Friday, February 27, 2009

Happy Friday!

Hello dears! There is a birthday in the family this weekend, so I will be busily baking cupcakes. I'm also hoping to sneak in a few long walks. It sounds insane, but I am loving the gloomy weather. Usually I'm chomping at the bit for spring, but this year I want to hold onto winter just a little bit longer. Just to enjoy being out in my down vest, and snuggle up with a cup of coffee and watch the clouds.

heart on a fence

Isn't this sweet? I stumbled upon that little heart tucked into the fence in my parents' backyard last weekend. My nieces had been down to visit for Valentine's Day and I guess they got excited about the heart shaped craft punch + red construction paper. I wonder how many of these will pop up over the next few months in odd places.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Chalkboard, part two

A couple of you clever people asked where I am hiding the chalk for my new chalkboard. Well, it was a dilemma. I thought of cute cups, cut in half and somehow affixed to the door, I pondered a simple string, with chalk dangling from the end and I even started to sew a little bag that I would attach to the board itself.

Around this time, I decided to give up on the clever ideas and I just hot glued a tiny magnet to a piece of chalk. Done. It looks clean, and I'll never lose it. I think I can probably pull the magnet off when the piece of chalk is almost gone and re-use it. We'll see.


I wanted magnets for the chalkboard, but I couldn't settle for plain ones. I used up a few of my fabric scraps to make fancy ones.


These take approximately five minutes. Take something you want to cover (I used joiner's biscuits, which are little pieces of lightweight wood, just because we had them lying around, but you could use bottle caps or old POGS or anything that catches your eye) and cut out a piece of fabric in the same shape, but just slightly larger. Now do a quick stitch all along the outer edge of the fabric. It doesn't need to look good or be even because no one will see it.

Pull the two ends of the thread together to gather the fabric and tie it off. Now use a hot glue gun to attach a magnet to the back and you're all done. Easy, right?

*This tutorial is provided for personal use only. Please do not sell this tutorial or create items for re-sale using this tutorial. Tutorial may be re-published only with my permission.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Scones, any way you want them

The only thing that keeps me from making scones all the time is the waistband of my pants. They are so delicious, so refined, so quick to throw together, and so indulgently bad for you. Please don't make them if you are alone in the house, because you will be tempted to eat all of them and then you will hate me for at least a week while you struggle to button your clothes. Or do make them and then run around delivering precious packages of hot scones to friends and they will love you. Much better for everyone involved.


Scones (slightly modified from the currant cream scone recipe in the Tassajara Recipe Book - makes 8 good sized scones)

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
4 dried, pitted dates (original recipe calls for currants and really, any dried fruit will do)
1 or 2 tbsp sugar (depending on your sweet tooth)
5 tbsp cold butter, cubed
2 eggs
5 tbsp milk or cream
Zest of one orange
A few drops of vanilla

If you have a food processor: put the flour, salt, baking powder, dates and sugar in the food processor and buzz it around a couple of times.

Drop in the cubed butter and pulse a few more times, until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, zest and vanilla and pour it into the food processor while it is running. It should quickly combine into a rough dough.

Stop the food processor, scrape the dough out onto a floured surface and gently knead a couple of times until the dough comes together. Shape it into a circle about 3/4 inch thick, brush it with a the remnants of the egg/milk mixture and sprinkle a bit of superfine sugar over the top, if desired.

Use a large knife to cut the circle into 8 wedges and place them on an ungreased baking pan. Bake for about 15 minutes at 400 degrees, until the scones are golden brown on top.

If you don't have a food processor, you can sift the flour mixture and then add chopped dates. Cut the butter in with a pastry cutter and then gently stir in the wet ingredients.
The Tassajara Bread Book and the Tassajara Recipe Book are great resources if you are interested in bread making. They are sweet little paperback volumes complete with hippie poetry about the feel of dough beneath your fingers and very helpful hand drawn illustrations. (Obviously, the food processor modification to this recipe was mine, and I'm not sure the author would approve.) They give you plenty of information about technique, so I never feel lost when following the recipes.


Wait, did you catch that? It's my new tea cup!


Because scones require good tea, preferably served in a fabulous cup.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Keeping in touch

Living with an architecture student is a bit like living with a ghost, and my own busy schedule doesn't help. D and I can go for days without crossing paths, but we sense each other's presence in the apartment. While that sounds sweet, it is not very practical for things like reminding each other to pay the rent. Hence, the chalkboard you can't miss.



I mounted it on the inside of our front door and made it magnetic (a genius idea I got from Design Sponge). It used to look like this...

Frame, originally

Frame, originally, detail

All the frame needed was a scrubbing, a coat of primer and a couple coats of bright yellow spray paint. A quick trip to Home Depot got me a piece of wood cut to size (tip: look for the remnants section and see if you can get a sweet guy to cut it for you free of charge) and a piece of sheet metal. I was lucky because the frame opening is 12 x 24" and the sheet metal came in that size so I didn't have to deal with cutting it. My parents already had chalkboard paint, so I borrowed it and carefully painted several coats on the metal, sanding gently between coats for a smooth finish.

Total cost was around $20. If I'd had to buy the chalkboard paint, it would have cost another $5, but one can of that stuff can paint a whole lot of chalkboards so you should look into sharing with someone.

Finding a good frame is the key here. Go to thrift stores and look for wooden frames that are actually kind of ugly or over the top. Lots of carving is good. It might look really dated in dark wood, but it's going to look great once you paint it.

Cost breakdown:
Frame (from St. Vincent de Paul thrift store): $7
Spray paint (marigold shade from Painter's Touch line) + primer: $6
Wood cut to size: $0.51
Sheet metal: $6

*This tutorial is provided for personal use only. Please do not sell this tutorial or create items for re-sale using this tutorial. Tutorial may be re-published only with my permission.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Weekend + no shopping update (week 6)

I'm happy to say that resisting temptation was pretty easy last week. I am still not going into stores, because I can't completely trust myself with a sale rack, but I've managed to avoid online buying despite browsing. I don't even have any huge shopping dilemmas to share with you. You would think it gets harder as you go along, but it's actually easier than it was the first couple of weeks.

The weekend was lovely - overcast with just a bit of sun, not too warm, but nice enough to sit outside for a couple hours over coffee and do some serious people watching. The orange trees are in bloom, which makes the air smell heavenly.

orange tree

The poor apricot tree keeps getting fooled by our brief warm spells and thinks it's time for spring.

apricot blossoms

And the camillas are back in full force.


I also did a bit of baking - I'll share later this week.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Things that are making me happy right now

1. I got our manager to lower our rent* and now I feel like a hardcore negotiating bad ass. I actually did a little fist pump dance when I got off the phone with him. Yes, it did make my coworkers feel awkward.

2. The phrase "Have a sleep." It was heavily featured on Flight of the Conchords the other week, and now I can't stop saying it. I want to get back into my bed and have a sleep.

my bed this morning

3. Sweet Anne over at The City Sage did a give away and I won some fancy schmancy muffin liners! I can't wait to bake something special in them.

*I didn't just call him up and ask him to lower the rent. After reading all those NYT and WSJ articles about softening rents, I called around and got rent lists for apartments in the area, including one in our complex that is available, and then I wrote him a nice firm letter explaining that we could save a lot of money by moving but we would prefer to stay in our apartment (I also reminded him that we are great tenants). I asked for $100 off per month and he offered a $50 reduction and I took it. It might not sound like much, but that's $600 per year! One of my seldom mentioned obsessions is reading financial articles and then thinking about budgets and financial planning. Weird, right?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Almost Anthro

Way back in December I found myself coveting this pepper mill from Anthropologie. It's just so cheerful.

Picture from Anthro

I remembered that when I saw these guys in a thrift store for $2. They aren't quite as statuesque as the original, but they cleaned up nice.


The trickiest part was figuring out how to tape off the various parts I didn't want painted. I ended up putting pins inside the salt shaker, shoving cotton in there to keep them close to the surface and then taping off the opening, so as to keep any paint from getting inside.


Primer + teal spray paint (I used the Painter's Touch brand in Jade) and I have a sweet new set.


Psst...the Anthro pepper mill is on sale for $12.95, if you don't feel like mucking around with spray paint.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What a trip to Dubai gets me

Some Arabic CDs, special saffron curry powder, a fancy version of my Lipton tea, and Smarties (I don't care for M&Ms, but I love Smarties and you can't get them here).


A bit of woven fabric.


Oh, and this adorable little doll family that was originally intended for D's little brother. We quickly decided that we would appreciate it more. Don't worry - he got a giant Kinder egg thing and some other goodies.


And some amazing photos. (All credits to D)

A wandering camel out on the sand dunes

They got taken in by some people who cooked them a fabulous meal

The ceiling of the tent D slept in

Jealous? I know I am.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


It is gray and cold and drizzly today. I would be perfectly happy if I could stay home and read in bed. And I would be even happier if I were curling up under this blanket.

Photos are from Wallter Fold Bedding

The bedding is wool flannel and the stripes are actually contrasting overlock stitching, so it's textured. Yum.

Monday, February 16, 2009

No shopping update (week 5)

I powered through this last week without any major temptations to buy. Of course, I did receive some little gifts, and that was nice.

I'll admit that I purchased one thing, but luckily it was thrifted and thus doesn't break my shopping hiatus according to the rules I made up in the beginning. And, it was irresistible. P, you are completely to blame for this, but I kind of love you for it.

Pictures are from Thorwald Home

Seriously, how cool is it? It's a fortune telling vintage tea cup from the 1930s. I can't wait till it comes to live with me, at which point you will probably all grow sick and tired of seeing it photographed again and again. Check out the rest of Genevieve's blog and her new Etsy shop, Thorwald Home, to see her other amazing finds.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Have a lovely weekend!

Thanks for playing along with my Valentine's Day frenzy this week and I hope you all do something fun this weekend, either to celebrate the holiday or to make fun of it, as suits your preference. I like to do both, actually.

Of course, it's easy to celebrate when you get fabulous packages in the mail.

I participated in Amanda's V-day swap and received some pretty great stuff from Lauren. Homemade bath fizzies and a tiny pot of honey and the most awesome card. Yes, that card has a skyline cut out of a Japanese newspaper. It's like she already knew me when she made it.

Photos are Lauren's via Kidchamp, dorky heart embellishments are mine

And I guess D was feeling bad for living it up in Dubai while I have to go to work everyday, because a little package arrived for me from Etsy seller ellainaboutique and it contained both the hoodie and the tank top that I had been coveting! P.S. They are amazing and so soft and drapey.

Obviously I didn't wait until Saturday to open anything. Waiting is not my forte.

I'll leave you with a list of my favorite things to do to celebrate/mock.

1. Go for an evening walk past fancy restaurants and look for awkward couples who are clearly in the early stages of their relationship and felt obliged to go out even though they might not really be feeling it and now they are kind of uncomfortable. Feel infinitely superior.

2. Break out a split of champagne (or a bottle, depending on your alcohol tolerance) and toast yourself. Allow the champagne to take effect and dance crazily around your apartment.

3. Rent embarrassing movies and wallow on the couch while eating cupcakes. Deny this the next day. Or admit it. Whatever works for you. I find that coconut cupcakes are really the best for wallowing.

4. Order the cheapest Chinese take out you can find and have an Arrested Development marathon. Feel free to substitute your favorite show. (This is actually what D and I do, the years we actually manage to spend the evening together).

I think I'll be partaking of 1, 2 and 3 this year. Anyone else have brilliant plans?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Linzer hearts

These cookies are my Valentine's day tradition. They are very delicate, just a tiny bit sweet, and kind of adorable.

butter + flowers
The fresher your butter, the better these will taste, so it's worth indulging in a good brand

Linzer Hearts
(from The Book of Afternoon Tea, makes 20)

1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (I used vanilla)
1 3/4 cups flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Jam of your choice for the filling

Superfine sugar for dusting (optional)

1. Beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add egg and extract.

2. Sift together dry ingredients and stir into the butter mixture until a soft dough forms. (This will be fairly dry and also not very sweet - don't worry about it!). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate briefly before rolling out.

3. Cut out 20 large hearts (assuming you use a cookie cutter that is approximately 2 inches across) and then cut a smaller heart inside each one. Knead and re-roll the dough and cut out more large hearts, making a total of 20 whole and 20 with the centers cut out.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 - 12 minutes until the edges are just barely brown. Dip the hearts with the cut out centers in the superfine sugar. Spread the whole hearts with jam and then top each one with a cut out cookie.

linzer hearts + jam
They are much more colorful and cute in real life

*My beloved D40 is in Dubai with D, so I dusted off my first camera infatuation, SX 70. Sadly, the local camera store doubled the price of film when Polaroid announced it would be discontinuing the line. $20 for 10 exposures is a painful shock to someone who is happy to take 10 shots just to get a single usable one, but I'm still having fun with it.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Understated garlands

Has anyone else been loving all the garlands that have been popping up over the last year? Well, I'm a sheep.


Kindly ignore the reflected image of my messy apartment and focus on the garland.


Once again, I sacrificed some science journals. These were super easy to make. I printed out hearts on regular paper and then spray glued some journal pages on the back. Cut out around the heart outlines, punch a couple of holes in the top and string them all together with colored thread. I applied a dab of hot glue to the thread on the back of each heart, to keep them in place on the string, but you could also just knot the thread.

I'm liking the toned down nature of these decorations and D was thankful that I did not apply glitter to them (always a temptation for me). Plus, some of the hearts have fun stats tables on them! What says love like the annual data for red tailed deer mating?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Will you be my Valentine?

Thanks for the boot love yesterday, guys. I am bummed about breaking my shopping hiatus, but I feel good about the boots anyways and all your sweet comments helped.

On to V-day... yesterday I admitted that I love the holiday. It just makes me warm and fuzzy and not in a romantic sort of way. D and I don't do the fancy dinner or the gift giving or really anything at all. It just feels too forced, and we are the sort of people that end up making fun of each other instead. And this year, D is in Dubai studying Bedouin tents for a few weeks (I know, I know, lucky bastard) and he won't even be in town.

We do cards, though, because we love cards and make them for just about every occasion. I have some steep competition here, because D makes awesome cards. Witness this random assortment of cards and note that they are all made with lino cuts that he carved himself.

How insanely cute is that grinning eggplant?

Last year I made him this card. The claw is lino cut (by D actually, for a different project) and I added the red felt heart and the dripping blood. The inscription reads "you've got my heart."


Of course, I also send cards to all my family, every year. They might think it's a little strange, but I think they have fun getting them. This year, wildly excited at the prospect of my first Valentine's day with a sewing machine, I played around with stitches and colored thread.


These are simple flat cards and I used a paper punch to round the corners. I cut out hearts from my trusty outdated science publications and then spray glued them to the cards. I also printed out the lettering and mounted it on cardstock before affixing it to the cards. Then I just played around with stitching in coral and garnet. No two are exactly alike. These babies are in the mail as of this morning.

Am I weird? Do you send Valentine's day cards to friends and family?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Weekend + no shopping update (week 4)

My dears, I have a confession to make. I'm sure you know what's coming. My research last week turned into something a little more serious and I purchased the boots. I have plenty of justifications for myself (I've been wanting a pair just like this since fall, I will wear them for years to come, they are leather, they are made in Spain, the brand name means "poppy flower" in French, they went on sale and the sizes are disappearing at an alarming rate, round toed shoes are my fave and they might go out of style soon and I don't want pointy toed boots because they make my feet hurt) but I will just admit it gracefully and move on.

It was a thoughtful purchase and I am at peace with it, despite the exorbitant price tag. Read: I am squealing with delight inside and hoping against hope that they fit and I don't have to return them because I am madly in love with them already.

If you are trying not to buy anything, then please don't visit the Coclico website. It might actually kill you. Don't believe me? Check out these.


Oh, and the weekend was lovely.


Coming up this week - all Valentine's, all the time. I loooove Valentine's Day, but I realize some of you are skeptical. Just play along with me. I promise that there will be no soft focus shots of roses, no Hallmark poetry, and hopefully nothing else that triggers your gag reflex.

Friday, February 6, 2009


I was tagged by the amazing Mouse, and this one is actually pretty easy, even for lazy people like me.

Pick the fourth photo in the fourth folder on your computer (in my case, Flickr, because that is my back up system) and share it.


Hmmmm. Not very exciting, but it's a pretty image to leave you with on a Friday. It's a California native flower from my mom's garden. I wish I could tell you what it is, but the gardening gene was not passed on, apparently.

I also received a sweet blogging love award from the lovely Miss Aimee of Mostly Mod.

I know that I am supposed to pass these both along, but it's Friday and I just can't choose. My brain is tired. And I love you all. Feel free to participate if you are interested.

P.S. I got busy last night and re-designed the blog, so it looks a little bit different.

P.P.S. Next week is all about Valentine's Day, so I hope you're pumped.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Me, organized

I am a fanatical organizer/list maker. For the last several years, I've been carrying around steno pads in my purse and I have a moment of panic if I find myself without one when a thought comes to me. The downside is that the pages rip out, they are a little oversized and also completely disorganized. I decided I was due for an upgrade, but I didn't want to buy something, and I was hoping for a system that was personalized to me.

So I made one.

The cover is salvaged from an old scientific publication that I have lying around

There are sections for blog ideas, meal ideas, shopping lists, book and movie suggestions, finances (I have a compulsive habit of checking my balances in all my accounts and writing them down at least once per week), and random thoughts.


I drew up the designs in Illustrator (the pages are 4.25 by 5.5 inches, which gets you four pages to a standard sized piece of paper), cut everything out and and then did a simple binding using a 1/8" hole punch and some thick thread. The dividers were spray glued onto some thin cardboard to give them more stability. I could probably have done a better job but I'm too impatient once I get an idea for something. This will work nicely while I think about improvements.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Boots, deconstructed

Three weeks of no shopping and one major closet overhaul, and I have spent some serious time thinking about what my next purchases will be. I'm actually thinking in terms of investments, if that isn't too lofty a word to use. And I have come to some conclusions. Namely, buy very nice things, sparingly, after you've spent lots of time thinking about it.

I also now call my online shopping research, because it sounds much more investment-like. I've decided that my first major purchase will be a pair of leather boots. Ones that I will be able to wear for several years, with pants or skirts, which means they need to be pretty classic.


Free People Clermont boot ($548)
Frye Fiona Tall boot ($348)
Frye Adrienne Button boot ($398)
Coclico Obama boot (prices vary widely between stores, around $400 for this color)

The boot in the left corner is my inspiration boot and I've realized that I gravitate towards boots that have the same qualities. But at $548, I'm worried that it's a little exorbitant, even for an investment. I mean, it's not as if Free People are known for their high quality boots (are they?). If you can get a pair of Frye's for under $400, I'm a bit reluctant to shell out that much. So I have two pairs of Frye boots here (although I think number 2 might not be classic enough, as adorable as I think they are) plus one pair of Coclico's that are almost identical the to Free People boots but cost a bit less.

Here's the thing, the research is fun. And I think I'll be less likely to experience buyer's remorse, because I'll know that this was a carefully thought out decision. I'm not saying I'll give up my sudden shopping sprees, but I think I will be limiting them significantly once this experiment is over. The only issue I'm running into is wondering if these options will still be around in three months when my hiatus is over.

Boot opinions, people?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Carrot - bran muffins

I wish there was a better name for these. Bran muffins just don't sound that appealing. But I promise that these actually taste good, in a very healthy way. I make them pretty often, because they are so nice to have around when I'm running out the door in the morning and don't have time to grab breakfast because I got distracted taking photos instead of getting ready for work. What, that doesn't happen to you?


The secret is lots of shredded carrot. It makes the muffins incredibly moist. They are not very sweet, but that makes them an excellent companion to apricot jam or honey.


Carrot-bran muffins (heavily changed from the Bob's Red Mill package, makes 12)

1 cup wheat bran
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cups skim milk
1 egg
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 1/4 cup carrots, shredded (about 2 large carrots)
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp ginger
  1. Have oven pre-heated to 400 degrees. Prepare a muffin tin with liners or baking spray.

  2. Combine all dry ingredients and whisk.

  3. Add raisins and shredded carrots to the dry ingredients and stir well.

  4. In another bowl, whisk together all liquid ingredients.

  5. Mix everything together until the batter is just moist. Don't overmix or the muffins will be tough. The batter will be very thick. Spoon evenly into the muffin cups.

  6. Bake 15 minutes or until muffins rise and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Easy-peasy. You should be able to get these in the oven in under 15 minutes. They are super moist, so they will sort of crumble apart if you eat them when they are hot, but they are so good fresh out of the oven that I can never resist. I highly recommend them as an afternoon snack with a cup of tea. They are 130 calories apiece, if you're interested in that sort of information.


Monday, February 2, 2009

Weekend + no shopping update (three weeks)


The weekend involved a little bit of everything. Lucha Va Voom, which was amazing. Baking (recipe coming up later this week). Sewing, some successful, some not so successful. Oh, and lots of delicious sleeping.

I have to admit that last week was a bit difficult on the no shopping front. I felt like the retail world was out to get me. Did you see the Toast sale? Or the Rose and Radish sale? And I didn't even click over to the J. Crew sale, or the twelve million Bluefly sales they kept emailing me about. Here was my imaginary shopping cart at Toast. Note how restrained I was - only three items!

Scarf, shoes, and bag

The bag is a pretty serious temptation, but I have to say that not shopping makes things easier in general. I feel tempted but not conflicted and I don't waste time agonizing over whether or not to buy something. It's very freeing, in a way.

How are my fellow non-shoppers holding up? And did anyone who is shopping indulge in some sales last week? Let me live vicariously through you.