Olive and thyme

Our third bread was an olive & thyme loaf. I didn’t get any pictures of the final product, but I did snap a shot right before pitting the olives! 

We made two round loaves and gave half a loaf to our neighbor as a gift. We used the rest of it to make turkey sandwiches, to eat with hummus, and for cheese fondue. How would you eat olive & thyme bread if we gave you a loaf?


Lunch break

One day on my lunch break last week, I took a walk outside around my office. Here’s what I found!

Immediately outside the exit door of my office building is this cool old “Svbway” sign. This is where I get on the subway every day to go home after work.

I work in the Manhattan Municipal Building, a gorgeous old skyscraper with a grand entrance, pictured below. It was designed by the famous architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White and completed in 1914 – it’s almost 100 years old!

My building is across the street from City Hall, which has a lovely park and central fountain. You can do some great people watching here when the weather is nice.

There are some really beautiful historic office buildings in this part of the City, including the Woolworth Building on Broadway.

Here’s a closer shot that shows the different colors of the stonework.

On the other side of City Hall Park, I really love this red brick building – check out the amazing detail!

Here’s a neat shot of some of the sculptural art on view in City Hall Park – you can see the Manhattan Municipal Building (where I work) in the background.

From City Hall Park, it’s a few blocks over to the World Trade Center construction site, where the new Freedom Tower is growing taller every day.

Progress is being made on an adjacent site, too.

On my way back to the office, I passed by a popular park, full of workers on their lunch breaks.

It was fun to walk around on my lunch break with a camera, pretending to be a tourist. What would you see if you were a tourist near your workplace?

Jen’s Studio – before

My friend Jen recently moved into a new studio apartment in Prospect Heights. She agreed to let me help her design and decorate it. She snapped a few pictures of the space before she brought in any of her furniture or boxes.

Here’s the main living space, with two big windows facing north over the green treetops. The opening in the wall on the right leads to the kitchen, which has a third window.

Here’s the charming decorative fireplace and mantle, which we will emphasize in the design of the living room. This picture also shows one of the apartment’s two closets.

And here’s the “bedroom nook,” with the door to the bathroom on the left, and the entry door next to the apartment’s second closet.

My favorite things about this apartment are: the really nice wooden floors, the great natural light, the charming fireplace, and the fact that this is Jen’s very own space that she gets to decorate exactly how she wants 🙂

Stay tuned for follow-up posts on what we create together in this space! Thanks in advance to Jen for allowing me to help her design a comfortable, welcoming, light-filled space that she loves, and for allowing me to share about it on this blog!

Feel the rain on your skin

It’s raining here in Brooklyn today. It’s a lovely, steady, cool rain. I love listening to it through the open windows; it sounds peaceful.

Natasha Bedingfield’s song “Unwritten” is telling me everything I need to hear today. She sings “feel the rain on your skin…no one else can feel it for you.” Take advantage of all life has to offer, every day, because nobody else can do that for you.

Just the other day the thought crossed my mind that this was the one and only August 11, 2011 that I would ever have in my life, so what was I doing that day – that moment – to make the most of that one day I was given? The challenge is to acknowledge what has transpired in the past but to move forward as if the future is a blank slate… just like when Natasha sings that the next moment is a blank page, today is where your book begins, the rest is still unwritten. I and I alone get to write the next page, the next chapter in my life.

Despite my fear of failure – “we’ve been conditioned to not make mistakes” – I get to release my inhibitions and go for what I want anyway. Because when I think of people that inspire me, it’s always the people who take risks, who do things “outside the lines,” who try something new and different despite the possibility of failure, because they believe in the possibility of success. I help myself to remember this with a print-out of a favorite blog posting on my cubicle wall at work –  The Dangers of Risk-Taking – written by one of my favorite bloggers, CentsationalGirl.

So today, I will feel the rain on my skin, I will write the next page of my life exactly the way I want to, and I will reach for that thing in the distance without inhibitions. And I want nothing less than that for you.

“Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield

I am unwritten, can’t read my mind, I’m undefined
I’m just beginning, the pen’s in my hand, ending unplanned

Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find

Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten

I break tradition, sometimes my tries, are outside the lines
We’ve been conditioned to not make mistakes, but I can’t live that way

Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find

Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten

Who’s afraid of a little rain?

A couple of weeks ago on a grey stormy evening as I was walking from the subway to the grocery store, I passed a cute little chair on the sidewalk. It appeared to be a give-away from somebody who was moving out of her apartment.  I considered picking it up but remembered that I really needed to get my groceries and get home before the impending storm hit. So I continued one more block and did my grocery shopping (one cardboard box full), but couldn’t get this cute little chair out of my mind.

As I left the grocery store, I experienced a back-and-forth battle in my head (this scenario is pretty common for me): the chair was cute, small, and seemed portable. It was sitting on the sidewalk asking for a new home! However, it had started raining lightly and I could tell the wind was picking up. And I was carrying a box of groceries in addition to my way-too-large shoulder bag. AND I was wearing a dress and heels.

I silenced the reasonable “go-home” voice in my head and listened instead to the “how can you pass up a free chair?” voice. I proceeded with my box of groceries back up the block and happily found the chair waiting for me. I nestled my box of groceries and my shoulder bag onto the seat of the chair and picked up the whole shebang. Walking to the end of that first block wasn’t too bad…I took a short break and calculated three and a half blocks to go.

The rain and wind picked up. My hair was whipping around in my face and big, fat raindrops landed on my groceries. I walked another half block and had to put the chair down. It was heavier than I’d guessed. My forearms were getting sore.

The dark clouds and whooshing winds reminded me of the tornado weather that hit Park Slope last summer. I got a little scared and my heart began pumping faster than normal…everyone else was ducking into building lobbies, waiting for the storm to pass. I just continued walking half a block in between rest breaks like a crazy woman…in my dress and heels.

After the longest, wettest, wildest three and a half blocks I’ve ever walked, I made it home…with sore forearms, soggy groceries, soaked shoes, and wind-whipped hair. And the cute free chair!

Here’s another shot, with the bluebell magazine rack I painted last weekend completing the picture:

At first I thought maybe I would re-upholster it, but I actually really liked the lime green slipcover and it was in good condition. It just needed a good wash and a little accessorizing to jazz it up. I already had this cute embroidered pillow, which made a perfect partner:

How sweet is that? Perfect for a kid’s room, right? Or maybe a cheerful addition to an adult bedroom, office, or living room.

The chair and pillow are both originally from Ikea. We don’t have any need for them here at our place so onto Craigslist they go – my determined walk in the rain will turn into some well-earned dough! See the for-sale post here.

For those of you mildly concerned about bedbug infestations on found furniture, be assured that I did a thorough check (see this Guide from the NYC Department of Health for tips) and this chair is certified bedbug free!

Challah french toast

Just like I said last time, we’re baking bread once a week. This week we baked a challah using Brian’s Grandmother Dubke’s recipe. Her recipe uses the word “glass” for cup, as in “1/4 glass sugar.”

Here it is coming out of the oven yesterday afternoon – it smelled divine!

It sat on the cooling rack for a while, making the house smell amazing all night. As you can see, it’s a little crooked – so adorable, right? Don’t you just want to eat it up?

Every once in a while we host Shabbat dinners and our friends bring delicious (store-bought) challah. We always look forward to eating the leftover challah as french toast on either Saturday or Sunday morning. So now that we had a loaf of home-made challah, we were REALLY excited about enjoying french toast! Look what I had for breakfast this morning:

Grandmother Dubke’s home-made challah french toast sprinkled with powdered sugar, accompanied by raspberries and strawberries, french vanilla yogurt, french press coffee and 1/2 & 1/2, served on my Grandma Pauline’s Danish stoneware = breakfast heaven!

Bluebell magazine rack

A couple of weekends ago we were walking around the neighborhood when we came across a sidewalk sale. I spotted a cute little wooden magazine rack in good condition and with nice lines. The price sticker said $3 but I only had two dollar bills in my wallet – so the seller agreed to the low low bargain price of two bucks! It’s light and has a convenient handle, so Brian and I carried it with us the rest of the way home. It sat in the basement gathering dust for a couple of weeks until yesterday, when I took it out into the backyard for its make-over.

Here’s what it looked like around 1:00pm – decent but kind of blah:

I chose to paint it a lovely blue color – not quite royal blue, definitely not baby blue, brighter than navy blue – maybe it’s a blue like bluebells? I just learned that the scientific name for this flower is Hyacinthoides non-scripta. Image from wikipedia:

But before I could paint the magazine rack bluebell blue, I gave it a grey primer coat to make sure the blue would show up bold & bright:

And finally, by about 5:00pm yesterday, this is what it looked like!


I gave it a coat of lacquer to protect the paint job and so that it would look smooth and shiny. It’s really bright and cheerful! I can totally see it in a child’s room, holding stacks of favorite bed-time storybooks 🙂

Here’s the link to the for-sale posting on craigslist: http://newyork.craigslist.org/brk/fuo/2522880742.html

If it stayed at our house it would surely hold Islands magazine and Afar – a fantastic new magazine about experiential travel. Which books or magazines would you store in this charming magazine rack?

My friends are the best!

I was at ABC Carpet & Home last night waiting for the NYC Apartment Therapy meet-up to begin when I got a phone call from my friend Janel  – she had stumbled across a collection of free wooden chairs in Stuy Town and wanted to know if she should wait with them for me to come pick them up! She even texted me this fantastic cell phone picture so I knew what she was talking about:

What an awesome haul, right? If I wasn’t at an event that was about to start, and if I had access to a pick-up truck in that moment, I would have loved to bring these home to my basement. I can just imagine them painted white, or maybe a light blue-grey, with new, colorful seat cushions in coordinating (but not necessarily matching) fabrics. I could create such a unique and fun collection for someone’s dining room from this mis-matched, motley crew of old wooden chairs!

Janel, thank you SO MUCH for thinking of me when you spotted these chairs!! I have the greatest friends…you’re all out there on the streets, keeping your eyes out for potential furniture overhauls to send my way. Call me, text me, email me, or, for those without the technology, send me some telepathy! I won’t always be able to pick up what you find, but I’ll always be grateful for the tip.

Gardening on the stoop

When you live in the City like we do, you’re lucky if you have a fire escape on which to grow a potted plant or two. We are BEYOND lucky to share an actual backyard (it’s small, but it’s dirt nonetheless!) and a front stoop with our neighbors. I’m the only gardener among the group, so I get free reign when it comes to garden design.

After half a summer of arriving home to stoop planters filled with dried dirt and weeds, I decided it was finally time to beautify the front of our home. I went for a color combination of pink and green, in part to pick up on the pepto-bismol pink paint job on the brownstone across the street.

This house is actually somewhat well-known in the neighborhood. I can tell fellow Park Slopers that I live near “the pink house” and they know exactly what I’m talking about. Occasionally, we see tourists posing for photographs on the stoop!

For the planters at the bottom of the stoop, I chose pink petunias – pretty, bright, and hardy. We also brightened things up with a rainbow pinwheel that spins in the breeze – we have a tradition of buying a new $1 pinwheel each year at the Park Slope street festival on Father’s Day in memorial to my husband’s Dad, who was a gardener and loved bright, shiny garden decorations. The petunias are doing great so far – I just pinch off the wilted flower heads every morning as I leave the house and they keep producing new blooms!

For the planter at the top near the front door, I chose something a little more showy and with more height. This tropical trio planting includes pink begonias which will do well in the north-facing, mostly-shaded space. The stoop gets lovely dappled light all morning but is completely shaded by our building in the afternoon.

Here’s what the entrance to our house looks like:

What do you think? Does it seem to be saying “Hello, please come on in?”

Bread baking interlude

A brief departure from design into the kitchen…my husband and I have decided that we will finally do something that we’ve always wanted to do: bake bread every week! He even created a spreadsheet that we printed out and posted in on the wall to track which kind of loaves we’ve baked.

We started this week with a very basic white bread. We’re fortunate to have some good baking supplies, many of which were wedding gifts, including a beautiful and superbly informative baking book from Sur La Table, a KitchenAid stand mixer, a counter-top kitchen scale, a silicone loaf pan, an instant-read thermometer, a pizza stone and a pizza peel. I remember baking a few loaves back in middle school after learning how in 8th grade home-ec class and how time-consuming the process could be; using the stand mixer for this purpose makes the whole process so easy! And the warm, humid weather is perfect for rising dough 🙂

The whole process, from waking up the yeast to pulling the bread out of the oven, took a few hours, but required very little actual worktime. Most of that time the yeast was working its magic on its own, eating the sugars, creating bubbles, expanding the volume of the dough. Of course it smelled delicious as it was baking and it came out perfectly golden brown after 35 minutes at 400 degrees. I took these photos just a couple minutes after it came out of the oven – can you see the steam?


We’ve been enjoying the bread toasted with butter & honey (just like at Great Harvest Bakery where I used to work in Rockridge) and also for PBJ and turkey sandwiches. We’re excited for our next loaf! Any suggestions?