30 September 2010

Buon Viaggio! Part 1: We Landed, We Saw, We Walked

On our first day in Italy, The Aussie and I dropped our stuff off at the hotel (which was one train stop outside of Venice, in Mestre), freshened up and proceeded to walk around Venice for 7 hours.

It was worth it.
 What started as a search for a particular restaurant and mask shop that Little Sister found when she went to Venice became a whole loop of Venice and exploring the tiny, narrow alleys and coming up on shops that wouldn't otherwise be mentioned in a guidebook.

The alleys were really narrow at some points.
 The Aussie began to obsess and bemoan the fact that he couldn't bring back the really good prosciutto home.
 
We came across a mask maker in his workshop,
 and crossed the Rialto Bridge to walk around St. Mark's Square.
 Then we did some more exploring:
 We also started to drink alot of wine and espresso, and eat alot of gelato. I supplemented this diet later with prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella. Yum.

Our hotel had an amazing breakfast - complete with mini nutella packets to go with my toast.
 Our second day in Italy took us to the Palace of the Doges and the Secret Itineraries tour. We saw the prison of Casanova, and went into the attic of the palace. To get to the Palace, we decided to go via the Grand Canal - but not on a gondola. We did the local thing and rode a vaporetto along the canal.
 The Palace was really amazing, even though we only saw a small part of it. Still, it was the really good part - the Palace is open for people to walk around with regular admission, but only the tour takes you to Casanova's prison and other deeper parts of the Palace. While we waited for the tour to start, I knitted my socks.
 After the Palace, I finally convinced The Aussie to go to Murano. We rode in a teeny tiny vaporetto (we later learned that it was so small so it can clear the low bridges) across the Venetian lagoon in the middle of a thunderstorm.
 Murano was quiet, but very pretty. We didn't see any glassblowers because they were on vacation (August is the worst time of year to go to Europe but we didn't miss out on much).
 Keeping the time in mind, we took the vaporetto back to the train station (in another bout of thunderstorms) got our things and headed to Florence with the Eurostar.

Up next: Firenze!

27 September 2010

Buon Viaggio! Prologue

So now I am finally (after a month) getting around to the Italian Honeymoon recap. Honestly, there are SO many photos (687!) that I am going to break this whole she-bang down into four parts: Venice, Florence, Rome and a Surprise Bonus. After that, I'll post the link to our photo albums so you can see everything.

To get us all in the mood - riddle me this: in which film was there a scene of a famous actress walking down the Spanish Steps eating an ice cream cone? 

Not exactly us walking down the Spanish Steps with an ice cream cone, but a bit of a teaser:
Clearly, I had my priorities.

Round and Round I Unfortunately Wasn't Able to Go

Crossed another off my 26 Before 26 List!

#1: Visit the Guggenheim Museum.

My friend K came up from Florida where she is a law student to visit her family here for a few days, and she was able to squeeze in a trip to the Guggenheim Museum so we could hang out together this past Friday.
If anyone has been keeping tabs on the column to your left where my 26 Before 26 List is, visiting the Guggenheim is at the very top because simply, it was the first thing to come into my head.
For years, I've always gone to the Metropolitan Museum of Art - one of my most memorable trips was in the 5th grade at Christmastime after reading From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. My class sat down in front of the medieval screen to compare what we read about in the book with the museum and there was a Christmas tree. I still have my tattered copy.When I was in college, my friends and I would trek crosstown from campus and hang there because it was so cheap to go (hint: don't pay the suggested fee. I pay a dollar. They are loaded).

The Guggenheim is amazing as a part of Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural repertoire. I love how it looks. As a museum in and of itself, my reaction runs along the lines of "meh." It is an amazing building to look at and in fact, last Friday was the first time I ever saw it in real life. I never really had occasion to go up to that neck of the woods (my stomping grounds are more in the Upper West Side, the Flatiron District and Union Square). But I wasn't particularly awed by the collection. To each her own.
 
I'll admit - I am a bit biased here because they were installing a new exhibition and thus the ramps were closed, so we couldn't see all of the collections. Still for $8 (reduced admission) it was not that bad.


Hands down, the Met is still my favorite. I've been to the MoMA and still need to check out the Whitney, but nothing can top the Met here.

26 September 2010

Love Trellis Patterns

So much so, it's part of my new twitter design. Like?

Thrift Shop Finds

The other day I popped into the local thrift shop on my way to the gym earlier this week in search of a letter holder to hold our mail that didn't look like it came from Staples (I was bidding on an antique English silver toast rack, but lost). No letter holder to be had, but I did come out with these beauties:
I got the milk glass vase (jar?) for The Aussie to hold his wedding ring and collar stays so that they don't clutter the bedside table, and so I can take away the ring bowl from our wedding and use it as a Christmas ornament and keepsake instead, which is what he is currently using now. It has "Avon" stamped on the bottom. Now its on our beside table along with the sea urchin tealight set I got from a local interiors shop called Inside Astoria.

The half-liter carafe was a bit of an impluse buy; I saw them all the time in Italy when we were having wine, and it reminded me of our honeymoon (which reminds me to remember to post some pics! I have to wait for the weekend when I have more time).

I'm thinking of using it as a vase or even as a carafe itself. Anyone have any other creative ideas for a carafe?

24 September 2010

Changing the Google Terms

I'm planning on checking out the Brooklyn Flea and Chelsea Flea markets in search of the ever elusive affordable-but-not-for-a-bathroom etagere, but I thought I might share some other finds I found while googling "etagere living room."

I found all of these at World Market:

I really like both of these, and the price is great too (even better than the first one I posted, which is way more expensive and subject to unfavorable reviews). I have a couple of things to consider: which would look best with the couch and what kind of look am I going for? Will the second one make the living room look too "country"? Also, what would look good with walls that are soft gray (we are painting our living room in 2 weeks)? I'm torn!

21 September 2010

I'm Looking for an étagère

I was flipping through Real Simple (again) when this piece in the "One Room, 3 Ways" feature caught my eye:See the red shelf system in the back? That's an étagère. And I am on the hunt for a curvy-ish one. Something that is slim, slender and not just looking like a box, or else it would look like it belongs in a bathroom. I want to put it on the other side of the couch and get rid of our $7 lack tables, or just have one in front of my pharmacy lamp which is on the other side of the couch.

So far, my google searches have come up with a Cindy Crawford étagère from JCPenney:
It is on sale, but I would like to see the price go down a bit further and see what else is out there. I also want to do a little more research. Any suggestions on where I can find affordable étagères?

20 September 2010

The Four Week Dinner Plan

The Aussie got his hands of my October issue of Real Simple before I had a chance to thoughtfully peruse it, complete with colored MUJI pens and sticky tabs (yes, I am that person).

One of the features that caught his eye (among other things, like Decorating with Gray - now he wants to paint our living room gray but that's another story) was the Four Week Dinner Plan. He likes the recipe section and I suggested that we try every single recipe for the next four weeks.

Real Simple's recipes were in fact the main reason why I subscribed - I tried a few from the website, realized I didn't burn the food or the apartment and had some tasty, easy meals. Win!

The rules of the game, so to speak was originally to go for each recipe when specifically stated, but we had shrimp in the freezer so we first went with Curry Shrimp and Snow Peas, which was for Monday of Week 2. I think the Real Simple gods won't mind, since the idea is to use what we have first (and they like to tout things like that).

Every week, I'll post a roundup with photos and reviews.

A bit of a sneak peak for Week 1: that Curry Shrimp was AMAZING. I went for seconds.

Begone, Fugly Pillows!

I recieved the pillow covers I ordered from west elm last Thursday and eagerly tore into the box (I like getting mail. Even if it's just a postcard from somewhere beyond the NYC area).

But, I encountered a little problem. My fugly "70s TV Room" (as my friend S put it) pillows were too big and the pillow cases too small (the cases are 16x16). In addition, the alpaca pillow shed a bit and the silk profile pillow was a little too shiny because it is silk. The Aussie liked the idea of the silk pillow for our bed (and get another one for "his and her" sides of the bed) but "Better if it were of cotton."

True.

When The Aussie and I were at Pottery Barn this weekend to look at curtains, I picked up the Textured Linen pillow cover in Blue Smoke and returned the west elm pillows since the store was a few blocks down Broadway.

What do you think?
I am so happy with them! In fact, the FPs (fugly pillows) actually fit and stuff the pillow cover better than any Pottery Barn insert - they don't loose their fluff and still have structure. Now I know what size the FPs are - 18x18 - so that I can change it up in the future. I still might get a lumbar pillow and either a smaller or larger pillow in a print to spruce up the couch a bit more.

Phase 1 of decorating the living room - Operation Begone, Fugly Pillows - is complete.

19 September 2010

Trains, Trains and Well, Trains

I love subways/metros/undergrounds/chikatestus. You name it - if it's underground and a train, I love it. If it's a light rail, I love it. If it's a high speed Eurostar, I love it. Sadly, I never got a chance to go on the shinkansen when I lived in Japan.

I also love subway maps (and maps in general!). When I lived in London and in Kyoto, I made it a point to bring a NYC subway map with me so I can post it to my wall.

So in case anyone was wondering where I got my header photo from check it out: nycsubway.org (Image 6573). I figured it's pretty apt; Astoria is the Greek/Mediterranean enclave and they mostly use lemon juice and olive oil only for flavor in their recipes, hence the name of the blog.

If anyone is interested in a really great history of the NYC subway and public transportation system (and history of NYC in general) check out The Bowery Boys podcast - they just did a series of podcasts about the Staten Island Ferry, the trolleys and elevated lines and the subway system itself. It's one of my faves; I always learn something new, even though I have lived here all my life.

Now I'm Happy With It

It took me 3 hours to finally find a design that I liked for my blog that didn't look silly, and has a spiffy header that I did myself.

In case anyone was wondering, this is a photo of the N train from the early 20th century at my subway stop as a child. The buiding in the background is my elementary school.

Still, I do have the "Chair" Template" saved in case anyone liked that more.

Finally Fixed and Admitting an Addiction

In case anyone has met my blog with nothing but a blank white screen for the past few months, it was me, not you. Thanks to Kiki (Hi Kiki!!!) I finally figured out my blogger template.

Sadly, I had to get rid of my old template which, made me pretty proud given my sheer lack of graphic design skills. This particular background picture caught my eye because of the warm colors and the chair itself. Figured I need a little bit of decor inspiration (I have to return two of the west elm pillows. They don't fit the fugly ones. Sigh.)

Also changed my profile picture too - it's another kate spade ad. I know. I'm a big sucker for them (there is a folder on my hard drive marked "kate spade ads"), but I did not run out and get the new iPhone4 case from kate spade. It's silicone. I want a hardshell case. Was kinda proud of myself that I resisted the temptation.

(ETA: Oh dear. They do have a hardshell case. In POLKA DOTS. Polka dots is my downfall. Just come have a look in my china closet - I got the kate spade sag harbor serving dishes and soup/cereal bowls in the navy stripe and polka dot prints. ).

Now I just have to stop obsessing about this dress that I would get around Christmastime if it's still there (and if I get back into a size 8 by then) for the 2, possibly 3 weddings I will be attending next year.

Did I mention that when I went to a job interview on Friday, I had kate spade earrings, silk shell, bag AND shoes?

I need to join a kate spade 12-step program.

(On second thought, most definitely not).

18 September 2010

Wait Wait - I'm Going to Carnegie Hall!

Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! is one of Little Sister's and my favorite podcasts. Usually they record in Chicago where the show is based, but they do go on tour occasionally. One of my life goals is to play one of the games and get the prize, which is Carl Kassel's voice as my voicemail message. I am a geek.

Little Sister and I are going to see them record the show live at Carnegie Hall on October 7. So excited! I really hope there is an actual guest to play Not My Job as opposed to them calling in. We got center balcony seats so it's really high up but we have a good view.

This is actually my first time going to Carnegie Hall. Can I consider that a bonus for my 26 Before 26 List?

17 September 2010

A Spiffy Bike I Aspire To Ride

When we were in Italy, I may have overshopped a bit.

Just a bit.

The Aussie on the other hand, refused to get anything for himself - except for truffles, and a cashmere scarf for himself. Why, you ask?

When we got back from Italy, he took the unspent money, converted it back to dollars, and treated himself to a pair of fancy cycling wheels in lieu of his upcoming 30th birthday. You don't want to know how much they were (the wheels alone were about the price of a high-end aluminum road bike). I was supposed to get one of those wheels for his birthday and now I am scrambling for a really, really good 30th bday gift.

Have to say with his new frame (his old one had a crack in the carbon frame and Orbea replaced it for free) the wheels do look quite spiffy. Now he is working on getting a spiffy seat that fits him.One day, I'll have a spiffy carbon fiber bike. With spiffy wheels that go whiiiirrrr!!! too.

16 September 2010

It's a Beautiful Morning

I got off to a slow start today, but I always make sure to get a caffeinated start.
Have a lovely Thursday, everybody.

15 September 2010

Hooray! New Shelter Mag in Print!

I was too late to get in on the Domino Magazine action and only really got into (neophyte, at best) decorating just as it was closing. Sad.

There are some great new online shelter/lifestyle/cooking magazines to pick up where Domino left off (Lonny and Sweet Paul, to name a few) and I have recently subscribed to Real Simple. Domino is back on Brides.com as well. I also follow some great blogs (such as Decor8).

In spite of the whole new "digital" age and people getting magazines on their Kindles, Nooks and iPads, there is still something to be said for the tactile feeling of a magazine in your hands. Same thing goes for handwriting notes and feeling the heft of a book you can't wait to read in your bag after picking it up from the library - I picked up The Omnivore's Dilemma and The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell yesterday.

I was so happy to see this pop-up via my Craftzine google feed:There is a new PRINT shelter mag out called Anthology. It comes out quarterly, which in my opinion is great - you have just enough time between issues to really go through the mag and if there is anything that strikes your fancy, you have time to try it before the next one comes out (while I love Real Simple and the recipes in it, sometimes what you want to do from the mag can get a bit overwhelming. I still have get to deeply go through my June & Jul issues!).

Needless to say, I immediately got my subscription all sorted. The cover is so fun! Can't wait till I get my first issue.

14 September 2010

Figs For Fall

Although the semester just started, the Writing Center isn't open until next week which means I still have time to putter about, knit, spin (new hobby!), begin decorating the apartment (more on that in the future) and more importantly, cook. And bake.

After seeing this fig tart recipe over at Figs, Lavender and Cheese, I knew I just had to make it.

This coming from someone who kinda stinks at cooking (but can make a mean lasagna and apple pie). Still Cindy is a real inspiration in the kitchen - I love her blog and the food she posts on it. It gives me hope that yes, I can cook and bake. Even in a teeny tiny NYC kitchen.

Have to say, the food processor is my best friend. But lets look at some figs, shall we?After posting the pics to my knitting group's forum, I got alot of the same question: "Where did you get figs?!?!?!"

My answer pretty much went like this: "At the local fruit market down the block from my apartment?" I was even able to get California figs too boot - but I'm guessing they are pretty hard to find on the East Coast. There are 2 fruit markets and 2 supermarkets within a 2 block radius in my neighborhood and only 1 had the figs.

I guess this is one of the benefits of living in a Greek/Mediterranean enclave - we still get the goods without having to schlep over to fancy Whole Foods for them. Still, I had to make The Aussie go to Whole Foods for marscapone cheese after work and non-stone ground corn meal (which I later learned, both the local supermarkets have. But this is proof of me being a cooking neophyte: I didn't know what non-stone ground corn meal looked like).
It was delicious. My apartment smelled of rosemary while the crust baked. The Aussie only tried a bit ("Not that big a fan of figs") but my family came over and noshed away. There is still half of it left.

All for me, then. Which is not a bad thing, at all.