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.