Oct 15, 2012

fall y'all

I had the best weekend at home in North Carolina. All of my siblings came home to surprise my dad for his 60th (what the what?!) birthday. It was so nice to be together and enjoy all that Fall has to offer NC. Walking and lounging by the pool in the perfect 60º weather, baking pumpkin bread, harvesting the last of the vegetables from our garden and cooking them up, and just celebrating our incredible dad. I guess I should stop talking about how Fall is coming - it is really, seriously here!

Oct 9, 2012

diy: book page decoupage

I've mentioned before that I live in a pretty sizable freakin' huge loft. It is a really incredible space and we are so lucky to be living here, but the amount of furniture required to fill this space up and make it look livable is kind of unreal. The same lovely lady who brought up our fireplace mantle also had two tri-fold screens created for us to help us break up our basketball court of a space into more reasonably sized individual living spaces. The screens were raw wood when we got them, so we immediately started spinning our wheels about what to do with them.

I remembered seeing a book page decoupaged wall in John Derian's NYC apartment in an old Elle Decor and, after finding this image, knew it was the perfect solve for our screens:

So I hit up the .50¢ rack at Housing Works and came away with some perfect finds. Tom Sawyer, The Beautiful and the Damned, The Grapes of Wrath and a few other classics got ripped to smithereens that night. 

My roommate was responsible for the trim color and picked Sherman Williams' "Neighborly Peach", a sweet light peach that looks perfect against the yellowing old books. I had originally been leaning towards a glossy black and I'm so glad she dissuaded me - the peach totally brightens up the room. I picked up the Mod Podge, brushes, and a high gloss varnish for the trim and we were off. 

We started by painting the trim - two coats. We covered the hardware with painter's tape first.

Then we moved on to the decoupaging. I applied the Mod Podge to the raw wood, placed a page, covered it with another coat and repeated. 

I am so happy with how it turned out! We've only completed one of the two screens so far, but plan to tackle the second one this weekend. 

Check out how much the new screen helps us break up our space. The first photo was taken from our main living space, and the second was taken from the small seating area (study?) by the window. These two spaces used to just mesh into one another, but now they really feel like two separate areas. 

So, there you have it! I am already scheming up my next decoupage project - I might be addicted.

Oct 8, 2012

s'more season

Despite the rambunctious weather (it was 77º on Saturday and 55º on Sunday), it was a beautiful weekend in NYC. Spent a lot of time with friends and got a lot of tasks accomplished that I put off all summer. My roommates and I completed an awesome project in our apartment that I'll share later this week. Several of us also took a day trip to Connecticut on Sunday for some r&r, a long walk, cooking and flopping around in front of a fire. There are about a million reasons why we are always escaping the city, but there are even more that pull us back. The weather report reads below 65º everyday this week, so I'm thinking it's going to be a good one. Happy Fall!

Oct 5, 2012

ten acts of kindness

Before 2012 ends, I've made a commitment to carry out at least ten acts of kindness. This article by Amy Looney, the wife of Brendan Looney, was published on the eve of the two year anniversary of his death. Amy is an admirable lady who has pushed through adversity with grace by honoring her late husband and encouraging others to understand and appreciate the daily sacrifices of our nation's military families.

Two years after her husband's death, she's made a simple request:

"To honor the memory of all our fallen heroes and show support for their families, I would like to challenge every American to perform 10 acts of kindness before 2012 concludes. By uniting during such divided times, we can show the world that America is still the world’s brightest light."

She's not asking a lot - just for us all to make a conscious effort to show kindness to one another in honor of our heroes. To "come together and be kind".

My first act was carried out on September 21st, the anniversary of Brendan's death. I dedicated the very big smiles a few extremely hard working yet under appreciated construction workers to Brendan and Amy that day.

So, I'm in. Are you?

Oct 4, 2012

urban fireplace

Living in the city rules 97% of the time, but there are some comforts of the home that us urban dwellers majorly miss out on. The biggest one is definitely a backyard (duh) but now that summer is ending and Fall is here, I'm already starting to miss the ability to have a big roaring fire on a chilly night. They are one of my favorite things about being home and remind me of happy times hanging with my family. SO, lucky us, one of my roommate's wonderful mothers brought up this old mantle and it is making our living space oh-so-cheery. Even though it isn't exactly capable of holding a big fire, it has definitely made our big open loft space feel a whole lot more cozy for the winter.

How to make an urban fireplace:

It might not contain a roaring fire, but this no-fire-fireplace definitely warms up our living room!

Oct 2, 2012

garlicky lime roasted brussel sprouts

I love, love, love brussel sprouts. Lucky for me, we are now entering my favorite time of the year: sweatshirt weather and brussel sprout season. Hooray! I cook brussel sprouts lots of different ways, but the easiest and sometimes tastiest way is just to roast them up. This recipe is pretty foolproof but oh so delicious.

 (yep, I made tacos again. at least i'm not blogging about it!)

Serves 4 as a side dish

1 pound brussel sprouts
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion (or vidalia)
3 tablespoons fresh minced garlic
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon lime zest

Trim sprouts and halve lengthwise. Remove (dirty) outer leaves. Throw on baking sheet. Chop onion into same size slices so everything cooks evenly. Add onion, garlic, olive oil, zest to baking sheet and toss. Make sure everything is coated in olive oil and spread flat on the pan. This is important - if the vegetables are touching they won't crisp up like you want.

Roast at 450° for about 25 minutes. Add lime juice and stir to coat evenly. Roast for 10 more minutes of until nice and crispy.

Oct 1, 2012

diy: striped lampshade

I loved this little lamp's drum shade. But, when I put it on my bedside table beside my all white bedding and against my white walls, it looked so washed out. I was going to add some chevron stripes to spice things up- but I got halfway there (taping wise) and decided I liked the way these stripes looked. I used a very light coat of silver metallic spray paint and about 25 minutes later had a fun new lampshade. It definitely isn't perfect - the lines bled and the stripes are definitely not even sized - but I still like how it turned out. I'm thinking next I may paint the lamp base a matte white, but I'm happy with it for now!

And of course #5: enjoy!

Sep 27, 2012

diy: spray painted bottles

I have been wanting to try my hand at this for a while now, and I'm glad I finally did. I really love the way they look. My only key learning would be to avoid spray painting indoors when there is a torrential downpour outside so you can't open the windows. I think I almost killed all of my roommates with the fumes. My b! We can't all have backyards...

Here's how:

1) Wash your bottles* and soak them in hot soapy water
2) Peel the labels off
3) Lay down a newspaper (or trash bag) spraying station on the ground (put down a lot more than you think you need- spray paint has a tendency to sort of sprinkle the area several feet around where it is being sprayed)
4) Put your bottles opening side down (so that you get the bottom)
5) Spray one coat. Wait for it to dry.
6) Spray second coat.
7) Fill with seasonal blooms!

*Choose bottles whose glass engravements you like. The spray paint doesn't hide them - which can be a good or bad thing. Check out those mountains from the Coors Light bottle (that I drank while spray painting the others, no wasting here thankyouverymuch). I used four beer bottles, an olive oil bottle and a brandy bottle.

I arranged mine in a cluster with tea lights as a centerpiece for a dinner party, but they look great as individual vases as well.

Have you guys every tried spray painting glass? What did you make?

Sep 25, 2012

setting the perfect table

Setting the dinner table is harder for some than others. Take my dad, for instance. No matter how many times per month he sets the table, he never fails to mix up which side the fork goes on versus which side the knife goes on. It is seriously mind boggling. But that's neither here nor there.

This tutorial goes a little deeper than left versus right, providing basic pointers for how to set a table that will wow your guests. This table was set by our amazing hostess and was waiting on us when we arrived in Nantucket this past Friday night. It, combined with some absolutely delicious Spaghetti Pie, made for the perfect arrival.

six steps to setting the perfect table:

1. statement placemats. When you have a table this gorgeous (check out that sunburst in the middle) you don't want to cover it up with a tablecloth. Choose some fun, brightly colored placemats that double as tabletop decor. Bonus points if they are location specific (these had tiny seashells around the rim).

2. small gifts. There is rarely a time when placing a sweet little gift at each setting wouldn't make sense, but this is an especially nice touch when out-of-town guests are at your table. Our host had a Nantucket tumbler filled with candy and a small tub of locally made lotion waiting for us at our seat. Bonus points if your gift meshes with the decor (notice those tumbler lids match the centerpiece!).

3. cloth napkins. 'nuff said.

4. seasonal centerpiece. Flowers rule, but every now and then they don't make sense as a centerpiece. If you're going to have guests eating around the same table all weekend long, grab the freshest, brightest fruit or vegetables you can find and throw them in a big, gorgeous bowl.

5. candles. Perfect for adding a layer of sophistication but more importantly, hiding the wine-o red cheek syndrome that appears to be contagious at dinner parties.

6. bold candleholders. When candleholders can double as a conversation piece, you know they belong on a dinner table. (these coral beauts are from design darling)

Now all you have to do is cook dinner!

Sep 24, 2012

sweatshirt weather: nantucket edition

This blog is named Sweatshirt Weather for a reason: because Fall (sweatshirt weather) is hands down the most beautiful, enjoyable time of year and is my favorite time to do the things that I love. When the weather cools, the pace of things just naturally slows down in a way that allows us me to get refocused, recharged and reconnected. The ability to show up to work NOT completely drenched in sweat definitely plays in Fall's favor as well.

As I have mentioned, it was an insane summer - in the best way possible - but I was away from New York a LOT and have missed spending good quality time with my friends. So when our friend Carver invited us to spend the weekend at her family's home in Nantucket, to say we all jumped at the opportunity would be the understatement of the century. Seven of us headed up there this weekend to relax, explore, eat home cooked meals, and just enjoy being with each other. Carver's sweet parents were so kind to wine and dine us all weekend - we owe them a much bigger thanks than a planter of City Bakery cookies could ever say! This weekend full of laughter, friendship and crisp air was the best possible way to usher in Fall and sweatshirt weather.

Sep 21, 2012

september birthday cake

September is a big time birthday month over here. Friends, family, co-workers - birthdays galore. My baking skills have gotten majorly rusty over the past year due to my previous abode's teeny tiny kitchen conundrum, but my inner Ina has been born again since moving to my new apartment. That might be an exaggeration, but I did bake a cake for my friend Jane's birthday last night. Jane was one of the ladies (and executive chef) behind the best party ever, so I wanted to make her birthday at least a quarter as special as she made my engagement party. Not until everyone arrived at my apartment did we realize that four out of seven of us were September birthdays- so this cake got even more bandwidth than I had imagined!

A four layer vanilla cake with raspberry filling and dark chocolate icing - uh huh. This was a really good cake. I used Bonne Maman for the raspberry filling, and this chocolate frosting recipe (substituted dark chocolate cocoa). Usually I go totally from scratch, but in the interest of time I used a Betty Crocker vanilla box mix, doctored up with a few substitutions.

How to make a box mix taste not so box mix-y:
Follow the directions, but:
- Add one egg
- Add one box of instant pudding
- Double the oil
- Cut back on the water a bit 
- Cut the cooking temp down about 25˚ and bake a bit longer

After frosting, I showered this guy in sprinkles and I really love how it turned out. 

Sep 19, 2012

end of summer salad

My roommates and I are all on such insanely different schedules that we often go days without even crossing paths. I hate this, because I love them. I've even gotten into the habit of texting them on my walk home "hey! i'm going to be in the living room for the next hour!" just in case our schedules might align for long enough to cry over an episode of Glee together... or whatever.

This end-of-summer salad was meant to be a big roommate dinner that would finally gather the five of us in one place for long enough to sit and catch up. But, of course, only two of us ended up making it to dinner. Luckily, Carver and I did not have a problem scarfing down the leftovers. I won't include a recipe because it is all right there in the opening photo - just portion out the different ingredients according to what suits you. The one thing I will say is that I think I finally achieved the perfect caramelized onion on this one. I am always way too impatient, and take them off the burner the second they become translucent. But since I was waiting on my roommates to come home, I had some built in caramelization time. I kept them on for at least 20 minutes and it was so worth the wait.