Well, I guess it’s Fashion Week or something.

September 11, 2010

In honor of the occasion, I’m taking this opportunity to share some of my own thoughts on fashion and how it relates to my newest personal challenge, Six Items or Less, which is now five days under way and pretty much exactly what it sounds like: Choose six items (or less) of clothing and wear only those six items (or less) for 30 days.

I read this article about a month ago; shortly thereafter, I found this. I honestly don’t know if I’m ready to take the extreme measures required to give up all but 100 of my worldly possessions, as mentioned in the first article. But I think that whittling down my wardrobe as suggested by the folks who started  Six Items or Less is a good way for me to move in that direction and do a lot of important things all at once: Conquer my drive to acquire/consume things, force myself to be creative in limiting circumstances, free up some closet space, save money doing laundry and, of course, have fun.

I started the challenge on Sept. 7, 2010. These are the pieces I settled on:

  • Bright green short sleeve Lacoste polo
  • Light blue J. Crew popover
  • Navy blue J. Crew skirt with pockets
  • A pair of Levis that I inherited from a friend
  • A really, really, really old pair of other Gap jeans from high school
  • Light blue Steven Alan dress (in case things get fancy)

(And in case you were too lazy to click the link and read the rules, the Six Items do not include undergarments, socks, shoes, accessories, pajamas, workout clothes or outerwear.)

I have to be honest and say that five days into the challenge, I haven’t experienced any feelings of great personal sacrifice. This might have something to do with the fact that I’ve been wearing the same six pieces of clothing for the past several months anyway, which might have something to do with the fact that I’m extremely lazy and generally lack any disposable income. As much as I love to read fashion blogs, go shopping and spend hours drawing clothes that I wish I had but will most likely never be able to find or afford, I really only stick to wearing a few pieces that are near and dear to my heart. The only time something gets bumped out of the rotation is if I give it away or damage it beyond repairs.

In other words? So far, so good. Pictures coming soon…

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Buried treasure.

August 30, 2010

Here’s a good recipe for overcoming materialism: Pack up all of your worldly belongings, move to a new city, relocate within that city four or five times over the course of a year for good measure, and then, once you’ve arrived in an apartment in which you think you’ll be staying for awhile… Finally unpack everything.

I’ve been wishing for a lot of things — a lot of material things — lately, but I’ve discovered it’s a lot less expensive to open an old suitcase and rediscover things that you completely forgot that you had.

SUCH AS… !

• The afghan my great-grandmother made for my mom when she went off to college in 1973. My tastes weren’t sophisticated enough in my younger years to appreciate the color palette. Then one day a few years ago, I walked into my parents’ room, saw this in their armoire and was like, “Uhhhh… this is amazing. Can I have it?” To which my mom said, “Yes.” This has been in storage since the winter for obvious reasons. It may be a little too early to bring it out again, but I don’t care. It will be making an appearance on my bed shortly.

• One of the hardest parts about moving was trying to decide which books to bring along. I ended up bringing a conglomerate of new books, old favorites… and some real wild cards, such as The Elements of Journalism (a college textbook I never sold back), Telling True Stories (another remnant from my college days) and, embarrassingly, Your First Novel, which I’ve never read. I picked up the Donald Miller book earlier this year (pretty good) as well as the Shakespeare ($1 at a library sale). The copy of McSweeney’s Thrilling Tales was a loan from a friend with whom I’ve been long out of touch. There are plenty more where these came from, too.

• My first job in New York was at a very popular and profitable computer store in SoHo. That job had a lot of nice little perks, including but not limited to the guarantee that every few weeks or so, like clockwork, all employees received a set of new T-shirts. What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is my employee wardrobe: 10 T-shirts, two thermal T-shirts and a fleece pullover, all accrued in the course of less than five months. And this isn’t even all of them: After I took this picture, I realized that I was wearing one, and then I found another fleece pullover in a pile. So, yeah. I guess you could say I was, and still am, well-outfitted from my time there.

TOMATOCON 2010 :P

August 12, 2010

I hated them as a kid, but now that I’m older, I think that tomatoes just might be the perfect food.

A few months ago, right around the time I caught the cooking bug and attempted to expand my culinary horizons, I found out how crummy the produce selection actually is at 90 percent of Brooklyn supermarkets. There are some things that I can let slide — less-than-perfect apples, mediocre grapes. But there is one thing that no amount of money can buy at a grocery store, and it’s this: a perfect, homegrown summer tomato.

So, here is my Saturday morning routine: Wake up at 9 a.m., put on my shoes and walk about two minutes down the street from where I live to the Greenpoint/McCarren Greenmarket. I’ve known about the Greenmarket since shortly after moving here in March, but I didn’t do a whole lot more than browse a few times on my way to the L train. Now, it’s my favorite part of the weekend.

This past Saturday, I got a pint of bright orange Sun Golds, which I ate like candy, and a couple of weeks ago, when it was way too hot to use the oven, I made a little bruschetta with one standard red tomato, one low-acid yellow tomato, a handful of basil, one finely chopped garlic clove and a little salt and pepper. It would have been the perfect meal if 1) I hadn’t forgotten about the bread while it was broiling (I flipped the slices over for the picture; pretty smart, eh?) and 2) I hadn’t gotten eaten alive on the back patio (referenced here) and had to move the party indoors. I’ve also made a variety of sandwiches, salads, etc., but am looking for more tomato-centric recipes to tide me over ’til the fall.

Sorry so sloppy.

August 8, 2010

In the words of Jim Anchower, I know it’s been awhile since I’ve rapped at ya, but I’ve had some important business to take care of since the posting of my last entry, an event which almost directly coincided with the onset of summer.

I had such grand plans for this summer. I was going to buy this thing and drink from it exclusively until September and host a barbecue on my back porch and wear only high-waisted shorts and sunglasses all day, every day. But then I realized how broke I was, and this was never bought, and I discovered the hard way that we’ve got a bad mosquito infestation on the back porch (still have the scabs on my ankles to prove it), and I realized that high-waisted shorts probably wouldn’t be a practical wardrobe choice for someone who works in an office 40 hours a week and has thighs that look like Christmas hams. Additionally, sunglasses and I have a love-hate relationship. Like, I’d love to wear them, but I hate the fact that I don’t wear contacts and am blind without my real glasses. Ya heard?

But my summer’s turned out pretty well after all. I went to Long Island for the first time, which was a little surreal. I felt like I was in The Twilight Zone if The Twilight Zone took place at my roommate’s in-laws’ house, and there were aunts with heavily penciled-in eyebrows serving you things like deviled eggs, and at the end of the day, when all you wanted to do was get back to your version of civilization, you pulled up to the Long Island Railroad station just as your train back to the city was pulling away. But that’s another story for another time.

I started running again in hopes of reversing the aforementioned case of Christmas Ham Thigh Syndrome. The results, thus far, have been promising. I got health insurance, REAL-LIFE HEALTH INSURANCE, and went to the dentist on Thursday. No cavities. And the other day, I found not one, not two, but FOUR green Matchless happy hour coins, which for someone who doesn’t drink that often (for health and pocketbook reasons alike), was like finding a goldmine. I’m still saving two of them for “a good time.”

The majority of my life, if you break it down, hour by hour, is spent at work every week. When I’m not there, I’m with my guy or reading (right now, it’s A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, a book that I read in high school for AP Lit and managed to smuggle into one of my suitcases during my move last year) or watching 16 and Pregnant or, most recently, dreaming about what I’m going to cook next based on that week’s farmers market bounty. My interest in cooking has really taken off since this, but more on that later.

In my mind, I’m always striving for something a little better, but all things considered, I couldn’t be more content at the present moment.

Ugly mug[s].

May 28, 2010

Vintage Housewares His and Hers Coffee House,” jwhite2, $21.

I apologize if it seems a little incongruous to publish an ode to mugs when, only the other day, it was 94 degrees Fahrenheit in New York City. I mean, who wants to even think about drinking hot tea or hot cocoa or any number of other warm beverages traditionally served in mugs when it’s so hot outside that you want to cry?

However, recent scientific studies performed at The Acorn Archive Headquarters in Greenpoint, Brooklyn have confirmed that mugs are just as good at serving cool, Memorial-Day-Weekend-ish drinks as they are at serving warm, Christmas-y ones. And fortunately for all of us, there are currently 5,476 listings for “vintage mugs” on Etsy. I’ve personally sifted through 4,026 of them, so please, feel free to pour yourself a mug of water/lemonade/beer/whatever people drink in the late spring and enjoy the best of the best.

What do people drink in soaps? I feel like at least one character always has a mirrored tray of crystal liquor bottles in their living room so that when they’re feeling especially depressed/conniving/passionate/enraged, they can walk over there and pour a drink. So, yeah. Pour yourself a glass of whatever’s in one of those crystal bottles in this mug and pray to God that someone didn’t put rat poison in it when you weren’t watching.

“SALE – 1980 The Young and the Restless Ceramic Coffee Mug,” beppiebags, $12.99.

No explanation needed here (hi, Mom!).

“Vintage 80s ceramic CALL YOUR MOTHER mug,” nickandnessies, $14.

This one made me smile. My grandfather, a retired dentist, had a colleague make really obnoxious matching dentures for himself and two of my college-aged aunts several years ago. Almost 20 years later, it’s not unusual to be at a family gathering and for one of them to slip in their dentures when no one’s looking.

“extremely rare Dentists ceramic mug,” bigapplevintage, $30.

Mmmm. Charming. I hope to be one of these some day (a “hostess with the mostess,” not a mug).

“1950s Hostess with the Mostest MUG,” HelloVictory, $12.

In my wildest dreams, I am walking down the street, minding my own business, when I happen upon a man sitting outside of his camping trailer, drinking out of this mug. My brain, of course, subsequently explodes.

“My Trailer Vintage Milk Glass Coffee Mug,” AttysVintage, $9.95.

OMG THIS IS THE STORY OF MY LIFE :P

“The Vintage Ziggy Coffee Mug 1989,” SuzisCornerBoutique, $15.

Both practical and educational.

“Vintage 1960s Anchor Hocking Fire King CBer Tall Coffee Mug,” RetroRevival, $16.

Rocks.

May 12, 2010

If you’d asked my 9-year-old self what my idea of the perfect Saturday afternoon was, it would have been this: driving with my mom to Chesterfield Mall and spending all of my time (and allowance) at Natural Wonders, a now-defunct science store peddling everything from astronaut ice cream to telescopes. My tastes were too sophisticated for astronaut ice cream (I was a Dippin’ Dots kinda gal, anyhow); the telescopes genuinely piqued my interest but were out of my price range. So, what could have possibly captured my attention? Every normal fourth grade girl’s favorite toy, of course: ROCKS.

“tidal pool,” knitalatte, $12.

Natural Wonders called them “semi-precious gemstones.” While there was nothing semi about said stones’ preciousness in my fourth-grade mind, I’ll tell you right now that most of it was polished driveway gravel being sold for about thirty times its actual value. But whatever. Rocks are portable and relatively inexpensive. And, let’s face it, they’re not exactly the hot item on the playground, so you never have to worry about sharing. Rock collecting was the perfect hobby for someone like me — a withdrawn kid with minimal liquid assets and a tendency to hoard.

My “collection,” if you could even call it that, is housed in a red-and-green dollar store Caboodle in my parents’ basement. One day, it will make its way to New York; in the mean time, my inner amateur geologist is forced to take other forms. For your consideration…

I wish I had been born in this shirt; as I only found out about it approximately two months ago, I’m going to have to content myself with being buried in it. That’s how amazing it is.

“MINERALS Tshirt Science Geology Tee Rocks WOMENS shirt,” nonfictiontees, $20.

The geode has a special place in my heart as the state rock of my forefathers’ native Iowa. I still remember a nodule slice that my older brother acquired that I was particularly fascinated with. I eventually stole it from him. Something in my pre-adolescent mind told me that he probably wouldn’t miss it. That something was right.

“Gold Plated Geode Slice Necklace,” solisjewelry, $50.

I like the idea of a soft fiber (wool) being manipulated in such a way as to appear that which it is not (namely, hard and rock-like). Behold!

“Felted beach pebbles – set of six in shades of gray,” delica, $16.

I worked at a summer camp outside of Branson, Mo., one year in college. The entire camp was blanketed in your standard Missouri clay-brown gardening gravel, and a funny little game we had was finding “friendship rocks” — that is, rocks among the gravel with a hole through the middle, good for stringing on to a piece of embroidery floss and giving to a worthy camper or fellow counselor. These appeared to be pre-drilled, but I couldn’t help but smile when I came across them.

BUTTER PECAN awesome set of genuine drilled beach and fossil stones, Allybeans, $13.

The Bookseer = The cure for book befuddlement.

April 23, 2010

I’m constantly on the search for great new books to read. The only problem? There’s a lot of crappy books out there. And if you find a good one, how do you find more good ones like it without resorting to the no-brainer option of choosing another one of the author’s works? Answer: The Bookseer. Thanks to this month’s Real Simple for the hot tip!

Example: I just finished reading Shoplifting from American Apparel by Tao Lin. I should mention here that my decision to read it wasn’t dictated by genuine interest in the author or his writing but rather, embarrassingly enough, on the concept and cover design scheme of Melville Publishing House’s The Art of the Novella and The Art of the Contemporary Novella series: short books by good authors. And, oh yeah, if you collect a lot of them, they look really good on a shelf together.

What can I say? I’m lazy. And a sucker for clever marketing.

In any case, I finished Shoplifting in about three or four hours. It wasn’t the most earth-shattering thing I’d ever read, but it was still entertaining, and I realized I was interested in pulling away from my old stand-by, Jane Austen, and exploring the world of post-19th century British literature.

So I went to The Bookseer, typed in the book name and author and within seconds was provided with a list of similar books culled from Amazon and LibraryThing. Pretty nifty, huh?

For advanced users: Try searching for books that you hated so you know which ones to avoid in the future :)

Room redux.

April 11, 2010

I’ve lived in Greenpoint for a little more than a month, and this week, I decided that it’s high time that I turn my room into the oasis I’ve desperately wanted and needed since moving to New York City in August.

I was going to start painting today, but it was too beautiful outside, so instead, I’m going to postpone painting another week, enjoy the great weather and keep brainstorming about where I want my miniature redecoration to go next. Here are some things that have piqued my interest.

One of my favorite memories from growing up was a little succulent garden that my grandpa had. I couldn’t believe that plants could be that small and intricate, require so little care and have such awesome names. On that note, I’ve been pretty taken with miniature terrariums ever since I saw them on Etsy about a year ago. I like plants, but I don’t really have the adequate space or sunlight required to take care of anything much bigger than this. Side note: That teeny, tiny, itty bitty cup and saucer with an equally teeny, tiny, itty bitty lichen sprouting of it? Officially killing me.

“green tea with lichen,” weegreenspot, $40.

Another, less charming story about me in my younger years: My mom, an interior decorator by both nature and trade, always made our home such a clean, cozy, well-put-together place, but I frequently gave her a hard time. Why? 1) Her colors of choice were red and navy blue, and 2) she liked apple motifs. It was just so… Midwestern of her (how dare she?!). Now that I’m older and slightly wiser, I need to give Anne some serious kudos for recognizing that red and navy blue are a popular pairing for a reason: They work. And as for apples, I’ve developed a inexplicable penchant for them, too. I love this seller’s recommendation to use this canister for holding tea.

“vintage red metal apple canister small,” ModishVintage, $27.

And what good is having your own tea canister if you don’t have a special mug out of which to drink said tea? This one attracted my attention because it bears the name of one of the two children under the age of 12 in this whole wide world to whom I am related and, thusly, actually like.

“Retro Chic Crown Mug Vintage Federal Glass Milk Glass,” TipsyTimeMachine, $9.

Shout a holler at your past.

“1899 State Map Arkansas,” Holcroft, $15.

Fact: Roll-top desks are the jam. Unfortunately, most of them are big and expensive. So here’s something that is neither big nor expensive that I’d like to get to satisfy my roll-top appetite until I move into roomier quarters.

“Desk Organizer,” autumnalways, $14.

When I saw this desk organizer, it made me think of one of my favorite clips from The Mighty Boosh. I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Howard Moon, but my love was solidified with STATIONERY VILLAGE! Could this organizer be Binder Clip Bungalow? Post-It Palace? Or, in honor of its roll-uppable entrance, Gluestick Garage? You decide.

I kinda sorta really love anything that has to do with the Soviet Union. Not so much the spying and the state-mandated murder and stuff, but Brezhnev’s eyebrows and Zamyatin’s We and what I’ve lovingly coined as “proletariat chic” (epaulets, head scarves, double-breasted jackets, anything in olive green or industrial blue). What could possibly be more Soviet Union-y than a time-keeping device?!  It kinda creeps me out and fascinates me and makes me want to eat borscht all at the same time. Also, how much of a baller is this seller for being a MASTER WATCHMAKER? I didn’t even know those still existed. It reminds me of Dr. Manhattan’s character in Watchmen, who wanted to grow up to be a watchmaker like his father but ended up being a quantum physicist and turning himself into a naked blue dude that can travel through time and space effortlessly. I don’t know if it was a good trade-off, but there you have it.

“Vintage Russian mechanical alarm clock Vitjaz from Soviet Union period,” ClockworkUniverse, $35.

So, I guess I like to cook now or something.

March 13, 2010

Snoop and me, just hangin’ in the kitchen, no biggie.

I was sitting at my desk on Monday morning, minding my own business, when suddenly, something that doesn’t happen to me very often, happened: I felt an inexplicable urge to cook.

I have had a lifelong aversion to handling raw meat (despite what I said at the time, it’s pretty much the only reason I decided to become a vegetarian for an unfortunate six-month-stint in 2007) and an even bigger aversion to messing up, so cooking has never come naturally to me. Besides, with a mom and older sister in the house who enjoyed doing it, why in the world would I go out of my way to join them?

I guess some kind of inner time bomb went off and decided that my body couldn’t handle an exclusively spaghetti-centric at-home diet any longer. So that night, I did it: I cooked, using only my heart and a mental photo album of watching my mom and sister cook for years for guidance.

Not only did I not burn down the building, the meal turned out great. In fact, my dinner companion that night — a particularly dashing menswear blogger who suffers from chronic digestive issues — said that he did not have his routine stomach ache the next morning. Is it possible that my cooking has the power to heal, one bite at a time? You tell me.

So, dear readers, I present to you…

MAGICAL WISHBONE CHICKEN WITH HEALING PROPERTIES

Directions:

• Go to the Polish supermarket down the street. Using thumb and forefinger to limit contact with any number of hazardous raw meat juices, microbes, etc., pick up one package of yellow Styrofoam-and-plastic-wrap-encased chicken breasts. Hastily throw into cart, emit sigh of relief.

• Back home, remove chicken breasts from packaging and grip self for contact with raw meat.

• Rinse chicken breasts in water to remove excess diseases. Using whatever dull kitchen knife is handy, trim away fat. Remembering what your mom once told you about meat cooking faster when it’s cut into pieces, cut breasts in half. Smile at your own cleverness.

• Place clumsily cut chicken “pieces” into that really bitchin’ yellow bowl you’ve been wanting to use since you made this post. Squirt some Wishbone Italian salad dressing onto chicken until it’s all covered. Oh, what the hell. You bought the small bottle, so just use the whole thing. Discard empty bottle in trash.

• Preheat oven to 350, like the recipe you glanced at online said to do. Wait, make that 400 to expedite the cooking process.

• Place chicken breasts onto aluminum-foil covered baking sheet, sprinkle sea salt and cracked pepper on top, and cook for 15 minutes. Flip over, sprinkle some more sea salt and cracked pepper on ’em, and cook for another 15.

• Remove chicken from oven and allow to cool for five minutes before digging in.

It smelled wonderful, looked good and tasted great. I cut up my chicken and put it in a salad, but placing it on “a bed of wild rice” (‘sup, Better Homes and Gardens?) would have been a solid choice, too.

PYREX MANIA.

March 6, 2010

This past Monday, I officially moved into my new place. I have three terrific roommates, a reliable Internet connection, and — best of all — MY VERY OWN ROOM WITH MY VERY OWN DOOR. No more of this railroad apartment business for me.

Two days ago, I was in our kitchen, looking for a pot to boil some water when I stumbled across a vintage goldenrod yellow Pyrex mixing bowl, much like this and presumably belonging to one of my fair roommates:

Nothing special, right? Well. Not if you grew up surrounded by the popular Butterfly pattern (below) and were so obsessed with it that you had to take it with you to college and beyond.

“Pyrex Butterfly Gold Cups, Set of 2,” MerryMae, $8.

I remembered reading this article on Etsy’s Storque blog a few months ago, too. I had had no idea that there was a huge, colorful, intricate, beyond-the-Butterfly-pattern Pyrex World out there, just waiting for me. It’s amazing to think that something so cute and colorful can also be sturdy, long-lasting and most amazingly, oven-safe.

I boiled my water and went on with my day, but I couldn’t get that yellow mixing bowl or that Storque article outta my head. Since I had some final unpacking and residual sinus infection sniffling / moping to do, I decided to spend my Friday night following this trail right down the rabbit hole and did some serious searching for vintage Pyrex on Etsy.

Some favorite finds…

THE SUNBURST! I am not that good in the kitchen, but just looking at this makes me want to whip up a five-layer Mexican dip one side, some guacamole dip on the other, grab a bag of Tostitos and go to PTA night. I swear.

“Sunburst sunny yellow pyrex cooking dish, for 2 dishes at once, 1960s,” Ebersidhesgirly, $20.

I have never taken sugar or cream with tea or coffee, but I might if I had these daintily patterned little sweeties.

“Vintage Pyrex Corning Snowflake Sugar Bowl and Creamer Set,” SuddenlyLucky, $12.

The pink Gooseberry pattern, which was difficult to find on Etsy…

“Vintage Pyrex Pink Gooseberry Small Casserole Dish 1 Quart,” plaidponyvintage, $20.

… but not as difficult to find as the almighty OLIVE BERRIES PATTERN! There were only three items; all of them were the same dish, and this is the one of the best quality, I think.

“Pyrex Berries Olives 1.5 quart Casserole,” vintageinteriors, $12.

But here’s my favorite. I loved it so much that I bought it, so sorry.

“Vintage Pyrex Blue Horizon Covered Casserole Dish,” twolittleowls, $12.

Out to enjoy this beautiful day in Greenpoint!