bold & beautiful: 5 to-die-for wallpapers

wall paper 1

 

How’s that old saying go? You always want what you can’t have, right? That pretty much defines my relationship with wallpaper. As a renter who is not allowed to paint or touch the walls (so um, don’t tell my landlord we may have put a bunch of eyesore holes into it, mkayyy?) all I want to do is paste up wallpaper on every available surface.

 

Wallpaper used to have a fudy-dudy reputation. It reered it’s ugly head, yellowed and peeling, in older homes. You remember the unsightly garden floral version from your great grandmother’s kitchen or the way they had to scrape it with that ridiculously small razor tool to remove it on Trading Spaces. Thankfully, the wallpaper of houses past has grown up in a big way. Not only is it now way easier to apply (there are even some renter-friendly peel-and-stick options!) but it’s prettier and more of an eye-catching statement than ever.

 

I love the idea of a bold entryway blanketed in playful dalmation dots, or a moody floral powder room. Here, just a few of the bold prints and patterns I’m coveting currently (and saving for later!):

wallpapers

1. Dia de Dumbo, sold at Flavor Paper | 2. Scalamandre’s Zebras, sold at Decorators Best | 3. Dark Floral Mural, sold at Etsy | 4. Safari Hunter, sold at Rifle Paper Co. | 5. Yellow Peonies, sold at Rifle Paper Co.

 

 

 

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blood orange, beet and fennel salad

blood oranges

 

 

I almost feel like a fraud giving you a “recipe” for this salad. It’s one of those crazy-easy concoctions that you literally cannot mess up…no measurements, no fancy ingredients, no tough techniques. Just simple, good ingredients coming together in a healthy, quick, flavorful salad recipe. What more could you want, right?!

 

fennel

This salad is actually a riff on something I had while over in Italy—I love how it feels light and summery, but utilizes ingredients that are easy to find during the winter. Sometimes I start to feel weighed down by the hearty pastas and heavy stews of the winter season, so this is a fresh change of pace!

 

You’ll need:

  • One bulb of fennel
  • 2-3 beets
  • 5-6 blood oranges
  • Goat cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

roasted beets

 

With your oven set to 425, roast your beets, coated lightly in olive oil and a bit of sea salt, until the skins have darkened and they smell “earthy” (about 30 minutes). They should stay firm but should be easy to slice through/bite into. Set aside to cool.

 

Skin and slice your blood oranges and slice your fennel—you’ll only be using the “bulb” of the fennel (aka the white part), which has a bit of a licorice taste to it and adds a nice crunch.

 

beet, fennel and blood orange salad with goat cheese recipe for beet, blood orange and fennel salad

 

 

On a large serving dish, arrange the blood oranges and beets together. Sprinkle the slices of fennel on top, along with a few dashes of olive oil, salt and pepper. Finish with some (generous) bits of goat cheese and serve cold or at room temperature. The best part? Look at the art creation your dish turns into when you’re done with your salad….so pretty!

beet salad

 

 

 

 

 

 

bundled up basics

bundled up basics

 

 

This weather. I mean—I’ve lived in New England all my life, so I really have no right to act so shocked by the cold weather in the middle of January, but it. is. freezing. Walking to work has become a huge effort—between hoping my skin doesn’t freeze of, to keeping feeling in my feet, to trying to keep my eyes from looking like I’ve just been sobbing—everything about this weather just screams “not cute.”

 

To avoid feeling like a miserable creature walking around in a sleeping bag-style coat for the next few months, I’ve been making a concentrated effort to bundle up in the most stylish way possible. Cute beanies, cozy knit turtlenecks and structured coats are really doing it for me this season—I’ve rounded up a few favorites, below (how amazing is that yellow coat?!). What’s your favorite way to bundle up stylishly this winter?

 

bundled up basics_edited-1

 

From L to R: Madewell Plaid Coat | Emerald Leather Gloves | Forever21 Knit Beanie | Tinley Road Faux Fur Infinity Scarf | Sperry Boots | JOA Blush Coat | J. Crew Yellow Coat | Madewell Gray Sweater 

 

 

the year of 50 books: 31-35

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rock-you/4426153359/sizes/l/in/photostream

 

Yikes. I know it seems like I’ve forgotten about this challenge, but I’ve actually read a lot of books recently (mostly over the holiday). So I’m heavy on the reading part, and maybe a bit too light on the reviewing part. However, I am here today, and the two month countdown to the end of this challenge (I started last March) is on—with 20 books to go, I’m kind of wondering how I’m going to make it happen, but fingers crossed! And, on that note, onto this batch:

 

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Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

This book is a lot like Lena—you either love it or hate it. I know it got a lot of recent press for sections of the book that may have rubbed people the wrong way, but I will say that overall I found it to be a very brave and honest account of life as a (not-so-typical) twenty-something. I think it takes someone with a steel stomach, strong sense of self and unabashed pride to write a book like Lena did, and I really respected her for that.

 

Not That Kind of Girl hits on a lot of life experiences throughout Dunham’s 28-years. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the tone throughout the book overall was a lot darker than I anticipated initially. I wouldn’t say it was depressing by any means—just gritty…that sort of feels like the right word. It’s rare to hear anyone talk about topics that Lena hit on—sexuality, abuse, mental disabilities—as seeringly honest as she did. Our society often likes to glaze over these issues, but Lena got into the real meaty, nitty-gritty of things. I’d imagine this whole book publishing process for her was like one part therapy session, one part standing on the stage at Chicago’s Second City performing standup naked. I’d definitely recommend NTKoG to anyone that’s ever felt a little lost, a little misunderstood, a little ambitious. So basically any twenty-something. Rating: 8.7 out of 10

 

Favorite quote(s): “When someone shows you how little you mean to them and you keep coming back for more, before you know it you start to mean less to yourself.” // “I can never be who I was. I can simply watch her with sympathy, understanding and some measure of awe. There she goes, backpack on, headed for the subway or the airport. She did her best with her eyeliner. She learned a ne word she wants to try out on you. She is ambling along. She is looking for it.” // “You will find, she says, that there’s a certain grace to having your heart-broken. I will use this line many times in the years to come, giving it as a gift to anyone who needs it.”

 

 

leaving-time-400-929

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

I may have mentioned it before on here, but Jodi is one of my favorite writers (we’ve been through like, 20 books together, so I feel like I can call her Jodi, right?). I was awaiting the release of her newest book, Leaving Time, anxiously this fall and it did not disappoint. Like a lot of Jodi’s books, the plot and characters were an amalgamation of a lot of things you think wouldn’t work together in a novel—in this case, elephants, teenagers, race issues, detectives and psychics. Like I said, random—but so, so good.

 

The novel is told from the point of view of several characters, including Jenna, a teenager on a quest to find her mother, who was once a world-renowned elephant researcher. What may be an over-used formula in literature (kid looks for mom, kid discovers self along the way) is turned on it’s head by Jodi’s engaging and emotional look at what it means to be a family, deep character development and—yes—affinity for unexpected plot twists. You will at once not see the ending coming, and not want it to end. I’m jealous you all will get to experience it for the first time.  Rating: 9 out of 10

 

Favorite quote(s): “I think grief is like a really ugly couch. It never goes away. You can decorate around it, you can slap a doily on top of it, you can push it to the corner of the room—but eventually, you learn to live with it.” // “Don’t do any intentional harm to yourself or anyone else, and get happy.” // “If you think about someone you’ve loved and lost, you are already with them. The rest is just details.”

 

belzhar

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

So I’m pretty sure this is billed as a young adult book, but I don’t care because I love Meg Wolitzer so I read it anyways. Belzhar follows a group of troubled teens through as semester at boarding school. The only thing Jam, the narrator, and her classmates have in common is that they’ve all been through their own version of an unspeakable trauma, and they’re all in the same English class, where they’re instructed to read The Bell Jar and write in journals.

 

And here’s where things get weird, because each time they write in the journals, something happens. I can’t tell you exactly what, because hello—that would ruin things and you should read for yourself, but the journey to discovering what “Belzhar” was—and what it mean for the English kids—was fun. I will say I’m not usually into supernatural-esque/suspended reality type books, but Wolitzer’s novel was still grounded enough that it kept me hooked. The language was a bit simplistic at times (as to be expected with a book geared towards a specific age-set), but it was none-the-less an enjoyable page turner.  Rating: 8.3 out of 10

 

Favorite quote(s): “To find out what another human being feels, a person who isn’t you, to get a look under the hood, so to speak. A deep look inside. That’s what writing is supposed to do.” //  “And I also know that pain can seem like an endless ribbon. You pull it and you pull it. You keep gathering it toward you, and as it collects, you really can’t believe that there’s something else at the end of it. Something that isn’t just more pain.”

 

 

wild-cheryl-strayed

Wild by Cheryl Strayed 

Boy oh boy, did I try my damnest to avoid reading this book. For some reason, I had it firmly in my head that I was. not. interested. Well turns out, I was very interested—I loved it, and now I won’t shut up about it. I want to go on my own backpacking/life discovery journey. I think people are starting to get annoyed by my incessant Wild chatter.

 

Wild is really an autobiography of Cheryl Strayed’s journey on the PCT (that’s Pacific Coast Trail, if you’re curious!), a 1,100 mile hike that she set off on, minimal experience be damned, the year after her Mom died. And while the book centers pretty much solely on Cheryl and her thoughts, feelings and actions, it ain’t no 127 Hours, watch-a-man-saw-his-arm-off situation. Her voice throughout the book is funny and sad and hopeful and regretful and wise all at once. I haven’t been through half the hardships Cheryl has (mainly a crippling drug addiction and gutting loss), but I felt as though I grew from her experiences.

 

Wild is so emotionally gripping, and Cheryl’s pain sometimes so raw that I felt like I had lost my mother and I had to step away for a bit in order to not get too emotionally torn down by the book. At 25, I’m seeing my parents more as their own people rather than just my parents, and it’s interesting that Cheryl had the same moment of awareness while hiking the trail. Whether you’re a wilderness buff, reeling from the loss of a loved one or just someone, like me, looking for a read with a little heart, Wild is for you. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I’m hoping to make time to soon!  Rating: 9.7 out of 10

 

Favorite quote(s): “Alone had always felt like an actual place to me, as if it weren’t a state of being, but rather a room where I could retreat to be who I really was.” // “Saying Bobbi instead of Mom felt like a revelation, like it was the first time that I truly understood that she was my mother, but also more. When she’d died, I”d lost that too—the Bobbie she’s been, the woman who was separate from who she was to me. She seemed to come at me now, the full perfect and imperfect force of her humanity, as if her life was an intricately painted mural and I could finally see the whole thing. Who she’d been to me, and who she hadn’t. How it was she belonged to me profoundly, and also how she didn’t.”

 

 

YesPleaseHC_hires

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Maybe it was this book, or maybe it’s the fact that I’m currently hooked on Netflix-ing my way through Parks and Rec, but I’m obsessed with Amy Poehler, you guys. I have a real soft spot for brilliant, hilarious women (see: my obsession with Mindy Kaling and love for Tina Fey), and Amy has certainly checked both those boxes.

 

Yes Please was everything I had hoped it would be—part autobiographical account of how Poehler made it in the male-dominated comedy biz, part witty insight into everything from love to loss to getting drunk in dive bars in the middle of the week. Poehler’s voice was endearing and honest, and I love the “footnote” aspect of the book—several of the addendums she added to anecdotes made her off-color stories even more hilarious. Amy is kind of everything I hope to grow up into—smart, opinionated, motivated and sure of myself. But it was kind of cool to see that she wasn’t always that way. Life is a growing process, and sometimes you just need a successful, award-winning, brilliant, ridiculously rich actress to point that out.  Rating: 10 out of 10

 

Favorite quote(s): “Decide what your currency is early. Let go of what you will never have. People who do this are happier and sexier.” // “Sticking up for ourselves in the same way we would one of our friends is a hard but satisfying thing to do. Sometimes it works.” //  “that is the motto women should constantly repeat over and over again. Good for her! Not for me.”

 

 

let’s talk: taking up space

taking up space

 

I’ve thought long and hard about making resolutions this year. Here’s the thing—I’m not sure I believe in them. Sure, setting goals is both a valid and effective way to better yourself, but something about resolutions made around the new year always makes me feel like…a failure?

 

I find two main flaws in the idea of a resolution,  really. The first: I rarely stick to the conventional ones. Who really has the time or money to take one trip a month or the motivation to workout twice a day or the stomach for daily kale smoothies or the guts to always stick up for themselves? Not anyone I know, that’s for sure. Challenge me to resolve to eat cheese every day—that’s a resolution I could probably stick to. And second, rarely are the resolutions I make the ones I actually need. I think there’s an important distinction there, and it’s one that I’m just learning to be conscious of—there are resolutions that are natural (and typical) for us to make, and maybe even sometimes easy for us to stick to, and then there are those that we need to make in order to more forward and grow.

 

It wasn’t until a recent conversation with a close, slightly older confidant that I recognized the resolution I needed to make for myself in 2015. I had asked her the most important lesson she learned in her 20s and she replied with this simple, brilliant phrase: I learned to allow myself to take up space.

 

I mean, chills, right? It seems like a simple concept, but I realized it was a gift I never really granted myself. Not only do I not allow myself the privelege of taking up space in my own life, but I sometimes feel like I actively run away from it—keeping myself at the bottom of the list, allowing my presence to fade into the background so others can shine first, compacting myself into a call in order to fit into the tightest corner in the smallest room in the house that is my life.

 

I wish I could say with a single firm, decisive sentence what it means to allow yourself to take up space, but I guess that’s what 2015 will be for me. My non-resolution/promise to allow myself that. I may not know what taking up space looks like, but I know what it’s not, and I’m so ready to leave that in 2014. That, and more cheese.

 

 

image via

 

 

winter squash kale salad with pomegranate and toasted barley

winter squash and kale salad

 

 

Happy 2015, you guys! Two weeks off from work was heavenly, but it really did a number on my routine…I feel like everything—healthy eating, working out, even blogging—falls out of wack without the (sometimes mundane) structure of work, so I’m looking forward to get back into the swing of things beginning this week, and starting with this salad.

 

We all know the deal. New year = resolutions. Resolutions = healthy eating. Healthy eating = kale. And lots of it. And we’re under no illusion here that kale is super exciting, right? Right. But there are a few ways you can make it a bit more appetizing, and one of those is this salad. The acorn squash and barley add a bit of hearty flavor to fill you up, and the pomegranate seeds (my favvvvorrrriteee winter fruit, hands down) adds a nice tart hit. This combo will definitely keep kale boredom at bay, I promise you that.

 

pomegranate

 

 

Winter Squash Kale Salad with Pomegranate and Toasted Barley 

You’ll need:

  • One bunch of kale, washed and pulled off the “ribs” of the kale, into small pieces
  • One pomegranate, cleaned
  • 1/2 cup barley
  • 1/4 avocado
  • 1 acorn squash, sliced thin, seeds removed
  • Brown sugar
  • Olive oil
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

 

roasted acorn squash

 

Clean pomegranate and set aside. Slice acorn squash into rings, removing the seeds and pulp from the middle. Put on a tray, drizzling with a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper and brown sugar. Roast in the oven at 350 degrees for approximately 20 minutes, or until fragrant and softened. Set aside.

 

toasted barley

 

To “toast” your barley (which will give it a nutty, deeper flavor), add a teaspoon of olive oil to a deep skillet and cook the barley until slightly browned and fragrant. Add water according to package directions (mine called for 1 and 1/2 cups) then cook on simmer until the water has been absorbed and the barely has enlarged.

 

In a bowl, combine the cleaned kale with a few drizzles of olive oil and 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then “massage” the kale with your hands until the leaves have softened a bit and turned a deeper green.

 

kale, barley and pomegranate salad

 

 

Toss in the barley and pomegranate seeds, then top with avocado and squash. Enjoy your healthy start to 2015!

 

 

3 last minute DIY holiday wreaths

berries

 

The countdown to Christmas is on, and if you’re hosting, a last-minute checklist is probably running through your head. Wrapping done? Check. Dinner ingredients purchased? Check. Halls decked? Ehhhhh….

 

If you’re anything like a lot of my NYC counterparts, a tree is not always a fit for your lifestyle. But somehow, a holiday home just feels incomplete without it, right? Before welcoming guests over for celebrating over the next few days, DIY one of these easy festive wreaths for an extra dose of cheer—you won’t even notice a tree is missing.

 

If your decor style is luxe, try a…

Gold Accented Magnolia Wreath

magnolia leaf

 

Magnolia leaf is a green that, to me, always screams class. It feels high-end, especially when accented by gold, and is an unexpected way to do the holidays.

 

To start, purchase a couple clusters of magnolia leaf branches from a local florist—they’re readily available this time of year, so you shouldn’t have to special order. Using a wire wreath form (found at any craft store and some florists), wire the branches into the shape of a circle using floral wire (you can catch more of the technique how-to, below).

 

magnolia leaf DIY

 

Pluck a few additional leaves off a spare branch and spray paint them metallic gold, setting them aside to dry. Once they’re dry, wedge them into the wreath form in between their green and brown counterparts.

 

DIY magnolia leaf wreath

 

Wrap a chic, graphic black and white stripped ribbon around the back of the wreath form and secure onto the wall with a tack.

 

 

 

If your decor style is romantic, try…

A Seeded Eucalyptus and Berry Bough

seeded eucalyptus

 

This next wreath is perfect for anyone who favors a more soft, romantic and undone style. I love the look of a bough for it’s droopy, casual feel and this one gets a special holiday twist with a burgundy velvet ribbon.

 

Start by buying a bundle of seeded eucalyptus, as well as a few winter berries, like the white Sorbus that opened this post above.

 

how to use floral wire

 

Using floral wire, arrange the branches in an asymmetrical line, allowing the excess to droop over to one side. Add in the berries throughout, attaching using the floral wire.

 

seeded eucalyptus bough DIY

 

Loop the velvet ribbon around both ends, securing in a knot. Hang with a bow!

 

 

 

If your decor style is traditional, try…

A Plaid and Pheasant Pine Wreath

pine wreath with feathers DIY

 

If you choose to go the traditional route and pick up a pre-made pine wreath from a florist or tree seller, you can add a few extra cozy touches to make it special. I stuck in pheasant feathers and topped it with a red plaid ribbon for a wreath that screams sophisticated country Christmas.

 

 

Merry, merry all!

 

 

 

3 DIY hostess gifts

juliet roses

 

Is there any guest faux pas worse than showing up to a large holiday party empty handed? I can think of a few, but they all involve one-too-many drinks or setting something on fire. The basic rule of thumb: if you’re a guest at someone’s house and aren’t contributing to the meal (aka brining a killer side dish to accompany the host’s short ribs), you should bring a little something, just to show your host that you appreciate her hospitality. These three easy ideas are perfect for holiday get togethers and—most importantly—you won’t waste a lot of time or money pulling them together.

 

Grocery Store Florals Get Stylish

hostess flowers DIY

 

Grocery store flowers can become instantly stylish with just five extra minutes of your time. Please (I beg you) start by removing that crinkly, tacky cellophane exterior and grooming the stems a bit—remove any leaves not around the bud, trim the stems at least two inches and arrange in an appealing cluster. Place them atop a slice of brown butcher paper—it’s crisp and classic and feels suddenly sophisticated when tied with a graphic black and white striped ribbon.

 

DIY Hot Chocolate Kit

hot chocolate hostess gift DIY

hot chocolate kit

 

This is perfect for the hostess who has kids—she may hate you for souping them up on chocolate, but it’s a sweet sentiment that you’re thinking of the whole family. Line a wood crate (mine is from a craft store) with a charming, seasonal towel. Place mugs and instant hot chocolate mix inside, alongside fun add-ons like candy canes and marshmallows.

 

 

Bread and Tea Towel Bundle

hostess gift DIY

bread and olive oil hostess gift DIY

 

I love this next gift for the food fan of your group—it’s even a great way to package up whatever appetizer or bite you said you would bring to the party. Select a playful tea towel (this one is from Crate and Barrel last year, but they always have great new holiday ones that come out around this time) and wrap it around two loaves of bread, securing multiple times with red and white baker’s twine. Place a good bottle of olive oil or balsamic atop the package and secure again with string before passing off to your happy hostess!

 

 

 

wine braised short ribs with truffle mashed potatoes

recipe for wine braised short ribs

 

 

The holiday season is all about entertaining—which, let’s face it, can get stressful. You want to pull out all the stops when company swings by, but often that comes at the cost of your sanity. Wouldn’t it be great to find a recipe that was both impressive and delicious while also being a piece of cake to make? Well well well, ask and you shall receive. Allow me to introduce: wine braised short ribs.

 

At first glance, these babies look like the product of a whole day spent slaving in the kitchen. The reality? Practically everything can cook together in one pan while you focus on keeping the conversation—and the drinks—flowing with your guests. Add some truffled mashed potatoes and roasted gray (yes, gray!) squash and you have holiday dinner party magic. Let’s do this.

 

short ribs

 

You’ll need:

  • Short ribs, bone in
  • 25 (ish) pearl onions
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 3 cups red wine (I used Merlot)
  • 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Rosemary sprigs

 

Short ribs are the perfect roasting meat for winter—hearty, flavorful and readily available. Buy them with the bone in (which is typically the most available cut anyways) and coat them thinly with olive oil, salt and pepper.

 

braised short ribs

 

 

Put a stovetop-safe roasting pan over high heat and coat the base with olive oil. Braise the short ribs on all sides until they’ve formed a crispy, browned crust. Add the garlic and onions, turning down the heat slightly and allow them to “sweat” a bit.

 

pearl onions wine braised short ribs

 

Add three cups of wine, two sprigs of rosemary and top off your cooker. Put it in the oven at 325 degrees for 2-2.5 hours, until the meat is extremely tender and falling off the bone.

 

gray squash oven roasted gray squash oven roasted grey squash recipe

 

For the gray zucchini, simply cut them in half, coat with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in a pan, flipping halfway through, at 325 for about an hour (or until browned on both sides).

 

potatoes white truffle salt

 

To make truffle mashed potatoes (aka the best thing you’ll ever eat), first boil one bag of gold mini potatoes (about 25-30 potatoes) until softened. Drain, then add to a bowl with a half a stick butter, 1/4 cup milk and 1/2 tablespoon truffle salt (I got mine from The Filling Station in Chelsea Market) and a pinch of pepper. Whip until smooth, then taste test (the best part!) to make sure you don’t need to add more salt.

 

wine braised short ribs with truffle mashed potatoes

 

Plate the short ribs atop a helping of potatoes, then finish with some of the cooking liquid and onions from the baking dish. One cozy winter meal, coming up!