Tuesday, January 31, 2012

a note on florists and buying flowers.

an original arrangement from Sprout Home
Whether you like it or not, Valentine's Day is fast approaching. And despite myself I am longing for some flowers. I used to pretend I didn't want anything special on February 14; my practical side reminded me that flowers get marked up because of the high demand. It was all a sham, though, and now that I have such a wonderful person to celebrate with, I am putting away all pretenses: bring me a bouquet!
Now, ordering flowers can seem a bit daunting. Sure, you can go to your local grocery store and pick up something pre-done (and they're not half bad!) but come February, the prices on those blooms will be going through the roof, whereas the prices at your local florist might stay the same or allow a little bargaining. I'm here to give you the insider scoop today on how to get something special for your someone special without putting a hole in your wallet. Tips and tricks after the jump!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

a good beer is hard to find

Joe Wilson
Since our return from Fort Collins, Sean and I have been experiencing Good Beer Withdrawal. Colorado is like the promised land, only instead of milk and honey it's flowing with Craft Beer. It's not that we don't have it in Ohio, just the selection is slim and it's at least double the $2 price tag it was out west. So the other night on the way home I stopped at one of our favorite little specialty beer shops and, lo and behold, they had 21st Amendment Brewery's Fireside Chat Ale. 21st Amendment is a brewery out of San Francisco aptly named to celebrate the repeal of prohibition. All their beers are sold in cans: a fresher and more sustainable packaging. The Fireside Chat Ale is a spiced winter ale that warms your frigid bones in these gloomy January days.
Joe Wilson
Almost as creative as it's brews are 21st Amendment's names and accompanying illustrations on the cans and packaging. Fireside Chat features a smiling and smoking FDR having a cheerful conversation with an elf by his hearth and, as with most of the brews that come out of 21st Amendment, it's named for something in American history. Back in Black, a (delicious!) black IPA boasts a drawing of Paul Revere, lantern held high, riding a motorcycle. The Brew Free or Die IPA shows a monolithic Abe Lincoln breaking free from Mount Rushmore. I found myself wondering who was behind these creative cans and these detailed illustrations. The answer is Joe Wilson, a UK based illustrator who is known for his meticulous pen and ink work. You can check out more of Joe's work at his site or a fuller portfolio here. As for the 21st Amendment, you can pick up a six pack at any liqueur or wine shop that carries specialty beer for $8.99. Enjoy! -hil
Joe Wilson

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

photo shoot sneak peek

If you're curious as to what we're doing stomping around the back yard in fur coats and insulated boots, I'll let you in on a secret. This Saturday I had a photo shoot for the Etsy shop (launching next week!) in spite of our overnight ice storm. Thanks to some great friends who crawled through the unsalted streets in the early morning, we were able to make lemonade from the ice-lemons. There was beautiful ambient lighting and it actually helped photographer extraordinaire Laura Elise capture some phenomenal shots. You might remember me bragging about the über talented Laura after the wedding; she captured some of my favorite photos I have from that day! No, I don't have any of her pictures today. It's just a sneak peek at what's to come, remember? More after the jump!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

the resolutions

I warned you I'd be writing about my new years resolutions sometime soon, and that time has come. Admitting resolutions in a public forum is not something I love to do, but it's certainly one way to keep yourself accountable. You never know who you'll run into six months from now asking about the exercise regimen you set (and hopefully kept). You may be asking yourself right about now (and aptly so), why am I blogging on this topic now? It's January 24, isn't that a bit belated? Perhaps for some. But me, I like to sink back into my routine first, get into the new year, and then decide what I'd like to change about it. It's all too much for me to actually commit to changing things while the holidays are still going and before I've regained some normalcy in my everyday life. I end up falling off the bandwagon almost immediately and becoming discouraged. Additionally, Sean and I were on vacation for the first part of the month, and starting new discipline on holiday just seems like a drag.

So, that brings us up to date.

Before I share my resolutions, I want to share a few resources. This year I've kept my list short and sweet: 6 items. I have personal and professional goals, some vague and some more concrete. I knew generally what I wanted: learn a new thing, move a project forward, better myself. I tried to choose some semi-concrete goals that embody those general ideas and that I knew where totally possible. At the same time, I didn't want them to be so hum drum that they weren't challenging. Here are a couple things I read that helped:
Read on for those resources, resolutions and more after the jump!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Culinary Seattle: a food guide

 Something I've noticed about the way Sean and I do tourism is that it always centers around food. Even if we were visiting the Nürnberg birthplace of Albrecht Dürer, eating those delightful little sausages across the square would be just as important. And so it was in Seattle, a city in which good food is happily plentiful and it's citizens take pride in it. I've prepared a short guide to the food we ate, including our favorite spots for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Enjoy!
I was delightfully surprised by a tiny breakfast spot we came upon in the university district. Nook is a cute little hole-in-the-wall that you might miss if you're not looking hard enough. The unassuming facade is just a front, I assure you. Once inside, you'll be enticed by the smell of Nook's specialty (and really, the only thing on the menu): biscuits. That's right, tray after tray of fresh, fluffy biscuits. Like many eateries in this city, Nook's focus is narrow, but what they do they do extremely well. The menu consists of either biscuit sandwiches or biscuits and gravy. And oh, the gravy! I had a chili cheese smothered biscuit with pickled jalapenos and Sean ordered the vegetarian Mushroom gravy with the most perfectly poached egg perched atop it. I read a lot of Yelp reviews before deciding on this place and I'm not the only one who these biscuits reduce to a childlike state. I think the only word I could remember for the next hour was, "yum!" Do note, however, that Nook's commitment to excellence means no frozen biscuits are ever to be served which means once they run out the doors close for the day, so get there early.
The food guide continues after the jump!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

home again, home again.

 Well folks, we're back! After a week of great food, awesome views, and good friends, we're fat and happy as Augustus Gloop with a river of chocolate in our bellies. I know I said I'd be back yesterday, but I came down with a traveler's cold and a case of must-clean-the-house. There's nothing like being away from your digs for a week to make you feel like a homebody. This week I'm excited to share some highlights from our adventures in Seattle and Colorado (get ready to salivate over some seriously good eats), plus a few goals for the new year and practical ways to implement them. For one, I want my life to be more full of awe, as is demonstrated in the photo series I've included. Above you can see Sean's response to our first stop inside of Rocky Mountain National Park. Below is the view he's responding to. It just makes sense. More to come! -hil

Friday, January 6, 2012

Seattle, here we come!

That's right, folks. In just a couple short days Sean and I will be jetting off to beautiful Seattle. Besides my plan to watch Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations: Pacific Northwest, I've also been reading Design*Sponge's Seattle design guide and listened to a nice little segment on NPR today about Seattle's famed Kalakala ferry. Basically, I am pumped, but I won't be around while we're enjoying the mountains and sea next week, so I'll see you back here Monday, January 16. Until then. -hil

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Recipe Review: Real Simple's Slow-Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

My sweet husband bought me a subscription to Real Simple Magazine this Christmas, a gift I'm excited to get all year round, and with all the time over the holidays I plowed through the January issue. They had a great segment of weeknight meal recipes called Takeout Fakeout, meant to mimmic the items you most love to order as takeout. Last night I tried the recipe for Slow-Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala. Though I am a regular user of Curry, Cumin, and Coconut milk, it's almost inevitably in Thai-style dishes. I realized I hadn't done too much Indian cooking at home, and Tikka Masala is one of my favorite things to order at an Indian restaurant, so I fired up the crock pot.

Read on for the rest of the review after the jump!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

How To: golden deer antler wreath

Shannon's sweet winter wreath
A good seasonal wreath can be hard to come by. This was brought to my attention when I saw Shannon a few weeks ago. She was keeping her Christmas gifts this year imaginative, crafty, and thrifty and made wreaths for all her loved ones using rolled felt flowers and eucalyptus sprays. They were great. She taught me a lesson as she made them, saying she didn't want to gift Christmas wreaths, which could only be enjoyed for a limited time, but rather winter wreaths: something that spoke to the glittery cold, the heartiness of the season, and the simplicity of these winter months. This got me itching to try my hand at some winter decor for our front door, whose summery straw wreath desperately required hibernation. With a few simple purchases and some digging through old craft supplies, I was able to assemble a wreath to last us through winters cold stretch. Read on for the details after the jump!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy Post-Holiday!

Happy Monday-after-the-holidays! I hope you had a merry Christmas and a happy new year. If you're anything like me, you're probably having a bit of trouble transitioning out of the holiday season and back to regular life. It's rough going from sitting around reading, watching TV, and eating to heading back to work, feeling slightly fatter than last month, and cleaning up all the leftover tinsel and wrapping paper. Our culture will tell you all you need is a new gym membership, a better gaming system, or to treat yourself to a shopping spree after this joyous (but stressful) season. But deep down, you and I both know the truth: the last thing you need is even more stuff. Here are three simple things you might have missed during the hustle and bustle that may help to regulate your life:
1). Go for a walk: Scientists have linked this simple activity with an increase in mental clarity, physical health, and just plain happiness. Don't have time for that full on, extreme workout you promised yourself you'd do everyday? You can at least go for a short walk. This study states that walking just 5 minutes a day in a natural area can really boost those endorphins, which will help motivate you for your more intense workout days. Another study made this incredible claim:
"Six years ago, Britain's chief medical health officer issued a statement saying there is no difference in the effectiveness of treating clinical depression with physical activity than treating it with drugs." Whether you've struggled with depression or just need a lift after all the holiday stress, this is good advice to take to heart.
2). Go on a date: You may feel you've spent every last second with family and the ones you love this past week, so much so that you want to crawl into a cave until March rolls around. But consider your spouse or significant other. I know that even though my husband and I were with each other for the entire holiday, we didn't get much alone time unless you count falling into bed exhausted every night together. Take some time to have one-on-one time. Go somewhere special, just the two of you. It will be a nice change of pace from traveling in the family herd. If you aren't in a relationship right now, take the opportunity to call a friend who you usually get to see but with all the relatives and old school pals coming through town, you've neglected hanging out with. You can swap stories about your crazy families. If none of those sound right, take yourself out: go to the coffee shop, take a book, and just chill for awhile as you stare out the window.
3). Give everything it's place: Take the time to give the new gifts you've received the proper place in your home and life. Go through your old things and get rid of what you don't need anymore. Start small: maybe just the sock drawer today. Sean threw out two old pairs of jeans last night because he got some really nice ones for Christmas. It will give you a sense of accomplishment to simplify your life and to lessen the clutter in your home. If you got a new blender for Christmas, seriously consider giving your old one to someone who could use it or selling it; don't put it in a box in the basement "just in case" or worse, let it take up precious shelf space in your kitchen. Deal with your things now, while they're new, and you'll have more fulfillment in the year to come. -hil