Friday, April 30, 2010

Off to Europe!

Bags are packed, itineraries are printed, I'm pretending to understand how we will exchange currency and plug in our electronics, and we're off! Prague, Vienna, and Ljubljana, you are our oyster!

And to A2, the fantastic couple who are the reason for our trip: you are worth every penny spent/hour on the plane/embarrassingly American moment we will undoubtedly have during our travels! We love you to pieces and wouldn't miss your wedding for the world!

I'm loving the idea of being unplugged for the next week and enjoying every second of my sidekick, the sights and sounds, and this great family of his I can now claim as my own. Should my phone allow such things, I might issue a tweet or two to say hi. And never fear: until we return, I have a few fun little things set for auto-post next week.

Have a great week, everyone!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wall candy

We are finally filling up the remaining empty walls in our apartment. Some of our wall candy is new to us, and some of it is old, but given new life in a different environment. Here's a sneak peek of a few of my favorites, until our place is ready to show off in full.

SBA. My great-grandfather greets us as soon as walk in. In our old apartment he was on a back wall, but candidates always prefer center stage.

PORK! Remember this? Of course I bought it, silly. And it's just as brilliant in person as I'd hoped.

The fair. Nothing like it. Another great blog discovery.

Streetcars. T secretly scooped these for me at a New Orleans gallery after much oohing and aahing on my part. Such a fun Christmas surprise! They're a nod to my professional interests, color palette of choice, and best weekend getaway ever all at once.

The Fam(s). Our childhood photo wall - some real gems on here. In our old place they were hung on a red wall, but this yummy olive green gives them so much warmth.

Campaign rhetoric. This piece moved from standing alone in a hallway to looking over my desk, surrounded by our wedding pomanders. Such a different vibe now... and I love, love, love the way it anchors this room.

Weirdness. I have such a crush on this print! I originally found it via a blog whose bookmark has long since been lost, but it linked to the Flickr account of Imeus Design. This piece was a commission for a wedding invitation suite (can you imagine?!), and I had to have it. It really does make me grin, and sits right over the guest bed across from my desk.

No personality on our walls at all, right?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Empty boxes (for now)

You might think the fact that we've lived in DC for almost three months would preclude us from being able to just now remove four freshly unpacked large moving boxes from our place. You'd be wrong. Our apartment might be small, but it apparently contains a black hole of forgotten items (also known as the bedroom closet). But finally, they're out of here. And just like that, I own skirts again!

Last night was quite the burst of productivity - in addition to the closet project, we also finally decorated three different walls. But somehow we still have so much to do around here - life keeps getting in the way a bit. We are impatiently waiting for our terrible moving experience payout and a tax refund delayed by fraud, after all. And so the mismatched furniture and bedroom wall covered in paint samples and things that "will be" but aren't yet are going to have to keep waiting. I'm fine with that... usually.

There's also another reason I'm reticent to find the perfect pieces for certain spots: we don't want to live here forever. An infectious case of house fever is sweeping 'round our modern urban rental. On Sunday we walked around our neighborhood for hours, popping into open houses and oohing and aahing at various features... and then staving off heart attacks at the prices. But oh, the details!

After our walking tour, a funny thing happened. We drove over to another neighborhood to stroll around and stumble upon some dinner inspiration, and I felt it: that's where we are supposed to live. I'm not going to write about this magic neighborhood for fear of jinxing myself, but there are so many things that got me: patios bustling with eaters and drinkers, quiet tree-lined streets just off the main drag, families and dogs alongside singles and seniors, markets and crafts and things I love. It all clicked for me. So much so that I was immediately beaming, giddy with excitement about finding our new 'hood, inspiring our waitress to comment on our happy vibe, and basically bouncing out of my shoes. And I didn't take photos. That's how you know it was the real deal for me. With this 'hood, we'd move from "super trendy area experiencing prohibitively expensive housing bubble" to "steadily prohibitively expensive area." In other words, we've gotta save our hearts out - but hopefully get a bit more for our money in the long run if we can make it there.

So a goal neighborhood, then. And a year+ timeline to figure out how to get there. No small deal, right? But somehow, in the weird way my head works, knowing where I want to be but not knowing how we'll make it happen feels better than being in a place that isn't 100% right for the long-term and not knowing where we're going next.

That mismatched chair in the living room with a blanket thrown over it, then? Fine by me. For now.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Paper past times

Today is my sister-in-law A's birthday, so I thought I'd take a moment to show off some of the paper I've been working on for her European wedding in eleven (!!) days. A is planning a light and fresh wedding with yellow and gray details - perfect for springtime. The wedding being in a castle and all, she's going with the castle's recommendation of white linens and their ancient silver candelabras. The effect at the reception will lots of glittering candlelight, twinkling lights, shiny silver, and pretty yellow lilies. For paper goods, A wanted to use damask in yellow and gray and match the vibe of her invitations. Such lovely stuff to play around with... really fun for me. Here are the placecards:

And here are the "napkin rings" to dress up the white napkins (I swear in any other light this tissue paper napkin prototype looked white, but here it's definitely yellow - oh well, at least it matches!). A's deciding how or if they want to incorporate text (initials, dates, etc.) on the rings.

Pretty, pretty! And so much more fun to work on these than to pack :-).

Friday, April 23, 2010

My little urban garden

I'm excited to finally show off the little garden we've been working on, although part of me is sure everything will die as soon as I proclaim it a burgeoning success. See, I've only maintained one real garden before - when I had a big backyard in Albuquerque and great raised bed for veggies. Since then, my tiny patios and stoops (most of which were located in areas without shade and with extreme gusts of wind) haven't been very accommodating for keeping plants alive. We're lucky enough to have a large patio in our current apartment, and I decided I wanted one corner of it to feature a little garden of mostly herbs and maybe, maaaaaybe, a few vegetables if I got up the nerve. Here's how the corner looks now:

Cute, right? But what is that fantastic black planter in the back, you ask? Why, it's my very own Ikea hack! This brilliant idea is fully credited to my mom, who saw our old Ikea tv stand lying around (it's too wide for our current tv nook) and decided that flipped on its side with a little construction to support it, it'd make the perfect planter. As always, she was right! Let's take a closer look:

The old electronics dividers work perfectly as plant dividers. Holes were drilled into the bottom for drainage and a decorative fence was attached to the back (thanks Dad and T!). We raised it to help with drainage and nestled it right into the back corner, where it hangs out with one of two little dwarf trees we bought and a gardenia bush that I can't wait to begin blooming.

I planted herbs and veggies in the front half of the planter, and planted my very favorite flower, dahlias, in the back row. I'm just now starting to see sprouts from those dahlia bulbs, and am so excited for the gorgeous color they'll provide in time. The first morning I saw those sprouts, I was as giddy as a kid. Over dahlias! Those fantastic vintage silverware markers you'll see with the plants are from Etsy seller Monkeys Always Look.

First up, mesclun! I can't wait to nom on these greens. Reminds me of grad school when we'd chomp on greens from my friend Sandra's garden late into the night. It was grad school... weird things happen. Eagle eyes will spot the two adorable dahlia plants pushing up behind the mesclun.

Next up, dill and thyme! I've already used lots of the dill, and it's replenished really well. Check out that mega-dahlia in the back!

This is an exciting box: chives, shallots, and oregano. I think I'm going to move the shallots into their own planter - those suckers have gotten huge!

Mmmmm..... argula.

Next up, some smaller planters that are on the ground. Here's rosemary and flat-leaf parsely. It won't be long before the rosemary will need a bigger pot, too. I love how it looks like a crazy great-smelling green monster.

Here's more aromatic herbs: sage and mint.

And last but not least, basil! My mom has these enormous basil trees (they are seriously huge) in her yard, and I'd love to be a pesto-making fool come summertime. I definitely need one more basil plant to satiate my appetite for my favorite herb. I recently moved this one because it was getting a little beaten up by the wind, as you can see. Shake it off and growgrowgrow, basil!

That's the latest from my little green perch. What are you growing this year? Any tips from your own urban garden to share?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Revving up: Citrus Parmesan Farro Salad

Oops. Life got in the way of my blog a bit, didn't it? Work has been nuts, and we now find ourselves with only one remaining weekend to get ready for Europe (gulp). So while I'm diligently making lists about what to take (I never actually place anything into a suitcase until the night before ... maybe I'll try to break that habit this time around), here's one of my favorite spring recipes that's easy and lively and nutritious all at once. Just the stuff to soothe my frayed, wishing-I-could-just-buy-the-entire-Anthropologie-catalog-as-vacation-wear nerves. Enjoy!

Citrus Parmesan Farro Salad

I've loved this salad for years, courtesy of the crush-worthy Heidi Swanson. Last time I made it I paired it with the spring vegetable soup on the cover of Super Natural Cooking - and then ate all of it before I could snap a photo. Make that soup. And this salad. Its bright lift will you carry over your woes, trust me. Making the dressing alone (oh, the dressing!) is bound to give you a grin.

4 to 6 big handfuls of mixed salad greens, washed and dried
2 cups farro*, rinsed and drained
5 cups water (or stock)
2 teaspoons fine-grain sea salt
1 medium orange, zest and juice
1 shallot, chopped
1/3 cup Parmesan, freshly shredded
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 cup good quality olive oil
a couple big pinches of salt
1/2 cup Spanish almonds, or toasted regular almonds
1/2 cup goat cheese, crumbled

1. Combine the farro, salt, and water in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the farro is tender, 45 minutes to an hour, or about half the time if you are using semi-pearled farro*. Taste often as it is cooking; you want it to be toothsome and retain structure. Remove from heat, drain any excess water, and set aside.

2. While the grains are simmering make the dressing. Whisk together the orange juice, orange zest, shallot, Parmesan cheese, white wine vinegar, and olive oil. Salt to taste and set aside.

3. Just before serving, in a large bowl, toss the salad greens with a bit of the dressing. Add the farro and another generous splash of the dressing - gently toss again. Taste and add more dressing and/or salt. Finish by sprinkling the goat cheese and almonds across the top. Be careful not to over mix.

Serves 12 as a side. Leftovers refrigerate well if the salad isn't over-dressed.

*Note on cooking farro: Your cooking time really will depend on what type of farro you buy. If you're not sure or can't find out, just keep a close eye on it and taste it frequently. The last type of farro I found took about 30 minutes to cook.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

This and that

So many fun things to discuss, but so much work to catch up on that I have been avoiding in order to engage in said fun things! More to come...

Aren't these mesclun sprouts the most adorable things ever? Garden update ahead!

Finally, I have a dress to wear to my sister-in-law's Slovenian castle wedding! Bonus: It looks great with the first pair of fantastic shoes that a certain someone ever gave me.

I've bought every color of ranunculus under the rainbow the last two months, and this week I saw deep purple at the market for the first time... isn't this color amazing?

This salad is absolutely divine - recipe to come!

A fun collection of birthday DC prints. Also, aren't boy hearts the cutest things ever?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Birthday scenes

Museums, memorials, and mmmmmmmm's ... the makings of a great birthday! Some scenes from our gorgeous afternoon out and about yesterday (taken on my brand-new camera from T!):

T made a fantastic dinner last night while I putzed around with a chilled cucumber soup I've been trying to perfect (recipe coming when I think I finally have it right). Dinner was prepared on this awesome toy - a birthday gift from my parents!

Up tonight: Taste of the Nation! Wonder if there will be any Top Chef DC action there?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me!

This is my birthday weekend. I just love birthdays. And I love being a springtime birthday girl, and an Aries at that. I'm turning 32 on Sunday, and life's been pretty great, I've gotta say.

I have no qualms about this number, by the way. Never have. I was one of those old soul types who felt like she was 30 when she was a teenager. And now that I'm 30+? I kinda feel like a teenager. I'm a young soul now, I think. Due in large part to this guy, I suppose. And the fact that I make sure to laugh a lot.

But back to that not feeling your age thing: My past two birthdays have been two for the history books. I mean seriously, way more raucous than my birthdays in my 20s. Here's me turning 30, when my siblings and their loves flew to Dallas to help me do it right. As you can see in the bottom photos, things got a little crazy.

And then there's my 31st birthday, which coincided with my bachelorette party. Celebrating two events at once with some of my all-time favorite ladies, who joined me from all over the place? Amazing! The drunken group photo trying to kick the guy out of our photo op on the bottom right? Pretty much sums up the night.

That brings us up to Sunday. What ever will I do for my 32nd? Well for one: no party dresses and loved ones flying in from afar. As much as I'll miss everyone and the crazy fun they bring, I'm ready to be a little bit quiet this year. Just me, this awesome guy I married, and two crazy kittens. I'd love to walk around this new city of ours and spend time in some museums. We actually haven't really had time to do those things since we got to DC. I haven't even made it to a local farmer's market yet! 

And so that's how I want to spend my 32nd birthday: lazily, with a little eye candy and brain candy thrown in for good measure. We've worked hard to get to this new zip code of ours. I think my birthday is just the right time to start fully enjoying it, don't you?

Happy, happy weekend, everyone.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Project: Liberal Porn

There's a new sense of purpose illuminating life at Casa M & T. Sure, I might still have boxes of clothes to unpack, bare walls to fill, and then there's the issue of our inspiration-less bedroom decor. But no matter, because life is fresh and new again due to a commitment forged over drinks and patio grilling. The life-changing decision?

We will watch the entire series of The West Wing from start to finish. Project: Liberal Porn, if you will.

Your eyes do not deceive you. T happens to own the box set of the greatest network drama of our time. And between the two of us, we've probably already seen every episode (more credit goes to T here - I admit to nodding off during the Jimmy Smits years), but we have never watched them sequentially, from start to finish. Until now.

We are not attempting to do this marathon-style, never fear. I left behind my ability to stay up for days on end in graduate school. Plus, the show aired for seven years. Although it could be much worse than a fatigue- and hunger-induced death peppered with Aaron Sorkin's wit and speedy dialogue, I'm okay sticking around for a while longer. I will pace myself accordingly.

We're only eight episodes into Season 1, and here's what I have for you so far:
  • Shoes were really, really chunky in 1999
  • Necklines were also supremely unflattering
  • Thank goodness "The Regis" look for men is no more
Oh, I'm sorry, you expected more than a fashion report? Okay.
  • Oh yes, executive damnation for the Right's worst behavior traits!
  • Oh look, you can drive right onto the Capitol steps!
  • Man I love these characters
  • The series finale romances are already in place
  • Moira Kelly, what are you doing with yourself these days?
  • Everyone is so young and adorable with bad 1999 hair! (oops, that was kind of fashion-y)
Fun times over at our place, as you can see. My fantastic sister-in-law (who also delights in pointing out terrible shoes with me) joined us for our first two installments. In my nerd fantasy life, I imagine a rotating cast of West Wing fans who will join us as we get to their favorite parts of the series:

"I want to watch Bartlet's reelection campaign to gear up for 2012!"

"Call me when Mary Louise Parker arrives!"

"Let me know when they're doing Supreme Court appointments." 

So, you know, feel free to sign up and all. :-)

Deep thoughts: How about a West Wing drinking game? One shot for every sweeping musical interlude? One shot for every brilliant takedown of a bad guy political operative? One shot for every defense of the Constitution despite the political damage that might ensue? One shot for every time Josh should have married Donna THEN AND THERE? Three shots for every eery foreshadowing of the Obama presidency? You know you want in!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Let's play ball!

Thank goodness it's baseball season again.

I'm a huge baseball fan, and Boston is entirely to blame. Before I moved up there for college, I'd been living in college basketball country with a family of football fans. Baseball wasn't in the picture. But living in a city that lives and breathes its Sox... it was enough to turn me into a lifelong fan. I loved the game, it turned out. I loved the rules and the history and the plays and how all the pieces come together like intricate and beautiful (and dirty and rough) clockwork. It was my kinda game, and I loved that discovery. But it's not just any baseball, see, it's Red Sox baseball. Here's why.

First, there is Fenway Park. No other place like it in the world. I've spent spring birthdays there wearing two coats, I've sweated buckets in the summer, I've endured the obstructed views and the tiny seats, I've lived for frigid October, I've camped out for playoff tickets, I've flown across the country to celebrate the team's first World Series win in 86 years, and I have loved every minute of it. The place is magic.

Second, there's the team. There's Papi and Manny hugging at home plate. There's Pedro pitching, which means you go get more beer when the Sox bat. There are random guys like Trot Nixon and Brian Daubach, players I always loved more than I could justify. There's grinning while watching El Guapo, and yelling when Johnny went to New York. And there will always be Nomar. Here's my original Nomar Garciaparra bobblehead doll (notice the misspelling of his name - classic). Nomar was my first-ever baseball crush, and when he rejoined the Sox for a day last month just so that he could retire in a Sox jersey, well... color me crushed again. I love this team.

Saving the best for last... there are the fans. Red Sox Nation is a formidable place, and one I'm proud to be a part of. There's crazy sports radio and spontaneous cheering in bars and a knowing way between us when we meet on the street. Red Sox Nation is a collective movement, a culture, and a way of life. Conveying this more than I ever could, there is five-year-old Joshua Sacco. This kid is good. He just made it onto my To Kidnap list alongside Sasha Obama, even.

I can't quit you, Sox. And I never will.
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