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Monthly Archives: January 2013

chesterfield sofa

not my apartment but i wish it was.

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not my apartment but i wish it was, part II

sometimes, when i think about alternate careers for myself, i think that i could be happy as an interior designer. like most people in the pinterest age, i can spend hours scrolling through inspirational images, pinning selects from my favorite interior design blogs or paging through elle decor and martha stewart living. i watch enough hgtv that i could be considered a certifiable addict – you might as well check me into hgtv rehab (so long as there are 600 thread count egyptian cotton sheets on my hospital bed). but when i think back, i’ve been “designing” in my head since i was a little girl. as a child, i rearranged my room on the regular. i was always finding a new corner for my bed, a new bookshelf, a new way to angle my desk so that it caught the sunlight while i was doing my homework. i got endless amounts of pleasure out of repainting old furniture and picking out new bedding for my room (i still have the laura ashley sheet set that christened my “big girl bed” the day i went from a single bed to a full mattress).

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not my apartment but i wish it was part III

but it goes beyond that. i know i’m not alone in saying i was obsessed with barbies. but i was really, truly obsessed with my dolls, way past the age when such a thing was considered cool or appropriate. i’m pretty sure i didn’t pack away my barbies until the sixth grade, at which point, even mentioning the word barbie was tantamount to wearing my underwear on the outside of my pants to school each day. note: i was never a particularly cool child, in any sense of the word.

my barbies were my solace. they were my friends when i couldn’t get any play dates, my confidantes when no one else would listen. they were aesthetically pleasing in a way i knew i’d never be. they could grow up in any family i assembled for them (not the “weird” one i was convinced i had, what with two lesbian mothers and an adopted sister – a hybrid, millennial family that people had yet to figure out how to handle). my barbies could spend their entire day in the swimming pool and then head back to the mansion and watch tv all day long if they wanted to. they could cut their hair into a pixie and still be pretty. they didn’t go to school, they went to the mall. they didn’t report into their parents – they were supervised by a pair of twin skippers (older sisters, of course).

the stories i made up for my barbies – well, let’s just say they were likely an indication that i might be a writer someday; they were blasphemous and overly imaginative and not at all realistic. i mean, let’s be honest: not many families are comprised of two sets of twin older sisters with deliciously sexy ken dolls as boyfriends, and a bevy of younger sisters (also with two sets of twins) who ran the house because their parents had died in a beyond tragic plane crash on their way to barbados.

beyond making up stories for my dolls, i decked their “house” out to the nines. my childhood playroom had an entire wall of built in shelving; i cleared out my other toys to ensure that the first two rows of shelves could be dedicated to the most palatial barbie house anyone had ever seen. with twelve rooms of varying sizes, my barbies had it made. i used wrapping paper and fabric to “wallpaper” the walls, and was constantly rearranging the furniture in each room, parking the convertible on the rug outside the house, setting up the inflatable swimming pool (with real water!) and ensuring that older and younger sisters were constantly battling over whose room got to keep the big wardrobe full of barbie couture.

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hello, dream room.

how i wish i’d taken pictures of my barbie mansion. i may not have ended up an interior designer, but i do take great pride in decorating my own little new york abode – my very own barbie palace. i’m proud to say there’s a lot less hot pink in my current home than there was in the home i created for my barbies, but there’s still a bunch of pops of color here and there.

over the years, as i’ve cultivated my tastes and figured out what makes a house a home, i’ve realized how important design can be. of course, it’s a luxury – that goes without saying. but for those of us who do have the disposable income to decorate (and i’m a big believer in budget design; half of my furniture was bought 75% off on craigslist or found in the trash room in my building), there’s much to be said about creating your very own sanctuary. as a child, my barbies were my escape, and their “home” my sanctuary. now that i’m (reasonably and technically) an adult, i have the opportunity to create my very own sanctuary, to fill my apartment with things that make me smile when i walk through the door.

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robert allen’s geometric velvet in magenta

all of which brings me to the exciting news that i’ve splurged on three new pillows for my living room couch (part of my 2013 living room makeover; you may recall that i’m planning on a new gallery wall as well) and i can’t wait for them to arrive. so i thought i’d show them to you, my dear readers (the few of you that there are).

i purchased two pillows in robert allen’s velvet geometric purple fabric (purchased on etsy from this seller) as well as a ivory mongolian throw pillow that i’ve been lusting after for months (literally, months – how pathetic am i?). mongolian fur has been all the rage in design for the past few years, but i’m hoping it doesn’t go away anytime soon. i’m all about faux (always faux) fur – it’s so cozy, isn’t it? i have a pottery barn faux fur blanket that i keep on the end of my bed in the winter months, and it literally calls my name the second i get home: “sarah, come snuggle with me! you don’t need a boyfriend, you’ve got me!”

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my new white fluffy baby.

as if, PB blanket. i still need a boyfriend – but i do love you. i also love west elm’s mongolian pillows, but they’re exorbitantly expensive for a girl on a budget – which is why i was delighted to find this white one on etsy for just $25. SCORE.

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lambswool desk chair. swoon.

want to see some other examples of mongolian lambswool coziness? i got you covered. whether you’re putting it on a stool, a desk chair, a pillow, a floor – there’s really nothing more snuggly. and let’s face it, all we want to do in our homes is snuggle, right? and watch reruns of revenge and law and order : SVU on repeat. what? that’s just me? you mean you don’t sit on your couch on friday nights catching up on the week’s DVR list and eating haagen dazs out of the carton? you losers.  but really – don’t you want that office below to be yours? don’t you just want to sleep in a pile of lambswool pillows? no? that’s just me again. well, fine. if you need me, i’ll be off talking to my barbies about the importance of mongolian lambswool in my living room.

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red velvet cupcakes with gold sugar sprinkles

what did you do on MLK day? instead of going out and giving  back to my community like i should have, i went to bar method and then spent the afternoon crafting red velvet birthday cupcakes for my dear friend bruce. i feel slightly guilty about this, but i’d like to think that the hours i spent cleaning caked cat pee off of the crates at petco sufficed as my volunteer commitment for the weekend (i volunteer with a no kill cat rescue called kitty kind. they are wonderful, the cats are adorable, and i don’t even mind the pee).

so let’s talk red velvet. red velvet is one of those cupcake flavors that hit its heyday when cupcakes became a “thing.” you know, when magnolia and buttercup and baked by melissa and butter lane and sprinkles and the 9 million other scenester cupcake places opened. back in the day, people made chocolate and vanilla and they were satisfied with that. but then the fancy schmancy cupcake places came along, and lord, am i glad they did. otherwise, i’d never have learned of such wonders as chai cupcakes (holy food orgasm) and red velvet cakes (holy melt in your mouth amazing).

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doling out batter. kind of looks like little red turds, no?

red velvet’s funny, mostly because people seem to automatically assume that the red coloring corresponds with a ‘red’ flavor, such as cherry, strawberry, or watermelon. this isn’t the case. in fact, red velvet cupcakes are flavored with a hint of cocoa and a splash of cider vinegar; this is what gives them the sweet but ever so slightly tangy taste they’re known for. of course, there’s lots of red food coloring. i’m partial to this one, which i buy at ny cake (if you don’t live in NYC, ny cake ships!). gel food coloring is great, because it means you’re not pouring three bottles of chemicals into your cupcakes.

not that i poured three bottles into mine – i probably used about half the amount of food coloring recommended in the recipe because i was using gel instead of liquid.

so, want to make these babies for yourself? you do, they’re good. really, really good.  unless my taste buds and my friends lied to me, in which case, taste buds, i’m sorry, friends, go find your own cupcakes.

The Recipe (from the More from Magnolia cookbook) 

3 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising!)

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

2 1/2 cups white sugar

3 large eggs at room temperature

6 tablespoons liquid food coloring (use only 3 if you’re using gel color)

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

to make, preheat your oven to 350, and line 2 cupcake pans (24 cupcakes total)

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mixing up the butter and sugar…heavenly.

to make the batter, sift the cake flour into a small bowl and set aside. in your stand mixer (or a large bowl if you don’t have a stand mixer), cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy – this should take about five minutes. once light and fluffy has been achieved, add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

next, whisk together the red food coloring, cocoa and vanilla. if you’re using gel food coloring, it’s okay to add a few droplets of water to thin the mixture out a  bit (i didn’t have to, but you never know). add the red chocolate mixture to the butter/sugar/eggs mixture, and beat well. now the fun comes – your batter will start to turn a brilliant pinky red. BEAUTIFUL!

now, pour your buttermilk into a glass measuring cup, and stir the salt into the buttermilk. add to the batter in three parts, alternating with the cake flour. beat until the ingredients are just incorporated, but don’t overbeat.

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painting the town red with chocolate, vanilla extract, and red gel food coloring

in a small bowl, stir together the cider vinegar and baking soda. it’ll fizz up like a second grade science project! volcano cupcakes! just kidding.

add the cider/baking soda mixture to the batter and mix well. use a rubber spatula to scrape down all the edges, and make sure the batter is smooth throughout.

divide your batter into the prepared cupcake pans – fill each cupcake liner 3/4 of the way full (don’t overfill or your cupcakes will overflow. trust me. been there, done that).

arrange the pans in the upper and lower thirds of your oven and bake the cupcakes for 20 minutes, switching the pans halfway through. use a toothpick to make sure the cupcakes are done – you want it to come out clean; a goopy toothpick means that shit ain’t done!

cool cupcakes in the pan for about 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely on a rack before icing.

which brings me to the best part: FROSTING. i like cream cheese frosting for red velvet, but vanilla buttercream would be delish as well.

cream cheese frosting is the easiest in the world to make – which is part of why i love it.

Ingredients

2 oz. packages of cream cheese, left to sit out for a bit so they soften slightly

6 tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract ( i used about 2 1/2 cause i loooove me some vanilla extract)

5 cups sifted confectioners sugar

to make, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium speed in your stand mixer for about 3 minutes, or until smooth. add the vanilla and beat well. gradually beat in the sugar, 1 cup at a time, until smooth and creamy. cover and refrigerate for a bit to thicken – or spread as is if you’re happy with the consistency as it stands.

i added gold sprinkles on top of mine because i’m fancy like that – but any toppings will do. sprinkles just make everything nicer, if you ask me. but these babies are so delicious they’d be fine with frosting and nothing else.

now, go forth and eat!

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you know that phrase “stressed is desserts” spelled backwards? well, sometimes i think stressed is carbs, spelled…i don’t know how. basically, what i’m trying to say is that as much as i love sweets (hello, blog name), there comes a time in a girl’s life (or day) when she just wants to eat carbs.

enter, a big bowl o’ pasta. i ask you, is there anything carbs can’t cure? a pot of penne can sop up a lot of tears, and we all know pasta cooks in salt water. yesterday was a long day, and even though it included a mini cupcake from crumbs, i still came home wanting nothing more than to cuddle up on the couch with some spaghetti and watch my DVR-ed episode of SVU. of course, the fact that SVU wasn’t new this week was a major let down, but i made do with nashville. can’t win ’em all!

i did, however, luck out with this super easy pasta recipe that’s sopped in garlic and freshened up by lemon zest and italian flat leaf parsley. i found it here, and i’d highly recommend it. this thing is YUMMY. major kudos to the chef. i didn’t measure as closely as the original recipe and so i’ve rewritten it slightly below. i’d recommend this dish for long days, when you want something delicious but don’t feel like slaving over the stove, or when you’re having company over, and you want to look like you’re an amazing italian chef who just happened to end up in new york (if you go this route, might i suggest an italian accent to go with)? no, but really. make this. it’s easy. and so, so good. Image

 The Recipe: Lemon Pasta with Parsley and Parmesan

 You’ll need:

 * 3/4 lb spaghetti ( I used the Trader Joe’s brand)

* 5 garlic cloves, minced

* 1/4 cup olive oil

* 2 tablespoons butter

* 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

* the zest of 2 large lemons

* the juice of one large lemon (about 1/3 cup)

* salt and pepper to taste

* a whole lot of pram

 To make:

First things first: cook spaghetti as directed in a large pot of salted water. While pasta is cooking, prep your other ingredients (yes, it’s that easy).

First, heat olive oil and butter on low in a small saucepan. Don’t turn it on high, your butter will burn. Mince your garlic, and add it to your olive oil/butter mixture and turn the heat up slightly. Cook until tender and fragrant (your kitchen will smell amazing right about now), about 3-5 minutes. While it’s cooking, zest and juice your lemons.

Drain pasta and place into a large serving bowl. Dump garlic and olive oil mixture atop of pasta and stir to incorporate evenly. Inhale. Exhale, and toss pasta with parsley, lemon zest and lemon juice. Resist the urge to take a bite right now. Season liberally with salt and pepper, and toss with freshly grated parmesan.

 Now, you can take a bite. Go ahead. See? I told you so. It’s good. Just try not to eat the whole thing (but I won’t blame you if you can’t help it).

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how many times have you wished your sober self could tell your drunk self to behave? that you’ll regret this tomorrow? that maybe you should quit while you’re ahead, that you don’t need that last drink, nor do you need to take the random guy you just met at the bar home with you.

i swear to god, sometimes i need sober glasses to put over my drunk eyes. because here’s the thing about one night stands. in the moment, they seem great. the alcohol hits your bloodstream, and there’s a moment where everything starts to sparkle. you feel more hopeful, like life might just break you off a piece of good luck and serve it to you on a silver platter. so you do things you normally wouldn’t do sober. you strike up a conversation with a guy at a bar and you speak of nonsensical things and sensical things, like where you went to college and what you’re doing with perfectly blown-out hair and glitter caked into the corner of your eyes.

and everything seems rosy, tinted with sunshine even though it’s past midnight, and you decide that you don’t want to be alone in your bed, and you don’t much care who shares it with you. so you grab the one you’ve been talking to and words are exchanged, but it’s not so much the words that matter as the looks, and it’s decided: he’ll come with you. and for a moment, you feel lighter than air, like you’ve been chosen, like maybe your drunken one night stand will result in a lifetime of happiness, in a man who puts a ring on your finger and makes you chocolate chip pancakes on sunday mornings while you curl your fingers around a steaming mug of coffee and take it all in.

because that’s the thing about bringing a guy home: in the moment, it feels wonderful. you feel pretty. you thank yourself for choosing to wear heels, for applying extra eyeliner, for smiling and laughing and talking and remembering to suck in your stomach. and you kiss in the cab and you watch the cabbie watching you and you think to yourself, ‘this is what it means to be young’ and you praise yourself for your recklessness, because you’re not a reckless person. you tell yourself you’re just having fun, just like everyone else, and everyone’s always telling you that you could stand to have a bit more fun.

and then you’re putting your key in the lock and you’re in bed and you’ve stripped off your clothes and it’s dark and you’re glad for the lack of light because you hate this part –  the part where it gets personal and you can’t hide behind anything. and you curse him for throwing off the covers and really looking at you, because you’re not sure you’re ready for that. and so you get it done and you offer him a glass of water and you fall into a dreamless sleep, and in the morning, things are the same, but different.

your hair no longer looks pretty, but messy, knotted and twisted and uneven, all smushed on one side. your eye makeup is smudged and you realize you forgot to brush your teeth, and it’s too hot under the covers but too cold in your room and how did you get here? and your head pounds and you look at the one sleeping next to you and you realize he’s not going to be your anything. he doesn’t care about you, doesn’t want to know about what you want out of life or how you take your coffee or the fact that you hate the feel of itchy wool sweaters and despise big slobbery dogs that smell like wet garbage. and you curse yourself for doing this yet again, because even if it’s only been a handful of times in your life, you’ve done it enough to know you never enjoy it the next morning. and you try and counsel yourself: this was fun, you were fun, it’s good to be fun. but in the harsh clouds of early morning, it’s no longer fun.

it’s funny, yes, when he rolls over and opts for, “want to have sex again before i leave?” instead of good morning. but it’s not fun. and suddenly all you want is to be old and wrinkled and sitting in a rocking adirondack chair on an oversized porch alongside someone who’s been at your side for years. and you’re seized by the terrible fear that the life you dream of for yourself, the one with which you sing yourself to sleep, might never be yours. and then, you can’t be alone fast enough. so you go through the motions and you nod as he says he has to get home, he’s having furniture delivered, and you smile and giggle at all the right moments as he tells you his hurricane sandy horror story, and how he’s finally found a new apartment, and you realize he’s balding slightly and he’s not the one who wants to make pancakes with you on a sunday morning, and all you want is for him to leave.

and after all that, the next day? the next day you go back to life. you fall in love with strangers on the subway, and you stand in line at starbucks and you fight to cut a swath down the busy city streets, and you think to yourself, is this it? is this what it’s going to be? and the thought of that horrifies you, that this could be it. and so you find yourself on a crowded street in one of the most populous cities in the world feeling utterly alone, and you tell yourself, never again.

that is, until next time.

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as a bonafide hgtv addict, i’m constantly rearranging my apartment, subtracting items and buying new ones, scouring craigslist for vintage finds, and perusing flea markets for perfect tchotchkes. my latest obsession is removing a wall decal i stuck up above my eating area four years ago and replacing it with a perfectly curated gallery wall, complete with a mirror in the middle. my living room is a bit dark because (god bless new york real estate) it’s technically a converted room (one giant room split into both bedroom and living room) and there are no real windows. mirrors, as everyone knows, add light – so i’m thinking my gallery wall will be best served with a mirror in the middle. preferably, a venetian or antique gilded one, though i’d settle for the simplicity of the round one in the photo below. i’ve been curating a pinterest board of prints i intend to order to create my gallery wall – with the addition of some ikea frames and some flea market finds, plus a slew of gold gilded frames i’ve been hoarding in my closet for years, i’ll have the gallery wall interior design dreams are made of. now, if only i could save up enough for the lucite chiavari chairs i so covet. Image

Imageyesterday was my birthday. i turned 27, an age i used to think i’d never reach. i remember when i entered high school, a shy, chubby, unstylish freshman who thought the seniors were absolutely, unequivocally the coolest people to ever walk the earth. i thought seventeen was the age when dreams came true. when you magically matured into a confident, beautiful, interesting, funny individual who hadn’t a care in world.

of course, it’s never that simple – but now that i’m a full ten years past my supposedly golden age, i have to admit i feel a bit disappointed. it’s silly, isn’t it? we’re never as far along as we wish we were, never as good enough as we hope to be. around me, as friends get engaged and high school acquaintances pop out babies, i look around and i wonder, do i have enough? am i enough? am i doing enough? yesterday, i woke up and i thought to myself, “27. and what do i have to show for it?” and the truth is, i have a lot to show for it. i live in new york city, which is a feat in and of itself – this place is wonderful but everyone knows it knocks you down on a near daily basis. i have a great job at a great advertising agency, and my job title is exactly what i hoped it would be when i moved to new york in the first place (and it took me four years of sweat and many a tear to get here). i have an apartment that feels solidly mine and at last 85% like home. i can count my best friends in the world on one hand – people i’d go to the end of the earth for, and those i know would do the same for me. i have a cat i am 110% obsessed with (cat ladies unite!). i have a family i wouldn’t trade for the world – a sister who simultaneously looks up to me and offers some of the best advice a girl can get, plus two mothers who have fought battles both for myself and for our family to be recognized. Image

and yet? sometimes it doesn’t feel like it’s enough. and i hate myself for writing this, i really, truly do – but sometimes, i just wish i too had a serious boyfriend, or was engaged, or was married. most days, i’m just fine with who i am and where i’m at, but somehow, birthdays always bring it out in me – that drumming sense of “you’re not enough. you’re not where you want to be yet. you’re here and what have you done?” add on top of that the fact that i adore birthdays and always have such ridiculously high hopes for mine to be the best day of the year (and consequently, am always let down, my own fault), and somehow, the day never stacks up as i want it to, and i always go to bed feeling disappointed that yet another has gone by and i’m still the same.

last year, i baked my own birthday cake, because no one had done any dessert-related thing for me at my dinner the night before, and i wanted a cake. let me tell you, i’ve never felt more pathetic in my life. until yesterday, when my office completely neglected to do anything (my previous job went all out for birthdays; i was the resident cake baker for our team), and i seriously contemplated buying my own damn cupcakes just so i wouldn’t consider the day a wash. and admittedly, i was sad yesterday – until a wonderful friend went out and bought a cupcake for us to eat, making the whole day about a zillion times better.

this post is really just a long ramble that probably feels like i’ve thrown myself a pity party complete with balloons (hey, there have to be balloons at any good party), and for the two people actually reading this, i apologize. the reality is this: should i be less into my birthday and expect less? of course. but you know what? i’ve gone 27 years believing birthdays are important and attempting to make my loved ones’ birthdays the best they can be, and goddammit, i’m  not giving up on the birthday dream! and when i have children, you better believe their parties will be special and their cakes delicious. and when i move up the ladder and have people working under me, i’ll schedule team lunches and get special cupcakes and leave flowers at their desk the morning of – because we only get one day a year that’s all about celebrating the fact that we’re still here, we’ve made it, and we woke up today with a smile on our face. and that’s a pretty special thing.

and you know what else? i’m 27, and i do have a lot to show for it. and when i forget that, i’ll look back on this post and be reminded that my life is pretty great. and when all else fails, i always have my cat.