Category Archives: The Apartment

Around the house

I’m still plugging away at the apartment, and the dining room, especially, is really coming together. As a refresher, this is where we were back in the spring: furnished, but the old doors (which barely worked) were fogged over, and really needed to be replaced.


Happily, our landlords agreed to do it–major upgrade. I bought a million yards of zigzag fabric and took it to a seamstress to have sewn into curtains while we were traveling in May. She….did it. Badly. They’re too short, barely matched, and slightly crooked. Still, at least it’s some pattern and color in the room. I just try not to look too closely, and I learned lots of valuable lessons for next time (I’d never done anything like this before).


I’ve also been trying to get some art up on the walls, and it’s turned out to mostly be the products of Tuck’s (adorable) art class! The teacher is a genius and only puts out 2 colors of paint at a time, so the paintings don’t get muddy and brown, and you can usually get something pretty great-looking out of each class. My favorite so far is this fuschia/orange creation (currently not in place, since the glass in the cheap Target frame IMPLODED the other day, yikes).


I found kid’s art frames at Target that I hung over the entry bench–they open like books so it’s easy to swap out the art, and there a pocket for storing extra pieces! Genius. I’ve seen similar things at Pottery Barn kids but these were $14.99, so… (Not the greatest quality, but I’m not too worried!)




Finally, a couple life-improvers I got back in…June? but never posted about. I read the Dinner: A Love Story cookbook in one day when it first came out, and one of the many, many wonderful ideas contained therein was a chalkboard decal where Jenny lists out the menu and activities for the coming week. I found my own, a super-simple one that took 2 minutes to install, and invested in both a chalk pen (for the static events) and really nice chalk (for the week’s menu/etc.). It has really helped me get better about meal planning and thinking things through in advance:


I also bought a clip-it strip, like the ones we used at Fortune for posting layouts. It’s also what most diners use for orders–there are ceramic beads inside so when you push a paper up, it stays, but then you can pull down gently to take it back out. Genius. That went in the hall to hold papers, invitations, etc.


I love this house very, very much. Noisy upstairs neighbors aside, it’s been a very happy-making place. Lots of open sky around us, spacious rooms where we can spread out, and tons of great light. I’m very grateful. Next on the docket: An old oriental rug for the living room. Stay tuned!

Decorating: The Dining Room

Tuck’s nursery was the first time I ever decorated a room from the floor up, with nothing existing to go off of. Since we moved, I’ve had another opportunity to give it a try: The dining room. We sold our old table and chairs to the tenants in our apartment, since they fit perfectly there and were way too small for the new room. We also left the bookcases in place, since they were practically customized to fill that wall. The rug ended up in Tuck’s room, Ben’s desk went into our bedroom, and the piano is in the living room. Thus, an empty box when we arrived here.

The dining room is part of the modern section of the apartment, renovated beyond period recognition back in 1978 during the condo conversion. It is blessed with very tall ceilings aside from a soffit at one end (which is still at about 7.5 feet), two large windows on one wall, massive sliding glass doors on another, and the pass-through to the kitchen on a third. The fourth wall has a wide opening leading to the hall and the entryway.

Before we moved in, we ordered a new table, french farm-style, from Restoration Hardware. I agonized over the cracks that seemed like crumb magnets, but it didn’t occur to me that the dusty grey finish (no wax, varnish, etc.) would be literally impossible to clean with anything but a dry cloth, and would suck up unsightly water marks like a sponge. A patina is terrific, but this was just going to look terrible. I have embarked on a quest to seal up the top a bit, starting with Danish Oil and probably finishing with some sort of wax, per my brother’s instructions. The color and grain are much more pronounced now, but I still really like the look, and I’m relieved to be working towards some protection. We bought simple ladder-back black chairs and felt seat cushions from Ikea to fill in until we find the perfect chairs.

We use the back doors as our main entryway (they will likely be replaced with French doors in the near future, since the existing ones are old, hard to close, and are destroying the wall every time they have to be slammed), so I got a shoe-storage bench to keep the shoe pile under control. Very pleased with it, it’s the Eureka Storage Bench from World Market and is solid wood, came quickly, and was easy to assemble.

On the other side of the doors is a narrow space where I slotted in a skinny bookcase from the clearance section at Ballard Designs (sold out now). Again, solid wood, very easy to assemble, and it was about $10 more than a Billy from Ikea. That holds most of my cookbooks and some of my food books.

Finally, we needed something to hold our china and some serving pieces. We never had a hutch or buffet since the butler’s pantry in the old house held *everything*. After much deliberation and a lot of shopping around, I stumbled across a Curtis Furniture on Etsy, which does custom work in Nebraska. They had a cherry console, very rustic, that appealed to me, and I worked with Jonathan to design the perfect buffet for our one blank wall. I wanted it to be 50″ (standard sizes seem to be 40″ or 60″) so we could slot in an extra chair and Tuck’s Tripp Trapp high chair on either side.

I can’t even, you guys. I first contacted him on February 11, and then we went back and forth until I finally committed and ordered on the 16th. He emailed me progress shots as they worked on it, and the buffet left the workshop March 2. I got it in a GIANT CRATE (see below) on the 7th. It is gorgeous, if hard to photograph–tons of characters, really great knots (two knotholes, which serve to open the doors; they have slow-close hinges so they don’t slam shut), perfect color, beautifully crafted and very sturdy…I couldn’t be happier. It was a bit more than the pressboard junk from Crate and Barrel, but WAY less than the solid wood stuff, and worth every penny.

Anyway, contact Jonathan! Tell him I sent you!

The custom buffet came and I'm in love.

So the final piece (besides hanging art and that clock–I have a Stendig calendar coming for over the buffet!!) is to curtain those huge doors. I got a plain wrought-iron rod, and I’m just trying to figure out the curtains themselves. They will be about 96″ long, and 120″ wide. I got a bunch of fabric swatches:

Exciting! Fabric samples for dining room curtains.

Which I narrowed down to two (I LOVE the multi-colored zigzag but I think it’s better for pillows):

If I get the grey, the texture will actually be the slubby material of the yellow. I love the yellow and I’m obsessed with yellow, always, but I wonder if it will be too much or too limiting? The grey is probably more sophisticated but I just can’t decide. Any opinions?

One other project that we put off for ages but I finally just got done last week: Getting most of the family photos that lined our 18-foot hall in the old place hung in the upstairs hall. We used picture rail before, so all the hanging wires were for that, and the whole thing was a giant pain. But now it’s done and Tuck can say hi to everyone again!

Upstairs hall, before

Upstairs hall, after

And in conclusion, Tuck is hilarious and so cute. He’s chatting constantly with varying degrees of clarity, continues to be obsessed with digging, continues to be very stubborn about food (I’m working very hard on sticking to Ellyn Satter’s PHENOMENAL advice from Child of Mine) and is loving this incredibly lovely weather.

OH! And!

It’s a girl!

Well, hello!

I thought I’d log in to make sure I still had a blog out there somewhere. Turns out it’s still here! Shocking. I can’t promise thrice-weekly updates but I would like to get back to something more frequent than every three months.

It feels like forever since the holidays–a lot has changed around here, about which more in a moment–but I guess Christmas was only a month ago. Tom joined us again, and cooked basically every meal while he was here. It was bliss. Among our projects:

Carnitas, per The Homesick Texan, as published by Smitten Kitchen:

Carnitas, 3.5 hours in. Browning stage.
After 3.5 hours of braising, during the brown-in-their-own-fat stage

Carnitas results: Last night's dinner
As tacos

The leftovers were a boon for almost a week–we ate lots more tacos as well as a number of quesadillas, and I think Tom scrambled them into eggs a few times. The citrus juice in the recipe made for a brighter flavor than other batches I’ve made. Definitely one to repeat.

For Christmas Eve, Tom made duck confit.

3 duck legs getting ready to be quick-confited for Christmas Eve dinner.

Those three magret legs rendered TWO CUPS of fat. I have so much duck fat, you guys! I need to start roasting potatoes, stat. Unfortunately we were too excited to eat for me to remember to take any decent photos. Oops. This is the feel of the meal (we had roasted potatoes and a sharp salad with the duck):

Christmas dinner

And then we descended into chaos. We moved, you guys. Mid-January. It was a mad scramble, especially because our babysitter suddenly left us two weeks before. My parents were here for a last-minute visit, and then Ben’s mom came up and saved our butts, and his brother/brother’s girlfriend joined for the day of and were also lifesavers. Man, moving is horrible.

Tuck hated seeing his books packed but he was a very, very, very big fan of the crane that moved the piano:

Running the crane

And now that we’re getting settled in, things like this are happening:

One of my favorite moments ever.

It’s going to be great. And the kitchen is 100% white (not as good as our old one, but better light), so it’s a lot easier to take pictures of, say, the only thing I currently want to eat, that asian-inspired butter lettuce/avocado salad:

Ok, that is a scarily large picture of a grapefruit supreme. But still. You know you wish you were eating that right now.

HOLD THE PHONE, I never wrote up that salad dressing? That will come soon. I promise. It’s too good not to share.

Things I’m loving

Don’t you love it when technology actually solves a problem? Two quick examples (with grainy Instagram pictures) from my daily life lately (and no, I’m not being paid to plug these products!):

1. Command picture hanging “nails” from 3M
We have plaster walls. Most rooms in the apartment have picture rail, so we can hang art from hooks without putting nails in the walls, but the bedrooms and kitchen are exceptions. Hanging art has generally required putting a screw into the molding, which looks terrible and is a pain. I have been using 3M’s Command Strips–which are like velcro with a sticky backing that supposedly removes from the wall without leaving a mark–to hang small frames in a couple places around the house, but when the time came to rearrange the art in the nursery I had some bigger frames that I wanted to use, and I really didn’t want to punch a bunch more holes in the molding. As I stood in the hardware aisle at Target trying to decide whether I could use the Command Hooks (no, they’re for hanging up…I don’t know, dog leashes? A single scarf? They stick out too far for pictures but only hold 5 pounds.) I noticed these:

Genius for plaster walls.

Um. This is genius. There are double-stick strips of the removable sticky stuff, and you use that to attach a metal plate with, essentially, a nailhead sticking out of it. The large one holds up to 8 pounds, the small one up to 5; I weighed my frames on the kitchen scale (…I know) and the heaviest was 4.5 pounds because I have plexiglass in the bigger ones instead of glass. They were super-easy to use. (You do need to put them in place and then let them sit for an hour before you hang the art.) And Ta-Da! Perfect for gallery walls.

Art hung without nails

2. Nail Effects from Sally Hansen
I am terrible at painting my own nails. It’s always a mess. And I hate getting a manicure, because it takes ages and then I ruin it immediately. Anna at DoorSixteen wrote about the nail polish strips a couple times last month and I was intrigued: Strips of actual nail polish (thus, removable at home, unlike a shellack manicure) that are already dry once you put them on (thus, no smudging)? Fascinating. The downside is that there aren’t really any “normal” colors. It’s all crazy patterns or really bright neons or glitter, I guess because they’re about $9/box and who would pay that much to just get nude nails at home? I would. But I’m guessing that’s the reasoning. I got the most muted option, a dull gold, and OMG MY NAILS LOOK GREAT:

Gilded nails: Those Sally Hansen polish strips actually work! Thx to @doorsixteen for the tip.

There’s a bit of a learning curve, but it was fairly easy to put them on once I figured out how to remove the correct backings in the correct order. Also, I didn’t press the edges down firmly enough on my thumbs. But I was able to use half the package and do both hands, since my nails are short, so I’ll try again once they chip. For $4.50 it’s completely worth it and very fun. I want to try the gold glitter, like Anna did, for the holidays.

Beauty from discards

Every spring the maple trees on our block pop out neon green pompoms, then a few days later push forward tiny new leaves. Within another couple days the little accordion folds have turned into full-on leaves a few inches wide, but I love the in-between stage when the buds are so bright and delicate. To my delight, the neighbors responsible for one of the trees did some pruning during that exact stage this year, and I was able to swipe branches from the yard waste bags on the curb.

Maple branches, spring

Is there an unexpectedly beautiful sign of spring in your neighborhood? I love all the flowering trees, of course, but it’s a shame to overlook things like these maple buds.

Office before & after

Who doesn’t love a before and after? Mine isn’t the most dramatic, unless you’re a big fan of, say, Hoarders or Clean Sweep or some other program about people who have piles of crap everywhere. But I spent last weekend, while Ben was off gallivanting on a ski slope (ok, fine, he was volunteering–on a ski slope), staining and assembling my new desk. Since then I’ve been gradually completing a total long-overdue office clean-up.

Seriously? Things were bad. I would clean and two days later the piles would return. And after Christmas I seemed to accumulate even more piles of stuff that needed new homes–everything on the chair in the photo either came out of my suitcase or was moved from my desk, agh.

The shame!

Office update

The anguish!

Office update

(The gorgeous new laptop standing tall above the mess!)

I picked out a Vika Furusund tabletop with two metal legs and a drawer unit (Vika Alex) on the other side, all from Ikea (obviously). The top is shallower than my old desk, which I’m hoping will force me to keep things tidied away in all my lovely new drawers. It was unfinished pine, so I hit it with some white stain to take away the yellow and make it blend better with the drawers.

Office update

Office update

The drawers weighed a ton (Ben lugged them upstairs for me before he left) and were made up of 900,000 pieces. I’m good at assembly tasks (and jigsaw puzzles) but it still took me a while to put it all together. As soon as I had the new desk in place I realized that because of the shallower depth, the hideous combo of black metal filing cabinet and giant printer/scanner/fax machine is now even more exposed. I will eventually come up with a better solution than this, but for now I covered the side of the filing cabinet with silver woodgrain wrapping paper. I know the cord situation is less than ideal, but you actually don’t see it when the chair is pushed in. Once I get rid of my old laptop there will be a lot less cord to wrangle.

Office update

And now the office is complete! I still should completely clean out the storage closet (not pictured), but that lives behind a curtain, so I’ll survive for now!

Office update

Wider view, to prove that I did clean the chair and floor, as well:

Office update

And my new work surface:

Office update

Nice and fresh, right? We also rearranged the living room after taking the tree down. (*cough* Weeks ago! Yeah! Or last night. *cough*) I like how open it feels but we’re left with an awkward situation involving what used to act as a sofa table and now floats unhappily near the window. We’ll get there, though!

Happy long weekend, people! Be safe and have fun.

(BTW, I’m selling the old desk. It’s sturdy and a good size, I just think I need a smaller surface in my tiny, tiny office. Pictures here without the clutter: $25 OBO.)

CSA week 1: Greens aplenty, chicken with tatsoi

I was in Oregon for a week to visit my parents and go to my cousin’s high school graduation (yay!), and I was going to be in the air en route from Salt Lake to Boston when the hour of the first CSA pickup rolled around. So Ben went. He also took lots and lots of photos of all the vegetables before washing everything* and putting it in the fridge. Thanks, honey!

So! Week 1, 2009:

-1 head of lettuce
-1 head tatsoi
-Small bunch of arugula
-Very small amount of large spinach leaves
-1 bunch radishes
-1 pint strawberries (!)
-1 parsnip (Did he overwinter in the root cellar? Does he know I hate parsnips? Poor thing.)

Ben took beauty shots of many of the items, so let’s admire the strawberries:


And an extremely exciting** development at Stone Soup Farm this year was the acquisition of lots of chickens! So we got an egg share in addition to our veggies:


Later in the week I used the tatsoi in a simple stir fry with chicken. It would have been even simpler if the greens weren’t quite so organic, because it took me ages to get them completely free of the aphids and little hard-shelled bugs clinging to each leaf. But I would rather clean off pests than eat pesticides.

Tatsoi is an Asian field mustard variety that looks, to me, like a wedding bouquet:


While I cleaned the greens I marinated a couple chicken breasts in soy sauce, grated ginger and minced garlic. I’d sliced the chicken against the grain, which gave it a nice texture. (I’ll spare you raw chicken photos today.)

Then I sauteed the chicken in two batches in my wok. The strips were thin and cooked really fast; at the end I added in the greens and cooked them very briefly, until they wilted, and served the whole thing over sticky rice.

The chicken looks dry in that photo, but it wasn’t, actually. Considering that rice and chicken are the two things I’m not comfortable cooking, this came out remarkably well.

*While rewashing the many, many aphids off the tatsoi I explained to him that dashing the greens under water for a second doesn’t do the trick. Also that it’s better to just wash everything right before you use it. But I appreciated the effort!

**Eggstremely eggciting!


In other news, I don’t normally talk about books here but… whyever not? Last night I finally read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and it was grand. Lots of fun. I adore epistolary novels (must be the sensation of eavesdropping? And maybe the slight mystery of jumping into something already in progress and getting to know the characters in dribs and drabs), and now I want to reread 84, Charing Cross Road (which is actually not a novel; they are real letters) and Ella Minnow Pea. I was crushed when I first visited London and found that 84 Charing Cross Road is now a Pizza Hut or something similarly hideous. Anyway, if you enjoyed The Guernsey Longest Title Ever, you might check out those two: 84, CCR is the post-WWII correspondence between a writer in NYC and a bookseller in London (similar content and tone!). Ella Minnow Pea is an extremely funny/odd little book of letters by residents of an imaginary island off the coast of South Carolina, where the alphabet is being gradually outlawed by the government as letters drop off a statue of the island’s founder, the man who came up with the “quick brown fox…” sentence. Hee.

Oh, and I also painted a little canvas based on one of my photos from Rome. I’m trying to paint the way I sketch in my travel journals; looser and less worried about perfection. It’s in my Etsy shop!

Fiat painting

Ushering in summer: Bulgogi on the porch

(I’m in Italy right now, but I thought I’d leave you with an entry or two while I’m gone!)

We eat on our narrow but lovely little porch almost every night during the summer, so we were delighted when the weather first warmed up enough for us to dig out the cushions and dust off the table and chairs. To celebrate, I made bulgogi, the unbelievably tasty Korean barbecued beef that you can cook on your own tabletop griddle at Korean BBQ restaurants.

After grocery shopping in the afternoon, I started by making a batch of daikon radish pickles, which were fine but a bit bland.


The daikon I got from th CSA was less carrot-shaped and much fatter. Different varieties, I guess! Aren’t the patterns in the slices pretty?

daikon slices

I used a basic marinade recipe from AllRecipes, spiked with plenty of sesame (seeds and oil) and soy. The real trick to recipes like this is to freeze your meat for about an hour before slicing it. That makes it to easy to slice nice thin pieces without the meat mushing all over the place. Remember to cut against the grain. (I used sirloin tips, I think.)

sliced steak

I marinated the meat for a couple hours, and when dinner time rolled around I cooked some sushi rice and dished out kimchi and the daikon pickles:

I also washed a bunch of lettuce leaves for wrapping.

The meat was a snap to cook because it was sliced so thin. From this:

to this:

took about two minutes for each batch, on a hot grill. I piled up the meat on a plate, squeezed all the various dishes onto our porch table, and we got to the messy business of wrapping our little rolls, starting with a base of rice, then meat, then the pickles and kimchi:

I’m hungry as I write this, so let’s take another look at that luscious, flavorful meat:

It was a perfect kickoff to summer, lit by the pale glimmer of our new Ikea solar string lights and washed down with gin and lemonade! I’m dying to go do some research at Koreana and make note of more of the little bowls of pickles that they bring over–there are usually about 20 and they are my favorite part. Great, now I’m starving.

Welcome to my new home!

Thanks for stopping by! I’m afraid things will be a little messy for a while, as I complete the transition from, but so far, so good.

As you can see, the blog, along with my other ventures, is now at If you visit the blog archives from before 2009 there are still a ton of oversized photos, which I will gradually fix.

If you use a feedreader, please update the RSS feed:

And thanks for your patience!

Feeling businessy: New Ventures

It must be spring in the air—Over the last couple weeks I’ve been wanting to launch all sorts of new ventures and start really trying to make a go at doing the things I love.

Venture 1: Straw into Gold

I love decorating, especially when I get to be super creative on a tight budget. I think a lot of people in the post-post-college phase of life are ready to move on from the futons and hand-me-downs but aren’t yet able to plunk down a ton of cash. I can help make spaces pretty, livable and reflective of their occupants, even on a shoestring budget.
(Ben gets credit for the name: We were talking about goals and things we wanted to do a few weeks ago, and he said “What you’re really good at is spinning straw into gold.” I like that.)

Venture 2: Custom paintings

I have painted custom art for friends’ babies for a while now, and I finally got around to listing my services on Etsy. The Herbert boys are recent recipients, and I used the photos from their triptychs for the listing.



Maybe one of those something that could be helpful to you? Let me know if you’re interested!

Feeling nervous,