Monday, December 20, 2010

Scrumptious & Easy

I found the "recipe" for these chocolate pretzel cookies on the Swallowfield blog, and the author described the ease with which they are made by saying "the hardest part is unwrapping the kisses, seriously." With that, I forwarded the link to my sister-in-law and recommended we make them with my three and a half year old niece on Saturday night. 

They were a hit to make and to eat. My niece helped out with every step, which totally  included the runs-in-the-family "one for me, one for the cookie sheet" move. Once you put the chocolate on the pretzels, you just pop them in the oven for about two minutes at 350 degrees, which is just long enough for the chocolate to soften, but not long enough for the kisses to lose their shape. Once out, we smooshed M&Ms on top, then popped the plate of cookies into the freezer to cool for about ten minutes. 

It took us less time to eat the whole plate. Yum!!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Flat Stanley Is In The House...

And has been in my house for months. Whoops. After confessing this to the mother of the 2nd grader who sent me Flat Stanley, I actually brought him to work with me today. We took some photos on the subway which was really exciting. I liked giving the people around me something to puzzle about.

I'm giving him to my coworker who lives in a cool town in upstate New York. After that, I plan on either sending him to Maine or Colorado. Do we have any volunteers?!

Sunday, December 5, 2010


We celebrated my cousin's birthday over Thanksgiving, which is just two days before my own. She requested a yellow cake and allowed me to pick the icing, so I tried a key lime buttercream for the first time. It was delicious, and very easy to make. It's the same basic recipe as a regular buttercream, except you substitute the juice of two or three limes for the milk you would usually add the to confectioner sugar/butter, and also add the rind of two limes. I gave it a couple of drops of green icing for good measure, and topped with coconut. All were pleased, even if it was more of a tropical themed cake, and we were snowed in.

Mr. SevPrez loved it so much that we picked up a plastic knife and fork at a rest stop on the ride home so he could cut a piece from the hunk of cake we were sent home with. That's devotion.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Stuck A Feather In His Hat

I was compelled to make place cards for our Thanksgiving table. Thanksgiving turkeys always lead me to feathers.

They will be immortalized in our Thankful Book. Every year we all write what we are thankful for on slips of paper and stick them in a pitcher, then after dinner (but before dessert) we pass the pitcher around, reading the entries aloud and trying to guess who wrote what. Looking back through the years always causes a few chuckles, as well as a catalog of who made the pilgrimage and who stayed home. (Brownie points distributed accordingly.)

It's Snowing!!!

Charlie Brown flakes! Big and slow.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful For Accomplishing A Dream

Happy Thanksgiving, folks! I'm writing to you from the Great North Woods of Maine. We're here celebrating with our extended family as per tradition. More to come from Maine, but first I wanted to tell you about the Philly Marathon -- I did it!

After six years of half marathons, injuries, and false starts, I was just thankful to be standing at the starting line. As they played the Rocky theme song I actually started to tear up. I just felt so happy and excited to be injury free and ready to go.

I was wearing a t-shirt with my name ironed on the front, and during the last stretch of six miles or so hearing complete strangers call out my name was such a boost. I gave a triumphant fist in the air for every fan who called out "Go Dallas!" because I'm all about positive reinforcement. Despite the pain in my legs I tried to have a smile on my face.

I never cramped up and never hit the wall, which was a huge relief to me. I was prepared to walk the last three miles if I needed to -- you never know what's going to happen. I went out way too fast thanks to all the speedy half marathoners who were running with us, but I was so pumped up that I let it happen in spite of my better judgement. My hamstrings got really tight just after the half way point, and only got worse for the back stretch up Kelly Drive, but it was maneagable. With about an hour left, I just kept telling myself "I can do anything for an hour." That helped me keep my focus while putting it all in perspective.

It wouldn't have been such an amazing experience without the support of my friends and family. I had such a crew of enthusiastic fans, including my dad who dutifully waited for me at mile 24 like I asked him to, forgoing the opportunity of seeing me at the finish. I spotted him in his yellow coat from about a hundred yards away and started to wave furiously. I crossed my fingers he wasn't wearing his crocs because I wanted him to run with me for a bit, and thankfully he was in his running shoes. We ran together for a little under a mile, which was a huge boost to my mental state and my pace. He called Mr. SevPrez and my mom, who was home with a case of the shingles (poor mom) and let them know he was right by my side and I was coming down the home stretch. A cowbell jingled in his pocket. After we saw the 25 mile marker he pulled away. I tried to turn the pace up even more. I saw Mr. SevPrez just around the bend, and he told me my brother and his family were up on the left.

Seeing them was the wind beneath my wings. They are our best friends, and it meant so much to me that they made the trip to be there for me. My brother was a cross-country star and still inspires me with his running (remember the JFK 50-miler I told you about way back when I started this blog?) and I think I've always wanted to be a runner because of him. His daughter was on his shoulders, and she just makes anyone feel like a million bucks. I pointed right at her, saw the finish line up ahead, and sprinted it in. I have never felt better at the end of a race -- even though I thought I would probably trip over the timing mat at the finish and possibly hurl. I didn't, and it was a perfect moment. 4:14:07. Cross it off the list. I'm already setting my sights on the next big thing.
Spaghetti & Muppets at Marra's in South Philly was the perfect prerace meal.

Friday, November 19, 2010

"Isn't it pretty to think so?"*

I printed the American Book Review's PDF of the 100 Best Last Lines from Novels for miscellaneous reference. There is nothing more beautiful than the perfect last sentence. My favorite part of writing is wrapping it up. 

A few of my favorites:

One day I will read Ulysses. Friends have told me it's not that overwhelming if you just let it wash over you and don't stress out about all the references you're not getting. This last sentence sounds like it could have come from an E.E. Cummings poem. He loves yes's and flowers.

More from books I've never read...

I know the finale of The Great Gatsby is well-known and loved, but I believe my favorite passage trumps it, I think it's the best sentence in all of literature. And I know that's a bold statement. This is as Gatsby is in the pool, before (spoiler alert) George Wilson comes to shoot him.

"...he must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream. He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass. A new world, material without being real, where poor ghosts, breathing dreams like air, drifted fortuitously about... like that ashen, fantastic figure gliding toward him through the amorphous trees."

*Also one of my favorites, from The Sun Also Rises, a book I have infact read.

The Black Apple

Kitten Bandit.
Just ordered two Christmas presents from Emily Martin's Etsy shop The Black Apple. I'm excited because one of them gets to stay in my house!

She does such cool work. Seeing work by artists such as Emily, and Sophie Blackall of Missed Connections fame — who's coming out with a book soon! — is incredibly inspiring to me, but at the same time it makes me think that maybe I should retire my colored pencils. Then I think that if I just worked at my art harder, and spent more time on it, maybe I could really get something going. And open up my own Etsy shop! How cool would that be? I would love to do commisions of other people's favorite objects (since I can't really draw people).

Maybe after this marathon is over I'll turn my attention to the creative side of things. I do have to finish my sketchook by mid-January, yikes!

This is a portrait I would love to get for my sister-in-law, who's birthday it is today, but she lives in South America, and it's not worth sending it in the mail on the 20% chance that it would arrive in tact. Her family used to have an owl named Neruda who loved to perch on her daughter's shoulder. Then the staring contests would commence. It was the cutest/strangest thing ever.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Day Of Hey

Yesterday may have just been my Day of Hey 2010.

Monday I was so nervous. It could have been my part-caff coffee, but all I could think about was the marathon this Sunday and how I wasn't ready. I got busy planning my pre-race meal with all the lovely people who will be accompanying me in Philly, got a new shirt to potentially wear, and purchased some excellent iron-on letters so spectators can cheer me on by name. That had me feeling a bit better but there was still some inner confidence missing.

Tuesday, thankfully, I had many distractions. There was a Lauren Moffatt sample sale. I cleaned up at lunch time. I was so flabberghasted with everything fitting me like a dream that I had to remind myself at checkout that I am a grown-ass woman who has been working since the day she graduated college. If I can't buy myself beautiful clothes on sale every once in a while, then what is it all for? As my sample sale expert advised me, I deserve it. As I recall the SevPrez family just threw a lot of money at an Ironman because we said so. So today the pendulum swung back in my favor. My birthday does loom!

Then after work I met a friend for the Kings of Leon concert at MSG. Only I was so excited about the rest of my day and bringing a small, light purse that when I left my moleskin planner at the office I didn't realize that our tickets were in it til I got to Midtown. Ugh. This is why I keep copious lists in my planner!

I was determined not to got back to the office. After all, Ticketmaster doesn't actually send you tickets any more, they just charge you "convenience" fees so you can print your tickets anywhere by logging in. So, blocks from MSG, and surrounded by computers, we set out to find a place to print these suckers out. (PS: develop an app, Ticketmaster. This is just pathetic.)

We walked 7 blocks to Kinkos/Fedex, but after feeding them my ATM card, we discovered that their server isn't compatible with Ticketmaster. Then we found a pizza joint on 7th Ave with internet AND a printer. One dollar bought us 10 minutes on the machine, only it took about 6 minutes for each web page to open. With several people pointing us to Staples, we walked North, only to find no such store.

At this point I was overwhelmed with frustration. There is no way I am the first person  who has made this stupid mistake. There was a Verizon store on the corner of 29th and 7th where we thought the Staples would be: I decided my best chance at salvaging the night would be to sweet talk the employees into taking pity on me and letting me use their computer and printer.

Despite the embarrassment of my friend, it worked. Apparently I'm not the first person in my position to seek refuge at Verizon. The staff was empathetic and helpful — they even let me stand behind the counter! In a few minutes we were on our way. We left, hands in a V formation. Humanity defeats the machines!

Once safely ensconced in MSG (where we graduated! Still so exciting), we were treated to an excellent KOL show. They played two of my three  favorite songs ("Manhattan" and "Knocked Up," but not "Taper Jean Girl"), and I was able to recall a few weeks back when dope playlists were all that were getting me through my three hour runs. I could feel my confidence seeping back: I did put in a lot of hours pounding the pavement on my way to my first marathon. It's easy to forget them in my haze of pre-race excitement. And I've really enjoyed the journey. It's been several years in the making, and I know that no matter what race day has in store for me, I am ready, with strong legs and open arms.

I look forward to watching the Pats beat the Colts from the comfort of my couch on Sunday afternoon. Further post-marathon blues will be beat by our Thanksgiving trip to Maine and my birthday. December is shaping up to be full of celebrations: I will seize this November weekend for all it's worth.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Seven Questions: The Greatest Person Currently Living On The West Coast

No offense to all you other Left Coast dwellers, but this girl is my college roommate, the girl who NYU randomly placed me with back in 1999. For that, I am forever indebted to them. We lived at 35 Fifth Avenue, once home to Mark Twain and surely the most fabulous address I'll ever have. To the questionnaire!

Q 1: What's something you wish more people knew?
A 1: Good intentions, strong opinions and a loud voice do not necessarily mean a person will be a good policy maker.  I wish people would understand the complexity behind public issues, and recognize the sophistication needed to make good policy.  Sometimes what sounds good in the press will have some truly horrific unintended consequences and sometimes what sounds less than ideal, is really better in the long run. Policy is much trickier than people think.  If you're sick you go to a doctor.  If you want to address social problems like the economy or unemployment, you should have someone who is highly trained in that field.  Politicians with BAs in oh say theology, just won't cut it.  Sorry...

Q 2: Current favorite sources of inspiration?
A 2: Infrastructure (especially in San Francisco).  It's where art, engineering, history and public policy collide to make poetry.

Q 3: What did you want to be when you grew up? What do you do now?
A 3: When I was 5 or 6 I wanted to study dinosaurs bones because I loved learning about them in school.  Today, I work in public finance (and love it - go figure!).

Q 4: When you look back on your first love, how do you think your idea of love has changed or stayed the same?
A 4: First love is exquisite, maddening and for better or worse fleeting...

Q 5: What is your biggest weakness? (Spiritual, disciplinary, dietary)
A 5: Men with scruffy beards and good sneakers.

Q 6: Three things you want or are working toward in your future?
A 6: 1. Excelling in my job, hoping my analysis helps shape better pubic policy. 2. Finally getting that dream apartment. 3. A big trip to Asia (want to come?)
The perfect apartment? Via designsponge.

Q 7: And finally, for my records, chocolate/chocolate, chocolate/vanilla, vanilla/vanilla, or other? This is helpful in case I case I am ever bringing you dessert.
A 7: Chocolate/vanilla - I don't discriminate, I regulate every shade of cake.
"Showing my weakness."

Monday Bouquet

I'm back on flower duty for the office, and there are always little short guys leftover that don't fit in my arrangements. Today I felt like they deserved to live on as a bouquet. Forgive the photo quality, Blackberrys really take the worst photos.

I really need a bud vase for my desk.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Visions Of P.C.B.

I'm obsessed with the Waffle House. There is one on either side of where we are staying, probably 100 yards right or left. They are so iconic, and I love the lettering. I hope they never update their look. We plan on going on Sunday after the race for some really greasy food. Chicken fried steak has been invoked.

The gulf is beautiful. Happy to report no traces of oil. I went in yesterday after a tough run. Just took off my shoes, socks, visor, and t-shirt and went in. The water is warmer than the air, it was like a bath. This must have been the most liberating thing I've done in years. It was awesome. And the waves in the Gulf are just about the size I like. It is my kind of body of water. So glad BP didn't permanently destroy it. That would have been a shame.

Oh, and our cab driver told us that BP has been amazing at fulfilling claims. Seven to ten days and they FedEx you your check. And some people are getting more than they asked for. How about that for good news?

Here is the sunset we watched last night from our room. New vacation criteria: let's go places we can see amazing sunsets, because we don't see enough sunsets.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Seven More Questions

In our second installment of Seven Questions I picked the brilliant technicolor brain of one of my best friends, Renu. She is a fabulous Manhattan dwelling friend, wife, professional, and mom-to-be! In fact the present wrapped in December paper in my last post was a gift for her growing bean, who is due in December!

Q 1. What's something you wish more people knew?
A 1. Their blood type. I can never seem to remember mine.

Q 2. Current sources of inspiration? (Books, websites, movies, music, people, places, food)
A 2. Elle Decor for aspirational living spaces, Garance Dore for clothes/style, Papercrave for paper/design inspiration, fffound as well, 'Lagerfeld Confidentiel' for Karl Lagerfeld's direct quotes and comic relief, 'Casino' has been visually inspiring for me since high school, Alexa Chung for style, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg for career inspiration, tomato cheddar soup from Hale and Hearty to warm you up, the blue seas around Tobago for brilliant color.

Sam Rothstein takes a smoke break.

Alexa Chung's cat eyes.

Q 3. What did you want to be when you grew up? What do you do now?
A 3. My mom reminds me that my first proclaimed aspiration was to be a 'doggie doctor.' I am the farthest thing from a vet. Just took a new job in finance (my background) and will be taking on the job of a lifetime (being a mama) in December! 

Q 4. When you look back on your first love, how do you think your idea of love has changed or stayed the same? What have you learned from then to now?
A 4. Changed: Love doesn't have to be rife with barriers and sacrifice. When it is the right person, things will flow and it will come together and just work, unobstructed. Stayed the same: It is perfectly OK to be infatuated with your partner, even after 5.5 years!

Q 5. What is your biggest weakness? (Spiritual, disciplinary, dietary)
Q 5. Inability to commit to an exercise routine. Ever.

Q 6. Three things you want or are working toward in your future?
Q 6. A house. A creative enterprise at some point. A kick-ass family of my own to add to the two families I already have.

Q 7. And finally, for my records, 
chocolate/chocolatechocolate/vanilla,  vanilla/vanilla or other (please specify)? (This is helpful in case I am ever bringing you dessert).
A 7. With regards to cupcakes? Vanilla with vanilla icing! Or carrot with orange vanilla icing! Or vanilla with chocolate icing! You decide. [OK, hummingbird cupcakes! Since you introduced me to them!]

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Reusing Is Where It's At

Took home a bunch of old Dolphin Studio calendars from work a few months ago when we were cleaning out a closet. They are nice enough that you don't want to get rid of them at the end of the year, but unless you are particularly attached to a month that you want to hang up on its own, what do you do with them?

You reuse the pages as wrapping paper! 

Awesome since I love paper gift wrappings and adornments but won't let myself go crazy spending a lot of money on dreamy gift wrap since it all gets ripped up and thrown out. This is the best of both worlds. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cozy Fall Weekend Ahead

My mom is about to make some upgrades to her kitchen and asked for my help. The room as it is now is beloved to her, but she recognizes that new cabinets offer much needed organization opportunities and storage space. Of course this leads to all sorts of questions of layout, new appliances, and new materials, and then next thing you know you have a project on a scale much larger than what you had envisioned. I think she is bringing me in for reinforcement, so she doesn't just retreat from the whole thing.

The first thing I do when approaching a home project is accumulate a lot of inspiration by looking through magazines and design blogs. It propels me into action. When the project gets underway and I start to feel a little lost, I always go back to it as a reminder of what's on the other side of all the discomfort, second-guessing, anxiety, mess, and bills. (I hate an inbetween stage.) So my first move was to send Mom images of good kitchens I have on file. I went through all the jpegs in my dropbox (Do you have one for your home and work computers? Life changing!!!), and in the process came across some images from a tiny 1840s farmhouse in upstate New York that I die for. It has nothing to do with my mom's project but I had to share. 

It is the epitome of this time of year in the Northeast.  This morning on my way out the door Mr. SevPrez told me I looked nice, "very Northeast," (plaid shirt and cropped corduroy peacoat) to which I replied, "Well, that's where we are!" But he begged to differ. He thinks we are just tristate. Can't we be both? Or do I really have to give it up and just move six hours north? Please advise.

Love the wall color, the map, the globe, the beat up table, etc. 

Amazing hand-papered wall treatment with blank antique paper. I have always loved this look, but this is the first time I've ever seen it done with blank paper. Lots of great bathrooms in restaurants in New York have done it with old books or newspapers. I would love to do this in a bathroom but I think maybe it's only worth doing in our "adult house." This is what my sister-in-law calls the house you see your kids growing up in. I'm not there yet, but hope our next house will be the one. We'll keep saving our pennies.