Monday, February 23, 2015

Sunday In The Park



I know I just wrote about how tough February has been, and while our winter in NJ pales in comparison to our friends in the North (I'm looking at you Boston) who have been completely inundated and overwhelmed with the white stuff, cabin fever has become a reality in this house. Charlie has been pacing the house on the weekends bored out of his mind. He is an outdoorsman and being trapped inside is making him nuts. He is perfectly content tinkering around in the garage but the heater I bought him for Christmas is not the least bit effective when the temperatures are in single digits.
  The kids don't emerge from their inner sanctums until around noon Saturday and Sunday, sometimes later. While they don't complain about being bored, watching them lay on the couch in their pajamas with handheld devices all.day.long. makes me a wee bit nuts. Even the dogs are bored, and the little one is getting so fat we are going to get yelled at on our next vet visit. So two Sundays ago I was just finishing putting away the groceries telling Charlie what a nice day it was out and how warm it was (because 40 degrees feels tropical right now) when it dawned on me that the best thing for my families health and sanity was to get them the hell out of the house for the afternoon.
Of course the kids were still sleeping because it was just before noon, but I burst into their bedrooms demanding that they get up and dressed because we were going to a nearby park to get some fresh air and exercise. After some grumbling and complaining they complied because truthfully, they had no choice in the matter. I am the boss of this house (or so I like to think) so what I say goes. Besides, when they saw how excited their dogs were after I said the word W-A-L-K (usually we have to spell it aloud because if you say it chaos ensues) they couldn't say no.
Off we went to Cattus Island County Park which is a mere 5 minute drive from our house but I tend to forget it is even there half the time. And that's a shame really because it's a series of trails that open up to the Barnegat Bay creating an incredibly beautiful vista. I mean, see for yourselves:




The bay was almost completely frozen over. The tree damage is left over from Superstorm Sandy. As we walked the trails it was unbelievable to see the damage that occurred. We haven't been here since the storm and at first I didn't even realize that that is what all the damage is from. Out of sight out of mind,you know?



They refused to walk with me. And while they hated me for making them go, the dogs on the other hand loved me for it.


The boarded trail was blocked off but not completely so we walked it anyway. It was a bit treacherous with all the snow and ice on it and when we came to the end there were signs posted warning Danger! Stay off trail! Ooops.
When I linked the site to this post it also says that trails are closed due to storm damage.
Double ooops.





They will never admit it, but I know they had fun and it was good for each and every one of us. Now I just need to remember that this place is here and so accessible and take advantage of it more often.

What do you do to battle cabin fever?


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Surviving February




January seems to be the most hated month of the year. I guess coming off that holiday high probably has something to do with it. But truthfully, I love January. I love how empty and fresh the house feels once all the Christmas decor has been packed away. There are resolutions, ambitions and the chance to begin again because there is a brand new year ahead of you. It's a time to slow down after the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and catch your breath. I know I look forward to the quiet and the cold weather that forces you to stay indoors and relax. I realize that the newness and excitement fade away fairly quickly. Resolutions are usually broken before the end of the month and that cold weather that was so welcome starts to feel oppressive and never-ending. 
Welcome to February.
I don't know about you but for the shortest month of the year February sometimes feels like the longest. It's not my favorite. And let's not even get started on how brutal this particular February has been. Yesterday I was thinking about how I have always wanted to live in Alaska and that this  is actually what it would feel like since it's been about 1 degree for the past week.
Crazy!
Speaking of crazy, how do you keep it at bay through such a tough month? Since hosting gatherings is one of my most favorite things to do, I break up the February blues and have the family over for a dinner party/my sister in laws birthday celebration. We throw dinner parties all year long but this annual February gathering feels extra special because it is probably the highlight of the whole darn month.
I am currently obsessed with having fresh flowers in the house. Remember when I was able to bring my holiday floral dreams to fruition? Well, since then mentally envisioning the kinds of florals I need for a table setting and actually locating them has become a sport (of sorts). My local, lame grocery store will never carry what my mind decides upon so I have to think outside the box to find them. I wanted a very cozy, wintery mix of flowers for this table and I especially wanted some bright red berries in it. I went to a Wegman's one night leaving work (the closest Wegman's to my home is about 40 minutes away) and naturally found exactly what I wanted. Beautiful red hypericum berries with stunning white blooms and some pretty green filler fit the bill.
I am also currently obsessed with "table throws" and I recently found this denim remnant with perfect selvedge edges at a thrift store. I cleaned it, pressed it, then tossed it across the table. I love how it adds such an air of informality. I can use a beautiful vintage fine china salad plate and gorgeous antique flatware but it doesn't feel stuffy because of the denim throw. The rattan charger and stoneware plate probably take it down a notch too but who's judging? This $3 denim throw might be my most favorite new possession. Well, that and the $5 plaid runner I also recently found at a thrift store and threw on top of the denim. Cozy, winter feel indeed.



For the second year in a row the weather called for snow (big shock) and I actually made the same menu I did last year. I pretty much counted on the fact that my family has not made Ina Garten's Weeknight Bolognese for themselves (they had not, I was correct). Comfort food at it's finest. Instead of doing every single thing myself, I had my sister in law bring a salad and my dad bring a birthday cake for dessert. I supplied some bread, a big pitcher of Sangria, wine and suddenly February was not as bad as I thought it was.
There's magic in gathering around a table with some pretty fine folk.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Wanted: The Perfect Tablecloth


This.
I saw this on Pinterest and nearly fell off my chair. I love every.single.thing about it. There's a solid streak of bohemian blood running through these veins and a strong affinity for table linens but this. There really aren't enough words to describe how much I love it. It's like the sun, moon and stars collided and this was the result.
Dying over here.
I immediately decided that I would make myself one. Goodness knows I see enough doilies at the thrift stores. Some of them are really nice too. Slowly but surely I started stockpiling pretty doilies. Then I decided it was time to buy a tablecloth to sew them on. Problem is, I need a 120" round cloth at a minimum so it graciously touches the floor and they are not easy to find. My only option is ordering online and they don't come cheap. And they also look like they could be really cheesy fabrications. Add that to the price tag and I am nervous to take a chance on anything I have seen. So I decided I would just try to buy the actual ready made tablecloth that I found on Pinterest and save myself time, a headache, and very possibly some greenbacks.
But it is no where to be found!!!!
All the Pinterest links lead to nothing. Nada. Zip.

So I need your help friends. I could use any of the following options:

~suggestions on where to find a good looking quality tablecloth that is 120" round that I will not be scared to sew doilies on because it cost me my first born grandchild (my kids are too big to offer up. no one wants big kids)
or
~ideas on how to achieve this look without buying a very expensive and possibly cheesy 120" round tablecloth.
or 
~could I just buy yardage instead of a pretty fabric and do it myself? Any accomplished seamstresses out there know how much I would need?
or
~just tell me where I can buy this damn thing outright because I am afraid I cannot survive much longer without that on my table. Someone out there has had to have seen this too - lead me to the link! Pretty please???

Have you ever? I mean, really. My heart hurts over this.
I'm actually thinking of replacing the picture of my family on my iPhone wallpaper with this photo because I love it so much.
I'm kidding but I think you get the idea.



Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Cocktail Tumbler


It all started when my boss gave each of us a set of frosted state glasses for Christmas. The states represent where our territories are, and in some cases, are also the states we live in. It was a cute idea and definitely original but I'll be honest, I looked at the 4 glasses and thought "What am I doing with these?" I am not one of those loud, big haired Jersey girls bursting with Jersey pride. I work really hard and spend a lot of money taming my crazy Jersey girl hair so no one mistakes me for a housewife or a Seaside guido. This is no easy feat. Trust me. There are many wonderful things about the Garden State but there are also many things that we don't love either. Which is why we are looking to leave our home state as soon as possible. 
But back to the glasses. 
It was a bit of a wtf moment because she usually gives us jewelry for birthdays and Christmas and what woman doesn't appreciate jewelry? But I thought to myself, Hey; I might decide I like these glasses when I no longer live here. Then they will be a memento or a souvenir of sorts. I stuck them in our bar cabinet and forgot about them.
The following summer I found a recipe for a fresh watermelon cocktail from my favorite mixologists  and sent Charlie directly into the kitchen to whip us up a batch. Cocktails are like salads: they always taste better when someone else makes them. He came out to the deck where I was lounging and leafing through magazines carrying the New Jersey tumblers. I asked him why he chose those particular glasses and he said because they were "cool". I figured that was a matter of opinion but I was grateful for a drink that I didn't have to make myself so I kept my mouth shut.
Perhaps it was because those watermelon spritz drinks were so damn delicious or else I was delirious from lazing about in the sun, but I kind of liked having my cocktail in that tumbler. There was more drink to be had then in our rocks glasses, they weren't so large and cumbersome like some of my other barware, and frankly, they lent themselves to a drink called the Spicy Watermelon Spritz. 
In other words, I was totally into it.
So those good, old New Jersey tumblers became my go to cocktail glasses for the rest of the summer.

In early fall I stumbled across this set of 4 vintage tumblers in a thrift store and nearly fell over:


 I mean, come on...prancing horses on frosted tumblers...have you ever seen such amazing kitsch? And that is coming from a woman who despises kitsch. But these... these oozed of kitsch with such an element of coolness that I immediately listed them in the shop envisioning them being snatched up instantly by some Brooklyn hipster. (Ironically they have not been snatched up yet and are still available here if you want to purchase them and have me think you are totally awesome and not because you are buying them from my shop but for your obvious amazing choice in barware.)
Finding these solidified my idea that the cocktail tumbler is to the bar what the LBD is to the closet.
Essential.

Since good things always come in three's, these glasses were patiently waiting for me on a shelf in my favorite thrift store a week or two ago :


 I may have emitted a high pitched squeal or two as I raced over to grab them; ready to elbow or knock out any old biddy who might think they were hers for the taking. (My Jersey was coming out.) Luckily, there was no one else in the aisle and as I loaded them in the cart I was thinking how gorgeous they are and how people will go nuts over them in the shop. Or not, since I was apparently wrong about the dancing horses. (Deep down I know there is no way I am wrong...I mean just look at them where will you ever find glasses that cool? Exactly. NO WHERE.)
Anyway... bottom line is that I simply cannot sell these striped tumblers. The more I think about it, the more I realize that I am in love with using tumblers for cocktails. Like the LBD, they go with everything. That long, lean shape makes them ideal for any mixed drink you want in abundance. Just yell "make it a double!" and I'll be right there with a cocktail tumbler in hand.
And it might have a prancing horse on it. 

p.s. I broke one of the New Jersey tumblers so now I only have 3. Devastating. Good things come in three's, entertaining essentials and serve ware need to be in even numbers. All the more reason to keep the striped ones. Or ask my boss for another set of Jersey glasses. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Citrus Season


The first Christmas Charlie and I spent together, we went to his parents house for dinner since my family always celebrated on Christmas Eve. His mother served the meal buffet style and as I made my way down the table she had a dish of fruit cocktail out. Always the fruit lover, I took a scoop and when I sat down to eat it I was blown away. 
It was the simplest combination of fresh grapefruit, navel oranges, red seedless grapes and maraschino cherries but I had never had anything like it before. It was delicious. It was one of those times when I walk away from a meal determined to recreate it as soon as possible.
Fifteen years later, I've tired of our trusty old "fruit cup" (as we nicknamed it) but I still crave citrus all winter long. Just slicing a grapefruit or peeling an orange always satisfies but I have found myself looking for other ways to make the most of citrus season.
When I found the recipe for Mason Shaker's Mid Winter Margarita I didn't hesitate to whip up a batch and since then they have been on constant repeat. Shortly after I found a recipe for fish tacos with Grapefruit Pico de Gallo in the December issue of Self magazine. We only make fish tacos in this house so I prepared the fish my usual way then topped them with the Grapefruit Pico de Gallo. It was the perfect combination! "A party in your mouth" as the saying goes. And just in time to keep incorporating citrus into our diet this winter.
I figure the healthy grapefruit pico negates too many grapefruit margaritas, right?


Grapefruit Pico de Gallo
adapted from Self magazine

2 pink grapefruit (I used 4 because I was feeding a crowd), supremed (which is just segmenting it from the pith and membrane - a grapefruit knife works wonders and saves the peeling step)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (I was out of cilantro so I subbed parsley and everyone still loved it)
1 tsp seeded and minced jalapeƱos  (I used two whole jalapeƱos because I felt like it)
Combine in a bowl and set aside.
Put on top of everything because it is THAT delicious.
You'll thank me later.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Pinspiration


I've been "pinning" long before there was a website dedicates to storing beautiful and inspiring images. I have over a dozen binders chock full of ideas, photos, recipes, design etc. etc. that I have lovingly torn from magazines and books since the early 90's. I keep a 4ft section over my desk filled with a collage of the things that I am drawn to and that are inspiring my creativity each season. I need to see the pretty without logging into an app and staring at a screen.
While I have become paperless in so many aspects of my life, I will always need to have the tangible pretty close at hand.
My apologies to the trees.

Does Pinterest satisfy your creative needs or do you still need to flip pages to be completely inspired?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

House Hunters: A Log Cabin In Tennessee


Next up is a listing that my father in law actually found and sent to my husband. It's a log cabin and truthfully, I am not sure how I feel about them. Of course men love log cabins for all the obvious reasons, mainly the overwhelming abundance of wood. That is exactly why I am not sure how I feel about them. Too much wood. For a second home/vacation home I think a log cabin would be amazing. I mean, we love love love his parents cabin with a passion but for full time living I am not quite sold on the idea. I like a little sheetrock in my everyday life.
However, this cabin is truly a stunner and I would never say never without properly exploring the options. So here's some background on this listing:
Located on Cagle Mountain, this property sits on 22.7 wooded acres about 2 hours southwest of Knoxville and 45 miles northwest of Chattanooga. Further west than our ideal location but it is Tennessee after all and you know I love me that volunteer state. The house is part of the Forest Greenbelt which I am not 100% what that exactly means except low taxes. After being a NJ homeowner for the past 20 years with some of the highest property taxes in the country that is like music to my ears.
The house is 2672 square feet, has a fenced garden and 1250 feet of Long Creek running through the property. Sounds like a vacation home, right? let's take a look:

I was not blown away by the front to be honest

In fact, I think the back is more impressive

Detached garage and workshop for Charlie is a huge bonus. Would give me extra storage for the shop's merchandise and my hoard of entertaining apparatus

I can totally appreciate this stacked stone wall. Insert heart eyed emoji {here}

Charming but a lot of wood

Again, a lot of wood and that countertop and backsplash? No thanks.

I do love this open air hallway on the second floor. And there is sheetrock. Woot!

I can also totally appreciate these sinks built into vintage cabinets. That is a nice touch.


So there you have it. Not too shabby. Let's run through the pros and cons.

Here are the pros:
1. All that acreage. 22.7 acres is a nice piece of land. Listing says you can hunt and fish right on your own property. Charlie loves that idea.
2. There is a huge unfinished bonus room upstairs that could become either guest quarters or a nice storage space for me to keep all my shop and entertaining supplies. Then I would not have to infringe on the garage workshop space
3. The house is pretty isolated and the property is lovely. It is in an area that sounds like a pretty nice place to live. Middle school has only 700 students and the HS has only 600 students. Why the drop off I have no idea. I guess 100 students never make it to HS? A little confusing.
4. It is in Tennessee.

Here are the cons:
1. It is a log cabin. I don't know that I can do that for full time living.
2. The price. It is wayyyyy over what we want to spend and will again have to have a real mortgage but on the flip side you are getting a ton of land and a large beautiful house and outer buildings.
3. Schools are rated in the middle of the road. Not the best but also not the worst. And the drop off in student count between middle school and high school is weird to me.
4. It would be a 6 1/2 hour drive from my mom and 4 1/2 hours from his parents. That is pretty far and could never be a "let's jump in the car and go spend the day with them" kind of distance. I was hoping to be a little closer.
5. It is out of my target area of greater Knoxville which kind of blends with con number 4.
6. I don't care for the kitchen and at the price of the house I don't think I would be able to change it either. Too much wood is too much wood.

The cons definitely outweigh the pros on this one. I'm just not sure log cabin living is for me. And that price tag thing.

What do you think? Could you live full time in a log cabin or do you need a little sheetrock, crown moulding and baseboards in your life like me?