Monday, September 28, 2009

Déjà vu All Over Again: The New Old Look of Sound

I’ve never been a big “sound system” kind of guy. (I know, big shocker). You know, giant black speakers, speakers mounted to the wall, having the house wired for sound (although, that does sound kind of fun.) However, I love music. So, I set out to find a system-of-sorts that would both meet my needs and still look sleek, sexy, and aesthetically pleasing.

In my search, I came across a great, vintage-inspired line of audio equipment by Crosley Radio. Crosley pairs fun, timeless, vintage designs with modern technology and crystal clear sound. I wanted something small that I could put on the kitchen counter and rock out while I get my cook on in a big way, but once again, wasn’t looking for anything too big, too expensive, or that was going to require me to under mount it, run a bunch of cords, etc. I feel in love with the Crosley Solo AM/FM Radio (small black unit pictured here). I love the vintage look, the small, compact size, and the great sound. The best part, it comes with the jumper cable you need to easily plug in any IPod. Simply turn the auxiliary dial, and you’re rocking the IPod. The icing on the cake? I had this very small radio playing with my IPod at a Holiday cocktail last year, and a colleague of mine asked where the music was coming from and if I had a built-in, surround sound system in the kitchen ceiling. The speaker is located on top and provides great, amplified sound. Not to mention, it’s just fun looking, and people always ask about it. I liked it so much, I bought a second one to put on one of the nightstands in the master bedroom. Once again, small, clean, chic, ready for the IPod, and beats having some silver boom box with blue buttons and a green light-up display sitting next to the bed. You can buy this guy directly from the Crosley website, or you can get it for 20 bucks cheaper at Target. (Around $75.00).

As part of the vintage line, Crosley also does a great line of turn tables/record players. I love this turquoise two tone tolex turn table available at Urban Outfitters. They actually have this one in the Charlottesville store downtown, and it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re in the market. It’s a fun way to break out those old LPs at the holidays and year ‘round. The best part? It’s portable, USB ready, Mac and PC compatible, and comes with software so if you get bored, you can ditch the Lawrence Welk and start spinning the tracks on your IPod. This guy retails for $160.00.

So, if you’re in the market for some sound, and you aren’t ready to buy the Bose, check them out. It’s not your parents’ stereo, but then again, it kind of is.

Be Well,

Photo Credits:

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Easy, Sleazy, Mac & Cheesy: Black Tie Comfort Food

When I first began this tryst with blogging, I promised my friends I would include some of my favorite recipes and go-to dishes for parties and gatherings, so a good recipe is long overdue. I figure, I stalled long enough on the Galactica shtick, the kitchen is all finished, so it’s time to start cooking again. Bam.

First off, the disclaimer. I love fresh ingredients, I love fresh foods, hitting the farmer’s market, and cooking with seasonal ingredients. However, we’re going to hold off on the pumpkin ravioli and squash soup, because what good Southern Boy could get away without paying homage to the ultimate of Southern-perfected comfort foods: The Mac & Cheese. After all, the weekend is over, who doesn’t need a little comfort for the work week? I love comfort food. An ex-boyfriend of mine once brought me brownies, and he might as well have been handing me a diamond engagement ring at the foot of the Eiffel tower. Remember, through his stomach, through his stomach (but diamonds are nice, too.) I love Mac & Cheese. I always have. My mom makes an amazing Macaroni and Cheese that’s so good, when she would serve it, the other women in the Garden Club would threaten to pour bleach on her roses behind her back. I mean, what’s Southern cooking without a little cattiness? You’re probably surprised that in this bachelor blog I’m not telling you how to adapt the Blue Box Blues. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and place for the Blue Box Blues and the Velveeta, and I’ve certainly had many a dinner of Kraft Easy Mac, paired with a PBR on a dorm room futon, in my hay day, but let’s think outside the Blue Box this time.

Speaking of the Blue Box Blues, I was always struck by the wording on boxed Mac & Cheese. They always say “Macaroni and Cheese Dinner.” I don’t know if it’s the fat little boy inside of me clawing and dying to get out, or the sheer fact that I could eat the box by myself, but I always considered Mac & Cheese to be a side dish, paired with anything from a hot dog to a New York Strip. That being said, this Mac & cheese recipe can really be dinner. It’s good enough, rich enough, and beyond filling enough to be your main dish. Paired with a nice salad of micro greens, a bottle of white, and some crusty French bread, you’re in business. If it even makes you feel better and makes it easier to sleep at night, you can tell your guests it’s a “pasta bake.” I love this dish, I’ve served it at numerous cook-outs, gatherings, and friends always ask for seconds.

So without further adieu, I give you “Black Tie Macaroni and Cheese.”

Black Tie Macaroni and Cheese
Total Time from prep to finish: 40 Minutes Max (and we’re talking from shredding your own cheese to pulling this bad boy out of the oven.)

Ingredients: (This recipe is “family sized” and will definitely yield leftovers, so feel free to scale it back if it’s just for 2 people/a small family)

2 (8-oz) packages of Cavatappi pasta (Please see the photo above for example. Feel free to sub for elbows or your favorite shape. I like the Cavatappi because they have the curve of elbow but are longer, and a fun, curly shape with ridges that hold the cheese sauce well…it’s food, have fun.)
2 Tablespoons of Butter
2 Tablespoons of Flour
1 ½ cups of milk (once again your preference: whole milk, clearly richer, but I use skim because it’s what I keep in the fridge for my cereal)
½ cup Half-and-Half
1 cup/8oz block of Extra Sharp White Cheddar Cheese (shredded—I highly recommend CABOT of Vermont. Very good, not too pricey, available in most grocery stores)
1 cup/8oz wedge of Gruyere Cheese (shredded)—You can substitute Swiss for Gruyere if you are saving a few bucks or can’t find Gruyere.
½ Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese (the stuff in the green can is fine).
1 bag of shredded Colby Jack or Cheese Blend.
1 Box of Panko (Japanese Bread Crumbs)—this can be substituted with a crusty French baguette.
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
Optional: Pinch or two of Garlic Powder
Optional: ½ a jar of store bought Alfredo Sauce (you'll see where this comes in)

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
2. Boil both packages of pasta according to the instructions on the package. Be sure to salt the water once it comes to a boil to flavor the pasta.
3. While pasta is boiling, start the sauce. Ok, here is where I change things up. This recipe calls for flour and butter to make a Rue. I’m all about a Rue. Especially if it’s Rue McClanahan from the Golden Girls, but sometimes I skip this step. The point of the rue is to serve as a thickener for your cheese sauce, and while it’s necessary, this is where the optional ½ a jar of store bought Alfredo sauce comes in. So, at this point either a. make your rue by heating the butter and flower and quickly/constantly whisking the two over medium heat until it forms a kind of wet, doughy thickener, or skip that and dump the half a jar of store bought Alfredo sauce into your sauce pan over medium heat. The sauce just gives you a nice, thick, creamy base to begin with. (Plus, who wouldn’t want some extra, cheesy, garlicky goodness?) If you burn your rue, it's going to be totally nasty funk city, so you'll have to start over.
4. Gradually whisk in milk and half-and-half over the heat, allowing to cook while whisking constantly. Whisk and stir until thickened. Stir in small handfuls of the shredded cheddar cheese, shredded Gruyere cheese, and Parmesan cheese, whisking constantly over medium heat. (It’s crucially important that you shred your cheese and add it gradually. If you drop in chunks of cheese, they don’t melt quickly enough in the sauce and form a big, gooey cheese ball that separates from your cream sauce and basically floats in the middle/sticks to your whisk. No good. Well, it tastes good, but good luck spreading a massive cheese ball throughout the pasta. Whisk the ingredients until smooth and bubbly.
5. Add your salt, pepper, and optional garlic to finish off the cheese sauce.
6. Combine the drained pasta and cheese sauce in the original, now empty, pasta pot. Stir so all the pasta is covered in the cheesy goodness. Pour the pasta and cheese into your favorite Pyrex or 11 x 7ish baking dish. Once you spread the pasta and cheese out evenly, cover with the bag of shredded cheese blend (or Colby jack). Then top with generous handfuls of Panko bread crumbs. You could also really sex up this recipe and skip the Panko, and top the Mac n Cheese with slices of crusty French baguette. The bread will act as your crust and will create perfect serving size portions for guests. If you’re really feeling the love, throw some slices of fresh tomato on top. If you have any extra Parmesan left in the green can, throw a sprinkle on top as well.
7. Bake in the oven, uncovered at 350 for 15-20 minutes, or until it’s bubbly and the bread crumbs are golden brown.
8. Serve to guests either as a main dish, or as a side dish, and receive rave reviews.
9. Hire personal trainer the next day or go to Bikram yoga to work it off.

I hope you’ll enjoy this recipe as much as I and my friends have. Like I said, it’s not health food, but then again, I’m not comforted by Granola. Granola is my 9-5 life. Consider this a guilty indulgence. The best part? It reheats like a dream. So, next time. If you have a few extra minutes, skip the Blue Box Blues and go for the Black Tie. You and your guests will be glad you did.


Photo Credit: Effillee Images

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Reveal: A Bitchin' Kitchen.

And now, the moment America has all been waiting for (and by America, I mean my 19 followers, one of whom is my own sister.) The "Sunday Afternoon Project That Bled Into Thursday?" Drum roll! Well, I was painting the kitchen. (I know, not very exciting). From buttery yellow to a soft, milky blue, the walls above the chair rail received a new breath of life and fresh air ala Galactica Semi-gloss. While I was on a roll (or a paint roller for that matter), I took the opportunity to change out some accessories, simplify the window treatment, and swapped out the open shelving full of glasses for more decorative items that complimented the color scheme. I'm really digging the colors and the cozy, yet clean, and beachy feeling you get when you walk in the room. Clearly, the room is not finished. I still need to hang some artwork and try a few things, but I couldn't keep you waiting and guessing any longer.

I've always called my design style "modical" (Modern meets Nautical, aka how do you have the feeling of the beach, without being at the beach, and without having literal theme rooms/wooden lighthouses, life preservers, and a light house border running the circumference of your space. You could also think of it as "Urban Beach Cottage." I try to achieve this idea through soft colors that remind me of the ocean, sea glass, sand, and the faded facades of white washed beach cottages. I like to mix textures, materials, and the old with the new. For example, I love having the modern, stainless steel island in the kitchen with the antique Baker's Cabinet that used to hold toys in my childhood bedroom. I really like the juxtaposition of the hard and soft elements, both serving their own unique purpose in the space. When I think of a beach house, I think of a comfortable collection of family treasures, found objects, and mismatched pieces that now have a new life. It's more about creating a feeling than a look, because let's face it, I don't live at the beach. Taking the idea too far would be the same as decking this place out in a Southwest theme. I mean, who wouldn't want a living room full of dream catchers, cacti, and paintings of coyotes and wolves howling at a blue corn moon? I want my guests in my home to feel comfortable, safe, and like they've stepped into a home away from home. That same feeling you get when you walk into a beach cottage. I hope you like it as much as I do. Readers, let me know what you think. Now, to go scrub the Galactica semi-gloss off of my fingernails.

(Click on photos for high resolution)

Here are a few Before Shots:

Who knew 17 bucks worth of paint, some rearranged accessories, and a few extra evenings after work could make such a difference? It just shows you, folks. You don't have to go crazy to get crazy, big results. Paint really does go a long way, and shopping in your own home can lead to a really cost-effective makeover. The best part? With the savings from this project, you can head to the real beach house. Paint on my Brothers and Sisters, Paint On.



Waiting for Godot...or Galactica.

My father, the epitome of the consummate host and good steward of the household, always told me "things always take longer than you think." Well, not only was Daddi-o speaking the truth, but apparently, sometimes Sunday afternoon projects last into Thursday. However, I think it's worth the wait. The big reveal will be tomorrow, so get excited...or at least pretend to be.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Little Night Music

I thought I would briefly transition back into party planning mode and keep you in suspense for a little longer in regards to what part of my world is now coated in a gallon of Galactica semi-gloss (that, and I'm not finished...sometimes Sunday afternoon projects bleed into Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.)

When we're planning our next shin-dig, whether it be a simple, September Saturday Night in the backyard with the fire pit-a-blaze, an engagement cocktail party, a themed dinner party, or a sit-down Sunday brunch for 6, what are we going to focus on? Well, the food, the drinks, and the decor, of course. Or as I like to call them, The 3 D's: Decor, Drinks, & Deliciousness. And why wouldn't we focus on these things? Having quality food, beverages, and a timeless design plan can either a. make you a chapter in Colin Cowie's next book or b. make you the laughing stock amongst all of the women in your Glaze Your Own Pottery class. I mean, who wants to go to a party with no food and libations? Not this guy. While these are the staples of the successful shin-dig, there's still more to it than that. Today's lesson: Don't Neglect the Music. So, on the bottom of your planning list, under "Drive to Foods of All 'Inflations' and buy impressive cheeses", write "pick out music for party." Done.

I love music. I think music is one of the ways we are really able to connect to people. Whether it be going to a concert with your friends or hearing a song in a restaurant that everyone knows/yet haven't heard since high school, music is a memorable element of many happy occasions for a lot of people. I mean, who doesn't love those moments when everyone in the bar starts singing the words "Josie's on a vacation far away, come around and talk if over" at the top of their lungs?" I certainly do. I think picking the right music can not only enhance the mood of your next party, but it can make for a much more memorable evening for your guests. Whenever I've planned or catered a party for friends in their home, I include samples of the music in the design proposal. I use music to really convey a theme and a concept. Let's face it, there's a big difference between a sleek Holiday cocktail with peppermint martinis and a "bring your children" Holiday Open House. It's Bing Crosby vs. Bling Crosby. You want to put thought into your music selections.

I'm going to be honest for a moment (like that's something new). If I come to your dress up cocktail party and you start playing Britney Spears' "Circus," I'm going to judge you a little bit. It's not a bad jam, but save it for the club, or for the hour prior to the party when you're getting ready, dancing around in your underwear, and reminding yourself how fabulous you are. This example highlights the underlying thought to this all. You want to think about the purpose of the music. If you're rolling up the carpet in the living room and having dance party, awesome. Pump up the volume, Pump up the volume, Pump up the volume, Dance, Dance. However, if the music is meant to be background music to fill any awkward silences over dinner or to distract from and drown out the fact that your new condo is next to the train tracks, then it's a different ball game.

We all make a lot of simple mistakes when it comes to the music. The first being that we play it too loud. Your guests should never have to shout because they can't hear each other over your "smooth jazz." We also pick the wrong music for the occasion (please see the aforementioned Britney example.) If the music is solely meant to be in the background in areas where guests are going to be talking and mingling, I typically go more instrumental. It provides a great opportunity for you to break out songs from jazz legends, new electronica/fusion artists, and no one gets bogged down in trying to listen to words that they can't quite hear clearly. One of my favorite things to do is find funky, instrumental versions of classic songs (and no, I'm not talking elevator Muzak). You get the memorable melody, with a twist. If you're having an event outside, you have more room to play, so have fun with it. Go for some Motown classics for the background cocktail, or bluegrass for the barbecue, and turn it up a little bit. Whatever you do, keep it at a good volume and consider the purpose/feeling and mood you're trying to convey. Maybe you love REO Speedwagon, but maybe they don't go so well with Eggs Benedict and mimosas served in your Tiffany champagne flutes.

I'm a big fan of the playlist. I think crafting a quality playlist for your Ipod is a wonderful shout out to the lost art of the Mix Tape. Seriously, if a guy wants to win my heart, he needs to stand outside my window with an old school Boom Box over his head ala "Say Anything." However, I think playlists could be a whole other, endless entry, and I'm all about making this super easy for folks. So, I thought I would include a few of my favorite "Go To" albums that I like to rotate and rock at various occasions at my house. I think having a few CDs you can pull off your shelf and pop in the player is a wise investment. It's very set it and forget it. You can let it play, knowing the next song isn't going to be something offensive or something you're going to want to run to the stereo and skip over to avoid embarrassment. "Oh, gosh, how did that song from 'Dream Girls' get on my Ipod playlist? One of my fraternity brothers must be playing a trick on me! (awkward laugh)" In efforts to avoid any of these embarassing adventures in entertaining, here are a few of my favorite "Go To" albums that you might consider for your next shindig.

Outernational Sound-Thievery Corporation
It's like telling a story with two turn tables. A great mix of electronica, organic mixes, and smooth sounds from around the world. Each song is so unique, it sounds like you're rocking a playlist. Great for cocktail parties or sharing tapas with friends.

Sounds From the Verve Hi-Fi-Thievery Corporation
More from the same dynamic DJ duo. A great collection of old meets new, feels very 21st century "Mad Men" lounge with a kick of Brazilian/Latin flavor. Great for cocktail parties.

Simple Things-Zero 7
A hot mix of electronica/techno beats with inspiration of cool jazz, soul, and Quincey Jones, George Martin, and David Axelrod. Perfect for a sit-down dinner party. I'm not going to lie folks, this is a sexy CD. You might want to skip having the guests over all together, have a nice dinner for two, and have a little night music of your own. I'm just saying.

Whipped Cream & Other Delights REWHIPPED- Herb Albert & The Tijuana Brass
Progressive jazz versious of the classics from Herb Albert's 1965 "Whipped Cream & Other Delights." Mixed by DJs but maintaining the Herb Albert trumpet solos, it's a fun, funky approach to old classics. Great for a cocktail party or fiesta with friends.

Riverside Profiles-Bill Evans
A 2 CD set/tribute to the infamous piano trio of yesteryear. A lot of the tracks are from the 50's and 60's but remastered with a crystal clear sound. It's a great mix of memorable,instrumental, classic jazz piano. Includes both some upbeat tunes and slower tempo tracks. Perfect for a sit-down dinner party, cocktails, or a Sunday Brunch.

When I Fall in Love-Chris Botti
The legendary trumpeter of our time, paired with a real orchestra (no cheesy synthesizers here). The man seriously shines on this CD. Lots of classics like "When I Fall in Love, "The Look of Love" and "What'll I Do." Great for a sit-down Dinner Party, or a quiet dinner for 2. Meow.

Kind of Blue-Miles Davis
There are no words to even say. The man's a legend. You can't go wrong. It's a short album (6 tracks, although several are 10 minutes long) so pair it with another Davis classic or some John Coltrane. Great for a cocktail party.

A Strange Arrangement-Mayer Hawthorne
A modern day answer to Motown/neo-soul. It's nostalgic but with some urban twists. Lots of great Motown covers (Smokey Robinson, Temptations, Curtis Mayfield.) So good. This is a fun CD to use if you're going for the feel of Motown but you don't want to literally play "Tears of a Clown."

Summer Love Songs-The Beach Boys
No explanation needed. I mean, "wouldn't it be nice if we were older? Then we wouldn't have to wait so long." God Only Knows? Don't Worry Baby? It doesn't get much more Summer Saturday Night. Perfect for a summer barbecue/outdoor gathering. This one is sure to have your guests singing along.

Reach Out: The Motown Record -Human Nature
Australia's premier male vocal group takes a fun spin at Motown classics. "My Girl" "Ooh Baby Baby, etc." Has a great orchestra sound. Nice covers. Great for a barbecue or casual night on the deck with friends.

Melody A.M.- Royksopp
Think of this CD as morning recovery from a crazy night at the club. Fresh, mellow dance beats from a Norwegian electronic music duo. A fun alternative for the next cocktail party. You might even recognize their song "Remind Me" from a popular commercial.

The Greatest Hits-James Taylor
You can't go wrong with ol' JT. "Carolina in my Mind," "Shower the People," "How Sweet it is (to be Loved by You"). Great tracks that span generations. It's one of those CDs I appreciate just as much as my parents. Everyone will surely have their feet tapping at the next barbecue or outdoor soiree. If you're looking for covers, JT does a great album called well, "Covers." He does a great beachy/bluesy version of The Temptations' "It Keeps Growing."

Lady Day: The Best of Billie Holiday
The infamous blues legend doing what she does best, flexing her pipes. You'll love her renditions of "God Bless the Child," "The Very Thought of You," and "Summertime." It's that great sound that just begs for rocking chairs, mint juleps, lemonade, and catching up with friends. Rock it at your next summer/spring soiree.

The Complete Verve Remixed- Various Artists
What do you get when you take Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Dizzy Gilespie, Ramsey Lewis, and mix them with popular DJs? You get The Complete Verve Remixed 4 CD set. The four Verve volumes originally sold separately, but can now be purchased as a set. Twenty jams by blues/jazz legends kicked in the seat of the pants with steel-toed boots. Another fun alternative for your next cocktail party/mixer or Happy Hour.

I could seriously go on forever, but these are meant to be a good base for your collection. Definitely worth the investment. A great place to start is Itunes. Search a genre, find a song you like and explore the whole album. If you aren't digging all 13 tracks, just go for the one and add it to your playlist. So set the mood, Set the volume, and remember, Lady GaGa and your Mother's Day tea just don't mix.

A little night music never hurt anyone.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Strip Tease.

Meet 1 gallon of "Galactica" (it's a very soft, milky, beachy, greenish blue) **side note: I can't believe I bought a paint called "Galactica." All I'm ever going to think about is Battlestar Galactica. However, it's the color I was looking for. I guess it could be worse, I could go into the paint store looking for a particular color, only to find out the color I want is called "Bitter Blue" or "Jaded" or something equally as tragic. So if the spaceship fits, ride it.**

Where is Galactica going? Is it for a room? Is it to add new life to some flea market finds? Feel free to guess! (unless you're a friend who a. stayed at the bungalow this weekend, b. visited the bungalow this weekend, c. spoke to me on the phone today, or d. ran into me at the super market.)

Stay tuned to find out what happens when the bachelor with a slight case of interior design turrets wakes up early on a Sunday morning after an amazing weekend, with a spring in his step, a latte from Mudhouse, and an insatiable desire to do some damage.


P.S. Go back and check out my post on the Coral China from Caspari. I was shopping with a friend after brunch on Saturday and we ducked into Caspari. I snagged a photo of the china with my camera phone, and it looks like my "china" is a better match than I remembered. Killer.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Oh, Friday. Where Have You Been All My Life?

Happy Friday, Friends!

In anticipation and preparation for one of my favorite out-of-town house guests this evening, I''ll keep this simple. In the spirit of treating my good friend to a weekend of "all things Cville," we're looking forward to many of the Cville weekend staples and downtown guilty indulgences (Fridays, brunch at Bluegrass, maybe a wine tasting, dinner and drinks on the Downtown Mall, etc.) If you're in town this weekend, you all should check out UVA's Symphony Under the Stars Saturday evening. The show features both the Charlottesville and UVA Symphony Orchestras. 8PM in the McIntire Amphitheater, and the icing on the cake, it's free. It looks like it's going to be a beautiful night On-Grounds, so come on out!

With many fun, fall weekends ahead, I thought I would also share UVA Magazine's "16 Things to Love About Cville in the Fall." Hopefully you'll add some of your personal, fall favorites to the list!

1. Leaves
2. Football Games (at this point, we'll call this debatable. My 45 yard line season tickets beg to differ. However, great opportunities to plan some pretty fabulous tailgates with friends.)
3. Skyline Drive
4. Trick or Treating on the Lawn (one of my all-time favorites)
5. Soccer Games in Klockner (my good friend Kyle used to be the UVA Mens Soccer Goalie. Great Memories and fun stadium.)
6. Wine Tours (Make Mine Virginia Wine)
7. Apple Picking at Carter's Mountain Orchard
8. Homecomings Weekend (even if you aren't an alum, lots of fun things going on!)
9. Music Under the Stars (Cville Pavilion, the aforementioned Symphony Under the Stars)
10. Hiking in Ragged Mountain Natural Area
11. Warm Days, Crisp Nights
12. The Virginia Film Festival
13. Watching Migration of Hawks Over Afton Mountain (I can't say I've ever done this, I'm actually kind of afraid of birds. Don't judge.)
14. Hot Air Ballooning
15. Foxfield Family Day (It's like Foxfield, without all of the DUIs, intense heat, traffic, and poor decisions...what a concept.)
16. Marching Band Practice (I used to live over off of Rugby Road, and I used to love walking home with the marching band practicing. It was especially fun last year when they were rehearsing for their Journey Medley. I mean come on, Separate Ways? You know you love it.)

So stop reading blogs, get out, and go enjoy all that our sweet, small, Southern city has to offer!
Have a great weekend and be well.



Thursday, September 17, 2009

Shopping In Your Underwear: Can I Get a Woot Woot?

Let’s face it, besides saving money, the best part of a good sale is “the hunt.” You know, the excitement of finding a Kartell Ghost Chair for $100.00 wholesale instead of $350.00, or finding your dream home for sale by owner, and the owner being a 90 year old woman who doesn’t realize her house is worth a lot more than the 70 grand she paid for it in 1961 (you’re sure as hell not going to tell her she could be selling the place for 650 plus), or just elbowing some girl in the throat to get the last wayward Hermes pashmina in the clearance sale bin at Bloomingdales. I’m just kidding…kinda. It’s all about the hunt.

However, if you’re a busy young professional like myself, or a busy anybody for that matter, sometimes you don’t have time to hunt. So, today’s super small tip does the dirty work for you and lets you have all the fun. To the web we go! (Let’s also be honest, folks. I’m kind of punting today’s blog entry. It’s just been one of those exhausting, rainy days where I’ve done everything from getting lost in the woods during a rainy morning hike to conference calls, to cleaning the bungalow for house guests this weekend. I don’t have the energy to talk re-upholstery or fall cocktail recipes tonight. So once again, to the web we go!

Ladies and Gentlemen, What is, you say? is a fun website that sells one item each day, at a discounted price. I don’t mean they have one item on sale, they only sell one item on their website each day. One Day. One Deal. The fun part? You never know what the item is going to be. For example, one day it may be a discounted Roomba vacuum, and then the next day, it may be a case of bacon-flavored salt (I think they really did sell bacon-flavored salt one day). You never know what you’re going to find each day, but it might be just what you needed (or what you never realized you needed but now must have.) Today’s item is an Eton Voicelink FR1000 Self Powered Radio with NOAA, 2 Way GMRS, and a Flashlight for $49.99 plus $5.00 shipping. You may see that and say “meh.” Or you may have just said “Oh my gosh, Christmas just came early, I’ve really been looking for a reasonably-priced Eton Voicelink FR1000 Self Powered Radio with NOAA, 2 Way GMRS, and a Flashlight.” Either way, enjoy it and check it daily. You never know what you’ll find. The best part? There’s also a Kids.Woot, Wine.Woot, Shirt.Woot, and Sellout.Woot. One Day, One Deal.

While you’re browsing, also check out Shop It To Who wouldn’t want their own personal internet shopper? Think of this kind of like a but for clothes. “I now pronounce you Husband and Banana Republic $20.00 khakis.” I Do. No, seriously. You fill out a profile of sorts, specifying all of your sizes (shoes, neck, bottom, waist, etc), the brands of clothing you are interested in (there are over 316 listed: JCrew, Urban Outfitters, Ralph Lauren, etc.), and then based on your preferences, you receive either a daily, weekly, or semi-weekly email from Shop It To Me featuring items on sale that match your preferences. You open your email and it’s like somebody was saying “hey, while you were at work, I took the liberty of finding this closet full of clothes and accessories from your favorite stores that are all in your size AND on sale. It doesn’t get much better than that. Hopefully these sites will make your day a little easier and keep your wallet a little fatter.

Good deal, my friends. Good deal.


photo lifted from emmatom.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

So Cville: Allison & Ethan

Clearly, one of my favorite things to do in this blog is to talk about beautiful things, especially beautiful things we can find in Cville. And while this is a beautiful thing that you can't buy or sell, I think it's still deserving of a spot in Simply Cville. I'm talking about love (pause for Gag reflex/the simultaneous clicking of the small X in the top, right-hand corner of your screen). However, if you're willing to indulge a hopeless romantic, please read-on.

As an aspiring, part-time photographer (purely a side hustle outside of my world of UVA/academia), I recently had the opportunity to shoot photos of my good friends Allison and Ethan. Allison and Ethan came to Cville in Summer 2008 for Allison's Masters program (which she completed this past spring, Go Girl!) after a fairytale courtship at Appalachian State in North Carolina, where they met as Student Ambassadors. Ethan works in Development at UVA, and I'm beyond thrilled to have them here as full-time Cville residents, post-UVA graduate school craziness. Along with our good friends Tara, Ray, and Sarah, we were all united over a fateful Labor Day weekend UVA football game that quickly transpired into both a friendship, and into me hosting an impromptu cookout for 10 that evening, which lasted until 4 in the morning. The rest is history. Ethan popped the question to Allison last December, and they are currently engrossed in the process of planning their dream wedding in North Cackalaky in April 2010. How great is that?

In my short time as a "wannabe" photog, I've had the opportunity to take a lot of pictures of different people and different events, and the one thing I've learned (well, one of the things) is that both the pictures and the experience are so much better and more fun if you have a personal relationship with the clients on the other side of the camera. We spent the Saturday going to some of Allison and Ethan's favorite places in Cville, from picking peaches at Carter's Mountain to eating Splendora's Gelato on the Downtown Mall. I had a great time, and they were just both such great sports and so much fun to work with. It really felt like we were just hanging out, and there happened to be a camera there. The whole day was simply, so Cville.

The Best Part? (you do realize, there's always a best part, right?) They have this amazing love between them, they are truly each other's best friend. It's the kind of love you can't fake, make up, or even try to duplicate. Let's face it, y'all. There's a lot of crazy, unfortunate crap going on in the world, but I look at these two, and I have no worries for them, whatsoever. I know they're going to be just fine with whatever life and the universe decide to throw their way. How do I know? I just know. And if that doesn't give a true love-seeking, optimistic bachelor hope, well then, I don't really know what does.

The Lesson: The best house on the block isn't always the biggest house, or the house with the best furniture. It's the house filled with people, laughter, and you guessed it, Love. My Grandmother always said the best table is the one surrounded by family and friends. You can't just surround yourself by beautiful things. You have to surround yourself by beautiful people (and I'm not talking in sense of Super Models and looks). It can't be all about club chairs, Jonathan Adler Lamps, wall paper, and ampersand paperweights (you're welcome, Sally). You have to surround yourself with beautiful people who care about each other and who make this crazy thing we call life a little easier, a little more fun, and simply, a little better.



Tuesday, September 15, 2009

From Garage to Glam: A Cinderella Story

As you may have already learned, one of my favorite things to do is to repurpose items, or revamp and rediscover the things I already have. That’s where my (and maybe your) next project comes into play. First, allow me to set the scene. When I was in school, a young scholar if you will, my parents always asked that I please not sell back my textbooks at the end of each semester. Why? Well, I like to think it’s because much like Thomas Jefferson, they believed I would never stop learning and that I would like to hang on to them/use them for reference in a future career. However, I think the more likely scenario is they didn’t want me to sell back a $150.00 book (which they paid for) for $20.00 worth of beer money. So the lesson is, The Norton Anthology of English Literature ≠ Pabst Blue Ribbon. Got it.

Needless to say, with this expectation in place, one Bachelor of Science degree and one Master of Education degree later, I have a lot of books. I also have a lot of books from when I rediscovered the joys of pleasure reading after graduation (aka how to pass the time without a husband…maybe that will be the title of my first book). As a photographer, I also have a lot of photos, and like any other average human being, I have a lot of stuff (chotchkies, bric-a-brac, knick-knacks, stereo equipment, crap, junk, etc.) But where does it all go? Well, on shelving of course. (Just as side note, Urban Dictionary defines Chotchkie as: A small piece of worthless crap, a decorative knick knack with little or no purpose. Sample usage in a sentence: Meg loved her cow figurine, but Dave thought it was a useless Chotchkie.) Love it.

Some of us are blessed with homes with “libraries” and built-in bookcases and well, some of us are not. If you don’t live in one of these blessed homes, I think bookcases and shelving can be tricky. Real bookcases can be quite expensive, and sometimes you’re just not ready to make that purchase or commitment to cherry or mahogany stain. Installing built-in shelving can not only be expensive, but labor intensive, and impossible/against the rules if you are renting. Plus, you shouldn’t be sinking your hard-earned money into somebody else’s property/equity. However, you also have to be careful with bookcases and shelving from home goods and stores that you wouldn’t call “furniture stores.” Shelving units that are made with cheaper materials can start to sag from too much weight, pegs, can snap, etc. I’ve owned my fair share of wobbly IKEA shelves, but they can certainly do the job from time to time. I’m also really wary of “collapsible shelves.” First off, the fact that something collapses is not a prime feature for me like airbags or antilock brakes. Once I put a bookcase in place, I don’t have major plans to collapse it and move it around very often. I also don’t move residences that often, making the collapsible feature kind of “ehhh” for me. I like my bookcases like I like my amusement park rides: heavy duty, permanent, and bolted to the ground. (I refuse to ride any ride that can be packed up and moved on a flat bed from town to town, it’s ok, I can come to you, you don’t have to bring the ferris wheel to me.) I also feel like when you market something as collapsible, there’s a chance I may load it up with books and then it might, well, you know…collapse. I’m just saying.

So, in the spirit of repurposing and rethinking, I wanted to find a bookcase or some shelving that could handle my collection and still look aesthetically pleasing (that’s the whole point, after all) I found the answer in the garage. No, I don’t mean I’m going to store my books and Chotchkies in the garage. I’m talking about garage or utility shelving. Before you read on, I have to provide a disclaimer: these shelves are very industrial, modern, and may be more suited for “modern” spaces. That being said, you never know, you may like it. The 5 shelf unit (purchased at Lowes of Charlottesville), typically used for garages and storage sheds is made of heavy-gauge steel (silver in color), they lock together in place without the use of nuts and bolts, and the best part, the whole unit is large (much bigger than your average Target bookcase) and is built to hold 5,000 pounds. Done! Well, not quite. The shelves are finished plywood. While I love the industrial look, that’s a little too industrial/unfinished for my taste, and that’s where Fairy God Mother steps in and we go to the Ball. Each of the wood shelves just fits on top of the steel outlined supports, so why not just replace the wood shelves? The replacement? Glass! How sleek and sexy is that? Nice, steel frame with clean, modern lines, finished out with nice glass shelves. I love it already.

You’re not a glass cutter? Well, crap. Neither am I. The easiest thing to do is to take one of the wood shelves with you to a glass store and have the shelves cut to fit the dimensions of the wood shelf. You’ll want to let the glass experts help you select the thickness/type of glass. However, you’ll want something that will suit your design needs. If you just plan to place Chotchkies and photos on the shelves, you won’t need anything too heavy duty. If you plan to load that puppy up with textbooks and stereo equipment, you’re going to want a thicker, reinforced glass. Either way, don’t expect to maximize the full 5,000 lb. capacity using glass instead of wood. I also hope you don’t have 5,000 lbs. of books/Chotchkies. Go for something with a nice edge to get that clean, green glass line you always see in high-end bathroom shelving. Charlottesville Glass & Mirror won’t steer you wrong or overcharge you! They’ve been in business for over 55 years, are friendly, and have locations both in Cville and Ruckersville to take care of your glass needs. Just be sure to take the wood shelf with you. The glass shelving totally transforms the piece, lets light through, and really takes the whole concept from rags to riches. It’s a great marriage of masculine and feminine with the hard, stainless steel/clean lines and the light airy feel of the glass. Adding your collections and items to the shelves will also soften the piece up considerably, as well as personalize it. Is this unit going to look right in a very traditional living room full of Grandma’s antiques? Probably not. However, you can incorporate this idea into your home, even if you don’t live in a loft with concrete floors and stainless steel walls. Think about it anywhere from a modern kitchen, holding extra appliances (stand mixers, cookbooks, canisters for food, etc), to a media room with stereo equipment, family keepsakes, and photos, to a teenager’s room with books, trophies, and video equipment. For close to what you would pay for pre-fabricated shelves, you’ll get a unique piece with a custom, high-end look that’s sure to hold all of your goods, give you room to grow, and keep your friends guessing.

And remember, Garage = Glam, pre-fabricated does not always = fabulous, and college textbooks ≠ Pabst Blue Ribbon (even though sometimes, they do.) Thanks, Mom and Dad.


The Shelves:
On Sale: $76.98
Height: 72 Inches
Width: 48 Inches
Depth: 24 Inches

Image lifted from

Charlottesville Glass & Mirror:

Monday, September 14, 2009

If the Shoe Doesn't Fit, Make It Fit.

I think I’m one of the few people who actually weighed less in college. I’m serious. No one really warns you about the Real World Fifteen, but that’s a different story. Today’s little lesson is a very simple one: if the shoe doesn’t fit, make it fit. That doesn’t mean if the jeans don’t fit, stuff yourself into them, sew in an extender button, or add elastic to get you through the work day without cutting off the circulation to your lower half. I mean, make the piece fit you in a totally different way. Be creative.

For example, I’ve had a pair of patch madras shorts I’ve been rocking since sophomore year of college. I’ve always loved these shorts, loved the colors, loved the pattern (if you know me, you know patch madras is a staple of my wardrobe). Unfortunately, these shorts are not my size. They just aren’t. I know we all fluctuate in weight, we all have good days and bad days, and we all have those bad days and break-ups that remind us life’s too short to not eat half a pizza from Mellow Mushroom and a pint of Phish Food. We also all have those garments in our closet we can’t seem to let go of, yet we know damn good and well, we could do P90X until we can’t walk and we still will never fit into our size 30 shorts from college….and that’s ok. For me, these shorts were that garment. I always kept them around for a rainy day thinking that one day I would look like a 19 year old boy again, but in a liberating moment, I decided to let them go, stop playing Peter Pan, say farewell to Never Never Land, and embrace the Real World. That being said, like many of us, I didn’t want to completely let them go. I’m all about donating clothes to the Goodwill and other charities, and I do it often. However, these shorts carried a lot of memories. So, I set out to find a fun and new way to still enjoy the shorts without taunting myself. I figured, if Scarlett O’Hara can turn the drapes of Tara into a dress, I could turn my shorts into drapes…kinda.

With one pair of scissors, a ruler, and a steady hand, presto change-o, one pair of patch madras shorts becomes a set of patch madras summer napkins and 4 patch madras pocket squares. A simple hem finishes the edges of the napkins (the two front leg panels of the shorts), keeping the cuts from fraying (I'm not a very good sewer, don't judge). The back of the legs and back pockets were easily transformed into pocket squares without any sewing. Simply fold the square into a triangle and iron the edges to make crisp lines. The unfinished portion isn’t visible inside the pocket. The best part, I can still wear my favorite “shorts” and still actually breathe. The fun, colorful plaid easily dresses up both my summer table and my summer weight suits and sport coats.

Maybe you aren’t in the market for any pocket squares or napkins, but think outside the garment. This doesn’t mean you should turn your wedding dress into a table cloth, unless you want to tell guests they’re dining on your bustle. However, next time, instead of hitting the home goods stores, hit your own closet. You’d be surprised what you’d find.

You work it, don’t let it work you.