Tuesday, July 30, 2013

It's Good to Be the Birthday Girl.

It's a book! It's a cake! I'm in love.
Thirty-two years ago today:
Prince Charles and Princess Di had been married for exactly ONE day.
The Fox and the Hound and Escape From New York were in theaters.
Jesse's Girl by Rick Springfield topped the Billboard Chart.
The Belgian Senate adopted laws against racism.

Yours truly was ONE day old!

That's right; yesterday was my birthday, and I feel so loved right now. Seriously, if you combined a pile of kittens with a kiss on the forehead and a book of fuzzy Lisa Frank stickers, that's how I feel. My parents, sisters, friends, Keith, and my coworkers made me feel very special (and Keith made sure I GORGED myself on delicious Indian food). After a lovely dinner and HOURS of wine-fueled girl talk with two of my favorite women, Keith and I made a special trip to the post office. We chucked our freshly addressed wedding invitations in the mailbox, squee! BEST DAY EVER. Thank you to everyone who made me feel special yesterday!

I don't mind getting older, and I don't want to pretend I just celebrated my 24th birthday again. I find that I'm getting happier, less self conscious, and more comfortable with who I am as I get older. I'm 32, and I have a lot to be happy about right now. I'm going to take this week off from blogging to enjoy some of those things...  Be back next week!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Delightful Dish Towels For A Curious Kitchen

If you've been following for long, you know I have a bit of an obsession with design inspired by Natural History museums, vintage science prints, and cabinets of curiosity. So I flipped my lid when I first saw the Bug Poster towels from Zara Home on Pinterest. I could NOT justify paying $18 for two kitchen towels, but when the price dropped in half and they offered free shipping, I ordered up a pair. Later that day, they sold out! It's my first purchase from Zara Home, and I'm looking forward to seeing the quality in person. Thin and stringy, or thick and luxurious?

It's been a quiet week. On Wednesday night I had a lovely dinner with my parents and Keith's grandparents. I spent the other evenings at home making flowers for our wedding, watching Orange Is the New Black, and perfecting my shortbread recipe for a Royal Baby tea party at work. Let's admit it: It was really just an excise to eat lots of cookies! I made a vanilla butter cookie that was just so-so, and a savory Parmesan thyme shortbread that was AMAZING. I found the recipe here, at Shock the Bourgeoise. It used to be one of my favorite blogs, but it was mysteriously abandoned by its author last year. Come back, Elizabeth!

That's all for today... If you're craving more Cabinet of Curiosities chic, check out Yelle at Tender Roots. I'm completely in awe of the way she arranges curiosities and natural specimens. Her displays look clean and modern but still have tons of vintage charm. Go take a look!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Engagement Photos with Aaron Yung at Fort Houston and Engagement Session Tips

You're too kind! Thank you SO MUCH for saying such sweet things about our engagement photos. Part of me is reluctant to post more; I don't want you to get tired of our faces. But I do want to show you the last set, taken at Fort Houston, because Aaron did such a fantastic job with them. Aaron had never seen Fort Houston, but we asked him to shoot there because the place means a lot to us. This is where I plug Fort Houston!

Fort Houston is a workspace for creative professionals and hobbyists. If you have big ideas but live in a tiny apartment, you need a Fort Houston membership! They have a wood shop, print shop, welding area, gallery space, and desk spaces. Soon, they'll have a maker space and 3-D printer, too: Keith has been working for months to set up their maker space. We've spent countless hours there together painting the maker room, installing new lighting, designing the desks, and generally making the maker room more awesome and functional.

We took these in a back hallway behind the main area of Fort Houston. It was filthy, but I love the gritty, industrial look--and I'm glad we took pictures in a place that means a lot to us. At this point we were sweaty and tired, we'd just been feasted upon by bugs, my hair had fallen flat, and I kind of just wanted to be finished, but it was still fun to be at Fort Houston.

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You know how I keep saying "This is my favorite!"? Well, this is ALSO my favorite!
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I absolutely love the color contrasts here: Mint and red? YES!
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We didn't get great shots outside--the lighting was weird--but the backdrop is awesome, yeah?
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We learned some things during our session:
1. Loosely coordinate your outfits. They don't have to match perfectly, but colors that look good together will give you better pictures. Iron them the night before, too.
2. Wear more makeup than you think you should. I thought I was wearing WAY too much makeup that day, with LOTS of blush and eyeliner. But in the photos, I look bare-faced. Fail.
3. Bring just a few props. Bring something special to you, definitely! But remember that someone has to CARRY that stuff. I'm glad we just brought a few books.
4. If you're having an outdoor shoot, bring a pair of sneakers. I hiked up the Shelby Street bridge and scrambled down a picturesque embankment in my sneakers, then changed into my heels for pictures. Don't mess up cute shoes or hurt your feet.
5. Wear bug spray. More than a week later, I'm STILL scratching the chigger bites that I picked up during our shoot. Gross.

Do you have any photo session tips that I neglected to mention?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

You Are Awesome! More Engagement Photos with Aaron Yung Photography

Thank you SO MUCH for your kind words regarding our first set of engagement pictures! I'm so glad you like them. Since the reaction was so good, I'll keep 'em coming. After we finished shooting at the Shelby Street Bridge, we hopped in Aaron's car and drove to a graffiti wall near Mercy Lounge that Aaron suggested. I'd never seen it, but I immediately liked it--especially the part of the wall that says YOU ARE AWESOME. HOW perfect is that?!

All photos by Aaron Yung Photography.

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This is my favorite one.
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Except this is ALSO my favorite one!
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I learned two things from this portion of the photo shoot: Bring a practical pair of shoes, and wear LOTS of bug spray for an outdoor engagement shoot! We scrambled down a small embankment to get to the wall, and without my Clarks, I probably couldn't have gotten down there without falling. Once we were down there, the bugs were BAD. When we weren't posing, we were slapping at mosquitoes. We only stayed there a few minutes, but I LOVE the shots we got here.

You're probably getting sick of our faces, so I promise: Tomorrow's installment is the last!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Engagement Photos at the Shelby Street Bridge with Aaron Yung

Keith and I had our engagement photo session two weekends ago, and we got our photos back on Saturday. I'm pretty thrilled with them... Let's just say that you all are about to get so sick of our faces! Aaron Yung took our photos, and I love his work. I'm not very comfortable in front of the camera, but his subtle directions helped a lot. And Aaron made the light look so much prettier and more dramatic than it really was that day.

A lot of women go into their photo sessions armed with a list of poses they want or a Pinterest album of inspiration. Not me! I went into it fairly blind, because I wanted photos of us actually acting like ourselves. The extent of our preparation was to: 

a) Agree that we wanted to take some pictures with our dogs
b) Choose our outfits the night before
c) Grab some books from our shelf to use as props
d) Joke that it would be funny if he wore a boutonniere and I wore a corsage. And then Keith actually ordered them, because he's awesome.

Instead of doing a lot of outfit changes, we visited different locations. We ended up taking pictures at the Shelby Street pedestrian bridge, a graffiti wall near Mercy Lounge (We first met at Mercy!), and at various spots inside Fort Houston. We wanted to visit the Natchez Trace bridge, too, but we got too hungry ran out of time.

There are so many photos, I'm going to break these posts up over a few days, based on location. After getting some pictures with the dogs at home, we started at the Shelby Street Bridge. The pictures of Keith and I laughing and reading together here are some of my favorites; they really capture what I love most about being with him. 

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Sleeping (In) Beauty: The Prettiest Bedding

A few days ago I talked about decorating with a friend who hasn't done much to her house because she's renting. She doesn't want to sink money into a home that isn't permanent, and I totally get that. When I was renting, I only wanted to buy things that I could take with me and use in my next place. I see SO MANY Craigslist ads that read like this: "Sofa/table/chair for sale. There's nothing wrong with it, except it doesn't fit into my new apartment." OOPS.

My advice for renters: Buy good bedding! You can always take it with you. Questions of scale and proportion to rooms in future apartments aren't even an issue. No matter the size of your next rental, bedding is practically guaranteed to work there, too. But I'm biased; I absolutely love new bedspreads. You spend almost a third of you life asleep, so why not make your bed look and feel awesome? These are my favorite bedding sets for sale right now--and two of them are on our wedding registry. Can you guess which?

So girly. So dreamy. And it matches any paint color ever. Georgina Duvet from Anthropologie
I have a HUGE thing for bright floral prints on black backgrounds.
I think it comes from spending my childhood in wallpaper stores, perusing wallpaper sample books.
Cape Catherine Duvet Cover by Ralph Lauren (SERIOUSLY ON SALE right now!)
Ooh, FRINGE! Garden Vine Chenille Bedspread from Plow & Hearth
Is it paisley? Is it damask? Do I care? Celeste Damask Duvet Cover from Pottery Barn
Matelasse is ridiculously luxurious and matches everything.
King Charles Matelasse Coverlet from Sears
Hardly anything changes the look of a bedroom faster than new bedding. Sure, paint does the job. But  I think painting is hard, and it usually involved picking dried paint out of my hair for the next two weeks. Whereas re-making the bed is easy. I LIKE EASY. What's your favorite way to quickly change the look of an entire room? And do you have different advice for renters who want to spruce up their places?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

It's Five O'Clock SOMEWHERE: Outfitting the Bar

I've spent more time than I'd like to admit crafting our wedding registry. I thought I knew what I wanted, but then I talked to Married People Who Know. They reminded me that the items on our registry are (ideally) meant to be used and enjoyed for the rest of our lives, not just right now. Then I opened the kitchen cabinets and counted my dinner plates. THREE. I have THREE dinner plates, y'all. So I completely overhauled the registry. 

Booze not included.
One thing that didn't change at all, though, was our desire to have a beautifully outfitted bar cart. Let's all drink to that! I want sparkling Irish crystal, Kentucky bourbon, and sturdy tools neatly corralled on a gleaming silver tray. Monograms optional. No, scratch that. I love that my old monogram is the same as my new monogram. Bring on the initials... and these gorgeous things!

Dispense it! Infuse it! And oh, how it sparkles...
Speakeasy Ice Bucket: Condensation has never been prettier.
Bourbon would just taste better this way, wouldn't it?
Bar Tool Set: I don't even know how to use these. Good thing Keith does.
And it all goes right here.
Isn't it SHINY? What would you put on your bar cart? With some fresh flowers, glassware, gin, creme de Violette, Chartreuse, and a few bottles of wine, this would be so beautiful. But honestly, it's probably more "dare to dream" than "coming to a living room near you in November." But someday...

Influenster Voxbox: Something Blue

If you're just tuning in, Influenster is a community where people write reviews of their favorite and not-so-favorite things. Basically, it's like Yelp for stuff. If the folks at Influenster likes your reviews, they'll even send you a Voxbox--a box of samples and products for you to review. This is my second Voxbox.

Last month, Influenster sent out the Something Blue box--a box of freebies and samples for brides to be. I was so curious as to what they thought engaged women need. When I opened the box, I laughed out loud: They think we're all in pain and have yellow teeth!! THANKS Y'ALL. But once I took a closer look, this stuff wasn't so bad.

Monday, July 15, 2013

I Can't Stand the Suspense! Kate Middleton Needs to Have That Little Prince or Princess NOW.

Inside Buckingham Palace: Just imagine the Royal Tot littering this room with Legos.
I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but I'm kind of obsessed with Kate Middleton, the impending royal birth, and British royalty in general. I think I've only mentioned the Duchess once on Librarian Tells All; no one else I know seems to care about the royals, and I don't want to bore y'all, so I usually keep it to myself. But the royal baby will be here any moment, and right now the rest of the world seems just as interested as I am, so I feel okay saying it:

The British monarchy is  my guilty pleasure.
Except I don't feel guilty about it at all. 

When I was a little girl I was given a set of Princess Diana paper dolls, and an obsession was born. Now I check The British Monarchy's Facebook page when I have my morning coffee. I peek at What Kate Wore every night before bed. I wish I knew someone else who liked ogling and snarking on the Court Circulars. Because, um, I'd be delighted to discuss what we all think of Sophie of Wessex (LOVE), which of Fergie and Andrew's daughters is cooler (um, NOT BEATRICE!), and what we all think of the Royal Ascot dress code (HOLY SHIT I WANT TO GO THERE SOMEDAY).

Instead of making themselves disgustingly available to the world, they make themselves scarce--and it only makes me want to know more. Sure, they make official public appearances, but they aren't tweeting their vacation pix, new haircuts, and opinions about George Zimmerman. They hardly ever grant interviews, and--think about it--do you know what their voices sound like? No. They aren't courting fame, and I love them for it.

[Aside: Yesterday I discussed this topic with someone else, and we reluctantly agreed that our grandmothers were right: The same principle applies to dating. It sounds old-fashioned and stupid, and we hate the idea of it. But we thought about how our friends reacted to people who were practically saying "I love you" on the first date, versus people who barely answered their texts, and it's so true: Unavailable is attractive.]

What's the point? I don't have anything design or book related to talk about today, because I spent the weekend Googling "Kate Middleton baby" on an hourly basis. And in between, I had engagement photos taken, read The Princess Bride by the pool, and made lemony quinoa salad with pistachios, cranberries, and mintcurried tuna salad, and a pot of creamy tomato soup.

And, um, if you have a strong opinion regarding
Fergie, Camilla, or Harry, I'd love to know.

Friday, July 12, 2013

House of Sea and Sun in St. Augustine... Or, What Should One Know About Staying at a B&B?

My friends and I, discussing bed and breakfasts:

California friend: "I love B&Bs. I also would love to go to Vermont. My husband's dream is to go and stick a straw in a tree and drink maple syrup."
Texas friend: "I want to wade in a cranberry bog in Cape Cod like on the juice commercial."
Me: "I just want to drink champagne in a cloud of chintz."

Obviously, we're not 100% sure what we're talking about! Have you ever stayed at a bed and breakfast? I haven't, but I've always wanted to. I imagine it involves ensconcing oneself in a cloud of damask and antiques, sipping peach Bellinis, reading novels, and nibbling Gruyere for an entire long weekend. Yes, I can do that.

Why yes, I would love to sip a mimosa on the deck while contemplating the ocean. So nice of you to ask. Source
Why the B&B talk? After all the excitement regarding Neil Gaiman and the Summer Reading Program craziness at work, I need a vacation. Keith and I are both celebrating our birthdays soon, and we decided that instead of exchanging stuff, what we really want is to go away somewhere beautiful and spend time together.

It's even a pet friendly B&B! HAHA just kidding. Source
These guys showed up on a Google image search for House of Sea and Sun, WTF?! 
He wanted to go to the ocean, and I wanted to stay at a bed and breakfast. We found the perfect place for both of us: House of Sea and Sun in St. Augustine. Woo-hoo, now I can cross "Stay at a romantic B&B" off my bucket list! House of Sea and Sun looks like someone's Great Aunt Maude's house, full of cabbage roses, damask, and Irish crystal. Seriously, we're staying in a room called The Plum Room, and it has a fainting couch.

It's SO PURPLE!!! And so tiny. Sorry about that.
It was either tiny or grainy, so I chose tiny. Source
A fainting couch with a view of the ocean. 
I may never leave.

Since the innkeepers live in the B&B, and we're essentially guests in their home, I'm curious about B&B protocol. I know it's different from staying in a hotel, but how? Any words of wisdom before we embark on our seaside adventure?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

An Evening with Neil Gaiman

Haunting. Source
The most important thing I took away from Neil Gaiman's talk at the War Memorial Auditorium last night is that he pauses mid-sentence to savor the faraway rumble of thunder, too. 

The evening was wonderful, and I'm still flying high from the experience. 1,700 fans were treated to hilarious stories. He described how couples involved him in their marriage proposals. He told us about the gifts fans have given him (including the handmade paper that caused him not to write a much-anticipated short story). Best of all, he described the deeply personal experience that helped him understand what fans mean when we tell him that his books changed our lives. 

He did a reading from The Ocean at the End of the Lane that no one else had yet heard him do--he'd promised himself that he would read it on this tour only during a good thunderstorm. The thunder obligingly rumbled most loudly during the scariest parts of the reading, and it truly felt magical.

His Q&A session was funny and flippant. His demeanor was very different than when I saw him eight years ago at the Los Angeles Book Fair. It was obvious that touring takes a lot out of him, and he did his best to maintain his patience with silly questions like, "What would you do if you realized you couldn't remember where you parked your car?" 

Neil smoothly segued from the Q&A session to a reading of Fortunately, the Milk accompanied by a surprise guest--Bela Fleck! Neil and Bela became friends while recording an audiobook a while back--who knew?! Bela's banjo punctuated the story so perfectly, at times Keith and I both forgot that the music was being played live. They have a wonderful rapport.

We waited for four (yes, four!!!) hours to have Neil sign our books. Keith slept in my lap for part of that time. I was willing to go home, but Keith insisted that if I missed the signing, I'd regret it later. Smart, smart man. Greeting Neil face to face, hearing him say that I have a beautiful smile, shaking his hand(!), and having the chance to thank him for writing about something very important to me was absolutely priceless.

I'm so grateful to Neil for coming to Nashville, and to the hardworking staff at Parnassus Books who spent months planning and worked into the wee hours of the morning to make this event happen.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Happy Neil Gaiman Day!

Neil Gaiman speaks in Nashville tonight, and I've been waiting months for this day years to hear him speak again. To celebrate, I'm going to repost the hilariously giddy (and greatly abridged) journal entry I wrote immediately after seeing Neil Gaiman on October 2, 2005. Why? Because it amuses me! I hope it makes you laugh, too:

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Bookmooch, The Monsters of Templeton, and the Lost Art of Paper Cutting

Have you ever used Bookmooch? Bookmooch is a book swapping community that's perfect for people who prefer to own, not borrow, books. It's simple: Give a book away, and get a book you want. It's free to use, but when yo send off a book you do pay postage, so I recommend small, lightweight books--NOT gigantic tomes.

A few years ago I cleaned out my shelves and used Bookmooch to get rid of the books I didn't want to keep anymore. I earned credits for the books I gave away, and I've been saving those credits for the few books I really want to add to my collection. Of course, that means I have to wait for someone to make those books available on Bookmooch. But Bookmooch makes it easy by sending you an e-mail when a book on your wishlist is available.

Sometimes months go by without something I want becoming available, but last week someone listed one of my favorite books, The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff. It just arrived! Isn't it pretty? The more I looked at it, the more curious I was about the cover artist, Beth White.

I looked her up and discovered that she isn't a painter or graphic designer; she's a papercut artist and creates these intricate designs with a piece of black paper and scissors. One false snip, and the piece would be ruined! Wow. Can you imagine the time and patience it took to cut every little leaf? Her portfolio is here, and you may recognize more of her book covers. One of the covers she created is now adorned with a Newbury medal!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Kelly and Rob are Getting Married!

I think they like each other.
I had another post prepared for today, but stop the presses and hold the phones: MY BABY SISTER IS ENGAGED! Kelly walked out of her last grad school class on Wednesday and saw Rob waiting for her with flowers. She was so surprised; she didn't even know he was in Knoxville! He took her to a pretty park, and then to the Sunsphere, where he proposed. These two have been dating more than five years--since their senior year of high school. Rob and his family already feel like family to me, and I'm so excited that it's going to be official! Big congratulations and lots of love to my baby sister and future brother in law.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

DIY Book Safe Remote Control Holder

Remember that book safe I told you I was going to make? It wasn't just idle chatter--I did it! Keith likes to carry the remote control around the house like a little kid with a pacifier, no joke. I can never find it, and I'm hoping this helps. Best of all, the project was easy, and I love the way it turned out.

The instructions at Country Living are very straightforward, but these extra hints might help:

1. When you look for a book for this project, be absolutely SURE you're choosing a large enough book! The Playstation remote is a lot longer than I realized. I grabbed a few other books to use for our other remotes, and they were too small. Back to the drawing board.

2. When gluing the pages together, it helps to thin the glue with a very small amount of warm water.

3. When you begin cutting the hole for the remote control, round off the edges. I began with squared-off edges, but as I cut deeper, it was impossible to maintain the squared-off shape.

Since the other books I was going to use were too small, I have some extra books sitting in my craft basket.
What should I do with them? Have you seen any other good book crafts lately?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Green With Envy Over Chartreuse

I only have a moment to spare this morning before I rush off to a really crazy and exciting emergency management exercise at work. Let's just say that during the pre-exercise briefing last week, I learned the word moulage. Have you ever heard of that? Yeah, it's going to be an interesting day at work!

Before I run off and go apply mock injuries to random strangers, though, I wanted to show you these pictures. There's something about that poisonous acid green that calls to me. That one pop of color brings these otherwise neutral rooms to life. Not to mention that marble topped table, the chandelier over the cognac leather sofa... WOW.

Yes, the pictures from Rebekka and Manley's house tour are a year old, and you might have seen them before. But I have so much respect for the woman who decorated that room.  Go (re)visit the house tour, and admire her adorable gray cat and painstakingly hand-stamped bumblebee wall.

Rebekka and Manley's home in East Nashville
Chartreuse table with marble top, as seen on The Bella Cottage
Rebekka and Manley's home in East Nashville
I love neutral colors with a bright pop of chartreuse.
What color would you pair with chartreuse? 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Bloggers' Night Out at Rumors in the Gulch

photo by Robert S. Donovan
Last weekend was relaxing, hilarious, gossipy, and just plain fun. Right now, I'm going to tell you about Saturday night. I met up with Lauren at Lladybird, Jenna of Kittycat Stevens, Trish from Let's Go Ride a Bike, Audrey of Adventures in Audreyland, Kimmie of That Girl in the Wheelchair, and Sarah from Blue Jeans and Melodies for cocktails, blog talk, and more cat talk than we should probably admit. These ladies are so smart, funny, and encouraging. If you don't already follow them, go add them on Bloglovin'!

We went to Rumors Wine Bar in the Gulch, and they treated us so well. Can I tell you about it?

Atmosphere is important to me, and Rumors is beautiful and cozy, with dark walls and big chandeliers. And I love that you can actually hear your companions there, because that makes it the perfect place to catch up with friends. Their candlelit indoor tables are perfect for a romantic date. Their outdoor patio is ideal for lingering over cocktails. And they have a swanky private room for parties. On Saturday, we were seated at a gorgeous outdoor table under a pergola covered with twinkling white lights. It looked magical.

And I haven't even told you about the amazing food yet! They spoiled us with free samples of their housemade hummus, jalapeno and pimento cheese, and Marcona almonds. The heat in the pimento cheese makes it addictive. We lingered for hours over cocktails and delicious food, made by chef Jo Ellen Brown. When you go to Rumors--because you must go to Rumors--try the Irish stout fondue mac & cheese and the mussels. My favorite mussel bowl is cooked in white wine with capers and feta, but they come in four other flavors. And they all come with lots of bread, so you can sop up every last drop of the savory broth. The parking situation in the Gulch isn't great, but don't let that deter you: They offer free parking across the street from the restaurant. Are you making your reservation yet?

There was more to the weekend--and I promise to tell you how the remote control holder project turned out, and what I found at the insanely good thrift store where my mom found a Curtis Jere sculpture--but one thing at a time. First, you should go visit Lauren, Jenna, Trish, Audrey, Kimmie, and Sarah's blogs!