Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Merry and Bright

The holidays are a time for traditions. Though they're often cheesy and silly, I think that traditions define what it means to celebrate family, friends, and loved ones around the holidays. There are personal traditions (it doesn't feel like Christmas until I've watched It's a Wonderful Life) and there are family traditions (at Christmas dinner, my mom puts out those crackers with little prizes in them and we all wear our paper crowns through dinner, despite how silly we all look).

My favorite holiday tradition though is the annual party I have with my friends from high school. This year was our 10th annual-a big milestone! It started in 1999, in a friend's basement with a Secret Santa exchange, cookies, and silly movies, and has progressed to fancy appetizers, a ridiculous Yankee Swap, and plenty of libations. Our little group has grown to include boyfriends, husbands, pets, and soon, there will be babies. We are scattered around the country, and though we don't often talk or get together as much as we could, we still manage this one time a year to come together, saddle each other with crazy presents (this year I got a leopard-print "snuggle"--not to be confused with a Snuggie), and laugh until our stomachs hurt. It's a good time.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Get Festive: Weekend in New York, 12/11-12/13

I spent this past weekend in New York, getting into the holiday spirit. Christmas in New York is a wonderful time--full of sparkle and spirit. As my bus crawled its way down Fifth Avenue Friday night, I peeked into the opulent buildings, windows warmly lit, decorated with twinkling trees and glowing candles, doormen standing like toy soldiers at each grandiose entryway. The shop displays get more elaborate each year--Cartier was adorned with a giant, sparkling red bow, Bergdorf's Men's store had actual props and characters from the Fantastic Mr. Fox movie, and nearly every store front was full of color and glitter. Here are some highlights from my festive weekend:

Just another Saturday morning in Williamsburg. NYC's SantaCon took place Saturday, and we were treated to all manners of Santas, elves, reindeer, gingerbread men, and Frosties everywhere we went in the city.

Ninja Santa!

Brunch at B Bar & Grill--SO GOOD.

One of the best lattes I've ever had.

Probably my favorite window display, for its creativity and sheer strangeness. This was at Bergdorf's.

Close-up shot, courtesy of Joe.

Joe's Christmas tree, which is pretty much the most adorable tree I have ever seen.

On Sunday, we went to see It's a Wonderful Life, my absolute favorite Christmas movie, at a theater in the East Village. So much fun to see it on the big screen.

How are you getting into the holiday spirit?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Give a Hoot

I've always felt a kinship to the owl--bookish, screechy, green. I am loving this French Connection top--kind of want to add it to my Christmas list.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Salem in November

On a sunny Saturday just a few weeks ago, Joe and I decided to take a drive to Salem. We figured it would be a good time for it, as the weather was still nice, but all of the Halloween hoopla had died down for another year. Neither of us had ever been before, despite its proximity and accessibility from Boston. I was charmed by the town--though we didn't visit any of the tourist traps they call museums (the Peabody-Essex is obviously an exception--that's the real deal), I enjoyed just walking around, taking in the sights and the colonial feel. Here are some photos, most taken on Chestnut Street, a street of beautiful historic homes.

Chestnut Street

Someone converted this old car into a 3-wheel motorcycle. Very Back To the Future.

I loved all of the doors of the houses and how they were decorated for the fall.

The Derby Square Bookstore is a chaos of books--all half-price new books, remaindered from other bookstores, stacked in delightfully precarious leaning towers all over the store. When you spot something you want, it's like playing a game of Jenga to remove it. Who doesn't enjoy an extra challenge while book shopping?

To the Farthest Port! We took a walk to the end of an old pier and read about Salem's history as a commercial center hundreds of years ago. The ships have long since stopped coming, but it's fun to imagine what it was like in the old days of bustling maritime commerce.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Adventures in the Kitchen--Thanksgiving Edition

I'm kind of a klutz in the kitchen. I've been doing my best to expand my horizons lately, both in cooking and in my eating habits, thanks largely to taking part in a CSA farm share this summer and in reading more cooking blogs. One of my favorites is Smitten Kitchen, for its beautiful photography, snappy commentary, and delicious variety of recipes. This Thanksgiving, I decided to stray from the traditional mashed potatoes I've made in the past and tried this sweet potato and swiss chard gratin recipe. Divine!

First, I substituted rainbow chard for the swiss variety. The colors are so gorgeous--how can you resist?

My mom was an excellent suis (sic?) chef, helping me cut and peel all the sweet potatoes.

Look at those greens steam up! Mmmm.

Once all the greens and stems were cooked down and the cream sauce made, I grated some Gruyere cheese and layered all of the ingredients with some spices.

An hour later, I had a bubbling, crispy, cheesy veggie delight! My family seemed to enjoy it, and I hope to make this a regular Thanksgiving staple at our table.

My grandmother's table, all decked out for dinner.

What did you all make for Thanksgiving this year? Anything new?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Winter Coat

Every year, New Englanders dread the coming onslaught of winter and its biting wind, driving snow, and treacherous sidewalks. If I could hibernate for the entire season, I would--burrowed under the covers in my sweatpants, armed with an endless supply of DVDs, books, magazines, and hot cocoa. Sadly, this is not an option. So, in the meantime, I tried to make the best of the coming cold by treating myself to a new winter coat. I searched and searched, looking for something serious: heavyweight, but still sophisticated enough to wear to the office each day. Before I succumbed to the temptation of spending $300 on this Boston winter staple, I stumbled on a one-day sale at Macy's. The gods of outerwear were smiling on me that day--I scored a Michael Kors coat that fit my qualifications, for 40% off its original price (which turned out to be about half of what I almost paid for that Northface coat). Here's a poor quality snap of me in the coat, since I can't seem to find it online:

Luckily, I haven't gotten to wear the coat yet, because we're still in that transitional time of chilly, crisp fall air: a lovely time of boots, tights, and scarves, paired with cute little coats (mine is purple, and I love it). I saw this transitional coat on Modcloth today and fell in love. If only I could justify buying it....

The wooden buttons, the cute collar, and the amber in the middle are my favorite parts. Sigh.

Monday, November 16, 2009

New York Weekend 11/13-11/15

I spent the weekend in New York, with the perfect balance of amazing food, cocktails, and lazing about. Here are some highlights:

Finally--my quest for flat black boots is over!

All the Williamsburg breakfast joints have funky art. 

Dinner at Morimoto: started out with the beef carpaccio--SPECTACULAR. 

I will dream about this tempura shrimp for the rest of my life. 

Yellowtail in a 300 degree stone bowl--HOT. 

Chef Morimoto caught me a sea bass! And it was delicious. So so delicious. 

Next to Normal was phenomenal: highly recommended. 

Spoonbill and Sugartown: Fun to browse the books; more fun to coo at the cats. She has a Hello Kitty pillow! 

And this fellow was sleeping right on those books. 

My Jimmy's milkshake. This was shortly before I "housed it." (The waiter's words. Not embarrassing at all). 

The Bar at 4R

Late night pizza is always better when T. Hanks is in the house.

Sunday brunch on the outdoor patio! 

Reading in the park. 

A warm Brooklyn afternoon in the park in November. Delicious. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Great Pumpkin

October is the month for changing leaves, apple picking, hot cider, Halloween festivities, and pumpkins! This year, I've had the chance to experience all of these wonderful things. I spent a good chunk of Sunday carving pumpkins and eating candy with friends. Here are our results:


Rupert, our pumpkin baby.

The carving, while fun, is tough work--lots of knife maneuvering, creative drawing, and gut scooping involved. When I saw these painted pumpkins on Unruly Things, I thought they looked so elegant and chic that I was jealous (love the black and white). Maybe next October!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Field Notes

These tiny little notebooks have caught my attention. Field Notes are only about 3" x 5", so they're perfect to throw in your purse or carry in your pocket, to write down all those lists, quotes, and deep thoughts that occur to me on an hourly basis.

I may just have to order some!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Show Review: Dead Man's Bones

There's something magical about a group of kids dressed as ghosts, their cherubic faces painted like skeletons, chanting "My body's a zombie for you" over and over, their youthful voices bouncing exuberantly from the rafters. Like some fantastical dream, this was the scene at the Middle East Downstairs last night--the low ceilings and dank basement air proving to be the perfect venue on a chilly October night to groove to the "gothic folk" music of Dead Man's Bones, the Los Angeles band featuring actors Ryan Gosling and Zach Shields.

Though Ryan Gosling began his career starring in such teeny bopper fare as Disney's MMC and Breaker High, he was soon earning both heartthrob status (for The Notebook) and critical acclaim (with his heartbreaking, Academy-Award nominated role as a drug-addicted high school teacher in Half Nelson and his Golden-Globe nominated role in the sweet Lars and the Real Girl, one of my favorites). In 2007, Gosling and fellow actor Shields bonded over their common fascination with all things supernatural, deciding to channel this obsession into a musical endeavor. They both set out to learn how to play and write music, coming up with songs like "Werewolf Heart" and "Flowers Grow Out of My Grave." After two years, they had recorded an album, with backup vocals by LA's Silverlake Conservatory Children's Choir. Both Shields and Gosling were drawn to using the unique and multi-layered voices of the young, a technique that lends a haunting, ethereal quality to their music.

It was the band's first official show, following the release of their debut eponymous album on October 6. The stage was set with a backdrop of a haunted house, a graveyard, strings of glowing white lights, and the aforementioned gang of ghostly kids. I honestly wasn't sure what to expect--the band lists among their musical influences The Cure, The Andrews Sisters, Joy Division, and James Brown. The event page had this to say about the band: "The outcome is an artistic aesthetic of old Universal horror films, vaudeville music-hall numbers, and silent-screen melodramas perfect for the month of Halloween." Though the set was short (about an hour), the music had the sold-out crowd dancing and clapping to the beat, wildly cheering after each song. Highlights included the raucous "My Body's a Zombie for You" and the daze-y "Pa Pa Power." The band's sound is an oddball mix of doo-wop, gospel, and synthesizer pop that melds into cohesive music you want to listen to year-round. It's vaguely reminiscent of The Arcade Fire, and Gosling's voice is just the right timbre to lend a spooky depth to the lyrics.

I know what I'll be playing at the office Halloween party, for sure.

*cross-posted at Bostonist*

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Dressed to Impress

This dresser was profiled today on Design Sponge. I love it. I have a white dresser in my bedroom that is a little taller than this, but otherwise similar. I've had it since I was a baby--it was a mustard yellow originally, until my mom painted it white and put gold knobs on it. My plan has been to buy some funky new knobs to give it a little bit of personality, but maybe I should commission someone to paint it with an awesome scene too!

Monday, October 5, 2009

When a problem comes along, you must whip it

whip it 2 I saw Whip It, Drew Barrymore's directorial debut, this weekend. Surprisingly, I was not disappointed--I pretty much got what I was expecting, which was an all-out fun celebration of tattoos, sass, girls beating the crap out of other ladies, and general hipster disillusionment set to an enjoyable soundtrack. Yes, it was predictable. Yes, some of the dialogue was completely twee. But can you really go wrong with a movie that centers on a roller derby team called the Hurl Scouts, whose members feature names like Smashley Simpson, Bloody Holly, and Rosa Sparks? No, no you cannot.

Bliss Cavander (Ellen Page) is a timid teenager stuck in backwater Bodean, Texas, forced to compete in beauty pagaents to please her mother, played with empathy and warmth by the lovely Marcia Gay Harden. When Bliss takes a shopping trip to Austin, she gets her first glimpse of roller derby, and goes to try out for the team on a whim. pigsWhat follows is pretty much your standard underdog team sports movie montage of wacky hijinks--the Hurl Scouts are the worst team in the league, but the women are fun and they lose with panache (chanting "We're #2!!" after losing yet another derby match). Inevitably, the scrappy novice Bliss is a flash on skates, and soon, the team is coming from behind to claim victory. Though the movie's trajectory here smacks of The Mighty Ducks in fishnets and eyeliner (the team even has two deaf players, The Manson Sisters, who are ringers for the Ducks' infamous Bash Brothers), there are some pleasant surprises: Alia Shawkat (Maebe Funke from the brilliant Arrested Development) crackles as Bliss's best friend and fellow Squaler-slinger, Pash; and though Marcia Gay Harden's character walks a dangerous line toward being a typical Texas pageant mother stereotype, the movie dials it back, never making a caricature of her. In fact, the mother-daughter relationship was one of my favorite parts of the movie, and I think it was portrayed realistically without getting too schmaltzy.

"Whip It" One of my major issues with the movie was the requisite romance element. Bliss falls for the "dreamy" Oliver, who in turn falls for her after they share a deep moment over a record (isn't that how all good hipster romances start?). Obvi, love ensues, complete with games of Marco Polo in a cornfield, sharing pickles/making out at the movies, and having sex underwater to a Jens Lekman song. Swoon! Ok, number 1, he's not cute at all. Number 2, why can't relationships be more clearly developed than "oh hey that chick is checking me out and she's cute so of course I am going to stalk-I mean, go to her place of work in a tiny town that no one ever goes to just so I can hang out with her" in movies? Is that too much to ask? However, I liked how the whole relationship scenario ended up, so the movie gets points for that.

In the end, the movie isn't completely cliche, and it's fun to watch, regardless of the pitfalls. It's even mildly empowering for the ladies, which is always nice to see. So grab your best girl friends and treat yourself to a movie that won't make you hate your life--I'm glad I did!

whip it gang

*cross-posted to Fringe Magazine