Dear Kitchen People-

I am not a kitchen person.

It is not my domain, I don’t know what to do with myself if I’m not sitting on a countertop snacking, or opening a bottle of wine.

Last winter I made Christmas cookies, realized I don’t own a rolling pin, and ended up spreading the dough with a bottle of wine. Most of my friends didn’t believe me.

Well, here you go. (For the record, that’s Aaron’s hairy arm, not mine.)

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Another example of how not kitcheny I am? I used to buy my utensils at IKEA. Until this happened.

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What have we learned?  If you ever ask me to bring something to a dinner party (besides myself or wine), you’ve been warned. Also, never take yourself too seriously – you might lose in a knife fight to a pan of brownies.

Design and Direct Mail

I’ve been getting a lot of goodies in the mail lately. And of course, it reminds me of marketing. And how there’s always an opportunity to make a great impression.

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Item 1 – Custom stamps on a Save-the-Date. Yes, please.

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Item 2 – Fab.com decided to reinvent the printed catalogue and print each item in their “shop” on an individual card made to look like a Polaroid picture. Leave it to an internet company to do something new with print media.

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Item 3 – An Etsy shop owner that puts me to absolute shame. Could the packaging for this iPhone case be any cuter?

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Before and After: Wooden Bread Box

Okay, so I kinda forgot to take a real “before.” The before on this project was my mother in law’s retro wooden bread box she’s had since her and my father in law were first married. Over the years in the kitchen, next to the preparation of lots of yummy food (which I routinely enjoy every time we’re in Austin) it’s gotten a little dingy. Well, a lot dingy. So Aaron and I took it home with us on our last visit, and gave it a complete refurbish. We sanded off all the stain and grime, removed and replaced hardware, restained and polyed – the works.

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(Here’s the first “before” I remembered to capture – this was after scrubbing the wood with Comet bleach powder to remove the grease and goop, and starting to sand with a brutal 60-grit sandpaper.)

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The 60-grit on our orbital sander (my new favorite toy) going to work – oh, and Aaron going to work too, haha. Thank the Lord for a husband that enjoys these projects as much as I do.

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The wood, in its original, naked glory.

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New knob and hinges next to old knob and hinges. The only trouble with replacing hardware on something old? Rarely do they sell the exact same size hardware to replace it. Always a bit of retrofitting and wood-filling to do.

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The stain. Which I have to admit, was a little darker than I liked, especially after spending so much time sanding off the original stain.

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(Not pictured – the two coats of polyurethane we gave it to protect from future kitchen hazards.)

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And the finished product!

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Dolla’ dolla’ bills, y’all

By now I’m sure you’ve noticed how much I love a good deal. I love getting value, paying less, finding the needle in the haystack. I’m particularly in love with what’s happening in the dollar section at Target these days:

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Must be the Kikkerland takeover. Even noticed the cheaper version of my “real” Kikkerland pens. Which came with shiny as opposed to brushed metal details, a lack of branding, and an incredibly odd disclaimer on the side, as if to say “don’t worry, your overpriced version of these were still worth it – they’re better I swear.” Well, now I own both versions.

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From the dollar section at Michaels – SUPER cute mini clothespins with embroidery embellishments. Aaron had to pull me kicking and screaming from the shelf because I wanted to buy several dozen, trying to explain to him they were PERFECT for parties (that don’t currently exist), and my “just one pack” wasn’t enough to spell out anything except “hello,” which today I learned has FIVE letters, not four (I am so smart) so I had to opt for the Spanish version just to show him the look I was going for.

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And finally, a delightful clearance find from Walmart. (Don’t you love that? Since Walmart is practically clearance already?) These shiny metallic slip ons with crotchet chevron stripes were 50% off for just SEVEN DOLLARS. Yeah, baby. (Aaron claims they look like $7 shoes and are wretched, but I stopped taking his fashion advice… oh wait, I never took his fashion advice. BURN, SON.)

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Don’t worry, I know he reads this.

Cheating the System

In my recent attempts to become healthier/still be a fat kid, I’ve found a few absolutely delicious standout winners:

1. Yoplait Whips in Cherry Cheesecake. I’ve always been under the jaded impression that there is no way yogurt can replace and provide the sort of fulfillment that sweets do, like the commercials seem to indicate. HOWever, I found this one, specific flavor that does actually taste like you are eating cheesecake filling in a plastic can. Seriously bueno.

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2. Snapea Crisps. They are salty, crunchy, yummy, addictive and allegedly made from snap peas. I highly recommend the black pepper and Caesar variety. The lightly salted leaves something to be desired and I have yet to try the wasabi ranch.

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3. Kombucha Wonder Drink. Granted, every kombucha tea on the market smells like fermeted “oops I forgot that apple juice in my car for three months in the heat,” and some even taste that way. Well, this brand – specifically the Asian Pear & Ginger – is a little less pungent. It’s a little weird at first, but the addiction slowly builds as you have this tasty, carbonated experience not all that dissimilar from a hard cider. And there’s all these weird health claims and cool packaging to have you silently justifying paying $2+ a bottle.

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What’s new (and slightly less new) in retail

“The rules of hair care are simple and finite. Any Cosmo girl would have known.”

The same could be said about shopping. From one Elle’s advice to the next, here are some of my retail rules, illustrated by my recent exploits:

Shopping Fact – If it’s Kate Spade, and it’s on sale, you must try it on. (Too bad none were in my size…)

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(Okay, these shoes were my size, but they were still over $100 on sale at Nordstrom Rack)

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Shopping Fiction – If it zips, it fits. (This Kate Spade dress zipped, but it sure as hell didn’t fit.)

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Cardinal Rule #1 – Never buy anything you have to lose weight to wear. (Unless it’s really really pretty and makes you look super skinny if only it would zip all the way in the back…. yeah, I’m toast.)

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Shopping Fact – Never pay full price for fabulous. Thanks Marshall’s for that one. (Polka dot dress by Calvin Klein  – originally $119, bought for $29 at TJ Maxx)

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Cardinal Rule #2 – Look expensive with cheap accessories + nice basics, or quality accessories + cheap basics. (Here are my two cheap $10 accessories, both from H&M.)

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Cardinal Rule #3 – Beware the RCF. RCF is a term my sisters and I made up that stands for “Relative Cuteness Factor.” The trap of RCF usually occurs when you’re stuck in a less-than-desirable shopping situation, and you start to want something on the rack because, relative to everything else around it, it’s cute. Taken out of its inhospitable fashion environment, it’s probably something you’d never wear. Ever. (IE, the time I got trapped in the DFW airport for six hours and began to think that, next to a ton of Brighton, Vera Bradley was starting to look appealing.)

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New Cardinal Rule – Never pay $50 for a friggin’ candle. Even if it smells like heaven and looks like a giant cheese wheel. (Thank you, Anthropologie)

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Shopping Fiction – If something is out of your price range, don’t even try it on because it will make you want it more. FALSE. You should always TRY IT ON ANYWAYS. How else will you know what size to get when, after months of watching it online, it *finally* goes on sale?

Cardinal Rule #4 – If it’s something that doesn’t usually go on sale, take a picture, make a note, and add it to your (OCD, impeccably curated) birthday list. (Again, thank you Anthro.)

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I think that’s enough for today’s lesson. Godspeed and happy hunting!

Weekend Update

To catch you up to speed on the life of Lauren, as of late:

1. I always knew Crocs were evil. In spite of my own better judgement, I bought a pair, convinced of their orthopedic qualities and the solemn vow that I would only wear them for actual gardening. Apparently, wearing them to mow the lawn was a slight move from my code of shoe ethics, and the evil Crocs decided to make me roll my ankle and falls down concrete steps.

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2. My knees continued to look equally lovely just three days later when Aaron and I headed down to Austin (southbound! thirty-five! headin’ down the roaaaad…) for the wedding of our friends Stephen and Courtney. Which was absolutely down-to-the-T amazing/one of those weddings that should be on Pinterest for others to loathe and covet. (And the same wedding that came with the adorable invitations seen here.)

Paddle fan ceremony programs for the Texas heat + a couple-themed word find for the little ones (and me).

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The happy couple, under twinkly lights

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Amazing dessert bar with candy corn, cookies, mason jars of cheesecake, cake balls made to look like golf balls for the groom, and simple, rustic, beautiful touches.

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A hometown-themed menu for the Chicago bride and Texas groom

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Flower girls watching in awe

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3. While in Austin we hit up the driving range, because I inadvertently found the ONE sport in human history that I have a small amount of natural talent for – golf. I’ve decided I enjoy golf. Yes, the sport of old, overweight, overwealthy men is well suited to my “athletic abilities” and my desire to find a relatively sedentary, non-contact sport that lets you hit things really far away. I’m pretty sure it all began with Aaron’s evil ploy to make the Golf Channel more acceptable at home.

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got-game-of-thrones-27742397-398-5004. If I met a genie and gained three wishes, I’d switch one of them to wishing HBO would come out with the fourth season of Game of Thrones NOW. After finishing all three seasons on demand,  I decided I couldn’t stand to wait and might actually pick up the books and read. So I went to the book store and took a look at how long they were (assuming anyone who actually read them HAD to be exaggerating). Well, they’re weren’t. I discovered I’d have to read the equivalent of 4 Bibles – FOUR BIBLES worth of text just to catch up to where season three ended.

Now, I haven’t read that much on any one subject – not even my current profession (Lord knows I never finished a textbook reading assignment in my life). Heck, I haven’t even read the actual Bible cover to cover. Feels like maybe I should start there. And also, I should stop swearing in the same breath as mentioning the Bible.

5. Last week I got to tour our local Air Force base, which was a tiny bit boring but mostly fascinating because I’ve never been this close to IMG_6081seeing how people actually live when they or their families are in the service. The closest I’ve ever gotten in the past is touring the USS Lexington in Galveston, which mostly just made me feel enormously claustrophobic.

What struck me the most? (Besides the fact that the campus reminded me of the Texas A&M campus, except with planes on display) The perfectly complete and yet completely false sense of normalcy. It’s just like a college campus. People live, work and play. They go on jogs around campus and walk between classes with backpacks. They have a daycare and a golf course and dorms and extended stay housing. IMG_6078Except instead of spring break you get DEPLOYED. Besides the general appreciation for the military that every American has, and the awe of my WWII vet grandfathers, seeing the realness of life in the military has filled me with some new respect and admiration. My neighbors live their lives with that one fact hanging over their heads that makes everything so NOT normal – deployment. You’re not just learning in a classroom to sit at a desk. You’re learning for your life. For life and death and separation and distance and unknown. Can’t imagine the sense of worry military families must absorb for our nation’s peace of mind.

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6. In more super-serious news, we have a new pet turtle. More specifically, a turtle has decided to make our backyard his home, despite our efforts to move him elsewhere, away from the dangers of curious dachshunds.

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Sick, Sad World

Saw this in line at the grocery store. There are so many things wrong with this that make me question humanity, I just don’t even need to start. So I won’t.

Let it speak for itself –

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PS – Yes, that was a Daria reference. Shoutout to all my fellow 90’s chicks.

Before and After: Gumball Machine

I know, I’ve been a blogging delinquent.

Believe it or not, I have a typed out to-do list (or “to write” list, rather) of all the things I want to talk about here, but honestly haven’t had the time/mental power to do so.

In the meantime, enjoy photos of one thing (as of yesterday) that I checked off my real-life to do list:

Remember my impulse Craigslist buy?

It got a bit of an overhaul:

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Some similar inspiration pieces:

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This is one of those totally Pinterest-worthy posts about nail polish

I found two nail polish colors I’m obsessed with lately. The first, Essie’s Mint Candy Apple, which I got at a mani/pedi over the weekend with my sister in Austin:

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And then Revlon’s “Urban” which I bought at Walmart, and decided to play off the trend of having one finger a different color after I messed up my manicure on a couple of fingers this week.

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I wanted to capture the “design” in all the shining Pinterest glory that people do, but it turns out the fantasy (as shown above from other blogs) is a little different than reality.

For the record, reality looks something like this:

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I am such a dork/hopefully you get the general idea.

Living in the Projects, Part 2

Like before, they’re stacking up.

Our house is currently home to two unfinished lamps, a disassembled wooden bread box ready for sanding, and as of 6 pm last night, a gumball machine that needs to be cleaned up and refinished.

Inspiration piece:

(Spotted at Paco’s Tacos in Austin over the weekend)

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And my serendipitous Craigslist find that just happened to be $20 and less than a mile from our house:

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Is it the weekend yet?

Addictive Personalities

In my post-adolescent years, the quantity and depth of my leisure reading (and reading in general) has reached outstanding lows.

4125sw1m7HL._SY346_For someone who can focus and immerse myself so thoroughly in a task that I don’t even hear things around me (many of you have witnessed this/tested it/used it to your advantage to make fun of me right to my face) I have to say I don’t read much these days because the simple truth is

I

get

bored.

A couple of weeks ago I actually finished a book. Dry. by Augusten Burroughs. Read all the way through it on a couple of plane rides, checked it off the list, and taxied to the gate at DFW pondering the fact that I am starting to develop a “type.”

I love to read memoirs about people with addictions.

There’s something about reading the words of someone creative, introspective, and (in that moment) completely messed up. Something about pulling away the veil and seeing what exactly people go through when they let that part of themselves go unchecked.

I’m scared to think it might be because I see myself in them.

For me, my addiction story would be that of gorging on baked goods night and day and how one gains (and hopefully loses) several hundred pounds. Probably not the most compelling read.

0154_Smashed_DI think creative people generally have addictive personalities because they 1.) Are in their heads WAY too much of the time and often need to latch onto methods of escape, and 2.) There’s a certain passion in a creative person that makes us obsess, idealize, consume wholly, draw from that which we are drawn to, in order to bring out something in ourselves and in our work.

That’s why I love reading the thoughts of people that let those drives take them to dark places. Because for most of us, even when we are unaware of ourselves, we are painfully aware. The resulting literature is stark, honest, vivid.

Another vivid, honest, stark read I strongly recommend: Smashed by Koren Zailckas

 

An Upgrade for Nerd Theme Weddings?

Last night, I finished the final two episodes of Game of Thrones, including the infamous wedding slaughter episode. (Sidebar: OMFGGGGAHHHHH)

I’ve joined the masses and am more than a little obsessed/now pay for HBO/seriously can’t WAIT for season four to start.

HOW-ever (and especially in light of the scene I just witnessed) something about this GOT-themed wedding just seems a little…. uncomfortable. No matter how beautifully done this one happens to be…

(At least no one ever got killed on Star Trek wedding episodes – even the ones involving Klingons.)

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