Sunday, July 31, 2011

pinterest challenge

Have you heard of Pinterest? In all my Internet nerdiness, I will say it's pretty great. (Follow me!) Ultimately, it's an online inspiration board where you can consolidate all the things you like from across on the web. It's a great place to tag images so you can find them later, and allows the Pinterest community to share the awesome ideas that are floating around out there. 

I have a board for possible DIY projects I spot from random blogs here and there, but I have yet to actually tackle any of them. Luckily, Sherry from Young House Love had the same issue and along with a few other bloggers (including the talented and hilarious Emily Henderson) has created the Pinterest Challenge. You can probably figure out the rules, but you see something and recreate it over the weekend. I'm always up for a challenge but very often need a (virtual) kick in the pants to get started!

My (p)inspiration: mason jar lights via poppytalk. I had been eyeing these for a while and they didn't seem to complicated as long as I had the right materials.

I got the quart size mason jars from Fishes Eddy in Manhattan ($1.80 each). The cord kits ($3.99 each) and halogen bulbs ($3.99 for 2) are from IKEA. Then I picked up a 1-1/2" hole saw from Lowe's ($6.97). That makes the cost of each fixture just a little over $10, including the hole saw which I can use again. 

The entire project was pretty self explanatory but the hardest part was drilling holes in the mason jar lids. My dinky little drill was no match for the paper thin metal, so I quickly ran to Kurt's apartment to use his tool supply. The Martigs' drill was much more powerful and quickly tore through each lid. I finally worked out a good system by the third lid with a few clamps and piece of scrap wood. The other two lids look like I tried to chew the hole in them.

Once back at my apartment, I assembled all the fixtures and tried not to get tangled in the miles of cords.

I don't even know what to call this area. It's my dining/desk/kitchen overflow zone. Regardless of use, I thought the mason jar chandelier would be a nice touch.

Here they are all strung up! I love the patterns the light makes on the wall. However, I need to find some different bulbs since these rival the brightness of the sun. I am considering Edison bulbs but hear they are expensive, and I'm not sure where to find them. Any (bright) ideas? :)

I'm really happy with the way it turned out! I still need to tame that mess of cords in the background but it shouldn't be too difficult. I will most likely just hot glue them tight to the wall. 

I can't wait to see what other projects got tackled this weekend!


Update! See the finished product here!

croque monsieurs

One day after work, I foolishly told Kurt I would make dinner. I tend to lack inspiration in the kitchen and was scrambling to come up with something good. I racked my brain and finally decided on this recipe via French Revolution for Croque Monsieurs. I'm often scared of French recipes because they seem complicated and only to be attempted if you've attended Le Cordon Bleu. Luckily, this one seemed relatively easy and wouldn't require a crazy amount of ingredients. 

Bread, cheese, ham, and my first attempt at Bechamel sauce before going in the oven. The recipe gives you a good framework to start with but allows for some tweaking to fit your preferences (I used a baguette instead of sandwich bread).

I think it turned out pretty well! You should definitely try this if you are looking for something a little different but still simple. I reheated one a few days later and it was even better because the sauce really soaked into the bread. Bon appetit!

alexander mcqueen at the met

A couple Fridays ago, Jenn, Christine, Kurt and I went to check out the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty Exhibit at the Met. I had heard amazing things about it and wanted to check it out before they take it down in August. (Thanks for getting us in for free Christine/Bloomberg News!)

The exhibit has been so popular, there is always a line that wraps through the museum. At times I think the wait could get up to 2 hours. We were prepared for this but actually hit it at a good time that we only had to wait about 30 minutes. 

What they don't tell you about the exhibit is that all those friendly faces you were waiting with would then be jam packed into a maze of small rooms together. My mother will tell you, I am the worst person to go to a museum with. I enjoy seeing things and taking it all in but I have a very limited amount of patience which is quickly depleted when surrounded by slow moving crowds. I respect the fact that people want to read every single placard and then ooh and ahh over the corresponding outfit, but it would drive me insane. I like to walk through at a leisurely pace, scanning the pieces, and reading the description when something piques my interest. Anyway...

Besides the awful crowds, the exhibit was fantastic. A lot of McQueen's collections were way out there but absolutely incredible. I don't often think of clothing as being conceptual or making an artistic statement, but all these pieces definitely had a story to tell. While the clothing was amazing, I was absolutely blown away by the exhibit design. It definitely helped express the moodiness of the work. That would be an amazing alternative architecture career!

{No photography was allowed in the exhibit, so all images of the McQueen collection from the Met Museum}

Friday, July 29, 2011

adventures in camping

Last weekend, a big group of friends took a camping trip to Bear Mountain just outside of the city. Kurt, Jenn, Christian, and Kritin made the approximately 50 mile trek on their bikes while the rest of us concocted a train/rental car scheme and toted all the gear to the campground. I will admit I am not an outdoorsy person and was not thrilled about camping. I mean, who puts so much coordination into a weekend just so you can sleep outside with all those bugs? Little did I know that the camping part would be quite enjoyable (albeit short) while the rest of the trip was a bit of a nightmare.

Saturday was one of those hottest days we've had all summer. I think NYC may have broken some heat records that week. In order to beat the brutal midday temperatures, the cyclists took off early in the morning and us train riders left the city around 10am. Unfortunately, due to some poor MTA directions, we ended up missing our train connection by mere seconds. Normally this would be annoying but not tragic. However, the next train wasn't for another two hours and would force us to miss our rental car window because the store closed at noon. Awesome

Thankfully, the cyclists were making great time even with the hills and heat and were kind enough to bail us out. They made the harrowing journey to the rental car place, dealt with the morons who work there, and agreed to come pick us up at another train station farther away. The heat was getting to Kristin, so she even agreed to be our personal chauffeur for the rest of the day. That's us in the above picture enjoying ice pops in the sweltering heat waiting for our pickup.

With all the travel issues, we were losing time and energy and decided to nix the hike planned for Bear Mountain later in the afternoon. Instead, we treked around a shopping center getting camping supplies and food. Here Andrea, Erin, and Johanna take a break in front of a huge rock in the middle of the strip mall. We like to think it was a close second to conquering Bear Mountain :)

While the train riders were slowly and painfully making our way to the campsite, the remaining cyclists were finishing the ride to Bear Mountain.

They made it! Congratulations!

Meanwhile, the rest of us found the campground and immediately took part in a lovely little stream behind our campsite. I feel like it was the turning point in the crappy day we had so far.

Thrilling UNO games progressed into late night Catch Phrase. We know how to have a good time :)

Kurt and I took a walk to the nearby beach at Lake Welch. Sadly, there was not enough time to get in the water :(

We grilled some hot dogs and s'mores for dinner. Delicious.

We survived the night! The gang the next morning after donuts and coffee (this was hardly roughing it). From left to right: me, Christine, Jenn, Erin, Johanna, Kristin, Andrea, Kurt, Christian, Erik (who made a surprise appearance by riding up from Brooklyn on his motorcycle!), and Paul. All in all it was a fun few hours at the campsite. I will try to forget all the trials of the weekend but am surely taking an extended vacation from camping for a while.

must read

I should have listened to Laura when she wrote about The Help. I just read it in preparation for the movie that is coming out in a few weeks. So good! I really enjoyed it and tore through it quickly. I would highly recommend it. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


A few weeks ago, one of Kurt's friend organized an outing to view Manhattanhenge. Twice a year, the sunset lines up with the grid in Manhattan and the sun appears to descend down the center of the east-west streets.

We all work around Union Square and decided 14th Street would be the closest vantage point. The sunset wasn't until about 8:30, so we killed time after work at Little Town. Kurt and Kate both took part in a mini beer flight.

The weather had been warm and sunshine-y all day, but a nasty storm came through while we were sitting at the bar. Leaves were blowing off trees, people were running for cover from the sudden downpour, and we were convinced our sunset would be shot. As per usual summer storms though, it moved through in about 20 minutes. The clouds parted and the sun reappeared. We rushed as far east as we could on 14th Street just in time to see the sun before it dipped below the horizon.

You get the best view by standing in the middle of the street. It was hilarious to see people crowding around the median with their cameras, often blocking traffic in the process. People (and drivers) unaware of the momentous occasion must have thought we were crazy. Just another quirky NYC thing :)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Boston 2011

We were in Boston a little over a year ago, but a couple friends have recently moved there, so we took a quick little weekend trip to visit. Kurt, Jenn, Christine, and I took the bus up after work on Friday, and Kurt and I took the train back Sunday evening.

After a long, rainy and traffic filled bus ride, we arrived in Boston and met Kurt's friend Thomas for a few drinks. Apparently "Happy Hours" are not allowed in the city, but "Drink Specials" are okay? If you can't tell, Kurt was in favor of the "Bucket of Blondes" :)

Along with our buckets of beer, we ordered some nachos. The bartender said in his 27 years of working at that bar, he had never seen a more beautiful plate of nachos come out of that kitchen. They were pretty tasty too and hit the spot after sitting on a bus for 5 hours. 

I guess we stayed out too late and the subway shut down. Who shuts public transit down?! Um, turns out most other cities other than NYC. I guess we are spoiled here. Anyway, catching a taxi was no small feat since everyone was trying to get one at the same time. You would think if the train stops running, they would have an excellent cab system. Nope. You can't even tell when a car is available or full. Did I mention it was raining? Yeah, not our finest hour. Eventually we grabbed one and made it to Thomas's apartment and immediately went to bed.

I have become such a supporter of exploring new cities by bike. (We've done it in Columbus and Ljubljana.) You cover so much more ground without the sore feet of walking (or death march as it often becomes). You can reach places not super convenient to public transportation. Plus, you get some exercise! (because we all now traveling means lots of eating and drinking...or is that just me?). I used to be skeptical but am now a believer.

Our little bicycle gang of Jenn, Kurt, Monica, and Thomas. Some tips for bike exploring: always wear a helmet, use bike lanes when you can find them, and figure out directions before you embark on your way. I feel like we stopped at every intersection, pulled out our smartphones, and tried to figure out where hell we were going. Boston is confusing! We are also spoiled by our NYC grid, I guess :)

All the wrong turns were worth it once we reached our destination: the Sam Adams Brewery!

Hops and other beer ingredients I can't remember.

The pinnacle of the tour was the tasting room where we had a few samples. It wasn't quite as free wheeling as the Harpoon Brewery tour we went on last time, but I got another tasting glass to add to my collection! (Am I turning into a frat boy?!)

After the tour, we had some Cuban sandwiches at a pretty authentic place in Jamaica Plains.

Then it was on to see Keely and Patrick in South Boston! Isn't their house so cute!?!?

They've done an enormous renovation on their house and are still working hard. My friends think they are crazy for taking on such an ambitious project. I think it's an architect thing. Maybe an Auburn thing too. We all have this I can do it myself! mentality. Crazy or not, they've made some awesome (albeit slow) progress.

Where some walls used to be. That's right, they took out walls.

Check out that DIY project!! Looks familiar, right?!

They are currently undecided on a color for their bedroom but are leaning towards a dark grey. I love the gradient of the paint swatches though!

Aubie's Boston doppelganger. Funny how he didn't bite or scratch me while I petted him...

Keely, Patrick, Busy, and Porkchop, thanks for letting us stop by! Keep up the good work! You're making awesome progress!

There was a Red Sox game going on at Fenway. Since I was too cheap to let us get tickets, we just rode by to check out the pre-game madness.

Dinner at the Barking Crab.

We had to wait a long time for a table for our large party but eventually had some yummy (mostly fried) seafood. 

Sunday before Kurt and I left, we did some walking around Cambridge and the MIT campus. We found a Gehry (obviously) building and picked out all the things we disliked about it :)

One of my favorite Boston things ever is the Aero Saarinen MIT Chapel. Always breathtaking.

Now I can check "beer tower" off my list of life experiences. I wouldn't suggest drinking one on your own, but it was fun to share one at the Cambridge Brewing Company. {Thanks for the picture, Jenn!}

Then before you knew it, Kurt and I had to catch a train back to NYC. If you can afford it, the train is much more pleasant than the bus. The views were pretty awesome. A nice bookend to a quick, fun trip.
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