Tuesday, June 25, 2013

NYC 2013 Part 1

We took a weekend trip to NYC, June 15-16, and had such a great time! Andrew and I drove to the big city, for the first time, together. We've each visited the city separately, on different occasions. I had so much fun two years ago with my gal pals. This time, we were going on an adventure together, with hopes of successfully navigating our way around the city and doing as much site seeing as we could.

We stayed at the Sheraton Tribeca, which was conveniently located on Canal Street (A.K.A. knock off purse street) and close to Little Italy. Have I ever mentioned that Sheraton's are my favorite hotel? I've always had wonderful stays there, in different cities, AND they have the MOST comfortable bedding and pillows. For real. I want to replicate it in my bedroom.

Once we arrived, and our car was safely parked, we headed to Little Italy for a late lunch. I absolutely loved it! I was on cloud nine the moment we walked under that "Little Italy" sign. I felt like I "belonged," (I'm Italian) and I could only imagine what the real Italy would be like. 

My handsome date and I dined at the Italian Food Center, a new restaurant (just 4 days old), and shared an unusual white pizza with shaved Brussels sprouts and pancetta. It was delicious. I really enjoyed the atmosphere. We were seated at a table with an old metal sewing machine base. Made me like the place even more.

I met Mr. Cannoli, advertising the "World's Best Cannoli". Poor guy. It was a hot day! He didn't have much to say. 

I found myself some hazelnut gelato to get the full Little Italy experience. 

We did a lot of walking. I mean A LOT. It allowed us to see the city first hand, appreciate the history and architecture even more. The buildings and streets really are amazing.  

Later on, we visited the site of the new One World Trade Center or Freedom Tower. No photo can do this towering skyscraper justice. The 104-story building is absolutely magnificent. We could see it from wherever we were in lower Manhattan. 

We came across the Irish Hunger Memorial, a "hidden garden" with stone walls, grass and a meandering path. Underneath, are quotes and writings about the history of the great Irish famine. An interesting and peaceful place in the middle of it all.

We walked around Battery Park and admired the view of the harbor. What a beautiful and bustling park. I've never seen so many people walking dogs in one place, bicyclists, joggers, kids, people just sitting on benches. If I lived nearby, I'm sure I would frequent it.

Look closely, can you see the Statue of Liberty? There she is. And a cool Mayflower looking ship. 

We had to take a stroll down Wall Street. 

I think my favorite part was walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. It's such an icon. Even though our feet were beyond exhausted, I absolutely loved the view and the grandness. It wasn't what I expected - in a good way. It was way more crowded than I expected, with people on foot and on bicycles. We weren't sure if we would make it all the way, but we went for it, embracing the "YOLO" motto!

This was the view of the Manhattan Bridge from the Brooklyn Bridge, which we later crossed to exit the city. The sun was shining with blue skies. It was an absolutely beautiful day. 

The reason we walked over the Brooklyn Bridge, was to arrive at the Barclay Center to see The Postal Service perform in concert. David gave us a pair of tickets to their show, which prompted our weekend trip. We were The Postal Service fans in college, so it was a lot of fun to see them perform. I was especially glad when they played "Such Great Heights," my favorite, and their most well-known song. Our seats were high above the floor and we could see the entire stadium. What an impressive venue.

When the concert was over, we took our first (and only) cab ride (which I successfully hailed - I was quite proud of myself), back to the hotel. Which means, we walked the entire distance, throughout the day, from our hotel, all over lower Manhattan, through Battery Park, over the Brooklyn Bridge, and then to the stadium. I. could. barely. walk. seriously. But it was worth it. Maybe I'll wear sneakers next time.

The city isn't that scary to walk around, and I love that so much is within walking distance.
Wear comfortable shoes, even if they look ridiculous with your outfit. Your feet will thank you.
You have to have a hot dog on the street. It's non-negotiable. 
My iphone 4S takes amazing photos. 
When you're with the one you love, everything you see and experience is that much better. 

We took a lot of photos and there's more to come, so stayed tuned for part 2.

Iced Blueberry White Tea

Summer is in full swing, and what's better than sitting outside with a refreshing glass of iced tea? I love fresh fruit, especially blueberries. When I found a recipe for blueberry iced green tea, I had to try it. It's made with homemade blueberry simple syrup. I swapped out white tea instead of green tea because I wanted to keep it tasting light. 

Blueberry Simple Syrup
1 cup of blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

Place blueberries, sugar and water in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
Strain solids from the juice with a fine sieve and set solids aside.
Transfer to a jar and store in the refrigerator.

Iced Blueberry White Tea
8 cups of water
4 white tea bags
1 cup of blueberry syrup (or to taste)
ice cubes
fresh blueberries for garnish

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil and remove from heat.
Mix in 1/2 cup of room temperature water, add tea bags and steep for 10 minutes.
Remove tea bags and add the remaining water.
Mix in the blueberry syrup until it reaches the desired sweetness.
Chill in the fridge, add ice and enjoy.

So refreshing! I mixed the tea with the blueberry syrup and kept it in the refrigerator for a few days. I just added ice and fresh blueberries to a glass when I was ready to enjoy.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

DIY Ottoman

We recently built our own ottoman, from scratch. This is a project I've been wanting to try for a while. It seemed pretty basic. I found great examples and inspiration on Pinterest. I considered re-purposing a coffee table or a bench, but custom making one seemed like the way to go, then I could decide the size and height - and I like a challenge! I also wanted to try tufting for the first time.

Wood base (we used leftover 3/4 inch plywood)
Button covers (if adding tufting)
Spray adhesive 
Staple gun with staples
Wooden legs
Leg plates
Spray paint (if legs need to be painted)
Upholstery needle
Nylon thread

This was kind of a learn-as-you-go project. After finding a piece of foam, Andrew cut the wood base to match the size. I lucked out by finding an inexpensive piece of foam at Ollie's Bargain Outlet. Foam can really be expensive, so shop around. You may even want to order it online. 

Secure the foam to the board with spray adhesive to keep it from moving while you upholster it. 

Wrap a snug layer of batting around the foam, and staple it to the wood base underneath. We worked on top of a small table.

Smooth out your fabric in place, making sure there is enough to go around all sides. If you're using fabric with a pattern, make sure the design is centered. Trim off the excess fabric and staple the fabric snugly to the board. Start at the middle and work your way out. Keep the fabric taut at all times, but not pulling tighter on any one side. If something is loose, you can always remove the staples and start again.

Meanwhile, paint the legs, if you need to. I picked these up at Home Depot, unfinished, for about $3 each and spray painted them white.

Folding and wrapping the corners was the most difficult part. I watched a couple how-to-upholster videos on YouTube that helped me figure this out. The key is not to have too much fabric in the corner. I kept trimming some of it away, in order to achieve a nice flat folded edge. Keep practicing it until you get it how you want it, and staple it in place. 

Time to get the drill. Once your fabric is all stapled down, place the leg plates in each corner and drill them into the base. Attach the legs, making sure they are standing even and upright. If they are crooked, you may need to adjust. 

Make your fabric covered buttons if you're going to add tufting. I initially only wanted one button in the center, then I decided it needed a total of 5 to look finished and balanced. I won't begin to try and explain this part. I used an excellent button tufted headboard tutorial. It's not as difficult as you might think. The key is drilling holes through the wood base and the foam, having a long upholstery needle, and pulling the buttons tight in order to tie them underneath. 

Here is the finished product! 

Not bad for our first try! I'm really happy with how it turned out. Now we have a soft place to rest our feet when we're sitting on the couch. 

And invariably, this happens. Of course, they think it's for them. 

Here are a couple ottoman projects that helped and inspired me. 

This guy thinks he can hide from me. He likes to photobomb.

I really like our cheery homemade ottoman. And if I ever want to change the fabric, I know I can switch it. This was a fun project for us to do together. Have you ever built an ottoman or piece of furniture? If so, were you happy with the results? What would you do differently next time?

Thursday, June 6, 2013


Prom season is in the air, and I still can't help but be drawn to the dress department when walking through stores at the mall. I love dressing up. I always have. I was definitely more excited about picking out a dress, shoes, and a matching bag and figuring out how I would do my hair, than going to the actual event. In high school, I went to a very small Christian school (Baptist school), so we didn't exactly have a typical "prom". Ours was called a "banquet". The junior/senior banquet. It literally involved dinner and some type of entertainment, trivia or a guest speaker. That's right, no dancing allowed. We had a strict dress code - no strapless dresses for the girls, they had to at least be knee length, and it was bad taste if you didn't have a shawl or some type of wrap. Modesty was key, people. You didn't want to get asked to leave. 

It may not have been totally traditional, but we looked forward to it all year and spent hours talking about it, shopping for it and daydreaming about it. Not to mention who was going with whom.

I can't imagine how challenging it is to find a classy and "modest" prom dress today. Some of the styles are still elegant (like that coral single-strap dress), others, like these sparkly disco balls are a little loud for my taste. Not to mention the ones that are too tight, too short or too revealing.

Dresses are definitely getting shorter and shorter. No one in my class would have dared to wear one of these little numbers. 

Some styles are downright ridiculous. I imagine the only thing a girl could accessorize with this is a big basket of fruit on her head. 

Seeing prom dresses on display made me want to take a walk down memory lane and remember the dresses I wore. Let's reminisce, shall we? I feel old already.

I was a sophomore in high school. It was a big deal to be asked by a junior to attend the junior/senior banquet. This dress was my cousin's bridesmaid dress and I loved the color. How about that pose?

My junior year, I kept drooling over a plum colored chiffon dress from Barbara Moss. Who remembers that store? Ironically, it's the same cut, style and length as the yellow dress. I actually went to two banquets that year, ours and one at our rival school. The top photo is at our banquet with girls in my class. Notice all the pretty shawls we had. Hair up was definitely the style, and yes, I wore a tiara. I made the mistake of having my makeup done at the Clinique counter, and I looked like ghost. That's why I left my hair half down and did my own makeup the second time around. 

Why not keep the a-line dress going? I sure did. And I wore the tiara. Again. I'm not sure why. I think I wanted a do-over from the year before. This dress was pale pink with a silver shimmer. It was one of my favorites. The style that year was "princess" with poofy skirts, pink, lavender, white, and shimmery gowns.

In college, every year there was a winter formal and a spring formal. I wore this light blue dress to the spring formal. The bodice tied up the back, the skirt was iridescent and I got it for *free* from a dry cleaners when someone never picked it up, for a year. Not sure how that happened or why I remember that fact. 

Back to the a-line style, this time in red. There was a sale at Bon-Ton. This was at the winter formal, yet, somehow I look like I was in the tropics. Go tanning much? This was probably the darkest I ever tanned, and I'm so embarrassed to look at these now! I knew how bad it was for my skin then, but I still wanted that not so "healthy glow." Especially to wear sleeveless in the middle of winter. I wasn't fooling anyone.

By spring of 2004, I had met the love of my life and we decided to go to the spring formal at our college together. I was a senior, Andrew was a junior. We were newly dating so it was exciting to get dressed up and have a night on the town with our friends. Heather let me borrow a dress of hers. It was a beautiful silver flowy material - and yes, similar a-line style. I stuck with what worked! 

The last one we went to was the spring formal, Andrew's senior year. I had already graduated and we were now engaged for a couple months. I wore a bridesmaid dress that was for Jen's upcoming wedding (that I was in), prior to her wedding day. Risky, I know! Oh yea, and I had braces put back on my teeth in preparation for our own wedding that July. It was a whirlwind year! I love the fact that we got to share these special occasions together. We were end-of-college-sweethearts.