This beauty is Nabila, or Nabi for short. She moved into my apartment last minute during my final semester at college. She was going through a crazy break up that dragged on (as they do), and I was just beginning the what-the-hell-now? stage of post-college. After a heartbreaking moment with a mouse and a sticky trap, I thought for sure Nabila would never like me. But then we realized that we both loved whole milk and the six hour PBS version of Pride & Prejudice. We were partners in crime, borrowing each other's clothes to go dance at Middlesex with all of the other sweaty crazies. She was integral in our roommate dynamic: me, her, and Jenna waking up early on Valentine's Day that year to dress up in bright pinks and eat a smelly breakfast at Brookline Lunch. We took ourselves on a shopping spree at Salvation Army for books and at Goodwill for new lamps. We laughed so hard people walking by would turn to look at us (but we fit right in in Central Square). Some nights we'd boil meat or order Chinese food and lay in the living room until way past our bedtimes. She helped me through some embarrassing crushes, and I tried my best to help her through some messy breakups.
It was so nice to see her thriving in Chicago. Hearing her boyfriend, Diego, talk about how they met with the admiration and love she deserves. Like old times, we ate too much, stayed up too late, and vegged out like it was our job.
They're moving to New York in the spring, and I can't wait to be a short Fungwah bus ride away from these two. Diego quickly became my root beer float companion.
Sundays aren't for working, but today I'm having to go against all my greater instincts and get a headstart on the crazy week ahead of me. And during one of my can't believe I'm working on a Sunday breaks, I found this lovely surprise at Ashley's blog, The Sweet Season. Ashley is the very talented photographer behind Ashley Slater Photography based in Michigan. At the end of last year, she requested some newborn props for photo shoots she had coming up, and I so happily obliged. I've let my plans for an Etsy shop fall to the wayside, and this was just the push I needed to get back to it. Thanks, Ashley!
This is the view from Nabila's studio in downtown Chicago. It was pretty breathtaking. We stood there trying to pick out the bumpy stuff also known as land on the other side. It was crazy flying into the city, seeing the lake look so much like an ocean and for a second not knowing where I was. And then for the whole weekend not really fully knowing where I was at any one time. Chicago seemed so much flatter than all the other cities I've grown used to. The high rises didn't dominate the horizon, affording me this memory.
There's this project that a lot of bloggers are doing: taking 52 portraits of ones they love—their kids, their friends, anyone. Since I don't have kids, I thought I'd just take pictures of everyone. Try to get them in their natural state. Last night, while Mike was putting together his outfit for Super Hero Day at his school, I took some photos of him, well, being Mike. I'm a little late to the game, but this is going to be fun.
I know what you're thinking: What is that amazing child's drawing?! First of all, no, I do not have a four year old child. Nor did I scan one of the many works of art my niece made for me. But I did follow along on a YouTube tutorial on how to use the pen and pencil tools in Illustrator.
I started out by Googling Illustrator tutorials, and after half an hour of frustratingly Googling how to do all of the things the several tutorials I tried told me to do, I decided I was jumping too far ahead. (I have a tendency to do that.) So I backed it up a bit and learned the basics of using two of the basic tools. I plan to keep track of my progress here, whether it's learning Illustrator or Photoshop or sewing. Workspace Wednesday will be whatever I'm working on, even if it just looks like a crude children's drawing.
I spent this long weekend in Chicago visiting one of my best friends, Nabila. She's in a grad program at the Art Institute of Chicago. I finally got to meet her boyfriend of over a year, see where she's been living for over a year, and mark Chicago off my to-visit list (although the city's so big, I'll definitely have to revisit sometime). It was a nice relaxing, albeit fuh-reezing weekend. She introduced me to The Newsroom (seriously one of the best shows I've ever seen), to homemade arepas, and Chicago-style popcorn. She and her boyfriend are moving to New York this spring, so I'm glad I was able to squeeze in a weekend out there before they move on. Did anyone else take advantage of the three-day weekend for some travel?
It's a fact that when I make something with buttermilk in it, I'm secretly finding an excuse to also make buttermilk biscuits. The last time I made buttermilk biscuits, they turned out alright. They were enjoyable, but I mean, slather apricot jam on anything and it'll turn out alright at the very least. So when I saw Emma's recipe for biscuits and mushroom gravy on A Beautiful Mess the next week, I knew it was fate. I had recently made a dark chocolate raspberry cake that involved buttermilk, so I was all set for ingredients. We stocked up on baby bellas and I got to work.
Mike got me these biscuit cutters for Christmas, which are really just glorified cookie cutters (i.e., cookie cutters with handles), but they really do make a difference. When you're cutting the biscuit dough, a sharp edge helps you get that stacked dough look that expands into a biscuit that looks like a leaning tower of deliciousness. Also, don't make my rookie mistake and roll your dough out too thin. If you're cooking for just two like I was, leave that dough thick and get some hearty biscuits out of your hard work.
I worked in the kitchen at Texas Roadhouse for the better part of my high school and early college years, so I know my way around a white gravy. Add mushrooms to the mix and you'll almost feel like you're doing your body a favor. You're not, but your tastebuds won't complain.
Mike's not from the South, so when I announced that we were having biscuits and gravy for dinner, he wasn't as enthused as I was. "What are we going to eat with that?" he so ignorantly asked. "Ugh, fine, I'll make eggs, too." He quickly ate his words while he was eating these biscuits smothered in white gravy.
After dinner, I was a little put off by the amount of white gravy we were left with. I contemplated dumping it, but Mike's lightbulb went off and the next night we made chicken and gravy ("like the Cracker Barrel Saturday special!"—and he calls me weird, everyone knows Cracker Barrel's Sunday special, chicken fried chicken, is the most memorable thing they serve). We made brown rice and sauteed chicken with the gravy and peas and mixed it all together. Throw some broccoli on top and you have no reason to waste your leftover gravy. Now you have no excuse not to try this recipe.
Did you know that my very favorite cake (and any baked good, for that matter) is the one that I am eating at any given moment? This cake is no different. I've had my battles with homemade cakes. That real, no nonsense, made-from-scratch cake magic is something I've yet to master, but something I plan to wrestle with until my dying day. (I plan to have a big bite of warm cake and cold coffee ice cream in my mouth when I go.)
My biggest beef with chocolate cakes is that they are never nearly chocolate-y enough. That all changed this winter when I found the Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder. It made these dark chocolate crinkle cookies so rich, and I hoped they'd do the same for this chocolate raspberry bread from Always with Butter. I was right.
This cake calls for several ingredients: buttermilk, raspberries (I used frozen), eggs, instant coffee (I used 2 tablespoons of really strong coffee and a little less buttermilk), but I think the most important ingredient is patience. I was so excited to use this new (to me) bundt pan and to see what it looked like when popped out that I didn't let the cake cool long enough, which is to say I didn't let it cool at all. I excitedly turned it over onto our cake carrier, and was left with, well, this:
1. This is what I came home from work to yesterday: the air mattress blown up and squeezed into our living room for the ultimate viewing of The Dark Knight Rises. We popped fresh popcorn and lounged like royalty. (Well, royalty that's staying at someone else's house.) The bed didn't really fit, so if you put too much pressure on the bed, the chaise lifted off the ground a little bit. It's still in our living room, and all I can think about right now is plopping down on it when I get home this afternoon.
2&3. Parts of our anniversary celebration day. We tried out a new coffee shop in Kendall. The tea was delicious, but I wasn't a big fan of the art gallery atmosphere. I like to feel like my coffeeshop is hugging me. But it was the perfect place to hole up and read before our movie. And then our sushi spread. We made way too much, which meant we had avocado and cucumber rolls as appetizer the next night. 4. This is what my walk to work looked like this morning. Beautiful and inconvenient all at the same time. But mostly beautiful.
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On Sunday, we went to IKEA—the only store anyone willingly spends 3+ hours in. We got some frames for the paintings I made for Mike for Christmas, and I got some new organizational things for the office. We got the shelf and hanging bar up last night, and I'm so excited for the next time I work from home. The space is finally clearing out and uncluttering, making me want to spend more time in there.
We went out for wings with Meg after work yesterday then stopped at Trader Joe's for a few groceries (and a case of three buck Chuck, let's be honest), and when we got home Mike seemed particularly interested in the mail. I sorted through it and found that he'd sent me my anniversary card in the mail. He said, "I haven't sent you a letter in a really long time." I had to wipe my heart up off the floor with a dish towel.
So to follow tradition (while making tradition my own), I'm thinking of this year as The Year of Learning. My friends tease me about all of my different hobbies: sewing, crocheting, baking, writing, reading, making jewelry, the list goes on. This year I want to add a few more to the list, but not just for the sake of making the list longer. I really want to focus on quality this year. I don't want think of myself as the Jane of all trades anymore. I want to hone my skills, discover things I love and figure out ways to marry what I do for a living with what I love to do. There are also a few things in there that I love to do that I never want to give up.
There's a syndrome I see happening on Instagram and on other blogs, and I'm afraid I'm suffering from it, too. I miss Christmas. I miss the lights everywhere, the nightly glow of the Christmas tree, everything covered in glitter. I've been slow to get back to my routine, despite feeling refreshed and ready for this new year, but going through these photos from Mike's and my Christmas morning is helping ease the nostalgia. I got up early to make cinnamon rolls, then we camped out on the living room floor emptying out our huge Dollar Tree stockings. In our first apartment together, we started new traditions and spent a calm holiday together before all the traveling. We're home now, the tree's packed away, and I'm working on my latest plans for the new year.
Hello, 2013. Nice to meet you.