Friday, February 28

link it up

Friday party! We made it! I've been off all week; on Tuesday I felt like the week was dragging, but by Thursday I thought it was only Wednesday. I'm heading to Chicago tomorrow to spend some time with my girl K (and hopefully do some wedding stuff) before my work trip. D is the lucky one; he heads to flipping Brazil for two weeks. #MBAlife

Get ready to fall in love with Toy Story all over again: the true identity of Andy's mom. And this is a crude video explaining that all Pixar movies exist in the same universe. Mind. Blown. (and blown bigger, if you have nothing else to do today)

I hope me and my daughter are this cool (and crafty).

D and I watch this video frequently, just because it's hilarious (and part of a very interesting larger study). NPR shared it this week to give you a boost when you're thinking, "man, life just isn't fair". Here's to getting the grape and not the cucumber this weekend!

Do any of you shop One Kings Lane? I'm trying to convince D we should buy this. Have you ever seen a more beautiful bed? And as my sister in law pointed out, think of the cost per use!

I am all about dip, especially when I have veggies to go in it. I'll have to try both of these (and I have another coming your way next week).

Wednesday, February 26

cheap eats [peeling tomatoes]

There are some kitchen hacks that really blow my mind, like making coffee ice cubes or protecting fresh quac with a layer of water. My brother taught me this one, and it was equally revolutionary for me: how to peel tomatoes quickly and easily. This is a MUST for making homemade tomato sauce, which you should definitely be doing.

1.score a small x on the bottom of your tomato
2. gently lower the tomato into boiling water for 30 seconds
3. remove tomato from pot and rinse under cold water
4. peel off skin

Truly, the cold water from my tap was strong enough to peel back the tomato skins without my help, that's how easy the skins come off. In under a minute you're ready to start using your peeled tomatoes!

Because I hate waste, I saved the tomato skins. I sprayed them with a light dusting of olive oil, tossed on some salt and pepper, and baked them at high heat in the oven for a few minutes. They were a crispy addition to meals over the week, like this zucchini pasta above (which features my homemade tomato sauce, coincidentally).

Tuesday, February 25

bibliophile [where'd you go Bernadette]

This book was pure fun.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette, by Maria Semple

I am a judger for sure, so this is a book I've heard about for months and put off based on the somewhat childish cover and weird, unsophisticated title. As is often the case, my judginess was misguided; this book is fantastic. Here is your summary:

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence--creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.

If I have to be critical of anything, I'd say that I preferred the first half of the book, or pre-Bernadette's disappearance, to the second half, where she is missing, probably because Bernadette's voice is so absurdly unique, interesting, and truly hilarious that I miss her narration. That's the real value to this novel, the incredible yet concise character development. Add in the unconventional organization of the book, which consists of personal correspondence, character monologues, receipts, and other unusual sources, and you can't put it down. I read that this was "compulsively readable", which is an excellent description.

We were all surprised when, upon finishing the book, the author's "about me" page included her full-time job as a writer for Arrested Development, which explains why she's a comic genius. Read this!

Monday, February 24

discover [mistobox]

I just searched my blog because I can't believe I haven't done a post on Mistobox. Mistobox is a monthly delivery box system based around amazing coffee. You know how much I love subscription services (almost as much as I love amazing coffee). They got their start on Shark Tank, so you KNOW they're legit.

They select 4 coffees from roasters around the country, package them up cute with everything you need to know to brew and enjoy, and ship them to your doorstep. It's $20 per month, but I think your first box is just $5 or $10. I've done probably 5 months worth, spread over the past year. Each coffee packet, shown above, is whole beans. I grind them up at home, put them back in the bag, and bring them to work for use with my baby bodum french pressIf you're interested, my ratio is typically 8oz of water (it's a 12oz press, so 3/4 full of boiling water) over 2 heaping tablespoons fine-ground coffee. Each packet contains 50 grams, and a level tablespoon is about 6 grams, so I get 3 1-cup/8oz servings of coffee per bag. Not bad. On their FAQ page, they say you'll get 12-15 cups of coffee per box, making each cuppa joe between $1.30-$1.67. It's a great opportunity to explore new roasters, new origins, and so on.

P.S.- here is a GREAT website for different brew methods; it's basically a amalgamation of some of the best coffee roasters and their opinions on how to maximize their beans and brews.

Friday, February 21

link it up

I realized something lovely yesterday. Over the course of a few months, I'm going to see 90% of the people I love. My bestie R was here last weekend, G&K (with a side of M) from college are visiting this weekend, I had a DC-roomie reunion the last weekend of January, and next month includes a reunion in Baltimore, followed by a visit to my sister in Philly and home to Boston for Easter. Now that you have my full life schedule, please join me in feeling grateful for all the wonderful people in the world.

So who has been following the Olympics? D and I don't have cable, which 99% of the time is amazing, but is a real bummer during athletic events. If you're following along, have more fun with this. If you're prepping for Canada v USA, this video will get you in the spirit.

Is there anyone in my network (that would be you) that understands travel hacking and slow travel? I'm deeply intrigued.

The art of persuasion in :59 seconds. I'm wondering if this was created by someone in annual giving. #fundraisingjokefriday

I'd say I'm pretty much always in the market for interesting workout programs. This "netflix for your body" idea is something I may try next month.

For all my bougie boozy friends, this article is a fascinating read.

Thursday, February 20

imbibe [blood orange mint gin fizz]

Guess what's in season? Blood oranges! These gorgeous things are a welcome treat in the dead of winter, and make a fantastic cocktail.
I got the idea for this cocktail from here, and used their recipe for blood orange syrup (simply combine 3 parts juice to 1 part sugar in a sauce pan, stir to dissolve, reduce at a simmer for 3 minutes, remove from heat and add a buncha mint, cool to room temperature, strain, and store for up to 2 weeks).

The drink recipe they use is way too sweet for my taste, so I had to adjust. It's such a simple recipe, feel free to play with it. Gin was the obvious first choice for this one, but I see a blood orange old fashioned in my future, or maybe a blood orange margarita? Limitless possibilities.

Tuesday, February 18

DIY (address plaques)

In my opinion, D and I moved in together pretty quickly (and I don't think you'll get any argument from our parents, ha-ha). We'd been doing our thing for over two years, but we were young. Really it was a financial and convenience decision: at the same time I decided to give up my awful Baltimore to DC commute, one of D's Capitol Hill roommates was leaving. I took the open room, which is one of the best decisions I've ever made. Although it meant leaving my beloved college town and one of my favorite people that exist on the planet, I was able to build a meaningful relationship with two new roommates and get to know a city I can't wait to call home again in the future. Plus, it was the easiest, most simple transition for D and I. Be with the one you love.

Since living together has been such an important element in our relationship, and since we move all the ding dang time, we like to commemorate the places we've been together. First was that glorious row house on the hill, a creaky, leaky, high-ceilinged beauty, complete with fireplaces, crown molding, sloping hard-wood floors, and drafts. Man I loved that place.

Next was our apartment in Rosslyn, with the incredible views, where we met a few more lifelong friends, where I started my current career, where D underwent the trials of B school application and acceptance.

So many memories are tied to the places we live. To commemorate, them, D and I have been collecting address plaques. The first, from DC, is from a giveaway I won on another blog. The second uses the brass letters I found here and a construction-displaced brick from NW DC (I know, I'm terrible, I'm sorry).

Someday I'd like our little collection, which will no doubt grow, to be hung as a gallery wall in a mud room or casual entryway, as a reminder of where we've been together. I haven't decided what to do for our Durham apartment, but I did pick up these vintage numbers while thrifting in Raleigh with D last month. Unfortunately, the street we live on has a longgggg name. Any ideas for me?

Monday, February 17

bibliophile [the loves of Judith]

Ugh. With a side of ugh.

The Loves of Judith, by Meir Shalev

I did not enjoy this. The blurb:

When the mysterious Judith arrives in a small agricultural village in Palestine in the 1930s, she attracts attention of three men: Moshe, a widowed farmer; Globerman, a wealthy cattle dealer; and Jacob, who loses his wife—the most beautiful woman in the village—because of his obsession with Judith, who insists on living in a cowshed rather than settling down with any of her admirers. When she gives birth to Zayde, all three suitors consider him their son, and Zayde, who tragically loses Judith, imbibes their triple wisdom and their distinct versions of his origins. As Zayde pieces together the beguiling story of the singular woman who was his mother, Meir Shalev weaves a magical novel of the joys and secrets of village life, of an unconventional family, and the unexpected fruits of love.

If anyone loved this book, I'd like to hear from you. It's so well rated and reviewed elsewhere that I'm sure I must have plenty of opposition, but this book was just dumb. Full of mystical, small-town bullsh*t and religious lore, none of it was plausible, no one was accountable, and the characters weren't even likable. Instead of needing to develop a logical and interesting plot, anything weird was just attributed to some magical cultural spirit of twentieth century Israel. It's one big aphorism. Ugh. Please read it so I can get a new perspective on this book I so detested (although I'm sure this post doesn't encourage you to do so).

Friday, February 14

link it up

How do you all feel about valentine's day? D and I don't really do much. I usually try to make a nice dessert, but he's stuck in upstate NY while I'm snowed in. Might be pizza for dinner tonight. I hope you're able to do something romantic, or not, whatever your heart desires.

Need a twitter bio? Check this.

Can Olivia Pope afford her apartment, much less her killer wardrobe? Heck yes she can. But not all your favorite TV stars are as lucky.

When should you be married? I only have 8 more months. Yikes.

My sister may be onto something. Maybe just don't have kids.

I wish Duke announced our snow day (yay!) like this.

Rachel McAdams auditioning for The Notebook: this article is so good. And I'm totally watching that movie tonight.

Wednesday, February 12

discover [inexpensive flower arrangements]

Meant for this to go live this morning, so I'm sorry it's a bit late. I want to share with you my favorite way to make inexpensive flower bouquets go a bit further: split them up. 
three (pretty pink) ducks in a row
Sure, it's nothing new, but you might need a reminder of how impactful this can be. D is always shocked with the $15 garden bouquet we buy becomes 2, 3, and sometimes even 4 different arrangements, ready to be grouped together or spread out through your home. Martha has some wonderful ideas for arrangements, like using tape to make a grid over the top of the vase that can support and direct the stems.

grouped together
I like to photograph them grouped together, but typically we spread them out on a sofa table we have between our open dining/kitchen area and the couch/living room area. It almost acts as a buffer and helps further define our space. I've been using these $3 vases I found at Ikea for years, like this or this.
There are a few tips to help your flowers last longer, too. One, cut the stems on a diagonal under running water, so they get a fresh hit of hydration as soon as you trim the stalk. To prevent bacteria growing in the vase, add a few drops of vodka to the water, and refresh every 3-4 days. Bleach can do the same, but use it very sparingly. A teaspoon of sugar can mimic some of the nutrients the flowers would get if they were still in the ground. I haven't tried it yet, but crushed asprin supposedly works as well, and the copper of a penny may acidify the water and help droopy flowers perk up. Those packets of plant food they give you? Usually they're just a dried mix of sugar and vinegar.

Let me know if you have any other tips or tricks for cut flowers. I'll let you know how long these last, but when you only spent $14.99, it feels like they've already paid for themselves.

Tuesday, February 11

DIY [clipboard]

If you've seen the clipboard inspiration I shared last week, you can understand why I've had the bug for ages. It's a simple and creative starting place for many functional projects, and there was one in particular that stood out in my mind.

Last Thanksgiving, D and I traveled to Copenhagen for a few days, prior to joining my study-abroad-participating sister, M, in Berlin. On our second day in Denmark, we had the incredible experience of literally stumbling into Ruby, consistently listed as one of the top ten cocktail bars in the world (!!). A parting gift, which we've treasured greatly as a souvenir, is an antiqued clipboard with a typewriter-printed drink menu, from a private event held in the underground heart of Ruby. We have it proudly displayed on our bar cart, and every time I see it I get a thrill of memory.

I knew I could add a DIY element to my brother's gift of bitters (this set and this set, totally worth buying) and Boston-etched cocktail glasses (over here) with his very own clipboard, complete with recipe cards using his 8 new flavors of bitters.

I'm sure no one is surprised that I immediately turned to my two most utilized DIY tools, contact paper and gold leaf. I chose a Gatsby-esque font in Word, and traced the letters onto contact paper using this technique, which I then cut out and attached to a $2 clipboard from Office Depot (not ideal, but time was of the essence). I taped everything I didn't want to be gold, and painted the rest gold, including the hardware. Strip off the tape and you're masterpiece is revealed.

Since I'm now doing a cocktail post every Thursday, I'll share with you the recipes then. A few are extremely creative uses of the unique Scrappy's flavors, but I think bitters are just as wonderful dropped into unflavored seltzer.

Monday, February 10

cheap eats [honey lime tilapia]

D doesn't get on board with all my healthy eating. A lot of it, but not all. This dinner is great because it's a very easy adjustment to add more fat and calories to his version and keep it lean for me. Then we get to sit down with similar looking dinners, instead of the steak-vs-salad table we've been setting lately.

I also like this one because it involves ingredients we always have- honey (my dad's a weekend-beekeeper), tilapia (hello massive costco freezer bags!), lime (living with the cocktail king, citrus fruits are always around). Round it out with some staples-- olive oil, flour, salt, pepper, and garlic-- and you've got a quick meal. I used this recipe (kinda), and love her addition of blueberry salsa...although I didn't make it. Next time.

Remember, no one likes fish leftovers, so just make what you need in the moment. For D and I, that's usually one fillet for me and 2-3 for him. Once I finish D's fillets, I do mine in the same pan- I skip the flour step, and most but not all of the oil has been used.

Anyone else cook for a family with different dinner agendas? I need some ideas on how to manage it without going crazy.

Friday, February 7

link it up

why mess with a good thing?

Hey there! Man I am in a good mood. Spending the weekend down South for work, and planning on getting some sun time in. If you are my friend or family from the North....sorry bout it.

Happiest of happy birthdays to my favorite girl J. Wish you were here (or I was there) to celebrate.

I'm already in Miami this weekend, but if I wasn't, maybe I'd check this out to get my travel on. (No, that's not a joke.)

Really inspired by this woman's photos. I want to blow them all up and hang them in my home. Definitely going to start following her on Instagram.

The journalists in Sochi are having a hard go of it. Then again, they're still going to the Olympics, so suck it up.

My friend G found this for me- could there BE a more perfect card for me to give D this Valentines Day??!

A much catchier, better version of this song. God I love remakes.

Thursday, February 6

imbibe [gin rosemary citrus]

Three of my favorite flavors come together in a gin, rosemary, and citrus cocktail. I've been making variations of this for two years now, using oranges and grapefruits and honey and sugar and agave. It's such a pretty drink with the contrasting colors.

While most people seem to think this is a summer drink, I really enjoy it in winter. As you can see, I like a good sugared rim. If you opt out of that deliciousness, make sure you up your simple syrup (you can use the same instructions for thyme simple syrup from last week).

Part of the appeal, as I said earlier, is how customizable this drink is. Sometimes I add in a splash of Campari for another flavor layer and, more importantly, for the gorgeous color it gives. I almost always add it when working with grapefruit juice, and lean more towards citrus bitters when using orange or lemon. Be open to testing- heaven forbid you have a few variations to enjoy. Sláinte!

Wednesday, February 5

DIY inspo [clipboard]

I love clipboards. They're so efficient and lets-get-to-work looking, although they aren't actually that functional. I feel like they're one school supply that you never really had a reason for and thus never owned, meaning I've been coveting one for over a decade.

I decided to take matters into my own hands and make one as part of my brother/SIL's gift this year. More on that next week, but first, some inspiring ideas from the interwebs.

You know our girl Martha can hook us up with some paper over here:

And a bit more with paper, this time marbled:

Love this DIY version to display photos, lists, you name it:

A beautiful and functional organization option at Design Sponge:

Slap some chalkboard on that baby like so:

And finally, this lovely shot, without a DIY in sight, simply because it's beautiful.

Tuesday, February 4

bibliophile [the weird sisters]

Especially if you have sisters, or any sibling dynamic, you'll enjoy this.

The Weird Sisters, by Eleanor Brown

My dear friend K (who happens to be the eldest of three sisters) recommended this book to me last year, but it took me awhile to get around to it. I thought it was a good read, a solid 6/7 out of 10, especially for Brown's first book. Here's the blurb:

Three sisters have returned to their childhood home, reuniting the eccentric Andreas family. Here, books are a passion (there is no problem a library card can't solve) and TV is something other people watch. Their father-a professor of Shakespeare who speaks almost exclusively in verse-named them after the Bard's heroines. It's a lot to live up to.
The sisters have a hard time communicating with their parents and their lovers, but especially with one another. What can the shy homebody eldest sister, the fast-living middle child, and the bohemian youngest sibling have in common? Only that none has found life to be what was expected; and now, faced with their parents' frailty and their own personal disappointments, not even a book can solve what ails them...

So, that's a bit dramatic up there. Really it's just family and personal drama, like any good novel. The three sisters "love each other, but don't like each other very much", which sets us up for some nice disagreements. It's always tough for me when there isn't a particular character to love singularly, and this book is very evenly divided among the three- you feel for them all equally, and they all get comparable time dedicated to their story. They're very realistic, but I do wish we'd gotten to go deeper in the character development. Some very unique narration here, but I won't spoil it for you. Check it out!