Thursday, March 31

Bibliophile [catch up 8]

Coming to the end of the catch up! Just a few more, and then I'll go back to doing them in real-time as I finish. I hope you've gotten some new ideas on what to read (or what not to) over the past few months.

The Lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri. Sweeping, epic-like novel of two brothers from India. I liked it, but I can't say it's a happy or feel-good story. Some elements reminded me of Cutting for Stone, but not quite as good as that stunner.

We Are Water, by Wally Lamb. favorite author, another great novel. I will read everything he ever puts out and enjoy it. Go get it, but get his other ones, too (I Know This Much is True is probably my favorite).

Tell the Wolves I'm Home, by Carol Rifka Brunt. coming of age story, young narrator, very moving and lots of grief but I liked it. Worth a gander.

Wednesday, March 30

DC Digs [curtains]

In one of the weirdest re-purposings I have done, I bought a necklace at Zara and used it to decorate my curtain. It was $3.99 on clearance, and I am a huge sucker for malachite, so I thought, why not? The gold band can be used to tie it back, and the pendant can be a finial.

I used a nail to fix the necklace to the wall, and still haven't decided how to attach the finial...I'm thinking some kind of tacky glue or clay. One of my  favorite hacks was installing a thin strip of velcro between the window molding and the curtain, so no light can peak through the curtain and the window (which would fall directly on my face). 

The best part? The necklace matches the little malachite jewelry box I got at the Brooklyn Flea years ago, which now lives on my nightstand just a few feet away. The post on that is here, and omg it's from 2012. Time flies.

And in case you're wondering where the amazing original sketch of dish soap is from, which of course you are, I got it at the Goodwill in LA for A DOLLAR when D and I were vacationing before he left for B school. Like what person does a study of dish soap and then FRAMES IT and then when they no longer want it, say, "this is just too good to throw out, we should donate it"? My hero, obviously.

Monday, March 28

cheap eats [miracle noodles and furikake]

From my last kick of cooking asian cuisine, I came across two new ingredients I wanted to share. The first is furikake, a salty, umami-filled Japanese seasoning (I had to watch this pronunciation video to learn how to say it: it's FYUR-eh-cake). It's usually sprinkled over meats, veggies, seafood and the like, and is made of sesame seeds, dried and ground fish, chopped seaweed, sugar, and salt. Don't knock it 'til you try it- I know dry ground seafood powder doesn't sound appealing, but it's delicious, particularly on rice. Plus I think it looks great, yes?

The other ingredient is Shirataki, a Japanese product commonly called "miracle noodles" since they are zero calorie. Made from a type of yam, they are odorless and pretty much as boring as you can get for a product. They are vegan and gluten free, and contain almost no carbohydrates. They are great to help fill you up, and can be easily added to soups and stews or used to make noodle or rice dishes, like Pad Thai (here's a great recipe for that).

I think The Kitchn did a great intro post about shirataki, in case you want to learn more. The only bowl of them I've had is pictured above, in rice form: see the white little grains? I didn't have enough brussels sprouts left to constitute a full dinner, so I cooked up some shirataki to go with it. I felt perfectly fine before and after. While I wouldn't recommend making them a daily staple, they can be a thoughtful addition: they take sauces and other flavors well, and cook up in just a few minutes. I ordered a variety pack through amazon, and am looking forward to trying it in other forms.

Friday, March 25

link it up

Home to Boston for the Easter weekend! D is joining me and we have much to celebrate, including his birthday, my brother's new bull mastiff pup (expect photos), and my parents' (33rd!) wedding anniversary. Can't wait for the family to be together, it's been awhile since Christmas. From the archives (ha), I pulled out the Easter recap from 2013 over here, and 2012 over here. I guess 2014 had the briefest of recaps leading into it, and nothin' for 2015 (bad blogger took a year off). I'm hoping to marble eggs this year, so wish me luck!

A short little animated video to put a smile on your face. (I LOVE Oscar-nominated shorts).

All about videos today: the evolution of the American home.

An interview with a Sesame Street producer about their awesome parodies of adult pop culture. Too bad they can't figure out a Breaking Bad one yet (D and I finished the series last weekend).

For all my lovely bakers, cookie science!

Advice for small-space dwellers. I've come back to this post several times because it's just so true. I agree with every one (and D agrees passionately with #7 and #8).

Thursday, March 24

Bibliophile [catch up 7]

You Should Have Known, by Jean Hanff Korelitz. Some totally insane plot twists, but I still really liked this novel/mystery. A woman about to publish a book on knowing and understanding your life partner learns she could have done a bit more research on her own. A page turner.

Burial Rites, Hannah Kent. Haunting, beautiful, sad, short. The very human, very real story of the last execution in Iceland. Thanks to J for the rec.

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, by Ann Patchett. Autobiographical short stories from one of my favorite authors, so obviously it was enjoyable and beautifully written. Plus she kinda got me into short stories- I read a bunch of Joan Didion after this one.

Wednesday, March 23

DC Digs [magnetic spice rack]

Nothing really to share here besides a lovely photo. I bought magnetic spice containers from World Market, cut name tag labels to size, and moved all my spices over into uniform, organized life. These tins are great- the top can remove with a good pull, but it also twists to reveal tiny openings (to sprinkle) or a bigger opening (to pour). Saving us a ton of space and looking pretty all the while.

Monday, March 21

cheap eats [roasted brussels sprouts]

Remember my soft-boiled soy eggs from last week? I tried this DELICIOUS recipe (also from Food52 and also from Momofuku, I'm so predictable) for roasted brussels sprouts with fish sauce vinaigrette and it did not disappoint. You know it'll taste good with a soy egg when they're from not just the same cuisine but the same restaurant!

So good. I left out the sugar, and upped the rice vinegar, since I love that tangy flavor. The mint and cilantro were fantastic together, and of course I had to have some pickled ginger on the side, along with the egg. A very healthy, quick dinner, our could make an excellent side to a seafood dish.

Thursday, March 17

Bibliophile [catch up 6]

The Engagements, J. Courtney Sullivan. A book club read, and good for that setting, too. Follows several (5 maybe?) story lines, all involving a marriage/engagement/diamond ring at some point. The heart of the story is the real-life woman who wrote the DeBeer's ad copy, "A Diamond is Forever". I liked this a lot.

Astonish Me, Maggie Shipstead. I like dancers and the ballet, so I liked this, but I can't say it was spectacular. Some interesting characters and good plot development of the life of a mother and son, both of whom dance for the NY ballet.

Tampa, Alissa Nutting. Sexy female teacher sexually abuses her students. Thought it was a modern day Lolita, which is how it was recommended to me, but it is SO not. Just smut. Don't bother at all. Please.

Tuesday, March 15

DIY floating desk

Once we decided not to put my "office" in the closet, we knew it would have to be out in the open. So that I wouldn't be staring at a monitor and printer all day every day (particularly on weekends), I wanted to have it in the bedroom. It was time to start brainstorming for a working desk that wouldn't be visually distracting or terribly obtrusive. My first love was an acrylic waterfall desk, like so:

peekaboo acrylic console table

They really disappear in a space, no?

But, for almost $400, I didn't feel I could justify it. I found a few on craigslist of course, but older, lesser quality acrylic can yellow or be deeply scratched, which I wasn't excited about. I found a few glass options, but it always had that green tinge around the edges, and wasn't as crystal clear. No go.

If I couldn't do an acrylic desk, I decided a floating desk was the next best thing, in terms of not distracting from the main purpose of the bedroom: to rest, relax, sleep. I wanted an unobtrusive little shelf in the corner- after all, it only needed to hold a mouse and a keyboard, since we'd decided to float my monitor on the wall (see below- it pulls out so we can watch from bed).

Guess what I had laying around that would make a great desk? A gorgeous piece of vintage marble from the coffee table we sold! But trust me, this thing is super heavy and more than a 1/2 inch thick. It all starts with some serious brackets drilled into studs. From what I recall, each one is supposed to be able to hold almost 100lbs. Here we are trying to get them level. I remember D doing most of this part. See how my desk will have a lovely view out the back window though? Productivity here I come!

Next, adhesive. Yes, that's right, we used heavy-duty glue to attach the piece of marble to steel brackets. Trust me, it's super sturdy- our method was approved of by both my father and the Home Depot guy, so we good.

Decent photos to come- it's up and running (and has been my official desk for months), but I haven't remembered to photograph it yet, so you only have these "project successfully complete" shots. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 14

cheap eats [sour cream coffee cake]

My dear friend J and I used to make this in high school on the reg, from her grandmother's recipe. I got her to send me the recipe over the holidays, and made this for Christmas morning snacking. I might make it for Easter morning as well- D is a coffee cake FIEND (and a total product of his mom's amazing baking), and since he'll be with us in Boston, I  know this will get devoured.

It's the best coffee cake recipe I've ever had, personally. I've copied the recipe for you below in it's exact iteration, but know that I cut the sugar down a LOT, but don't skimp on the cinnamon!

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Cream butter and sugar, add eggs and blend well, and add sour cream and vanilla:
1 C (2 sticks) butter
2 C sugar
2 beaten eggs
1 C sour cream
1 T vanilla

Add, beat just until mixed:
2 C flour
1 T baking powder
1/4 t salt

In a separate bowl, mix 3/4 C sugar, 1/2 C nuts (if desired), 1 T cinnamon. Pour half the batter into a greased and floured bundt pan and sprinkle with half the sugar mixture. Pour in the remaining batter and sprinkle with the remaining sugar mixture.

Bake at 350 for 50-60 min. EAT.

Thursday, March 10

bibliophile [catch up 5]

The fact that I'm not even half way through catching up to my recently-read reviews tells me one of two things: I took more time off blogging than I thought, or I read more than I think.

Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout. Engrossing portrait of a completely unforgettable woman. Really just a character novel, very well done. They made it into an HBO series that people loved, too (R, do you have HBO set up yet?!?). She has a new book out I can't wait to get.

The Lumniaries, Eleanor Catton. WHY DOES EVERYONE LOVE THIS. I couldn't stand it, so pretentious. Also suuuuuper long but little payout. Has anyone else read this one?

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon. Ummmm, it was ok? I don't care at all about comics, or graphic novels, or adolescent boys, so maybe the subject matter was my problem. I read it all (quite long) and it wasn't painful, but I wasn't in love with it either. I think if I cared more about the subject matter I would have found it to be fantastic. It did win a Pulitzer, so there's that.

Wednesday, March 9

DIY coffee table [take 2]

Remember this industrial coffee table I made last year? I used an aluminum base from Ikea, removed the frosted glass top, and replaced it with a stained piece of plywood. Here, I'll jog your memory:

The project worked great, was fun and inexpensive (only cost us $10 for the board, since we found the coffee table and already owned stain and spray paint), and left us with a piece that we used for over a year. When we moved to DC, we sold the table for $150 (!!); it was just too big for our narrow space, and we wanted something long and skinny to go with our couch.

Well, we found something long and skinny and PERFECT that I will share next week, but first, let me show you the runner-up.

I'm frustrated that I don't have a before photo, since it was a craigslist find. Originally listed for $250 in Boston, it sat unclaimed for months before the seller agreed to part with it for $100. My wonderful sister M picked it up for me, and my wonderful father drove it down when he passed through DC to take things out of my tiny apartment and store at home for work. It had a nice metal base with gold caps on tapered legs, and a gorgeous piece of vintage marble on top. Once we decided it was too small for our couch (as you can see in the pictures below), I took the marble out for another use and replaced it with a stained piece of plywood, like we did last time. Again, Home Depot was willing to cut the table top to the correct size, and after a good sanding it was ready for stain. I did it all in the bathtub over the course of two days. No excuses for small homes!

The lovely Home Depot folks were willing to work with me to cut the exact piece of wood I wanted, so as to highlight the most interesting grain. It helps if you go at off times- say, 2p on a Wednesday, but I'm sure you could find someone patient on a weekend as well.


Aren't his tapered little legs the cutest? We sold it for $100 to a very sweet couple living in tight quarters, so it's off to its new home. I'll show you what we did with the original marble top later this week- it became one of the most functional units in our home, and I can't wait to share.

Monday, March 7

cheap eats [Momofuku soy-marinated eggs]

I promise I've been doing more than reading these past few weeks- I'm a bit embarrassed that my only posts have been bibliophile roundups. I've also been spending a ton of time in the kitchen- one of my resolutions for the year was to try one totally new recipe per week, and I've been blowing it out of the water. For me, adventurous cooking comes in waves: usually it starts with an interest in a particular cuisine, and I seek new recipes and buy the ingredients and ride that adventurousness for weeks. I encourage you to get in the mood with me! My first interest of the New Year was Asian-inspired eats.

First up, a famous recipe from a famous restaurant. My favorite food blog, Food52, got the recipe for Momofuku's soy-marinated eggs. Called Ajitsuke Tamago, these are the soft-boiled eggs you find in ramen that totally make the meal.

Don't they look lovely? They're absurdly easy, but you do have to be around the house to make them, since timing is everything. You boil the eggs for a very specific amount of time, then soak them in a soy-based marinade for a very specific amount of time. They last for weeks, cost almost nothing to make, and are fantastic atop any meal of similar flavors. Expect more Asian recipes in the coming weeks, I was on a roll cooking up meals that would benefit from a Momofuku egg on top.

Friday, March 4

link it up [life lately]

I haven't been linking up lately, which means I haven't been sharing our fun weekend plans and memories (and there have been a lot!). Since my last linkup, we have:

Hosted a cozy night with friends for the start of the blizzard

Dug ourselves out of 3+ feet of snow in DC

Visited my favorites, D&R, for little P's first birthday (I die)

Spent a long weekend in San Francisco (which meant visiting the SF botanical gardens, catching several Fuqua friends, checking out the Japanese tea garden, and eating and drinking everything fabulous, including Bourbon & Branch in the private room and the tasting menu at The Progress, YUM)

Seen an opera (Lost in the Stars, based on Cry, the Beloved Country) at the Kennedy Center

Hosted my brother and sister-in-law for a weekend (and finally tried Rose's Luxury, the best new restaurant in America 2014 from Bon Appetit)

Got myself up to Napa for a gorgeous week

And around DC, we've tackled our resolution to explore more of our city by visiting the botanical gardens (been there plenty of times,  but there are always new things growing!)

Checking out the Natural History Museum (dinos are deep-sea were awesome)

Taking a hike in Great Falls (on the Maryland side)

Seeing the declaration of independence, bill of rights, constitution, and magna carter at the national  archives (way cooler and more powerful than D and I expected)

Visiting the Portrait Gallery and National Gallery of Art (so modern! the presidents are the best)

And catching an outdoor art installation on its last day

The coolest part? We WALKED to all of these museums (except natural history and portrait gallery, which are in Chinatown rather than on the mall).

Don't worry, we spent plenty of time resting, too. On to March.