Sidewalks of New York

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treesIt’s sad enough that the holidays are over (and I should probably get past that, as it’s been practically a month now) but if you live in New York, you get the added grievance of passing hundreds of Christmas trees abandoned on the sidewalk for weeks on end.

I don’t know why they don’t get picked up with the trash, or when they’ll finally get taken, but it hurts my heart a little bit to step outside each morning and see our banished Christmas tree – affectionately known as ‘Douglas’ to us – lying there on the side of the road, browning, drying up, with our little pine wreath nestled against his trunk. I take some solace in the fact that he is flanked by a good four or five evergreen friends. But it still bothers me to see all these once-joyful reminders of the season cast aside, making it even more difficult to get on with the business of wishing for spring.

I grew up with an artificial tree, so putting it away for the year was more of a “so long, see you later” than a goodbye. But on my husband’s insistence, we’ve become a Real Tree family (I didn’t argue, as we don’t have any room to store a fake tree anyway). Does anyone else feel a little sad about just tossing out your tree, knowing that next year it will look different and smell different and cost a whole other $75? There is something really special and magical about going out to get your tree, I’ll admit, bringing it home and seeing the personality it brings to our tiny living room. But I sure do miss it when it’s gone!

What about you — are you in the real or artificial tree camp?

Coming back

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winter window2

This week is technically my one-year blogiversary, but given my extended absence I’m not really counting it. Since my last post, the months have been filled with adjusting to a new job, celebrating my little sister’s wedding, sending her off to her new home in Oklahoma, traveling to Seattle and Texas twice, and of course the holidays. We’ve had serious conversations about when and where to have babies and buy a house, gone over our budgets and plans from every angle and did some tweaking, joined a wine club (that may seem counter-intuitive to the other two discussions, but we made sure the “misc” spending category covered it), visited with our extended families for a week, dreamed about summer vacations on a beach, caught up with friends we don’t see nearly enough, and whittled down our stack of unread magazines and books on our coffee table ever so slightly.

I apparently needed a little extra breathing room to process all that, but now, in the dead of winter, my fingers are itching to get back to the keyboard and my mind keeps me up at night with too many ideas that need to get down on the page.

I hope the last four months have treated everyone very well. Expect to see a lot more of me around these parts very soon :)

Vintage Glam

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My natural style could probably be characterized as ‘plain.’ I’m more inclined to pick up the solid t-shirt than the striped one, most items in my wardrobe are in the blue and purple color family, and my creative hairdos never make it past a topknot. But I’m starting to notice myself drawn to pieces that are a bit more ornate — especially rings, and specifically vintage.

My engagement ring is a classic solitaire, white gold with a not-too-thick-not-too-thin band (see what I mean?). It’s perfect and just what I wanted, but the intricate details and shapes of vintage are making my heart skip a beat. I mean, not that every girl doesn’t love shiny, glamorous diamonds and gemstones, but I’m reallllllly hoping that there’s opportunity for a statement right hand ring in my (near) future.

Here are some of my recent favorites:

Glam ringsI’m also on a real rose gold kick, which goes so well with the sweet style of vintage. A girl can dream. And maybe drop a hint or two for her husband.

What’s your ring/jewelry style?

Julie & Julia & Blogging

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Late Sunday afternoon I was flipping through channels and came across Julie & Julia. It was just at the beginning – two minutes in – and so I stopped and started watching. The first notable part of this story is that it is extremely rare for me to watch a movie on television. With rare exceptions, I do not watch movies more than once, and I really have to gear up to watch one. It takes planning. I seem to associate mindless TV watching with short 30- to 60-minute snippets — you don’t feel like you’re committed to sitting still any longer than that, although most of the time I watch three or four of those “short” blocks in a row.

Anyway. I had been wanting to see Julie & Julia (for those unfamiliar, it follows a New Yorker who blogs her way through Julia Child’s 500+ recipe cookbook), and after a morning of errands we were committed to chilling out on the couch for a few hours before we even thought about dinner. So we watched it. It’s really cute, by the way. Anything with Meryl Streep is amazing.

It was a reflective experience watching the Julie character, way back in the stone ages of 2002, start a blog. She was feeling unmoored, uncertain of her place in life or at home, uncomfortable with the fact that she wasn’t chasing a dream or hitting a new goal. It got me thinking about why I started blogging — and how much my answers lined up with hers. Do everybody’s, to an extent?

I was happy, but felt complacent. I’d stalled out at work, my personal life was no longer in a state of engagement-moving-marriage flux, and I didn’t feel like I had a short-term goal to aspire to. I became all jumbled up in my long-term goals and knew I needed something to bridge the years.

More than that, I needed a new creative outlet. Mine is the heard-it-before story of the little girl who filled notebooks with words and drawings, threw herself into her essays and creative writing in college, and then, with the exception of a few journal entries and a failed start to a novel or two, got caught up in life and walking away from what had always centered her before. At the same time, the pace of this city, and having a full-time job, have done a number on my attention span. So I needed something short-form, something that showed results and connected me both with other people and with the spark that once lit up my world.

This blog has been that for me. It’s still not quite sure what it wants to be when it grows up, so I thank you for sticking with this jumble of content and post topics. But it’s grounded me in some way. Now I have a new job and I’m settling into the rhythms of a routine, so I’ve become a bit of a slacker on this writing front. But I have to remember to focus on it more, or these slowly rekindling embers will burn out again.

I’d love to hear your story — why did you start blogging? What draws you to other people’s writing?

Things to be Happy About

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1. Crunchy red apples — and apple-picking season right around the corner

2. Baking mistakes when you think you’re making a simple cake for the two of you. You will learn a good lesson (and not repeat this when you try to make it again for company)

3. Summer beer still on tap. I hate it when breweries try to rush the seasons (I’m looking at you, Sam Adams!)

4. Reading a book that’s cute and sweet and makes you think about love all day long.

5. Ice cold water with lemon…or bubbly seltzer water. My two new obsessions.

What are you happy about today?

New York List: Tenement Museum

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This is embarrassing exciting: a few weeks ago we did the first thing on our New York list and visited the Tenement Museum. (Let’s ignore the fact that we’re more than eight months in to this 2013 list and just now hitting number one. I’ve been busy!!)

The Tenement Museum is on the Lower East Side and is set up to show the living and working situations of immigrants in the late 19th/early 20th centuries. We took the “Sweatshop Workers” tour and wandered through the teeny apartments of two families, once of which doubled as a garment factory.

It was really interesting and enjoyable…I particularly love dollhouses and dioramas and historical recreations (Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts is one of my favorite places ever) so touring the true-to-life building was just great. I kind of can’t believe it took us so long to get there. It tells a story about an era and a movement that was so essential to what New York City has become; it almost feels like we owe it to the city to pay homage to the past as we take advantage of the present.

The only small hiccup of the day was when I got a little overheated (it was August and not air conditioned) and almost passed out. Not wanting to disturb any of the historical props, I stepped out of the apartment and sat on the staircase and got in trouble for leaving the group. I still think that was a better move than fainting in the middle of the tiny room…

So that was a fun way to kick of the list. Spoiler alert: we’re getting to the next one a little more quickly than the first.

Have you been to any cool museums this summer?

Savoring Summer

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IMG_0570Hi all! So I’ve been a little MIA… I am soaking up the last days of summer, looking forward to a nice long weekend, and starting to get excited about the days of jeans and oversize sweaters and boots that are on the horizon.

I’ll be drinking sangria, enjoying some last sweaty runs in the park, and spending a lot of time outdoors this week. My one regret is I never made it to the beach (hard to believe, right?!? I live on an island, after all). But the weekends, as always, booked up too quickly. And my vacation days were all spent with café au lait and crêpes.

Enjoy your last week of August, and I’ll see you soon :-)

What’s your best memory from this summer?

Pins of the Week

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Clearly I’ve spent a little more time pinning than blogging this past week. Here are my most entertaining finds:

Helpful tablet stand for the kitchen — rather than perching my iPad on top of the microwave and hoping I don’t knock it into any food.

DIY Kitchen Tablet Holder

Easy diy cupcake stand that will always match the party decor

Great - Inexpensive Idea. Make a cupcake stand out of boxes. Wrap boxes to match your party decorations and add ribbon

A summer beverage that I wish I’d found before August

Southern Shandy - Light beer mixed with lemonade and peach brandy. Perfect hot day sipping cocktail.

A funny t-shirt that makes me feel old

I don't know who to get this for, but someone will love it.

Not sure how practical this is, but I can just see a collection of different colored betas on the bookshelf

Wine Bottle Betta Fish Tank Aquarium...too cute and creative!

And a little inspiration

Optimism

What’s the best idea you’ve seen on Pinterest lately?

Summer of 1999

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Celebrate Brooklyn! Seeks More Brooklyn-y Food Vendors

Every year “Celebrate Brooklyn” takes place in the park by our apartment. This series of concerts (some free, some ticketed) runs several times a week throughout the summer. We’d gone to a couple free shows before, and a few paid ones where we sat outside the black fence with a bottle of wine and pretended to listen, but last week, tickets in hand, we went to our first big show.

And then we were instantly taken back about 14 years. The show featured Guster, Ben Folds Five and headliners Barenaked Ladies. Yes, they rocked out to One Week. And If I had a Million Dollars (which, the first few times I heard it on the radio, I thought was an advertisement for the state lottery). We were able to bring in a picnic, and spent four really great hours snacking on cheese and strawberries and watching the shenanigans onstage. BNL especially is really entertaining. The only slight negatives of the night were that a) the port a potties were very dark, and b) a cicada crawled up my back. However, I didn’t even really mind that last one since I hadn’t yet seen a cicada and was afraid I’d missed my chance for the next 17 years.

For someone who rarely goes to concerts — I can count the number I’ve been to on my two hands — this was a fun evening. A good way to make weeknights feel special and summery, too.

Have you seen any of these bands live? What’s your favorite song?

Photo credit: Celebrate Brooklyn!

Mid-summer Book Report

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books

We are just past halfway through my summer reading period (as determined by the time from when I created my summer book list to Labor Day) and I wanted to give an update on how I’m doing. In total I’ve read 8 books, and am working my way through number 9. Not quite half of my list, but considering I’m hold #101 on 33 copies of Lean In at the library, I don’t even have a chance of getting to some of these for many months.

Here’s what I’ve read so far:

Gone Girl – I was hooked. Definitely a page turner, and probably not the best book to bring to Paris because I wanted to just sit and read it. It dragged on a little long, and the ending was a bit unsatisfying for my tastes, but overall I highly recommend it. Would be a great beach read.

Prosperous Friends – I didn’t really care for this one. It seemed almost like the author was trying too hard to be vague. Supposedly about the factors that cause a young marriage to fall apart…but mostly about selfishness.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home - I hadn’t heard of this book before and am very glad this project gave me a chance to read it. A story of navigating family relationships within the context of the bigger world, told from the preteen point of view in the 1980s.   

The Newlyweds – Loved it. See my full review here.

The Fault in Our Stars – Wow. This book really stuck with me. Put simply, it’s about kids with cancer and learning to live while facing death. It was no sappy Lurlene McDaniel novel, though, and became even more impactful as I thought about it for days after finishing it.

Beautiful Ruins – This wasn’t one of my favorites. It was entertaining enough, but I didn’t really connect with any of the characters. I had read a book with a similar flashback structure, time period and setting just before it, which may have affected my enjoyment of this one.

The Dinner – Takes place largely over the course of one evening, and left me feeling kind of chilled at the end. Good writing, but the characters of this one weren’t very redeeming, either. I just finished it, so still processing exactly how I feel about it. Probably would be a good beachside page-turner.

Those who Save Us – This was a book someone had loaned to me a while ago, so I put it on the list to finally read it. It traced the lives of a daughter in 1990s Minnesota and her mother in 1940s Germany. An enjoyable read, but it dragged on about 50 pages too long.

So that’s where I am. Now I’m reading Paris in Love, with Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore on its way to me from the library. I’ll be back in September with a final report — happy reading :)

What’s the best book that you’ve read so far this summer?

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