Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Picnic Improvisation

Sometimes, you plan a picnic but not everything goes as planned so you wind up cleaning off your tiny balcony, pushing two chairs together to create a makeshift table and enjoying the spread at home.  Our leisurely three-hour lunch consisted primarily of cheese and crackers, but it was the perfect thing to do on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon.

Sidenote: I love how the cashiers at Trader Joe's never judge the contents of my cart, even when it only contains four blocks of cheese, a bag of pita chips, unsalted sunflower seeds and celery hearts. The man that checked out my order complimented my cheese selections and I totally felt validated. He was right; the New Zealand vintage cheddar is amazing. xo

Monday, August 26, 2013

Summer DIY Project That I'm Keeping Year-Round


I don't think there's a list-lover out there who doesn't love chalkboards, not only because they provide unlimited list-making options but also because they are aesthetically pleasing (or maybe that's just me).  I'm totally into all of the tutorials that design and craft bloggers have out there using chalkboard paint but they almost always involve cutting wood or making your own frame or painting entire walls. Here's the problem: we live in an apartment. We do not own power tools. We cannot paint our entire kitchen or refrigerator or floor in blackboard paint no matter how cute I think it looks. Let's just file this under S for Sad but True Realities of Being a Renter.

I wasn't ready to give up on the trend though. About a month ago while I was at a craft store, I thought, "Why can't I just spray-paint a piece of poster board and create my own temporary chalkboard?" I experiemented on our balcony with a small can of blackboard paint and the poster board, and was pleasantly surprised with the results (fyi, breezy conditions will totally ripple the paint as it's drying but additional coats will smooth out the area).

I wrote my summer to-do list on our new board in chalk markers and then using two temporary, easily-removable plastic hooks, I hung it on the wall opposite our stove. 

I couldn't be more into this project. It's really a cheapo diy hack but it doesn't really look that way when it's up on the wall covered in vibrant chalk markers.  And once summer is over, I'll just replace this list with another.

Perhaps this means that there is a way to overcome any design obstacle that our small home presents. If anyone can figure out how we can legally have a small fire pit on our balcony, let me know. xo

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Astrologically Speaking

I never read my horoscope but on Sunday, I came across the Gemini and Cancer reports for the week and couldn't look away (Anthony's sign and my sign, respectively). What followed was a forecast for greatness. We were both going to have wonderful, productive, prosperous weeks, but Tuesday in particular was going to be fabulous. Something great is going to happen on Tuesday, I told myself. Be prepared.

So if I don't really believe in horoscopes, why was I more than a little disappointed when yesterday, the aforementioned Tuesday, was less than spectacular? Other than an after-work trip to Target where my hair mousse just happened to be on sale, nothing out of the ordinary occurred. There wasn't even a little cupcake miraculously waiting for me when I got home.

Now I remember why I don't routinely read my horoscope. The letdown is too much to take. xo

Photo courtesy of bymildred

Monday, August 19, 2013

Weekend Recap: Fairs Galore

Mid-August is high season for festivals and fairs in Connecticut and I feel like we put in some pretty good effort this week with partaking in the activities.

On Saturday morning, we drove over to the Milford Oyster Festival and walked around the green for a while. We got there right when it started and there were already tons of people walking up and down the aisles. My favorite purchases were two small bags of homemade gummi candies. I don't think I've ever come across homemade gummi bears before and it was easy to see that they were time-consuming to make. I was super-impressed with them though and now kind of want to try making them myself. I'm a bit impressionable when it comes to food.

I wish we had a place to put one of these cheerful birdhouses.

Gorgeous lazy susans and cutting boards made from local trees.

 Homemade gummi candies. The sour cherry rings were amazing.
I usually hate these balloon carts but how cute is that giant blow-up popsicle?

We headed back up to New Haven on Sunday morning to check out the Pop-Up Shop set up in the Broadway parking lot downtown. The first Pop-Up Shop was a couple of months ago in Fairfield, and I was bummed to miss such a cool event right in our backyard so we made an effort to check it out this time. I really love the idea of this nomadic independent fair; it's like a smaller, local version of the wonderful Renegade Craft that takes place twice a year in Brooklyn. Again, we were there right when the vendors opened for business, but there were already lots of people walking through and checking everything out.

The food area was really great with a combination of about ten trucks and stands, mostly from the surrounding areas. Craft Butchery from Westport was serving these amazing pork green chile tacos, and Anthony and I wound up splitting an order of the philly steak fries from the Fryborg truck. The band was awesome too; it would have been great to have a few more tables and chairs in the center but all in all, I couldn't have asked for a better event in New Haven. We can't wait for the next Pop-Up in the fall.

I love when sidewalk chalk is in use.

These Connecticut cards and pins were really cute. 

 Best pork green chile tacos from Craft Butchery.

Philly steak fries from Fryborg.

Obligatory armshot photo in front of the usual Yale scaffolding.

Did you guys visit any fairs or festivals this weekend?  Happy Monday! xo

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Trailer Session

You know how sometimes all you feel like doing is watching tv? And what I am referring to when I say 'watching tv' is that weird state of semi-consciousness when you sit in front of the television but aren't really watching it, just zoning out in front of it while you hold your almost-dead iPhone in one hand and a half-empty bag of sour patch kids in the other. I don't do it often but when I do, it's a pretty great treat.

If you're bored tonight, check out these trailers of upcoming movies that I'd really love to see. If you have a half-eaten bag of candy, feel free to chomp down as you view. Do any of these films look theater-worthy to you? I actually think Austenland has potential to be one of those movies that you can watch over and over again, like in about three years when Lifetime is showing it on loop. xo


Drinking Buddies

The Spectacular Now

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Finding the Humor

There's definitely some humor in the fact that I took a humor writing class this weekend. Could you really learn how to be funny? Even after this 7-hour Gotham Writer's Intensive, I remain relatively unconvinced but it's never a bad thing to learn new techniques and to practice with some writing prompts and to surround yourself with other writers.

My biggest issue is that my humor is dry and subtle, benignly snarky perhaps. This doesn't usually translate well on the page for me but I really loved the hand-outs and suggested readings that structured the class. The instructor, Ryan, was really low-key, informative and focused mostly on contemporary writers, which I appreciated. These are the people who are currently shaping and re-shaping the literary world; these are the people who are doing readings all around the city.  We talked a bit about Sloane Crosley, one of my favorites, and we read Lorrie Moore's famous How to Become a Writer, which reminded me of how much I love Lorrie Moore, which was then followed with a strong urge to read Birds of America again.

All in all, the class could have easily been condensed into four or five hours. However, I did leave with a bunch of ideas for short stories and essays, including a romance/adventure revolving around pieces of IKEA furniture that fall in love because, let's be honest, bookcases deserve to find love too. 

I think my new plan of action is to just write. I just need to get the words on the paper (or screen, my technology-loving friends) and then revise until there is some semblance of a humor essay in front of me.  In any event, there are plenty of worse ways I could have spent a beautiful Sunday in August than learning about writing on the Upper East Side.

Photo taken at corner of Lexington and 72nd Street.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Travel Diary: The Berkshires, Massachusetts

I know most people wouldn't consider the Berkshires a destination for your typical 'girls' weekend,' but that's where my friend and I headed last week for a couple of quiet days in the mountains. We're not hikers and we didn't attend any Tanglewood performances but there were plenty of things to keep us busy in the forty or so hours that we were in town.  The region is a mere two-hour drive from us, but with the surrounding mountains serving as a gorgeous backdrop, we felt like we were much farther from home.

We wasted no time and headed to the Furnace Brook Winery in Richmond as soon as we arrived in town.  Apple orchards surround the country store with plenty of walking trails for exploring. It was only noon but we started off with a wine tasting.  The wines were all so light and refreshing, most made with grapes from Long Island. The hard ciders were delicious, barely tasting alcoholic. We purchased a bottle of the Sweet Muscato (and a bottle of their French Cidre for later) and headed out to the picnic tables with a half-dozen fresh cider doughnuts. Yes, we had wine and cider doughnuts for lunch. It was fabulous.


From there, we headed through Stockbridge to the Norman Rockwell Museum, located in a little white house on manicured grounds. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this museum. Rockwell's works when viewed up-close are true wonders. His brush strokes are so delicate and strategic that his paintings almost look like photographs. There were several Civil Rights era paintings that were achingly beautiful; these were projects he worked on in his spare time because there weren't any publications that would buy them. The images are still poignant fifty years later.

"Gossip," my favorite Rockwell painting.

Driving through Lenox on the way to our hotel, we stopped for a walk around the center of town and found ourselves drawn to Najaime's Wine, which is essentially a liquor store with a huge selection of fancy cheeses and crackers. We each picked two cheeses (how could I pass up horseradish cheddar spread?) and several boxes of crackers, which wound up being our dinner the next night. Did I mention that it was a low-key trip?

Horizontal apple tree branches at the Great Barrington Co-Op.

The next day, we explored Great Barrington a bit, visited the life-size Stations of the Cross at the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy and relaxed at Lenox Coffee for part of the afternoon, but our evening was spent at The Mount, the estate of Edith Wharton, one of my favorite writers from the last century. The grounds are beyond lovely with lush flower beds and wooded paths. Modern sculptures are scattered around on the edges of the trees and there was a live show of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" being performed as we explored the grounds. As we walked through the manicured gardens, it almost felt like we were transported back in time.

Those two days went by so quickly but we really enjoyed the Berkshires.  It reminded me so much of Southern Vermont (my family used to spend so much time in Brattleboro when I was growing up).  I'd love to go back again to visit MASS MoCA or even to make the drive up to Mount Greylock State Park.  I may be wrong but this really seems like a region that's beautiful in all seasons. xo

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Weekend Reads

Happy weekend! I can't wait to claim my extra hour of sleep tomorrow morning. This week was long but productive. I finally finished and mailed out the last of our wedding thank you cards, and we've slowly been making small changes to our apartment so that it's more like a home and less like a tight space where we just stack everything we own.  It's been an unbelievable relief to cross several things off of the to-do list, and not just because I love lists so very much.

Here are a few of my favorite links from the week if you're looking for some light reading.

  • Between media coverage of horrific accidents, murder trials and Middle East war zones, it was heartwarming to read about these newlywed couples in Minnesota. Love is truly all you need.
  • Anthony and I watched Bill Cunningham New York and I'm convinced that if I ever saw Mr. Cunningham on the street in Manhattan taking photos, I would probably freak out in the best way possible.
  • Later this week, I'm headed to the Berkshires for a short vacation with a friend. Any suggestions for us? Right now, I'm particularly excited about a visit to the Mount and stopping at the Furnace Brook Winery.

Have a wonderful weekend, dearies! xo

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Smushiness Factor

I'm not really on top of trends, food or otherwise, but every single day for the past two weeks, I have come across some awesome article or recipe for s'mores. Why is this makeshift camp dessert so popular right now? Since it's such a basic treat, it's pretty easy to throw in your own twists. No matter what, I think the real attraction is that melted chocolate with warm marshmallows always looks and tastes amazing.

For me, the smushiness of the s'more itself is really the essence of the dessert. The warm, gooey, slightly charred marshmallow enhances the flavors of both the graham crackers and milk chocolate.  Burnt sugar is truly the flavor of summer.

With no campfire in sight, I decided to make my own s'mores bars at home. I bravely turned on the oven in our hot apartment and had Anthony pick up a jar of Fluff. I'd never actually tasted Fluff before and it's much sweeter, and stickier, than I expected.  Our graham crackers were semi-stale but I crushed them up and used them anyway. The directions tell you to wait until completely cool to cut and eat, but seriously, how can you eat a cold s'more? That's a step to be ignored for sure.

The results weren't beautiful but these bars are still tasty.  I immediately thought that the pan looked like a Frankenstein dessert for some reason though. It reminded me of a cartoon mummy with the warm oozing Fluff popping through the cookie crust.  You can't tell me that you don't see it too.

However, this is the one variation that I keep coming back to:

Martha Stewart's Hazelnut S'mores recipe calls for grilled french bread as a base instead of cookies. It's like she has a window that looks straight into my heart.  And I bet the smushiness factor is off the charts. xo

Recipe adapted from Lovin' In the Oven; Hazelnut S'more recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart.