answers can come in any format. For the question, "how many Taylor Swift songs are about breakups?", you get a user-generated image:
How helpful! 

Answers can also come from any user- sometimes answers are anonymous, sometimes they're from Joe Schmoe, but sometimes they're from an expert, whatever that may mean in the context. I read a Quora once called "what is it like to kill a person?" and there were answers from inmates on death row. Pretty serious stuff. When someone asks, "what is the most edited article on Wikipedia", it's cool that the founder of the Wikipedia website is the one giving an answer (which is: GW Bush, MJ, Jesus, Britney Spears, Hitler, and Obama).

Some are light-hearted, like "did you ever randomly meet a celebrity" and "what is the best WWII movie of all time", and "why is it ok to be a Harry Potter fan but not a Twilight fan" (that one doesn't even merit an answer). 

Some are heavier, like "what is the most elegant idea ever" and "what is it like to find out your partner is having an affair" (answer: shitty).

If you're looking for a new way to waste a few hours, sign up. I get a weekly update of "questions and answer you may like from the past week", and I usually go from there. Let me know what you think!

Sunday, January 27

link it up

Friday again? We are just too lucky.

Before I tell you all the things I loved this week, I wanted to make a comment about comments. I see them, I love them, but just a week or two ago I realized a bug where I can't reply to them. It's driving me NUTS because I'm very appreciative of the 3 of you that comment. I'll get back to you when I can, my lovely sister and cousin and college friend and boyfriend and Casey (whose blog you should really check out).

Jgold the great left a comment saying that when I post regularly, she feels like we've had a conversation. I think most people feel that way- I certainly feel communicative when I read other bloggers' work. You get insight into their life, what they're working on, where their head is at. It has only been since I started writing myself that I've realized this feeling is one sided: if you never comment, I never know you reacted to my post. Heck, I don't even know you read it (unless I quiz you on the day's post, which I only do to my roommates). I don't feel remotely connected to you, individually, because you have not identified yourself as an individual. You're just a (small) mass of readers that I equally adore.

Make sense? Basically, what I'm saying is, if the conversation-you-feel-we-had was interesting, funny, or downright annoying, you should tell me (via comment, email, carrier pigeon, or the BEST, in person), so the sense of having connected can go both ways.

On to more interesting stuff:

After my post on the most epically awful words (I'm actually serious, you'll literally die) I was reminded of how much we all like words. I had at least 3 friends mention that post, which makes me think you like words, too. To that end, I loved these last words of 16 great men. Inspiring, moving, and funny.

You know I'm a reader, and you know I loved Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl. I was psyched to see this article on Gillian's Week In Pop-Culture Consumption. What a cool idea for a feature...wish I'd thought of it.

At the Gibson this weekend, J had a cocktail using gin and St. Germain. I've only ever used my bottle of the elderflower liquor with wine and lemon, as I had it at P.O.V. Now I see there are SO many more options, and I'm loving them all.

Really enjoyed this. Really. I've been thinking I could do New York some day, and things like this confirm it.

I'm going to throw a sequins and bowties party and you're all invited (but only if you comment, ha ha). Is this the adult version of the ever-ubiquitous college golf-pros-and-tennis-hoes party?? Sign me up!

It's college throwback weekend for me: a Loyola game watch happy hour in DC, a trip to Bmore to see some lovely friends, and a housewarming for my old roomie. Hopefully plenty of naps, too, before I head back to the Big Apple. Enjoy the cold!

Thursday, January 24

bag it up [InstaWATCH]

Two bag it ups in a row? So much for my resolution to spend less (though I haven't pulled the trigger on this one just yet).

Are you appreciative of instagram, but find yourself sometimes wondering what you'll DO with all those small-scale, perfectly square, artistically filtered images? 

(When I googled, Decor8 answered this question pretty thoroughly, and you should check it out; I've heard of Prinstagram, I've seen the custom iPhone cases, I've laughed over the tiny books of images, but even she hadn't posted this gem yet!)

Wonder no more. I recently discovered InstaWATCH by May28th, and I think it's fun and cheeky and cheap enough to justify. It links up to your Instagram account, you select a watch band color, and bam. Order. Done.

Look, here's one I did of Brooklyn Bridge from an Instagram:

Isn't that cool? It's a plastic watch, and a plastic face, so I'm not saying it's the Michael Kors you've been saving for...but at $44, it's a bit more reasonable. I really prefer the landscape ones- I think it would be weird to look at myself or my friend all day, but some people have done a good job with it. Here's one I did of a Boston landmark (kinda) to show you a bit more color:

You can upload photos not from Instagram as well, in case you're not a user (for shame!) or if you prefer photos sans filter. I uploaded a shot from my Dropbox to try:

Love it. I'd rep my hometown lighthouse all DAY.

Let me know if you decide to indulge...they also have cute watches with more generic designs (think graphic prints, bright colors) that are just $20 today with the code luckydaily3.

Wednesday, January 23

bag it up [January Birchbox]

It's been awhile since I've done a Birchbox bag it up, and we've gotten some interesting items.

As I look over my budget in preparation for massive savings in 2013 (a girl can dream), I've been trying to decide whether or not to keep the big B. I did a good deal of research into other companies that send beauty products via the mail, and found all of them to be wanting. Some cost too much (one as much as $40, for that price I'll go for the booze), some sent full-size but oft-disliked products, some don't sell the products or have a reward system, and on and on. While I do occasionally get annoyed by the overall value of my Birchbox in terms of products (like the time we got coasters, or fancy ziplocks, or stick-on eye liner), the real value is in the chance to experiment with different companies and products and the option to receive money for your reviews, which in turn fund the purchasing of full-sized products in the store. I've decided I can still afford $10 a month, I appreciate their smart business plan (lead by HBS grads, no less) and I like that they were the first on the market.
Clark's Botanicals Marine Creme- like this one a lot. Especially with my travel, I like getting daily-use products that are typically liquid in small sizes, like face wash or moisturizer. They seem to think 

Kerastase Thermal Protection Cream- also appreciated this, which I got a few of. Use a small amount to protect hair during a blow dry. I appreciate the fact that it didn't make my hair greasy, even with my infrequent hair washing. It smelled nice, and a little goes a long way: I've gotten 5 uses out of one little packet so far.

Frownies Eye Gels- very interested to try, but haven't yet. Apparently they're multi-use eye masks? Like cucumbers for your eyes, without the produce and prep work. I'll let you know how it goes.

The Bomb Put a Lid On It- I got a blush from The Bomb Cosmetics last month, which I liked, so I was happy to see another from their line. This is an eye shadow primer, which I could certainly use (I always have to smudge out the mid-day crease when I use powder) but would probably never bring myself to buy. Now I don't have to.

Harvey Prince Skinny Chic- you've got to be kidding me. A perfume that helps you lose weight? Whose pipe dream is this? It's literally supposed to "give you energy and curb cravings". That's absurd. I think it smelt little-girly, but not bad. There's one loser in every box, friends.

Have any of you committed to Birchbox for the New Year?

Tuesday, January 22

Manic Monday (now Tuesday)

Hi all. How was the long weekend? I've literally been running ragged for over a week, and it hasn't stopped yet. I had a great few days in NYC for work last week, then hosted my brother and his wife for the long weekend. We ate, we drank, we talked, we inauged. It's Monday night now and I'm already in Chicago for the next work trip. Can't WAIT for the weekend (which includes a trip to Baltimore, NBD, but hopefully also some down time before another week in NY).

Here is some documentation of our lovely weekend. As luck would have it, I somehow deleted all the pictures off my phone with the exception of these from instagram...thank goodness I'm an avid grammer? I'm sad to have lost some great shots of the monuments, but our guests had a snazzy new   fancy camera and have far better shots anyway.

They got in late Friday, so we relaxed at home to gear up for a very busy weekend. We started in Eastern Market, where we indulged in breakfast sandwiches, fancy nuts from the fancy nuts guy, mini-donuts, and mochas from Peregrine Espresso, my favorite cafe in DC. We all resisted the charms of the flea market and instead headed to the monuments.

We had surprisingly lovely weather, considering it's January. We started at the tidal basin near the Jefferson, and worked our way to the Korean War memorial, WWII, the new MLK, Lincoln, White House, Washington Monument, FDR, and the Capitol building (from a distance). It's an easy stroll, and we had their pup with us as well. I was pleasantly surprised by the MLK memorial, which I hadn't seen yet. Also cool to visit it on MLK weekend of course.

Lily was particularly fond of the FDR memorial, which includes a bronze statue to which she can relate. She did some sniffing and quickly realized her new friend was NOT animated, which may be why she looks depressed in this picture.

We used Savored to make dinner reservations for Saturday night- it's a free reservation service that takes 30% off your final bill. Loved it. It's similar to how I feel about Scoutmob- any "deal site" where I don't need to pay money upfront for something I may never get around to using is ideal. As we got salads, entrees, dessert, and two bottles of wine, 30% off is pretty significant. We went to Lost Society on U St, and we enjoyed our meal. Next we walked around the corner to put our names in at The Gibson, probably our favorite place for a classy cocktail in the district. It's a speakeasy with an unmarked door, dim hallways, quiet, respectful patrons and no menu. We had an hour wait, but once you're in it's very uncrowded and you're guaranteed a peaceful evening. In the meantime, we went to Marvin, right next door and by the same folks. It's less exclusive, less expensive, more rowdy but still an excellent place for a drink.

We just had to visit U street in the daylight, and thus returned on Sunday morning to poke through the thrift and vintage stores. My particular favorites are Good Wood and Current Boutique, which I hadn't been to before this trip and is actually a consignment shop. Couldn't resist the other location of Peregrine for a second try before heading home to relax and catch some football (disappointing loss for the Pats). We finished up Sunday with a walk to Georgetown to shop and get cupcakes from Baked & Wired, my fave.

D was able to get inauguration tickets through his office, so J and R decided to stick around to experience it with us. It wasn't nearly as bad as we thought it would be, in terms of crowd, transportation, cold, and all the negative situations I envisioned for a 12-million person party. We arrived via metro around 9, moved quickly through security, and after a brief and extremely smushed 20 minutes we found our way to the middle, in front of the reflecting pool near the Capitol. Our view was great (aside from a few tall and aggressive men) and we were excited to have gotten so lucky. Though my feet were numb, it was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I'm glad we went.

Now here I am in Chicago, where the"feels like" temperature is a bone-chilling -9 degrees. Stay warm my friends.

Thursday, January 17


Have you ever walked around a store and gotten inspiration for your home? I'm thinking of Homegoods, Anthropologie, Design Within Reach. It's like the window outfits at J Crew: suddenly you're thinking about your current belongings in a whole new light, snapping pictures on your iPhone. 

I know I'm not the only one.

I saw some great ideas over the holiday break that I wanted to share with you. Hopefully I can recreate them in my own home, or else interpret them to work. The first is an incredible chandelier at the Sephora in the Meat Packing District of NYC. How cool is that! Reminds me of Dale Chihuly. It's tough to tell, but these are pink and amber glasses and bottles hanging from a square frame. The lights underneath are regular old light bulbs  I'm going to start drinking vino verde and other wines that come in blue bottles so I can recreate this on the cheap.

Next up we have an ingenious wine display that would literally cost you $10. I'm showing you the underside here so you can get an idea for the construction, but the front is just holes. Go buy yourself some 2x4s, cut them to six feet, screw in some pieces of wood to bracket it in the back, and drill in wine-neck-width holes at a slight downward angle and voila. Slap on some stain or oil, rough it up if you're an antique patina junkie, and lean it up against a wall in your kitchen or bar area. We're actually going to try this. And kill it. And sell it on Etsy.

Last one here: a very pretty christmassy display at Williams-Sonoma. It's literally some long branches, surrounded by evergreens, suspended by rope, draped with ornaments. I bet most of us could make this with things around the house. Could be a great, inexpensive holiday display in your entryway?

Wednesday, January 16

Discover [julibox]

It's a cocktail party in a box, delivered each week to your door! And you know I love cocktail parties, mail, and well-designed products and companies. This brand is so cool I want to hang out with it. Let me elaborate.

I'm also no stranger to booze being delivered via post (my experience with Club W), but this takes the booziness of wine-of-the-month and the variety, sample sizing, and excitement of Birchbox and mashes them into one artfully packaged treat: Julibox. Each month, the Julibox curators design two unique cocktails and ship you the required ingredients and recipe, for $40 a month. If you live in DC and are drinking well-made cocktails (at POV or the Gibson, perhaps), you're already paying $20 a drink anyway. Why not learn how to make it yourself, enjoy in the comfort of your home, and feel really swanky and chic for the same price?

The website is interactive and beautiful- you can see videos on how to make that month's cocktails, learn about their experienced curators and mixologists, and follow their blog, and buy full-sized products that you loved. 

Did I mention it's similar to Birchbox? They should do a collaboration of the his/hers variety, since in my opinion, the man-birchbox was a flop.

So imagine our excitement when this arrived, prettily packaged and sealed to boot.

Like Christmas come twice! So many presents to unwrap! Speaking of, this makes a great gift. I got a 3-month subscription for my bro and his wife, and I hope they've been enjoying it as much as D and me.

The anticipation: seeing which cocktails you'll be making. They provide enough to make two drinks (his&hers) of two different beverages. 4 cocktails. Sweet! You can keep the recipe cards too, which include a picture and are on nice, thick card stock.

And finally, the icing on the cake, getting to actually drink your creations. I love love loved the Magi Sour, which I'd never had before, and appreciated their spin on a Manhattan (especially the adorable fleur de lis sugar cube).

I highly recommend this, especially as a gift, since $40 for 4 cocktails you have to make yourself is a little dear. D doesn't think we should continue once our own 3-month runs out, not because it's not phenomenal, but just because we aren't rich and don't need to live like we are. Thoughts? Would you do it? WILL you do it?

Tuesday, January 15

Style Me Pretty!

Quick shout out to my brother and his beautiful wife for being featured on Style Me Pretty. Which reminds me, I haven't posted on some of the DIY's we did for the day. More to come.

Go enjoy the beauty. Love you both!

Bibliophile [state of wonder]

Whoa, dropped the ball on posting yesterday. Busy weekend: sold our beloved green couch (RIP), which lead to extensive cleaning/organizing/strategizing future furniture purchases, went to a happy hour, saw Le Mis, tried a new restaurant in Clarendon, had friends over for fancy cocktails and stimulating conversations on women's rights/personal career goals/Atlantic City, attended a Patriots game watch, caught up with a dear friend at Peregrine (best espresso and coffee in DC), etc etc. Anyway, here now.

Ann Pachett is an amazing writer, and this book was no exception.

State of Wonder, Ann Patchett

Here's your blurb:

In a narrative replete with poison arrows, devouring snakes, scientific miracles, and spiritual transformations, State of Wonder presents a world of stunning surprise and danger, rich in emotional resonance and moral complexity.

As Dr. Marina Singh embarks upon an uncertain odyssey into the insect-infested Amazon, she will be forced to surrender herself to the lush but forbidding world that awaits within the jungle. Charged with finding her former mentor Dr. Annick Swenson, a researcher who has disappeared while working on a valuable new drug, she will have to confront her own memories of tragedy and sacrifice as she journeys into the unforgiving heart of darkness. Stirring and luminous, State of Wonder is a world unto itself, where unlikely beauty stands beside unimaginable loss beneath the rain forest's jeweled canopy.

Patchett wrote Bel Canto and Run, both of which I have reviewed before. She is very distinctive. Her flowing, poetic prose continues in Wonder, but this time I focused less on her writing style and more on her larger themes. She has a wondrous talent for giving you a sense of place, for developing the setting beautifully. She unfolds the amazon in a way that lives in my memory as if I had been there, but not in the boring three-page-long-adjective-saturated manner of many lesser writers.

It could be true that I focus more on setting because I found some of the characters less developed and authentic than usual (I read a few reviews that said the characters sometimes made decisions or took action that didn't fit their previously painted identities, which I think is true). And, as with Run, I almost felt like she tried to do too many plots: the interplay between capitalism and the common good, global health issues, family ties, drug research and development, workplace romances, female rights, family planning, poisonous spiders, that kinda thing. Quite a breadth for one novel. 

I'm glad I read it, because a very good but not excellent novel from Patchett is better than many other novelists' best work.

Friday, January 11

link it up.

Woody Guthrie's New Year's Resolutions from 1942. My favorites include "learn people better", "have company but don't waste time", "make up your mind" and "wake up and fight".

Skip ahead to the one minute mark (if you're too busy for a 2 minute video) and have your life changed forever. Me and D practiced this week, and we're experts.

Do you travel much? You know I do. I really liked this method for folding suit jackets to pack.

If you're going to send Steven Spielberg a rejection letter, it better sound like this. And if you're gonig to steal a watch, it better look like this (if you can't get enough of this guy, check out this article from the New Yorker).

Do any of you HAC (highlight and contour)? I would like to, after seeing Kim Kardashian images like this, and I found this tutorial for beginners that's pretty great.

And finally, I think this is a good one to remember. The only time we're really interacting with people who aren't our close friends (and therefore supposedly have our interests at heart as well) is at work, so take this as work advice:

Thursday, January 10

HEALTHY cheap eats [overnight oatmeal]

In case you're still fat, I'm continuing my healthy cheap eats. Kinda on a roll here, and if I make it to Friday, this lady is going to Cold Stone.

I've been in love with the swiss oatmeal from Corner Bakery since I tried it in Chicago this summer. It takes just 5 minutes to set up the oats the night before, then you let them sit overnight and absorb the other yummy ingredients you add. Come morning, your breakfast is ready to go!

Because I couldn't say it better myself, here is a summation of this breakfast of champions from The Faux Martha:

Let me tell you a bit about Swiss Oatmeal before I give away the recipe. You eat it chilled not hot. It wont make you sweat. It never sits in a microwave or a pan on the stove top. Just add water. It’s creamy. It’s healthy. It will help you shed those extra pounds. It’s similar to Muesli. It’s very very filling. It’s got all the fiber Dr. Oz has been telling you to eat. It’s sweet. It’s delicious. It has a very interesting history. It’s the easiest recipe on this blog to date. You’re about to fall in love.

Basically, let old-fashioned oats (NOT quick cooking Quaker style, those will be mush city the next day) sit in water overnight in the fridge to soak up some agua. In the morning, drain off the excess water and stir in some Greek yogurt, 1/2 a banana, 1/4 apple, and some craisins and you're good to go. Get fancy and add spices (cinnamon, citrus zest, ginger) or extracts the night before, or use milk instead of water. Again, endless possibilities.

One more thing my friends: if you're working out and eating right as part of a resolution, set yourself a tangible goal. You need to know what you're working towards and WHEN- a goal without a deadline is just a wish. That's your motivational pep talk right there!

Wednesday, January 9

HEALTHY cheap eats [spinach 5 ways]

To continue my theme from yesterday, I'm bringing you some lovely spinach recipes that I've tried this week (why yes, I did buy a 3lb bag of spinach from Costco last weekend, and yes, I've been actively hunting down and trying out new ways to cook it that don't involve spanakopita or copious amounts of cheese).

These are all exceptionally healthy and absurdly easy; most involve sauteing spinach for 3-5 minutes and mixing in vinegars, oils, spices.

Spinach with Nutmeg and Lemon- ate this for dinner last night, because I thought the nutmeg was an inventive flavor with spinach. It was. Pretty much the healthiest thing ever.

Rivaled only by this: Wilted Spinach and Cherry Tomatoes. The balsamic vinegar was fantastic. This is my fave so far.

Sauteed Spinach with Pecans and Goat Cheese: yeah, I guess I made an exception for the cheese. But if you're going dairy, goat is a pretty healthy option.

A bit more involved, if only in number of ingredients: Spinach with Indian Spices. I don't have mustard seeds, so I just added a smidge of stone-ground mustard. Suit yourself.

This is just a salad, but it's a SWEET salad: Warm Spinach Salad with Bacon, Tomatoes and Pecans. Anything with homemade dressing is good for me, and gently wilted spinach is a nice change from the fully sauteed options above.

Green it up! And for more spinach options, check out my green smoothie recipes from yesterday. More health in yo face tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 8

HEALTHY cheap eats [green smoothies]

Hi friends. How many of you made a New Year's Resolution involving being healthier, getting more vitamins and minerals, eating your veggies, or losing weight?

As a shopaholic, I'm focusing all my energy on money management, but I know health is a biggie for most resolution-ers.

My friend S, whose big sister is a super legit registered dietitian, healthy eating coach, chef, and regulation hottie, encouraged me to try some green drank a few months ago, and it's been an excellent breakfast ever since. Here's my baby in action:

Eh, not that appealing to look at, but it tastes fresh and keeps me full for HOURS. I add:

1 C water (sometimes use 1/2 C water, 1/2 C almond milk, if I deserve a treat)
two handfuls of spinach (use a TON. It blends down, similar to when you cook it)
3 T oats
1/2 banana OR 1/2 apple OR 1/2 C berries
4 stalks of celery
1/2 cucumber
2 tsp nut butter (I like almond, used to be on a cashew kick)
healthy dash of cinnamon
buncha ice

You can rework this a million ways: just add what you need. If I've just worked out, I'll make sure to use the cashew butter- it's better than peanut butter, for reals (Trader Joe's discontinued theirs, but you can buy the 365 brand at Whole Foods instead). For extra EXTRA protein, I'll use a splash of soy milk instead of all water. For a filling meal-replacement smoothie (the only time I drink this, really), add some oats to up your fiber. It's basically a spinach smoothie and it's delicious, mainly because it doesn't taste at all like spinach. 

Be conscientious of what you're subbing in though- sure, you can add honey, yogurt, sweet fruits, sugar, and while you're at it let's throw in some Ben & Jerry's. When I was in college, I assumed that eating fruit was completely healthy, similar to eating vegetables. While fruit is great and has many nutrients the body needs, it's also high(er) in carbs and sugar. I mean, people in Italy eat fruit for DESSERT, but when we eat it we think we deserve a medal for our high health standards. Raspberries, apples, and grapefruits may be better selections than cherries, bananas, and pineapples (I always add half a banana, so don't mind me). 

Don't fool yourself by adding less-healthy ingredients and calling it a green smoothie. Or fine, call it what you want, but labels don't drop pounds. Lack of ice cream drops pounds.

The ladies at A Beautiful Mess (I feel like I live similarly to them, as I link to them so often) did a 5-day green smoothie challenge, so head over there to see some recipes. I like the idea of using coconut flakes!

Monday, January 7

Bibliophile [Wench]

Interesting perspective, well written, fell short for me.

Wench: A Novel by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Interesting read, mainly to give you a feel of a very interesting time in the history of America, where a free north intersects with southern slavery. Here's your blurb:

Situated in Ohio, a free territory before the Civil War, Tawawa House is an idyllic retreat for Southern white men who vacation there every summer with their enslaved black mistresses. It’s their open secret. Lizzie, Reenie, and Sweet are regulars at the resort, building strong friendships over the years. But when Mawu, as fearless as she is assured, comes along and starts talking of running away, things change. To run is to leave everything behind, and for some it also means escaping from the emotional and psychological bonds that bind them to their masters. When a fire on the resort sets off a string of tragedies, the women of Tawawa House soon learn that triumph and dehumanization are inseparable and that love exists even in the most inhuman, brutal of circumstances— all while they bear witness to the end of an era.

As I said, this was an interesting read for its portrayal of a very tense time in our nation's history. I wouldn't say it's the greatest book I've ever read, but I did think the plot line was unique. I got frustrated at the indecision of the women in the story- how could they love men who own them- but I'm sure that's how it was. Again, the perspective was a new one for me, so for that I appreciated it, but I suppose I was underwhelmed in total. It's very highly regarded as a debut novel, so don't necessarily take my word for it.

One more thing: this was a book in the P.S. series, published by HarperCollins to include extras in the back, like an interview with the author or questions for a book club. If you see a (P.S.) after the title, that's what that means- just letting you know, since I was unfamiliar with it until now.

Friday, January 4

link it up.

I know it was a short and lame week of posting, but my life is muy loco right now. Looking forward to taking a deep breath this weekend, maybe getting some crafts done, and seeing some friends.

Is one of your new years' resolutions to improve your grammar? If so, you should read this article about literally the worst word in the world, then refer to this infographic of the most commonly misunderstood words in the English language.

Actually, this is the worst word.

And this A-Z list was a well-curated, epic list.

Moving on from grammar, check out this list of 9 directors who have told other actors to make out with their wives. Sexy.

Kind of loving this tumblr, keeping my eyes peeled for Cindy Crawford and Claudia Schiffer.

Have left over booze from a holiday party, like we do? Check out this article to make some bomb infusions, or read NPR's advice on the topic.

Great idea in place of a hat tree or coat rack!

Check this out. I've never seen such an interesting personal branding concept. Completely original, unique, compelling.

That's it for today. See you Monday for a return to regular blogging.

Thursday, January 3

New Years Eve Party!

New Years Eve, reputably the most over-rated and consistently disappointing holiday ever. So I've been told.

My friends were debating which uber-expensive DC event to attend when D floated the idea of us having people over to club 907 (our apartment) for a low-key, boozy, classy party. It was a good option, considering we can host a bunch of people and D makes a mean cocktail. Suddenly D and I were wondering how to throw a party that wouldn't embarrass us with less than 24 hours to plan (we didn't land from FL until 8pm on the 30th). We are obviously over-achievers.

What followed was a whirl-wind December 31st as I cleaned, shopped for decor and food, cooked, baked, decorated, stressed, and ultimately had a blast. We would (and will) definitely do it again, mainly because our friends are amazing and appreciative and made the night perfect. But maybe next time I'll get Chick-fil-a to cater and order a keg so I can kick back and enjoy the last day of 2012. I'm putting that in the hat for next year's party. Seriously.

As I shared yesterday, we decided to go with 3 classic cocktails at the bar: The Millennial Manhattan, the Celebration Side Car, and the New Years Negroni. 

We also had some Lemon Ball Drop Punch (recipe courtesy of Miss Martha) made with champagne and vodka. Add in the Sam Adams holiday sampler, a few magnums of wine, and 20 bottles of champagne, and you've got yourself a party!

D was bartender, which I think he enjoyed. Next time we'll probably do more prepared cocktails- he loves making drinks, but I know some friends felt bad keeping him busy. The punch was easy, as it was pre-made.

D was on the drinks, I was on the food. We went with a pretty simple menu of appetizers: veggie platter, caprese salad skewers, chips and salsa, buffalo chicken dip, pigs in a blanket, mini meatball subs, crab cakes, baked brie, and a cheese and charcuterie platter.

To keep things clean (and for the style), I covered all the tabletops with brown craft paper leftover from wrapping presents and wrote the menu down. It helped me organize things before the party, reminded me when something was missing, made for super easy cleanup, and looked fun.

Decor was simple. I picked up some discounted silver and gold decor at target earlier in the day (SUPER on sale, for real) and used basic string lights and garland. I did pull out the paper trees I made last year: you can buy cardboard cones at Michaels, which I then covered with circle hole punches. Easy and cute, and they held up great in storage.

By 10pm I think I was fully relaxed and enjoying the party, but until then I was worried about everyone's food, drink, etc. I had to go help D at the bar before midnight, because he is lazy and the people needed their champagne!!

After midnight, we wanted to see DC lit up and catch some fireworks, so we headed to the roof...but then we got stuck in the elevator for 10 minutes. True story. We even called the emergency button and spoke to someone, but then the guys realized we were only a few feet down from a floor so they pried the doors open and we all climbed up. It was actually scary and I'd rather not talk about it anymore.

When we came back down, I served up some Georgetown Cupcakes that I couldn't resist buying, as well as some peanut butter cookie dough balls dipped in chocolate and an assortment of berries. We continued to eat and drink and enjoy ourselves for a few hours, then D and I drunk cleaned up and went to bed until 4pm the next day. Epic sleep in for the new year.

So how was your new years eve? Anyone else host a party?