Wednesday, October 31, 2012

In Which Jen and Keith Go to Curaçao

HI! It's so good to be back home! Before I tell you about our trip to Curaçao, I want to thank The Fiercest Lilliputian and Laurendy for guest posting while I was away. Emma, you look beautiful. And Lauren, I love your creepy Halloween decor!

Keith and I flew to Curaçao on October 20 and came back just four days later. The island is gorgeous, peaceful, colorful, and warm but pleasantly overcast, so we were in no danger of sunburn. TROPICAL PERFECTION, Y'ALL. We strolled through Willemstad, watched the Queen Emma bridge open and close by moonlight, drank ridiculous blue cocktails, invented cute "vacation names" for each other, and doubled our money at the casino. I took an awesome picture of a shirtless Keith covered in our casino winnings, but I think he'd kill me if I posted it here.

Queen Emma pontoon bridge in Willemstad, Curaçao.
Rif Fort in Willemstad, Curaçao: "Hey guys, let's build a resort into a 17th century fort!" "Okay!"
Willemstad looks like candy! 
Why hello, wind-blown saltwater beach hair. I wish I could take you home with me.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

DIY Specimen Jars

Hey all! I'm Laurendy of Laurendy Home. While Jen is off sipping a fruity drink out of a pineapple,  I'm gonna show you how to make some super simple somewhat creepy specimen jars. 'Cause what home is complete without a few specimen jars laying around.

I am all about simple DIYs, and this one is pretty much foolproof.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Lilliputian In The Library

Hi everyone! I'm Emma and I blog over at The Fiercest Lilliputian. When Jen asked me to do a guest post while her and her boyfriend were on vacation I was so thrilled! I'm a big fan of classic librarian style. So, I thought I'd share one of my outfits I'd wear on a regular day that had a little bit of that librarian flair to it.

 I'm all about vintage and classic styling no matter what you do, and when I think about librarians I think of such a beautiful classic, but yet subtly sexy style and I just love it! Give me a mid length skirt, a pretty button up, a cardigan and I'm at home.

blouse thrifted
skirt thrifted
50's cardigan hand-me-down from my mom
shoes swedish hasbeens
bakelite bangles wonders on woodland

I hope you all have enjoyed a little librarian stylin' and I hope Jen is off having a fantastic time on her lovely vacation!


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I Know Nothing About Curaçao. Let's Go!

"Keith? The kitchen is a mess."

He stares at me blankly.

"Yeah, um. I had this uncommunicated fantasy that you'd clean up the kitchen, since I made dinner. I didn't tell you that, though. Okay, my bad!"
"I didn't clean up the kitchen because I was busy buying tickets to take you to the Caribbean."

Now it's my turn to stare blankly.

"We're going to Curaçao!"
"The only better excuse would be, 'Sorry, sugar. I was busy donating a kidney to save your life.'"

Best. Anniversary present. EVER. Commence crazy happy-dancing in the middle of our dirty kitchen.

We'd discussed possibly taking a trip, and a quick Google search indicated that Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao are the only three Caribbean islands practically guaranteed not to have hurricanes in October. When Keith booked the trip, that's all I knew about our destination. Oh, and I had a hazy notion that the island had something to do with the sort of fruity booze that sorority girls like. The more I learn, though, the more excited I am to be visiting Curaçao. It's so far south, it's technically South America. But it's also a Caribbean island. BUT WAIT, it's also Dutch!

Willemstad, where we'll stay, has been called the most European Caribbean capital city. It's been occupied by the Dutch since 1634.
Think European cuisine made with produce boated in from Venezuela and world-class shopping. Image credit
But wait... Curacao also has a desert! I'm telling you, this place has everything.
We're staying at a Renaissance Hotels resort built into a 15th century fort. They boast a casino, shopping mall, and "infinity beach." What's that?! "The man-made infinity pool on the second floor of the hotel is an engineering feat combining the sandy beach of Las Vegas stunner Mandalay Bay’s pool with the ocean-edge views of the infinity pool at the Sheraton Waikiki...  Ocean water is pumped up to the beach area and water pours over the infinity edge giving the illusion that it is returning back to the sea.  It’s hard to find a more tranquil spot to spend the day." WHAT. THE. HELL. It's like hot dogs: I'm repelled by the fakeness, but fascinated by process by which it was created. And also relieved to know that sharks, sea urchins, and jellyfish won't be a problem.
We're staying here. 
The rooms are pretty, too!
I'd like to line up a few guest bloggers to keep everyone entertained while I'm away. 
Want to write a guest post? Send me a message!
Is it vacation time yet?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Created by Storm: Nature lover. Mad scientist. Artist.

Chelsea at sea field and tribe recently made me aware of Sarah Storm, an incredible painter and the proprietess of Created by Storm on etsy. Sarah paints dreamy portraits of wildlife, still life images of items from nature, and (my favorite!) naturalistic illustrations that appear to be taken straight from an antique science textbook--if said textbooks were printed with gentle washes of lapis lazuli. Sarah's prices are very reasonable, but you might win one of her 8 by 10 prints from sea field and tribe if you enter today.

Fanciful Flight

DIY Gold Leaf Thanksgiving Decorations à la West Elm

Copying West Elm's Winter Flower ornament was so much fun, I just had to try another copycat craft---but this time, it's something much more apropos for autumn. I imagine displaying West Elm's metallic leaf ornaments all through fall, dangling them above the dinner table on Thanksgiving Day and letting them shine alongside the chandelier crystals, then reusing them on the Christmas tree in December. But eight dollars apiece... West Elm, are you for real?! I knew I could come up with something similar for so much less.

The best things about this project? 
1. It requires a walk in the park. This part would be fun for kids, too.
2. West Elm offers just two shapes and sizes. But you can make a more diverse collection of leaves.
3. You don't have to press the leaves and wait weeks for them to dry.
4. Once you've invested $4.89, you can make as many leaf decorations as you want!
5. If you don't want to attach a hanging loop, you could do so many other things with these:
Fill an apothecary jar, adorn a candle ring, make a wreath, decorate gift boxes with them, etc...
Okay, so it's a no-brainer: Leaves + Gold spray paint = Gold leaves.
So why is this special? Because of the super-fast microwave oven leaf-drying technique!

Fresh leaves (NOT crunchy brown ones!)
Metallic gold spray paint ($3.89 when you use a 40% off coupon at Michael's)
Brown twine ($1.00 from the Dollar Store)
Paper towels, scissors, old newspaper, needle, and a microwave oven

1. Crunch around in the park and collect a variety of leaves that are still supple and fresh--NOT dry and crunchy. I used oak leaves because I like their shape, but any kind will work.

2. Take 'em home, sandwich a leaf between paper towels, and microwave each leaf individually for 15 - 30 seconds. My leaves took 30 seconds apiece, but yours might take less. Nuke each leaf just long enough to dry it out. Stay nearby while each leaf cooks and keep a close eye on themAlso, this part smells weird!

3.  Take your dried leaves out of the microwave, place them on a sheet of newspaper, and go outside to spray paint them gold. If you're a spray paint n00b, read this first. Spray paint is your friend!

4. Let them dry for at least an hour, then come back, flip 'em over, and spray paint the other side.

5. Once both sides are completely dry, bring them inside and use the needle to poke a hole near the base of each leaf. Wiggle the needle around until you've created a hole just big enough to insert a six-inch piece of twine. Tie the ends off, and voila! The paint makes the leaves surprisingly strong, but treat them gently, okay?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Nashville Zombiewalk 2012

In Nashville, we do this little thing called Zombie Walk once a year. Imagine a crazy zombie flash mob that happens to also be a food drive for the Second Harvest Food Bank. This year, Geek Media Expo took over operation of the Zombie Walk! Since I'm a GMX staff member, I attended my first Zombie Walk in a semi-official capacity. Mostly, that meant hustling to Fort Nashboro after GMX staff meeting, taking pictures, and helping round up and load the donated food for delivery to Second Harvest. I loved it.

These pictures aren't pretty, but they're pretty damn awesome.
Are you looking for Halloween costume inspiration?
I present... Zombie Street Style!
(\Warning: Fake blood everywhere. Proceed at your own risk!)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Afghans. Blankets. Throws. Snuggly Cuddly things.

Brr! Either I could see my breath last night, or my soul was escaping my body (I've really been watching too much X-Files). It's only going to get colder, so last week I spent lots of time shopping on etsy for the perfect afghan. I settled on one from LovelyAfghans, but these were my other favorites. I liked these so much, I bought knitting needles and promptly taught myself to knit!

At this point, the dogs won't even wear what I knit. Seriously, Cadet keeps finding ways to lose her bandana. I'm insulted! I'm hoping that by winter, though, I can make a scarf that won't embarrass a dog. Or me. I've admired Lauren's sewing blog for a long time (seriously, read her. She's so funny and talented!), and she offered to endure my knitting n00b questions. I'm joining a knitting circle! I'm pretty excited.

Look! These blankets are so pretty!
But hey, is it just me, or is it hard to say blanket without thinking progeny of Michael Jackson?

White 'n' Bright Granny Squares Afghan from OliveSomeday on etsy, $38
Ochre Chevron Stripe Afghan with Tassels from MansfieldAve on etsy, $20 
This color is perfect.
Cream Afghan with Yellow Daisies from TinkerLightning on etsy, $45
I love those corner tassels!
Gray Granny Squares Afghan from littlebyrdvintage on etsy, $60
This one is big enough to be a bedspread, and it looks so modern!
Chunky Taupe Fringed Throw from JepsonGirlsHome on etsy, $35
This would match anything and every room.
Butterscotch and Cream HUGE Knitted Throw with Luxurious Tassels from NostalgicHome on etsy, $25
Look at that thick knit! This looks so warm.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Three years is a long time.

Three years is long enough to...

Fall in love, for reals. And keep it.

Happy third anniversary, Keith!

Recap! The best of Jen and Keith (so far)...
Remember that one time when my sister got married to an awesome dude, and we partied all weekend? Yeah.
And OMG I got to wear big honkin' fake eyelashes. I loved those things.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Feathering the Nest: Soft Afghan? Check. Comfy Pillows? Check. Adorable Dog? Check!

IT'S SCARF WEATHER, YAY! I've been making vats of pumpkin soup, learning to knit, and preparing the house for chillier weather. Last week I ordered a beautiful embroidered afghan from etsy and sewed throw pillows to match the new upholstery on the dining room chairs. The afghan was made by LovelyAfghans, and I'm crazy about it. It's very well-made, and the geometric Swedish embroidery reminds me of an Ikat print. Best of all, all her afghans are $30 or less!

Admire her work? Shop LovelyAfghans on etsy!
Cadet thinks pillow means dog nest, so I used sturdy indoor/outdoor fabric. I was afraid it might feel like nestling into a pile of scouring pads, but they're soft enough to nap on, yay! Lately I like more neutral colors, and I love these shades of beige, taupe, and mustard. The patterns keep it lively, but the colors are calm.
Paisley print: Premier Prints Twill fabric, Henna print, River Rock color.
Botanical print: Waverly Sun & Shade fabric, Fishbowl print, Caviar color.
Geometric circles print: Richloom Solarium fabric, Maxfield print, Sand color.
Dog not for sale.
Now to start thinking about art to hang over the TV... What should I paint? Are pet portraits cheesy?
I'd like to either paint the dogs or copy an old botanical illustration, but with some funny modern additions.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Book Review: If You Could See Me Now by Cecelia Ahern

I love magical realism. Stories about a mundane post office in Iowa are fine, but stories about a mundane post office in Iowa that uses bespectacled flying cats to deliver letters between our world and The Other World are obviously so much better. Sure, you'd expect to see that sort of thing in The Other World, but in Iowa?! Neat!

So I like Cecelia Ahern's novel If You Could See Me Now because it's a whimsical piece of magical realism in which imaginary friends are serious professionals who hold regular staff meetings. Their offices are one floor away from the Wish Analysis lab. Naturally, that's the place where trained technicians test dandelion seeds and meteorites to identify the wishes made upon them!

But If You Could See Me Now is also a sensitive, nuanced story about friendship, family, and learning to relax and embrace new possibilities. It could've deteriorated into a hackneyed romance novel, and I'm so glad Ahern eschewed (bless you!) predictable romantic plot lines in favor of something richer and more subtle. I'm tickled by the irony: It's a fictional story about imaginary friends, but these characters seem more believable than most.

Not sure if you'd like it? Maybe you didn't like Ahern's other book, P.S. I Love You?  Here's a spoiler-free synopsis: Elizabeth Egan is wound up so tight she's about to crack. She maintains freakish order at all times to compensate for her chaotic family life. She's spent her life building an interior design business and caring for her lonely father, alcoholic sister, and her six year old nephew, Luke. It's nice that she cares for the boy, except she confines him to one room so he doesn't leave fingerprints all over her house.Yeah, Elizabeth has it all under control--and maintaining constant control is turning her into a harpy!

When Luke asks Elizabeth to set the table for an invisible friend named Ivan, Elizabeth is not amused. She doesn't know that Luke's invisible (not imaginary!) friend is very real. He's also carefree, handsome, and exactly the kind of friend Elizabeth needs. When Ivan notices that Elizabeth senses his presence, he realizes she needs him even more than Luke does.

Want to know more? Read the book!

P.S. Don't y'all be stealin' my post office in Iowa book idea. I think I'm really on to something there! /sarcasm

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Indian Food! Slow Cooker Chicken Korma

I became addicted to Indian food during my senior year of college. I was like a junkie jonesing for more capsaicin! I had no money, so I traded tutoring services for lunch at my favorite Indian place near campus. Friends would ask me to proofread their papers, and I was like yesssss... meet me at Village Tandoor, and I'll take care of you. Bring cash. I ate there so often, the waiters laughed at me when I showed up with yet another poorly structured Sociology 101 paper in hand.

Village Tandoor's Chicken Korma was so red, I always thought it was a tomato based dish. I ignored the menu's claim that it was made with "nuts, yogurt, and a mildly spices." Yeah, I got a kick out of their typo. I recently decided to make my own, so I  adapted this recipe from From Bengal to Pubjab: The Cuisines of India. I altered Smita Chandra's original recipe based on what I had on hand, and prepared it in a slow cooker instead of on the stove top.

I've made it 3 times in the last month, and I can safely say that Chicken Korma really is made with almonds, dairy, spices... and no tomatoes. I like to make the sauce in the evening and throw everything in the slow cooker before I go to work. I recommend doubling the sauce recipe and freezing the remainder, so you have more sauce on hand the next time you want to make it.

Monday, October 1, 2012

DIY Winter Flower Clip Ornaments à la West Elm

I feel like a crazy lady, because Halloween isn't even here yet, and I'm already thinking about Christmas. But I'm so excited to celebrate our first Christmas living under one roof! I want to make it special, with everything in white, gold, and silver, and with twinkly lights everywhere.

I've been browsing West Elm's new holiday decorations. Their clean, simple look is so pretty: White + sparkle = Christmas! I like their simple Winter Flower Tree Clips because you can use them to decorate your tree, clip them on gifts, or you can even wear one in your hair. But six bucks for a fabric clip... are you serious?! That's WAY too much, especially when you consider that it would take a lot of these to trim an entire tree. So I decided to make my own, and they were so cheap to make!
A 29 cent sheet of felt makes two full-size flowers, with enough left over to make one smaller flower. The alligator clips on the back can be purchased in bulk for just ten cents each. The buttons in the center, with rhinestones and fake pearls, were a dollar apiece. But you could definitely experiment and try something cheaper. I already had all the other supplies, and you probably do, too.

One sheet of felt
Alligator clips
 Decorative Buttons
Needle and white thread
Glue gun and glue sticks

 First, print this piece of clip art in two different sizes--one small, and one large. Cut out the flower templates.

I whip-stitched the edges. West Elm didn't do this on their flowers, and this step is completely optional.
I thought West Elm's flowers were too plain, and I like the added texture.

I'm going to make a dozen or so to put on my Christmas tree and on holiday gifts. 
How would you use them?