Tuesday, November 25

holiday gift wish list

YES! Time for my favorite post of the year where I tell you some of the most lovely gift ideas I've found in the last few months. 
Cuyana is a new-to-me company with a motto I'm trying to adopt across all areas of my life: fewer, better things. I'm particularly smitten with their leather goods, including this double travel set. My favorite is the professional and muted olive, but you can go bright for your more adventurous friends. Monogramming (why ever would you NOT?!) is free (on up to 5 items, but only one order) when you sign up for their email before the holidays. Check them out for gorgeous cashmere, too.
This gold flatware set at West Elm. If you think forks and knives aren't a great Christmas gift, you have no imagination. One of my favorite categories of gifts is upgrades, or giving someone a better version of something they clearly already need/use/love. If your boyfriend wears a watch every day, you know it's useful to him, so why not get him a dressier one for special occasions, or an athletic one for his workouts? If you use silverware every day, why not have someone who loves you buy a set of gold plated ones, so every meal is more marvelous? Logic.

One of the best gifts I was ever given was my Kindle (thanks brother), which I've used for, shoot, 8 years? This is a great gift option if there's someone in your life that hasn't yet got on board with e-readers but is a book lover. Mine has been squirrely for years, but worked good enough (plus I love my Cole Haan leather case, which won't fit a new model). It's finally time for a replacement. I don't use the wi-fi, I just use it for reading, so the smaller and simpler the better, but if your giftee wants more, some versions are more like a tablet.

Another great upgrade or replacement gift idea is a new wallet. I think most women replace these every few years, and they can be very personal- after all, you're going to see it every day, a few times a day, so it should be something you love. I think you can't go wrong with one from Cuyana (pictured above) or my old and true love, Everlane.

A S'well bottle is always the right size. I bought myself one this fall and have been very happy with it- obviously it's lovely (this one is from the wood grain collection, but there are matte, shiny, rubber, all types of finishes, colors and designs), but it's more than just a pretty face. It keeps cold beverages cold for 24 hours, hot for 12 hours, but the bottle exterior is never hot or cold, and no condensation forms. The lip from which you drink is covered by the top- a feature this germ freak loves- and is large enough to fit ice cubes. It's vacuum sealed, so your carbonation stays put, and the large can hold an entire bottle of wine. Need I say more? Note: one of the S'well bottles I bought has shown chipping in the finish (although the other has not)- don't know if this is an anomaly, and couldn't find anyone with a similar complaint online. They refunded me the cost.

Kitchen gadgets. Again, nothing wrong with the practical, and it can be a great way to share something you've come to love yourself. Aren't these herb scissors great? I think I'd use them all the time. This year, I already know I'm giving one person a spiralizer, and my beloved toddy is on sale, too. If someone has been REALLY good this year, get them a vitamix.

If you have some other great gift ideas, please let me know- particularly for the men, I always find that tough. Other always-just-right gifts: books, booze, gifts related to a specific hobby or interest, and experiences you can enjoy together. Go buy some of these for your loved ones. Or yourself. Or me, also me.

Monday, November 24

cheap eats [fall spice]

In classic white girl style, I love all things pumpkin spice. But pumpkin spice, in the broadly used way, rarely has any pumpkin in it- it's more a combination of autumnal spices that one would add to a pumpkin pie. I LOVE fall pie spices- cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, warm and spicy and flavorful.

I've been using this mix of spices daily for my two necessities, green smoothies and coffee. In my early morning stupor I've been going through 6 different jars of spices, eyeballing the measurements and having a generally inconsistent blend, not to mention the time waste twisting off all the individual jars. Thankfully I had the basic brilliant idea to make a pre-mix for quicker, more consistent mornings.

You can buy this pre-made, usually called pumpkin pie spice, or you can make your own tailored to your flavor preference. I left out citrus peel, which probably would be a great addition, because I typically have half a lemon in my smoothies anyway.

M's Fall Spice

3 parts cinnamon
2 parts ginger
2 parts nutmeg (or 1 part nutmeg and 1 part mace)
1 part cardamom
1 part cayenne pepper

If I had allspice and cloves I would have added that, too, but I only have whole pods. I haven't added this to savory dishes yet, but I know nutmeg is used frequently in Indian dishes, so I'm sure this could be great. Let me know if you've made your own spice blend and want to share!

Friday, November 14

link it up

First week of the new job has been hectic but exciting. I head to California for my first trip on Monday, and the prep work (along with orientation) has kept me from anything fun, like blogging. D and I are spending a weekend in DC with the company he'll be working for come fall. We're programmed to the minute with fun parties opportunities to get to know his future colleagues and learn about the company culture. Look for some instas: while he's in the office, me and the other WAG's significant others have a champagne limo tour of DC.

You've probably been totally stumped regarding what wine to pair with takeout. No more. Speaking of, what your wine and what your beer choice says about you. I love Zin, but I'm not a cheater! Oh, the internet.

The first smart suitcase: weighs itself, can charge your phone, has GPS tracking...what will we think of next?

If you're not aware of how amazing this plant is, educate.

SO worth the watch: D and I are big big Kevin Spacey fans, and this is too good. (D, take some notes on his Christopher Walken, alright?)

I wish more photographers would do this to make art available at affordable prices: Angela is allowing, for a small fee of $15, digital downloads of her print, which I happen to love and will hang in my future kitchen. How sweet (and sour).

Monday, November 10

bibliophile [divergent]

I forgot to review this series from my tropical vacation last May. Light and entertaining, pairs perfectly with the beach.
Divergent Series, Veronica Roth

It would be hard not to have heard of the Divergent series, especially because they were part of a larger series of young adult dystopian romance novels that swept the nation. These have been criticized for being too much like Hunger Games, but I don't find that fair. It's a fairly specific genre, and they both have strong female protagonists, but I think they can both be enjoyed independently. Besides, if I had to pick a better writing style and a less trite romance (ugh love triangle), my money would be on Divergent. I'll give you the blurb for the first, since you gotta read them in order:

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself. Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.
I really enjoyed that it was set in Chicago, because I travel(ed) there frequently over the past few years and know the landscape pretty well. This is a plot-driven story, fun and fast-paced and not too philosophical. Similarly to Hunger Games, the part that dragged on for me was related to the romance, but that's what sells to the tween crowd so just skim through it and carry on. I thought the concept was pretty unique. For a beach read, this is just what I'm looking for- pure entertainment and some good creativity.

Wednesday, November 5

cheap eats [banana curd]

I'm rarely dealing with the "what to do with overly ripe banana" conundrum, because if there is a freezer, there is a good use for ripe fruit. However, the freezer is stuffed to the gills lately, and I had 6 bananas that needed to get used. What to do what to do...

With my travel and general life-hecticness, i don't like to have things that must be eaten in a timely manner, which means most breads and muffins and baked goods are out. I really want to try a baked oatmeal recipe, but didn't have the time for all that. The solution? Banana curd.

I first heard about this on the Fauxmartha, a great food/home blog. She adapted her recipe from this food.com one- I have to say, her pictures are WAY better, but I actually followed their direction to use the entire egg, not just the yolk. I subbed in coconut oil for butter and coconut sugar for regular sugar, because health. It's an easy mess: I melted 2 T coconut oil and 1/4 cup of coconut sugar in a saucepan, add the grated peel of one lemon and the juice of that lemon. and 5 mashed bananas. I let that cook down for 45 minutes or so, and it barely needed a stir- I even took a shower in the middle. Towards the end, snag out about 1/4 cup of the hot banana mixture and whisk it into 3 pre-whisked eggs to temper- we don't want the egg to cook. Then just dump the egg mixture into the banana saucepan, stir it for a few minutes, and transfer to your pyrex. The apartment smelled HEAVENLY, like bananas foster. I tried it with a spoonful of the Trader Joe's cookie butter with cocoa swirl...and I died. I'm going to try out JUST bananas and lemon, and see how much flavor and texture the egg, oil, and sugar add, but this version was just delicious.

Fauxmartha says it should be good for 3 weeks. I'm sure I'll mostly use this on top of oatmeal, but I'm dreaming of a deconstructed banana split too, if I want to indulge. My version has 1,200 calories and 38g of fat in total, but I have a full quart container (4 cups worth). At quarter cup servings, you're looking at 75 calories and 2 measly grams of fat. Sounds good to me.

Tuesday, November 4

pinned [exposed plumbing]

If there's anything one usually wants to hide when designing a room, I would think it's pesky lamp cords (or you could just do this or this with them) and plumbing. It's suggestive of something private, not necessarily attractive, and easy to hide beneath cabinets and sinks and toilets.

Well, thankfully not everyone followed that rule. Here are some of the more interesting plumbing arrangements I've ever seen.

These first two are both from Hecker Guthrie, which is my new favorite design team, based out of Australia. I found that all of these images (except for the final photo, which I couldn't source, damn you Pinterest) come from public spaces rather than private homes- hotels, restaurants, and the like- and that almost all of them are from international destinations. Perhaps it's a trend that has yet to sweep the US? Get your sculptural plumbing on today and be ahead of the curve (pun intended).

Hecker Guthrie
Hecker Guthrie
The Lafayette House
Adriaan Louw
Jonathan Tuckey
Ard Hoksbergen
VT Wonen
I've just thought of an added benefit: if you expose your piping leading to the shower, you can drape your towel over it while you wash. Nothing like a impromptu heated towel rack! Just don't burn the house down....

Friday, October 31

link it up

HAPPY HALLOWEEN! Did you decorate with pumpkins yet??

D has decided to come to Boston for Thanksgiving, so we're off to sunny Florida tonight to get some family time in with his parents. I think we picked a good weekend to fly south- snow in the forecast up and down the east coast, no thank you.

beach view from our last visit

I love discussing life and love with my siblings- I think our shared background leaves us good and bad at things in the same measure. One of the best articles I've seen on relationships this year has some advice that so closely mirrors ideas my brother has shared that I'm suspicious he's read it. Yes, R? If not, prepare to be validated.

A very fun instagram to follow if you like design or fashion.

For me, the most annoying hashtag on social media right now. Although I LOVE when it's used ironically.

The FBI can teach you how to make friends. I actually found number one to be insightful and something I hadn't heard before.

My sister is an avid tea drinker. You need to see this incredible product, currently on track to win all sorts of awards before hopefully entering production next year.

Finally read this stunningly strange story of "the last true hermit" D sent me ages ago.

Thursday, October 30

bibliophile [seating arrangements]

I am always in for well-written chick lit.

Seating Arrangements, Maggie Shipstead

Let's jump right into the blurb:

The Van Meters have gathered at their family retreat on the island of Waskeke to celebrate the marriage of daughter Daphne to the impeccably appropriate Greyson Duff. The weekend is full of champagne, salt air and practiced bonhomie, but long-buried discontent and simmering lust stir beneath the surface. 

Winn Van Meter, father of the bride, is not having a good time. Barred from the exclusive social club he’s been eyeing since birth, he’s also tormented by an inappropriate crush on Daphne’s beguiling bridesmaid, Agatha, and the fear that his daughter, Livia—recently heartbroken by the son of his greatest rival—is a too-ready target for the wiles of Greyson’s best man. When old resentments, a beached whale and an escaped lobster are added to the mix, the wedding that should have gone off with military precision threatens to become a spectacle of misbehavior.

So, if that doesn't paint the picture I don't know what will. It's similar to the TV show Revenge in a way, but less murder-y (and therefore more realistic). I liked the condensed timeline, which takes place over a 3-day weekend. Everything feels a bit inevitable, in that you won't be shocked by the action but rather will see it coming a mile away, but it's still fun to watch it unfold. The only thing missing is likable characters, but you can rarely have it all- it's written from the perspective of the FOB, who is a walking cliche and more or less terrible person.

If you like reading about the exploits of WASP-y families, but still hope to learn a few new vocabulary words and encounter sentences with more than 10 words, pick this one up.

Wednesday, October 29

DIY inspo [pumpkin decorating]

'Tis the season for holiday decorating! Before we get to Christmas, we have to show some respect for Halloween and Thanksgiving. I like to decorate with fall-inspired things, rather than specific to either autumnal holiday, so I can go with one theme and leave it alone. This year I've put up pumpkins, gourds, and pine-cones that can last through October and November. I went au naturel this year and left all my produce as-is, but wanted to pull together some of my favorite pumpkin decorating techniques at the moment.

Malachite, along with tortoise shell, is one of my favorite finishes at the moment. These are so lovely!
I love this idea. I already have my fall candle (Sweater Weather) and my gourds together on a teak tray, why not take it one step further?

Succulents and pumpkins, two of my favorite things brought together. The best part? This project doesn't involve cutting into the pumpkin, and you use live succulents. This means the arrangement lasts for months, and after the pumpkin deteriorates, just cut off the top layer (which the succulents will have rooted into) and move it to your garden or an indoor planter. Very well done post, check it out.
Not much of a DIY, but still a beautiful centerpiece.

A good deal of effort but a unique result with this shallow carve.


Tuesday, October 28

cheap eats [brussels sprout bacon and goat cheese pasta]

A quiet weekend at home was a perfect opportunity for D and I to try a new recipe. We used to love cooking together, but have only done so a handful of times since B school started. It's nice to work towards a common goal, to engage in the kitchen dance, to be rewarded with something delicious for your efforts. If we're cooking together, we always make it a bit of an event: get some music going, pour drinks, bust out the aprons.

It's also nice to clean out the fridge, so why not do both? Nothing like a good dose of practicality poured all over romance. I've found my most effective way to use Pinterest  is to search for recipes with the specific ingredients I have on hand- otherwise, I'm too overwhelmed by all the beautiful and delicious food that I can't make without a walk to the grocery store. I searched for brussels sprouts, goat cheese, and whole wheat pasta, all of which I had open and/or available in the pantry. I found a wonderful recipe over here, although I did sub bacon for prosciutto. It was a learning experience for both of us: I learned to reserve some pasta water to make a cheese sauce, and also poached my first egg!

If you're new to the poach game too, I have a source: Pure Wow taught me. You can go watch their video here, or I can just tell you: add 1T vinegar to a pot of almost-boiling water, start a whirlpool, and drop an egg into the middle. Leave it alone for 2 minutes, then fish it out and lay it on a paper towel. Too easy, and it's so beautiful to crack into that runny yolk. Maybe my new favorite way to do eggs at dinnertime.