Friday, August 30, 2013

The Howling Fantods

Yesterday, this book materialized in my mailbox.

I have to admit I've never been a huge fan of David Foster Wallace. In general, as he said about others' writing, I rarely "heard the click" when I read his work, except in two pieces. And these two pieces are something wonderful. Here they are.

The first, "Consider the Lobster," which I actually read in the August 2004 issue of Gourmet when it came out. And I thought, then, what a magnificent piece of writing.

The second, I clicked open quite by accident on The Man Repeller one day.

Enjoy the water (if you can see it). I'll be enjoying Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story. ~A (aka j)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Lunch in Hungary

Today, lingering over lunch, I came across a lovely article in Food and Wine magazine's September issue, "A Vegetarian Feast in Hungary's Bakony Hills" by Sarah Copeland. It was plump with the most delicious words recalled from my childhood. Lekvar. Dumplings. Paprika. Kohlrabi. Parsley. Babushka. Goulash. Sour cream. These words, sharp with their flavor and scent, infused the still room in which I was sitting with the memory of my grandmother so instantly and so painfully I almost found it difficult to breathe. I could picture her, almost hear her in the kitchen, her knife rocking back and forth over the surface of her cutting board, her hands shifting the dough softly across the counter's surface. And my eyes welled up with tears.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Back to School Swag

Well, today the new school year begins again in earnest. Even though I've been doing this for over 10 years now, I still get a little nervous (less so, but there are butterflies). To take the edge off, I stopped by Target yesterday to get a little loot that would make me feel better about the transition from summer to fall (all scored for under $12.00).

Cute bags for pencils, gum, etc. from the dollar spot. 
New bag - $9.98 on clearance. They had several cute options, but this one won out. 
Pencils, also from the dollar spot. I have to admit,
they're kind of crappy in terms of quality, but super-cute in terms of style. 
You might also enjoy this post from last year, concerning the murky waters of the school. Wish me luck! Alice (aka jess)

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Ugly Mug

Dear readers, I have a problem. One entire cabinet in my kitchen (both sides, three shelves) houses coffee mugs of all shapes and sizes. Short, fat, tall, skinny, colorful, subdued, wordy, stoic. My husband continually asks me why we need so many. And then I buy more. Here are a few of my most recent acquisitions, instagrammed.

Suspect #1:
Suspect #2:

Suspect #3:

Suspect #4:
On another note, today is my tenth wedding anniversary. It seems just yesterday I was 18, wearing short blue jean shorts and a cropped gingham top, drinking a citrus Zima, when I first laid eyes on him. Covetously. Since I'm now 36, that means the Before Mike and After Mike segments of my life are equally balanced. Which just seems so weird.

My partner in crime. 
Much love. ~A

Thursday, August 22, 2013

New Leaves

"Leaves on Looking Up from the Ground"
Yesterday, my eldest daughter stepped onto the bus a third grader. This morning, I attended meetings that will funnel into the first day of classes next Tuesday. The long and winding days of summer, filled with sleeping in, writing, going to the pool, traveling, and general malaise, are a thing of the past.

The new school year, to me, is a better time of year to make resolutions than during the bitter month of January, when I typically feel like hibernating rather than recalibrating. September is sweet; the light grows crisper, the world assumes a new palette. It's funny: as things begin to wither and die, the world strikes me as born afresh. The sticky lushness of August evaporates, leaving behind an autumnal asceticism. The perfect time to turn over a new leaf (even if it is orange).

This year, the bad habits I have cultivated carefully over my first 36 years of life are starting to bite back. I am tired, heavier (I weigh now what I weighed the night I walked into the hospital to deliver my first daughter. Oof.). More importantly, I don't feel healthy, and it's time to change that. I've bitten the bullet and signed up for Weight Watchers, and vow to sleep more, schedule yoga and strength-training into my routine, and stress less. Wish me luck. Here's where I am right now. I'll keep you posted.

Please ignore the pile of laundry behind the curtain. 
Do you have any New {School} Year's Resolutions?

Monday, August 12, 2013

That Magic Moment

We're going to Disney World!! The perfect surprise (the girls had no idea until my mom and I dropped the Disney bomb this morning). Their smiles made my year. Wish us luck!! - Alice (aka jess) 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Peas Are Nature's Candy

Peas seem to be one of those vegetables that people either adore or despise, their love-loathe relationship with the tiny green pods usually beginning sometime in early childhood. When I was a kid, my Dad would try to impress upon us the appeal of the pea by telling us, every time one hit the plate, that "Peas are nature's candy." I, a Daddy's girl if there ever was one, gobbled up his rhetoric, developing early on a liking for even the mushy, rather gross peas you find in the can (I still like these by the way, salted). My husband, however, hates peas, and rolls his eyes when I roll out the old "nature's candy" line (much like when I tell him, every time I hear John Goodman's name, that I love John Goodman). That is, until he met a fresh shelling pea.

I mean, seriously, how pretty is the pea? She's like the dainty, prim virgin of the garden.
Last week, I made a Shelled Pea, Tomato, and Feta salad. It was a hit, even with my husband. Last night, I tried to recreate the pea magic, riffing on a salad that I have eaten at least twice a week since, well, I could eat solid foods, a Cucumber Sour Cream salad (I've long been intrigued by the ubiquitous nature of this salad, popping up in numerous cultures around the world, as raita or tzatziki, for example; our affiliation with this side salad derives from the Polish version). Let's call my new version Peas and Cukes with Sriracha Dill Sour Cream.
Nothing beats the smell of a fresh cucumber, sweet, liquidy, and delicious. 
1. Start by peeling and dicing two cucumbers. Add to bowl. Shell peas (as many as you would like, eyeball it, and add to bowl). Season the cucumbers and peas with a few cracks of sea salt and fresh pepper and toss.
2. The two secret weapons of this salad that bring it depth of flavor are dill and Sriracha (you know, that red chili sauce with the rooster on it).
Two of the most perfect things on the planet. And two of my weapons against my
husband in the battle of the pea, because he loves both. 
Roughly chop a handful of dill and add to bowl. Add Sriracha (how much depends on the level of heat you like; I encourage you to start with a small amount and then add more after tasting. It's also not really about the heat level in this cool salad, but that slight chili flavor you get from the Sriracha).
Here's where you should be. It looks pretty already. 

3. I think the easiest way to make the dressing for this salad is to do it right in the salad itself. I add a dollop of sour cream (again the amount depends on the amount of veg in the bowl; for me, it's usually two and a half spoonfuls, using a large mixing spoon). Then a drizzle of honey, the juice of 1/2 a fresh lemon (along with some lemon zest, if you're feeling zesty). And stir. The water that leaches out of the cucumbers after you add the salt helps the dressing form, but I would suggest if you are going to make this salad far in advance to salt and drain your cucumbers before adding them, so that your dressing doesn't become runny. I like to make the salad right before we eat, however, so that most of the juice is still in the cucumber itself.
4. Mix it all together. And eat.
This picture doesn't do this salad justice. I could eat it every night. 
 Tomorrow, I have a huge surprise planned.  Stay tuned!!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Chalkboard Spray Paint (WARNING: This Stuff is Addictive)

I've been a chalkboard spray-painting fool this past week. While I was spraying the $1.99 tray I bought at Goodwill, ripping off an idea I got from Max & Erma's, my daughter said, "Why don't you spray-paint the beer bottles?" (leftover from our pizza party ... Sam Adams Summer Sampler = golden, btw). Initially, I said, "Why would I do that?" And then I saw two empty wine bottles sitting next to the case of empty beer bottles, and I thought, "Why wouldn't I do that?"

So, here are my latest spray-paint projects from this week. The first, inspired by Miss Maggie's offhand comment, is currently being used as a bracelet holder in the bedroom.

Basically, strip the labels off of the bottles, scrub them up, and spray away (in quick short bursts to avoid drips). 
I think they would also make cute table markers for a wedding or party, and I plan to use them to create centerpieces at our annual Trick-or-Treat Party (see last year's shindig here).

The second, my original project, is the chalkboard tray inspired by the decor at Max and Erma's. Right now, it's welcoming guests. I'm in the hunt, however, for other cheap trays to paint as well, which I plan to use for the Mad Hatter's Tea Party Birthday celebration we are throwing for the girls.

This one, as simple as spraying the tray and watching it dry. My kind of project. 
While I'm at it, I'll also share the headboard I picked up at Goodwill last week for $9.99. It was scratched and had ugly brass knobs, but a coat of flat white, and it's pretty again (to use a Nicole Curtis quote).

I refuse to iron my bedding. Just. can't. do. it. But hey, it's comfy;). 
Ah, the wonders of spray-paint. It's amazing how easily it can transform things.

Friday, August 9, 2013

A Makeover (Changing Our Lipstick) ...

Sometimes, you need to put on a new pair of shoes. The Owl's Skull got some spanking new kicks for this next year of school. Come check her out.

Door Knobs and Drawer Pulls (A Character Study) ...

As Andy Warhol once said, sometimes "You need to let the little things that would ordinarily bore you suddenly thrill you." On that note, here are a few of my favorite door knobs and drawer pulls from around the house.

I bought this one a long while ago at Anthropologie and kept it sitting on my desk.
I knew its future home would emerge one day. 
This one looks like it has a minuscule galaxy swirling madly inside it.
Lost drawer pull=new life for an old dresser. 
From the antique "sink" in our bedroom. 
All of the doorknobs in the house (built in 1936) look like this.
They remind me of the details of a classy old coupe. Also, I know I could
polish them, but I like them weathered. 
From the dresser in our dining room.
I have admired these drawer pulls since I was a little kid,
when it was housed in my brother's bedroom. 
The latch on the corner cabinet my mom salvaged out of an old basement
and my grandfather restored. 
The pressed copper pulls on the piece my father made for my wedding day. 
Do you have a favorite drawer pull or doorknob filled with nostalgia? Or an obsession with simple objects that strike you as exceptionally beautiful?