Saturday, July 26, 2014

Wanna Wallet

Today in the midst of packing, I've been presented with a new conundrum that only shopping can solve. If I remember correctly, the odd-looking Monopoly money used in the UK does not fit in my American wallet. The bills are fatter and sort of stick out of the top (also, my wallet has sort of given up on life and decided to dangle open at one end) so obviously I have to go shopping for a new one.
Here are few on my wish list and, well, I want it to be cute.

Sidebar: I'm not sure that any of these would work, except the one I found online from a UK-based store. Does anyone know the term I would search if I were shopping online for a women's wallet that fits Monopoly (British) money? I'm vaguely aware that they're referred to as "purses," but otherwise I have absolutely no idea. Please comment below and let me know!

Vintage Turkish Coin Purse, found on Etsy
Card Holder, from John Lewis
Phone wallet by Coach (and it''s on sale) from Macy's
This beaded beauty that probably weighs a ton from Anthropologie

Pell Street

There are a lot of things that I will miss about living in NYC, but I think that this particular one-lane side street might take the cake. Home of the legendary Joe's Shanghai, my favorite dim sum parlor, and the best haircut you'll ever get (for under $15)... Pell Street in Chinatown. 

While walking down the tourist-shop-laden Mott Street, one might miss this unassuming looking alley. From either end, the only thing you might see is a steady queue of people waiting for their chance to indulge in soup dumplings at Joe's. I've cured many a hangover with an overloading of "brunch" at Delight 28 dim sum. The first time I stumbled across this dining hall, it took me a few months to find it again; it used to be impossible to find on Google maps, a sort of Narnia of all things delicious. 

Only blocks from my favorite watering hole, I once took a bet (from the bartender) and went to a hair salon on this street to have all of my hair cut off. All of it. Pixie on a whim. And it was amazing. 

I'm going to miss everything about this little place, this little neighborhood that made me feel as if I had a place in this anonymous labyrinth of a city. And I need to go back one more time before we leave.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Stress (Relief)

I had a lot more I wanted to say this morning, before the internet stole the past two days of my work. 
I find it ironic that I had written and edited this post about the relaxing and stress-relieving properties of lavender essential oil, and have ended up very stressed out in the process. Ah, technology. You never cease to fail me. 

I love lavender. I have a lavender plant on my bedroom windowsill that I have somehow managed to keep alive for about two years. It looks a bit depressed, but I'm proud of my wilted green thumb nonetheless. There is a vial of essential oil next to my bed, and every night before bed I like to dab a few drops on my pulse points to help me unwind.

Lately, though, I've found an even greater use for my favorite oil: bug bites! I'm a magnet for mosquitos in the summer months, and dabbing the lavender oil eliminates itching and swelling (and has natural antiseptic properties, to boot!). I personally think it works better than any over-the-counter allergy cream I've bought before, and I feel a lot better about putting something natural on my skin. 

With the increased use of my little bottle, the need for a refill arose. There is a really interesting shop down the street from my apartment, but I've always avoided it because of the strong hippie incense vibe I got when I walked by. I couldn't have been more wrong! I'm really glad I stopped in yesterday, because it was stunning just to look around.

 All of the walls were lined with shelves filled with colorful glass bottles containing a variety of oils and perfume base scents. Everything from dark brown bottles containing the light-sensitive essential oils, to brightly colored essences of bubblegum and chocolate mint stood in neat rows around the entire interior of the store. It reminded me of an ancient apothecary, and I loved wandering around while the owner measured out a new vial of lavender oil for me. I'm just sad that I only just discovered this magical shop right before we're about to leave!

Now, time to unwind from my technological difficulties this morning and prepare for another hectic day of packing.

What is your favorite essential oil? How do you use it? Comment below and let me know!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Moving Meals!

Well, it's no secret: in less than a week... we will officially have moved to England! Consequently, most of our apartment is being put in boxes, and our kitchen is growing emptier by the day. I'm determined to use up as much of the contents of our fridge/freezer/pantry as humanly possible before we depart, and so I bring you the "Moving Meals" series. These recipes are quick, cheap, require minimal ingredients, and are perfect for those ramen-noodle-budget times. Today's lunch: Cheap Chicken Chow Mein!

Ramen noodles, or rice noodles (whichever you have or prefer, one serving)
Broccoli: one box frozen, or one small head, fresh
1 bell pepper (optional)
1/2 of one yellow (or red) onion
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 chicken breast, diced (or 1 can of cooked chicken breast meat)
Soy Sauce
Black bean garlic sauce (or hoisin sauce + rice vinegar)
Corn starch (optional, it just helps the sauce to thicken & look nicer, but doesn't effect taste)

Saute all of the vegetables with olive oil or sesame oil in a lidded pan while the water for the ramen (or rice) noodles comes to a boil.
Combine 1 tbsp black bean sauce with 3/4 cup water and 1/2 tbsp cornstarch and set aside
(Alternative: combine 1/2 tbsp hoisin, 1 tsp rice vinegar, and 1 clove finely minced garlic with cornstarch)
Add 1/2 of the sauce/water mixture to the vegetables, and cover while continuing to cook on medium low heat.
Add cooked noodles to vegetables (after straining, obviously) and add the rest of the sauce, too.
Cover with a lid, toss a little, and cook on low/medium low for another 1-3  minutes.
Garnish with... whatever! Herbs, lime, radish, etc - use up all the fresh bits in the fridge, and dig in!

If you try this recipe, comment below and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Restaurant Week Date

I love Restaurant Week here in New York. The ability to go to restaurants that, on a normal budget, would be out of reach for a regular date night for us. Although, it sort of defeats the purpose when we try to cram 3 dinners out in one week, but I can't resist!

 This time, I booked our first Restaurant Week date night at a restaurant that seemed perfect for my steak-loving other half: Fogo de Chao. I've always heard great things about the all-you-can-eat Brazilian steakhouse, but I didn't expect the service and atmosphere to be so nice (one doesn't usually expect anything classy out of any all-you-can-eat situation). We had an amazing meal, a great evening, and eventually rolled home and succumbed to respective red meat-induced comas.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Bright Ideas

I've never really had the option or responsibility of choosing where I will call home, until now. It's always been sort of pre-determined: I grew up where my parents lived, I moved to a city where my college was, and then to New York City, where my career is based.

Now this new chapter, this up-in-the-air relocation across the pond, presents a new challenge: Where will we settle down and try to start our new life? There have been a variety of options, regions, towns and cities considered, but I think Steve and I have finally come to agreement on our ideal future home location.

First, I want to start by listing out my personal home-picking criteria, which played a big factor in coming to our little plan.

1. City versus town atmosphere - I've lived in NYC for the past 3 years, and Philadelphia for 4 years before that. Although I grew up in a small town, and it's lovely, I have a natural fast-paced city attention span, and I like to be in a busy environment with plenty to do and see. I love the multi-cultural melting pot atmosphere that can be found in cities, as well as accessibility and proximity to public transportation.

2. Proximity to a port - As a self-proclaimed foodie, I've gotten very used to the availability of a wide variety of super-fresh vegetables, meats, and fish, and it's just not as possible to access great food when one is land locked. Cities will also (usually) be closer to airports for international travel opportunity. Not to mention, I'm a beach junkie (I love living about 20 minutes from several great beaches here in NYC) so I would like to be within a short walk or drive to the shore.

3. Jobs - Well, let's be honest, there are more jobs in larger populated areas. Although Steve can do his job just about anywhere, I need to be in a bigger town or city, and his job will definitely have a higher earning potential in a city as well.

4. Family & friends - While my family will be about 3,000 miles away, it's great to have all of my husband's relatives and friends within arms reach. I mean, they're my fam now too, so I don't want to be hours and hours away.

So, our conclusion: Brighton.
I love Brighton Beach here in Brooklyn. In fact, my old roommate & best friend just got a new apartment down there, and we've already been dropping in uninvited a few times. It just seems funny to me that we might end up in Brighton across the pond, too!
We agreed that we both want to live somewhere where there is plenty to do & see, a great multicultural grocery scene for me to explore, and beautiful scenery. It's about an hour and a half drive from the in-laws, so it's close enough for a visit, but not close enough for an unexpected one (wink wink). I think that Brighton is going to be absolutely perfect, so here's to crossing our fingers and making the next step!

All found images

Monday, July 21, 2014

More Magical Moments

I was really thrilled to wake up this morning to an email from my great friend and wedding photographer Naomi. Photos from my wedding reception last month have been finished, and I'm so excited to share a few more. Glancing through, I am reminded of how unbelievably fun that day was. Just, perfect. Family, friends, and unbridled fun. Memories to last a lifetime.

Steve's family (this is one of my favorite shots)


 A much less dignified type of dancing

 My  momma

Some of my closest friends - we go way back

 Om nom nom cake

Who knows? 

My oldest (and most handsome) friend/ex-roommate, Greg 

My worse half Dave and I, in the throws of a singalong 

A happy man.


A combination of summer's finest seasonal ingredients, and my recent wanderings in Brighton Beach (known as "Little Russia" to the Brooklyn locals), has left me with a craving for beets.

Red, ripe, naturally sweet - I love them picked or steamed, in salads and soups. One of my favorite summer foods from my childhood was my mom's pickled eggs & beets, the eggs stained burgundy with the vinegary sweetness of the beet-infused pickling liquid.

This time, I whipped up a quick beet soup - it's super simple and, if you omit the yogurt or sour cream garnish, it's vegan too!

You'll Need:
2 medium sized red beets, peeled and diced into 1/2" cubes
1/2 one yellow onion, chopped
3-5 cloves garlic, chopped 
1tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp lemon zest 
White pepper
Black pepper
Sea salt 

For the Garnish: 
Greek yogurt (or sour cream) 
Fresh dill (or parsley)

Add beets, onion, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper to a medium saucepan.
Fill with water just to the top of the beets, and bring to a boil.
Simmer until the beets are fork tender (the softness you'd want potatoes to be for mashed potatoes)
Add lemon zest just at the end, and remove from the heat.

Using a stick (immersion) blender, puree until smooth.
Garnish with Greek yogurt, or sour cream, and some fresh dill.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

July Wish List

So July is more than half over, I know, but I've only just found time to compile a list of goodies I'd like to spoil myself with, if possible.

First up, the Party Party App from A Beautiful Mess was just released!! If you follow my Instagram, you know that I love their first app, so I really can't wait to try out all the tricks on this one. Stop motion animation, grid collages - so much editing fun to be had!

Second, I'm in the market for a new camera - I think my European relocation warrants a new method for me to capture all the places I hope to visit. I don't have anything over-the-top or brand new on my list, either; this red Nikon D3200 needs to be mine! I just love that it's red, and I love my current Nikon (but it's time for an upgrade) so I want to stick with the brand.

Last but not least... A vintage bike! I used to be the proud momma of a 1960's red Schwinn with original chrome, but one thing lead to another, and I had to part with my lovely [but inconvenient] beauty. I'm thinking that I'll have to scour secondhand shops and garage sales for something a little more recent that I can slap some paint on and really personalize. I'm not a bike nerd, after all, and really just want something to help me get around (cheaply), while looking adorable in some light shade of yellow or lime. After all, a little DIY goes a long way!

I don't want to be all "gimme gimme gimme," and I know that some of  my wish list is a little on the pricey side. I didn't say it had to be immediate, after all! And maybe if I can make a little extra dough with the massive 50% off sale in the shop right now (use code 50MOVING), I'll be able to treat myself to a little something once we get to our new home :)

Friday, July 18, 2014

The First Day

Today is my last day at my job, but I'm trying not to think of it that way. From now on, today is "the first day". The first day of this new adventure, the first day of a new chapter in my life, in our life together.

A few weeks back, on a day when I was particularly stressed/panicked about this whole thing and the insecurity of leaving my job, my boss suggested I think of it as taking a sabbatical to work on my art.

So, I've decided that's exactly what I'm going to do.
I don't have a job to go into right away, so while I apply and wait for that next opportunity to come around, I'm going to do a few things that just aren't possible when one is taking the road more traveled.

I'm going to finally enroll in that photography class, and really try to learn more and improve my technique.

I'm going to get back into painting - it's been over a year since I've picked up a brush, and I'm itching to put color onto canvas again.

I'm going to finally make a portfolio website of my work.

I'm going to launch a new blog- but more on that later! (Don't worry, this one will still be around)

And finally, I'm going to enjoy each and every moment of free time that I will have, because who knows when it'll come around again? Even if I fill it up with activities and tasks of my own, it won't be on anyone else's clock, and I can interject it with all sorts of things that make me happy (like staying in pajamas all day and bingeing on turkish coffee).

I'm excited. I feel like I've crossed over from anxiety to excitement, finally, and I'm ready. I'm finally ready. Let's do this.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Making Memories

I'm not ready to say goodbye. I don't think I ever will be. I think the key here, for myself at least, is to keep reminding myself that this is temporary, that nothing is forever, that I'm not going to Mars; I can and will be back. 

Spending this past weekend at a cabin on a lake in a remote part of northeastern Pennsylvania was one of the most memorable weekends I can think of. Despite coming down with some sort of foodborn illness from the Au Bon Pain in Port Authority (won't be eating there again anytime soon), it was a kind of magical weekend that just seemed to cooperate with the whole "goodbye" mentality. Family traveled in to spread well wishes, and the sky put on a show every night at sunset. And, on the last night, we did too - with some fireworks. I'm going to hold these memories close to keep me company, as I get a bit homesick in the months ahead. 

PS- these are just a few iPhone photos; I have plenty more from my camera that I plan to add soon.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Philadelphia: A Love Letter

This impending, life-changing, upheaval of an international move (two weeks left! WHAT?!) has turned me into a sentimental mess. I have a sort of bucket list, a wildly heart-wrenching agenda to see as many people and places that have been a part of my life here in America, before our departure. This past weekend took me to my beloved Philadelphia. It's not where I'm from, but for any non-Pennsylvanian, it's where I'll probably tell you I'm from. I only lived here for a few short collegiate years, but it felt like a [blessed] lifetime. And so, Philadelphia, this love letter is for you:

Dear Philadelphia,

I love your streets. Your historical, cobbled alleys, your bright front doors, your uniform rowhomes in a variety of shapes and degrees of disarray. I wanted so much to be an old cat lady on a side street near the Italian market, with my Virgin Mary statue in the front bay window.

I love your little spaces. Your local shops and bars and markets, your quirks and your somewhat depressing economic shortcomings. I love the constant failure that is your public transportation system. I love walking through a city without knowing I'm in a city at all.

I love walking through your neighborhoods. I will miss the ability to reach anyone and anything in less than half an hour, and usually on foot. I will miss concrete backyards, boxes of wine in public places, and good food. Oh, your food. I will miss your food. Your mini mecca of all good things in South Philadelphia- from the best cheeses I've found in this country, to the best tacos I've ever inhaled amidst a hangover. Your unapologetic offering of all things delicious and fresh, straight off a boat, straight to my table without a middle man or health inspector.

I will miss porches. I know porches, and beautiful gardens, and patios, and other exquisite and more lovely outdoor spaces exist in the world, but they are not what I cling to. You, Philadelphia, you turned "porch" into a verb. And you'll always be the porch of my heart, always & forever.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Shop Till You Drop

That's right - Everything in the Etsy Shop is 25% off between now and our move date - just use code "MOVING" at checkout! 
And, since I'm cleaning out my personal closet(s), I'm listing all of the bits and pieces I have to part with on Vinted! I just downloaded this app and I LOVE it. It's a great way to sell (and buy, and SWAP) your gently used clothes. Like a consignment shop, but eliminating the middle man. My username is disownedclothing, so be sure to check it out!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Rock You Like A Hurricane

It's become a sort of tradition/joke/challenge amongst my close friends here in NYC: The "Hurricane Games," as we call them, basically refer to our attempts to predict what the name of the biggest hurricane to hit us this year will be, and the hurricane parties hosted at my fortress of an apartment during the storms (which has survived Irene AND Sandy without so much as losing wifi).

This morning, I woke up to an update from the Weather Channel: tropical depression #1 is now tropical storm Arthur, and is predicted to reach hurricane strength by Thursday when it hits the Carolinas.
Now, being myself, I have to go all out for a dinner party theme. After all, this is probably our last in-home get together with our friends before we hop the pond.
Thanks to the Oh Joy! line for Target, as well as lots of help from my trusty friend Pinterest, I've compiled a wish list for my hurricane party menu.
Let the games begin!

These colorful cups are perfect for Hurricane cocktails!

Possibly the cutest hurricane party shopping list ever

Duct tape the "X"s on the windows in style

Plenty of yummy fondue recipes - it's festive to cook with sterno, as if the power
had really gone out! (Or in case it actually DOES)

This appropriately named candle.