Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Mom Visit: Bingo, Deli & Daffodils

I had a great visit with my mom this weekend. Since she doesn't get to come very often, we decided to roll out the red carpet and have a couple days packed with fun!

It started off on a great note because the painting I commissioned of my mom arrived at the same time she did, so she got to have fun opening it in person!

We headed out to The Bier Garden in Portsmouth for delicious, fatty, dense German treats like a schnitzel sandwich on a pretzel bun with spatzle, chicken cordon bleu sandwiches and Sean's favorite...

 Fleish kugle...a fried meatloaf concoction that is tasty but a LOT of food. It was delicious!

We got up bright and early on Saturday morning for a new adventure: real, serious BINGO. If you like surreal experiences and people-watching, this is a must at least once in your life. We ventured out to the Bingo Palace at 9:30 a.m. to get in on the first round of games, which starts at 10 a.m. sharp. It moves FAST and it is seriously a great way to test your powers of observation, memory and reflexes.

None of us were winners, but we had great fun!

After our Bingo adventure, we helped my mom connect with her Jersey roots at the Route 58 Delicatessen. She devoured a roast beef sandwich that had her in love at first bite, while Ashleigh tackled these INSANE Sabrett's hot dogs topped with pastrami and corned beef.

I had the Dumbrowski, a combo of two Sabrett's dogs (mine were topped with saurkraut and Russian dressing), chips and a Doctor Brown's cream soda. It was so, so Jersey deli good.

From there, we headed to Ghent for a matinee at The Naro, then had a tasty dinner at Luna Maya. It was an exhausting day, but so fun!

On Sunday, we spent a few hours wandering through the galleries of the Chrysler Museum, where my mom's favorite piece was this ballerina by Degas.

I'm a sucker for the bright Frank Stella rainbows. We spent the rest of our time thinking about my future landscaping and gardening adventures.

Before my mom hit the road, I had to make sure to give her a good send-off, so I made my lemon thyme pancakes with lemon curd and potato rounds.

We went out and looked at my garden and I decided to snip the daffodils that didn't perk back up after the rain, finally plopping them in my bird vase from Table Seven in Norfolk. It's the first time I've been able to use it for its intended use! It's making the living room so cheery.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Sunday Best v. 239

Frida Kahlo, in her garden.

Welp, I missed Sunday while showing my mom around and then ended up sleeping half of today because I'm trying to kick a cold's ass. So, enjoy my Sunday Best as a late Monday night or Tuesday distraction!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Chardonnay and She-Crab Soup

That right there is a silver tray of grilled cheese sandwiches, so you know this was a good night! For Wine Club this week, Ashleigh hosted Chardonnay and She-Crab Soup Night (She-Crab soup not pictured, but it was proclaimed "the best ever" and you can get it at Mannino's). If you've followed along on our wine-drinking escapades, you know Chardonnay is decidedly NOT a wine club fave, but we were pleasantly surprised to find we really liked some of the wines!

Ashleigh made a selection of grilled cheese sandwiches that were all delicious: a classic American cheese sammie, a caprese version and a ham and cheese with pineapple jam, an inspired choice that was totally great.

Ooey gooey goodness.

Here's the line-up of the Chardonnays we sampled:

  • Chalkboard Chardonnay: I picked this bottle up at Kroger and actually quite enjoyed it! It's a smooth Chardonnay, not oaky at all, with tropical notes and hints of vanilla and spice. 
  • Belle Ambiance Chardonnay: This Chardonnay's description says it has notes of "lemon zest, honeysuckle, toasty oak, apples, pears and marshmallows." What? But hey, it was good!
  • Luc Pirlet Chardonnay: This was a legit Chardonnay from France and had the most traditional flavor. It was unoaked (our preference), but was a little dry for my taste. I'm willing to bet legit wine drinkers probably love this and would make fun of my unsophisticated palate!
  • Estancia Chardonnay: This was my favorite, with strong hints of honey and pineapple. I went back for a second glass on this one.

  • FJ Serra Chardonnay: Another smooth, drinkable Chardonnay with strong notes of honey that I really liked.

Now that we found Chardonnays we liked, I predict our Wine Club will be undergoing an identity crisis! In the meantime, we're getting pumped for our upcoming family-style Italian night, complete with Chianti.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Living Room's New (yet old) Couch

When last we checked in on the living room, it was sporting spiffy new shelves and a pair of school bus-yellow armchairs. I have about a million items on my current wish list for the house, but I've been preoccupied with wanting to get a couch in here so that I could feel ready to have folks over for dinner and drinks in there. BUT since I do have a million items on my wish list, I was hoping to snag something cheap for the time being.

And after a couple months of haunting Craigslist only to see the same brown leather-and-suede Value City couch 500 times, I finally found a contender! We went and picked up this Cinderella-blue velvet 1970s straight-outta-grandma's couch yesterday. It was $100, is insanely comfy, matches our painting perfectly and I love its low profile and clean lines. It's a little granny, but I'm hoping the sorely needed rug I'll find someday soon will bring it all together. I also want to have a little fun with throw pillows.

Another view. I was a little nervous about the color, but it really does complement the painting quite well! We had a bit of an adventure going to pick it up...let's just say I'm not the best at making quick and clean u-turns in rented cargo vans.

The yellow and blue theme of the living room seemed to carry through the rest of the day...I went out to see what was new in the garden and the daffodils have popped. Their cheerfulness is so welcome!

And in preparation for a work event, I sat down with a pack of pretty blue origami paper and taught myself how to make cranes so that I can now do it without any instructions. I'm betting I'll remember how to do it for about a week before I totally make room in my brain for something else.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sunday Best v.238

We have another house guest this weekend! We're getting in some serious couch potato time and it's been sorely needed. Tomorrow we pick up a new item for the house from Craigslist...I'm excited!

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Best $60 I Ever Spent

I recently made the best spending decision I think I've ever made. I took advantage of a special "sale" being offered by a local artist named Clayton Singleton, who said that for a window of a couple weeks, he would accept portrait commissions for about $60.

All you had to do was PayPal him the money and send him a picture of the painting's subject, along with a list of the person's defining characteristics. He would then choose an adinkra symbol to match the person's essence. Adinkra are symbols used in Ghana much the same way Egyptians used hieroglyphics; each adinkra has a greater meaning and is used in traditional art and textile designs.

I see so many articles online about getting "affordable" art and they usually include prints of paintings or photographs, torn pages from magazines or calendars, small pictures blown up to big sizes or creatively framed mementos. I love ALL those ideas, but I'd like to advocate for the idea of also seeking affordable art that is handmade by a living, working artist in your community. It's so special to see a piece of artwork every day that was created by a person you've met or whose work you've seen where you live.

I would say most of my artwork is affordable, but most of it also is one-of-a-kind. I'm happy to have supported the artists, and doubly happy to have all these reminders of this period in my life when I've worked so closely with the local art community.

In this particular instance, I opted to send Clayton one of my favorite pictures of my mom, a snapshot her mother took when she was backstage getting ready for a ballet performance in the late '70s. I have a weakness for paintings of ballerinas, and I thought it would be so special to commission a painting of my own mom. Well, when Clayton posted this progress image on Facebook, I was blown away and my mom was REALLY stunned. I'm pretty sure I've got brownie points for at least half a year off that one!

But beyond that, I'm really amazed at how $60 (the same amount I'd easily spend during one trip to Target) purchased something that's truly priceless to me. Having this portrait is so special, and I can only hope it will someday hang in the home of my great-great grandchild. It's the kind of thing that hopefully becomes an heirloom, and definitely something I will treasure. That's the kind of affordable art everyone should spring for just once!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Yard Work-out

Ladies, are you looking to work those glutes and upper thighs well before swimsuit season? Have I got a tip for you! Get a huge ass yard. If that doesn't work, find a friend with a big yard and volunteer to help with yardwork. Because let me tell you, I spent about six hours this weekend working on our yard for the first time and I'm wincing every time I sit down from all the muscle aches in my butt. It's better than squats, and more productive!

When we moved in back in December, the once-pretty bright green hostas had turned to yellow and disgusting. Someone recommended I cut them back in late November (too late!) and I was so preoccupied with moving in, painting, getting hardwood floors, doing the holidays and beyond that December stretched into March and the next thing I knew, I had raised beds full of dead reeds and piles of icky leaves that looked like giant moth's wings. Gross.

So even though I'm well past the period when it probably would have really made a difference, I took advantage of the good weather this past weekend and headed out there with my brand new gardening tools and got to work trimming the reeds down to about 2 inches above ground and pulling out all the dead leaves. It was surprisingly aerobic! I predict most of my tanning and exercise will be happening in the yard this summer.

And I even have these surprises waiting to bloom...I'm betting daffodils, but who knows? It might be tulips.

When we had our hardwood floors installed, Sean kept himself busy by filling 12 bags with leaves from our front yard. But we never tackled the backyard until Monday and WHOO BOY was that a chore. After four hours of raking and bagging, we filled 17 bags and the yard is still covered with pinecones and other natural detritus. Welcome to home ownership!

We love the amount of space in our yard but find it very intimidating. Landscaping isn't just challenging from a planning and maintenance perspective; it's expensive! To add to the intimidation factor, we learned fairly quickly that our yard has several dips that form what we're calling the Kennedy Great Lakes. Drainage is an issue, and will have to be resolved before we ever make any serious investments in landscaping.

With that in mind, the plan for this first spring and summer is to see what pops up (I think we're in for a lot of surprises!), learn the basics of maintenance and care, and experiment with some container gardening to at least establish some good habits and gauge how much sun each area gets. In the long-term, I can imagine a few great garden "rooms" back there...possibly some nice spots to read or relax, an extra little patio for a firepit or raised beds for veggies. But first, we need to get a lawn mower.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Sunday Best v.237

St. Paddy's Day always makes me wish I were back in Ireland! We haven't been on a "big trip" in about three years and I'm feeling so itchy, but of course, our bank account is still in recovery mode from buying a house and installing hardwood floors. Grown-up life is so tough sometimes! But at least we have fun links to pass the time:
  • Andrew Keegan is now a crystal-peddling guru.
  • This is a LONG video, but a super cute proposal.
  • How children become narcissists (hint: it's definitely their parents' fault).
  • Real science! Dudes actually can't remember anything because they are raised differently than girls.
  • The most accurate list of first crushes I've ever seen. 
  • I read the book Serena and was so pumped about the movie and apparently it went way off the rails. 
  • Before they were stars: Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell star in a Fabio sketch.
  • A heartbreaking article from a dying 37-year-old man. His message: don't discredit the joy you bring others.
  • This mom tells it like it is: if a girl tells a boy she's not interested, RESPECT.
  • There will now be a Cards Against Humanity app. It almost makes me a little sad! It's always something to look forward to when you see friends.
  • What it's like to have Kim Kardashian's nails. (hint: you can't do anything.)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Operation First Houseguests Complete!

Up until about two weeks ago, this room was full of boxes and the mattress and box spring were standing, propped up by box towers, diagonally in the middle of the room. It was impossible even to get into the room and I definitely was using it as a place to dump anything that hadn't been unpacked. And then everyone told us they could visit in March (!!!). 

So, we scrambled to move the boxes, unpack what we could, put the bed together and try to make the room work despite the fact I desperately wanted to have removed the lighthouse border by now. When I posted this pic on Facebook, everybody loved the navy walls, but I'm not sure we'll be able to keep them in tact once we start scraping away at the border...it definitely makes the paint chip on the textured walls. So we'll see what happens with that. I still want to make a headboard for this room, replace the lamps and hang my silhouette collection again.

Our good friends Holly and Arthur were in town and we were determined to pack their bellies with delicious (albeit unhealthy) grub from some of our favorite spots. We pre-gamed for a visit to a brewery with a round of Privateer sandwiches (root beer-braised brisket, cheddar cheese, cherries and greens) at Field Guide in Norfolk.

From there, we hopped over to O'Connor Brewing for flights...

And then STUFFED OUR FACES with German food at the Bier Garden in downtown Portsmouth. Schnitzel bites and pretzels for everybody!

For her main course, Holly ordered schnitzel and it was seriously the size of a house. We couldn't even believe how big this course was. Pro tip: order this to share.

On Sunday, we ventured out to brunch at No Frill Grill (no pics to include, but I had the always-delicious Funky Chicken Sandwich) and went to see the Chrysler Museum's The Art of Video Games exhibit. Holly showed the youngins how it's done on Super Mario.

Thanks to generous support from the city of Norfolk and private donors, the Chrysler's admission is free, so we were able to explore the glass exhibit. 

I was completely in love with local glass artist Charlotte Potter's Facebook-inspired cameo project, featuring the profile pics of more than 800 friends, organized according to geography of where they live.

And like a moth drawn to the flame, the first one I saw was of my all-time fave, Audrey Hepburn.

We finished out our weekend with card games for the boys and bad childhood movies for us girls. Holly and I split a bottle of rose and watched Teen Witch and my favorite Disney Channel movie, Wish Upon a Star. So terrible and so fun!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Sunday Best v.236

The always charming Frank Sinatra, in 1965

We are having great fun stuffing our faces and chugging beer with our good friends Holly and Arthur, so I'll have a fun update tomorrow about all the spots we hit in Hampton Roads. In the meantime, enjoy the spring forward with this fun and fascinating links:

Friday, March 6, 2015

Sky High Reubens and Rink-Side Vino

It's been a busy week full of changes and firsts! I started the week by trimming my hair even a little bit shorter and I was so in love with how my girl styled it! I can't replicate her skills in a million years, unfortunately.

It's hard to believe that a year ago, my hair was about 9-10 inches longer!

After my haircut, Ashleigh and I had a date night and went to Route 58 Delicatessen, a legendary Jersey-style deli in Virginia Beach. The reubens are stacked sky-high and are LEGIT. We split a monstrous turkey reuben and the rye was just delicious.

Me and my sandwich Everest.

And then, because we didn't come to play, we each ordered a gigantic slice of cheesecake straight from the legendary Carnegie Deli. I had the chocolate truffle cheesecake...

And Ash had the triple-baked cheesecake with blueberry topping. I seriously worked on that slice for three days. We went to see Still Alice and managed not to bawl through the whole thing, but were blown away by Julianne Moore's ability to utterly disappear into a role.

But we weren't done...NO! On Wednesday, I went to my very first hockey game! Wine Club ventured out to a box at the Norfolk Scope to see the Admirals play. We sipped (maybe a little too much) wine, got caught on camera not paying attention and did our damnedest to rock the dance cam.

It was totally insane to be this close to the only fight in the game. What a weird and wonderful night!