Thursday, September 30, 2010

Opening a Can of Worms?

Here's the plan. I've decided to paint that bookcase/hutch--which is actually a buttery yellow, though last week's picture didn't really show it---an olive green color with off-white shelves (café cream is the paint's delicious sounding name). I've made a list of things to get: paint, roller, paint tray, drop cloth, paint brush, etc. In the painting department, I think I'll be set.

A closer inspection of the bookcase/hutch has revealed a shoddy paint job by the previous owner (in some places you can see the baby blue color it was probably painted before the yellow one, and others all the way down to the original wood). So I've decided to to take my DIY skills to another level. Stripping.

I keep mentioning Design*Sponge, but it's because the gals over there really know what they're doing. I found this great post about how to strip paint with an easy (an purportedly less toxic and even biodegrable) stripper called Citristrip. Although my typical project strategy is to get things done as fast as I can, this time I want do this bookcase/hutch some justice and really try to make it nice. When I'm done with it, this $20 piece of furniture look like a hundred bucks. That's the plan, at least.

So if you see some gal working on a large piece of furniture on her balcony this weekend, pay no mind. I've got it under control. And if for some reason I don't, you can be sure I'll be document any failures or successes right here for your reading pleasure...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I Spy: Northern Spies

Since apples seem to be the theme of the week (apple-picking, applesauce, new apple crate title) I thought we might give those tasty fruits their full fifteen minutes of fame. 

Here are some photos from apple picking in Ithaca from last year. Since it was October, it was a little bit cooler (check out our heavy coats and mittens) and even snowed later that day. 

Once again, an apple tune for your listening pleasure. The Andrews Sisters are a cheery complement to this rainy Richmond morning.
Northern Spies.
I should mention that before we did any apple picking, the car got stuck in the mud. My sister helped the orchard owner while I took pictures. (Tricky, tricky me.)
 Getting the tall ones.
Dad approved.
 I'd expect nothing less from a Newton family adventure.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Not Mott's (or Treetop or Seneca for that matter)

Homemade applesauce is just about the best thing around. It makes the kitchen smell like autumn and while it's fun to make with others, it's also worth making solo (you can steal some hefty spoonfuls for yourself before a hungry husby comes home).
Here's the recipe I used as a guide, but didn't really watch the clock or measure all that much. I opted for seven medium sized apples--a mix of Braeburn, Jonagold and Golden Delicious. I didn't have a cinnamon stick, so instead I added about 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice and a generous sprinkling of ground cinnamon.  Near the end I added only 1/4 cup of brown sugar and probably could have done with less. (Recipe from The Joy of Cooking, and sorry for being too lazy to type it out.)
Chopped and ready to go.
Simmer down now, apples. Simmer down.
Served with homemade potato latkes. As you can see, very little effort was put into this shot but I was too hungry to make it look fancy.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Bushel and a Peck

On Sunday we had an apple picking adventure near Charlottesville.  It was a refreshingly cool day---a breezy, cloud covered 75 degree heaven after a scorching Saturday. The forecast this week maxes out at 79, so here's hoping that fall is on its way.

Below are some of our apple escapades: a sugar dusted cider donut (the only picture I could get before the 12-pack was gone), a sweet cheater tool for the high ones, the search for the smallest apple, the orchard, winners of the pygmy/giant apple contest (Jim: "Do you think trees make fun of other trees for having small apples?"), a view from Carter Mountain, and life as very hungry caterpillars.

But first, let's play some music to set the apple picking ambience.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Addiction #2

As I mentioned a few days ago, I am completely addicted to a blog called Design*Sponge. Lately I've been scouring ads on Craigslist for cheap pieces I can spruce up---the before and after posts on the blog are making me antsy to try one out myself. I picked up this bookshelf/hutch/cabinet last night at a negotiated price of $20. It's a nice sturdy piece but can definitely use a new coat of paint.

Does anyone have ideas for great colors? I'm thinking about painting the insides of the shelves too. It's going in our dining room against a white wall (landlord rules don't allow us to paint here---boo). The only color combination that is absolutely out of the question is green and yellow (I'd be walking into a big marital trap with that one...go Beavs tonight!), but those colors separate of each other would be okay. Please comment with any ideas!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cat Nap Prep

Care to join me for a cat nap?
 Fine, I'll nap by myself.
Time to be lazy, as usual.
(And take up as much couch space as feline-ly possible.)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Goodwill Hunting

Goodwill is like a very convenient, indoor yard sale with dependable business hours. You likely won't see some of the deals you would on someone's lawn during a holiday weekend (i.e., fifty cent books or a bin of $1 shirts) but I've managed to find some pretty fantastic things.

First find: 1970s small table that houses a sewing machine. Now front and center in the entryway. I picked this up while I was dropping off a lamp to donate---the donation manager basically traded me the lamp for the table. "After all, we are the Goodwill," he said as I thanked him for the (free!) addition to our apartment.
Secondly: The amazing teal wingback chair that lives in our office room (Cat has managed to take full ownership of the chair). I loved the style, and Chris loved the comfort. And at $19, I just couldn't resist.
Today: I can't get to the major Goodwill stores on my bike, but just under a mile away is one of those Goodwill boutiques---a small store next to other clothing shops on Cary Street. I walked in and found a massive Webster Dictionary that had some old world charm to it. From the inscription on the front flap, I discovered it was a gift to a woman from her parents in 1961 (must have been a bookish gal to get a dictionary as a gift....). It was printed in 1959 and is more of an encyclopedia with pictures and long descriptions. I plan to feature it on the end table with the Silly Syclopedia my pal Kelsey gave me last year. Three cheers for three vintage finds on a budget!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Daily Vegetable

Tomorrow is the first official day of autumn, but evidence of the upcoming holiday season abounds. I saw Christmas lights on the shelves at Target (Christmas!!).  But lately I've been stuck on one festive treat: candy corn.

Must refrain, I said aloud today in the presence of no one but my cat. Candy corn should NOT accompany every meal. I think my bag has been laced with crack. Crack corn.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Put that cookie down, NOW!"

Last night I was sitting on the couch reading my book and sipping some tea when I decided it was too early to wind down for bed. I hopped up, took down my Joy of Cooking from its perch in the kitchen, and started assembling some killer oatmeal-craisin-walnut cookies. Yummmm.......

Has anyone seen Jingle All the Way? (You know, that high-class Christmas blockbuster with Arnold Schwarzenegger...)

Neighbor: "Ohhhh, these cookies! I've gotta get the recipe from Liz."
Arnold: "Put that cookie down, NOW!"

Monday, September 20, 2010

Design Sponge

If you haven't already, check out the Design*Sponge blog for amazing design ideas. They have fun DIY projects, great room set-ups, and multiple posts throughout the day. I saw this picture posted this morning and fell in love with the whimsical floor and mismatched chairs. Oh, the things I could do with a decorating budget....

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Promise is a Promise

At the beginning of September I posted the Labor Day song as heard on an episode of This American Life. And as my sister reminded me, I promised you the Yom Kippur song too. Here it is.... sing along!

Yom Kippur, Yom Kippur,
Self reflection and atonement!
Yom Kippur, that's what for
Do our shopping---at Wal-Mart!

(Not really sure why there's a plug for Wal-Mart...I think it's because this is a clip from 'The Most Unwanted Song' ever. I'm more of a Target fan myself. Happy Yom Kippur everyone!)

Putt Putt

This afternoon we went out with some of Chris' coworkers to go mini-golfing. We got there at the perfect time---no one ahead of us and no one behind. About 15 minutes later, things started picking up.

Judging from the constant rolling of their heavily mascara-ed eyes and the frequent fast-fingered texts on their cell phones, the little teen posse behind us didn't fully appreciate the time consuming analysis the guys made of each putt (remember, these guys were hired for their love of all things data-related). But it paid off...Chris got a hole in one, and I didn't do so bad myself.

The next time those girls think about mini-golfing, they'll probably change their minds and end up going to the mall. I could tell that they didn't want to risk running into a group of nerdy twenty-somethings on the green again.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Domestic Engineer

Here's a sneak peek of my sewing project. Happy Friday! 

Thursday, September 16, 2010


I took Trudy out this morning to go to my volunteer training, and afterwards we pedaled to the store to pick up some produce. I can always trust Trudy to bring out the productivity in me.

Right now I'm at home trying to avoid the heat (is a high of 95 really necessary in September??) by job searching, crossing my fingers that I'll get some phone calls soon. I'm on pins and needles about it. 

Later I gave up the search and started a sewing project. Dealing with pins and needles is a lot more fun when a plump tomato cushion and sewing machine are involved.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Smarty Pants

I've joined the league of smartphone users. 
There's no turning back now.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

For the Love of Vintage

Yes, yes. I've told you many a time how much I love vintage. But this time it's not just me! The other day when I was moping depressively around the mall while my computer was in the operating room, I stopped into Fossil and lusted after the fall collection of handbags and wallets. Though I have a hard time justifying the purchase of a new wallet without an income to fill it full of money, I did discover after perusing their online store that Fossil has a nifty little blog. Browsing it is virtually guilt free and doesn't cost me a penny---overall one of the many good ways to bide my time while I work on finding a job (then that wallet will be mine!). Find the link here (I've also added it to the sidebar list of my favorite reads).

Monday, September 13, 2010


While in Paris this summer I remember walking past a group of teens arguing over a game of kickball. I'm sure they weren't saying anything too fancy, but in French it all sounded so eloquent and high class. Here is a clip of a sweet little girl telling an improv fairy tale in French. Just wait until she mentions the crocodiles, hippos and giraffes (about 30 seconds in)....adorable.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Brain Surgery

Last night before heading out for a Cranium match with friends, my lovely little MacBook decided to freeze. And then it displayed a light blue screen of death while it made whimpering beep noises of despair. In an attempt to resuscitate (reboot in safe mode), it slipped away into a technological coma of unresponsiveness.

This morning I took it to the Apple Genius Bar and the news was bleak. (Um, where is the Apple version of Dr. House when you need him?) My hard drive had failed. Completely. It was exactly one month past the extended warranty. I got emotional.

Thankfully, the Apple Store is amazing with customer service and replaced the hard drive free of charge despite the warranty end date. But I was still depressed---everything was gone. Or so I thought. For one reason or another, I had some common sense back in January and backed up the majority of my important files on an external drive.

I share this cautionary tale so that you go---right now!---and back up all of your .jpegs, .docs, and .mp3s. Someday your computer might need brain surgery too, and it is absolutely not worth risking thousands of irreplaceable pictures just because you didn't check in on things once in a while. 

Thank you Apple Genius medical team---you have saved a life. This computer will just have to die another day. (And believe me, I'll be completely prepared next time.)

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Saturday mornings seem to be made for sleeping in and baking yummy breakfast treats. Today I tried these perfect blueberry muffins and man-oh-man are they delicious. Let's not count how many I've already eaten...

(Recipe and picture from Deb at Smitten Kitchen)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Gone with the Wind

My summer reading is complete! After whittling away at it for months (I'll admit, most of my summer was spent reading Rick Steves), I finally finished the 862-page epic by Margaret Mitchell. As a reward, I spent today watching the nearly four-hour movie of the same title (Vivien Leigh and Olivia de Havilland were incredible at bringing the characters of the book to the screen). I'm happy to (finally) join the league of millions that have read this American classic. Frankly, my dears, you should go and read it too!

P.S. If you've already seen the movie, watch Carol Burnett's sketch 'Went with the Wind' here.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Always cheerful, perfect for all seasons, and a tad bit retro... I just can't get enough of mustard-yellow-marigold-brilliant goodness. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Feeling Fine

Woke up this morning to a gray sky. I went out to mail a letter and felt some drizzle, too. It reminds me of Portland and I love it.

My plan for the day includes listening to some Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and making a bowl of homemade guacamole. 

Boy does this gal have sass.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Advent of Autumn

Don't these chai waffles look heavenly? They would be a perfect introduction to fall once the weather gets a little less stifling and more on the chilly, cozy side. (Note to self: must get a waffle maker...)

Oh, and after a scrumptious breakfast I'd love to head out on the town in this.

Fall dreaming....

Monday, September 6, 2010

Hey Everybody, It's Labor Day!

One of my favorite things about a road trip is being able to spend hours with Ira Glass, the host of NPR's This American Life. On our visit to Richmond from Ithaca in May, we listened to ten episodes through New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. That's ten hours of entertaining radio story bliss.

Since it's Labor Day, I thought I'd include this kooky little clip from one of the episodes (#88: Numbers) where Ira interviews two guys who created the 'most unwanted song.' The twenty minute ditty includes a rapping opera singer, a children's chorus, lyrics about holidays and Wal-Mart, varied tempos, bagpipes, and tubas. Basically, these researchers polled a bunch of people and found out what they liked most (and least) in a song, then combined the aspects that everyone hated and made "The Most Unwanted Music" song (you can listen to the full version here).

Happy Labor Day! 
(And stay tuned for the jingles about Yom Kippur and Christmas!)

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Looks like we're not headed to the beach for Labor Day weekend....
(picture from NOAA via NYT)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


I never intended for this blog to have a food focus, but when you don't have a car and the weather is too darn hot to be outside, it's either food experimentation or online shopping. I think we all know which one trumps the other in regard to fun, but alas, baking and cooking seem to be the most cost-effective options at my disposal. (I do a lot of other things here too, you know.)

As I was reading the NYT headlines this morning, I saw an article about Roger Ebert and his new cookbook. One of my favorite professors from college was a huge Ebert fan, so I know plenty about Ebert's movie reviews. What I didn't know was that he liked cooking. Even more fascinating, I learned that he has been without a lower jaw since 2006 (how can he even like cooking if he can't eat any of it?).

Intrigued? Read the article and check out his book (due out this month) about the many things you can make in a rice cooker. I've never owned one myself, but now I'm tempted. Little did I know it can also be used for perfect oatmeal, yummy quinoa, and other types of grainy delights. Sounds like quite the little cooker to me!