Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Weekend Calm: A Late Morning on the River

This past weekend, we made a quick trip down to my mother's house on the river. We took the chance to spend an hour down on the shore, where collecting shark teeth has been a longstanding favorite pastime.


Basil enjoyed pointing for the ball in the field, chasing it into the water and just generally being in his element.

It was a great way to spend the late morning before the drive back to Richmond where errands, laundry and Super Bowl prep drew us back into reality. How was your weekend and did the Super Bowl commercials kind of make you go meh?

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Monday, February 8, 2016

Valentine's Day Gift Guide

With hearts and flowers abound, love is in the air. This time of year with Valentine's just around the corner — we're digging the bright pops of color and feel so ready for spring to make its return. Today we've rounded up a handful of sweet ideas for the sweet ones in your lives, along with a few favorites for cooking at home & staying in (our favorite way to spend the holiday).

1. Pucker up — tinted lip conditioners; Anthropologie
2. For the one that centers you, You're My Anchor card; Rifle Paper Co.
3. Handmade in France, trio of faceted glass votive holders; Etsy
4. For the hot cocoa lover in us all, a kit for two complete with heart-shaped marshmallows; Etsy
5. Probably the cutest classroom valentine kit I've laid eyes on, Ahoy Me Heartie (with temporary tattoos!) mini messages; Southern Season
6. Our local favorite — 16 piece chocolates; Gearhart's Chocolatier
7. Show the love year-round with a touch of modern decor, himmeli heart, Etsy
8. For your sweetest bundle of joy, this modern hand-knit heart blanket, Etsy
9. Spicy honey. You know, for your spicy honey; Uncommon Goods
10. Something sweet for your best catch; World Market
11. A modern twist on the classic vase, these industrial style tube vases will keep your freshly cut buds in center focus all year-round; Magnolia Market
12.  Wear your heart on your sleeve with these understated metallic heart temporary tattoos; Etsy
13. Date night in, more than 120 recipes to nourish your relationship; Anthropologie
14. A four course lobster risotto meal kit — fresh ingredients prepped, delivered and ready for cooking at home. This and other southern classic meal ideas via Peach Dish

In the spirit of staying in, we always enjoy a quiet dinner at home — check out the homespun meal ideas and treats we've made in past years for some added inspiration. Click on any of the images in the collage below to get the recipe:

Image Map

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Monday, February 1, 2016

January Bits & Snaps

January — a time for reflection, getting organized and looking forward. A winter month where we yearn for spring not to wait much longer and balance nestling in at home with venturing out to try new things. It's been a full month for us — sips of tea with a blanket by the fire, trampling through the first fresh snow with Basil and venturing out beyond our same old same old.  In the spirit of our Weekend Basics series, today we're here to share the bits and pieces from over the past month...

Our biggest celebration this year has been Tim's 50th birthday. Per his wishes, we kept things small, indulging in a close family dinner at our one of all-time favorites, Mamma Zu. Stephanie and Brandon joined us as a small-scale surprise, really making Tim's night.

Much of the talk around here has surrounded the weather — starting out with unusually warm temps followed by our first snow, which happened to be one for the history books:

We received about 12-14 inches here in the heart of the city. It's always fun to watch the blanket of white snow cover the sidewalks and streets, bringing a quiet calm to the usual churn.

The snowfall was steady and the streets were completely clear of transit, which made for some unexpected & supervised off-leash fun for Basil out front.

On the weekends clear of snow and travel, we ventured out on the local estate sale circuit for a little treasure hunting. Lately we've been bringing home a lot of brass for the shop and never turn down a good Polaroid camera when we cross paths.

January has proven to be a month of trying new eats — it seems like we've been to a handful of local places on the bucket list that we finally made it in to enjoy: Southerly, Kuba Kuba's new west end location, Mamma J's, Merroir & Rancho T.

We'd picked Rancho T for its proximity to the Richmond Forum, where we enjoyed the chance to see Alan Alda speak mid-month. With "no pictures, please" as the general rule at these events, a quick selfie had to suffice:

We got a chance to see The Revenant and used the snowy weekend and our warm evenings by the fire to catch up on a couple of our favorite TV series: A Chef's Life and Mind of a Chef — both continuing to raise the bar three seasons in.

This is the look of Basil, who does not understand why the bright box behind him is distracting us from his nightly tug-of-war game. The ear flip says it all, no?

In the same spirit of staying in, we tackled a few home projects on the list and are looking forward to sharing the results here with you. Incredibly warming, seasonal aromas continue to seep into the front office throughout the day from the kitchen where Tim has been recipe testing for a handful of ongoing photography projects that I willingly volunteer to taste test.

We rounded out the month with a quick trip in NYC, snow boots our uniform by day and warm, quaint spots across the Lower East Side to eat by the evenings.

We're looking forward to what February and early spring have in store and the possibilities for the new year ahead. Thanks for taking the time to stop in to see what we've been up to — here's hoping your January was all you'd wished.

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Monday, January 25, 2016

Grateful: Coming Home

We're headed into this new year feeling optimistic and in a good place. With one of Richmond's largest snow storms in recent history behind us this weekend, Tim and I thought to ourselves — this is the first year we didn't need to worry about how the weather may have affected our second home just across the river...

One of the primary challenges we took on over the course of last year was the sale of the house we'd lived in prior to finding and moving into our current home just over 4 years ago. It was an emotional journey, and now successfully on the other side, one that's not only lifted a weight, but is leaving us feeling capable of tackling big challenges that come our way in the future. Today we're looking forward to sharing more of the background and highlights from the journey here on the blog.

For background, when I first met Tim over 12 years ago (wow!) this was his home near the James river. It was the house I moved into when moving back to Virginia from NYC, the house we brought Basil home to and the backbone holding years of family memories, primarily with Tim & his two children. Tim's history with the house spans roughly 15 years. It was a home we officially called "ours" for 2 years until the real estate market began to hit rock bottom and we were able to take advantage of purchasing our current home here in the fan. The state of the market put us in a good position to jump on this house without immediately needing to sell the other.

While always our intention to either rent or sell the other house, it became a convenient place to hold storage we weren't ready to deal with and an investment we'd hope to see realized when and if the market came back around. That being said, it was also a weight on our shoulders — needing regular maintenance and a constant worry in the back of our minds anytime a large storm would come through.

Not to sound overly heavy, but the sale of a home can carry personal weight in many forms — for us, it was the knowing we'd need to not only put a large amount of time and finance into getting the house in good solid shape for sale, but perhaps the bigger truth in needing to face the years of belongings we'd kept stored over there for whatever reason — storing to deal with later, storing to perhaps use later, storing to keep out of our primary home, etc.

After 3+ years of sitting on the home, we were finally ready to address it this past spring. With advice from our realtor, our goal was to have the house ready and listed in the summer for autumn prospects. Given the timeline, we started by setting a tangible date for a yard sale to clear the house, then mapped out a plan for all the needed repairs. Once we had the plan in place, it took about 7 weeks to accomplish the breadth of home repairs: replacing the roof, gutters, windows, re-screening the porch, collective plumbing, painting the exterior, having brickwork done, tree limb removal, light landscaping and other various odds & ends:

While up on the roof, we realized a masked friend had been temporarily taking shelter in our chimney:

Amidst coordinating all the repairs, on the weekends we'd make dedicated trips to the house to address the storage inside, holding ourselves accountable to make some tough decisions. We were able to quickly decipher between yard sale, Craigslist, Goodwill or "need to sort through further" in order to clear out the entire interior.

It was a strange feeling walking through the old house completely empty. Our little helper seemed to appreciate a break on the cool bare floors in the heat of the summer:

We ended up bringing back what felt like a mountain of "maybes" and "need to sort through further" bins/bags, which filled the middle room (formerly Stephanie's room & lucky we had the open space as a temporary holding area):

How's that for keeping it real? I swear we are capable of better. Would you believe this was the same room a few months prior to the above:

While it felt chaotic to have a hoarder-style pile collecting upstairs in our primary home, it also felt refreshing to know that everything we felt was important to keep was now under a single roof instead of split up randomly among two residences. Now that everything has since been sorted, I have a much clearer feeling of knowing exactly what we have and where it all is.

In hindsight, I'll admit that sifting through these "save for later" bins was the toughest part of the process for me, carrying the most emotional baggage. This was the stuff that needed going through one by one, the stuff that had been saved from my childhood, early teenage years, letters from those that have since passed away, the things that had been passed down to me when I was too young to really honor them in a meaningful way — a time capsule of boxes and bins I'd stored in Tim's garage with the plan to go through it all "someday."

As funny as it sounds, I set a goal of getting through the room over the course of 3 weekends — no outings, no excuses. I stuck to the timeline and it took me every hour of those three weekends to get through it. Pro-tip: On Friday nights I would turn on a new episode of Hoarders in order to pump myself up to keep going until it was done.

Going through it all, I understood why I'd been subliminally pushing it all aside for so many years. There were some tears, but more often than not a good laugh and lots of picture texts to family and friends as I rediscovered treasures that unlocked memories I'd long since forgotten. There was a surreal feeling to it — now the adult version of myself peering through a window into a past where the perspective is completely shifted. Life is funny like that.

By late July we'd gotten the house in shape both inside and out, ready for listing on the Richmond market. While still retaining the same bones, the house felt refreshed and like a new space — one of those weird hindsight feelings of wondering why we didn't do these things sooner or while we lived there (life again, does funny things).

Early on our realtor joked that the house would sell during the one window we'd set aside for vacationing in Italy — and that's precisely how it happened. We were sitting on the terrace overlooking the pastoral hills of Umbria with limited wifi when Tim received the initial offer via mobile email. From there, completely over email while abroad we worked with our realtor through the negotiation, contracting and even inspection process. We laughed both at the timing and the ability to press forward with the help of technology.

The final closing date came in mid-October. As a final goodbye on the eve of closing, we planned a final dinner in the old house. It was a makeshift picnic-style meal of takeout Thai food from our old neighborhood favorite, paired with a freshly popped open bottle of bubbly.

Stephanie was able to join in and it was a fun way to reminisce on the memories and think about just how far we've come. When packing everything up and locking the door one final time, the emotion of it all bubbled up in that moment more than we'd expected. While proud of our accomplishment and seeing it through to sale, this was a bittersweet moment of letting go.

Now further removed and on the other end, we are entering this year grateful —

Grateful for not only the shelter our old house provided, but the memories made. Grateful for our ability to hold onto the house until the real estate market returned and we were in a head space ready to tackle the work ahead. Grateful for pushing ourselves to go through years of storage and emotional baggage, challenging ourselves to let go and for feeling organized, simplified and clear on the other side. Grateful for the tradesmen we met, the home repair work we learned how to price out and the contacts we've made moving into new projects. Grateful for a quick sale and the place we find ourselves in now — a single home to focus on, and less weight to carry.

As you can gather, this has been a learning experience for us — one I am sure many can relate to with the sale of a family home. We thank you for taking the time to stop in today to share in the highlights from the largest of projects we tackled over the course of 2015.

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Monday, January 4, 2016

A Fresh Start: Our 2016 Goals & Resolutions

Though getting back into routine after taking an extended holiday break, we're peering into the New Year this Monday morning with bright eyes and a fresh outlook (case in point). January is a classic time we like to take a deeper look back into the year behind us and make plans for the year ahead.

Fonti del Clitunno, Italy

Over the past year we traveled to Mexico, London, and Italy. We continued to frequent New York and were in the big city to take part in Etsy's opening day this past April. We celebrated our 2 year wedding anniversary and Basil's 5th birthday. We sold our second home, had the entire front gutter system properly repaired on our current home, and went from driving a single car to bringing home a second vehicle. We cheered from the sidelines as Richmond welcomed the UCI Road World Championship Bike Race and crossed a personal milestone by public speaking at 2 events this year. We continued to cultivate our little city garden and tackled new home projects around the house. Best of all, we made new memories with our family and friends — the most we could ask for.

While life always happens and not everything gets checked off with a perfect mark, it's those little surprises that crop up and take us in new turns or paths we may have never imagined. Today we're excited to share a look back at what we set out to accomplish in 2015, how we stacked up against those plans and how we're thinking about 2016 as we embark upon the brand new year.

< + < + < A LOOK BACK AT 2015 > + > + >

This time last year we had big ambitions of my cooking once per week, Tim eating breakfast everyday, posting more recipes here on the blog and a handful of very specific home projects we wanted to tackle (read the full post with all the details right here). We even gave ourselves a little leeway on some of the prior goals we'd set and liked being a bit softer on ourselves as we set out with new aspirations.

So, how did we stack up against our 2015 goals? I'm going to give us a solid B+. I indeed began the year cooking once per week, every Wednesday, using primarily ingredients we had on hand in the freezer. This consistency quickly broke away from the rigid Wednesday format and as our daily work routines evolved, so did my once per week plan. I'd say I nailed a solid 26 meals in 2015 (out of 52 weeks) — which has been an incredible lesson in expanding my knowledge in the kitchen and given me a much greater appreciation for the incredible chef of a husband I married (not to mention those out there planning and cooking every single day). About 3/4 into 2015 we decided to subscribe to Plated, a twice weekly food delivery box. We are able to choose which meals we want to cook from a menu of 9 chef-designed recipes, which come in the form of perfectly portioned ingredients each week. So far we've loved it — it's made us push our boundaries in terms of the types of meals we'd cook and takes a lot of planning, purchasing and leftovers completely off our proverbial table. In terms of our other food goals, I can now say Tim will happily welcome breakfast in the mornings, and with 8 posted recipes here on the blog in the last year we technically shared more than in previous years, with room for improvement.

When it came to home projects, we accomplished everything on the list except the loftiest one of redo-ing our master and relocating the laundry upstairs. As we set out to research what it would take to repair the wall damage in our bedroom, we quickly learned there was unfinished gutter work on the front of our home that would need to come first, which we whole-heartedly agreed was more important as a first step. So! We now have a fully functioning gutter and beautiful copper downspout, but that's where the attention went in order to take the next, more fun step of re-doing the master. That being said, we did update the track lighting system in our upstairs hallway, build and install bookcases to complete our front office and take on a handful of smaller decorating projects like these wooden side tables and entry bench.

In the garden we worked hard to cultivate more perennial edibles we can enjoy for seasons to come. We added lavender to our front herb collection of rosemary and sage, planted asparagus and rhubarb in containers out back, we're trying to grow a wisteria plant after our trip to Italy and completely pruned down the dying gardenia hedges out front, which interestingly are now growing back quite nicely.

Work has continued to ramp up and evolve for the both of us. Merchandising at Etsy continues to be something that keeps me continually challenged and learning; and Tim's work continues to shift from full time blogging into more freelance writing and food photography, which has also been a fun evolution to navigate. You may have noticed his signature style across the likes of, Lot18, Relay Foods and website photography for La Paloma Foods, Tom Leonard's Market, Nettie's Naturally & Milton's Local to name a few from this year.

< + < + < 2016 GOALS & RESOLUTIONS > + > + >

Looking ahead to 2016, we'll celebrate Tim's 50th birthday this year, we're excited to travel to Hungary with our family over the summer and are looking forward to all the surprises that life may bring our way. At the start of the year, here's what we're hoping to achieve:

1. Hungary: As highlighted in last year's bucket list, we are planning a family trip back to Budapest, Hungary with both sides of our Hungarian families this summer. Tim and I share Hungarian heritage and made the same trip with his parents early in our relationship, back in 2007. Now that Stephanie and Brandon are both adults, we'd love to introduce them to all the sights and memories we've made, and have Tim's dad show them where he grew up. The Hungarian portion of my family will be joining in too — we're so excited to be able to visit with Steve, Tim's Dad, since he's still fluent in the language and has such raw memories he'll be able to share everywhere we go. If we're getting super specific — a day at a bath house, copious amounts of walking, fruit soup, the Budapest market, blood sausage and a trip to the countryside to see the Vidra family are all on the trip #goals list.

2. Home: The house is in a state of constant evolution — I'm not convinced it will ever be something we're "done" with if that makes sense. We have plans to rearrange the furniture layout in our family room, swapping out a few key pieces in order to open up the space while offering more seating at the same time. This will probably happen in phases, but we're excited to start making shifts in this space sooner than later. We have 3 sets of pocket doors in our home that have been painted many times over — we'd love to try our hands at stripping & refinishing at least one set of these doors in the coming year. Speaking of painting, the front of our house could use a new coat. And finally, we'll recycle last year's goal of updating the master bedroom, which includes bringing the laundry upstairs onto this year's list <--- wish us luck with that one!

3. Food: With each new year we seem to find re-motivation to strive towards more sustainable eating. Early in our relationship we were learning about the benefits of organics, which evolved into looking for more local shopping options. Last year we found inspiration in Sean Brock's Heritage Manifesto and this year we're drawing motivation from the newly released In Defense of Food, a documentary based on Michael Pollan's novel. The general idea is eating for wellness: "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants." Tim and I center our worlds around food (one of the reasons we get along so well), and while we're not perfect by any means we'd like to try and incorporate more fish in our diets this year and perhaps we will lean into making meat less of the main star in every meal moving forward. Case in point — I'm slowly mastering the art of avocado toasts in the mornings :)

4. Work/Life Balance: Is work/life balance possible? I think Tim is probably the best living example of this if it does. In a better effort to strive towards the ultimate goal, I'm aiming to unplug better when spending time with family, complete a scrub of our collective inboxes to keep the noise down and make time to take a few unexpected long weekend getaways this year.

5. Blog: While the blogging world is an ever-evolving environment, this space remains a corner of the world we enjoy archiving in and love the friends we've made near and far from doing so. Our goal this year is to pair down "the noise" in this space too — you may notice a sweep of multiple ad structures, and a better recommendation system in the works. In terms of content, we've got a slew of new projects up our sleeves and have been hearing more feedback that photos from travel are of interest to you, so we'll keep it up.

...And now for the bucket list!
Two years ago we began tracking a bucket list of the "pie in the sky" dreams we'd like to do someday when the time/finances/flexibility is right. We like to think that by creating an actual archive that we're holding ourselves accountable for making our aspirations into reality.

The good news? We've started making concrete plans on the first one — Hungary with the family is happening in 2016!
  • Budapest with the Family: See #1 above, happening this summer!
  • Machu Picchu. Ever since I took a Pre-Columbian art history course at VCU, I've been convinced we need to see this hidden city among the clouds in Peru. Taking a shorter trail to get there where we could actually camp along the way would be amazing.
  • The Greek Isles. Tim and I originally thought it could be fun to honeymoon in the Greek Isles. Our honeymoon week near Hatteras turned out to be exactly what we needed and we wouldn't trade it for anything, though we've decided that one of these days we'll take that extended trip to Greece together. Someday.
  • The Ghia. My first car was a 1973 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia — you read that right. I still have it, though it's in rough shape and not running. We often talk about how fun it would be to repair over time and have as a garaged car to pull out on nice days.
With that, our annual reflection is feeling good. As always, it brings us incredible joy that you care to stop in on our corner of the world to see what we're thinking, doing and dreaming. We'd love to know what you have in mind for the year ahead!

Discover More Goals & Resolutions: 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Best of 17 Apart 2015

Over the past (5!) years, we've celebrated the year-end close with a look back and assembly of our most popular posts from the blog over the past year. This year was refreshing taking a look back — realizing when in a time where we felt less productive, we actually accomplished a heck of a lot. We are inherent "doers," and revisiting our 2015 projects, travel, gatherings & everyday adventures maintains that spark of motivation to continue to archive.

Breaking slightly from traditional recap format, we've decided to change things up a bit by calling out a few of our own favorite posts along with the top analytical ranking snaps, projects and shares from our collective Instagram, Pinterest & Facebook accounts. So, let's get to it...

If we had to name our personal favorites from the year, they'd include photo recaps from Italy (the house & the sights), our summer trip to the UK, Basil's 5th birthday memories, our successful try at planting asparagus crowns in containers & this DIY take on an industrial jewelry stand, which turned out so well we've started producing them for the Etsy shop.

< + < + < POPULAR ON INSTAGRAM > + > + >

There seemed to be a common thread among our top liked photos on Instagram this year — can you guess it?

Stumped (ha)? You love seeing pictures of Basil on Instagram, especially when he's accessorized, and small hints of baked goods. Noted.

< + < + < POPULAR ON PINTEREST > + > + >

It came as a surprise to us, but love the fact that our DIY take on exposing the brick chimney in Brandon's room was our most shared on Pinterest. The pin shows this project in the middle of the process — get a full look at the before and after photos of this undertaking in this post.

< + < + < POPULAR ON FACEBOOK > + > + >

Best liked on Facebook? Tim & the Costco Bear:

And now, the top 10 visited posts from right here on the blog in 2015 — once again, we were so excited to see that you're most enjoying our adventures in DIY projects, following the progress on our home updates and birthday ideas for both kiddos & pets.

1. Chelsea's 1st Birthday Cake: Chelsea's very first birthday back in March was a great excuse and creative challenge for making a cake fit for a very special princess. With the help of a few strategically placed cookie cutters, we made both Chelsea & the other kiddos happy that day:

2. Basil's Birthday Cake: While technically a post from 2014, this dog-friendly cake recipe topped the charts this year with dog lovers everywhere — it uses a meatloaf base and is decorated with mashed potato icing & pea piping. What can we say, we're suckers for this big guy:

3. DIY Vertical Succulent Garden: The results of taking part in a DIY blogger challenge with eHow back in May — we had to come up with a project that used sonotubes, an Ikea Lack table, paint & chain. We love a good challenge and were quite pleased with the final result:

4. How to Make Wooden Candle Wicks: When looking into best practices for making wooden candle wicks, we were surprised to find very limited information for doing so. We love the look of wooden wicks so much we decided to try and crack the code — and the secret ingredient turned out to be surprisingly simple. We loved sharing the results of our findings in this project post and it sounds like many other DIY enthusiasts were as well:

5. Outdated Light Fixtures to Modern Lanterns: I'll never forget photographing these glowing votives outdoors on a chilly freezing day — we'd taken them down the street in order to get a better shot. All in all, this was one of those really fun upcycling projects where a little "re-imagination" at our local Restore came in handy:

6. DIY Industrial Bookends: Perhaps topping our own favorites list from the past year — these industrial modern bookcases have been the statement pieces to complete our full office transformation. They've continued to evolve as Mary rearranges pieces on the shelves and have been an endless source of inspiration since we installed them:

7. Sew a Simple Drawstring Bag: It turns out this simple project was a popular one — it's the ticking and nautical rope that bring this bag to life for us and it's such a versatile storage solution:

8. DIY Giant Jenga Style Stacking Game: Not long after whipping together the drawstring bag above, we tried our hands at making an oversized version of the wooden stacking game, Jenga (we store all the pieces in the aforementioned bag). Once complete, we invited the kids over to learn how to play, which turned out to be a big hit all around:

9. DIY Upcycled Medicine Cabinet: Another favorite upcycling project from the year, we found the inspiration for this medicine cabinet, an old radiator door cover, at a local salvage warehouse, Caravati's:

10. Basil in a Bow Tie: Finally, it wouldn't be a proper send-off or popularity contest without another mention of our favorite four-legged family member. Back in April Basil donned a new collar from B.W. Barkery, which in turn sparked one our most popular giveaways of the year:

Whew, what a 2015! It's been a fun stroll down memory lane, remembering favorites and rediscovering just how much we did over the past 12 months — certainly inspiration for the adventures and projects to come in the year ahead. Many thanks for taking the time to check in on us today and over the years — we wish you the best this New Year's Eve!

Looking for even more? 
In case you missed them or just want to look back through with us, here's a look at the top posts from years' past: Best of ----> 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011