Friday, June 27

link it up

My first weekend in Durham all summer! I can't really claim loneliness since D has been gone, since I've gotten to visit Chicago, DC, and Charlotte, all in a row. Finally I'm local and have a good line up of activities: a performance at DPAC, yoga at the brewery, an outdoor concert, a visit to the farmers market, and some time in the sun, plus plenty of cocktails with my girlfriends. Don't feel too bad for me as I leave the jet-setter lifestyle behind- next weekend I'll be back in New England (YAY) and, following that, in NYC with my bestie (DOUBLE YAY).

Listening to music and wishing you could have a cocktail that suits the mood? Check out Drinkify. Here's what they recommend if you're listening to Robyn, which you should always be doing, always.

Very interested in this app, because I love travel and I love cheap.

As a female athelete (well, once upon a time anyway) I found this piece on Title IX (celebrating its 42nd anniversary) to be revealing.

An argument for the consultant career path, and for maintaining your mystery, featuring a Duke/Fuqua professor.

This guy is totally charming as he debunks many of history's greatest myths. With stick figure animation, of course.

Wednesday, June 25

thrifty travel trips [flights and lodging]

I've been putting off writing about our Roatan vacation, partially because any summation means the trip is truly in the past. But, as my blog is loosely intended to be a place where I share the many corners I cut and tricks I've learned to live a fulfilling, fancy life while on a budget, this vacation absolutely needs to be part of the narrative. We did this on the cheap, y'all.

(Before we get started, I want to remind you that I shared some cheapy vacation tips after D and I did Vegas and LA last summer, over here.)

the view from our favorite spot on the beach (we hung here for at least an hour 5 out of 7 days)
Let me preface this by saying that vacations, in my mind, are a lot like weddings; you can do them totally low budget or totally astronomical, depending on what you're prioritizing and what you're willing to sacrifice. So, if your heart is set on fine spas and first rate service, maybe don't book a vacation rental in a third-world country, get what I'm sayin? 

Our vacation rental included free beers in the fridge. Man they were good to us!

Our priority for this trip was a peaceful beach experience, which let's be honest, eliminates a lot of affordable options (Cancun, Miami, etc). We chose Roatan, the largest island off of Honduras, because my friend L had been there to scuba dive years earlier and knew it checked our boxes: incredible free activities (snorkling along the world's largest reef, after the Great Barrier in Australia), plenty of affordable vacation rentals (no crappy resort food, no stomach-bursting buffets, no crowded beaches, tons of privacy and space), and all the other amenities you'd want with island living: clean sand, warm water, fresh seafood, temperate weather, friendly locals, and so on.

a friendly local. more specifically, the first mate on our snorkel/fishing boat. once his English improves, he'll run his own.
Let's talk flights, because that's where you really get hit with Honduras. We booked in March, just two months before our May trip, and flights were $600. We hemmed and hawed a bit about that cost, but the other expenses (we'll get to that in a moment) were so low that the total cost produced vastly more bang for the buck than going with an all-inclusive trip or a week at a cheaper flight destination, like Puerto Rico or Mexico. Had we booked a month earlier, prices were $480, but we didn't see them any lower than that, even further in advance. I use Kayak to set up price alerts, which you can receive directly to your inbox when there is a change. This is a GREAT way to track prices, especially if you're a bit flexible on dates, which we were. Quick note: I used points for my flight (actually, the 40,000 bonus points awarded when you sign up for Chase Sapphire Preferred, my credit card of choice, more than covered the cost). Now, I think intelligently utilizing points for travel is a phenomenal frugal tip- you wouldn't believe the ways I've benefited from collecting miles, hotel points, rental cars, and so on- but I recognize that not many folks travel as frequently as I do, and I don't recommend opening a new card without serious consideration, so we'll table that discussion for another post.

Our VRBO home from above! It was a 3 minute walk down a gentle hill  and you'd roll right into the water. We liked to head North another 5 minute walk through town to our favorite beach spot.

After flights, your biggest expense is lodging. We paid less than $1,200 total for 7 nights, 8 days in a VRBO vacation rental, which is less than $40 per person per night for a spacious and well-equipped home. We had a full working kitchen (including some nice perks, like a coffee grinder and french press, a milk frother, plenty of tupperware, ice cube trays for our many tropical drinks, etc), washer/dryer, two full baths, two private bedrooms, a balcony with a grill, lounge chairs and an ocean view, a pool, a roof deck for incredible star gazing, AIR CONDITIONING, free internet and water, a tv, movies, books, beach towels...basically, a home away from home. Of course we had to prepare our own food, but we were looking for health/frugality/quality reasons, so that was a perk rather than a drawback.

yay for open concept! bedrooms were off to the right, and the rest was one long room leading from the front door to the balcony. this place really felt like home.
I wanted to share flight and lodging today, and I'll share more about our time on the island and how we saved there next week!

Tuesday, June 24

cheap eats [boba pearls]

While they may not make for an entire meal, boba pearls are one of my favorite additions to tea, smoothies, or the beverage of your choice. Most recognizable as those little chewy brown things in your bubble tea, boba are made of tapioca (a plant-based starch). I buy this brand from my local Asian food market. It's a few bucks cheaper there than on Amazon, but $7 for over 2 pounds is a decent price, and will last you a long time (I make just 1/4 cup for a serving). Speaking of servings, only make what is going to be consumed in the next day, because it gets weird/hard if it sits too long. Even freshly made to 8 hours later shows a significant difference in the chewiness.

To start, bring some water to boil in a pot. Make sure your pot of choice gives them space to swim around (you don't want a big clump of boba, you want individual and delicious pearls). Once you have a strong rolling boil, add your dry boba and give it a stir. The boba should float as they cook for the next 10 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, add a lid, and let it sit for 10 minutes. Finally, strain the boba into a bowl.

From here you can vary the recipe, as long as you follow two basic guidelines- 1, you need to cover the boba with liquid, and 2, you probably want to sweeten the boba (it's pretty flavorless on its own). I add enough coconut water to just cover the pearls, and add a teaspoon of Truvia. I think the more traditional preparation is cold water and brown sugar, but I don't see why you can't experiment. Let your pearls cool and they're ready to be used!

The first time I made boba in Durham (pictured above) D and I were going for a walk, and when he took a sip to try it for the first time he literally spit it into a bush.  I foisted a batch on my father when he visited last, and while he wasn't so rude as to spit them out, I don't think he was a fan either.

So, to each his own I suppose, but I think it's like having little round gummy bears at the bottom of your drink...which may make you more or less interested. Tell ya what. Come visit and I'll make you some, then you decide whether to make your own!

Friday, June 20

link it up

D loves doing Sean Connery impersonations, and I love cats. It's the perfect representative picture of our pending weekend together.
I'm a lucky girl. Heading to Charlotte this afternoon to spend a semi-pre-birthday weekend with D! Haven't seen him since we moved him down to ATL, so I'm double looking forward to it. Plus I like my birthday a lot, so there's that. You can find us lounging in style at the Ritz- the rest of our D-created itinerary includes live music, Belgian breweries, ice cream, fancy dinners, green smoothies, and long walks. If you have any recommendations, please let us know! And if you're looking to send me a gift, which of course you are, Anthro is having their semi-annual sale. Got my eyes on some kicks (these, so mod, and these, so prep).

English pronunciation. Sometimes (most times) I am grateful that I learned our crazy language first. Can't imagine the difficulty for ESOL students (which is why I've started volunteering with the Durham Literacy Center).

This add is pretty powerful, and may change the way you talk to young girls.

Want to alter a recipe? Not so fast. Food52 shares what you can, and can't, change (that is, if having the recipe turn out edible is on your must-have list).

An interesting tidbit from my friend M (who also celebrated a birthday this week!): the kilogram is the only international standard of measure that is still defined by a thing rather than a constant. It's literally a cylinder of metal kept in a vault in France, which is not completely constant. He thought it was bizarre, and I agree. File that one away for trivia, folks.

Can't. Stop. Listening.

Thursday, June 19

bibliophile [beautiful ruins]

I don't know how I forgot to review this read. Thanks Mrs. R for the reminder!

Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter

For starters, you should know that Jess Walter is a man. I need to be able to visualize my authors- preferably their faces. It's a trust thing. Anyone else? I think the age of pen names would have driven me mad.

Onto the book: like a beach read, for a chick with brains. Keep in mind that most reviews I've read set it even higher as a truly excellent novel, so I may be debasing it a bit to suggest it's destined for sandy pages...anyway, here's the blurb:

From the moment it opens—on a rocky patch of Italian coastline, circa 1962, when a daydreaming young innkeeper looks out over the water and spies a mysterious woman approaching him on a boat—Jess Walter's Beautiful Ruins is a dazzling, yet deeply human, roller coaster of a novel. From the lavish set of Cleopatra to the shabby revelry of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, to the back lots of contemporary Hollywood, Beautiful Ruins is gloriously inventive and constantly surprising—a story of flawed yet fascinating people navigating the rocky shores of their lives while clinging to their improbable dreams.

There are a few different plots here, but the main line is one long love affair, started in the 60's and realized in the modern day. Chapters bounce back and forth between the ages, similar to Last Letter From Your Lover (reviewed over here). I thought the title was pretty nuanced- beautiful things that fall to ruins, but perhaps a few ruinous situations that can be redeemed. No one lives the life they plan for themselves, that's for sure. There is enough content here to be a good book club read, if you're into that sort of thing. This is a fun (and quick) read, and could sit alongside Bernadette and Guernsey on your summer reading shelf.

Tuesday, June 17

pinned [coral

I love this color scheme, the pink/mauve with shots of coral and a watery gray background. Plus who doesn't love polar bears?

I was pleased to find so many versions of it in interior design, too. Coming soon: color scheme translated into a wedding...


Friday, June 13

link it up

Weekend time. I'm trying to spend as little time home alone as possible, so I don't notice that I now live alone. I had girl-dates every night this week, and as of lunchtime today I'll be cruisin' to DC to visit my lovely bride-and-groom to be, and a few other wonderful people. Forecast says 81 and sunny, and I couldn't be happier to get back to the city I most-often call home. You can find me at Peregrine sippin' some coffee and strolling the Eastern Market booths, or getting cupcakes fo' free in Georgetown, or stalking Good Wood on U Street followed by drinks at The Gibson...

D sent this morbid article to me, and I found it interesting: how American's died in 1990 compared to today.

How much do you need to earn to buy a home in 27 metros? Thank goodness I don't want to live in the Bay Area...

D and I haven't really hosted dinner parties since leaving D.C. (although for us, it was usually just one other couple or a meal with roommates). I'm hoping we get into it next year, and will be saving these tips until then.

This cocktail sounds very simple, but has all my favorite things: a little citrus, grenedine, gin, egg white...I sense an imbibe post for next week, no?

Ever found something ugly on Craigslist (all the time) and wondered who would buy it (all the time)? Here's an idea for those ugo leather couches. Expect me to scoop them all up as soon as I have access to a set of wheels.

Wednesday, June 11

your thoughts [american flag decor]

Americana. We need to discuss it. May I or may I not decorate my home with an American flag.

Because I really want to. I mean, if I have the right to burn it, I certainly have the right to hang it, but just because you have the right doesn't mean you should exercise it, nahmean?

I wouldn't say D is crazy about protecting the integrity of the flag, but you know those silly little ones you get at a parade? He gets mad at me if I let them touch the floor of the car. So there's that.



What do you think? An appropriate way to display something near and dear, or an inappropriate appropriation of our country's most revered and recognizable symbol?

Tuesday, June 10

bibliophile [the goldfinch]

For those of you that have been living under a literary rock, I introduce Donna Tartt's first new novel in 11 years, the Pulitzer-prize winning Goldfinch.

The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt

Without further ado, the blurb:

Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend [and is] tormented above all by his longing for his mother. He clings to the one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

The Goldfinch is a mesmerizing, stay-up-all-night and tell-all-your-friends triumph, an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.

So first and foremost, this is obviously well-written and a good read. It reminds me of many Pulitzer-prize winning novels in that throughout the lengthy process of reading you continue more because you ought to than because it's a true page-turner or you're deeply drawn in. When I read Orphan Master's Son earlier this year I thought the same- it's a worthwhile endeavor, but there's almost an academic, educational quality that surpasses the simple readability that typically has me reaching for a book.

This was like that. I'm glad I read it, even just to experience the true talent Tartt has for creating scenes/characters so vividly (Theo's time in Vegas and his friend Boris stand out as excellent examples of that skill). Her flair for suspense (which is what I loved about A Secret History, probably more than Goldfinch) abounds, but at some points I found the plot a bit tedious. This is an almost-800-page novel about tragic loss, so you have to expect a certain degree of morbidity, but I found it especially bleak and would need 30 minutes and a hug to shake off the weight of the story whenever I put it down. I respect what an ambitious novel it is, and again, it was worth the read, but prepare yourself accordingly.

Monday, June 9

DIY or buy [horseradish sauce]

I've decided to start a new feature, because I've found that one of my favorite things to do is look up ways to DIY things I typically buy. My increasing awareness and education regarding what I put in my body, combined with my long-standing frugality, is a recipe for kitchen DIY's galore. I'll try to give an honest assessment of when I would buy rather than DIY, but I suspect that will happen less often. I already have a few ready, and a few ready to try, and I'm sure my solo summer (D will be out of state for a fancy internship) will give me ample opportunity to experiment.
First up, I was SHOCKED to find that I had no prepared horseradish in my home this week. With family from Buffalo and a deep love of beef on (kimmel)weck, I couldn't believe I'd run out without noticing. I searched two supermarkets in the area and couldn't find any horseradish products that didn't contain lots o' sugar, mayo, fake dairy products, and so on. I wasn't looking for horseradish sauce, I guess, just prepared horseradish. No dice. But, they did have massive pieces of horseradish root, so I decided to make my own.

no way to make this cute: put everything in a vitamix and blend.
Even searching for recipes online was tough, so I went with the one listed on the root label: 1 lb of horseradish root, scrubbed and peeled, 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar, 1 T salt, and 1/2 T sugar. Throw it all into a Vitamix and blend until smooth, which took approx. 10 seconds. Be careful- horseradish is absurdly more powerful than onions, so open the food processor or blender away from you, preferably under ventilation or your hood. Dad had a funny story about mom being knocked off her feet by the smell.

Now I still need to go buy some caraway seeds...

Monday, June 2

link it up and welcome back

Marbella Beach, which we had 100% to ourselves for lunch
So yes, I returned from Honduras at midnight last Wednesday, but brought back a weird tropical cold and was a zombie for a few days. Then I had to enjoy D's final days in Durham before we moved him down to ATL this weekend. Now I'm back in business for a #solosummer and will have plenty of time to be a diligent and consistent blogger. For now, a few links you may have missed.

Super inspired by this lady, who has a style blog built around a capsule wardrobe (having 40 or fewer clothes and shoes in your repertoire, not including workout gear, sleep wear, or accessories). I think I should try this minimalist approach.

Do you know of a recent college grad? Have them visit this site for a pretty comprehensive personality and strengths test, if they need a little career guidance.

I've been using Food52 quite a bit for recipes, cooking techniques, and even shopping for some tools. Check out this feature for "best of the broke kitchen" if you're cooking on a budget, like me.

Ayn Rand meets Harry Potter. Love it.

Breaking news: I laughed out loud when I saw this. That bear is straight chillin.

Happy Monday folks!