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.

Sep 17, 2012

weekend escape


For the second time this summer, work brought me to Houston and allowed me to spend some time with my Texas cousins this weekend. As if the four ladies pictured above aren't reason enough to come to visit, there are also two precious new babies in Texas that I cannot get enough of. They wore SEC gear all weekend - opposing each other in Texas vs. Ole Miss gear - needless to say I was dying of cute overload the entire weekend.

I love living in New York more than anything, but I absolutely rejoice in any opportunity to visit a real home with a real backyard. I mean, if I wanted to plop down in the grass I would have to walk over 5 blocks to the closest park. And I would probably be plopping in somebody's bathroom - dog or human. Likely both. On Saturday afternoon we decided spur of the moment to grill out with family and a few friends. Within the hour we had all the necessary fixings and all the necessary company for an afternoon full of chardonnay, burgers, and babies. It sounds so simple, but things just don't happen that easily in Manhattan! Everything has to be deliberate - you can only buy the amount of groceries that you can carry back to your apartment, after all. But then, other people can't decide on a whim to go see a Broadway show, or take a jaunt through Central Park, or see a new exhibit, or just walk around and take this bustling city in either, can they? I love escaping the city from time to time, but for now, this crazy place is home.

Sep 14, 2012

pasta ala norma


My friends Mary Pell and Claire taught me how to cook Pasta ala Norma while we were all abroad in Europe together. They were taking an Italian cooking class (for credit- yeah) and taught me how to make it when I came to visit them in Florence one weekend. It was love at first bite. Claire and Mary Pell aren't the best chefs in the world (that's fair, right guys?) but they could have opened up a restaurant that semester. A restaurant that served only Pasta ala Norma, baguettes with brie and cheap red wine, mind you.

About a year later I was visiting my fusband in San Diego and decided to impress him with the dish. During the eggplant frying part of the process, my oil spilled over the side and into the burner. Chaos ensued. Let's just say apartment complexes don't exactly return your full deposit if the bottom of your microwave is melted. My bad.

My love of Pasta ala Norma has endured, and so have my horrendous frying skills. So I crafted a recipe that requires about a third as much attention as the traditional recipe (read: no frying) and is almost as good. Not to mention it is WAY healthier. I might even venture to call this a healthy recipe, actually!

4 small eggplants
1 red onion
4 garlic cloves
3 large tomatoes
2 tablespoons fresh oregano
gorgonzola or goat cheese

Chop all vegetables into 1/4 inch cubes, mince garlic. On one baking sheet, toss 3 of the eggplants, 1/2 of the onion, and all of the garlic with about a tablespoon of olive oil. On another baking sheet, toss the remaining eggplant, 1/2 onion, and whatever vegetable you have on hand that would go well in there - I had summer squash.

Put both baking sheets in the oven on 500º. Take out the second baking sheet after 25 minutes and set aside. Take the first baking dish out and add all ingredients to a food processor. Blend until smooth.

Simultaneously, cook your pasta per the directions on the box. When it is almost ready, pour all but about 3/4 of the water off. Add pureed eggplant sauce. Chop the tomatoes and fresh oregano and add. Keep over heat until the tomatoes are very soft and the sauce has thickened.

Add in roasted vegetables. Top with your favorite cheese and a sprig of oregano and serve!

Sep 13, 2012


I apologize for the grainy mess that is the common theme of this week's photos. Does anyone know if the quality of the selfie-cam is going to improve in the iPhone 5? I'll keep my fingers crossed.

I headed down to Virginia to visit my fusband very last minute this weekend. We had beautiful weather and such a great time with his family. After they took off on Sunday, we grabbed coffee and headed to the Norfolk Botanical Gardens. The gardens are just around the corner from his house, but we had somehow never been. They were absolutely stunning. Acres and acres of incredible native and exotic plants. The gardens actually border the same lake that he lives on, so we've already plotted an infiltration-via-canoe for the next time I'm in town. Nerds. That night we drank about a billion beers and ate delicious fresh seafood while sitting on a dock overlooking the Chesapeake Bay. After blearily saying goodbye at 5AM on Monday morning (and snapping one of the many selfies of the weekend) I am now back in NYC. 

I am feeling humbled by the significance of 9/11 this week - what it means right here in New York, but especially overseas where our men and women are still fighting. My friend MP and I raised a glass in honor of our heroes overseas last night at Lucky Strike. May they get the job done and come home safely to join us for a glass (or five!) soon.

Sep 12, 2012

thank yous all around

I know it might seem like the only DIY projects I ever complete are stationery-related (like here and here), but as you may have noticed, I have a lot to give thanks for lately and thus a lot to say thanks for lately. I ordered some very pretty, but very bride-y stationery at the beginning of the summer, but sometimes it just doesn't do the trick for me. Sometimes I'm compelled to dump glitter all over a piece of card stock in order to feel like I'm really conveying the heightened level of thankfulness that I feel. You know? And hopefully my card recipients will feel the love rather than being ticked that their hands are covered in glitter for two days!

Sep 10, 2012

roasted rosemary fingerlings

I have been brunching like crazy this summer. It has become one of my favorite meals to cook for a crowd, so I've decided to share a few favorites this week. A lot of brunch prep work can be done the night before, making the actual cooking in the morning easy breezy - which is important if you're like me and snooze your alarm clock 17 times before your fusband finally dropkicks you out of bed. This is basically the only way I cook potatoes anymore - for breakfast or dinner - it is an unbeatable technique. My friend Grace taught me this little trick last summer and I swear I think we ate fingerlings with dinner ten weekends in a row. Parboiling them lets them soak up just enough water to make them extra crispy on the outside but soft on the inside. So good. Normal white fingerlings are just as delicious, but this purple, red and white bag that I picked up at the Farmer's Market looked oh so pretty. 

Bag of fingerlings (about 25)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Several sprigs of Rosemary
1/2 Vidalia onion
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon lemon pepper
Salt and Pepper

Put a pot of water with a dash of salt on the stove while you wash your potatoes. Once the water begins to bubble, add the potatoes and parboil for about 6 minutes. Strain and leave to cool. 
Once cool enough to handle, slice each potato in half or thirds depending on its size. Chop the onion, dice the garlic and toss everything in olive oil, lemon pepper, and about a 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper. Spread out on a baking sheet - ideally no potatoes should be touching. Cover with sprigs of rosemary and bake on 500º for about 20 minutes or until crispy. 

Anyone have a favorite brunch recipe? Share the link in your comment if so!

Sep 7, 2012

surf 'n turf taco night

Are y'all sick of me talking about tacos? Never? Good!

When cooking for a gaggle of hungry hippos, tacos are my go-to. Not only is it so easy to throw together a heap of taco toppings, but everyone gets to do their own thing - carnivores, pescatarians, and vegetarians alike will leave your dinner fat and happy. And isn't that how every dinner party should end? Every taco night I've ever put together ends up different from the one before - the main topping here was roasted peppers but the time before this it was mango and beans. This taco night actually sprung out of leftovers - the shrimp and steak were from the two previous dinners and from there we just filled in the blanks. The one ingredient that cannot be compromised is a corn taco shell. None of this flour taco BS. It must be corn. Other than that, taco night is the perfect opportunity to let your culinary imagination run wild!