Friday, September 19, 2014

House Hunting Update

We haven't found one.



Hahaha...pretty anticlimactic, right?

We've probably looked at about 12 houses and of course, peeked inside countless homes virtually on various MLS sites. Some have had great potential; once I looked past the hideous ancient cabinets and business office berber carpet, I could start to picture the kitchen of my (realistic) dreams or the perfect spot for a mini painting studio.

But there's always something, isn't there? The funky bump in the roofline that looks like it might require a roof replacement. The HVAC that looks older than me. The super scary flood plane map that shows the backyard might be at risk. There's been a LOT of sighing happening over here, folks.

I wish I could share pictures of some of the insane things we've seen, but I do want to respect the privacy of the homeowners. But just for giggles, here's some of the descriptions that have helped us remember which house is which:

  • The Navajo living room
  • The Packers/Detroit Red Wings/Cincinnati Reds/Dolphins fan house
  • The Septic Plug Yard
  • The Bear-Themed Bathroom
  • The Happy Hour "Gazebo"
  • The Business Park House


It's certainly an adventure! I think the hardest part is balancing the conflicting emotions of:

a) Wanting to find THE house and waiting to see if you get THE feeling in one of them...
b) Trying to remember location is the most important thing, even when every house in a good location is meh
c) Knowing it could very well take months but...
d) Also knowing there is no perfect house, and the housing supply isn't going to be unlimited.

How about you guys? Do you have any house-hunting horror stories? Tales of when you KNEW you'd found the one? I'd love to commiserate with you!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sunday Best v.218

Street art by Theresa Himmler

Well, whoops! I totally forgot to post this earlier today. I've spent almost every night this week cutting out pictures for collages (a work project), so I've been pretty unplugged. My hands are cramped from cutting! I'm anxious to get through this week to get to our trip to Ocracoke for the second year in a row. I'm so, so pumped. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Wine Club: East Coast vs. West Coast

Last week, the East Coast and West Coast threw down in a way they haven't since we lost Biggie and Tupac (RIP). We pitted varietals against each other in an epic showdown for Wine Club! I hosted and prepared an admittedly strange combination of foods that struck me as particularly West Coast or East Coast.

We agreed to pit cabernet sauvignons and rieslings, because they're basically two of the only varietals that would give each side of the country a fair shake. We had:
  • Souverain North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon: A smooth California cab sav with notes of vanilla and mocha, along with the fruity tones of blackberry and cherry. I really liked this one!
  • Biltmore Estate Cabernet Sauvignon: A slightly fruitier varietal...very good, but I personally felt the Souverain had more depth of flavor. The Biltmore has a very nice finish, however.
  • Millbrandt Vineyards Riesling: This Washington state wine has flavors of peach, apple and key lime with a "pronounced minerality," according to the makers. It was crisp and refreshing!
  • Rapidan River Dry Riesling: For those of you who don't love a super sweet Riesling, this Virginia wine is for you! Its sweetness is balanced by acidity, making it crisp but still super drinkable.
  • Oliver Strawberry Honey Wine: This one was a just-for-fun dessert wine Erica brought from Indiana. It's super sweet but super delicious. The website recommends mixing with ginger ale to make a spritzer for enjoying poolside...GREAT idea.
  • Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel: This is a great Wine Club fall standard; it's fruity, spicy and oaky and perfect with spicy food!

To bring some West Coast flavor to our gathering, I made this delicious chicken avocado salad, which was delicious packed into some pitas. I have no idea how it would keep overnight, but when served fresh, it's super good!

I also staged a West Coast-East Coast cheddar throwdown, with Oregon's Tillamook smoked cheddar taking on Finger Lakes champagne cheddar. Both delicious, but super different flavors!

I couldn't resist buying a California roll at my local Fresh Market. It's in the name!

And for East Coast, I'm not sure why, but Italian food felt like the way to go. I made my baked gnocchi with sausage sauce and it was delicious! 

All in all, I think I would say the West Coast wines were slightly better, but the East Coast certainly held its own! Ashleigh had a funny story about shopping for her wine: her salesperson at Total Wine tried to talk her out of even trying to find an East Coast cabernet sauvignon. He said there is no competition! And there you have it. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sunday Best v. 217


You'll note half of my links are about Joan Rivers. I loved that brassy old broad so much, and if you haven't seen her documentary, queue it up! The world is a little wimpier today without her straight talk. 
  • What it was like to work with Joan Rivers.
  • An amazing profile of the comedienne.
  • Her 50 best jokes.
  • And the details of her pitch-perfect funeral. We should all be so lucky!
  • I've been so touched by the stories discovered around the world by Brandon of Humans of New York as he travels with UNICEF.
  • An absolutely gorgeous IKEA hack.
  • My main man Sam Smith delivers a gorgeous cover of "Fast Car".
  • How helicopter parents are ruining college kids. This is no joke!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

New Art in the House!

It's been a while since we hung up a new piece of art, but this week we were excited to hang a commissioned piece by Kelsey Witt, a local artist whose work is currently on exhibit at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center. I loved one of her bigger pieces and she offered to adapt it to a smaller size, which was great. It ended up in our bedroom because it's the most neutral room in our home.

But I'm secretly hoping that when we buy a house, I can work more of a color scheme around it! I think it would be perfect in a girly office or even a good pop in the foyer. Like, BAM, you're in MY house!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday Best v. 216

"How Do You Love Me," by Mac Conner, going on exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York this fall.

Well, today was our very first day of looking at houses. It was wild...it's sort of crazy to go into people's houses and trying to picture your stuff there. Especially when the houses are still full of their stuff! That's when it takes an almost superhuman imagination to wipe it all away and just see the rooms for what they are. It's certainly going to be an adventure.

Friday, August 29, 2014

My Grandpa's New York

 There was a commercial a few years ago that showed a grandson driving with his grandmother to her childhood home that used to make me weep, and the idea stuck with me. I think most of us can agree our childhoods form a huge percentage of who we become and yet most of us have rarely seen where our parents or grandparents grew up. I decided I wanted to see my Grandpa's New York, so on Sunday, he graciously showed off his old neighborhood. It was fun to have a visual to all the stories I've heard for so many years, and also to hear new stories!

He grew up in the area now known as Manhattan Valley on the Upper West Side, a few blocks south of Columbia University. The area was mostly Irish when he was a child, but by his teens, had an influx of Puerto Ricans and Cubans. He basically lived "West Side Story," and was telling me all these crazy stories about turf wars and gang rumbles. Needless to say, when he became a father, he decided it was time to move to the Burbs. And now of course, the neighborhood is starting to become gentrified and it seems impossible to believe he once paid $100 a month for a seven-room apartment!

 He showed us the church he attended for most of his youth, where he was married and my mom was baptized...

 He showed us where his stoop used to be, and taught us the whistle he used to signal his friends in the building...

 And he showed me the old church gym where he used to dominate in basketball!

 We ended up having a spontaneous brunch at a charming restaurant called The Ellington, in a building he says used to be a candy store (he said EVERY building used to be either a candy store, dry cleaners or bar).

 The decor was adorable.

 Both Ashleigh and I noshed on the chicken sandwich, with cheddar, lettuce, vanilla grilled onions and chipotle mayo. I will admit, the vanilla onions sounded amazing, but in practice they tasted like grilled fennel and it threw off the flavor of the chipotle mayo. But otherwise, it was delicious!

 After lunch, we went to the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, the fourth largest Christian church in the world. It's HUGE and majestic. Papa said he used to come there for concerts and I was dying to hear someone sing!

 I mean, the light from the windows was AMAZING.

 Not everyone agreed the church was the best place for an art installation, but I loved seeing Xu Bing's "Phoenix," a pair of phoenixes made of found materials. Churches make amazing art venues.

 The hanging lights at the front reminded me of Harry Potter for some reason! Comparing it to a book about wizards is probably sacrilegious to say.

We finished the day at a cemetery in Queens, where we saw the graves of my Papa's aunt, uncle and mother. I'm so happy we took the time to relive his childhood, and to know that I can now tell the stories and give the tours to future generations. If your grandparents are living, ask them to show you where they grew up! You'll hear stories you've never heard, gain perspective and maybe walk away knowing them better than you ever did.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

NY Day: Punch Brunch, Pippin & DBDG

On Saturday, Ashleigh and I ventured into Manhattan to reunite with our New Yorker loves! We kicked the day off right with Punch Brunch at Millesime, a brasserie-inspired restaurant in midtown. 

For $32, Punch Brunch includes unlimited punch! We ordered two varieties to share: Lemon Rosemary Fizz and Elderflower Blueberry. The lemon one was particularly delicious.

Pro tip: Be sure to order some food with substance, otherwise you might go a little overboard on punch. Ashleigh and I both ordered Croque Monsieur, a classic French ham and cheese sandwich topped with bechamel sauce and more cheese!

At one point, Ashleigh felt like we needed to consume more food to soak up some of the alcohol, so she asked if they had any rolls. The waitress misheard her and brought us a punch BOWL. Hilarity ensued, but eventually we got a basket of pastries.

We wanted to see a show, but we aren't millionaires, so we wanted to try to score a deal. We showed up to the Music Box Theater at about 9:45 a.m. to get rush tickets to see Pippin. We managed to get three seats together, for about $37 each. Not bad! Then, when we got to the theater, we saw why our seats were available...they were in the FRONT row. I'm talking below the actors' crotches, beside the piano player, practically on the stage FRONT row. I immediately thought, "oof this is going to give me vertigo."

But, I'm happy to report it was really fun! Seeing it that up close made us feel weirdly connected to even the chorus people because we could really see their faces. We also had a few moments of honest-to-goodness interaction; there was no doubt they could see us as well as we could see them!



After the show, we stopped into my favorite store, ABC Home. I can't afford anything in there, but it's always a great place to get inspired. This display of Astier de Villatte pottery just about killed me.

We finished the night with a fun dinner reunion at DBDG Kitchen & Bar, an ode to American taverns from famed chef Daniel Boulud. The menu has delicious takes on hearty fare, from spaghetti with lemon ricotta to an entire selection of house-made sausages to a variety of burgers. Everyone said their food was delicious, and the big booth was perfect for our group of six high school and college friends!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Grounds for Sculpture, or Art Geek Paradise!

This past weekend, my bestie Ashleigh and I ventured north to visit my grandparents and see our friends. On Friday, we went to one of my new favorite places ever: Grounds for Sculpture.

The sculpture attraction was created by Seward Johnson, a sculpture known for kitsch who also happened to be a Johnson & Johnson heir. Financial freedom lends itself to creative freedom, and the result is a place that is pure corny fun! The gardens are delightful, and feature sculptures modeled after famous people, every day people and — my favorite — famous works of art. Here are some shots of us having too much fun jumping into favorite artworks:

 Van Gogh's Bedroom (it reminded me of Blues Clues!)

 Renoir's The Boating Party

 Edouard Manet's Les Dejeuner sur L'herbe (clothing optional)

 Hanging out under Marilyn's skirt!

Sharing a hula hoop with a little girl. 


After our photo-taking odyssey, we headed to the Mediterranean Chateau, a Portuguese restaurant with the best dang dry rub ribs ever. They deserve a plug for sure!

It was a great fun day, and for $15 adult admission, completely worth the trip to Grounds for Sculpture. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Red Carpet Review: Emmys 2014

I was exhausted from my trip to New York and New Jersey (more on that later), so I completely missed the red carpet while I was napping. As a result, it's entirely possible there were people who looked horrible and wonderful that I just straight up never saw. All in all, I felt as I always do that originality has suffered a bit from the presence of stylists (how else to explain the endless parade of red gowns?), but it also means everyone looks at least decent. Here are the highs and lows as I see it:

BEST DRESSED

 Allison Williams has shown pitch perfect taste since her first foray into red carpet fashion; I'm sure it helps when Dad is perennially listed on the International Best Dressed List. I loved her choice of this classic, yet youthful Giambattista Valli gown. The shape colors call to mind Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina, but the acid yellow sash keeps it edgy and current. Pretty and simple studs were the right choice for accessories.

 I love when a star and a designer have a true working relationship. Julianna Margulies and Narcisco Rodriguez have been kicking it since her ER days, and this gown was a fruitful result of their long working relationship. It started with a great slinky fit, then added interest with the details of the beading, the sexy back (not shown) and it looked great on television. I give it an A plus plus!

I thought Lizzy Caplan's Donna Karan gown was the perfect dress for her character: strong, sexy, appropriate but still teasing. I love her accessories of the bracelet, ring and dark nails and her hair and makeup game was strong, too. You've come a long way, Janis Ian!

 Praise the ladies at Marchesa who seem to have finally solved the riddle of how to celebrate Christina Hendricks' curves! Many designers have failed to rise to the task, saddling her with epic fit problems, terrible colors, unflattering ruffles and who knows what else. This looks great, and I like the gold accessories and sexy, tousled hair.

 January Jones loves a dress with volume, and loves to play with the high-low hemline. We've seen it many times before, and on a night when seemingly everyone wore red, I almost wish this was violet or something. But, this is one of the best dresses she's ever worn and she doesn't even look entirely miserable like normal! So I'm giving this gown its due.

 I wasn't in love with her hair or make-up, but I did really like the architectural quality of Kate Walsh's Stephane Rolland gown. Not everyone can pull off Big Bird yellow, but I liked the pop of color.

 Laverne Cox's nomination was historic, and I love that she dressed for the moment! Her Marc Bouwer gown was angelic and classic, with really beautiful hair and makeup. She was just glowing.

Lucy Liu didn't pull out all the stops in this simple Zac Posen draped gown, but I thought it looked gorgeous on TV and had great movement. She looked confident and pretty.

Most Improved

 Julia Roberts was looking a little rough for about 90% of last year's awards show circuit...it was almost like she'd been out of the game for so long, she forgot how to play. But she totally focused on her assets in this lovely and fun Elie Saab, highlighting her lovely legs while still seeming completely in line with her usual preference for glamorous simplicity.

 Remember when Kristen Wiig was nominated for everything the year "Bridesmaids" came out and wore dishwater beige dresses everywhere? Yeah, that sucked. She's still clearly a little color-shy, but I thought she looked super California chic in her white Vera Wang gown and her new blonde choppy bob.

 Zooey always wears kind of weirdly unflattering or uninteresting dresses. This Oscar de la Renta wasn't a revelation by any means, but I thought it was a step in the right direction.

I think this is the prettiest and most elegant Melissa McCarthy has ever looked and it bears noting that this is one of the only times she didn't design the dress herself. This gown is by Marchesa, and I like that they are clearly not afraid of dressing ladies of all shapes and sizes.

Worst

Oh, Lena. Where to begin? I actually love the construction technique of her fluttery Giambattista Valli skirt...I loved the versions in sky blue and chartreuse that he sent down the runway. But this ombre effect reminds me a little of...well...menstruation. And the pairing with an incredibly unflattering pale pink shirt negated any of the skirt's loveliness. And I CANNOT abide this platinum pageboy hairsdo. That's a big nope for me.

Katherine Heigl has a reputation for being a total piece of work beeyotch to work with, and of course acts like she's been touched by an angel, so in a way this nightie from Disney's Evil Stepmother lingerie collection might actually be perfect. This seemed much more likely to be worn by Ellen Burstyn than by Katherine Heigl, who is supposed to be having a major I'm BAAAAAACK TV moment to promote her new NBC show.

I used to feel like Kerry Washington's fashion game was so strong, but the more confident she gets, the more I think she flops. I pretty much hate everything about this Prada gown, from its unflattering sparkly seams to its Flintstones Push-Up color to the peekaboo Tina Turner costume underneath. Her limp hair didn't help, nor did the blue-tone smoky eye make-up. 

I love love love Mindy Kaling. I follow her on Instagram, and 90% of the time she looks fierce as hell. But this Kenzo gown just did nothing for her. It made her look super short, eliminated her waist, didn't move particularly well and had super weird lines. You deserve better, Mindy!!

And last but not least, a woman who clearly has been too busy popping out babies to even know who Stephen Colbert is. Gwen said she was channeling Donatella Versace in this Atelier Versace dress, and she certainly nailed the Real Housewife of New Jersey look. None of this is particularly offensive (I'd probably love it on Gwyneth Paltrow), but it wasn't particularly good either.