Local Haunt: Harlem Tavern

Tonight, we went to dinner at Harlem Tavern. We had watched eagerly all spring as the brick walls rose around the perimeter, as the interior of the bar was outfitted, as the neon sign was hung, and finally as the outdoor furniture appeared. The time had come to try it out. Harlem Tavern is the only beer garden in the neighborhood; it provides one of the largest outdoor dining areas nearby, too. Often, I'll get off the train and see a line of people waiting outside the wall, waiting for a table. It's one of the best places to take a big group—the long benches are perfect for lingering with a bunch of friends.


Back to School Project: Crayonspiration

(Photo by saruhh01)
As a child, I used to obsess over my school supplies. Every time I got a new box of crayons or markers, I would dump them out and put the pieces back in the box—in rainbow order. The pinnacle of achievement was when Crayola started making boxes with 96 crayons. (My brother, for some reason, found it the pinnacle of annoyance to watch me organize.)

Design-friendly Dishracks

Our management company has begun slowly installing dishwashers in the units in our building. For a low monthly cost ($10-15), residents no longer have to scrub everything by hand. J and I are contemplating the addition, but it would be difficult to give up one of our few under-counter cabinets. Decisions, decisions!

In the meantime, I'm bearing with our Ikea Kvot rack and admiring the selection I saw on The New York Times today. Designer Richard Joseph picked out some of his favorite "dish drainers." I've included some of his and my own in the roundup below. Which are your favorites? While the Kvot isn't the most stylish, it does fold up neatly beneath the sink. However, extra points go to several of these that have a cutlery holder, which would keep my flatware from streaking so much. Any other good suggestions—or would you forsake it all and go with the dishwasher when given the option?
1. Ikea Flundra, $2.99
2. Norpro's classic Pine Wood Folding Rack, $15.99
3. Geo Dish Drainer at A+R Store, $48
4. Abode New York's High & Dry dishrack by Black + Blum, $59.99
5. simplehuman Steel Frame Dish Rack at Williams Sonoma, $69.95
6. Dish Doctor by Marc Newson at the MoMA Store, $70

Italianspiration: Lagotto Romagnolo

As if there weren't enough reasons to love Italy lately, we found another one at Central Park yesterday. His name was Walter, and he's a Lagotto Romagnolo, aka an Italian Water Dog. J and I have been obsessing over various breeds of dogs for the last couple years, just waiting until we finally attain that perfect combination of income, free time and square footage to own one.

After the Rain, Sun

As if the hurricane/tropical storm sucked all the clouds out of the sky, Monday was sunny perfection. Because the flooding blew out our servers, I had the day off work, so Justin and I went to Central Park. As you can see, we took a nap and read and met Walter the Lagotto (the most amazing breed of dog). After being cooped up inside for two days, we eagerly soaked up the fresh air and soft, sunny warmth. Check out more photos after the jump and enjoy the glorious weather!


Dark and Stormy Fondue

Last night, J and I had a couple friends over to celebrate surviving the storm (and to watch the VMAs).

I grew up loving fondue. Ski trips to Keystone Resort in Colorado were often highlighted with dinner at Der Fondue Chessel. Cooking our own fondue and raclette at the table was thrilling for my siblings and I. Later, my parents bought their own set of raclette grills and fondue pots, and we continued the tradition at home (punctuated by occasional trips to The Melting Pot.) Many delicious meals and many happy memories around fondue. Sunday night, we made two pots of chocolate fondue.


Weathering the Storm

Well, Irene petered out into a tropical storm, and though she did lots of damage to cities around NYC, we were mostly spared her wrath. This morning, we woke expecting wind and rain to be lashing our windows. Instead, most of the storm had blown over in the night and by midday, things were looking pretty good in our neighborhood. We ventured out with our fellow Manhattanites to survey the damage, grab a cup of coffee and breathe (relatively) fresh air. I love the smell of after-a-storm. The air is wet. You can smell the leaves and the dirt and not the trash. Even in the middle of the city, there is a damp freshness (I realize that sounds paradoxical.) But as we explored our neighborhood, we saw many traces of safeguards not needed. Better that way than the reverse...

Love, B+P

Today is my grandmother's birthday. When I was a little girl, Mamaw used to sing to us from Guys and Dolls:
I love you, a bushel and a peck!
A bushel and a peck, and a hug around the neck!
A hug around the neck, and a barrel and a heap
A barrel and a heap, and I'm talkin' in my sleep.
About you 
About you!
About you!
Every letter she writes, every phone call she makes—all end with "Love, B+P." As a child, I believed it was one of our secret codes. Actually, I still think so...

I saw the above design by Jason Wong of enormouschampion and loved it. He created it as part of a wedding suite for two of his friends, but I think the image also stands alone.

Happy Birthday, Mamaw!

Love, B+P


Me, My City & Irene

By now you all know that Hurricane Irene is barreling up the East Coast. There are enough sarcastic Facebook statuses, wannabe-viral tweeting, light-hearted jokes about stocking up on booze and cigarettes and "Welcome, Irene" parties, so I'll spare you. Best case scenario, Irene peters out and becomes nothing more than a rainstorm by the time she reaches New York. Then we'll laugh about how we over-prepared and how we "experienced" an earthquake and a hurricane in the same week. Some cities did get damage from both, so I don't find it that funny. But I'll spare you my treatise, because that's what the op-ed pages are for. They just announced MTA is shutting down the subway tomorrow at noon and all of the lowest areas of all 5 boroughs are being mandatorily evacuated. Things are getting serious, people. The NY Times is updating their information frequently, and here's a list of tips to batten down the hatches.

All that said, we are trying to prepare for the weekend as much as possible. Justin ran to the grocery store, which was a madhouse. I just heard from a coworker that Radio Shack is out of batteries and Duane Reade is out of water.


Midcentury Lovin'

Midcentury style and the color aqua are two of my favorite things. (I find it fortuitous that the color was so prevalent during the 50s and 60s.) Consequently, this article in the NYTimes made my heart pitter-patter for so many reasons.
(Photo by Nancy Palmieri for The New York Times)
Blogger Pam Kueber began Retro Renovation in 2007 and it's become the go-to place for midcentury homeowners and enthusiasts. Whether they're hunting for a vintage pink tile resource or light fixtures to complement a 1950s bungalow, "Midcentury Modest" homeowners turn to Kueber—and her dozens of other bloggers—for help. It's a place to share the tips and trials of restoring a midcentury home to an authentic state. Kueber's long-sought, turquoise set of steel kitchen cabinets make me absolutely envious!


Local Haunt: Franz James Floral

I've got a little story and a couple shout-outs today. I received an offer this week for a freelance project, at a company I've been wanting to work for more. All of this is exciting, of course, and I went home that night to talk over everything at dinner with Justin. (We tried Cédric—another new Harlem place, and it was wonderful. It's named after UES Le Bilbouquet's general manager Cédric Lecendre, who lives in the neighborhood and was completely charming and helpful during our meal.)

But back to my evening... I walked in the door to see this:
Somehow, Justin had managed to rush home, drop off his stuff, and then run to the florist. He made me feel so celebrated and encouraged. The really sweet coincidence was that in the hunt for flowers, he went to try Franz James Floral Boutique. He was helped by James (whose business partner is Franz), who talked him through the flowers. As Justin was looking at designs, he mentioned that the shapes and designs reminded him of Flowers of the World—the incredible UWS boutique that he's bought my "special occasion flowers" in the past. Turns out, James used to work there as a designer/creative director (I think that was his role!) But he recently left to go out on his own. We're thrilled that they're in the neighborhood now. He's created several bouquets that marked some very special moments in my life, so it gave a special night another layer of meaning. Here are some from over the years...

Italianspiration: Travel Organizers

It's Monday, which means I am already thinking of next weekend and my next adventures. My thoughts are also turning towards our upcoming Italy trip in September. In the midst of figuring out where to go, what to wear, and what to pack, I've been pondering ways to streamline the process. We are attempting to share a suitcase or just bring two small roll-a-boards that we can easily schlep onto the train. But one thing we've also discussed is whether to bring a laptop, iPad, Kindle, or any of the other devices that seem to power our lives (and weigh down my purse!)

Last week, I was thrilled by this innovative Vintage Book Travel-Tech Organizer by Design*Sponge's talented diy-er Kate Pruitt.


Bookshelf: Galore

I just finished Michael Crummey's latest abundant novel, Galore. Crummey's epic is set in the coastal town of Paradise Deep, a remote settlement in northern Newfoundland. A pale man named Judah is pulled out from the belly of a whale and into the bitter rivalries and harsh realities of two feuding families. Set in the 19th century, melancholy and moody prose weaves throughout the story. Several generations pass through Paradise Deep, each with their own quirks, their own loves, their own losses, and their own mythologies.

Crummey manages to reveal bleak realities with tenderness and grace. The town is filled with strong, broken people, who almost always accept their situation in life as-is. One of the most poignant story lines was about an old woman who married as a girl, out of duty, and thought she'd consequently lost the one man who ever loved her. Her discovery that she'd spent an entire lifetime unknowingly married to her anonymous admirer was too late, and about crushes the reader's heart with hers. 

For more, read this interview with Michael Crummey, this review and check out the book.


On the Wall: The United Plates

Okay, I promise this is the last round of state-themed prints I will post for awhile. But John Holcomb's set is hilarious, delicious and disgusting all at once. The logic of some of his food choices is funny, like the reasons for picking General Tso's chicken in Missouri: Despite the border war that will forever exist between a Jayhawk fan like myself and our arch-nemesis across the state line, I gave a nod to Missouri by making it one of my absolute favorite foods.
And any Texan would agree that BBQ ribs and cornbread is a solid choice. Enjoy!

H&M Comes to Dallas

(Photo by Lara Stolt, via Dallas Morning News)

I haven't lived in DFW for several years now, but many of my family and friends are still there. Yesterday, H&M opened it's first store in Texas at NorthPark Mall (my favorite—many happy memories there with Mom and Mamaw.) Wohoo! And it's just in time for Tax-Free Weekend, which starts today.

Although the brand is pretty prevalent in NYC, it's often too crowded with tourists to be an enjoyable shopping experience. I love the clothes, but saving money on trendy items is worth only so much hassle most days. Now, if it were a Marc Jacobs sample sale, things would be different...

NorthPark didn't allow customers to camp overnight, but the first 500 people got gift certificates from $10-$500 and opening day giveaways—now that would be worth it! Check out some great shots of the opening here and here. Enjoy and Happy Friday!


Closet Craving: Bold Pink and Red

Ever since I saw Emma Stone at the Friends with Benefits premiere, I have been longing for a pink and red ensemble. Now, it seems like the color combo is popping up everywhere. A long-taboo pairing any day but February 14th, hot pink and red are usually viewed as too similar to go together. I think these women may have proven that rule wrong. They remind me of Popsicles (one of my favorite summer treats!) What do you think?
(Photos by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)
Emma's outfit is actually a peplum skirt and top—both by Giambattista Valli. Although the look is exactly what the runway model wore, Emma still manages to make the stunning look her own.

Feminine Fonts

I have a major love for fonts, and I am a big fan of Anna Quindlen's writing. (For a font-fix, check out Friends of Type.) So this poster just seemed perfect for me today, as well as for some of my friends. (You know who you are. :) It's by illustrator Erik Marinovich and was featured in this month's Woman's Day.

The second features a quote by Italian fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli. I confess I'd never heard of her before today, but I just made the connection that's why my wedding dress was called the "Schiaparelli." No idea why I didn't google that long before now...
Someday, I would love to be described that way in the kitchen! Until then, I shall keep experimenting...



(Rifle) Paper Calendars

I am a sucker for a good, paper calendar. I try to keep appointments in my Blackberry and it just never seems permanent enough for me to remember. My friend Erin and I have had our Kate Spade planners for more than a decade now (I know, embarrassing), and there's always something so exciting about buying the upcoming year's inserts.

But I am also a big fan of Anna Bond's work and am always thrilled when Rifle Paper Co. comes out with new products. (I actually wanted her to design our wedding invitations but she was booked for the summer. C'est la vie.) This morning, I got the email about her 2012 calendars and notepads, and was thrilled to see the beautiful new designs. Her florals manage to be both elegant and whimsical at once. Check the botanical calendar and the rest of the new items here!

On the Wall: State Prints Part 2

Not to be repetitive, but here is another round of state prints I've fancied for a while. The Fifty and Fifty project is curated by Brooklyn-based designer Dan Cassaro, with one designer from each state finding a way to illustrate their motto. The prints have a completely different feel to the birds/flowers—much more graphic. I think the crisp color palette would look great in an office or study. Coral and navy, who'd have thunk? Which do you prefer?

On the Wall: State Prints

Our walls are anything but bare, but I would like to put more artwork up, especially some groupings or large-scale pieces. Today, I found these amazing state prints from Dutch Door Press. (Check out their Etsy shop, too!) I have an admitted love for owls, but I can be an equal-opportunity bird lover. The combination of state bird and state flower with the texture and dimension of letterpress printing makes me pretty happy. And the price is fantastic. I would love to make a set of these, with one from every state Justin or I have lived in. My only disappointment was that they haven't created Oklahoma or Missouri yet...


Monday Newsstand

(Photo courtesy of AntyDiluvian)
Here are some of the articles that piqued my interest or amused me today:

4 Years, 3 Apartments Later...

... also 1 marriage, 1 graduation, 1 bedbug infestation, zero pets, zero muggings, countless books, too many jobs and lots of love, prayers and dreams.

Today is the 4-year anniversary of my move to New York City. My roommate and I packed everything into a Budget Truck named Betsy and drove from Texas to Missouri, from Missouri to New York. We arrived on a Saturday morning at 6 am, after having spent the night at Howard Johnson in Hoboken. I started grad school on Sunday and things haven't slowed down much since. Lots of ups and downs, highs and lows, and every cliché I could throw at you, but in all seriousness, moving here has changed my life for good.

Project: Bookshelves Revamp

Today, I have been thinking a lot about my bookshelves. We have four Billy Bookcases in the bedroom and office that hold a mix of novels, reference, music and religion books, and owl bookends. But they need some freshening up. Since a rolling ladder is currently out of the question (space, expense and lack of a stable built-in on which to attach it), I have been toying with color-cordinating my shelves. It's not a novel idea, but might give me a fun, cheap project and a new look. Everything is currently organized by subject matter and height, which makes it easy to find, but not the most aesthetically-pleasing. (For example, classic writers like Virgil and Homer are together, while the Parisian 20s expats like Fitzgerald and Hemingway are on another shelf.) Above are my Coralie Bickford-Smith Penguin Classics and some other favorites. Anyway, here is some of the inspiration I found today on the interweb.


Baseball Inspiration

My husband is a lifelong Yankees fan, and though my loyalty still belongs to the Royals, I am learning to root for the boys in pinstripes.

Things I like about the Yankees:
  1. They win. A lot. Which is fun, I'll admit.
  2. The team has such incredible history.
  3. The stadium is a quick train away.
  4. We can get cheap seats and make it a fun date.
  5. They wear pinstripes.
  6. Justin loves them.
Things I do not like about the Yankees:
  1. Their massive payroll.
  2. They steal players from the Royals, who have a teeny payroll.
  3. The food is expensive (albeit delicious.)
  4. My extended family despises them.


Closet Craving: Briefcases

(Photo via NYTimes)
I confess, this T Magazine piece gave me a serious case of briefcase envy. In a city of schlepping as much as possible in a shapeless, massive tote bag, these sturdy, well-defined cases would be refreshing. We used to go to the Hartmann outlet every few years and buy an attaché case for my father. I remember the smell of new leather and the feeling that very, very important documents went inside that case—that's why it had a combination lock, right? I rounded up some favorites and these are all super-duper expensive, but it gives me some inspiration to look for one at a thrift store.
Attache cases for women


Italianspiration: Postcards from Verona

Today is one of those days, so in my mind, I am in Italy. I'm exploring the streets of Verona, learning all about the arena and the various squares, churches, bridges, etc. The Library of Congress has archived thousands of images on Flickr, and I found this collection of postcards from Verona, between 1890-1900.


Bookshelf: Daughters of the River Huong

I've been waiting to read Daughters of the River Huong, by Uyen Nicole Duong, for awhile. I have two adopted sisters who were born in Vietnam, and it's a place I admit I have a lot of curiosity about and little real knowledge. A novel might not usually be the best place to gain historical knowledge, but Vietnam's most recent conquests, from the French to VietCong to the Americans, were gracefully woven into the narrative.

During the process of adopting my first sister from Vietnam, my mother ended up staying in the country for several months. My mother and Anny were in a tiny hotel room in Hanoi, where she'd do laundry in the sink and could lie down on the floor and touch both walls. I remember when they finally came home, she told stories of French architecture and incredible food cooked on the sidewalk, of vivid silks and wide-eyed street children, of zipping motorbikes and lazy heat. Everyone in our family got their own ao dai to wear to Anny's christening. Vietnam seemed to my middle-school self like a land of richness and wonder.

But I'd also read enough about the ongoing struggle, the pain and disruption and brutality of the Vietnam War (and seen Forrest Gump, which I confess informed the other half of my impressions) to not only imagine a lush jungle paradise.

No novel truly encompasses a country or a culture, unless the writer was Michener. ;) But the story of Vietnam (a story of conquest and subjugation but also beauty and resilience) was told through the generations of women in one family. It's a melancholy tale that follows the life of a royal concubine, then her daughters—the revolutionist and the princess, then her granddaughter—a plain woman who loved to create gardens in the midst of drab realities, and finally, the great-granddaughter who was rescued at the fall of Saigon, lived in America, who loved, lost and sang. It's a glimpse at a culture, told through the perspective of admittedly aristocratic characters. If nothing else, the book gave me an even deeper desire to learn about Vietnam, to travel there someday, to learn about the ancient and beautiful country where my sisters were born.


Top Tenant Irritations

In the spirit of easing the transition to adulthood, Apartment Therapy posted a compilation of their top 3 renter complaints, as well as hundreds of solutions.

The Top 3? Odors. Noise. Temperature. I can attest to all three at some point in my apartment life. Especially during my time living above an Irish Pub. Between the late-night music, the trash (and other liquids) outside my door, and the bugs, my roommates and I dealt with our share of typical annoyances.
(Photo by Gavin Thomas, via NYMagazine's listing)

Hudson Anniversary Weekend

This weekend was our first anniversary. To celebrate, Justin and I wanted a relaxing getaway and a chance to be in nature for a while. Lots of time to talk, to rest, to just be together and not feel the pressure to be doing all the time. We're going to Italy as our "big trip" so we wanted a simple, quiet weekend together.
We drove up from New York Friday night, slightly paranoid about driving on the spare tire and starving, since neither of us had eaten dinner. The Wendy’s in Kingston tasted like gourmet goodness at 9 pm. But we were welcomed into the Renwick Clifton by Eric, one of our hosts. He showed us around the house and made us feel immediately comfortable. Then, we walked into our room and I saw the most beautiful, lush bouquet of lilies and roses. Justin had managed to track down a local florist. They made the whole room smell heavenly!


Luxe Life

A family friend was in town this week, and at dinner one night, we talked about good places to shop in the city. As we discussed good thrift stores, fun boutiques, the expensive and quirky glories of SoHo (above), et al, I realized that I do most of my shopping online. I live in the fashion capital of the country, if not the world, and I still usually shop on my laptop. I know, I know...

But today, I saw two articles that were slightly troubling or encouraging, depending on your perspective. The first is a piece on Smart Money about how online retailers will soon have to start charging state sales tax. That will definitely cramp my style in more ways than one. (In case you wondered, some of my current favorite sites are Anthropologie, AmazonGilt Groupe, Blue Fly, the Foundary, Net-A-Porter and Zappos.)
The other was in the NYTimes about the upswing in high-end designer shopping. Retailers like Neiman Marcus and Barney's are having trouble keeping some of their most high-end items in stock. It looks like as the economy creeps back to recovery, the wealthier Americans are getting more optimistic with their purchases. I wonder, though, if it reflects a new valuing of things that will last longer, since you never know when you'll have the money to replace it. Either way, I confess I'd sure love to be able to afford a pair of Louboutins!

It's Mapnificent

Mapnificent may be the coolest website I've come across in a while. For selected cities, it allows you to see how far you can get on public transportation from a specific address. You can adjust the time. The image above is the default in Dallas with a radius of 30 minutes. Of course, the site has disclaimers that there are no warranties—so don't be upset if it takes longer to get someplace in your area! But it's a great tool when looking at places to live and to explore. Although it's still in Beta version, Mapnificent has cities around the world and is adding more frequently. If nothing else, it's an amusing time-waster. Enjoy!

Easing the Transition to Adulthood

This morning, I loved reading this hilarious, practical list on Apartment Therapy about "8 Things that Would Have Made Adulthood Easier."
My favorite was "There's More Than Basic Chores: It wasn't until I had been married and moved 4 or 5 times that I really sat down and made a list of all the little things that, although don't need to be done everyday, do need to be done. Cleaning vents, the tops of ceiling fan blades, wiping down baseboards and mouldings. If I would have had a checklist from the start, these little things all make a house feel much more fresh and help motivate and inspire your cleaning routine."

Who would think about the air conditioner filter, the space above kitchen cabinets, the back of the hall closet or the area behind the recycling bins under the sink? I never do. Unless I'm setting something up there, having trouble cooling a room, or find something sticky. I need to be better about the once-a-month deep clean.

I've only lived in three apartments since college, twice with roommates and now with my husband. But here is what I would add to that list:



We just booked our flights and hotels this week, so Justin and I are for sure going to Italy in September. The trip technically celebrates our anniversary and my birthday that week. I'm sure I'll be posting in the coming weeks as I do more research, but to start, I looked at my own pictures from 2006. I've been to Venice a couple times with family and friends, but each time was in late fall or winter. I'm excited to be there when the weather is lovely!

But going through my old shots, I'm impressed at how vibrant and stately the city looks, even during a dismal season. This one is my all-time favorite picture I took in Venice. I think it's the combination of blues in the door, the way the water has chipped at the paint and the moss has grown over it. I desperately want to know what's going on inside.

Wood Floors and Character

Several months ago, Justin and I came home to find our neighbor's mattress in the hallway. We later learned that a pipe had burst on the terrace above us and flooded his bedroom. Fortunately, the walls in our apartment did not need to be replaced, but several weeks later, we discovered that water had seeped into our floors and caused them to buckle. The entire living/dining/kitchen area was covered with a swath of curved planks. When you'd roll a suitcase across the room, it would make a rattling thunk, thunk, thunk like a train. Long story short, our management company sent a contractor to assess the damage, and instead of pulling up the boards, he just sanded down the top 1/4 inch and then put on another coat of polyurethane. Bottom line: in the weeks since, the boards have started separating from each other. So when I saw a post today on Design*Sponge about wooden floors, I alternated between lust and envy. The folks at Exquisite Surfaces have done some incredible work with reclaimed, aged French oak. Someday, we'll have floors that we own, and we can have something like this. Enjoy!
Photos courtesy of Exquisite Surfaces


Sea Salt Ice Cream

I grew up eating homemade ice cream. My mother has an old family recipe for the richest vanilla that I might share sometime. We'd set the old churn on the deck and I'd check periodically to see if it needed more ice or rock salt. It was the kind with a wooden cylindrical frame, a steel canister in the middle, and an electric churn than went across the top. Licking the paddle when the batch was finished was always the highest honor, usually given to whoever had helped the most or happened to be sick that day.

Well, J and I received an ice cream maker for our wedding, and it's sat in the closet through the winter. But in the recent 100-degree weather, I've been craving good ice cream. I even went out one day during lunch to track down the Coolhaus truck. They were packing up for the day, so all I ended up getting was sweaty.

After a successful round of coconut-rum-almond ice cream, I decided to try something a little more complex. I found a sea salt ice cream recipe from Murphy's Ice Cream in Ireland. 

The biggest initial challenge was making the custard. As a rookie cook, I have no idea what it means when something is cooked "just enough to stick to the back of a spoon." I also have limited patience and turned up the heat before reading the part that says the eggs will scramble if over-heated...