Sunday, June 29, 2008

Not-so-lazy days of summer

I'm facing another string of busy weekends. For some reason this always fills me with dread. I think I know why. I'm an INFJ. Basically that means I like my downtime. I think.

On the other hand, knowing I'll soon be lacking in free time increases productivity. This weekend I found fabric for and re-covered a footstool (more on that later), made some progress on my recipe-organizing project (this is going to take a lot longer than I expected), organized and uploaded all my photos from the lavender festival, started painting my niece's t-shirt (back done, front is next), almost bought an awesome mid-century sunburst clock on eBay (a last minute bidding frenzy made the price almost double, so I was out), exercised, read, crocheted...phew. A lot. And yet, I did not get around to doing laundry or giving myself a pedicure. Hopefully I'll squeeze that in before I leave for my dad's place later this week.

Speaking of, I got his prints into frames. These are his Father's Day present - belated. It's the kind of gift I really wanted to give him in person. I did end up buying the raccoon and also got the friendly buck, originally for me, but they make such a lovely pair. I hope he likes them.

He has an excellent sense of humor so I suspect he will. Oh yes, they're from Berkley Illustration. Gotta get the ol' plug in there. I'm still waiting on them to do a polar bear. D'you hear that Ryan? A polar bear. Perhaps in a tuxedo. A la James Bond. With the bow tie untied and hanging round his neck. Top button unbuttoned. You do that, I'm in for an 8 x 10.

So I ate off of this zucchini pie all week.

This is the problem with cooking something like this and living alone. Thank god I don't have issues with leftovers (I know people who do). And I'm against the whole freezing thing. My mom's always like, "Freeze it!" Yeah, I don't like eating thawed food. Nine times out of ten, the texture suffers. Thankfully this was so yummy that it was only the last couple of slices that got to be sorta difficult to get down. Like, "This again?" But up until then, it was awesome. And easy too.

Zucchini Pie from September 2004 issue of Real Simple.

3 cups grated zucchini
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup grated provolone cheese
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan
2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil (I think I put in a little more - it can take it)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all the ingredients, reserving 1 tablespoon of the Parmesan. Spoon zucchini mixture into a 10 inch round glass pie plate or metal pie pan that has been coated with vegetable cooking spray. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until golden brown. Sprinkle with the reserved Parmesan. Cool 10 to 15 minutes before slicing.

Yum! I think this'd be good to take along to that Fourth of July party, no? That and a box of sparklers. Don't forget those.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Crazytown Stampville

I've got a thing for stamps. It started last year, very mild. It's growing. And of course yesterday I stumble on the dangerous combination of Etsy + stamps. This equals a number of cool things, most notably Terbear Collectibles, which boldly proclaims itself the home of "the best custom made rubber stamps on Etsy." I'm in.

Handheld video game, Super Lucky Cat, Sparkling Diamond, Song Bird with Flowers.

This place has so many stamps. If you can think of it, they can make it. And things maybe you wouldn't have thought of too.

Double-Headed Eagle, Crying Kitty Cat, Snob Lady.

I'm toying with the idea of having them make a stamp for me. You get one guess as to what the stamp is an image of. I'm also thinking very seriously of having a stamp made for a friend who will soon be celebrating her birthday. It would be a custom return address stamp. She just bought a house not too long ago, and it's right up her alley (frequents card shops, collects teddy bears, gives gifts often consisting of bookmarks and tiny books full of cat quotes). Spot on.

I'd make one of these for myself, but I am doomed to always be renting and moving from one home to another like a penniless nomad. I'll just continue to collect those freebie return address stickers from places like the ASPCA or Veterans associations or somesuch, which I use freely without donating. Does this make me a bad person?

Okay, back on track here. This past weekend, I pretty much accomplished nothing except wasting huge amounts of valuable time and finishing this pillow. Woo! Were it not for the pillow, I'd be a lot more depressed about the weekend.

Here's the pattern. It was kind of a bear to work on, because you make piece after piece after piece and then after all that work you're left with a pile of pieces. Which you need to block. So not fun.

But when it starts to come together into one whole thing, it's very fulfilling. And sweet. I made a little flower to attach and also stuffed a sachet of dried lavender inside (which was collected off the stems of the fresh ones I bought at the Blanco Lavender Festival a couple weeks ago). So it smells dreamy. All along I was trying to decide who I was going to give this to, but now I just can't help but keep it. I'm too smitten with it to let it go.

By the way, if the yarn looks familiar, that's because it's leftover from the blanket I made for N's baby. Speaking of that blanket, it's owner finally arrived, and she's fabulous.

Hello pretty girl! You're going to be a heartbreaker.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Yes, we have no tomatoes.

Can I just say real quick that I am so sick and tired of not having tomatoes on my sandwiches/burgers/etc! I know it's for my health and whatnot, but I am way too much of a tomato fiend for this to not be painful. It's tomato season for crying out loud! My Schlotzsky's turkey breast sandwich I'm eating for lunch is so not the same.

Okay, now that I've gotten that out of my system... This Monday's a special day for me. Or rather, would have been. June 23rd would have been my 5 year anniversary of moving to New York. Aww. Just like this year, it was a Monday. I took a flight from DFW to LGA, toting a backpack, suitcase, and an obscenely heavy duffel bag that incurred an extra charge due to weight limits. I took a cab to the YMCA on the Upper West Side and checked in, then went out for a long walk around town. My memories of that day and the six months that followed are really vivid for me. I didn't have a lot of fear about the whole endeavor, but I should have. I had no job (just an unpaid internship), no friends, and no place to live. It was easily one of the scariest things I've ever done. I was 22.

This was taken probably 2-3 weeks after I got there during a stroll over the Brooklyn Bridge. I just wore that shirt the other day. I can still get in those jeans, but I won't wear them in public. (sigh)

Anyway, I had put a lot on the number 5 when I lived there. Like, just give it five years, I'd tell myself when times were hard. Then, when 5 finally seemed easily within reach, the phone call came that brought me home. So technically I lived there for four years and eight months. But usually I just round up and say 5. And now I'm back in Austin for my five year anniversary. I would have celebrated it somehow, but now I'll just be up there in spirit.

Whoa, was that thunder? Oh my gosh it was. Mac says it's scary lightning.

Have you ever gotten that graphic on your dashboard? That kinda freaked me out. Like "You are about to be struck by lightning" is your present weather reading. We are so needing rain around here. So long as it's not "blow out your windows" rain.

Okay, I haven't done a "Stuff on Etsy I'd Like to Buy" in a while, so I've got one for ya. No wait, TWO! And only one is a print. Thank God. The first are the bags of DrikaB, discovered via Holly's guest post on SFGirlByBay's blog. They've sold like hot cakes in the last couple of days. No surprise there (those are some popular blogs!).

What a fun summer bag. I don't technically need a new bag right now, but I'm definitely adding her to my "shops to watch" list. The next is (gasp) a print. It's hard to pick just one of Justin Richel's prints. Any of the "stuff coming out of hair" ones will do. I love them all. His shop on Etsy is called Amazing Talking Paintings. Rad.

I think I discovered these through a Portland, ME, roundup on design*sponge. Yup, that must have been it.

Feeling lazy but I've got a lot of projects in the queue for this weekend, so I should get moving. I need to get thee to a Hobby Lobbee.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Austin Recycles - ur doin it wrong.

Here they are: my bins.

I went through a lot to get them. After a few weeks of being moved in to my new apartment, I noticed someone in my building taking their blue bins to the curb every Thursday night. Where did you get them? I ask. Fire station, they told me. So I go to the fire station - an easy walk as it's a few blocks away. Nope, they say. You have to call 311 now. They're no longer distributing. So I get home and call. They'll drop them off this coming Friday or the next. Great!

Friday comes and goes. And another. I call back. HRM, that's odd, they say. We'll put in another order. Friday comes and goes. And another. I call AGAIN. This time I'm told I'm not going to get a blue bin because the city doesn't pick up my trash (we have a dumpster). Therefore they're not responsible for my recycling either. Well my neighbors have bins, I say. They get emptied out every Friday. So clearly, they do pick up our recycling. So can I have a bin? No.

Fine. Undaunted, I post an ad on craigslist. Under [items wanted]:
small, blue City of Austin recycling bin

Do you have an extra recycling bin you're not using? I've been requesting one from the City of Austin for weeks now (you can't pick them up at fire stations anymore - you have to call 311 to request it) and they won't give me one. I'm desperate to recycle (no really) and I think one little blue bin would do me.

I'd come pick it up and I'd even pay you for it (although hopefully not much, as these are supposed to be free and I'm doing this out of my desire to help the earth and stuff).


Within hours, I have several emails in my inbox. One of which suggests I go pick one up at a fire station. Um, did you read the posting? Another offers two bins, free, and he lives just 5 minutes away. I call and arrange to pick them up the next day. You don't need them? I ask. Nah, the city puts all these "rules" on recycling. I'm tired of playing their games. I'm just not going to recycle anymore. You can have them, he says.

I bring them home and start stockpiling my recycling. Thursday evening rolls around, and I visit the City of Austin recycling website to make sure I have the right plastics in there and it's sorted correctly and such. Only to find out that 75 percent of the stuff I'd set aside can't be recycled. For such a "green," hippy-dippy city, Austin's current recycling program sucks. The only paper they take is newspapers - no cereal boxes, paper milk cartons, or anything of the sort. Only plastics with 1 or 2 on the bottom (that's a no for those yogurt containers and a lot of other plastics).

Was I really that spoiled with New York's recycling program, which seemed to take everything? (And that's including the city's natural method of recycling for furniture and electrics known as your neighbors.) If sorted correctly, just about anything placed on the curb, went. But here, not so much. Now I understand why that guy was so bitter.

The good news is, starting this fall, they have a new program that will allow for cereal boxes and plastics 1 thru 7. Suddenly we can recycle so much, but now they'll only be coming 'round to pick it up once every two weeks. To make up for that, they're distributing giant recycling bins for everyone to use in place of the small blue ones. What do you think the odds are I'll get one?

All this grief, and I'm just trying to be a good citizen. That's the part that irks me the most. Thanks City of Austin!

PS - Has anyone else been obsessed with golf the last three days? I miss going to golf tournaments so much. They're way more exciting in person (hard to believe, I know).

Friday, June 13, 2008

baking = therapy

About once a month I have to bake something. Anything. And since I live alone and can't really find an excuse to eat a whole cake/dozen cupcakes/pile of cookies all on my own, I'm getting in the habit of taking the leftovers to work. I figure this'll make me some friends. Here's the latest haul, inspired by on-sale blueberries.

Some of the blueberries near the top oozed out everywhere. Looks gruesome, no? I decided I wanted to make muffins so I started flipping through cookbooks, looking for a nice, basic recipe. I ended up going with Cook's Illustrated - I think I mentioned before I have good luck when I bake with their recipes.

These turned out tasty. I think I would have liked them to be fluffier, more crumbly. But they were quite dense and moist. The lemon zest and yogurt gave them this bright flavor - is there such a thing? That's the only way I can describe it. Anyway, I enjoyed them. I think I'll continue to search for the "all-time best" recipe though. And to be perfectly honest, this was not Cook's Illustrated recipe for "Best Blueberry Muffins." This was their recipe for "Lemon Blueberry Muffins." The "Best" recipe called for frozen blueberries, which I thought sort of odd. And the lemon sounded like a nice touch. I guess I'm on a lemon kick these days.

Anywho, here's the recipe from the January 1997 issue of Cook's Illustrated:
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter softened
1 cup granulated sugar, less 1 tablespoon
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups plain low-fat yogurt
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries (or frozen)
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
Vegetable cooking spray or additional unsalted butter for muffin tins

1. Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl; set aside.
2. Beat butter and sugar with electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add lemon zest to butter-sugar mixture. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in one-half of dry ingredients. Beat in one-third of yogurt. Beat in remaining dry ingredients in two batches, alternating with yogurt, until incorporated. Toss blueberries with 1 tablespoon flour and fold into finished batter.
3. Spray twelve-cup muffin tin with vegetable cooking spray or coat lightly with butter. Use large ice cream scoop to divide batter evenly among cups. Bake until muffins are golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Set on wire rack to cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove muffins from tin and serve warm.

Makes 1 dozen large muffins (though it made 14 for me!).

I watched Amelie tonight for the 98734985th time. I love that movie. Every time I watch it, I sit there and consider chopping all my hair off into a bob. And then consider moving to France. This is normal. If I thought Nino Quincampoix really existed, I would do it, just to meet him and ride around on his scooter all day. Wouldn't that be lovely?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Music, polar bears, etc.

What's this I see on design*sponge yesterday?

"Michael from Cursive predicts that polar bears will be a big trend this winter."

Shut up! I don't know who Michael from Cursive is, but that just made my day. Bring it on deesignurs. You make it and put a polar bear on it and I'll buy it. I am your #1 customer. I'm thinking I should make this the all-polar-bears, all-the-time blog. But that would be a bit much, wouldn't it?

Taking a break from polar bears though, this poster is my latest obsession. Srsly.

The fact that I was at this concert and did not somehow attain one breaks my heart. I love it almost as much as the polar bear tray. Almost. Meanwhile, do I have really varied tastes or what? I mean, can you picture this poster and that polar bear tray side-by-side on a wall? But you know what they say, if you love it, it'll work together in your home. Maybe they could work together from separate rooms...

Unfortunately, the poster's not for sale (and I'm too poor to buy the tray) so they're safe for now. I spent an embarrassingly large amount of time earlier today perusing Mostly I was trying to find posters for shows I'd been to, just for fun. The good news for my pocketbook is that most of the posters aren't for sale anywhere.

Speaking of concerts and music (we'll just make that the theme today - that and polar bears), I love this photo of Jeff Tweedy I took at the Wilco show at Stubbs a few weeks back.

I bought the tickets right after I moved back to Austin, before I knew anyone who would go with me, and ended up attending alone. Sad right? But I do really well going stag to concerts. Once the awkward pre-show period is over (standing in a corner sucking down vodka tonics - or at this show, sucking down vodka tonics while registering to vote), I have a blast moving around, taking pictures, or just wiggling my way up to the front. Which was how I took that photo. Wilco was great live, just as I suspected they'd be.

Another great band is Fleet Foxes, whose CD I patiently waited to buy until it was released last week. Once upon I time, I had a job where I was inundated with free CDs of all the hot new bands, usually long before anybody else got their hands on them. Now I have to work to find them, and pay for them. So discovering the Fleet Foxes all on my own was exciting for me. I purchased it just in time for a road trip, and it was perfect summer driving music. Sub Pop does it again.

Okay gotta run. I've got to go home and pour Drano down my kitchen sink (the intricacies of having a disposal still elude me). One more poster before I go. I wasn't at this show, nor have I ever seen Bowie live, but I just loved the looks of it. And hey, no polar bear! I'm branching out.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The one where I jump on the Sex and the City bandwagon

Okay, I've got to throw my own $0.02 in on Carrie's redecorated apartment in the Sex and the City movie (which I finally got to see this weekend). My biggest takeaway - aside from the beautiful wall color (but then again, I've always loved blue walls) - is the wall behind the bed.

Swiped from CasaSugar, which had an enlightening interview with the designer.

I don't have a proper headboard and probably won't for the next couple of years (at which point my mom gets all her furniture out of storage and I reclaim my antique wooden one). I do however have a couple of big ol' euro pillows that make the absence of the headboard hard to notice. Still, it's always nice to have something anchoring the wall above your bed, and I don't have a regular standby for what I like to keep up there. When I was in my apartment in Astoria, I had four framed illustrations above the bed (my 60s ladies, as I call the set), which were hung to create a square. It worked, but I'd love to have something with a little more punch, like what Carrie's got going on.

Plus, I really miss my office/kitchen wall (my eat-in-kitchen was my office) from my old apartment...

I adored how it turned out. The only problem is that all of my prints are in frames that are exactly the same size. And I love how all of Carrie's are mixed. Hrm, something to keep in mind, I suppose, as I progress with my antiquing and print-buying.

Two more things - I saw my first gas station with $4 gas today. I was passing this gas station on 290 that always has the most expensive gas (probably because it's almost in the middle of nowhere), and there it was: $4.01. I know other parts of the country are way ahead of us, but this is Texas. And apparently, we're right about average.

Upon arriving home, I immediately calculated the gas mileage I've been getting. Awesome on the highway. Major suckage in the city. Plus the regular use of A/C over the past month has only made things worse. This is definitely giving me a proper excuse to skip my high school reunion in a couple of weeks - which is a three hour drive away in Fort Worth. Not that I was looking for one.

And the last thing: Thank you New York Times for giving Friday Night Lights and in particular Kyle Chandler such glowing kudos today. Not that critical acclaim has ever saved a TV show, but it's always nice to see it.

And with that, I shall now display a gratuitous and unnecessary photo of Kyle Chandler. Because I can. And because who doesn't want to see that?

Photo by Andy Ryan.

Yep, that's lovely.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Slow day / I'm never getting married

I was flipping through my J. Crew catalog last night, which I often use as a style adviser. (As in "Oh, so layering pink and orange looks good? Who knew?") As is the norm for me, I had to stop and swoon when I hit the wedding gear pages. I'm obsessed with the J. Crew Wedding collection. Have been for a while. I'm convinced I'll buy my dress from them, as there are some good deals and the dresses are simple and beautiful and, if they're like the rest of their clothes, well made. And sorta WASPy, which I have to admit is a bit me.

As for the pitiful nature of a girl focusing this much attention on wedding dresses and she can't even remember the last time she went on a date... Well, we're not going to go there.

Anyway, this was the one that stopped me in my tracks. The Annabelle gown.

Perfect for a fall wedding. Simple, but with that lovely touch of deco glam at the top. Needing more of a fix, I headed to the site and spotted a few others to love.

A New England summer, in a blooming garden or on a lake - the Island Eyelet dress.

Winter, with the perfect peek-a-boo back for when you're standing at the altar - the Mimi T-shirt gown.

Spring, with those lovely frou layers that add just the right amount of volume (that being, not too much) - the Tulle Cascade gown.

Summer gets a second go. If I were going to get married on a bright, sunny, hot Texas day, I'd want it to be in this. I love that it's made from linen. The Rosette gown.

Sigh. You know we're close to wrapping up a "project" at work when someone starts blasting Led Zeppelin.

Monday, June 2, 2008

I should be working but...

I had to share this. I love it so much. I'm tempted to just stare at it for the rest of the day, but then I wouldn't get much done.

I can only attribute this to my long-standing love and adoration for polar bears, since it's a bit 'tripping the light fantastic' for my usual taste. A bit frou. A bit swirly whirly. But damn, you take something and put a polar bear on it holding a bouquet of flowers (or even a coke bottle, really) and I'm there. And I'm not ashamed to admit it.

My love for this tray knows no bounds. No bounds!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Cawffee, tea, or...

It just figures - there are things that I took for granted when I lived in New York, which I recognize only now that I'm no longer there. Like being able to visit Fishs Eddy on a regular basis. And of course now that I'm in Austin...

I want these mugs!

Well, technically, that's three mugs and something for your shuguh. Bwah! I love it. There's cawffee and also a creamuh container. The three of them make up the Brooklynese collection. Nice. And the democrats mug. Oh me. I won't admit to being one still (I'm an independent - saves face for the family), but I want it dearly. And the notebook paper one would be an awesome gift for one of my many friends who are teachers. I kinda want to toss some freshly sharpened pencils in there and tie it all up with a big red bow.

These alphabet mugs are sweet - I'm not a huge fan of how the A is styled, but I love the K, which is my mom's initial. I might keep it in mind for her birthday, along with several containers of her favorite (yucky) instant coffee that we could never seem to remember to pick up during her latest visit. She loves her some Taster's Choice. Oops, she reads this blog, I forgot. Oh well, there goes the surprise!

Incidentally, the alphabet collection seems to be on sale right now...

And I haven't got a drop of Jewish blood in me, but I'd totally drink my morning OJ out of these Heroes of the Torah glasses. They're like super heroes! Jewish super heroes. Which reminds me of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. And suddenly they're even cooler.

Not only did I live in the same town as a Fishs Eddy, I used to work down the street from one, and I had friends who worked there who could have gotten me stuff at a discount. D'oh! Unfortunately, this was a time when I had no money to buy stuff. Oh wait, that's still the case...

Felt very productive this weekend - I hung a few pictures on the walls and my yellow paper drum lamp from the ceiling, installed a curtain over the glass door to the balcony in my bedroom (privacy anyone?), and best of all, finally got all the empty boxes out of the living room. Some went under my bed, and the rest to a box recycling center. Hooray for nesting. It was too hot to do much else anyway.

One last goody I've been meaning to share. I love Platon. I think what I love most is how instantly recognizable his photos are - he has a very distinctive style. He's been a regular photographer for two magazines I've worked for now, and he seems like a really lovely and humble guy. Via A Photo Editor, I found this great site with him talking about what he went through to get this award-winning photo of Vladimir Putin.

If you've got a minute, I'd highly recommend giving it a listen. What an amazing story. (Even today, The Beatles unite us all.)