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Ohhhhh yeahhhh. Last weekend I hosted a big family gathering at my house, and even though I wasn’t in charge of dessert, I selfishly decided to make a little vegan cake so Evan and I would have something to enjoy with our coffee. I’m really not much of a baker, but this turned out so beautifully! It was delicious, too.

OK, so…let’s get my confession out of the way first: I used a mix for the cake part. Yes. I know that baking an actual yellow cake from scratch is not difficult, but we had a box of nice, all-natural cake mix in the pantry already and this was a last-minute plan, so there you go. No shame.

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The mix called for adding water and melted margarine. I subtracted a teaspoon of water and added a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice, and substituted melted coconut oil for the margarine. I love baking with coconut oil! I divided the batter in half, then baked two layers using an 8×2″ Wilton heart pan.

I knew if I waited until the morning to bake them I wouldn’t have enough time to let both layers cool completely before frosting, so I played it safe. I left the cakes on the counter until bedtime, then wrapped them in parchment and foil and refrigerated them overnight. First thing the next morning, I took them out again so they’d come to room temperature.

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FROSTING. Holy hell, this frosting. It’s so good. I wasn’t sure if it was going to come out right so I didn’t think to take pictures until I’d already started putting it on the cake, but it made exactly the right amount to frost two small layers or one standard.

Coconut cream cheese frosting (vegan)
Adapted from this recipe / Enough for two small layers or one standard (or 12 cupcakes)

1 cup powdered sugar (confectioners’ sugar/icing sugar)
1/2 cup coconut oil (must be solid/cool)
2 tbsp almond milk
3/4 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt

Put everything in a food processor for 1-2 minutes, or until everything is well-blended and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl, cover tightly, and refrigerate.

After about 30 minutes, mix up the frosting with a fork. It’s going to feel like it’s too runny to work as cake frosting, but don’t worry—once the coconut oil cools and re-solidifies, it’ll be perfect. You just have to periodically mix it as it cools so you wind up with a fluffy end result. I mixed it up every 15 minutes or so for about two hours because I was in the kitchen doing other stuff anyway, but I think it would be fine if you wait a little longer than that. Just make sure it stays in the fridge long enough to be cold and fluff it up every now and then. I left it overnight, then took it out first thing in the morning. After it had warmed on the counter for about half an hour and I gave it another fork-mixing, it was PERFECT.

Note: Taste the frosting, but do not eat all of the frosting with a spoon (even though you’ll want to).

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I prefer the dome-topped look when it comes to homemade cakes, so I only de-domed the bottom layer (then I ate the discarded dome for breakfast, naturally). It’s really easy to do that with a regular serrated bread knife—just get down at eye level and go slowly. Small pieces of parchment paper under the perimeter of the cake will make it easier to transfer the layers to your serving plate after frosting.

(That gorgeous cutting board was made by Ariele Alasko, by the way! It was my and Evan’s Hanukkah gift to each other, and it’s right at home in our kitchen.)

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I am by no means knowledgeable about cake decorating, but the most important thing I’ve learned is to do what’s called a “crumb coat” before frosting the cake completely. It does take more time, but it’s worth it. Spread a very thin layer of frosting across the top and sides using a light hand. It doesn’t have to be beautiful, it just has to lightly coat everything. Put the cake in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes after doing your crumb coat. This will seal the cake surface and prevent crumbs from finding their way into the frosting while you’re doing the real decorating! It works so well and makes a huge difference.

You’ll want to put the frosting back in the fridge, too, if it’s starting to feel a little loose. Don’t let it get so hard that you can’t spread it, of course, just keep an eye on things. If you’re working in a hot kitchen or during the summertime, you’ll definitely need to let the frosting cool down while your crumb coat sets.

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Ah! All decorated! I am not very good at this part of cake-making, but I don’t really care. As much as I admire the artistry of beautifully-decorated cakes, I like to keep things simple. I don’t have any special tools, I just used the back of a wide soup spoon. The sides of the cake were looking a little uneven, so I pressed on some shredded coconut. Carefully transfer to a plate, slide out the parchment, and you’re done.

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Ta-da! The cake sliced cleanly and with minimal crumbling, and it’s a miracle I managed to take these photos at all. My family was all crowded into the kitchen while I barked, “DON’T TOUCH THE CAKE, I HAVE TO TAKE PICTURES FOR MY BLOG!” My brother made rabbit ears behind it.

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SO YUMMY. It might actually be the best cake I’ve ever eaten. It’s definitely the best cake I’ve ever made, and even though I used a mix, I’m still pretty proud. The addition of coconut oil produced a dense but moist cake, almost like a pound cake. That frosting, though—it’s amazing stuff. I want to make another batch for carrot cake! I love that it really tasted like cream cheese frosting without relying on packaged vegan cream cheese. Heavenly.

Most importantly, everyone at my house from young children to grandparents thought the cake was delicious! There really is nothing that makes me happier than feeding people I love.

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YAY, I’m finally writing my first Stockholm post! I got back from my trip a week ago, but I’ve been scrambling to recuperate/catch up since then. If you follow me on Instagram then you’ve seen a bunch of snapshots, but holy mackerel (holy lutfisk?)…I took a lot of photos with my camera-camera. I kind of don’t even know where to start.

WHAT A TRIP. I left for Stockholm the evening of Saturday the 1st, lost an entire night of sleep to the 6-hour time change and the 9 hours of traveling, then arrived at noon-ish local time on Sunday. I can’t sleep on planes no matter how hard I try or don’t try, so I was a mess by the time I got to the hotel. I pulled myself together and met up with my aunt and cousin (who was at work 5 minutes from my hotel) for lunch, though, which was really fun! I’d never spent time with my aunt apart from my mother before, and in her absence I felt very moved by how similar they are. They may live thousands of miles apart, but they are sisters to the bone—and I love knowing that there’s another person in the world who reminds me of my mother. (I feel more than a little choked up writing this…)

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From there I met up with Emma, who very kindly took me around to some of her favorite shops in the area despite the icy rain that was falling. Unfortunately a lot of stores are closed on Sunday (or because it gets dark at 4:00 in the afternoon!), so we were a bit limited, but I still managed to take in some of the city and squeeze in fika time at Snickarbacken 7. Mostly it was just so nice to spend time with Emma! We’ve known each other through blogging for years now, but we’d never met in person before. I felt instantly comfortable being with her.

Side note: I love saying “snickarbacken.” Google translate tells me it means “carpenter hill,” but I prefer to imagine it having something to do with peanuts and caramel and maybe a graham cracker crust.

I stayed at the incredibly fancy Nobis Hotel (more on that later), which is in what travelers call an “ideal” location, but it’s really a very touristy/business-y part of the city. I still don’t really have a great sense of Stockholm geography, but I’ve learned that next time I probably want to stay in Södermalm, which I repeatedly heard referred to as “the Brooklyn of Stockholm” and “the Williamsburg of Stockholm.” As a transplanted Brooklynite, I understand what that means (nope, I’m not going to use the H-word)…so, noted!

Anyway, despite being a bit restricted by location, Emma and I had an amazing dinner out at Riche. Their menu is decidedly un-vegan, but the chef was MORE than happy (I’d say he was excited, even) to prepare a special vegan meal on the fly for me. I don’t even remember everything that was on my plate because I was so tired and I wasn’t thinking about foodstagrams, but I do know that there was a vegan risotto, a fennel salad and something with hazelnuts. Whatever it all was, it was DELICIOUS. Such a nice place to sit and talk, too.

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Even though my photos of it aren’t great, I need to mention the Nobis Hotel, who put me up for the three nights I was in Stockholm. The Nobis is by far the fanciest hotel I’ve ever stayed in (though to be fair, it’s competing mostly with fleabag roadside joints—I don’t have much fancy hotel experience). It’s located in a former bank—a very famous bank, in fact—the one where the Norrmalmstorg robbery took place in 1973, and where the term “Stockholm syndrome” comes from. It’s a gorgeous building, with its protected late-1800s interior layout and architecture preserved yet made contemporary by the Swedish firm Claesson Koivisto Rune in 2010. The picture above is of the ceiling over the atrium that houses a lounge area.

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Orla Kiely toiletries, Scandinavian design everywhere, and a collection of great lamps from all over the world in the lobby. I wish I’d taken more photos, but I didn’t have much time at the Nobis during daylight hours. Here’s a really nice collection of both the common areas and the rooms, if you’re interested to see more. So. Damn. Fancy. (Also, the mattress and pillows? They’re making me rethink my entire approach to sleeping at home, where my bed now feels like a pile of rocks in comparison.)

After that first afternoon in Stockholm, I basically had NO free time whatsoever to do anything on my own. There were media events (and the Furniture Fair, of course) scheduled from early morning until late at night, so no time to go to shops or museums or restaurants that weren’t part of the Design Week tour. So Monday and Tuesday were jam-packed, and then I left for New York very early Wednesday morning. Talk about a whirlwind! My sleep schedule was completely crushed, and I brought home a nasty cold and a whole lot of exhaustion with me. It was a amazing trip, yes, but I really wish I could have added on a couple of extra days just to be able to breathe a little and get out to explore Stockholm. Next time.

I have SO MUCH MORE to talk about and share from my trip, but it’s too much for one post—I think it might be more like a dozen posts! Next up, lots of studio visits. For now, I leave you with a collection of Instagrams from Stocklhom…a little taste of what’s to come.

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For the past six months (and by “six months” I mean my entire life) I’ve carried this looming sense of having forgotten to do something really important, but being incapable of remembering what it is because I’m so overwhelmed by all of the things I either procrastinated doing or discovered I had to take care of at the last minute. It’s a terrible feeling, but it’s one that’s come to define how I (mal)function on a day-to-day basis. Everything is always about catching up. I never feel on top of things. I am always certain I’m disappointing at least one or two or a dozen people, including myself. Any time I feel like I might be getting close to making progress, something happens—usually I get sick (like yesterday, which was spent lying on the sofa curled up with a box of Kleenex and a couple of dogs), but sometimes my website gets hacked or the furnace breaks. You know, normal things that happen to people. When you’re already struggling to keep up with the rest of your life, though, those little roadblocks start to feel uncrossable.

That’s when the recurring dreams start. I have a few that keep coming back to haunt me, but the one that I associate the most with stress is what I call “Forgotten Animals.” In this dream, there is either a small room or a basement or some neglected space in my house that I enter after a long absence, only to discover that it’s filled with animals (usually mice or rats, but sometimes ferrets—all pets I’ve had in large numbers in the past) in cages that are dead, dying, or living in filth and suffering. They are pets I’ve forgotten about that had bred out of control but have no food or water source. I immediately struggle to get their cages clean and hydrate and feed them, but I can’t move quickly enough. It’s a terrible dream, and it’s one that I have at least two or three times a year. It’s not hard to figure out what it means, and I try to take it as a warning.

Well, THAT was a fun therapy session! Anyway, yeah, I need to heed the dream warning. I need to figure out how to get myself organized so I can deal with the simple stuff and not get overwhelmed by the big stuff. There’s no reason to be in a constant state of chaos. I’m not really into resolutions, but I guess I’m kind of making one.

I don’t want to end on a low note, so here are some nice things from this weekend…

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Top to bottom, left to right:

VIVA HATE banner on my living room mantel by Going Steady Shop.
Next up on my reading list, Gary Shteyngart’s Little Failure. Have you seen the trailer?
My new jade plant has passed the three week mark, which might be a record. I’m determined to not kill it.
I’ve been OBSESSED with Patrick Townsend’s Orbit Chandelier for years. This was a very, very nice thank you gift from Victoria, and it’s going up in my living room just as soon as I figure out how to deal with the old, non-standard electrical box in the ceiling medallion that thwarted my efforts this weekend. (Sigh.)
Daniel and Max came down for lunch this weekend. I made fancy grilled cheeze sammiches and we watched Flowers in the Attic. Perfect Sunday?
Nothing really, just admiring the tiles in the living room fireplace. So nice.
Fritz had his 6th birthday yesterday! Remember when he was brand new? (Warning: SO CUTE IT HURTS.)

Christmas in Sweden
This is a reposting of a guest blog post I did for Dos Family four years ago. I regularly receive emails asking for the link to download the Swedish Christmas record, so I will repost it here yearly!

In the United States, it’s not uncommon to hear Christmas music wafting from shop speakers as early as the beginning of November, but it’s not “Here Comes Santa Claus” or “Jingle Bell Rock” that puts me in the holiday spirit. For me, it’s not Christmastime until I put on the recording of Swedish Christmas music that I grew up listening to each and every year: Christmas in Sweden, recorded in 1962 by Åke Jelving and a chorus of parents and children.

This is jovial, happy music, sung with energy and enthusiasm…and with audible gasping and stomping!

Our mother may be Swedish, but my siblings and I haven’t got a clue what the lyrics mean. I suspect that they, like me, sing along phonetically (and badly) in the privacy of their own homes. On Christmas day, we put the record on and leave the singing to Mommy as we all hold hands and dance in a circle, usually around the spread of snacks and glögg on the kitchen island.

My gift to you is a download of Christmas in Sweden. Evan made the MP3s directly from the record, so you’ll hear all the same snaps and crackles that I do when I listen to the original. I think that just adds to the appeal! Unless you’re a Swede, this may not sound like Christmas music to you at first, but give it time. (And maybe enjoy it with a little glögg.)

To download the album, you’ll need to visit this link. No need to create an account, just click on “download.” Easy!

God Jul!

Christmas in Sweden

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A little more than a year ago, I wrote a post about how little traveling I do. It was difficult to write because it’s always been something I’m a bit ashamed of, but (as is often the case with the posts I hesitate to write) I felt braver and stronger once it was done. A few weeks later I traveled to London and had a wonderful time. This past June I went to my friends Lisa and Clay’s beautiful wedding in San Francisco, last month I went to Palm Springs for Camp Mighty and yesterday I got back from a long weekend in New Orleans! Look at me: Anna Dorfman, occasional traveler. Who could have predicted?

A very good friend of mine moved from Brooklyn to New Orleans about six years ago, and I’d been talking about the possibility of making a visit for a while. Our birthdays are a couple of days apart (I turned 38 right before Halloween — hello, 38!), and just by chance it turned out that The Cure were scheduled to play on the last night of Voodoo Fest. K and I met because of our love for The Cure and it’d been years since we’d gone to a show together…so really, how could I not go? Everything just seemed to fall into place perfectly. This was my first visit to New Orleans, and I loved it. What a magical place!

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K and her husband and son live in an incredible 1875 house in the Bywater neighborhood. She has always had the best sense of style when it comes to interiors, and unsurprisingly her home is amazingly beautiful inside and out. I slept in a bedroom painted black from the bottom up, save for a white beadboard ceiling. So perfect and cave-like. (And no, sorry, she doesn’t have a blog, haha. Believe me, it was all I could do to not take a million pictures!)

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Like all grown-up former (?) goths, we made sure to visit a cemetery. Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 is the oldest in New Orleans, all crumbly and beautiful and densely packed. (I also just learned that a New Kids on the Block video was filmed there, so, um, a slight reduction in goth points.)

GOATS!!! This guy was just walking around a residential neighborhood with a couple of goats on leashes. They were super soft.

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Top to bottom, left to right:
(1) I have a new appreciation for shutters now, especially when they’re floor-to-ceiling (2) Pretty outdoor lights at Pizza Delicious (the vegan campanelle was very good) (3) Living room mantle, fancy fancy (4) Belated vegan peanut butter birthday cake from Shake Sugary (5) Me, all moody right before the Cure concert (6) Matching manicures (Saints colors totally unintentional) with my waiter at Booty’s

Here’s a silly little video I made of a lenticular photo stuck to a door in the French Quarter. Love!

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Top to bottom, left to right:
(1) Drinks at Cane & Table — I had the Valeira Gorge: Portal Tawny Port, Banks 7 Year Rum, lime, fresh coconut water, vanilla and Angostura bitters (2) Skulls grow on agave plants in New Orleans, FACT (3) Dinner from the Fat Falafel truck (4) Freret Street (5) LIZARD!!! I saw a lizard in the wild for the first time, very exciting (6) Perfect tofu scrambles and coffees at Satsuma

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This is Willie. He was just a little kid when he lived in Brooklyn, and now he’s an old man. I love French bulldogs and all of their grunty croissant-marshmallow-bodiedness. He’s such a sweet guy, and a very patient model.

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THE CURE!!! Yayyyyyyyy. I’ve never succeeded in taking good photos at a Cure concert, and this time was no exception (here are some MUCH better ones!). No matter, though, because the show was great as usual. The Cure will for always and ever be my most favorite band, and the best way to experience them (I mean other than locked in your dark bedroom with headphones on, age 15) is LIVE. Their festival shows are shorter by default, but 2+ hours is still nothing to sneeze at. Plus, I got to hear “Burn” played live for the first time ever, and it sounded like a whole new song — like it came off of Pornography instead of The Crow soundtrack! So great.

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Some classic Robert Smith dance moves…

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My lovely friend Roger doing his thing up on on stage. Toss that hair, shake that tambourine! What a fun night. It’s been two years since the last time I saw The Cure, which is far too long to go between shows. I’m so glad I made this trip!

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Full setlist:
Shake Dog Shake / Fascination Street / From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea / The End of the World / Lovesong / Just Like Heaven / Burn / Pictures of You / Lullaby / High / Hot Hot Hot!!! / The Caterpillar / The Walk / Stop Dead / Push / Inbetween Days / Friday I’m in Love / Doing the Unstuck / Bananafishbones / Want / The Hungry Ghost / Wrong Number / One Hundred Years / Give Me It // (encore) The Love Cats / Close to Me / Let’s Go to Bed / Why Can’t I Be You? / Boys Don’t Cry

Thank you so, so much to K (+ family) for being such wonderful hosts and for having me stay in your beautiful home. I had the most amazing time. And thank you Roger for everything I can possibly thank a person for.

Since Fritz and Bruno don’t put much effort into their Halloween costumes (they go as a flightless goat-bat & a baby polar bear every year), I thought it would be fun to do a retrospective of my favorite dog’s getups from the last four years. Presenting…MAMMA BISCUIT! Mamma is the beloved pug of my dear friends Tommy and John, and she’s been featured here at D16 enough times to warrant having her very own tag. I adore Mamma B! Her pink and gentle demeanor never fail to make me happy on a bad day, and she has an awesome blog, too.

Let’s begin with Mamma Biscuit’s INCREDIBLE costume for Halloween 2013, Dame Vivienne Westwood.

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I mean…my goodness. Mamma really outdid herself this year, and she’s getting all kinds of press for her efforts! She’s been on the Huffington Post, Time Out New York, Gothamist, Cute Overload, Mashable and even Vanity Fair! It’s no surprise, really — just look at that attitude. Mamma Biscuit’s attention to detail (not to mention her natural punk attitude) are unparalleled.

If you want to see more of Mamma Biscuit’s homage to Vivienne Westwood (and why wouldn’t you?!) as well ever ever-stylish and handsome man-handlers, head over to her blog. PUG SAVE THE QUEEN!

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And now, a look back…

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Last year, Mamma Biscuit channeled Björk in her fabulous Marjan Pejoski swan dress from the Academy Awards.

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In 2011, Gaultier’s look for Madonna’s Blond Ambition tour inspired Mamma to put on a cone bra and headset and hit the streets.

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And of course the look that started it all, Mamma Biscuit as Anna Wintour. How far she’s come!

On a more serious (but no less uplifting) note, Mamma Biscuit’s story is an important reminder of why adopting dogs and other animals in need of permanent homes is so, so important — and of how rewarding the experience can be for everyone involved. Mamma is a puppy mill rescue who spent seven years of her life caged indoors and was forced to produce over 100 puppies against her will. Only when Curly Tail Pug Rescue (and John and Tommy, of course!) came to her aid did she finally get to experience running in the grass, peanut butter treats, warm cuddles from her humans in a big bed, and all of the other luxuries of life that she deserves. Mamma is a triumph of good spirit, and an inspiration to us all.

Happy Halloween!

When I was out in San Francisco over the summer, I went to visit Makeshift Society, the clubhouse/coworking space for creative people that Rena (who I totally want to be when I grow up), Victoria and Suzanne opened up last year. It’s a really, really cool space, and it immediately made me feel envious of the people who get to hang out (and, you know, work) there. A large part of the reason why I prefer working in an office environment over being at home on my sofa is that for all my anti-social tendencies, I really do thrive in the company of other likeminded people.

At Makeshift Society SF, a really nice little coworking community has come together. Aside from desk space, there’s a kitchen, a private conference room, a book lending library, bikes…even a loft space for napping if the need arises, something I often wish for at my own job. They offer classes of all kinds, too! (Seriously, look at that schedule — I want to take them ALL.)

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Photo by Makeshift Society member Sarah Deragon

See what a nice place this is to sit and work? So nice. But also really, really far from Brooklyn. But guess what? MAKESHIFT SOCIETY IS COMING TO BROOKLYN! The Makeshift team has joined up with Bryan Boyer (who wears really nice shirts), and they’ve rented an amazing (and HUGE!) space in Williamsburg to call home. In addition to all of the great stuff that’s going on in San Francisco, the Brooklyn location will be expanded to include a lending library of all kinds of tools, from cameras to sewing machines to editing software.

And yes, there will be CLASSES! And a maker-in-residence program! It’s going to be great. Even though I work in an office, I’m really looking forward to becoming a part of Makeshift’s classes and events, and maybe even sneaking some evening freelance hours in there as well.

In order to get the whole operation up and running by early 2014, Makeshift is running a Kickstarter campaign to get things off the ground successfully. These folks know what they’re doing and how to make shi(f)t happen, but they need a helping hand. The AMAZING news is that they just crossed their funding goal (!!!), but you can absolutely still donate some bucks for the next 24 hours…even if you don’t live in Brooklyn.

Check out the plans for the space below, take a look at the details on the Kickstarter page, and watch the video at the top of this post. Then maybe go fork over a few clams! We’re down to the very last day of funding, so get in there while you can.

p.s. There are great incentive rewards being offered when you donate, like punchcards for classes or a really nice tote bag designed by Lisa Congdon. (Yeah, that’s what I chose — you know I’m all about tote bags.)

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Top to bottom, left to right…

✚ I’ve been meeting my father for weekly lunches when time permits. We have great conversations, mostly about art and design theory. I do a lot of listening and try to learn as much I can. I walk away from every lunch thinking about something in a way I’d never considered before. A side bonus of our lunches is that I’ve started walking to parts of Manhattan I don’t usually have any reason to go to. I love 7th Ave above 50th St.

✚ Oh, Bruno. This guy has a super-short haircut right now, and he looks über cute. (That pillow is made by Nell & Mary in Portland. It was a gift from Jen.)

✚ Did you know Van Leeuwen has coconut/cocoa butter-based VEGAN ice cream now? Yup. Bourbon & Tahitian Vanilla and Michel Cluizel Chocolate…and they’re working on more flavors. Their Brooklyn location is right outside my subway stop, so I have to resist getting a cone every single day!

✚ My walk to the subway in the morning usually takes me down Bergen Street. When I was making this same walk ten years ago, the block between Court and Smith didn’t have much going on. Now there’s 61 Local, The Invisible Dog (pictured), Recession Art, RAD’s Beam Center

✚ I don’t need this t-shirt, but maybe you do? It’s at Aritzia. You’re welcome.

✚ I cut my bangs at an angle again. It’s always the late, sleepless nights when I start cutting my own hair. I should do it more often. (That cocoon is from RVCA, and it’s super-comfy. Too warm for this time of the year, but I’m not letting that stop me.)

✚ My dear friend Roger is in town! One of the nicest things about living in New York is that all of your friends (well, almost all of them) wind up visiting eventually.

✚ I forgot how much I love Schiller’s Liquor Bar. I know it’s fake-old and manufactured romance, but it’s beautiful all the same. Even the bathroom is perfection. They make a mean Pimm’s cup, too. (Fellow vegan-eaters, don’t be put off by the menu! Order the roasted cauliflower with a side of broccoli rabe, and maybe also a side of fries for good measure. They know what they’re doing!)

✚ I don’t drive, but if I did, I’d like to drive this. My parents had a VW Microbus when I was kid, and I’ve always thought old VW are really cool-looking. This orange one is parked outside of these two wood-frame houses on Dean Street that I’m always ogling. I know vines are bad for houses, but they sure do make for a pretty picture.

Have a great weekend, everyone!!

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For as long as we’ve owned this house, I’ve been lamenting the weird, dead corner space to the left of the stove. My decision years ago to use pre-fab, freestanding IKEA kitchen units rather than fitted cabinets meant hoping for the best in terms of maximizing the usable space in the room. I got really lucky on the sink side of the stove, which just happens to be exactly 1/2″ wider than a single UDDEN unit, but the 42″ space on the left has just been a waste all this time. I did have a cart there for a long time, but the position was awkward and it really didn’t get much use.

Looking back on this post from January (THAT WAS EIGHT MONTHS AGO, UGH!) you can see that I planned to put a piece of butcherblock there to fill the whole space. Time passed, seasons changed and we never managed to figure out how to wrangle a giant slab of IKEA butcherblock into the car, so we just kept putting it off.

And then…

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HEYYYY. Who’s that fine young thing in the tank top sanding down what looks like a 42″ piece of wood countertop? Why, it’s Daniel! When Daniel told me he was planning to make his own countertops out of fir framing lumber, I hopped on that bandwagon real quick. I dropped a few subtle hints like, “gosh, I really wish someone loved me enough to make me a piece of countertop,” and the next thing I knew, there it was!

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I had absolutely nothing to do with the making of the countertop at all, but Daniel has written up a great post explaining exactly how he did it using nothing more than a circular saw, a Kreg jig, screws and good looks. (His own kitchen is looking totally amazing, by the way, and uses much of the same materials, finishes and colors as my kitchen, but in different ways. I’m so impressed!) (Have I mentioned how great it is to have Daniel and Max and Mekko and Linus as neighbors not only in Brooklyn but now also in the Hudson Valley? So great.)

I had a hard time getting a good shot of the underside, but hopefully you can tell what’s going on there. Ideally the counter would be bracketed to the walls for support, but because I don’t want to drill into the tile (I want to have the option of changing this kitchen around in the future, which is why I tiled all the way down to the baseboard moldings), I opted to use four adjustable VIKA KAJ legs from IKEA. They extend to a maximum height of 34″ and have a 165lb weight limit per leg, so they’re perfect for this kind of use. Three of the legs are set at the corners of the countertop, and the fourth leg is positioned back about 20″ so that the front right corner (next to the stove) appears to float. The legs really aren’t visible unless you’re looking for them, but I might spray paint them black at some point just so they blend in even more.

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When it came to finishing the countertop, my first thought was to stain it black with India ink (!) and then apply a marine varnish for protection, but once it was in place I really liked having more wood tones in the room. My favorite kitchens are ones that look like they’ve come to where they are over a long period of time rather than being a brand-new matched set of parts, so the less uniformity of natural materials the better. Bring on the knots and wood grain!

If I’d had any mineral oil on hand I probably would have just used that, but I used it all up when I was refinishing the giant island. I’ve read good things about Watco Butcher Block Oil (basically tung oil and solvents) on woodworking forums, so decided to give it a shot. A pint-sized can was about $15, which seemed kind of steep, but because of the solvents it’s nowhere near as viscous as straight oil — it goes a long, long way. I’ve only gone through about 1/8 of the can. Also unlike mineral oil, this stuff is flammable, so you do have to be careful about disposing of your rags (I used cheesecloth). The other thing to be aware of with products like this is that they need to cure for a full 72 hours before the surface is considered food-safe. I don’t plan to use this countertop like a cutting board because fir is too soft, but it’s still something to be conscious of.

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So far, I’ve done three coats (waiting six hours and sanding lightly between coats) of Butcher Block Oil, and the finish looks great. There’s a slight sheen to it, but it’s definitely not SHINY. I don’t like shiny wood in kitchens. I poured a little water on to test its durability, and after 30 minutes it was still beaded up on the surface. Good sign! I’ll probably do a couple more coats just to be on the safe side, and then maintain the finish periodically with mineral oil going forward.

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I’m so happy about this combination of materials. Stainless steel gets a bad rap for being “clinical,” but I actually think it can look very warm — it’s all about how you use the material and what you combine it with. See how great it looks paired with natural wood and white tiles? The thing with stainless countertops is that you have to stop caring about scratches and other visible wear and just let it do what it’s going to do. The first few scratches we got on the counters looked terrible, but now that we’ve been using them for seven years and the steel has developed an overall patina, I don’t worry about damage at all. Stainless countertops are pretty indestructible.

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It’s no small thing to have counter space on BOTH sides of the stove now, let me tell you! Being able to use one side for chopping and another for keeping spices and oils handy while I’m cooking (plus the island behind me for organizing ingredients) makes a huge difference. It’s great. I can’t believe I went for so many years without anything on the left side of the stove! It looks so much more visually complete, too.

Speaking of things being complete, the kitchen still is not. We’ve had a very difficult time trying to get a plumber in to disconnect the radiators (that might sound like an easy job, but the steam pipes need to be cut, re-threaded, capped at basement-level and eventually extended and re-routed, which is beyond our level of DIY-ness), but we FINALLY have a plumber booked for next Wednesday. YAY!!! Once he takes out the radiators, I can resume tiling the remaining two walls and ripping up the floor. It’s going to be a VERY busy August! Evan and I have both taken vacation days, and we’re determined to get all of the work done before temperatures drop…otherwise we’re going to be without heat in the kitchen during the winter, which wouldn’t be good news for our feet or our pipes. Time to get moving!!

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With all the attention I’ve been giving the new apartment, I feel like my house (remember my house?) is taking a back seat! Admittedly I’ve been putting a lot of house projects on the back burner while we get the apartment side of living in order, but this past weekend I dove head first back into the ongoing kitchen renovation and made some major progress. Witness…SHELVING:

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YUP. No more dishes stacked up on the floor in the corner of the kitchen, cuz I’ve got SHELVES. I planned out and ordered custom Shenandoah shelving from Blake Avenue back in January, and I’ve been desperately trying to find time to hang them ever since. Daniel was kind enough to come to Newburgh and lend a hand on Saturday, and we had them up in no time. I’m so glad I took a chance and asked Joe at Blake Avenue to quote me a price, because they were much more affordable than I assumed they’d be—even with shipping factored in. I initially considered just ordering the brackets and sourcing reclaimed lumber locally, but in the end convenience won out.

Here are a couple of redundant photos of my shelves, because I love them so much.

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Detail shot! The industrial iron brackets are really nicely made and SUPER strong. They attach to the wall individually, which is great if you (like me) have an old house with uneven walls that would otherwise require lots of shimming in order to hang a shelving unit this long. The wood is reclaimed Douglas fir. I coated it with mineral oil before hanging. Even though I really liked the way the unfinished light wood looked, in a kitchen I think you want a little more protection from heat and humidity.

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I’m also in love with the swing-arm Otis lamp from onefortythree. The photos on the website seriously do not do Logan’s work justice. This a beautifully-made lamp, with all of the right attention to detail—from the square switch to the perfectly bent steel arm to the cloth-covered, twisted cord. I’m really impressed.

Of course, since I’m a jerk and decided to open the box pre-coffee, I immediately broke the tubular Edison bulb that was included. I put a chrome-tipped globe in for now, but I’ll replace the tubular bulb as soon as I can get to a bulb store. The globe just looks too bulky to me.

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I know, I know, too many photos! I can’t help it. I’m still obsessed with this corner. I can’t wait until spring so we can take the radiators out and finish tiling the last wall and a half. In the mean time, I’ll just keep petting this corner and feeling proud of myself for making those trim pieces work.

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Even though I’ve written about these mugs before, I’m including them again here because my coffeestagrams always seem to draw inquiries about their origins. They’re Bono mugs, designed by Catharina Kippel for Design House Stockholm—also available without a handle, if you prefer. They are lovely to hold, and are still chip-free after five years, which is how long the date on this post tells me it’s been since I bought them.

Also they look really nice on the new shelves. That’s the other reason I’m including a picture of them. OK?

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Soooo…I did it again. As if my bathroom trash can wasn’t “controversial” (or whatever) enough, I went ahead and bought another Vipp. This time, though, I got it for a super bargain! My scavenger guardian angel, Daniel, found a floor model for sale at the DWR Annex and picked it up for me. Yayyyyyy. (Remember when Daniel found me a Random Light at a thrift store? I’m still not over it.) I love my bathroom Vipp, and I’m sure I’ll love my kitchen Vipp just as much. It feels really good to know that I’ll probably never have to buy another trash can, I’ll tell you that much. And yes, these things matter to me.

Let’s end this with some Instagrams of scarves, friends, puppies and shattered dreams…

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