Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I heart this.

So, Chipotle. Fast food, yes. Used to be owned by McDonald's, yes. But sources its pork from Niman Ranch (mmmm, carnitas). And tries to be better than the rest. And tastes delicious. And is coming to my neighborhood.

And now, brings us this.

The one and only Willie Nelson, recalling for me the Coldplay I used to love. This I can applaud.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Big drama outside, very small happenings inside

Oh, so that's what 11 hours of sleep feels like! Every now and then I get these glimpses of what it would be like to get an appropriate amount of sleep each night - which I'm convinced that none of us do - and I think maybe lack of sleep is the reason why we haven't yet achieved world peace or cured cancer. At any rate, I'm hopeful that 11 hours with a pillow will heal me in ways that days of meds and even green chile could not. Although yesterday's conference call muting while I hacked up a lung was productive, I can't do the same in my in-person meetings later this week, so this gunk needs to pack its bags and get outta my system.

It wasn't a bad weekend to be locked indoors on the couch, though. A little lady named Irene blew threw town, after all. It was a strange couple of days. I was home alone, half delirious from cold meds, frantically watching the storm ravage my homeland and checking in with the folks down south. Then I'm hunkering down while it's blowing my own neighborhood around. Then I'm frantically watching points north to see what the thing would do to our loved ones up there. Exhausting, and sad. We've had about enough of natural disasters this year, don't you think?

The next day I went for a walk around the neighborhood - the most physical activity I'd done in days, or have done since - and this is what I saw.

This is nothing compared to points south or north, of course... but certainly enough to make me feel humbled. And two houses down from ours, seeing a tree resting against someone's bedroom windows, that's enough to make me feel damn lucky. 

And so it was a hunkering-down weekend, as predicted, which involved eating the food that I (very oddly) found the energy to cook on Friday, meant to last a few days. (Perhaps expending all that energy in the kitchen is why it's taking me so long to get mine back?) I roasted chiles and made green chile chicken casserole. I made an ice cube tray of fresh pesto before the storm wreaked havoc on my basil (I only lost one branch, it turned out). I made more caponata. I made chicken piccata. I was so bored I even had an egg-poaching contest against myself (hint: I won). 

And then I collapsed. And fell in love with this television show. And confirmed that I never should've watched this movie. Which pretty much brings us up to date. How did you all fare in the storm?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hunkering down (and not minding it)

I'm high on DayQuil right now, which is helping soothe the pain of a too-brief visit from my Dallas pal Kate. I adore her with everything I have, so it was wonderful having her here. We were supposed to see other during my Dallas trip, but then her house flooded, which would have been a friendship tragedy (in addition to the WTF-style home tragedy it already was) if not for this trip on our agenda. It was so fun to see Kate with a little quesito growing in her belly, and this time I could congratulate her properly, since when she told me the happy news she also happened to be wearing a bathing suit and rain boots and standing knee-deep in water in her living room. There were more pressing matters at hand than the contents of her uterus that day. This time, though, plenty of happy vibes and uterus talk! I'm also happy to report that Kate did a full inspection of our house's toilet supply lines and there is not a faulty plastic nut to be found.

Kate brought an amazing housewarming gift with her, which had me thinking about other lovely gifts I've received lately, and basically feeling pretty lucky even though I'm home alone during hurricane weekend and can't breathe properly.

From Kate, a gorgeous cheeseboard (or cutting board if you're some sort of anti-cheese freak) that she found in Italy. (Displayed with a table runner it turns out we both own)

From The Culinary Couple (I told you they were adorable), this goodie bag filled with foodie treats from Pennsylania.

And from our eccentric but well-meaning neighbor, who strings purple lights in the trees for "good energy," affixes glass marbles to anything that'll hold glue, and basically maintains a crazy person's front yard, a handful of bulbs that turned into these gorgeous plants, just by me ignoring them.

Not bad at all! T is attending my brother's bachelor party this weekend, so I'm going to focus on getting rid of this yucky cold and getting lots of R&R while he's gone. I do have a secret breathe-again weapon sitting on my kitchen counter, though:

The plan is to roast these babies on the grill before Irene gets here, then spend all weekend curled up with a book and eating green chile stew. I'm as pumped as this medication will allow.

Stay dry and safe, everyone!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Splish, splash, sleep

I think my crazy summer pace is finally catching up with me. I feel positively... spent. Ready for fall. Ready to slow down. In my mental calendar there are only a couple of weeks until summer's over... I'm using my brother's wedding as my marker.

We had a fantastic time in Connecticut with the fam, as always. Fenwick isn't my kind of beach exactly - the water's cold, there's not much sand, but wow is it pretty. Here's the pool at T's stepfather's family house, where I clocked in quite a bit of time this weekend. I'm not much of a backyard pool person, to be honest, but this pool? This pool is my favorite backyard pool ever.

Why yes, the pool does back up to a golf course. As well as the church where T's mother and stepfather got married... which people drive to every Sunday morning via golf carts. And yes, that was me happily swimming while the blonde masses went to church.

Heathen, I am. A tired one.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday I'm in Love: LOL Letterpress Edition

Last night, while I should have been packing for the weekend (oops!), I instead got lost in the wonderful world of pretty paper on Etsy. Given my love for cheeky paper, these three pieces earned gold stars. Letterpress that makes me laugh out loud? Paper perfection in my book. 


Seriously? This is genius. Art from Dear Colleen.

Maddow Love

"If elected, she WILL run" is so my kind of humor. Big props to Big Wheel Press for egging on my perennial Rachel Maddow crush.

Buffalo Pride

The thing is, I actually adore Buffalo. My pal Tracy (waaaaay overdue at bringing her little girl Brenna into the world right now, by the way!) is a Buffalo native, and I'd never been there until her wedding a few years ago. The city flat-out rocks, just the kind of place I like to nerd out to. The architecture and history alone are enough to make me swoon. Add in great bars, old industry giving way to new ideas, and a fantastic sense of realness, and well... I was hooked. At any rate... everyone gives Buffalo a hard time, which is part of why I was so happy to genuinely love the city. This piece, then, speaks perfectly to my faux Buffalo native pride. Thank you, Western New York Book Arts Collaborative!

That's it from me this Friday. I'm off to Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania for a few days, for fun with my in-laws and a little work, too. Have a fun weekend, everyone!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Caponata: A late-summer gem

It's easy to be sick of cooking by mid-August. Maybe our grills are played out, or we're sick of salads, or just the sight of more caprese makes us roll our eyes (okay personally, I never tire of caprese... but I've heard this August complaint from others). If you can bear to turn on your oven (maybe a random cool breeze, blowing in from the future one night?), make this dish to spice things up. It's the best of August's produce, deepened into something that promises cooler weather ahead. All at once, this caponata is somehow bright and deep, light and substantial, sweet and savory, zesty and earthy. It's delicious eaten cold the next day, when it'll probably be sweltering again. I might recommend keeping the leftovers in your refrigerator and regularly opening them up just to smell them. You know, if you're into that sort of thing. Whatever you're into, see if this dish doesn't help you bid summer adieu beautifully.

Eggplant and Pepper Caponata
Adapted from Cookthink

3 small eggplants, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch squares
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
10 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

1. Preheat the oven to 500F and put a roasting pan in the oven to preheat. Toss the eggplant and peppers with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Put them in the oven to roast, turning occasionally, until they're tender and brown in spots, 30-45 minutes.

2. Let the eggplants and peppers cool a few minutes, then toss them in a large bowl with the remaining olive oil, vinegar and basil. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm, room temperature or cold.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Butterfly maps

Ahhh, weekend! So many friends packed into a few short days, from our dear friend who married us, to this adorable blogging duo, to a slew of T's high school friends who are busy doing great things. Add in some naps, a great movie, and some 17-year-old whiskey, and you have quite the weekend!

Things kicked off nicely on Friday with the delivery of five-sixths of our map collection from Bug Under Glass. I'm thrilled with how they turned out.

Bug Under Glass sells lots of gorgeous insect-related items, but this mapfiend had to have a set of their vintage maps framed with native butterflies.

On the top row, we have North Carolina, New York City, and Connecticut. On the bottom row, Boston, New Mexico, and a placeholder for Dallas. Kevin from Bug Under Glass didn't have a good Dallas map on hand, but I asked him to go ahead and send me the rest of these babies anyway. I love seeing our geographic history up on the wall... and the finished look with Dallas will bring us full circle.

Where's DC, you might ask? We're on the hunt for a DC-themed vertical art piece to hang beside this collection, currently represented by a sheet of newspaper. I'm the queen of mockups, what can I say?

All in the name of balance with our lovely radiator, of course!

I recently discovered that some people are skeeved out about framing butterflies (see comments), but never fear, Bug Under Glass is a humane harvester. (Here's some pretty fake butterfly framing if you're still skeeved.) Personally, I think these little beauties are just gorgeous, especially paired with the maps.

What do you say to framed butterflies? Yay or nea?

Friday, August 12, 2011

It's Friday, Friday, Friday!

I blame my cousins for getting this stuck in my head (hey, at least it's the "Glee" version). At any rate, I'm thrilled that it's Friday. We have a fun weekend ahead filled with friends old and new, and in between all that laughing and catching up, I hope to do more than my share of relaxing.

Here are a few things that caught my eye this week, while I was busy counting down to this (gloriously mild-weathered) weekend:

Backyard Scrabble

Ahhhh! I must have this. Also, I just broke down and traded in my broken-down, double-letter-typoing Droid 2 for an iPhone. Which means... SCRABBLE ON MY PHONE! Not as cool as life-size scrabble on the back patio, but it's something. Via stephmodo.

Welcome New Neighbors cards

I'm pretty sure if any of our neighbors had given us these when we moved in, I'd be eternally charmed. Such a fantastic idea, and easily DIY-able if you wanted to design your own. Via the kitchn.

Google Before You Tweet

This is probably my biggest pet peeve with Twitter. Seriously, you're tweeting a question you could answer for yourself quicker if you just typed the exact same thing into a search engine? Sigh... Letterpress (natch) via i love typography.

Speaking of letterpress... a big hug goes to my friend Nole this week, both for her smarts in taking a week off to welcome her awesome husband back from Iraq properly, and for letting me play on her blog while they reunited. Today's last guest post, by the way, is all about gardening, with lots of pretty stuff to ogle.

 Urban Gardening letterpress print from Starshaped Press

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Food, on tables and paper

Last night we had my sister-in-law and her (dare I say it... what the heck, she doesn't read this...) boyfriend over for dinner, and we had the best time laughing around our new table. I had a couple of issues of Food and Wine sitting around unopened, and upon finally reading them found myself incredibly inspired by the August issue, which focuses quite a bit on local produce and regional food customs. Here's what we ate (and nope, I was having way too much fun to get out the camera):

I picked up most of the ingredients for dinner over at Eastern Market, my very-favorite thing about my neighborhood. Speaking of Eastern Market, it serves as the inspiration for today's guest-post over at Oh So Beautiful Paper. I have market and food prints from Seattle, California, Knoxville, and more, so come on over and check them out!

Produce notecards from Yee Haw Industries

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"Transit," and paper

Today on Oh So Beautiful Paper I'm highlighting all things "transit," from my beloved streetcars to, you know, hot air balloons. Hey, I couldn't resist this nod at one of Albuquerque's premier events!

But speaking of transit, there's good work news on my end. A new role and some meaty things to tackle. Positive change, all of it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Simple summer pleasures

I'm keeping things simple this week, breathing in summer. Here's what I'm loving:

Juicy nectarines...

 iced tea made with mint from the garden...

a blooming gardenia bush...

this light-as-air robe from Plum Pretty Sugar...

simple pesto spaghetti with a heap of golden cherry tomatoes...

...and the promise of even more from my basil plant out back.

What are you loving this August?

PS: Today on Oh So Beautiful Paper I'm highlighting gorgeous place-based art, which includes revealing what those weird little paper cut-out squares are all about.

Monday, August 8, 2011

DC here and there

There is no landscaping plan to report to you. We had too much fun with my parents to move beyond brainstorming. And that's perfectly fine. We strolled the 'hood and ate at one of our local faves. We slept in and made the Clinton St. Baking Company's Spanish Scramble for breakfast. We oohed and aahed at the Library of Congress. We sniffed and smiled at the US Botanical Garden. We walked and walked and walked. We stuffed ourselves silly at Art & Soul, where I ate the most perfect flounder in my personal history of eating lots of flounder. We laughed ourselves silly at Who's Your Baghdaddy? Or How I Started the Iraq War, the second time this month I've been entertained over at the Wooly Mammoth (the first was at F#@king Up Everything, a hipster musical with a heart of gold). We visited our friend Mr. Jefferson (there is always time to visit Mr. Jefferson). And life was good. And is.

The Library of Congress is, you know,
just a little bit jaw-droppingly beautiful inside.

While I catch up on some life and work stuff today, you might go and visit my pal Nole's blog, where I'm guest-blogging all week while she and her husband reunite after the close of Andy's six-month deployment. I'm talking paper over there all week long, as seen through the lens of my nerdy interests and consumer confessions. It'll be a fun week.

First up: DC Paper Love, or "How many letterpressed items featuring DC's map and flag can one woman possibly own?"

It's a fitting first post after this city showed my parents such a lovely time this weekend, don't you think?

Why yes, I do own this letterpress DC flag print made up of DC neighborhood names. Go visit the post to learn more!

Friday, August 5, 2011


After a week of mostly catching up on sleep, I'm thrilled to count down the hours until our weekend guests arrive: my parents! Believe it or not, life has been so crazy for them that they still haven't seen our house, so we have lots of show and telling to do. I couldn't be more excited to reveal our completed projects, brainstorm our new ones, and most of all, relax... they need it just as much as we do!

The past couple of times they've come to DC we've put them to work, mostly out in the garden. (You might remember that my mom is the one and only "Plant Whisperer.") Life was too crazy for me to do anything but a few pots of herbs and flowers this year, but I have grand landscaping plans for next year, and I can't do it any of it without the help of my very own PM. So no back-breaking work for these two this weekend, but in between our gin and tonics, strolls to Eastern Market, breakfasts in and dinners out, I do hope we can sneak a few landscaping discussions into the schedule, with a planting weekend on the agenda for fall.

I will, of course, report back. Hopefully with a concrete design that'll turn our side yard into a true urban garden. Or, you know, East Coast green chile enterprise.

Have a fabulous weekend, everyone!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Kiosk my ass.

We are a funny lot, we former service employees. It's like an identity we can't shake. Once a waitress, always a waitress. Once a shopgirl, always a shopgirl. And so on.

If I'm at a restaurant with friends and the service is sub-par, guess who's going to comment on it? The former waitresses at the table. The rest of us might shrug it off, but the former waitress, she takes it personally. Oh no she didn't just disappear into the kitchen again, the former waitress thinks. I could've served us in my sleep. Crappy tip for her. It can be awkward for the rest of us.

Me? I'm a former retailer. A shopgirl. Someone who was good at selling you things when you wanted to be convinced, great at answering your questions if you had any, respectful of your space when you wanted to browse solo, and efficient as hell at ringing you up and getting you out of the store so you could move on with your day. You see where I'm going with this, right? I'm hell to shop with. My major retail pet peeve is being attacked as soon as I enter a store. "Can I help you? Can I help you? Can I help you?," when I just want to ponder the shelves for a while. Here's my signature move, which makes it awkward for the former waitress shopping with me: direct eye contact after she asks again, an "I said I was just looking," and then a firm and meaningful exit from the store. That'll show her, I think to myself. My other pet peeve is the over-educator, which is really a way of not respecting the intelligence of your customer. Last week someone tried to "educate" me on a face cream I used to sell when I was college, but she had it all wrong. Finally, I couldn't take it. "I've been using this for years; I know what I'm buying." Not said: "I used to have your job." Or: "Leave me alone!" Or: "Screw you, I'm buying this online instead." See, I was being nice! My cousins were horrified, though. Before we move on, let us not forget the nonsensical bitchiness embodied by anyone who works at Neiman's. Need I say more? Those women are awful.

I was thinking of all of this yesterday at the mall when I was approached by the lowest form of retail on the hierarchy of the retail totem pole: the dreaded mall kiosk employee.

I sort of feel sorry for these people. Well, in the abstract, I feel sorry for them. I can't think of much worse than sitting on a stool while thousands of people walk by me all day long, begging them to stop and buy what I'm selling as my only means to make a wage. The abstract sympathy ends, however, upon encountering the actual mall kiosk employee. They are nearly always indefensible. I will stereotype to include lots of hair product, leering eyes if they're male, and judgy eyes if they're female. Also: highly annoying.

Because here's what I just realized about the mall kiosk trade. Regardless of whichever hand cream/hair straightener/bath oil they are selling, they're apparently all using the same how-to manual. I heard this all up and down the mall yesterday, at every single damn kiosk, right after I'd brushed them off or purposefully veered far away from them:

"Can I just ask you one question?"

And that, to me, is the worst. Because I'm a polite person generally, and I will let anyone ask me a single question. I'll listen politely, then I'll politely excuse myself if need be. But please, kiosk worker, do not take advantage of my niceties to force me to say yes to a question such as "Don't you want fantastic hair?" and then subject me to your wares. You can't even imagine how little interest I have in your product, and how much of my time you are wasting.

Yesterday, during an hour or so of shopping, "Can I just ask you one question?" was ringing behind me each time I passed one of those things. It rang behind everyone else, too. The entire mall was a chorus of "Can I just ask you one question?" What is wrong with people?

If forced to choose, I think I'd rather be cruelly ignored by Neiman's counter girls during a tinted moisturizer crisis than forced to answer "just one question" from the eastern European with a mullet at the mall kiosk who doesn't respect personal space. You know?

Former retailers of the world, unite. Seriously.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Dining room decision time

So we have a dining table. Finally! I love it. We got an incredible deal on this farm-inspired table with simple lines and gorgeous wood grain, and we're both really pleased with it. Even though we painstakingly measured it in the room before our purchase, the size still surprised me when it arrived. We rearranged our dining room to accomodate the hulking piece of wood, and I actually like this new scenario better.

 Yes, I'm the dork who uses paper cutouts to represent future art on the wall. More on that later... 

Wood grain detail

The room probably wants a 6-seater instead of an 8, but I want to have this table for a loooong time, and not have to pull up a card table the first time I have a dinner party. So eight seats it is.

Speaking of seats... as you'll notice in the photo, we don't have real chairs yet. (Big thanks to my mom for the card table and chairs she sent us, though!) Here's the thing: I'm not a fan of the matchy-matchy chairs and table look. We had to wait two months for the table to get here, and I knew I'd need to see it in place before I knew what kind of chair I'd want.

Because of the matchy-matchy thing, I've pretty much ruled out a solid wood full-back chair. This is the leading contender right now:

Sorry for the blurriness - Restoration Hardware doesn't have any pictures of the chair in the color we want, so this was the best I could do. (Is anyone else so over walking into a RH store and falling asleep at all of the gray/beige, by the way? Move on already!) Anyway, we went into the store thinking we'd like the medium tone, but the darkest one actually makes the lighter variations in our table pop, so that's that. The RH chairs are surprisingly well-priced (as in, cheaper than the Pier 1 equivalent), but RH gets on my nerves and the chairs won't ship until September, which further annoys me. The major thing I like about these chairs are that the airy back lets our table breathe, which I think we need since it's a small room with a lot of heavy wood in it. I like the casual sensibility of the bistro chair, which is a different feel to me than the farm table, and I think that interplay is interesting.

I also like chairs of this style, but I have two concerns: first, their solidity compared to the airiness of the bistro chairs, and the nightmare of cleaning stains over time.

West Elm Nailhead Dining Chair

I might as well give a shoutout to my all-time favorite dining chair here, which sadly I have zero chance of owning due to their rather steep pricepoint. But oh! The gorgeousness!

Room & Board Soren Chair

I know, I'm all over the place style-wise.

Since we're doing a little dining room fantasy show anyway, is this a good time to mention that I'm absolutely obsessed with wine barrel chandeliers?

French Country Furniture Wine Barrel Chandelier

This burlap chandelier is very much my style, and I think it'd look fantastic in our dining room. It's definitely a warmer look than the wine barrel chandelier, which is a good thing for that room. The size is also a little more manageable. And in the crucial Real Life category: the price makes me very happy. I think I'm doing wicker pendant lighting in the kitchen, though, and I wonder if that would be texture overload.

Pottery Barn Clifton Burlap Pendant

Of course, I could avoid the problem of burlap/wicker competition by simply following my lust for wooden bead chandeliers. So stunning. But then we're talking high dollar again... sigh.

Regina Andrew Wood Bead Chandelier

I should also mention that all the lighting in our house needs to be redone, which is a huge investment given that everyone we've brought in to take a look thinks that the '70s recessed lighting was done so badly that most of our ceilings will have to be refinished if we make any changes. Lovely! We detest the lighting in here, though, so I know it'd be worth it. 

Tell me: any chair or lighting inspiration in your world these days? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Update: In comments Ainsley brings up something I should have mentioned in my post. I'm only looking to buy six of the above chairs, and I'll find two different chairs for the ends of the table over time - something more solid. Loving your input so far!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Whirlwind, complete

The whirlwind is over! First Dallas, as you know. There's only one photo. I'm not really sure why I'm orange here (surely there's a John Boehner joke in there somewhere), but it still makes me happy. As does dinner at Fearing's and drinks at the Ritz with two of my favorites.

Not pictured from Dallas: a reallllly fun dinner with old friends of T's and their fabulous partners, where we went to Tre Wilcox's new restaurant and he literally scowled at everyone the entire time, luxurious spa and gym sessions, and the taking of much Advil every morning.

And then, New Mexico. Such goodness in that place. I didn't take nearly enough pictures of my friends during a fantastic dinner party where we reminisced and laughed and hatched all sort of plans, but I do have scenery. And an adorable child. And wine. And oh goodness, do I have burritos.

Whirlwind July, you rocked. Even though T and I had only four days in thirty-one where we were together and alone in our house without guests, I wouldn't trade you for the world.
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