...has now been added to my portfolio! If you're not on the mailing list (you should be), feel free to click below to browse the catalog.
May was all about moms — most importantly, MY mom. Mother's day, her birthday, and her retirement all coincided last month, so it was obvious we had to do something special. That's how most of the Lombardis ended up in Washington, D.C. for Mother's Day weekend and a slew of Carol-centric activities.
Let's take a moment real quick to talk about my mom, because this is my blog and she's awesome. My mom is a hilarious combination of old-school Catholic who also loves raunchy comedies like Wedding Crashers and The Hangover. She always gives my friends big, warm hugs (hers are the best) when she sees them, yet will be even quicker than I to groan if we end up seated near small children in any situation. She has introduced me to fine, Carol-approved ideas such as breakfast cake ("it's healthier if you eat it for breakfast") and taping down the front of your pants for a smoother look. And she passed on to me an unhealthy interest in Zac Efron films, epic eye-rolling abilities, and the worst decision-making skills known to man.
She is the only person I look forward to talking on the phone with, and she is an endless source of entertainment, often because — sorry, mom — she's the butt of many jokes between my brothers and I. But it's all done out of love, I swear!
Most importantly, though, my mom is a source of unending love and support for her kids, even when she's scolding me for swearing too much on this blog or arguing with me over the importance of pointless, outdated, boring wedding rituals.
Basically, she's the best. So when my dad was going to be in D.C. — where my eldest brother, Matt, lives — for a work event the week of Mother's Day, she decided to come along. And then I decided to fly down. And all of a sudden, four-fifths of the Lombardis were taking D.C. by storm.
Here's what we did:
HIRSHORN MUSEUM & SCULPTURE GARDEN
My mom was super psyched about this art exhibit called "Infinity Mirrors" at the Hirshorn Museum & Sculpture Garden. Apparently, it was kind of a big deal, because all of the free tickets immediately sold out in less than 60 seconds after they were released. No joke. She was quite bummed, because it was the last weekend for the exhibit.
Luckily, I started stalking the Hirshorn Museum on social media and discovered that they were selling tickets for a special evening admission to the exhibit. So we snapped those up, and as soon as we all got to town Friday night (...after taking too long to eat dinner and literally arriving only minutes before our designated timed entrance...), we fulfilled my mom's first wish.
This was the first thing we saw.
My dad and I stood in front of this for a moment. "They're like, stuffed pantyhose?" I ventured. My dad looked dubious. He and my brother, of course, had zero interest in this outing in the first place, so they were trying to ration their jokes for the evening.
Then we entered the next room and saw this.
I stood looking at the chair for a moment, thinking that it kind of looked like it was covered in white sweet potatoes. Then my dad pointed to a sign. "They're dicks!"
Needless to say, my dad and brother used up all of their jokes within the next fifteen minutes.
The actual Infinity Mirrors exhibit was pretty cool, though. (I highly suggest Googling it, as my pictures probably aren't the best representation. Also, they wouldn't let you take pictures in the last room, which was my favorite. Apparently too many people have lost their balance and fallen...)
GEORGETOWN GARDEN TOUR
You know who likes gardens? MOMS. It's a fact of life, just like how moms also love Josh Groban and Michael MacDonald. Think about it.
We spent Saturday afternoon poking around various backyards of Georgetown, which were more about fancy landscaping than flowers, and my mom was haaaaaappy. Me, I was more interested in the free refreshments served at the end, but hey: everybody wins.
I even refrained from pushing Matt into several pools. You're welcome.
NATIONALS VS. PHILLIES BASEBALL GAME
Being from south Jersey, my mom has a history of rooting for the Phillies. Having been forced to watch an ungodly amount of Phillies baseball at relatives' houses over the past 30 years, I have developed a passionate hatred for them and find great pleasure in rooting for their defeat. Play ball!
Even better than getting to watch the Nationals beat the Phillies, though, was the fact that it was Pups in the Park Night. Dogs. Baseball. Beer. So many good things happening all at once.
I'm having a hard time remembering the last time I was this excited about something.
My brother and I share our curly blonde hair, blue eyes, and a never-ending obsession with one day owning a dog. #goals
BRUNCH AT OLD EBBIT GRILL (& OPEN HOUSES)
We had some good food that weekend, but the best, in my opinion, was the Mother's Day brunch we had at Old Ebbit Grill. I convinced my mom to share the lobster frittata and brioche french toast with me, and I'm still thinking about how good they were, weeks later. Also, the grill has a long history in D.C., dating back to the mid-1800s, and it totally looks like the kind of place where government bigwigs come to knock back a few drinks and make some shady deals. Basically, lots of wood paneling.
After brunch, we spent the rest of the day visiting open houses, because my brother's in the midst of trying to buy a condo somewhere. Luckily, open houses are on my mom's list of interests, along with brunch and ice cream, which came later.
It was a pretty solid weekend and, more importantly, I think my mom had a decent time. Just a reminder, folks: call your moms. It's Sunday.
I've been branching out a bit at work lately, and we just wrapped my latest project: the summer catalog for AllModern. If you're not familiar with the brand, its motto is essentially "everything modern at unbelievable prices." The style and brand voice could not be more different from Birch Lane — which is why I had a blast doing it.
Once the catalog is in the mail, I'll add the whole thing to my portfolio, but in the meantime, I wanted to share some of the stuff that didn't make it into the catalog. When you're working in a creative field, there are always rounds and rounds of feedback, and sometimes, even when you really love an idea, it's not what the client is looking for.
BUT. That doesn't mean they have to disappear into the ether, right? Without further ado, here's a peek at some of the stuff that wasn't quite right for the book, but still makes me smile:
Obviously, none of this should be considered final, and the book went through a couple rounds of stylistic changes, so that's why there are different versions of capitalizations. I can't wait to share where we landed with the final product! (Some of my snark survived.)
...Because a Lisa Party happens approximately once a decade.
Yes! After all my hard work to whip the apartment into shape for myself (and fully embracing the solitude life of a basement dweller), I did a 180 and invited a dozen-plus people into my home. Voluntarily.
I'm surprised, too.
But it was pretty fun! At least, I had fun. And that's what matters. In addition to loading up on food and booze beforehand, I made some other changes to the apartment. Let's see.
Call me basic, but I'm a sucker for a kilim. A lot of pillows in this style come in some pretty whackadoo colors, so it took a lot of digging to find combos (and designs!) that I thought could work in my space without making it look like the southwest threw up in my living room. The Etsy shop ZDkilimspillow had a great selection at reasonable prices — plus, my purchase was followed by the adorable note:
Thank you so much for your order,
I wish you that feel happy while using your pillow
I do feel happy while using my pillows, but I will note that these are mostly decorative — you're not going to be snuggling up with them any time soon as they're quite scratchy on the woven side.
I also picked up this larger one from H&M on the off-chance that I DID get the urge to snuggle up with a pillow sometime. (Hey, hangovers happen.) H&M's stuff is pretty hit or miss, but I like the material and simple pattern on this one. Plus, their pillow inserts are cheap.
I know now to stick to only the cheapest, hardiest of plants, so I made stops at Home Depot and Trader Joe's for some basic green. The "tropical" plant above and my snake plant are both still kicking more than a month later, but I know better than to get complacent...they'll probably die soon.
But my zizi plants are still going strong! These have been with me since my last apartment. When my fiddle-leaf fig tree bit the dust, I transferred my two zizi plants into the big pot so I could once more have something decent next to the bed. This picture might be awful, but look how great that plant is surviving!
Sidenote: If anyone knows how to succeed in taking good pictures of a basement apartment, please do share. I think my #1 barrier to posting more is a lack of decent images to accompany all this word garbage I have no problem spewing.
Yep, I bought a rug. Probably wasn't necessary, but now I can officially refer to this tiny square of space as the "living room." Plus, my secret favorite thing ever is stalking products and snatching them up the second they go on sale, which is what happened with this rug after it had first sold out for a couple months. It's a simple flatweave with a printed pattern, so nothing fancy, but I wasn't looking for a forever rug and I dig the design. I've been assured that it's not too much black/white/gray in one space, but if you disagree...please don't tell me.
Actually purchased after my party, but whatever. Also, guess what? Pretty much no one sat down while they were here, anyway! All that loveseat drama WAS FOR NOTHING.
JK. I love my loveseat and it brings me great joy. It allows me to partake in one of my favorite activities: comfortably eating in front of the TV.
Back to the chair. I've wanted this chair for, oh...maybe four years? At least? Not really sure why, since a solid number of people have told me just how uncomfortable they think butterfly chairs are, but I'm a fan, personally. I also prefer to sit cross-legged whenever possible and am one of the first to plop down on the floor in meetings, too, though, so...don't judge it based on my opinion. But what I can say unequivocally is that it's a smart choice for a studio apartment, because I can fold it up and tuck it away when it's not in use/blocking the way to the laundry/whenever I feel like it. Points for practicality!
It was, however, expensive, and there was no getting around that, though I did manage to buy it while it was on sale for one of the only times in the past several years, so I can at least tell myself that. Also, I had picked up the frame in the clearance section for $10 about a year ago and have been hoarding it for this very moment, so, pat on the back, Past & Present Lisa.
Whatever. I'm alone in the world and only have myself to spend my money on. Let's splurge!
That's it for now. I will say one more thing about hosting people in your home, though: a certain someone may have scoffed at the idea of include carrot sticks and hummus as part of my snack spread, but they went like HOT CAKES. I also cannot recommend enough making a couple simple pizzas to anchor the food situation — it's a low-stress, affordable, and delicious option. And they're easy to jazz up and seem fancy, too. Yeah, I'm basically an expert hostess now.
I'm convinced that my only option for comfortable seating in my studio apartment is a couple of arm chairs. I spend a few weeks searching for suitable options that meet the necessary criteria: stylish, small, and comfortable. Every time I find something I like, I realize it's either huge or will likely be no more suited for movie-watching than my woven wooden chairs, and as I'm complaining on the phone to my mom she tells me over and over again to "just get a sofa already."
In my attempt to prove her wrong, to show that there's no way a sofa would fit, I break out the measuring tape and discover...well, actually, maybe it would.
The next search begins. The two sofas I've had my eye on in the past are nixed due to size or cost, and that's when I find it: the perfect solution.
Don't let the orange sway you — it comes in the perfect feather gray, as well, which is exactly what I was looking for. Neutral, modern lines, and most importantly: 68 inches wide. Long enough to comfortably seat two people who aren't looking to make out with each other, short enough to still allow the fridge door to open and close unimpeded. Yessssss. I visit my local West Elm several times just to sit on it and inspect it from every possible angle. I ask if the legs come off. I measure it in person to make sure the dimensions online are 100% accurate. I sit on it again until I'm finally convinced. This is the one.
Being the cheapskate that I am, I look up when the next major sale will take place (Black Friday) and then strategically open a West Elm credit card so I can earn store credit for the large purchase. Even better: I learn that you get a $50 bonus just for signing up when you make a qualifying purchase, and a $25 bonus on your birthday.
I do the math, and unfortunately, I won't get the bonuses in time to use toward the loveseat. But hey, I'm gonna need some pillows, right? So I'm not too concerned. The week of the sale, I check the website and my heart drops: the gray option is gone. I call customer service. I call my local store. Everyone I speak with tells me a different story: it was taken down because it's so popular that it's backordered too far in the future; it wasn't popular enough, so they stopped making it; the image needs retouching but it should be back on the site soon.
By the time the sale starts, it's still not online, so I go into the store and try to place my order in person. The girl behind the counter rings me up and even bumps up my discount when we discover that the gray option is priced cheaper than the orange (red flag) and won't meet the threshold for the full 30% off. Then, the first snag: there are only 18 of them left in stock, and they are all in Georgia, outside of my delivery area. I'm worried, but she assures me that her manager can call and make arrangements; they've done it before. Ta-da! Loveseat ordered.
A couple weeks go by and I haven't received an update about my order. I call the store to check in and it's worse than I feared: the ones left in stock were manufactured incorrectly, and since they don't exactly match the image that was advertised, West Elm won't sell them. When I ask when new ones will be made, I'm told that it will happen but they have no idea when. I cancel my order, heartbroken.
Then, the very next day, I check the website again, and there it is! The gray loveseat! (I have an email in my Sent folder, to my mom, entitled "WTF West Elm.")
Except, wait. The picture's different this time:
That handsome dark frame that's still paired up with the orange option had been replaced by a blonde wood. I email my store to see what's up and am told that the light wood is the manufacturing mistake and they've decided to sell them, after all. I then spend a good hour clicking back and forth between the two, trying to decide which I prefer. I poll friends and family. I deliberate. I find myself still leaning toward the dark wood — it's not that I dislike the light option, it's just that I like the dark one better! And knowing that it's out there, and could potentially be mine, halts me.
I make the decision to keep waiting, and try to find something else in the meantime.
Meanwhile, my $50 store credit arrives, and I can't find a single thing I want to spend it on.
Christmas is over and I'm back home in my apartment, staring forlornly at the empty space in front of my TV. I want to have people over, dammit! I also want to be able to sit through an entire movie without resorting to switching to my laptop just so I can comfortably lay in bed.
The six-month mark is looming. I want a loveseat. Fuck it.
I resolve to order the gray one, light wood and all. At this point, I realize that my birthday credit bonus never showed up and proceed to talk to three different people about getting that resolved. It finally takes a woman in a Las Vegas call center to get me that additional $25 off, but I secure it, add in a $15 holiday bonus (merry Christmas, indeed), my $50 sign-up bonus, and place my order — price-matched to the original request.
Then I wait.
It's here! It's here! It's here! Three weeks later, it's arrived at my local store. I'm a scrooge, so I've waived the delivery (an extra $120? no, thank you) and instead rented a UHaul van and guilt-tripped one of my coworkers into helping me. We get to the store, a couple of their guys load the gigantic box into the back, and we're on our way.
When we get to my apartment, we quickly realize that the size of the box makes it almost impossible to get a good grip, so we unwrap it right there in the street and bring the loveseat inside with no trouble. It's when I go back outside to move the cardboard out of the road, however, that I see it: one of the legs, broken off and still in the box.
I email the pictures to the store, and since it's such a jagged break, they promise to send a new replacement loveseat, no delivery charge.
Determined to enjoy my loveseat that very weekend, I prop the corner on a jar of quinoa (I later switch to a more stable combination of rock-and-can-of-tuna fish when Katie yells at me) and proceed to watch several hours of the FX O.J. Simpson mini series, eventually falling asleep under a pile of laundry. I'm living that sweet loveseat life.
Two weeks go by and I'm told that the new loveseat is ready to be delivered on Saturday. I'm given a time window and promised that they'll call when they're a half hour away. Good, good.
Saturday morning, I get up and run my errands so I'll be home in time. When I'm five minutes away from my apartment, I get a call from the store: the delivery men tried to deliver my loveseat, and it was refused, so they left and have gone on to their next appointment.
Several problems with this. One: I never received a call saying they were on their way. Two: I never received a call saying they'd arrived. Three: They tried to deliver it to my landlord which, if they had called, they would have known was the wrong apartment. I'm told that they cannot come back later in the day, and that I might have to wait until Monday for the delivery.
And this is where I lose it. I've worked in customer service, both as an operator in a call center and as a store employee, so I know how shitty it is to deal with an angry customer. I've really tried to stay calm and reasonable throughout this entire ordeal, going out of my way to be polite and thankful to everyone who helped me, but this. will. not. stand.
I have some stern words with the very nice store manager and tell her that this is unacceptable (key angry customer word) and there is no way I'm waiting until Monday, especially since I have work that day. MAKE IT WORK, WEST ELM.
The good news is that they were able to arrange the delivery for the next day, and that the delivery men seemed very scared of me when they arrived. Oh, and also I now have a functional, in-tact loveseat.
I will say this: that light wood frame looks damn good with the rest of my apartment. So that snafu was a bit of a blessing, after all.
After all that, will I be shopping with West Elm again? I mean, yeah, because I still have store credit to use up, but I don't think I can recommend ordering large furniture from them. (Craigslist, however, is still #1 in my heart.) We'll see what their response is to my very long, very detailed, very annoyed letter of complaint.
In the meantime, if you need me, I'll be on my loveseat. Probably napping underneath some laundry.
I have a problem with sitting still.
Faced with a weekend of no plans, I find myself physically incapable of just sleeping in, vegging out, and watching endless amounts of garbage TV. Don't get me wrong — I can work my way through a random series just as well as the next gal, but it's always accompanied by some chore, some project, some other task.
That's how I ended up painting my coffee cart a few weeks ago.
In the midst of my flurry of little projects, I began toying with the idea of adding some more color to my apartment. Yes, the photos helped, but the fact remains that I live in a giant, beige box filled with endless amounts of light-colored wood. Painting the walls is too large of a cost and undertaking, but I could paint more furniture. And after my dresser project, I've fallen ever more in love with the idea of a deep, rich navy as a neutral. So I decided to paint my cart to match.
Nothing like some quality time in the dungeon, listening to My Favorite Murder, and inhaling paint fumes. Best weekend ever.
Most people start off the new year with resolutions like "lose weight," "learn to play the guitar," or "kiss more boys" (just me?). I kicked off 2017 with the realization that I've been in my new apartment for almost six months and it was still missing some key elements. It was livable, sure. But was it at its most functional? More importantly, was it in a state where I'd want to have people over?
The looming milestone was enough to finally light a fire under my ass to pull the trigger on some stuff that never felt important enough in the midst of Christmas shopping and anxiety-inducing credit card bills. First things first: it was time to go to IKEA.
It's important to have a game plan before even stepping foot inside the giant warehouse, and this was mine: (1) replace the broken frame that was part of my postcard gallery wall, (2) get a better organization option for my makeup, and (possibly) (3) get some more plants.
With the exit in sight, there's where my resolve unraveled. I had tried to resist throwing other stuff into my bag during the long walk through the showroom, but when I spotted the large square option in the Ribba frame series, I knew it'd be a great option for the wall next to the fridge. (The print I had hung originally just looked too dinky.)
And hey, while I was at it, why not snag two more to hang near the closet? They might not be noticeably visible all the time, but open wall space is limited in my apartment, so I want to take advantage wherever I can. I hobbled to the cash register with three more Ribbas than planned.
So, now that I got these frames, I needed something to put in them. After polling friends and family, I landed on these three faves from my travels:
I compared a few options, but ultimately went with prints from Walgreens (CVS, Snapfish, and Target were also in the running), and I was very pleased with how they turned out.
Trying to narrow down my favorite photos to just these three reminded of how many great shots I had that I also wanted to be able to display. I toyed with the idea of getting three or four smaller frames to perch on the ledge by my stairs, but worried that they'd look crowded and bulky.
One of my coworkers had some prints from Artifact Uprising and Parabo Press on her desk, and I really liked the square format on thicker paper, complete with a white border. This style would allow me to show off photos without necessarily needing to frame them, so it seemed like the perfect solution. I ordered from Parabo Press because they were running a promotion that allowed me to get 25 larger-format prints for just $5, plus shipping. Sold.
Based on the quality of photos that I received (along with the thoughtful packaging job), I'd highly recommend trying Parabo Press, especially if you have some favorite Instagram pics you want to print.
Now that I had the prints, the remaining issue was: how to display them?
I had this idea to make a little ledge that would prop up several photos at a time, but wasn't exactly sure how to pull this off. During a little Friday night visit to the Home Depot (isn't that how everyone spends their Friday night?), I saw my solution: two squared-off dowels and a narrow strip of wood cut down to size.
The dowels were about three feet long, which fit my space perfectly, and I used the in-store saw to cut down the wooden strip to match. At home, I applied some stain I had, and then glued the dowels to the wooden strip, which acted as the base. All done, I had a thin opening between the two dowels that allowed the photos to easily rest upright. Total cost? Probably less than $5, assuming you have glue and stain on hand (or don't care about staining).
Last on my list of frenzied updates was based on a suggestion from my mom. While visiting, she mentioned that a shelf in the bathroom might be a nice addition, and I was getting sick of moving my makeup tray every time I needed to throw laundry in the hamper, so I started to think maybe she was onto something.
While I was at Home Depot, I wandered to the lumber section and started chatting with my new best friend, Chet. I described my project, and stressed how little wood I needed and that I'd be interested in the cheapest option possible. He found me a damaged board that was completely fine on one end — one that he wouldn't be able to sell as-is — and cut off the end for me. I think I was only charged a couple bucks for it.
This brings me to my hardware store lesson #2 (number one is always bring your own measuring tape): don't be afraid to talk to the people who work there. There are a lot of idiots who won't know anything, but there will always be at least one or two gems who will go out of their way to help you out.
I picked up two metal brackets that looked cool, brought home my piece of wood, sanded and stained it, and then I was ready. Time to hang it.
Just one problem: the "cool design" of the brackets made one of the screw holes near impossible to access, and the instructions on the back were nothing but (inaccurate) pictures. (Give me words, people!)
So, I did what I always do when faced with a puzzling dilemma: I called my dad.
While we were chatting, I had a revelation and figured out the bracket problem, so my dad moved on to trying to tell me how to go about screwing the holes.
Whoa, whoa, whoa, father. Let's put a pause on the mansplaining here. I know what an anchor is. I know how to use an electric drill.
"Okay, but when you're drilling into the board itself, you want to be careful or else you'll go all the way through, so you should —" he tried to tell me.
"— put a piece of tape on the drill bit to indicate just how far I should drill. I know, I know," I said. "Dad, do you know who you're talking to, here? I'm Lisa freakin' Lombardi, man."
I'm don't think he'd ever been more proud.
It's totally true that the small victories are just as important as the big ones.
I turned 30 on December 1st. In the words of my Uncle Mike, "Oh, fuck it. Life is over."
Just kidding. It's a weird thing, though. And since a birthday party with all of my closest friends is never an option anymore, I decided to celebrate with a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico.
This guy came with me. And made it his goal to eat All The Things. (Starting with breakfast at Tune-Up Cafe.)
We stopped at the Tent Rocks National Monument on our way from the airport. Matt was not impressed. I don't care what he thinks.
Matt vs. The Cactus. (The cactus won.)
Kowboyz, home of the most brilliant array of cowboy boots, hats, shirts, and anything else you could ever dream of.
The Santa Fe Railyard. Prettiest trains ever. Also, had the best mini (blue) corn dogs of my life at the Second Street Brewery.
We wandered through all the various levels of Double Take, an awesome vintage store filled with cool treasures. (I found a sweet little lidded basket for keeping my earrings and bracelets in.)
It's my birthday, and I'll go on long drives through the mountains if I want to!
We made it to Cowgirl BBQ and I finally got the t-shirt I always regretted never splurging on when I was a broke intern. (This may have occurred after several beers and shots of whiskey.)
Bye, New Mexico! Thanks for a special birthday. (And, y'know, thanks to my brother for coming with me. As my mother says: "Such a nice boy!")
Other notable stops not photographed for posterity: Cafe Pasqual's, Tecolote, Maria's, Kakawa Chocolate Shop, Jackalope, and the CVS where I stocked up on medicine to combat the Worst Cold Ever. (Happy birthday, have some germs!)
Per usual, the end of the year means I fall off the blogging planet. But time hasn't stopped in the real world, and I actually managed to make some more additions to the apartment to make it feel less like an empty basement and more like my new home.
Step One: Bookshelf.
I picked up this IKEA bookshelf on Craigslist about a month after I moved in because it was the right size and the right price. I like the open style with the metal frame, but have always preferred wood over glass for a warmer look. So, I took a trip to my fave, Home Depot, one Saturday, and had them cut some thin plywood to lay on top of each shelf. (Tip: If you wanna impress the hardware store guys, bring your own tape measurer. BOOM. Their minds were blown.)
Voila. It was an easy switch to make, and while it's mostly covered up with my stuff on the shelves, I much prefer it. You can choose to stain the wood, but I opted to just apply some Feed 'n Wax since I liked the light color. Note that I've simply placed the thin plywood on top of the existing glass shelves so I still have as much support as possible; you can certainly choose to replace the glass shelves with wood completely, but you'll need to choose thicker plywood and may also need to add additional support so there's no bowing.
This is what life looks like when you have zero storage.
Step Two: Hi, screen!
I originally thought I'd use the bookshelf as a divider between the bedroom and living spaces, but that was causing issues with placement of the dresser, and eliminating the possibility of a loveseat (one day...I will find you...), so: screen. I'd had it bookmarked on Urban Outfitters since before I even moved, watching and waiting for the price to go down. When it finally did (70% off, thank you very much), I knew it was time to pounce.
Fun facts: The original placement of the hinges didn't allow for it to open quite as wide as I had wanted, so I repositioned them with the help of my dad when he was visiting. Also, the floors in my apartment are so wonky that when I walk past my bed, they move up and down enough to make the screen wobble alarmingly. My solve? There's a loop of fishing line going from the top of the frame to around the pipes above. It sounds super sloppy, but I honestly can't even see it 99% of the time. And now I don't need to worry about the screen falling and crushing me.
Step Three: Enter the potato table.
I don't like desks. I don't like sitting at them. I don't like working at them. But I knew I needed, at the very least, some extra surface area for writing, using on my laptop, and — let's be honest —placing my crap. I was about to cave and buy something new from Target or IKEA when I came across this fun, weird table on Craigslist.
It's supposedly a table from the 1920s that was built with the express purpose of storing potatoes (see how the lower drawers have metal bottoms, and are crazy deep?). It's beat-up, scratched, a little bit rusty...and I really love it. I made my friend Jamie come with me to pick it up, and I think she was expecting me to have some grand plans for painting or refinishing it. Nope!
We also came across an estate sale on our way home and discovered the most terrifying collection of dolls I've even seen in my life. So, y'know, bonus.
Step Four: Hang some artwork.
Step Five: Get something green.
It's a fiddle-leaf fig plant (courtesy of my mom), and against all odds, it's actually GROWING. This has never happened to me in my life.
One last thing of note: I now own a TV for the first time in six years. Everyone in my family's like "it's about time."
And that's about it for now. More updates later if my loveseat dilemma ever gets solved.
Like most of my more ridiculous ideas, it started with asking Katie for help.
You might recall Katie as the recipient of my infamous jellypenis painting. The fact that she proudly displays this in her apartment says a lot about her willingness to put up with my idiotic schemes.
"Can you do me a favor?"
I innocently tested the waters and then quickly launched into the backstory.
"So I was supposed to pick up this dresser from Craigslist last night, but the girl changed the pickup time and I wouldn't have had anyone to help me unload my car at that point. And I needed my car empty to pick up those chairs the next day. So I had to cancel our arrangement...but the dresser is still for sale. And she's moving out tomorrow. And I still want it."
And, more importantly, I felt like the seller might be willing to agree to a lower price than we had arranged, since she was getting down to the wire. But I had already tried negotiating, and then bailed, so I didn't have the best track record with this person.
"So...you want me to respond to the Craigslist ad for you?" Katie asked.
She just gets me.
This is the dresser I was obsessed with.
My job often requires me to scope out competitor furniture retailers, and when I stumbled upon this dresser from Land of Nod, I was hooked.
It was bold. It was glamorous yet handsome. It was the low, wide style I was looking for. (Though, okay, probably bigger than I realistically needed.)
It was eleven-hundred-freaking-dollars.
After watching it for months, I knew there was no way it would ever drop into what I would consider an acceptable price range. So I went with Plan B: find a campaign-style dresser on Craigslist and treat it to a fresh coat of paint.
That's how I ended up outside an apartment building in Somerville on a Thursday evening, prepared to introduce myself as Kathryn.
I shouldn't have worried. The girl was so relieved to get rid of the thing that she simply opened the door and led me upstairs without confirming who I was. (Fabulous. I'm terrible at lying.)
If you were reading the blog of a normal, sane person, the next step would be to take the dresser home. This, however, is my blog. So, like the weirdo I am, I then drove on to a hockey game in downtown Boston, where I deposited my car (filled to capacity with an old dresser and drawers) in the sketchiest parking lot ever. And I went to see my Red Wings crush the Bruins.
Maybe it was the rush of the win. Maybe it was all those extra sessions of Kick It class. Maybe it was a tear in the space-time continuum. I honestly have no explanation for how it happened, but it did: when I got home from the game, I unloaded the dresser and carried it into my apartment. By myself.
To provide a little context for this anomaly, you should know that my nickname during high school summer softball was "Twig." Friends have been known to refer to me as "tiny."
You know those stories about moms who lift cars off their kids in moments of extreme stress? Me, I lift heavy pieces of furniture when I know I need to drive my car to a date the next day.
One of the nicest things about my new apartment is that it comes with a huge, dark, scary storage area. I think most people would probably only venture in there to do laundry and leave it be the rest of the time, but the second my landlord showed it to me, I knew it was destined to become my own personal dungeon-slash-work room.
The entire makeover process took a few weeks. First, I needed to clean the thing, remove all the hardware, sand down the chips and scratches the best I could, and slap together a new corner using layers and layers of spackle (I don't recommend this remedy, but hey, it worked).
Once that was done, I primed it all, and then it was the moment of truth: picking the right paint color.
I'd like to say that I was smart and got a couple tester cans so I could be sure of the color before committing, but I totally didn't and bought the wrong color on the first try. Don't be like me, folks.
This is about the point where I called Katie in a panic and told myself over and over again that I was an idiot. Fun times painting!
My second pick was much, much better, and I actually only needed the small tester can to cover the entire dresser in two coats of paint. Go figure.
Meanwhile, the metal knobs, pulls, and corner pieces could use a little help. Initially, I tried just scrubbing everything with a mixture of salt and white vinegar, but that didn't have much effect. Steel wool and Barkeeper's Friend, however, did the trick.
Here's where I ended up:
It's not a perfect match for the Land of Nod one, but the influence is there! And I like that it's completely different from anything I've ever had before. (Okay, and I like that it was one-tenth the cost of the original, too.)
Now my clothes are all put away and my apartment is starting to look less like it was hit by a tornado. Can you say "progress"?
I can probably count on two hands the number of times I've been asked out on a real date. Narrow it down to requests from someone I'm actually interested in? One hand.
I've never been the girl that guys flock to, or flirt with, or talk about with each other — like, "Is she gonna be at the party? Is she single?"
I've never been the girl who gets the attention.
Until two weeks ago.
My attitude toward life for the past six months has gone a little something like this: fuck it.
I was fed up with roommates, flaky friends, internet dating nonsense, money worries, job troubles, and my life in general. So I started taking a new approach.
Sick of my living situation? I moved, broken budget be damned. Tired of trying to arrange outings with other people? I started going solo and exploring on my own. Bored and unappreciated at work? Time to stop saving those vacation days.
This might sound like common sense to most people, but for someone who's spent the majority of her life meticulously planning, constantly worrying, and always trying to please everyone else, this was a revelation. And it was at that point that an email circulated around the office: a friend of an employee was running a date auction for a local charity and needed volunteers to be auctioned off.
Fuck it. Sign me up.
NAME: Lisa L
INTERESTS/HOBBIES: Reading, road tripping, trying out new recipes, fixing up my apartment, exploring the city, pretending I'm outdoorsy
SUPERHERO POWER I'D LIKE TO HAVE: Teleportation (no more parking tickets or taking the T!)
ONE PLACE I'D LIKE TO VISIT: Iceland
I submitted my profile info and then promptly forgot about it for the majority of the next few weeks. It felt like this abstract thing that I mentioned to people, as a sort of "Isn't this hilarious?" conversation topic. (Also: a "these things still exist!" conversation topic.) It didn't feel like something I was really going to have to do.
Until the week before, of course.
In a panic, I got my hair cut and colored. It was a disaster, and I had to go back to the salon to get it fixed. I walked around with frizz and zits for days, certain it wouldn't get better before the auction. In my attempt to not make the night feel like a Big Thing, I hadn't bothered shopping for a new outfit, and that just added another layer of anxiety to the mix a few days beforehand: Do I own anything appropriate for this kind of scenario? Do I own anything that makes me look even vaguely appealing?
The day of, I rushed home from work, cracked open a bottle of wine, and frantically texted my friends for makeup tips. (When was the last time I'd worn eyeshadow?!?) My dress of choice was one I've had for probably four years at this point; the heels were shoes I cursed at last year's Christmas party when I could barely walk by the end of the night.
I inhaled a burrito, downed half the bottle of Chardonnay, and hopped into a Lyft.
The event was held at ICON nightclub, and this marked my first ever visit to a nightclub, period. I teetered up the steps, signed in, and was forced to slap on a name tag that I spent the rest of the night trying to smooth down. I'd known that another girl from work — the pitcher from our company softball team — was doing the auction, too, but it turned out that two more Wayfair people had volunteered, as well. I chatted with them for bit while I sipped my $14 (it's-for-charity, it's-for-charity) vodka tonic, and then forced myself to work the room.
We were encouraged to mingle and talk to guests before the auction, but at that point in the evening, it was nothing but a sea of fellow auctionees. I was impressed by the array of people who'd thrown their hats into the ring: heavyweight fighter, CEO, personal trainer, designer, police officer, engineer, performance artist (yup), marketing manager...the list went on. One thing I realized after talking to people was that most had brought along an entourage of friends and family who could be relied on to bid for them if things became dire.
Per usual, I was completely and utterly solo.
I was having a pretty good time talking with the others, joking (but secretly serious) that my goal was to go for at least $30. It was at that point that one guy, who had participated in the auction before, proceeded to tell me that the highest bid last year was $450.
If you know me, if you've read this blog, if you've ever talked to me for a significant amount of time, you know that I'm a total Scrooge McDuck. I don't pinch pennies; I cling to them with a death grip.
It's at this point that people usually chime in with "Yeah, but it's for charity..."
Valid. But the way my mind works? Something like $175 would be my big, all-out bid. Even if it's for a good cause. So, needless to say, I was pretty shocked.
At that point, guests had finally begun to arrive, so I said goodbye to my comrades and started circling the room, awkwardly trying to insert myself into conversations and introduce myself to people. I managed to talk to four non-participants before the bidding began and I was summoned to the stage, told that I'd be the second woman auctioned off. (What do you mean, second?!)
The stage was a tiny thing at the front of the club, and our hosts for the evening were two local radio personalities. (Thanks for dressing up, guys.) The first man up had a little choreographed number planned to the James Bond theme song, and bidding started at $100.
It started at $100?? There went my $30 goal.
Number One had bids pile up pretty quickly, and eventually sold for $300 (they went in increments of $50). One of the next guys opted for a PG-13 strip tease to earn his bids. The first female was an executive chef who loved yoga (theme of the night: all girls "love yoga") and she had a respectable number of bidders.
It all went much too quickly. It was my turn before I knew it.
The upside? There was no time for a full-blown panic attack. I clung to the stair rail and made my way onto the stage. The hosts had some fun with my profile, offering to the crowd that I was good at fixing things: "Guys, she can fix your toilet!" (Nope, really can't.) And the second they started the bidding, I had an offer — one of the people I talked to earlier in the evening! Two points for awkward socializing.
And then something crazy happened. Someone else put in a counter-bid. It was a guy in the back of the room, too far to tell if it had been one of the other people I'd met. But it set off a full-on bidding war.
If there's anything more surreal than watching perfect strangers offer to pay large sums of money just to spend an evening with you, it's this: watching a perfect stranger pay $650 to spend an evening with you. Also known as: the highest bid of the night.
I think the look on my face in that picture pretty much says it all.
So what have I learned from this experience?
#1. I will do almost anything for a good story.
#2. I should probably invest in different shoes.
#3. I'm actually pretty good at holding a conversation when forced to turn on the charm.
#4. I should avoid mentioning my love of yoga in any future dating profiles.
Am I pleased I was able to raise that much for Project Smile? Heck yes. Did I gain a little smug boost of confidence in that moment? Guilty. By the time the night was over, though, that had worn off and mostly I just felt a combination of hysterical laughter, confusion, and squirming uncomfortableness.
I don't all of a sudden think I'm hot stuff, and that guys are going to actually start noticing me now (though I did leave the club with a phone number). Realistically, I just happened to talk to the right person at the beginning of the night — someone who was willing to donate a significant amount of money to the charity no matter what — and I managed to pick a good conversation topic (books, you never let me down).
But at the very least, I learned this, too:
#5. I'm worth more than just $30.
We've already established that I've been a regular Craigslisting fiend lately, but what I skimmed over in my last post is the fact that these finds usually don't arrive in pristine condition.
Take my glorious, beautiful chairs. General Assembly, a company here in Boston that hosts professional development classes (think stuff about online marketing, coding, engineering, etc.), was moving their offices and needed to unload 14 of these puppies, so I jumped on the opportunity. However, due to some crazy planning on my part, I wasn't able to pick up my four until the last available day.
Translation: I got the ones that no one else wanted.
That's not to say that I regret my decision, but I did feel a little knot of worry when I was loading them into the car. There were some fairly noticeable scratches and gouges in the wood, and one had a particularly dark stain on the woven seat. But how much can you complain when you're getting something for reportedly 10% of the original price?
Deep breaths. I could fix this.
You know how when you first move out on your own and really start cooking for yourself, you realize that recipes call for all these spices and seasonings? And that stuff is actually really freaking expensive? It sucks buying everything for the first time, but then you're pretty much set for the next 5-10 years. (I cook pretty exclusively with paprika, garlic powder, and cinnamon. Everything else is virtually untouched.) (Don't be me. Throw away your spices after like, a year.)
Anyway, that's how it is when you first start building an arsenal of tools and magical potions acquired from the Home Depot. Luckily, I've already dipped my toes in that water and had some handy things already waiting in the closet to come to my aid. Namely: steel wool, Murphy Clean & Shine for wood furniture, and Watco Danish Oil in natural.
A little elbow grease, a little actual grease, and some oil later, and my chairs were looking pretty great. The scuffs buffed out and those ugly scrapes and gouges? Completely filled in by the oil.
All that was left was the stain.
I threw everything I had at it. Oxyclean. Mineral spirits. Nail polish remover. (I'm pretty sure it's paint.) And while I'm still not convinced there isn't more I can try, I'm pretty pleased with how far it's come.
Plus, I plan on either have it tucked in under a table or draped with a throw blanket the majority of the time anyway, so I'm not too disappointed.
I officially have seating for six now! Whoo! Party at my place. Except not, because the only kinds of parties I like are parties I can leave at any moment.
Psst. I have a secret.
Even though I work for a furniture company, and am finally at the stage in my life where I'm no longer juggling two part-time jobs and not just barely missing the threshold for the low-income tax break (seriously, Massachusetts?!), I still love getting stuff second-hand.
Goodwill. Boomerang's. Buffalo Exchange. Random thrift stores and consignment shops. My eye is always drawn to them when I'm in the car, wishing I had the time to stop and poke around. But my free time is extremely limited, and typically doesn't show up until around 9 p.m. on a weeknight, which is why my favorite will forever and always be the great and powerful (and always open) Craigslist.
Is there anything better than the thrill of the virtual chase? Scrolling though page after page of crappy snapshots until the perfect piece jumps out at you. Frantically emailing the seller and either trying to bend over backwards to fit their schedule or playing it coy, negotiating for a better deal. Sweet-talking your friends into helping you load and unload endless random things from your perfectly sized car.
(For years, my dad drove a Mercedes station wagon, the ultimate luxury brand and the ultimate dorkmobile model. He claimed he needed the wagon so he could "haul stuff." Sadly, I understand this desire a little too well.)
Maybe one day I'll prefer the convenience of ordering brand new stuff. But for now, I'm still cheapskate Lisa, who loves a good deal and good story above all else.
Like the time I scored vintage post office bins for $4 a piece at a random garage sale on the way to the Brimfield Flea (did I buy anything at Brimfield? 'Course not. That place is pricey!). Or the time I picked up my dining table from a trailer park after dark in Nowheresville, PA. Or my trusty green dresser, which went to me because I told the buyer how much I loved the color and how perfectly it would match my duvet cover.
...Or, more recently, the IKEA bookshelf that I thought would fit in my friend's car but most certainly did not, so I ended up crouched in between the shelves in the back seat, trying to hold the trunk closed with a combination of brute strength and strategically placed seat belts.
(Sorry, mom.) (More to come on that shelf soon, because I made some modifications and now have it all set up, and I'm pretty pleased with myself.)
Here's how it works: there's cheap, there's picky, and there's impatient. You can be impatient and cheap, but you gotta take whatever you can get. You can be cheap and picky, but you've gotta be willing to wait around for the right thing. Or you can be picky and impatient, but whatever you end up with sure as hell ain't gonna be cheap.
For now, I'm settling with being cheap and picky. And flexing my patience muscle, waiting for the right thing to come along.
Like, oh, say for instance, these babies:
I don't even know how I stumbled upon this listing a mere 20 minutes after it was posted, but when I saw it there was a heavenly choir playing in my head. Well, that, and the part from Dane Cook's Just Wanna Dance bit: "MINE. SHE'S MINE." (1:27 for your reference. You're welcome.)
So I scored four of these babies for less than one currently costs. They're certainly not in perfect condition (it didn't help that I had the last pick of the lot), but I think I can clean 'em up a bit and they'll work just fine. Once I buy a table, that is.
I also picked up a dresser this week, but that story deserves it's own post. Especially after I'm done giving it a brand new paint job. Basically this whole post is just a teaser for things to come.
It's been too long, I know. This summer flew by in a flurry of apartment hunting, packing, moving, and traveling, but I made a special effort to plan one very important trip: a visit to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
For all you non-Michigan natives out there, the Pictured Rocks are located in the Upper Peninsula of my fair home state, a region known for its pasties, smoked fish, taxidermy, and Canadian-esque accents. Also? It's crazy beautiful.
My first visit happened back in 2009, and it remains one of my favorite places in the world (I already want to go back again next year for a longer stay). This year, I managed to convince my two brothers to join me. Here are some tips and things to do and see if you go (which, no question, you should):
Break up the trip.
People in New England are used to being able to drive half a day or less and be in another state, but that ain't how it works in Michigan. Unless you're wildly wealthy (let's be friends) and can afford to fly into one of the small airports in northern Michigan, you'll probably be driving from one of the larger, more southern hubs, like Detroit. My brother, Kevin, lives in Petoskey, Michigan, so we drove up to his place one day (roughly 4.5 hours), hung out around town, and then continued on to Munising (where the Pictured Rocks are) the next morning (another 2.5 hours).
Northern Michigan, whether you're on the Upper or Lower Peninsula, is gorgeous, so it's worth spending time in some of the cities along the way. Though we didn't stop there, Mackinaw City is a popular spot, along with Mackinac Island, which is entirely car-free and accessible only by ferry (that's where all the famous fudge comes from). Traverse City is known for its cherries. And Petoskey and Harbor Springs are cute beach towns that are also close to the major Michigan ski resorts, Boyne and Nub's Nob.
If you're near Harbor Springs, I highly recommend checking out Pond Hill Farm, which has a winery, brewery, and cafe, and is a working farm (there were piglets!). We did a tasting in the winery (the Cottage White and 2013 Chardonnay were my favorites, though the cherry wine was pretty interesting, too) and enjoyed the beautiful view of the grounds. They also have farm-to-table dinners and barn dances, which I really, really wished I could go to. Basically, this would be my regular hangout spot if I was a local.
For dinner, we tried Barrel Back, which was right on the water of nearby Walloon Lake. The food was good, the view was great, and there was randomly a bouncy castle set up right outside. Pretty much the perfect combination.
Book a campsite ahead of time.
I had grand visions of camping in one of the few sites within the park itself, which was foolish on my part since you can't reserve them ahead of time and my brothers are especially slow at getting going in the morning. Unsurprisingly, by the time we got to town, all those sites were full (there are only three major sites) — and all the surrounding ones outside the park, too. We wasted a lot of time driving around, trying to find an open spot (that far north, there's practically no cell service, so we couldn't call ahead or look up places on the fly).
In the future, I'd book a spot at one of the closest campsites and either be satisfied with that, or try my luck at one of the park sites first thing the next morning. Even then, though, I don't know the likelihood of securing a place, so reserving elsewhere is your best bet. We grabbed the last spot on the grounds at Jack Pine Lodge, which was actually fairly charming in its cheesiness. When I have the choice, though, I prefer sites where there's some brush and trees between you and your neighbor, and no RVs.
Backcountry camping is possible without a permit, but we heard differing rules about building fires in the backcountry (was it allowed? or not?), and we'd been talking about hot dogs and s'mores for days at this point, so that was a dealbreaker. If I ever got a bigger group to go for a longer stay, I'd definitely look into renting a house, too, but I personally enjoy camping and get a kick out of putting all my gear to good use.
Get on the water.
The first time I was here, I went with two friends and we brought kayaks with us. (Thinking back, the fact that we drove eight hours, on the freeway, with two kayaks tied to the top of my mom's car with nothing but some straps and bumpers is pretty insane.) I highly recommend doing the same if you can, because I loved the freedom of exploring the rocks at my own pace and being able to go into the caves and jump into the water when I felt like it.
Since we didn't have enough kayaks to go around this trip, we chose to book a guided kayak tour along the rocks with a company that seems to be having an identity crisis and is either Paddling Michigan or Uncle Ducky Outdoors. Either way, it was fun and a great way to see the rocks.
There are also pontoon boats available to rent, so if I went back with a larger group, I'd definitely rent one for a day and explore that way, too. Do it all!
I think my brother Matt would disagree with this one, but half the fun of this place is walking around and exploring. We got in a pretty major loop on our last day, and while I don't think any of us were really prepared for how long it was, it gave us some amazing views along the way.
Above is the route we took, and I would definitely do it again. Next time, however, I'd pack a lunch and towel and take a break at the beach near Chapel Rock to relax in the sand and go for a swim. From there, the hike along the water is the best part; make sure to stop at Grand Portal Point and enjoy the cliffs and clear view they allow. From Mosquito Campground back to the parking lot is just walking through the woods, but the time along the water makes it all worth it.
Hit the beach.
We didn't have time for a dedicated beach day, but on longer trips, there's nothing I love more than laying in the sun, napping, and occasionally dipping your toes into Lake Superior (it's freezing!). The sand here is unlike anything I've experienced else where in the U.S. It's soft, but not powdery. Thick, but not rocky or heavy. The closest thing I could compare it to? Brown sugar.
The beach near Miner's Castle is perfect, and if you're brave enough to go in the water, you can easily swim to some of the caves and climb onto the rocks (and then jump back in!).
Embrace the quirk.
The Mystery Spot. Moose heads. Puns. Motorcycle gangs. Road-tripping retirees. The Upper Peninsula has it all (except, perhaps, Wi-Fi and cell service). While you're here, embrace the fact that your best food options are pasties and smoked fish, and take in all the weird, cheap, and low-brow treasures that Northern Michigan has to offer.
Pictured Rocks, I love you.
I'm a curious person. Don't get me wrong — the library is great and will always be one of my favorite places in the world, but I LOVE Google. From my time as a student, to my days as a fact-checker, all the way up to today, I find myself looking up weird stuff all the time. So, rather than doing a weekly round-up of the same interesting links that all my favorite blogs are already showcasing, I thought I'd try something a little different. A little more random.
- "What is a group of sharks called?"
Among other things, a group of sharks is called a frenzy or a shiver. So appropriately cool. Other awesome ones: a crash of rhinoceroses, a tower of giraffes, a prickle of porcupines, and a kaleidoscope of butterflies. Believe it or not, this was work-related research.
- "How to move on Sept 1st in Boston"
Fun fact: the majority (like, almost two-thirds) of apartments in Boston have leases that start on September 1st. That means that a good chunk of people are moving out of their old apartments on August 31st, and I have no idea what happens in between. You could theoretically have to be out of your previous place by midnight on August 31st, but not allowed into the new spot until as late as 11 a.m. the following day. Does everyone just sleep in their moving truck? One recommendation I'm looking into: negotiating with the previous tenant to try to move in a little early. Every hour helps!
- "Michigan Mystery Spot"
I'm planning a trip home over Labor Day weekend, including a jaunt up north to one of my favorite places ever: the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Every trip to the Upper Peninsula, however, comes with the urge to check out the famous Mystery Spot in St. Ignace. TripAdvisor reviews call it both a "fun time" and "boooooooring." I know it's a tourist trap, but I'm SO TEMPTED.
- "Louis Vuitton store in the middle of the desert"
I was at a party last Saturday night, chatting with some new people, and when I mentioned that my office is located in "the fancy mall," we got onto the topic of high-end stores, which lead to them telling me about this store that's in the middle of nowhere in Nevada that existed solely for the sake of being unusual. I vowed to look into this more later. Searching with "Louis Vuitton" yielded no results (hey, I was kind of tipsy at the time), and I started to feel sad that maybe they were mistaken, but when I changed my query to "High fashion store in the middle of the desert": BINGO. There is a Prada "installation" in the Chihuahuan desert, near Marfa, Texas, that has drawn thousands of visitors (including Beyonce).
- "Michelle Obama speech dnc 2016"
Gave me goosebumps.
They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and for me, this has always felt more like a written-in-stone rule of life than a platitude. Maybe it's because I have been known to wake up at 3 a.m. simply because I was hungry. Maybe it's because I enjoy coffee, but it's always been food that actually gets me going in the morning. Maybe it's because my stomach is a bottomless black pit that doesn't care if I have to leave for work in ten minutes OMG FEED ME NOW.
No matter the reason, the only way I skip breakfast is if I sleep through it. But that doesn't always jive with my reluctance to get up early and my inevitable habit of losing track of time while I do my makeup and simultaneously watch TV.
My solution? Eat breakfast at work. Sounds simple, and it is, once you have a few go-to items that travel easily, keep well, and are quick to grab. Here are mine:
WHATEVER-YOU-LIKE GRANOLA (& GREEK YOGURT)
Granola truly is hippie food. It welcomes all, works best within a loose structure, and is usually a little nutty. This is the recipe I follow, but it's incredibly forgiving and allows for customizing based on what you have on hand and what you, personally, enjoy. No flax seed? Whatever. (That stuff took way too long to use up, anyway.) Want more orange flavor? Add a little zest in, along with the juice. It's allllll good, man.
4 cups of oats
1 1/2 cups almonds
1/2 cup pecans
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
2 tablespoons flax seeds
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
Heat the oven to 300° F and cook for 30 minutes, pausing to stir the mix at the 15-minute mark so it cooks evenly. When you remove the batch, I find it best to stir once more before leaving it to cool; this way the granola won't stick to the pan.
Once it's ready, I dump the batch into a gallon Ziploc bag and keep it in my desk until it's all gone. Sure, I look like a weirdo, using my mug to scoop granola out of my top drawer and into my bowl of yogurt, but I'm usually too hungry to care.
Adapted from this original recipe.
OVERNIGHT CHAI OATS
The oatmeal I knew growing up was mushy, came from a pouch, and only tasted good if you got the brown sugar & cinnamon kind. I'll still eat it, but nowadays, I save those for camping and make my day-to-day oatmeal a bit more substantial.
Want to know why everyone's raving about steel-cut oats? Because they taste better, nerd. The fact that they don't have the consistency of homemade paste alone makes them superior to regular oats, but I admit the longer cooking time is a hassle. So, overnight, no-cook oatmeal is kind of the greatest thing ever.
1 cup steel-cut oats
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
2 tablespoons ground flax meal
1 tablespoon maple syrup or brown sugar (whichever I have around)
1 1/2 to 2 cups plain almond milk
Mix together and leave to set in the refrigerator overnight.
It took a little trial and error, but these are the ratios that I prefer. Following the original recipe produced something too spicy for my tastes; it required a lot more sugar to even out the taste, so I simply dialed down the spices. Also, the 1:1 ratio of oats to almond milk made it too dry and crunchy; adding more milk really makes a difference. (And serving with crushed pecans and coconut flakes doesn't hurt, either.)
You can make it in any container you'd like, but mason jars make you look extra cool and have the bonus of not exploding in your purse on the way to work. Unlike Trader Joe's chicken marsala with mashed potatoes. THANKS, TJ'S.
BREAKFAST CRUNCH WRAP SUPREME
Taco Bell has given us many great things in life: cheap, filling food when you're drunk; a life-long hatred of Chihuahuas; and the perfect method for turning a tortilla into a portable carrier of deliciousness.
This one takes more preparation and planning than the other two, but some days, oatmeal and granola just won't cut it. That's when these these packets of deliciousness come in handy.
My friend, Leela, sent me this recipe when I was moaning about my lack of good breakfast options, but I honestly used it more for the assembly directions than the recipe itself. Where they mixed just scrambled eggs, hot sauce, and cheese, I prefer to fill mine with eggs, sauteed onion and red pepper, hash browns, and sausage. (I start with six eggs and just kind of eyeball the rest of the ingredients to make it an even spread.)
Be sure to take a look at the helpful instructional video to master the perfect folding technique. Or to laugh at the horrible video graphics that Taco Bell tortures all its new employees with.
Once you've assembled you're wraps, I recommend placing on a cookie sheet to freeze, and then storing them all together in (you guessed it) yet another gallon Ziploc bag. For best reheating results, first microwave for 1-2 minutes and then finish in a toaster oven or panini press for a crispy exterior.
Happy breakfasting, folks.
It's July, and that means that a fresh batch of stuff from Birch Lane Kids. Check out a few of my favorite spreads from the newest catalog over at my portfolio (BLK now has its own dedicated section) and, if you're feeling young-at-heart, maybe shop for some adorable home decor.
Personally, I recommend:
Jungle Jumble Bedding Set: Deep in the heart of this jungle lives a posse of wild animals your child will love, all illustrated in a fun cartoon style. A dark blue abstract pattern on the reverse side allows for the option to completely change the look at a moment's notice.
Aim is True Bedding Set: This bedding set is a true bullseye when it comes to style. The comforter's abstract, arrow-inspired design pops in shades of cool aqua and warm goldenrod, and the reverse side features a coordinating pattern.
Hobbes Captain's Bed: A salute to those in need of some serious storage, the Hobbes Captain's Bed offers four drawers, two open cubbies, and plenty of underbed space that's easily accessible by a sliding footboard panel. Capped off by simple arched designs and spindle detailing, this bed is ready to take on clutter and look good at the same time. Aye aye, captain!
Pod Squad Curtains: A repeating pattern of whale silhouettes gives these curtains a cool, graphic look which incorporates pops of color into its neutral palette. Set of two.
USA! USA! Canvas: You can teach your kids about the 50 states by enduring a 224-hour road trip (plus flights to Alaska and Hawaii)…or you can use this map, printed on professionally wrapped canvas with fun, bright colors. Your sanity will thank you.
Stay Gold Cloud Wall Cubby: Your style forecast is cloudy with a chance of awesome when you add this cute wall cubby to your child's room. A black and white triangle print adds a graphic punch to the look, while the gold finish brings some metal to the mix.
Next up: I pitched in with the new DwellStudio catalog for Fall. Once it's been mailed, I'll have some pretty exciting stuff to share!
When I moved into my current apartment, I knew that one of the first things I needed to do was find a way to add more counter space and storage to the kitchen. If you don't recall, it used to look like this:
Don't worry, everything you need to know about is shown in the photo. That small strip of countertop where the sink is on the left? That's literally the only surface area in the entire room. Maybe satisfactory for two dudes who don't cook, but I knew it would be a problem for me. So I hunted down a coffee cart on Craigslist and a kitchen island at a garage sale, and those helped turn that depressing space into this:
That was about three years ago, and I LOVE that island. It's not really my style, but it's a total workhorse and there's no way I'd be able to feed myself without it. So, when I woke up to a forecast of crappy weather and absolutely nothing scheduled, I decided to refinish the top.
You know, as one randomly decides to do at 10:30 in the morning on a Saturday.
Some quick Googling confirmed that it's a fairly straightforward process involving my number one activity in the whole wide world: sanding! JOY. You can read the directions from a legit source here, but it basically boils down to: (1) sand with medium grit paper, (2) sand with fine grit paper, (3) sand with even finer grit paper (if you're fancy like me), and (4) wax on, wax off.
So I broke out the trusty power sander and got to work, not realizing until the dust began to fly that, maybe, I should have changed out of my pajamas first.
Here's what the top used to look like:
Lotta rings and water marks going on there, from before I added a protective bottom to my vintage tobacco cans.
Once everything was sanded down and smooth, I wiped away the sawdust and started in with the Feed-N-Wax. Not only is it good for the butcher block, but it makes the wood look pretty and smells like oranges.
And when I was all done, the kitchen island was back to looking shiny and new! Or, at least, as new as it was when I bought it used from some family in Jamaica Plain. MAGIC.
Whoop whoop! So there you go. Adrienne thinks this is "fancy," but as you can see, if a sometimes-idiot like me can do it, pretty much anyone can. (As long as you own a power sander. Which pretty much everyone should anyway. Oh, the FUN that comes with it!)
It only took a month and a half since the first real warm day of the season, but it finally feels like summer. And life since my last post has been decidedly busy, yet at the same time pretty boring (in my opinion). I didn't think any of it was worth blogging about...but I'm going to anyway. Sorry. Without further ado, a few things:Read More
The time has come to finally reveal what I was not-so-subtly alluding to in my last writerly post. Despite what my brother's friends assumed, I am most certainly NOT pregnant (how would that be job-related, guys?). Nope, the big (little) news is that Birch Lane Kids has officially launched!
When this project was first announced, I was a little wary. I don't have kids. None of my friends have kids. I don't even really like most kids. But it turns out that I spent very little time writing as if I had kids, and plenty of time writing as if I was a kid. And that is something I'm quite good at, so the whole thing was actually a blast.
The assortment is pretty small at the moment, but we're rolling out another catalog in July (the April one is in homes now; you can see some of my copy from it here), so expect the selection to keep growing. In the meantime, I'll keep on thinking up pun-tastic product names (somehow I got away with naming a new rug "Moves Like Zigzagger") and trying my best to argue against a complete onslaught of pink.