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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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Christmas in Sweden
This is a reposting of a guest blog post I did for Dos Family three 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!

p.s. Thanks so much to Jeremy for his help in making this year’s re-posting possible!

So, I’m sick. Super-duper sick. Pretty sure it’s the flu, which serves me right since this is the first time in years I’ve gone without a flu shot. Sleeping and recuperating has taken over my life in recent days, so please forgive my quietness! Here’s a holiday repeat until I’m back on my feet.

vegan kottbullar

I came up with a vegetarian version of my mother’s meatballs (which are themselves somewhere between between Swedish and Danish, as a result of her mixed origins) years ago, but a couple of years ago I created a fully vegan version. I’ve made them for holiday potlucks at work and for my whole family to enjoy. They’re delicious reheated (or cold!) the next day, too.

Vegan Svensk-Danska Köttbullar // Vegan Swedish-Danish Meatballs
Makes about 40 meatballs

1/2 cup unsweetened MimicCreme*
1 unit egg replacer*
1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs
ground pepper to taste
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 lb Lightlife Gimme Lean (sausage style)*
3 tbsp Earth Balance

In a large, heavy pan (preferably cast iron), sautée onions in 1 tbsp Earth Balance until translucent.

Beat together cream and egg replacer in a large bowl. Add breadcrumbs, pepper, allspice, and onions; combine and let stand for about 10 minutes.

Add Gimme Lean to mixture, and use your hands to combine everything thoroughly.

Roll mixture into small balls no more than 1″ in diameter (I try to aim for about 3/4″), arranging on a tray or plate until finished.

Heat 2 tbsp Earth Balance in the cast iron pan until it’s lightly browned and the pan is very hot.

Add meatballs to the pan in a single layer. Turn until hot and dark brown on all sides—I like to pick up the pan and just jostle it slightly rather than use a spatula. Don’t be afraid to overcook the meatballs! You want them to be nice and dark.

Serve hot with boiled potatoes, lingonberry sauce, and, if you wish, vegan gravy—my mother thinks putting gravy on meatballs is barbaric, but I like it!

If you wind up with leftovers (as if!) or want to prepare your meatballs in advance, they can easily be reheated in a pan or covered in a 400° oven.

* A few notes about the ingredients:
I’m unsure of the availability of the pre-packaged products outside of the U.S., so perhaps readers can chime in with suggestions for vegan substitutes (for heavy cream, egg, and ground sausage) that could work in other parts of the world. For egg replacer, I used Bob’s Red Mill, but there are other brands that will work just fine.

Also, since it came up the last time I posted this recipe, I should mention that I use processed fake meats in cooking very sparingly—but for special occasions a few times a year, I think it’s okay to use some of the pre-made products that are out there, particularly if they help to recapture some of the traditional flavors we might miss. Everything in moderation, including moderation!

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I’m not sure when this photo was taken. 1977? 1978? I’m so bad at determining the ages of children younger than 10. I think I must be 2 or 3 years old here, right? I had a dream about this photo last night. Well, not about the photo itself, but about the scene it depicts. I remember that set of wooden building blocks so clearly. They were stained in primary colors, and the finish was translucent enough that you could make out the grain of the wood. The one with the arch in it was my favorite—you could use it to make tunnels or boats, depending on which way you turned it. I do remember feeling annoyed that the arch wasn’t tall enough to roll a Matchbox car underneath it, though.

I think my dream might have been induced by a conversation I had yesterday with a cousin I hadn’t seen more than 30 years. He said he remembered playing with toy cars with me on the living room carpet at my aunt and uncle’s house when I was 4 or 5 years old—he must have been in his late teens or early 20s at the time. Now I can’t get the feeling of sitting on the floor in that room out of my head…the soft greige color of the carpet, the fire burning nearby, Alice the dog looking on.

So much of my life has been spent on the floor. As the perpetual baby of the family—at least until my nieces and nephews came along—I was always relegated to sitting on the floor instead of getting a prime spot on the sofa. I don’t think I minded. On the floor you can stretch out your legs. You can crawl under the coffee table and make a little house. If there’s a dog or a cat around, you’re right at their level. You have infinite work space. You can play with your blocks, draw and watch “The Muppet Show,” all at the same time.

My love of working on the floor carried on into my teenage years, when my mother would ask with concern if I was going to hurt my back by sitting hunched over a notebook with my legs in a V-formation while I did my math homework. Desks were worthless for anything other than piling up papers. In college, I’d set up camp on the floor in a corner of the library with all of my books spread out around me when I needed to study for an exam. We had easels in figure drawing class, but even then I preferred to take floor position. It just felt better.

Now that I’m a Real Adult with a Real Job, I have to work at a desk. It’s still a little weird to me that I sit in a chair and wear shoes all day. I guess computers don’t translate to floor usage very well, do they? My back couldn’t handle it anyway.

It’s been a while since I’ve shared any of my web design work. I don’t do very much of it since my day job designing book covers keeps me busier than than I can handle, but I really do enjoy fitting in a few non-print projects when I have the time. Here’s a little roundup of some of the work I’ve been doing on the side these past few months…

Honey Kennedy
This is my second redesign of Honey Kennedy—the first was in April 2011. Jen asked me several months ago if I could help her with some minor updates, but my schedule was insane so everything was put on the back burner. By the time we got our acts together and talked about Jen’s wishlist, it turned into a complete overhaul! I kept the same basic logo design and the dreamy, saltwater atmosphere, but introduced a richer color palette and bolder textures. Nearly every element of the blog got a makeover.

Jen is probably my most demanding client, but I say that with love. She has such a clear vision of what she wants, and has a really good eye for the tiniest details—that’s the reason her blog is so great. She’s also become a very good friend in the time since we worked on the first redesign, and working together is a pleasure.

Manhattan Nest
Another repeat client! I worked on a previous incarnation for Daniel two years ago, but it was never much more than a header design and some simple modifications to a prefab WordPress theme. Back then I don’t think Daniel imagined that his blog would eventually become super popular, so even just convincing him to move to a self-hosted platform was an effort. It was SO MUCH FUN to finally have a chance to design Manhattan Nest from top to bottom! It’s also so nice to think about how different Daniel’s life is now than it was two years ago—in 2010 he was a pet-free single guy on the Upper East side, and now he lives in Brooklyn with his boyfriend and their two dogs and he’s winning contests and stuff. (Hey, have I mentioned before what a truly good person Daniel is, and how happy I am that we’re friends and that he likes eating and drinking coffee as much as I do? Yes?)

CHEZERBEY + STUDIO ZERBEY
I’ve been reading Chezerbey for ages with more than a smidgen of jealousy in my eyes. Lauren and Kyle really set the bar high when it comes to home renovation, and it’s not just because they’re both architects—they also have amazing taste and an ability to stay within a budget and they’re not afraid to do pretty much all of the work themselves. I mean…this is my fauxdenza, and THIS is the Zerbey’s fauxdenza. WAY TO TAKE THE WIND OUT OF MY SAILS, GUYS. Just kidding!! Anyway, I was a little intimidated when Lauren first approached me about doing a complete makeover of their blog, but in the end it was a really smooth process. Both Kyle and Lauren are really good at expressing what they want and need both aesthetically and functionally, which is so helpful. Lauren even gave birth to their daughter in the middle of the redesign, but didn’t miss a beat. She’s superhuman.

In addition to having a kid, Lauren and Kyle also just became their own bosses and opened Studio Zerbey, an architecture and design firm. They asked me to design a website for Studio Zerbey that would complement Chezerbey while still looking distinct from the blog, and I think I achieved that. It was exciting to be involved with creating the indentity for a new business right at its inception!

Thank you so much to Jen, Daniel, Lauren and Kyle for trusting me with your projects…and for being patient and understanding when it comes to time constraints and sleep deprivation! I am privileged to have worked with you. Let’s all of us get together someday and have a “Dogs ‘n’ Blogs” party, OK? xoxo

A little more than a week after at least 50 million of us were affected by Hurricane Sandy, Americans are about to go to the polls tomorrow to vote in a very important presidential election at a pivotal point in our history as a nation. We are working against widespread voter suppression—yes, in 2012—grounded in racism and classism, and so much is at stake. This election isn’t just about President Obama’s policies over the next four years, it’s about the fact that there are currently four seated Supreme Court justices in their 70s. Whoever wins this election will likely nominate a new justice, and therein lies the future of our civil rights.

LISTEN UP: Whatever you believe about the U.S. economy and what can and should be done to fix it, we simply cannot legislate away our rights in the mean time. This is not a joke. This is not feeding clichéed lines about choosing the “lesser of two evils.” This is about doing our duty as American citizens to protect each other and ensure that future generations will live in a country with all of the freedoms they deserve. This is about saying NO to hatred, bigotry and discrimination.

I’ve been thinking a lot today about what I wanted to write in this post, but it occurred to me that so much of what I’m feeling is so closely aligned with what my (sensitive, insightful, passionate, well-spoken) friend Daniel wrote on his blog a few days ago…so I’ll let him say it for me. Here’s an excerpt:

I know people who are voting for Republicans. Some of these people I even count as friends. When I talk to them about it, the general response seems to be that they don’t “personally” support discrimination, even if discrimination is central to Republican social policy. Let me be clear: there is nothing more personal than a vote. By voting for Mitt Romney, you are casting a vote for discrimination. You are casting a vote against me, against my family, against equality, against fairness, against love, against freedom, against the promise of liberty and justice for all. A vote for this Republican party, as it stands in 2012, is a vote for discrimination. You are complicit in it, you are supporting it, you are perpetuating it. There is no other way to look at it, and it’s truly heartbreaking to see people I otherwise respect blind to this fact.

The choice in this election couldn’t be clearer, and not just on this issue. It’s the difference between a president who cares about the future of our education system, our public sector workers, and the social programs that attempt to keep those in need afloat, versus a party who doesn’t. It’s the difference between a president who has regained much of our respect in the world and has a proven record of successful foreign policy experience, versus a candidate with no experience, Bush’s foreign policy advisors, and reckless and wildly inconsistent ideas about the rest of the world. It’s the difference between a president who supports rights for women to receive equal pay for equal work, to have access to contraception, and to seek a safe and legal abortion if necessary, versus a party who would deny all of these rights. It’s a choice between a President who has dug this economy out of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression versus a party who wants to return to the policies that caused the collapse in the first place. It’s the choice between a president who regards global warming as a real and tangible threat versus a party who thinks the climate change is a hoax, a joke, or both. It’s the difference between a president who doesn’t think you should go broke or die because of medical costs, versus a party that sees only the bottom line for the insurance industry. It’s the choice between a president who believes in equality versus a party who believes so profoundly in discrimination that they would amend our Constitution to reflect their extreme ideology. And that’s just off the top of my head.

Go over to Manhattan Nest to read all of Daniel’s post if you haven’t already. He expresses perfectly why this is such an important election, and why Barack Obama is the right choice to lead this country for the next four years. I hear a lot of talk about being a “values voter,” and that is exactly what I am: I support Obama because I support the civil rights of all Americans. I care about a compassionate future for my country. Those are my values, and my vote supports them.

In Novemeber 2008, we did this. Now let’s go out there and do it again. GO VOTE, AMERICA!

Banner image by Lisa Congdon for the #GoVote project!

This is Mommy and Evan, both looking very cute in stripes over the weekend. I wonder if they called each other in the morning and planned their outfits. They claim coincidence, but I’m not so sure!

Isn’t that color-blocked, knitted necklace my mother is wearing great? I gave it to her for her birthday. It’s the work of Nguyen Le, a crafter based in Brooklyn who sells handmade accessories under the name KnitKnit. I found it at Clay Wood & Cotton in Beacon (which is a great little store to check out if you happen to be up that way), but you can get one through the KnitKnit Etsy shop.

That’s all. Amid all of the hurricane news and anxiety over tomorrow’s presidential election, I felt the need to post something that just makes me smile. My mother and my husband make me smile, especially when they’re in matching stripes.

Having been forced to leave Brooklyn because of Sandy (and feeling more than a bit useless as a result—I am eager to get back and help my community there), I’ve been effectively Newburgh-bound for the past week. My friend Jen from the lovely blog Honey Kennedy is here with me, as her long-planned vacation in NYC was completely upended by the storm. We decided to get ourselves out of the house for a bit and take a drive north up to my hometown, Rhinebeck.

We drove up on the east side of the Hudson River and stopped off at the Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park along the way. The estate is open to the public, and even though I’ve been there many times in my life (admittedly most of them prior to age 13—that’s just how it is when you grow up in the Hudson Valley), I’ve never really taken it all in through adult (am I an adult?) eyes. So beautiful.

We got to Rhinebeck in the late afternoon. The skies had turned gray and drizzly, my favorite kind of light. Our fall foliage season seems to be dragging on for longer than usual this year, and there are still plenty of red, orange and yellow leaves hanging around. As much as I detested Rhinebeck as a teenager (and as much as I am grateful to live in cities with far greater diversity as an adult), it is nice to go back there every now and then. It’s sort of like a storybook idea of a small town, with block after block of perfectly-maintained houses built in the 1800s, slate sidewalks, smoke shop Indians, and tiny restaurants that close when the sun goes down.

Even though I’ve now lived away from Rhinebeck longer than I lived there, it’s still the only place where I don’t need to rely on my shoddy (non-)sense of direction. I know the roads of the village like the back of my hand. It feels like home. It’s hard for me to admit that. I guess I have a few places that feel like home to me.

A dusty purple house on South Street, my favorite cemetery, the Johnson’s old house on South Parsonage, Foster’s Coach House Tavern (I had French fries and red wine)…and a few Instagrams, too. I lived in that little red house until I was 17 and left for college. Every time I go back to Rhinebeck I’m happy to see it’s still red.

I dunno. I guess it’s just a thing with most people’s hometowns, right? They seem so much nicer after you leave.

This morning I woke up (in Newburgh…with electricity!) to a tweet from my dear friend and co-collaborator, Lisa Congdon, announcing that her new line of wallpaper for Hygge & West is now available for purchase.

I could not be more excited! You already know I adore Lisa and that I love love LOVE her work, but I’m also a fan of Hygge & West. I have their wallpaper (the now-discontinued “Pieces” pattern by Julia Rothman) in my hallway, and I love what Christiana and Aimee have been able to do with their company in the past few years. I have wallpaper all over my house, and to have it be the work of some of my favorite illustrators is pretty awesome.

So how about that Triangle pattern, huh? Lisa sent me some sketches of the pattern while she was working on it, and I’m pretty sure my first response was, “Can you make sure it’s available in all-black so I can put it in my kitchen? And also gold and pink.” So I’m just going to pretend that all of this is for ME and my happiness. And believe me, I’m happy. I’ve been putting off working on my kitchen for…um, about 6 years now, and of all the possible motivators there could be for me to get going already, the prospect of being able to use Lisa’s wallpaper in the project is really all I need. I am so ready to do this.

I’m mostly likely going to go with the all-black option, but the gray/pink and charcoal/gold colorways (side note: I hate the word “colorways”) are super-gorgeous as well. Maybe I can find a spot for them somewhere else? I’m running out of places to use wallpaper!

Because I am who I am and I like what I do, I’m going on and on about the Triangle pattern, but Lisa also has two other beautiful wallpaper designs at Hygge & West, Ferns and Bohemian. To be honest, I love them all so much that they make me want to buy more houses so I can put more wallpaper all over everything. Or at least maybe convince my mother that she should put the Ferns pattern in black in her dining room, because it would be PERFECT there.

Congratulations on the new endeavor, Lisa, and thanks as always to Christiana and Aimee for their vision (and great taste!). The full collection is amazing. I can’t wait to use some of it in my home.

Oh, just some weekend Instagram snaps I’ve been meaning to share here! Top to bottom, left to right…

✖ How cool is this black West Elm skull candle? I pretty much only buy stuff at West Elm when it’s on clearance, and I got this nearly-life-sized guy for $7 (!) at the DUMBO location. They only had one left, or else I would’ve bought a bunch. The best thing about Halloween being around the corner is SKULLS EVERYWHERE.

✖ I couldn’t resist this SHOPLIFTERS tote bag that was for sale at the merch counter at the Morrissey shows. I guess I’ll have to turn it around if I’m shopping in a store with employees who might not get the reference (or who might not have a sense of humor), but otherwise I shall carry it with pride.

✖ Evan and Bruno enjoying their morning coffee. Aren’t they handsome? This photo reminds me that I really need to take more photos of the new apartment before it stops being “new.”

✖ I had nothing to do with this—Fritz tucks himself in all the time. I’m told that the smarter dog breeds like Chihuahuas all do this. Bruno is only half Chihuahua (the other half is Bichon Frisé, a breed high in sweetness but not known for intelligence), which explains why he can’t really even figure out how to crawl under a blanket most of the time while Fritz is off basically building forts and growing opposable thumbs.

✖ I’ve been wearing my fake glasses (they’re the “Thatcher” style in Revolver Black from Warby Parker) every now and then, and I’ve gotta be honest—they make me feel great. Wearing glasses gives me enough confidence to wear my hair back in a ponytail, something I NEVER do unless I’m at home. I am wayyyyy to self-conscious to leave the house with my face completely exposed, so it either has to be hair or glasses that I hide behind, and it’s fun to have this option. I feel like a different person when I wear them. It’s like a disguise. And hey, I figure my vision is probably going to tank within the next few years anyway, so at least I’ll be comfortable wearing glasses when the time comes!

✖ This VOTE LEFT mug was another cheapie West Elm clearance item. Unfortunately they’re sold out online, but stores probably still have them. And yeah, I know it’s not really possible to truly vote left in this country, but I can dream. For now, I’ll vote as far left as I possibly can.

Brooklyn Heights Cinema is on my old street (Henry Street pride!!), and I miss going there to see movies—it’s a great little theater. It’s actually not too far of a walk from DUMBO, though, so I should make the effort to walk up now and then. It’s near a great little natural-food restaurant called Siggy’s Good Food that does an amazing vegan brunch. Highly recommended!

✖ This is the original herringbone tile in the lobby of Daniel’s building. Tile like this is the reason I like hands-off landlords who don’t want to pay to renovate. Isn’t it pretty?

I don’t have a corresponding photo, but prior to taking that picture of the tile, Daniel and Max and I went to go see The Perks of Being a Wallflower at BAM. It was so, so, so great. Really. It’s based on what I consider to be one of the best books of the past 20 years, and certainly one of the greatest books ever written for young adults. The movie was directed and the screenplay was written by the author of the book, Stephen Chbosky, and he did a perfect job with the conversion. The trailer is pretty terrible, but don’t worry—it’s not a good representation of the actual movie (funny how that happens sometimes). I was pretty much either in tears or holding back tears for the duration, just like when I read the book the first time. The actors are all wonderful, the soundtrack is exactly as it should be, and it felt great to watch a movie that actually feels like teenage—and human—reality. Read the book. See the movie. Hold onto your Kleenex.