13 September 2009

Celeste's Room

So, after two very hectic weeks, we finally feel like we've actually moved into this place. The pictures are going to come rolling in! Here's the grand tour of my room. More will be coming soon!

I just love those keyholes; they're on every doorknob in the apartment. Also, the bookcase is crying out for a reconstruction project. Right now I'm considering painting it either white or light blue and finding some pretty paper or wallpaper to put on the back of each shelf, but I'm roaming around for some more ideas too. But I couldn't be more pleased with how my room turned out. I love it and I feel so at home here!

23 August 2009

Banana Ice Creamish

This summer, I've noticed two culinary trends of mine:

1. Almost every day I've damned my lack of ice cream maker.
2. I've come to really appreciate the banana.

So when I read about making ice cream with just a frozen banana and no ice cream maker on The Kitchn I knew I had to try it. They claimed that whipping up a frozen banana in a blender or food processor would create a rich, creamy consistency that felt like you were eating ice cream. But are they big fat liars?

Yes and no. With trepidation I plopped the chunks of frozen banana in my blender with a dollop of honey and pressed "blend." It didn't seem to be working at first, but after a few rounds of blending and rearranging, it did indeed suddenly transform into a creamy consistency. My first issue with it was that I have no idea how they got their banana to look like it does in the picture, all nice and firm. Mine looked far more like a custard. But, since it was just me, I decided not to get too caught up on presentation. The real question I cared about was, well how does this Banana Ice Creamish taste?

It tastes like a frozen banana with honey. To call this any kind of version of banana ice cream would be like claiming a strawberry pie and a strawberry smoothie is essentially the same thing. However, with that being said, it was pretty damn good. And it did have to be eaten with a spoon and chewed, which separates it from a Banana Smoothieish. It was really refreshing and tasty and definitely satisfied my craving for frozen dessert.

Other perks?

  • It took about 2 minutes to make.
  • If anyone has any dietary concerns, either by choice or allergy, this is one of the simplest and most healthy desserts you can get away with. You don't even need to add the honey. (May I also suggest frozen grapes. What is it about those things that make them so damn good?)
  • It's freaking cheap. Granted that I was living in NYC this summer, but everytime I got ice cream it seemed like a splurge. $8 to get it at the store? $3.50 to get a scoop? This costs roughly twenty-five cents for a serving. Just try and beat that.
So, for this last month or so of hot weather, I suggest you try this out.

05 August 2009

A Fridge For Roommates

If there's one thing I've learned about my roommate, Chelsea, after living in the same room as her for two years is that she's a thieving ho.

I'm kidding of course, but if you read that and thought "yup, sounds like my roommate too," then maybe you should look into The Flatshare Fridge. A design student created this set of stackable mini-fridges to attempt to eliminate the confusion of distinguishing between your two milk cartons (which will never happen for us because she drinks skim. Ew.)

And each unit is customizable too, with a variety of skins and add-ons. They also are eco-friendly since each piece uses up less energy than a full-size fridge. It seems like a good idea in theory but that shape doesn't seem like it can easily store any common fridge item. Where am I supposed to put my cartons of juice? Or even a bottle of ketchup? I guess we'll have to wait and see how the logistics pan out once the design becomes available to the public.

20 July 2009

How To Keep Track of Your Ideas

Between constantly decorating in my head and reading numerous decorating blogs, my mind is filled with ideas. I don't want to lose any of them, but how to keep track of them all? I've always loved the look of artists' inspiration boards, but since most of my inspiration is digital nowadays I didn't want to use up so much colored ink printing everything out. The solution? I have a handful of folders in my pictures folder that are solely for collecting inspiring images. It's so easy and helpful. I have a general one filled mostly with artwork and photos from Europe, one for my current writing project filled with photos of old New York, and then of course my decorating one. Here are a few of my favorite images.

18 July 2009

Spice Up Your Memo Board

Bulletin boards come in handy but I can't thing of many things uglier than a big ol' slab of cork. So I whipped up something a bit more pleasing to the eye.

What You'll Need:-corkboard: I found this set of 4 6x6 boards at Michael's, but you can get a sheet and cut it down to whatever size you prefer.
-fabric: This set of 4 coordinating pieces of fabric also came from Michael's. I like having each board be a different pattern, but you can use just one kind of fabric if you'd like.
-fabric scissors: unfortunately I only have paper scissors with me (thankfully the edges are hidden for this project)
-craft glue
-double sided tape

Step One: Cut your fabric down to size
Using your corkboard as a guide, cut your fabric so it's about an inch bigger than the board on all sides.

Step Two: Secure one side
Draw two lines of glue on the corkboard and pull the fabric taut over two opposing sides. Press down.

Step Three: Secure the other sides

This took a bit of maneuvering, but maybe someone who's more adept at wrapping gifts than me would have an easier time with it. First, I put a dot of glue between the two sides of the fabric where they meet at the corners so they'd stay put. Then draw two lines of glue on the corkboard and across the folded fabric. Pull the fabric taut and fold over, pressing down while keeping everything in line.

Step Four: Repeat with the other four boards and let dry.

Arrange the boards in a grid and stick 'em on the wall with some double-sided tape.

You can throw things up there willy nilly or artfully arrange photos or souvenirs so the fabric acts more as a frame. The added bonus is they're also perfectly lovely to look at if they're not in use.

16 July 2009

Dorm Decor: Remake Your Space With More Than 35 Projects

Ok, so you're feeling crafty, and those ladies at The Kitschnettes have been slacking on the DIY ideas (don't worry, we'll have plenty in the near future), what do you do? How about taking a look at Dorm Decor: Remake Your Space With More Than 35 Projects? This book, originally intended to spice up dorm rooms with individuality, is chock full of great ideas to help transform your space (which, let's face it, will likely not have much more room than a dorm room anyway). These sewing projects add a little flair to your bed, study space, closet, common areas and bathroom. They vary in difficulty and wow-factor, but I could see myself attempting most of these projects (I might even have to have a crafting day tomorrow). My favorites are the towels embellished with birds (see my decorating scheme), the tongue-in-chic Magritte pencil pouch (Ceci n'est pas un crayon) and the cosmetics carryall. And, while I'm probably not making them, I love their idea of making a stuffed animal out of a blown up picture of your pet at home and a closet organizer shaped like a dress that hangs from a hanger. They also include information on how to buy and care for fabric and sewing tools, and there's a pocket on the back cover stuffed with templates and patterns.

Bonus idea! A few nights after you move in, invite a couple of similarly crafty friends over to each make a project from the book for a house-warming party that's both fun and useful.

09 July 2009

What's Cookin' Good Lookin'?

I have amassed a rather hefty collection of cookbooks for someone who really only started having a use for them two months ago. Let's face it, there aren't tons of cookbooks targeted towards the same audience as this blog is, so I thought it would be useful to show you which ones I've been turning to for inspiration and guidance.
1. College Cooking by Megan and Jill Carle was the first cookbook I could ever claim as my own. I like this one because it was written by two college students (obviously for college students) so they really stick to the tastes and budget that I'm looking for. There are some classics like baked ziti, mac n' cheese and chicken and rice, but they also cater to the more adventurous like crab cakes and Thai chicken. Their instructions are easy to follow (but not condicentingly so) and the accompanying photos are lovely. There are also a few party menus interspersed between each chapter. Also, there are little bits of trivia and tricks to turning their recipes into vegetarian options littered throughout. If you like this book but feel it's a bit too meat-heavy for your tastes, these ladies are coming out with Vegetarian College Cooking soon which had some very tasty looking recipes.
2. I was very excited to finally have an excuse to get I Like You by Amy Sedaris . This book did not disappoint. I had always assumed it was more for the sake of humor than actual recipes and advice, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was heavily packed with both! I kid you not, I actually sat down and read this from cover to cover and had to stop every now and then to remind myself that, yes, I am indeed reading a cookbook. While certainly entertaining, it is a bit difficult to actually put to use since the recipes are arranged so haphazardly (tell me, Amy, what do you cook for a lumberjack lunch?). With that said, this book is an absolute must in your kitchen library.3. Memorable Recipes to Share With Family and Friends doesn't, I admit, look terribly exciting at first glance, but once you pay a bit of attention you'll see that there are some very tempting recipes throughout. There is also a wealth of entertaining advice (although not as amusing as Mr. Sedaris teaches us). The recipes in this book are a bit more adult (read: more sophisticated and intricate) than, say, the ones found in College Cooking, but they all seem perfectly doable (read: relatively inexpensive and easy). If they aren't enough to get your mouth watering, the gorgeous photographs certainly will. Warning: a bit of math will be involved, assuming you won't be serving over 6 people with each meal.

4. Honestly, I got The New Basics Cookbook because it was on one of those $1 book carts outside of The Strand, but it really is very good for- surprise! - the basics. It's organized in a way that makes more sense than all the other books on this list: the vegetables are listed with the vegetables, chicken with the chicken, desserts with the desserts etc. Is The New Basics terribly thrilling? No. But is it full of useful and tasty recipes? Definitely.
5. I don't keep kosher, but according to Hip Kosher: 175 Easy-to-Prepare Recipes For Today's Kosher Cooks it's the next big culinary trend. After looking at the recipes in this book I, admittedly, picked up with trepidation, I believe it. They look absolutely delicious, the soups especially. It's trying to be chi chi, but definitely the kind of chi chi that can be recreated in your own kitchen.
6. I got Nadia G's Bitchin' Kitchen Cookbook for my birthday in January and then it promptly disappeared. This dearly departed friend was full of sass and wit and, oh yeah, occasionally a good recipe thrown in. From what I remember, not many of the recipes jumped out as something I could see myself cooking on an average night but I could always see myself eating if it just so happened to be served to me. Everything's very Italian, even most of the instructions (don't worry, there's an Italian slang glossary in the back). Like Amy's book, you may not be turning to Bitchin' Kitchen on the regular, but it's an excellent book to have in your toolbox.

07 July 2009

Summer Smoothies

Today, as I was pouring yet another glass of water to try to stay hydrated through the summer heat, I realized that I didn't have to torture myself any longer. I remembered that I have a blender & fruit. I remembered that I can make smoothies.

As silly as this sounds, I think that most of us tend to reach for the things that are readily available like water, juice, or any other drink lying around the house. Usually, unless you're unusually health conscious, these drinks are full of sugar & artificial things (or just plain boring). Depending, of course, on what you put in them, smoothies are a tasty & healthy alternative. Here's how to make your own! :)

I didn't go out & buy things specifically for my smoothies, I just used things that were already in my kitchen & pantry, so keep that in mind. Typically, smoothies contain fruit, some kind of dairy, & juice. They can have other things, however, like ice, honey, ice cream, or even instant chocolate milk powder.

After looking around my kitchen, I find the following for my smoothies: one banana, one can of pineapple chunks in natural juices, one container of light raspberry yogurt, & a container of sugar free pomegranate juice. I combine all in a blender, with the exception of only using 1/3-1/2 cup of the juice.

I taste it, but it's not quite right. I add four ice cubes & two scoops of light peach ice cream & blend again. Perfect. (Remember to put the smoothies in the fridge to keep them nice & cold.)

I encourage everyone to raid their kitchens and make smoothies. They're particularly good for slightly overripe fruit that you might not want to eat on their own anymore. All you have to do is pick some of your favorite fruits (almost any fruit goes with another) and other things that you like. If you're nervous, search here for a few more recipes. But don't be afraid to experiment!

24 June 2009

Home Sweet...

I love love LOVE the handmade block printed textiles that Home Sweet creates for the home. She makes plain fabrics, pillowcases, table linens and lampshades. And, as is almost always the case with Etsy sellers, if you don't see something exactly matching your tastes, she offers custom work.

22 June 2009

What I'm Cooking: Vegetarian Week

Each week, my meal planning tends to naturally fall into a theme to make the most of the ingredients I'm buying. This week, it's vegetarian week. While I'm nowhere near a full time vegetarian, I like to designate a few days now and again to being one. If there's one thing I sympathize with vegetarianism, it's the added struggle of finding new, exciting, varied recipes to try. Here are two of my favorites, one that I've made for years and one that I just created, well, today.

The first is Spinach and Mushroom Fritters

For one person, you'll need:

-about a half a pound of spinach
-three or four white mushrooms
-a pat of butter
-canola oil
-a half of an onion or shallot
-1/4 c bread crumbs with herbs (or an equivalent amount of fresh chopped herbs like parsley, basil, thyme etc)
-an egg
-1/4 cup of flour
-1 tbsp Parmesan (can be more)

  1. Melt butter in frying pan over low heat. Chop onion and toss in pan, cook until translucent. Then add spinach and chopped mushrooms and cook down.
  2. In a bowl, whisk egg, then whisk in flour, cheese, salt and pepper and breadcrumbs or herbs.
  3. Chop spinach and fold into batter.
  4. Heat oil in same pan and drop spoonfulls of batter into pan (I got three fritters with these amounts). Fry on both sides until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
The next, which I unfortunately don't have a picture for, is Zucchini Stuffed With Couscous

This recipe is perfect for playing around with, I've never made it the same way twice, but here are the basic ingredients for one or two servings (depending on how hungry you are):

-a fairly hefty zucchini with as even of a shape as you can find
-1/3 cup couscous
- 1 tbsp olive oil
-1 clove garlic
-1/4 cup chopped onions
- 3/4 cup chicken stock*

I usually add some chopped mushrooms, if I have some. This week, I'll probably add some chopped spinach that's leftover from the fritters. I also might try to shred some cheese over the boats. You can also add green peppers, cinnamon, breadcrumbs, chickpeas, feta...use your imagination.

*It was brought to my attention that chicken stock is, in fact, not a vegetarian ingredient. I've been pretty out of it lately and when I included that I stopped to think "oh, well, I guess it just won't be a vegan week then." Oops. The easy fix: substitute it with veggie broth and you're good to go.

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and lightly oil a baking dish
  2. Half the zucchini lengthwise and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake cut side down for 10-12 minutes, then reduce heat to 350.
  3. Scoop out the centers and chop pulp.
  4. Heat the oil over medium heat in the pan and brown the onion.
  5. Next, add the chopped zucchini, couscous, garlic and any other bigger ingredients you've chosen. Then add the chicken stock and chosen spices. Bring to a boil and cook covered for five minutes.
  6. Uncover, let cool. Spoon the mixture into the zucchini boats. Put them back in the pan, cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes.

17 June 2009

Drumroll Please

After careful consideration, I have finally come up with a theme to base my decorating on for my room. Now it seems so obvious that I don't know why I didn't come up with it sooner: the sky. Yeah, I've been doing the celestial theme for a while now, but it's always been focused on night. I want my room to be much more inspired by the daytime. I want it to feel like I'm summering in my little house in the South of France instead of trudging through another Boston winter. The room is already painted a light blue with white moldings, so I'm going to carry the color theme over to white and blue, and then add a bird motif for the details. If you decide to follow a similar course, never fear, birds seem to be everywhere in home decor these days.

I started with the basics of furniture. This corner desk from Overstock.com opens up the space nicely and isn't too clunky. The dresser from Target is simple, clean and has enough room (maybe) for my clothes. And I love this sophisticated side table from Amazon. Obviously I'm missing a bed at the moment, but I plan on getting just a simple frame, nothing too exciting there.

Next were the accents. This clock from Etsy matches my color scheme and style perfectly. These sheets from Target aren't terribly thrilling, but I love the color and subtle embroidery detailing. If I wanted to go for the more artistic version of a clock, I'd go for this version from Urban Outfitters.

Then, the finishing touches. There were so many pieces of art featuring birds it was hard to choose. I like the idea of these wall decals , but I feel like I might be more comfortable with a lovely painting . This pretty hook is a must-have for keeping my bags and coats in order. I love that vintage birdcage look (I had to stop myself from looking through Ebay for actual vintage birdcages by reminding myself I'd have nowhere to put it).

It feels nice to have a real image and plan, like it's all really happening.

15 June 2009

Decorating for Less... Way Less

Recently, I've been seriously thinking about how I want my new room to look & what I'd like to put in it. I've gone through several floor plans, but I still wasn't sure exactly how to get everything I needed on a tight budget. I considered various options (mostly including Target and IKEA), but I knew that even their prices might push me too far.

I know that there must be others like me, so I thought I'd share my solutions.

1. Do It Yourself.
Instead of buying things already made, take the time to do it yourself. Not only is this usually a cheaper & more satisfying route, but it is also a way to ensure you get exactly what you want. For example, I found an interesting picture frame consisting of four different black frames glued together at Target. It would be perfect for my room, but I thought that it would be a fun (& cheaper) project to do myself. I'm also considering sewing my own duvet cover & curtains as well. Obviously these projects take a bit more time than driving to a store & laying out the cash, but they'll be well worth it.

2. Yard Sales.
They're not always a guarantee, but if you plan ahead & wake up early, you might be able to grab a few deals. I tried for the first time this past Saturday & despite the fact that I didn't have much time, I still managed to find a few things. A large picnic basket for my sewing supplies & a single serve George Foreman grill, each for two dollars. I used Craigslist's Garage & Moving Sales section with Google Maps to help plan my route. You can also check out your local paper's classified sections.

3. Freecycle.
A few days ago, I was encouraged to check out the Freecycle groups on Yahoo! Groups. The groups are created by area and are a way to find things you need or give things you don't need away for free. The Freecycle mission statement:
"Our mission is to build a worldwide gifting movement that reduces waste, saves precious resources & eases the burden on our landfills while enabling our members to benefit from the strength of a larger community." I ended up joining three in my area & on the very same day, I found a bedroom set. I only ended up taking a dresser & mirror, but both are real wood & will look incredible after a bit of fixing up. I've also seen offers for things like televisions, DVD players, & other useful items.

4. eBay.
I know that I've mentioned eBay before, but it really is a great way to decorate (or find just about anything). I want to fill my room with red votive candle holders next fall & eBay has plenty of deals. Make sure to check here for things you might need before splurging, especially if you need to buy several of something.

5. Craigslist.
Many people post things that they'd like to sell on Craigslist. Even though they're not free like Freecycle, it's definitely worth a look.

6. RetailMeNot.com.
If you're set on purchasing something from a store, however, make sure to check out this website. It's full of coupons, offers, & promotions that will help your wallet.

Good luck & happy hunting! :)

11 June 2009

Dror For Target

Let's be honest with ourselves. When most of us think about decorating, the immediate thought after that is "Ikea!" Well, Ikea may be good for some things but Target has extended their designer collaborations to home goodies and has immediately shifted my focus. During June and July, they're launching a limited collection of Dror designs in bedding, decorating and stationary with his innovative designs and Target's friendly price tags.

Stackable book cases, $89.99 per set

Collapsable clock, $24.99

Pillow, $19.99

File folders with lid, $11.99 each

Snazzy pencil case, $2.99

Perforated stick note pad (which I think is genius), $1.99

21 May 2009

Turn Your Thumb Green

The thing I miss the most when I'm living in a city is my garden back at home, especially at this time of year when everything's blooming again. It's been my dream for awhile to create a beautiful fire escape garden. It's a quick, relatively easy way to bring beauty and homegrown food into your apartment. And, you know, as soon as you make one, your place will magically transform into the Venecian townhouse pictured above.

What You'll Need:
-a fire escape, porch or stoop that gets at least 4-5 hours of direct sunlight a day
-seeds (see below)
-any combination of clay pots, pretty pots, window boxes and holders
-potting soil
-a small trowel
-a watering can (not entirely necessary, but don't you want one?)

What You Can Grow:
-an array of herbs: basil, parsley, cilantro and sage all work well
-flowers! look for ones that are pretty hearty. Impatiens are a no-brainer, also try geraniums, petunias, marigolds and hydrangeas
-veggies: tomatoes and other veggies take a bit more work because they require more attention and something to grow up.

How You Do It:
-fill your pots or boxes with soil
-poke a few small holes across the pot with your finger and distribute the seeds
-arrange on your surface
-water every few days

See? No problem. My ideal garden is to have two window boxes hanging from the railing, one with flowers and one with herbs. Then a tomato plant pot in the corner, and maybe a little bit of lettuce. Trust me, there's nothing like picking your salad from your own garden, and I basically live off various versions of homegrown tomato, basil and mozzarella dishes in the summer.

17 May 2009

Interview With Jen Jafarzadeh L'Italien

Recently, I was lucky enough to have Jen Jafarzadeh L'Italien take time out of her busy (newlywed!) schedule to answer a couple of questions. Jen was the home editor of Real simple and the lifestyle editor at Redbook, as well as the writer of a lovely decorating blog called The Haystack Needle. The Haystack Needle focuses on finding creative, unique and environmentally friendly ways to spice up your decorating and entertaining. Below, Jen gives us some advice on how to satisfy our cravings to decorate and entertain within the confines of a student’s space and budget, as well as some insight on the magazine industry.

1. I would love to hear some more about your life at Real Simple and Redbook. How did you get your start in magazines? What does a typical day consist of?

I majored in journalism at Northwestern, so I knew that I wanted to go into magazines early on. I had a few internships throughout college, but they were all at super small publications (most of them have since folded.) The downside of interning at small name magazines was it was definitely harder to get a look from the big publishers when I got to New York. The benefit was I actually worked at every internship and learned so much — and the magazines were all totally different in topics (from finance to parenting.) I wasn't running errands or filing — I was actually reporting and writing. And by the time I graduated, interviewing people was one of my strongest skills. For one internship, I was interviewing top players in the finance world yet I didn't even know the definition of a mutual fund. So I learned how to research and ask questions in an interview to find out about a topic I knew nothing about. I didn't know much about decorating or home design when I started at Real Simple, either.

I came to New York during another recession (not as bad as now, thankfully) so there were few jobs and a zillion graduates trying to get that entry break. I finally got fed up with not getting through to anyone and I made up a few creatively packaged portfolios. I then hand-delivered my portfolio to the Real Simple home editor. She called me the next day for an interview and I got the job. It's not easy to break into the magazine industry, and it's ten times harder now with the way the economy is. You're never going to get a magazine job handed to you on a platter. If your passion doesn't drive you to go after a job and put yourself out there, then you're going to have a hard time getting that first break. There is no formula to magazines. I moved my way up quickly to be a home editor, and I don't have a master's degree nor do I have a background in interior design. There were editorial assistants I worked with who had master's degrees and are still stuck as EAs after three years of working. But it's easy to get stuck at a magazine, and for the most part, you need to move around in order to move up.

2. What does a typical day as editor consist of?
There's no typical day as a magazine editor. That's part of the beauty of it. But most days toss in a mix of the following: an ungodly number of meetings (both in-house with your art team and top editors) and with companies doing desksides to show you their lines, press events and lunches to preview new lines (often at really nice hotels and restaurants - total perk), talking to stylists about upcoming shoots, scouting product for shoots online and in the market, organizing and presenting run-through meetings to get your ideas products approved for stories, attending photos shoots, writing and editing stories, moving your stories through the shipping process, handling a million phone calls from publicists pitching you products and an email inbox that's always overwhelming and the onslaught of mail you get each day. Then there are a slew of trade shows that you attend through the year depending on the market you cover. I loved the market editing — finding amazing products for my stories and I loved photo shoot days. You often have help with you but there are many unglamorous parts of being an editor. I know how to use a tape gun better than most, and I've been on the phone with Fed Ex praying that a super important box of samples is going to arrive in time for a shoot. You're definitely never sitting around. I felt like a sponge, and I just absorbed as much of the creativity around me.

3. Where are your favorite places to find that proverbial needle in the haystack?
Too many to list! A few which I've blogged about are Parcel, Jamali Garden, and Global Table. There are so many incredible shops in New York — I stumble upon new ones all the time. I love to check out the shops with some history and the smaller businesses that have their own personality. Especially in these times, I think it's really important to support small businesses so that they survive. It's the small boutiques and shops that give New York its flavor. I'm also an Etsy addict and find so many gems through Etsy sellers.

4. What is your latest decorating obsession?
I'm currently crushing the idea of big and small makeovers using wallpaper or paint. I'm really interested in working with painting stencils and creating textures and patterns with paint. I did a big wallpaper feature at Redbook last year and I learned all these ways to play with wallpaper besides making a wallpaper accent wall. We made a wallpaper folding screen and wallpapered magazine files among others. There's a new book by Chronicle Books out on wallpaper projects, Wallpaper Projects: More Than 50 Craft and Design Ideas For Your Home that I'm definitely excited to check out for inspiration.

5. Our blog is mostly targeted at the college student and recent grad making their first home on their own. What are your tips on decorating with our limited space and budget?

Paint is actually one of the cheapest makeovers. Paint your awful hand-me-down furniture or paint your wall (or ceiling — love that look!) and it's as good as new.

6. How do you recommend going green with our limited space and budget?

In my series Green Swap, I covered a ton of green topics from dry cleaning to non-toxic paint. There are so many everyday ways you can be greener — and not spend any more money. Green cleaners for your home are now not any more expensive than standard cleaners with brands like Method and Seventh Generation. If you're using toxic cleaners, you're basically breathing in toxic fumes and polluting the water systems. I think the concept of Slow Food is an easy, important way you can make a green change. By making your own simple meals, rather than ordering take-out every night, you can help the planet and help your wallet.

7. You just completed your Green Swap series. What is the most interesting thing you learned through these interviews?
I think the idea of eating local food and eating home-cooked meals stuck with me the most. Finding time to cook at home is definitely something I struggle with, but you can really make a statement in how you eat and the choices you make with your food. I also can't get over the organic dry cleaning scam.

8. Facing an empty apartment waiting to be decorated can be awfully intimidating. Where do you suggest to begin?
Think about the room's main function (I personally think a stimulating color like red is a bad choice for a bedroom where sleep is the main purpose.) Think about a style or mood you'd like to create. Pull a lot of tears from magazines that inspire you. Decide on a color palette. And then go for it! Nowadays, there is so much inspiration on the DIY realm. You can really create any look from glam to cottage style with a little effort.

9. What are your views on the rise of DIY culture? Where do you think the movement is heading?
I'm such a fan of how DIY and craft are evolving and moving into a modern light and moving away from the idea of crafts being pompoms and Popsicle sticks. I don't know what's going to be the next big thing but there's definitely going to be more innovation with patterns, textures, papers, paints, and fabrics. I think making the utilitarian objects in our homes be more personalized is going to continue to take shape through DIY projects. Your hook rack doesn't have to be generic anymore. I love how DIY is allowing people to put their personal style stamp on something. And decorating at its core is really about making a space be filled with what you love.

10. One of the joys of having your own place is entertaining guests. Not all of us will settle for keggers and would like to plan a nice, adult evening for our friends. But, again, we're working with very small spaces (often without even a living room). Do you have any suggestions to work around this?

If you're working with a small space, opt out of a dinner party and go for appetizers and drinks or host a dessert party. Who wouldn't love cupcakes and cocktails? I always make one signature drink that I can make ahead — like sangria – rather than a drink that requires you to play bartender. Take advantage of the space you do have. Plan to have a party in the spring or summer and have everyone meet you in the park for a picnic. Or open up your bedroom and toss some cushions and folding chairs inside so it invites conversation circles. The key to hosting is to keep it simple but make it pretty. You can serve a pie you bought at your farmer's market (rather than made at home) but put it on a platter and serve with some homemade whipped cream as a special touch.

Thanks again to Jen Jafarzadeh L'Italien for the interview!

This interview is also published on Audrey Monroe

12 May 2009

Temporary Decoration

It would be silly of us to write a decorating blog targeted at the younger set and not address the question almost everyone is likely to need answering: how do I go about decorating a sublet?

If you're anything like me (and if you're reading this, then I can only assume you are), it's an extremely difficult task to face an empty room and not immediately start planning on how to decorate it. But when that room is only yours for a few months, at some point it's a waste of your time and money to put too much of an effort into it. So, how do we strike a balance?

Well, here's how I worked it out with the room I just moved into that has quite the New York City dimensions:
1. It can be tempting to immediately bring a bunch of art and posters to cover up the inevitable ugly white walls, but that's a waste of precious packing space. Bring a few, small favorites and include a calender (it's art that changes every month!) and leave the rest of the decorating for things you pick up throughout your stay. I've already added a few postcards and posters I got for free from events and stores, which I'll probably just throw out when I move again.

2. Yeah, stuffed animals. I packed those, and I included them in a sublet decorating guide. I find them very important to keep around. These are some much beloved handmade robots that have fuzzy feelings and memories attached to them, which can be a comfort to have when you're in a new place. And, if you get overwhelmed or lonely, you'll always have a hug.

3. I have two nice window ledges, but no room for, well, pretty much anything else besides a bed in my room. Therefore this one became my desk and coffee table, and the other was turned into my powder room. Also, it's clearly important to bring along some reading and notebooks to record your adventures in.

4. If your room is spatially challenged, creative underbed storage is a necessity. Behold: under this bed, I have a big suitcase that I brought all my clothes in, packed with a small suitcase, packed with a duffel bag for weekend travel, packed with extra toiletries and the like that I'm storing for later. Next to that is a box stuffed with a sleeping bag for guests. That's a twin bed that's now storing instruments for moving out (lessening the hassle), essentially a closet, and the necessities for both being and having a guest.

5. A nightstand is essential for eliminating clutter and creating some extra space. If the room doesn't already have one and you don't want to splurge at the moment, pick up (or likely dig out from the closet) a little folding card table that is a cinch to pack. Besides holding your iHome, it's a place to keep all those little odds and ends. And, whether it has a drawer or just a space underneath, you can slide a box of even more odds and ends in there and it'll look perfectly in place.

6. This last bit is just a little reminder. I find it necessary to bring my own bedding when I'll be staying somewhere else for more than a few nights (and, even so, I at least bring my pillow). It immediately makes you feel more at home and not like you're temporarily passing through. And, that way you know for sure your bed will be comfortable. What's really more important than that?

A few other quick tips that didn't fit in the photo:

-a tall standing lamp immediately makes the room more interesting by creating different levels, and guarantees you'll have enough light (because you never know).
-those little sticky hooks that press on to the wall are life-savers. Buy two or three to put on the back of your door and there you have it, an extra closet for your towel, jacket, bags, whatever.
-since it is just a short-term deal, don't be afraid of using cheapo shortcuts. For example, I was faced with the challenge of fitting my whole wardrobe in a closet (a task I've never experienced before), and ending up running out of space to put my underwear. The solution? A large paper bag on the floor of the closet. Is it classy? Absolutely not. But it gets the job done.
-a side note on closets: I don't know what I'd do without one of those shoe racks that hangs from the rod in your closet. I got one from Bed, Bath and Beyond that has pockets along the side. I put my shoes (two to a pocket), small bags, scarves and belts in the pockets, and then filled up the side pockets with my hair styling products, face washes, lotions and medicine cabinet.
-besides the fact that I feel a bit lost without a full-length mirror, I've read time and time again that a mirror does wonders for opening up a room.

04 May 2009

Red Bag of Courage

Too often, magazines make lists of the upcoming hottest trends full of items that, for my wallet at least, are way past splurge. I'm sorry, but I just can't dish out $400 for a dress that I'll wear three times, & $200 for a matching belt that won't be hip in three weeks. So here at The Kitschnettes, we're going to start a 'worth the splurge' series that will feature our kind of splurges. The college student friendly kind. :)

First on the list: ModCloth's Red Bag of Courage. This vegan-friendly faux-leather bag is exactly what I was searching for when I first Googled 'big red bag.' I searched just about everywhere, & as a last resort, I tried Polyvore (suggested to me by Celeste). I typed in 'handbag,' selected my colors, & there it was. My big red bag.

Anyway, ModCloth is retailing this fabulous find for $60. A bit of a splurge for someone used to bags from H&M, but certainly easier to stomach compared to this similar bag for nearly $900 & this one for almost $1,500. Sixty dollars is completely worth the splurge.

But if you're looking to save even more, I suggest heading over to eBay. They have a ton of listings for red bags, but after I found the Red Bag of Courage, I was sold. As a general rule, however, once I find something on Amazon.com or anywhere else, I always check eBay before purchasing. Last time I did this, I got these shoes, for 25% off!

Spice and Romance in the South End

I bet you think you can't go out to dinner often because it's too expensive, right? Wrong! It just takes some searching to discover some great, cheap finds. Take Masa in the South End for example. Entrees in the dining room can go for as much as $30 a pop, but head over to the bar area and take a look at their tapas menu. At a a dollar a piece it's already a reasonable offer, but get this: every day from 5-7 (all night on Thursdays) they offer a deal for half off on their combo platter, that's 10 tapas for $5! Trust me, this will fill you up and leave you more than satisfied.

I've been to Masa three times in the past year and I've always really enjoyed their delicious, unique take on Southwestern tapas. Their menu changes seasonally, but they always present a variety of meat, seafood and cheese dishes. Thankfully, there is a range from mild to spicy to give your mouth a rest now and again. Some are familiar (empinadas, taquitos, battered shrimp) but with a twist, some are unexpected experiences (chorizo with cranberry chutney, tuna tartare, pulled pork spring roll), everything is tasty. And if you're in the mood for something sweet (and at $5 for a meal, why not have dessert?) they have some wonderful options. I've had their margarita key lime pie with a coconut crust and Chelsea tried their caramelized banana bread pudding, served with chocolate ice cream.

If you're looking for a romantic ambiance, look no further. Talk about mood lighting! The whole setting is very intimate, despite the fact that you're seated practically on top of your neighbors. Their mix of classic Spanish guitar and contemporary music makes for good background noise. And, if your daiquiri starts kicking in and it's after 9 on a Thursday, they also have free salsa lessons to a live band! It's an excellent place to relax with your friends while enjoying a great, cheap meal.

I'm A Little Teapot...

...and tea kettle...

This may come as a shock, but, apparently the place to get a cute teapot is in the U.K. Since the cost of shipping would most likely push the price out of the range of our intended audience, I tried to keep it all American. This proved to be quite the challenge, apparently only resulting with blue and red teapots.

The quest was worth it, however, because a cheery little teapot is the perfect kitchen accessory. Here is what I found:

1. This proud little pot from Down to Earth Toys

2. A classic KitchenAid model

3. Behold! Bed Bath and Beyond!

4. This little stout one from Essential Kitchen Stuff

5. An adorable polka dot from The Afternoon

6. Can't you see Mrs. Pott's face on this one from The Tea Table?

02 May 2009

Etsy Prints Roundup

If you haven't heard of Etsy by now, shame on you. The online shopping community is the place to go for indie handmade goods. Usually you can find things for pretty cheap (most of the prints pictures above were between $12 and $20).

Right now I've been really digging prints, mostly of the gocco, linocut and woodblock variety. I have a lot of plans for these babies. I can see them hanging up everywhere in my apartment, making my own calendar with them or using one to decorate the cover of a blank notebook.

Etsy can be an overwhelming experience, so here are a few of my favorite shops to browse through.

1. This elephant by Kerry Beary is just a peek at her varied styles of prints offered in her shop. She also has some pretty cool mod-like designs.

2. Market Store Shoppe has a snarky little collection of portraits of exotic animals. I have this funny image of hanging the giraffe in the bathroom, opposite the toilet, so he stares you down as you pee.

3. I love the clean style of Art and Others . This print is just one piece of her collection of drawings of every bike you can imagine.

4. I fell in love with Monjojo's series of French stores (and name). I want to hang this up in the kitchen and stare at it while I'm cooking, imagining I'm really in Paris and not Allston.

5. How cute is this mixed media piece by Carambatack Design? I experimented with this style before, and loved the results. There's just something so whimsical about it.

6. Paper Moth Illustration has so many wonderful prints it was really difficult to choose which one to display here. It's so hard to resist a good dandelion picture.

7. If egg beaters aren't your utensil of choice, you'll be sure to find a better fit in Studio Mela's shop. Obviously, this is destined for the kitchen.

8. If you're not so much into "cute," check out Red Hydrant's slightly darker prints. I can't tell if this cityscape is romantic or foreboding.

9. I want this print by Katep in my hands right now! It's adorable, and let's face it, we all feel like that little girl sometimes.

La Famiglia Giorgio

The boyfriend about to enjoy a large
plate of calamari over a bed of pasta.

Just a few blocks from the Haymarket T Station, La Famiglia Giorgino lies nestled in with all of the other tiny restaurants in the North End. But don't assume that because it's nearly hidden, it should be overlooked.

Personally, I've only been to La Famiglia Giorgino twice, but whenever I crave some hearty pasta, it's the first place that I think of. With a choice of twenty different sauce & veggie combinations to top your choice of pasta, you can't go wrong. They even have five specialty pastas that are all handmade: ravioli, white tortellini, gnocchi, fettuccini, & tri-colored tortellini.

And that's not the only thing to fall head over heels for. All of these pasta dishes are fifteen dollars or less, unless you choose a specialty pasta. If you opt for the homemade (you should) they'll tack on three dollars. But as you can see from the picture above, the portions are anything but lacking.

Besides the Misto di Pesce, their signature dish, no other dish on the menu is over twenty dollars. The aforementioned dish is forty dollars, but with good reason. The dish consists of clams, mussels, calamari, & shrimp sauteed in a fresh tomato, marinara, or garlic & oil sauce & served over two pounds of pasta. If you can finish it by yourself, they'll even give you a t-shirt.

Though I'm not a huge fan of calamari ($17) myself, I did try it, & it was wonderful. My orders were the pesto alfredo over fresh fettuccini ($18) & the saltimbocca over fresh ravioli ($18). Both of which I was forced to take half of home, and I still had to forgo dessert.

But La Famiglia Giorgino's menu doesn't stop at pasta. They have everything: pizzas, calzones, salads, soups, chicken, veal, fish, & traditional desserts, as well as eighteen vegetarian options. Be warned, however, that you will not make it to dessert unless you have four stomachs or a mind of steel.

Overall, both of my meals were absolutely delicious, romantic (there's even a fireplace in the cozy dining area), & the service was beyond perfect. I would highly recommend this tiny getaway to anyone who was looking for a lovely Italian meal. I doubt you'll find anything better.

And if you really feel like you can handle dessert (but that you need a teeny walk to digest first), La Famiglia Giorgino is just down the block from Bova's Bakery, which is open 24/7. Buon appetito!

01 May 2009

Chelsea's Wishlist

1. Lately, I've been obsessed with black, white, & red, if you can't tell by the design of the blog. But I really love the idea of a black & white patterned comforter with an accent of red sheets. Thank you, Target.

2. This is what started my black, white, & red bed idea. While randomly perusing through gifts.com, I found the most adorable pillowcases I've ever seen in my entire life. No lie. These are a bit expensive however, so I'll probably take the inspiration and make them with fabric paint myself. :)

3. In my current room, I have about forty prints of my friends & family. I'd like to do something more special next year (maybe) like this, using frames from thrift shops & my usual CVS prints.

4. Placemats! I think they're an easy way of making a table more homey without the hassle of a tablecloth. Plus, there's the added bonus of the ability to customize them. I love this idea of chalkboard placemats.

5. Since our apartment won't have a common area next year (saving money is much more important), I decided that my ideal bed would be a futon bed. One of my best friends ordered one from here, but I hope to inherit something similar (and cheaper) from our apartment's current occupants.

6. Though our rooms are thoroughly lit, lamps are still a necessity. Making one seems like so much more fun than picking one out at IKEA. Especially if I can make it out of a bottle...

7. I am not a huge fan of butterflies (though the bedroom I decorated in 6th grade will tell you differently...) but I still like the decoupage candle holders we all made in second grade for Mother's Day. Don't even kid yourself, these are awesome.

8. In the apartment, there's a teeny balcony, perfect for some outside dinners (with decoupaged candle holders!). In the interest of maintaining everyone's sanity & creating another crafty project, I thought decorated tv trays would be an ideal situation.

9. Finally, red curtains. There are approximately twenty seven (or just five) windows in my room & because I happen to love sleep, this will be an issue in the morning. Hence, curtains. Yes, I do know they're shower curtains, but I like the look of these better. :P

Celeste's Wishlist

1. Glass Jars to store dry ingredients in the pantry. I also want smaller jars for herbs and spices.

2. Modular Drawers Bookshelf made from salvaged desk and dresser drawers, repainted with wallpaper lined insides, stacked artfully to make shelves.

3. A Cute, Big Girl Clock. I've been dying to buy a clock-making kit from a hardware store and find a cute little picture like this one to turn into a clock for the wall. Because reading the time off your iHome is sooo dorm-room.

4. A Heart Made From Photos In the age of online photo albums, a real-life photograph is a special thing. I want to make a collage of my favorite photos and hang it over my bed.

5. Vintage Tin Signs My dad's kitchen is chock full of them, and I've always loved the look.

6. A Shuttered Bulletin Board gives a classy touch to a memo board.

7. Pin-Up Girls I just love them. I want to find an actual print and frame it.

8. Stacked Vintage Suitcases I love the look of vintage suitcases. Stacking three or four of them gives you instant art and instant storage. Plus you always get the feeling that you're about to travel, and with my constant state of wanderlust, that's certainly a good thing.

9. Vintage Vogue Covers My ideal is to alternate each pin up girl with a Vogue cover, two of each. I still regret passing up a framed 1924 Vogue cover at a yard sale for $12...I saw it in a local antique store weeks later for $70. Maybe my good luck will come again soon.