Lisa Congdon is made of magic.

First of all, thank you for all of the well-wishes and supportive comments, e-mails, and tweets over the last few days regarding the hurricane. Max, Mekko, Linus, and I are all totally fine—we didn’t even lose power and aside from a few downed trees, our neighborhood was largely unaffected by the storm. Right now we’re just feeling very lucky to live where we do, and our thoughts are with those who weren’t nearly as lucky. If you feel so inclined, you can easily text REDCROSS to 90999 to immediately give $10 to the disaster relief. 

On to slightly lighter matters…my internet-friend Lisa Congdon is made of magic. I don’t even remember how I found Lisa originally, but not only is she one very talented artist, she’s also an incredible person. I love keeping up with her, her fiancé, Clay, and their adorable Chihuahua, Wilfredo (she even got a tattoo of him!) via Instagram and Twitter, and I love following her blog and her current 365 Days of Hand Lettering Project. From illustrating for the Obama campaign to biking 545 miles in 7 days for the AIDS Lifecycle, Lisa is just one of those people who seems to have boundless energy and enthusiasm for whatever she’s doing—which usually seems to be about 10,000 things at once. Even though we’ve never actually met (we’ll fix that someday!), I just think she’s incredibly inspirational and, well, super awesome.

Today, Lisa’s three new wallpaper patterns (each of which come in a few color ways) launched at Hygge and West and holy shit, they are goooood. I pretty much want to buy all of them and wrap my life in them and live forever in a wonderful little world engulfed by Lisa’s whackadoo amazingness.

I love this Bohemian pattern (it also comes in a very pretty light grey!) and totally want to use it somewhere. It’s gold. It’s glam. It’s great.

Also, ferns. Give me the ferns. In gold, black, or green. Gimme.

Not surprisingly, this is my favorite. Amazing, right? I’m very probably definitely going to need a roll of this charcoal/gold Triangles pattern somewhere in my life. Or maybe in black? Or maybe in grey and pink? I’m not picky.

Guh. It’s all so good. I’m so proud of Lisa and so happy to see her work presented in yet another beautiful format. Congrats, Lisa!

(this post was in no way sponsored, I just think Lisa is the bee’s knees and this wallpaper is the hotness.)

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Sandy

You might have heard that we’re having some extreme weather in New York, what with Hurricane Sandy barreling up the coast and wreaking general havoc and inconvenience in her path. Yesterday, both NYU and Parsons announced cancellations for today, and today they’ve already announced for tomorrow. While our hearts go out to anybody and everybody who might actually be affected by the storm in any way, I’m privately and very selfishly thrilled to get a couple days to lounge around and pretend I’m a rich housewife or an agoraphobe, both long-held aspirations of mine.

Yesterday we went to the grocery store and battled huge crowds and very long lines to stock up on “the essentials.” The great (or horrifying) thing about Brooklyn is that nobody really has any idea what the essentials are, so a pretty standard shopping basket tends to hold some combination of frozen pizza, ice cream, a six-pack of beer (or more), and maybe a can of soup and a gallon of water, just because that’s what everyone else seems to be doing. People basically treat this stuff like a city-wide mandate to just stay inside and smoke pot for a couple days, which is pretty cute. Brooklynites would probably be the first to perish in a zombie apocalypse, but they’d do it with style and probably while working on a puzzle, eating kale chips, and watching Twin Peaks.

Like the rest of the borough, we have no fucking idea what to buy. For non-perishables, we basically picked up a couple cans of beans and called it a day before turning our attention to something more important/delicious: baking. We very rarely bake but something about being stuck inside has gotten us into the spirit.

We started with the Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookie (the recipe is just on the back of the chocolate chip package, or here). A delicious classic.

While Max was making Toll House magic, I moved on to my grandma’s oatmeal raisin cookie recipe! Max isn’t a fan of these cookies, but I love them. It’s a family recipe so I’d need to get permission before posting it, but I love me some oatmeal raisin.

I also tried my hand at Post Punk Kitchen’s vegan Marbled Banana Bread, which Anna made once while we were hanging out about two years ago. It’s a super delicious recipe and very, very easy to make.

I might need to make another batch, since one slice just really isn’t enough.

Otherwise, we’ve been hanging out, getting some work done, making popcorn and watching some trashy TV. Long Island Medium is my new very favorite thing in the world, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is really shitty, and we’re considering buying Safety Not Guaranteed on iTunes because Aubry Plaza. <3.

We bought the dogs their own little matching American Apparel hoodies yesterday (they’re only $16!) so they could get their cozy on, and it’s pretty adorable. They are not at all concerned or anxious about the storm and I think are just enjoying having us all hang out together for a couple days.

Be safe, everybody!

 

Dresser

You have rented a Zipcar and conned your boyfriend into accompanying you on a great schlep out to Long Island. You were supposed to meet Crystal, let’s call her, at 7 pm. But now it’s two hours later, it’s dark, it’s pouring rain, and Crystal is very, very late. You’re sitting in said Zipcar on a pitch-black residential street in front of the closest approximation of the address you’ve been given, which doesn’t actually exist. Crystal has been 10 minutes away for the last hour and a half, and the sneaking suspicion that you are being pranked is overshadowed only by the worry that you are about to be brutally murdered. You consider just leaving, just calling the whole thing off, just saying fuck it and hitting the road, back to Brooklyn, back to safety, but you’ve already come all this way. And waited this long. And rented a fucking mini-van. So you sit, the engine stalled, waiting for the phone to ring.

Crystal finally shows up with her “asshole husband,” as she referred to him an hour earlier by telephone. The sleeves of his shirt are cut off and he sports a modest though distinctive mullet. They pull up in front of a dark house and get out of their station wagon—a small Chihuahua, we’ll call him Rocco, in tow. Crystal looks exhausted. Her husband looks pissed. Rocco looks nervous. You make introductions quickly—it’s dark and raining and late and everyone wants to get this over with—before Crystal and her man lead the way to a dark front porch and open the front door of the house to a completely dark foyer. You stand on the porch, exchanging nervous glances with your boyfriend, who stands three steps behind you. Crystal and her husband cannot find a light switch and begin arguing with each other, then suggesting you join in the cause. Ain’t no fucking way, you think. I is smart, I is kind, I is important, and I is not about to walk into this fucking house and be blindsided by a couple of Long Island serial killers. Fuck no. Not tonight. Not for this.

They finally find the light switch and the house is revealed—sensible, polite, carpeted, nearly empty. The walls are the color of custard. It smells like the 1970s but looks like the 1990s. “This way,” they say, moving toward a set of stairs on the left. Against your better judgement, you follow them. They hadn’t mentioned anything about stairs. You get to the top, turn right, and enter the first room on your right. A switch is thrown, the room illuminates, and there they are, exactly as they looked in the pictures.

Welcome to Craigslist.

This all started when my awesome friend Maya, who is a genie of all things thrift, dug up this unassuming ad on Craigslist. She knew that I’d been looking for a dresser for a while (after we moved my desk out of the bedroom and into the living room), but New York City is pretty much the worst place to buy nice furniture if you can’t pay for nice furniture, and I’d been coming up completely dry. We really needed a dresser—with one small closet between the two of us, we were both completely tired of trying to maintain the “organization” of clothes shoved in a hanging shoe bags and cumbersome bins. I was *this close* to just buying the IKEA TARVA 6-drawer dresser and trying to make it semi-pretty (I have no idea how), but Maya caught me in the knick of time.

I obviously don’t have room for two huge mid-century dressers, but it turned out that if I could go get them, Maya would take one off my hands. So by buying both, we were already down to $200 a piece, and when I got there I haggled down another $100 because of some flaws in the condition (veneer chips, cigarette burns, standard vintage fare) but mostly because these wacky consignment folks made me wait for so long that I knew they’d agree and I would feel better for my struggle. For a $150 gorgeous dresser (which was really more like $250, once the cost of the Zipcar was factored in, in fairness), I’ll wait a good long time.

(Plus, I got to go see Maya’s house, which is like a magical wonderland of awesome. I never wanted to leave.)

As soon as we hauled this beast up to our 5th floor walk-up at around 2 in the morning, I had to go return the Zipcar and by the time I got home, Max had already somehow dragged it into place and covered the top with piles of books and other…stuff. I have been so busy that I haven’t even taken the time to give the thing a proper cleaning and TLC, but come on—that’s a good looking hunk of wood. And it’s going to look amazing once I get around to cleaning off all the old layers of furniture polish and crap. I’ll make this thing so happy it came to live with me, it’ll never want to leave.

It’s pretty large (and deeper than the desk was), and looked totally crazy to us at first. But now that I’m used to it, I’m so into it. I think I’m going to try to polish up those little amazing brass handles while I’m working on the wood—they’ll never look brand new, but that’s what I like about the idea. I just want a little more brass. Love me some brass.

Ignore the crap on top and just look at that sexy sexy dresser. We have too much crap.

So, I’m just going to call it: SHELVING FAIL. I hate those shelves so very much.

They have to go. It’s not super high on the list of priorities and I’m still tossing around ideas about what to do with all of the many many books (kindling?), but this just isn’t working. I hate how the shelves are all crooked and how the L-brackets can’t stand up to the weight and how there isn’t enough room and…I made a mistake. These were kind of thrown up in a moment of desperation and panic (Max moved in –> 34,765,234,238,754,973 books moved in), but my dislike has only grown in the intervening months and something’s got to give. I’ll fix it.

But dresser. At least we have a dresser.

I solved breakfast and this is what it looks like.

I am a dinner person. Some people say they aren’t “breakfast people,” but I like to take that a step further because sometimes I also forget to be a “lunch person” or a “snack person” and just do most of my eating between the hours of 9 PM and 2 AM. I think this makes me what some would call an “animal.”

But sometimes on weekends, I get this itch to make breakfast. I don’t think it has much to do with hunger, but I like the process of the whole thing—the cooking, the plating, the cleaning up, the rush of pouring time and effort into something I generally regard as worthless. Afterward, it’s nice to sit around with Max and read the paper or, more accurately, not read the paper and catch up on the shows that our TV has recorded throughout the week.

The problem is that I never know what to make. Part of not being a breakfast person is that I don’t really like most breakfast foods, particularly the ones I can create myself. This includes pancakes, waffles, cereal, oatmeal, granola, yogurt, and various simple egg dishes. Give me a plate of eggs florentine at any brunch, but you can take yourself straight to hell if you think I’m about to try to make it.

But one fateful Saturday when I opened my refrigerator and surveyed the ingredients, a wave of inspiration overtook me. It was that day that I made/invented the recipe/miracle that would later come to be known simply as “delicious breakfast.” And now you can, too.

DELICIOUS BREAKFAST (serves 2-4, depending on gluttony)

2 ripe avocados
4 eggs
2 whole wheat bagels
Sriracha Sauce

Step 1: In your fridge, you will find two ripe avocados. Cut them in half and scrape out the innards into a bowl.

Depending on what else you have around, you might want to add other stuff to make this more or less like guacamole. I suggest some lime juice, some salt, some diced onion, and a whole bunch of cilantro, if you have it. I often don’t have cilantro on hand so I’ll just include as many of those ingredients as I can find and call it a day. Use your imagination. Trust your instincts. Breakfast is already the worst meal of the day so you can’t fuck it up too bad.

Aside: having a butcher block countertop is the BEST. I love it. I’ll never understand people who buy butcher block and then refuse to cut on it. That’s the fucking point. Plus, I kind of think it looks better over time, when it gets a million cut marks in it and all of a sudden your kitchen has some character and you look very dreamy and very gourmet for making all those cut marks in your countertop.

Step 2: Mash all that stuff together in a bowl with a fork. It’s OK if it’s still a little chunky. Better, actually.

Aside: buy Hass avocados. Never buy those big smooth shiny ones. You’ll say to yourself, “hey, these are half the price! Why isn’t anyone buying these large cheap avocados? Why are people so foolish with their money?” And then you will try one and you’ll understand the true meaning of evil because it will be unfolding in your mouth.

Aside-Aside: Have you heard these commercials on the radio advertising avocados from Mexico? I don’t really get how a fruit gets a radio advertisement endorsing its fabulous qualities (“it’s a great way to dress up tuna!”), but I would like to find out. Also it makes me laugh every time because WTF why are they advertising avocados on the radio? Everyone knows what an avocado is (delicious) and where you might procure one (at the grocery store, dummy).

Step 3: Fry up those eggs. The secret to a good fried egg with crispy edges is a lot of butter. You’re welcome!

Aside: I don’t think it’s possible to take an appetizing photo of eggs while they’re in the process of frying.

Steps 4-8: Toast your bagels. After toasting, spread a thick layer of your avocado mash/guacamole on top. Then slide a freshly fried egg on top, do some fancy stuff with sriracha, and serve. Eat like an open-face bagel and make a delicious mess. One is a completely sufficient, satisfying meal, but both is what you want.

Aside: the consumption of this meal is very messy so it’s a good way to test your relationships and friendships. Probably not the best thing to make if you’re still trying to woo someone, but if you’ve already finagled them into living with you and getting a bunch of dogs, go for it.

Aside-aside: last time I visited my BFF Chandler in Portland, she wanted to make me this great breakfast she invented, and it was this exact combination of ingredients, minus the sriracha. We’d both come up with it independently and both continued to make it over and over again. Are we an X-File?

Mantle Things

There are real problems, and then there are fancy problems. Real problems are things like meth addictions and getting hit by buses. Those might be bad examples because yeah, maybe you did do the meth in the first place and yeah, maybe you did walk in front of a bus, but still. Nobody’s about to say you have it easy.

Fancy problems are arguably more terrible than real problems because nobody will ever pity you. It’s not okay to complain about them, because nobody—literally nobody—wants to hear about how you can just never find pants in your size because you’re a 2 or how the maps app on your iPhone sucks now. Guess what? Some people have real problems. Some people don’t even have iPhones.

Think about that. Go sit with your shame.

My fanciest problem, I would say, is that I actually struggle with what to do about the old, pretty, non-functional fireplace in my old, pretty, semi-functional apartment. Like, I actively think and agonize over this issue, because it’s weird to have a fireplace with no practical purpose other than looking cool, and it’s also weird to have a mantle where I’m expected to put stuff. Mantles are super intimidating things, I’ve discovered, because there is just no downplaying that thing. If your room has a fireplace, that fireplace is going to be the star of the show—all the time, every time.

Here’s a fun and flirty mash-up of all the mantle-fails this fireplace has endured through its time under my care. Original indifference (with the red paint) led to continued indifference (with the white paint) led to a real conscious effort which isn’t 100% terrible or anything but let’s be real. It’s still sad. I only show these to you because, oh, I don’t know why. To further solidify my flaws and shortcomings as a human being, I guess. Sounds about right.

The thing is, the mantle itself is really high, so actually hanging anything above it is kind of awkward height-wise, especially with the wall moldings to contend with. Maybe that’s my second most-fancy problem: fancy wall moldings totally confusing how and if I can hang art.

Seriously, try walking a mile in these shoes and you too will understand how hard it is to have beautiful architectural details that you apparently can’t handle. STRUGGLES.

I’ll definitely admit that one of my weaknesses is styling. Like, I understand a couple basic principles about grouping things, triangles, sets of three, whatever, but I don’t know. I hate when things feel super forced and over-styled, but I also appreciate when things like nice and put together? When I try to style up surfaces like mantles or bookshelves, I tend to get all self-conscious and defeated because these activities seem so pointless and petty, particularly with my decidedly un-fancy possessions. But mostly because maybe I’m just bad at it. Mantles, particularly, carry a lot of pressure to be personally representative and whatever, so that makes the task doubly intimidating.

Things are looking up though, especially after I found this big old mirror at Salvation Army for $20 a couple weeks ago. It’s not super old, I’m guessing 1940s or so, but I like the simple lines and the glass has some nice age to it in real life. It isn’t, like, my dream mirror or anything, but the price was right and the size was right, which is a combination that has thus far been entirely elusive in the great mirror hunt that lasted roughly 16 months prior. So I’m happy to have it.

Somehow, I haven’t destroyed that Pencil Cactus thing yet. I bought it a while ago, too, so maybe the tides are changing with my plant killing. Knock on wood.

Of course things already look different, but when this photo was taken a few days ago:

1. the Aalto vase in the back was our splurge from Finland because check the amber glass! Pretty, and we’re used to seeing it in clear.

2. The little raw wood hand-carved Dala horse from Sweden ended up here. Scandi-city up in here.

3. Little junky piece of studio pottery I bought at Salvation Army for a couple of dollars. It’s signed ZONDEK on the bottom which makes me think this was made by one very sassy experimental potter, accounting for the boundary-pushing glaze patterns and irregular shape. The plant I snipped from the tree outside our window because why not.

On the other side is this cute little iittala tea light holder. I saw a bunch of this stuff in fleas and thrifts in Scandinavia but didn’t buy any of it (I only had eyes for Ultima Thule), but stumbled upon this little guy for a dollar at AmVets this summer. In Rochester. I’ll take it.

Also some homo photo strip action to spice up your Friday morning?

Since the fireplace doesn’t function, I’ve always been kind of at a loss about what to put inside it. Nothing and it looks kind of empty, but assortments of candles always seemed messy and objects seemed cluttered and logs just seemed stupid. So I finally had the good sense to pick up this clever IKEA PS Tealight Holder which I just think is the cat’s pajamas and looks very pretty when it’s all lit up at night when people come over and whatnot.

So the fireplace. I don’t know. Liking it, not loving it. The mirror has some strange old varnish on it that makes the wood look kind of sad, and I feel like someday I might paint it? But to what? And I don’t know, I think I’m over the black paint. But then I go look at the first picture and the white doesn’t make me feel better. But maybe it’s the red walls’ fault? And I know I should appreciate and embrace those very old original tiles, but I don’t like them. The colors are gross and I try to be into them but I’m not. That said, I need to respect that they’re original, so they definitely aren’t getting ripped out or painted. I don’t know. I give up.

See? AGONY. The fanciest agony.

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