Thursday, December 31, 2009

Our Christmas present to ourselves

We'd been wanting them for awhile, hopeful for flea market bargains and/or a cast-off pair left on a roadside somewhere, but when we saw a pair of black Bertoia chairs with gray seatpads (!) for sale at Re-Pop, we knew they were the ones. We probably (definitely) spent too much money on them, but they're ours and they're awesome. I'm not ashamed to say that I waved goodbye to them before leaving for work the morning after purchasing them.

We've been on a bit of a spending spree lately, between buying stuff for the apartment and Christmas presents, so now our New Year's resolution (at least for the first couple of months) is to spend as little money as possible. We'll see how that turns out.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Toms=my new favorite shoes

Just sharing my new favorite shoes: the "Barletta Cordones" from Toms. I'd been wanting to get a pair (or two) of the canvas ones since the summer, and when I saw these gray wool beauties in the store I couldn't leave without them. I'm kind of in love with them.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bedside tables and faulty alarm clocks

Back in October I went to an estate sale in Connecticut and somehow never posted about what I came back with: this little side table that I've been using as a night stand.

It has a plastic hollow base, with the top just sort of resting on it (as opposed to actually being attached to it). I've never really seen anything similar before, and while I guess it's not the ideal nightstand (no drawers or compartments), I'm still happy with it.

Shortly thereafter I bought this reproduction of the Big Ben Moonbeam alarm clock that was popular in the 50s. Besides looking cool and matching the table, it's supposed to start off by flashing a light, and then if that doesn't wake you up within five minutes, an alarm bell will sound--the idea being that you'll be gently roused from slumber, rather than wrenched awake by an annoying buzzer. Sounds good, except that lately the bell hasn't been going off. And even though the flashing light alone sometimes does the trick, there have been a few times when we've woken up fifteen minutes late to see the light still flashing. So it's going back to L.L. Bean, and I need to find a new alarm clock.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas catch-up

I wanted to share a few more images from my Christmas, even though it's now post-Christmas (I'm not so good at the whole timeliness thing).

Brown paper, rubber stamps, and baker's twine=my favorite wrapping method.

I tried out incorporating buttons into one of the gifts after reading this post. It's cute, although I think I'd want to go with a little less next time.

I also made rubber stamped gift tags for everyone.

I embroidered an ornament for my ornament-obsessed mom (note that I did glue the extra fabric to the back--this photo is in an unfinished state). It was looking really good until I got to the word "Greetings." Not sure what happened there.

I usually try to bake a few varieties of cookies around this time of year, although I ended up doing less than I had planned. But these pfeffernusse cookies (recipe here) were so good that any other cookie might have seemed inferior.

Finally, the New York Times sent these cookies to my boss, and I couldn't resist including a photo here. It's an Oreo covered in icing and sprinkles. And of course stamped with the NYT logo.

Friday, December 25, 2009

This Is Christmas in America

Merry Christmas, and enjoy my gift to you: clips from what I consider to be the greatest Christmas programming in history, Miss Velma's Christmas in America.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

New plants for the window

With so many large windowsills, I've been wanting to fill the apartment with lots of new plants. A couple of weeks ago I went back to Sprout Home and bought a few (though I still want more!).

For starters there's this lovely jade plant, though it doesn't actually fit into the planter I had intended it for. I think I'm going to get some rocks for the bottom since the planter doesn't have any holes for drainage, and then re-pot the whole thing. The second one is the same Haworthia that I've had since the summer.

I also bought an aloe plant, and then on a whim, a venus fly trap.

I've been wanting a carnivorous plant for a little while now. Not sure why but there's just something awesome about a plant that eats bugs. I didn't realize until after purchasing it that they're a little finicky. For one, they require distilled water--no plain old tap water for this guy. I had been thinking I would need to go to a pet store and buy some crickets to feed it but I'm relieved to find that they don't actually need bugs to survive. They're just kind of like vitamins for them. So hopefully my plant just happens upon some pesky flies the old-fashioned way.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Holiday decorating: stockings

Last year I decided to make some new stockings for me and Dave. I had an old plaid bathrobe that didn't really fit me anymore (I'd had it since I was about ten years old--ridiculous). I thought the colors were kind of Christmassy so I cut them into stocking shapes, lining the insides with random bits of scrap fabric to help maintain their shape, and sewed on a belt loop from the robe to use for hanging.

The only thing left was to sew our names on. A little sloppy but I'm fine with it.

Also in the window is this vintage Christmas card that I gave to Dave a few years ago. I got it at Alphaville, a great vintage toy store a few blocks from where I work.

The best part is the actual mint that Santa is holding in his little paper mitten. I can't believe the card stayed in tact all those years!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Holiday decorating: the tree

Ever since I was a child I've had fake Christmas trees. For some reason it just feels right. I don't need to go out and buy one, I just have to take it out of the box, put it on the stand, and fluff out the branches. No fallen needles to clean up, and you don't have to water it. Some people might think it's tacky, but I'm sticking with the old familiar plastic one. (I think it's made of plastic, at least.)

Since high school I've been decorating my tree with vintage ornaments from the 50s that belonged to my grandparents. I've bought a few similarly styled ones from antique stores over the years but nearly all of them have been in the family for decades.

I love the gold ball that says "Greetings" (though not "Seasons greetings," oddly enough).

There are a few non-vintage ornaments on the tree too, like this gold glitter-covered ball with a plastic angel in the middle, purchased from Toy Joy in Austin.

Serving as the angel at the top of the tree is this handmade ornament that I bought at Polk-A-Dot Variety in San Francisco (sadly, now defunct--it was such a great store).

There are a few items under the tree, such as these old Christmas 45s that belonged to my mom when she was little. They're pretty scratched up but they look pretty cool. The ceramic snow baby was part of the little Christmas village my grandparents used to put under their tree.

All lit up at night.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Holiday decorating: paper garland

These past couple of weeks we've been decorating the apartment for Christmas (we don't like to waste any time with that stuff--day after Thanksgiving=Christmas season). It really makes your morning coffee feel so much more festive when you have a Christmas tree to look at.

I decided that the entrance way to the living room was screaming for a garland, so I started going through all the scraps of paper I've collected over the years.

After I had amassed a pile of holiday-esque papers, from old calendars to magazine cut-outs to Whole Foods bags to paper doilies (not to mention a few plain pieces of kraft paper that I rubber stamped), I started cutting them out into triangles. Then I cut out some white circles and drew a letter on each of them, gluing the white circles to the triangles.

Finally, I cut out a piece of twine and taped it to the backs of each of the triangles and hung it in the doorway. While this one is definitely going to be seasonal I think there needs to be a garland hanging here year-round.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Napoleon in the Bronx

Last week I took another walk around Woodlawn and stopped into Anna Artuso's Pastry Shop. I of course couldn't help but come out with something.

What is it about the white box with the red and white twine that makes your baked good feel a bit fancier than it is?

I got a napoleon (that's powdered sugar on top, or what's left of it before being absorbed), and while it was decent I think an assortment of cookies is probably the way to go (next time).

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Bauhaus inspiration

On Friday we braved the post-Thanksgiving crowds and headed down to MoMA to check out the new Tim Burton exhibit and a few smaller ones that were about to close. It seems that you have to reserve tickets in advance for Burton and they were all sold out. But I did get to see a great exhibit on the Bauhaus movement, of which I knew very little, and I left feeling pretty inspired.

For one, I love this silk wall hanging by Anni Albers. I just started working on a cotton knit rug for the bedroom (we'll see how long that takes) and after seeing this I decided to scrap everything I'd already done (luckily, not too much) and do something more along the lines of this tapestry.

I also love these nesting tables by Anni's husband Josef Albers. They're still in production today, if you have a spare $2,100 to spend. I feel like if I could find some plain ones of a similar design I could get the same effect by painting the tops. Not that I need to fill my apartment with DIY Bauhaus ripoffs.

I also loved this periodical shelf, designed by Walter Gropius. Come to think of it, it actually doesn't look like it'd be that difficult to make, using the proper tools. (Just kidding...sort of.)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Stuffed acorn squash

Last night we had a bit of a pre-Thanksgiving meal: stuffed acorn squash, courtesy of Alton Brown (we skipped the pork though).

My god, were the tops hard to cut off. I think it took me 20 minutes to saw them off and scoop out the seeds.

Here's the stuffing, pre-mixed.

Out of the oven, after an hour of baking at 400 degrees.

We bought a few sides at Whole Foods to accompany it, but we did not need them at all. This thing is a meal in itself.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

San Pellegrino appreciation

Lately I have been drinking a lot of San Pellegrino, specifically their aranciata. In addition to simply liking the drink, the package design is pretty appealing too. I'm kind of a sucker for good packaging--sometimes I'll find myself wanting to buy things at the grocery store simply because I like the design on the label. And then of course I want to save the label, and I end up with a lot of clutter. But I digress.

One thing I don't quite understand about the package is the foil over the top. Other than protecting the top of the can from dust and dirt, I can't really imagine any practical application. It looks good though.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sweet potato biscuits

Last week I made these sweet potato biscuits, and they were as delicious as they sound.

They weren't quite as fluffy as I was expecting, though they were nice and flaky. I don't know whether the mashed sweet potato made it denser, or if it was something I did. Either way they were pretty tasty. I'm going to make them again this week—perfect for Thanksgiving.

The recipe can be found here.

P.S. I just made them again last night. I tried making the biscuits thicker from the outset and that seemed to do the trick. They were still a bit dense but not as flat. Either way they were a definite success.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Vintage wooden crate as planter

Well, the days have really been getting away from me. The apartment is slowly coming together. Very slowly. After one or two more days of serious cleaning (and the purchase of a few more storage items--ugh) I think it'll be at the point where I wouldn't be embarrassed to invite someone over.

Anyway...last week I learned of a store called Pretty Funny Vintage, in Tarrytown, NY, which is about 20 minutes away from me. From the photos on their website it looked like there was a ton of great stuff in the store, and I had Wednesday afternoon off due to a work-related conference, so I decided to check it out.

I discovered that while the store does have an incredible array of vintage offerings, particularly of the weathered/industrial variety that I love so much, it is also incredibly expensive. Most of the time I found myself gasping first at a particular item's awesomeness, and then gasping at the price. I did walk away with one thing: an old wooden cream cheese crate.

There was a whole display of these identical crates, and upon closer look it seems as though someone was using them at one time for hardware storage (hence the knob drilled into the side and label stapled in).

I had two uses for it in mind: to store recipes, or to use as a planter for various herbs (drilling a few holes in the bottom for drainage). I ultimately decided that it was a little too narrow for recipe cards, and then as I was staring at my windowsill I had the thought that these little succulents would look very nice inside of it. The next day I took an after-work shopping trip to Sprout Home and picked up a few more. I need to procure some stones for the bottom to elevate them a bit so you can actually see them over the top of the box. But overall I really like the way they look together.

I'm not quite satisfied with the arrangement in the kitchen windowsill just yet, as it's a bit cluttered, but I like the crate juxtaposed with the bottles. A shelf for some of my various pitchers and other ceramic objects should solve this dilemma.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A tour of the signage in Woodlawn

Saturday afternoon Dave and I took a short walk on the two main streets in our neighborhood: Katonah Ave and McLean Ave (the latter is technically in Yonkers, but it's more or less a continuation of the same neighborhood). The majority of local businesses are Irish pubs and restaurants, which is all well and good if you like Guinness and boiled bacon (sorry to say, I enjoy neither), but there are a few bakeries, restaurants, and delis that caught my eye. All told, it's not a particularly glamorous place, but it has its charms, and there's an abundance of great, old signs and lettering, on storefronts that look as though they've gone unchanged for decades. Here's a sampling:

Anna, I think I'll be dropping in on you soon...

I love that we have a chemist, not a pharmacy.

The lettering casts such great shadows in this storefront.

I don't believe I've ever seen a shop that specializes in hearing aids. The neon sign is particularly great.

On the way back home I noticed these bird footprints in the concrete, which I find totally adorable. It was a good walk.