You’re Still in the Running

Tonight, the 18th season of everyone’s favorite train wreck premiers. I’m talking about Tyra Banks’ baby, America’s Next Top Model. And in an effort to stretch just how stupid the show can be, they’ve changed the premise to include 7 British models in the competition, nevermind the fact that the word AMERICA is in the title. I would be lying if I said I am not obscenely excited for this. From what I’ve seen of Britain’s Next Top Model, the contestants are actually model-worthy and appear to be leaps and bounds classier than their American counterparts, so I’m hoping this elevates the show out of the gutter its been laying in for the past 5 years. 

In honor of the occasion, I’d like to take this time re-post something I wrote about last September, before I really had any readers. Enjoy!

 

That One Time I Tried Out for America’s Next Top Model.

Yes, I did capitalize that entire thing, beacuse ridiculousness as rich as what I’m about to share with you deserves nothing less. Actually, it deserves way, way more than capitals. I should have made it look something like this:

antm

You totally think I’m kidding.

Well, I’m not. I was indeed invited to and attended a private casting of my very favorite reality tv show, and it was so full of LOLs that I couldn’t even deal. I wish I had actually been selected for the show, if only for the amazing stories I could have provided at the end of it, and the no-doubt hundreds of hours of footage of me rolling my eyes or staring into the camera as if to say, “Is this girl serious?” that would have been collected. I’m pretty sure I had at least 15 moments during the casting where some girl said or did something so insanely ridiculous that my eyes popped out of my head.

It all started back in 2003, with the first season of ANTM. I was in high school, and the idea of sticking 12 women in a hotel in New York and making them live together while competing to be a model was pretty much my favorite thing to happen to television since Zoobilee Zoo, when I was 3. And let’s be honest, I’m pretty sure there have even been photoshoots styled with the distinct theme of Zoobilee Zoo over the 16 cycles of the show. Observe:

I COULDN’T MAKE THIS UP IF I TRIED. I don’t think I have to tell you which side the Zoobilee Zoo characters are on, and which side the ANTM photoshoots are on, do I? Good. Because in some cases it’s hard to tell.

(Sidenote: When I was 4 I got to meet Mayor Ben (last picture), who, it later came out, had a cocaine addiction. My dad reasoned that if he had to be Mayor Ben for a living, he’d probably be hooked on cocaine, too)

Anyway, from the first episode of the first cycle, I was hooked. Hooked. And I was a young 17 back then, too young to audition. And despite the rigorous insistence of my friends and family over the next few years, I still couldn’t muster up the energy to fill out the obscenely long application or be bothered to dig out my video camera and make an entry video. Too much work! I was happier watching it every week, propped up in amused sassiness at the edge of my seat, frequently spouting off expletive-laden tirades about the sheer idiocy and ugliness of certain contestants, and then having deeply passionate bashing sessions with my best friend about each episode. Oh, and, you know, attending college in an attempt to expand my mind and stuff. If I had decided to defer a semester to appear on a reality tv show about modeling, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have lived to finish the end of my sentence, so quickly would my mother’s wrath come.

Until last year. Two years ago, at the age of 23 (which is the equivalent of being 53 in the modeling world), I was unemployed college graduate hovering on the brink of a meltdown that could only be brought on by working my butt off for 4 sleepless years only to leave school faced with zero job prospects. I certainly wasn’t getting phone calls from French Vogue or anything, so maybe it was time to STOP BEING LAZY and take a picture of my face and submit it to the casting director of Top Model.

I’d post that picture here, but just imagine someone of incredible beauty and charm who has never once had an entire conversation with a piece of spinach between their teeth. Or someone who has never, ever mini-braided her entire head when she was home sick with mono for a week, or worn bright orange corduroys in earnest. Ahem.

What, I have to show you? God, you guys are so needy. Fine.

Gosh, happy now? Don’t judge me too harshly, I had just woken up.

(But seriously, here is the shot I used:

See? I told you I’ve always had bangs.)

A few days later, my phone rang with a number I didn’t recognize. A lovely man (we’ll call him G., which isn’t his real name but isn’t that much of a stretch from the one-letter-name he did have) asked for the aforementioned scion of beauty and grace. He said I had what they were looking for (a face!) and wanted me to fill out an application. G. invited me to a private casting in New York, a deviation from how the previous 14 cycles of the show had auditioned. Usually, the casting in New York was an open casting, but the cycle before had ended in a riot when model-hopefuls were denied entry after a certain point. I was to treat all further correspondence with a level of secrecy tantamount to, say, Apple’s next big release to avoid a repeat model-meltdown.

I should have known from all of my previous data-gathering over the past 7 years of being addicted to this show that after its 3rd season it swiftly dissolved from a reality show in which contestants genuinely wanted to model into something that perhaps was born of a chance encounter between Jerry Springer’s show and a Delia’s in the mall, where the girls were wholly out for blood. This was the caliber of the show after 14 cycles in which it had plenty of time to become self-aware:

This challenge required the ladies to walk the 12″ wide, submerged underwater runway in a giant, inflatable bubble. Filled with confetti. While spouts aimed water at you. Obviously, this hopeful found the task difficult. Or, perhaps, she is laying down in defeat at a premise so wildly stupid, who knows. Either way, this will obviously come in handy during Paris Fashion Week.

should have known, but I didn’t.

And then I got the heinously long application, and I started to get clued in.

Is this the part where you want to know that I can name 15 top fashion photographers and identify them by portfolio?

Oh! Maybe here is where you’d like me to tell you my thoughts on Hussein Chalayan’s latest collection? No?

Does it perhaps matter that I achieved Dean’s List every semester I attended college?

Aw, man, you couldn’t have even said books?

Maybe this was the point where I was meant to realize that I was trying out for a reality tv show. There was one question out of 72 about modeling, and it was as trite as “Who is your favorite supermodel, and why?” (perhaps my decision to not write down “TYRA BANKS!” with little hearts everywhere but rather than “a tie between Jessica Stam and Freja Beha Ericsson” was what precluded me from being chosen). It was not, foremost, a show about modeling. If the collective success of the previous 14 winners was any indication, whether or not you had the chops to make it in the real modeling world were secondary to how likely you were to slap a bitch cause she stole your granola bar (YOU THINK I’M KIDDING) and how far out over the ledge of public humiliation you were willing to dangle your dignity (dare I mention the time one girl peed in a diaper for fun).

Still, undeterred, I took a train to New York the night before the casting and checked in at an Econo Lodge (I was unemployed, okay?) a few blocks away from the hotel where the degradation-of-self was to take place the next morning. In addition to vowing never to tell anyone deemed unworthy (read: ugly) enough to be invited where this thing was going down, I had been instructed to wear a bikini under tight, “shape-revealing” articles of clothing, along with a pair of heels. The better to see your brain with, my dear! You have never seen someone work out so furiously in the weeks leading up to this as I did. I was doing tricep curls with cans of soup on my sofa. By any and all standards, I have the body of an 11 year old boy, but this was America’s Next Top Model we were talking about. 11 year old prepubescent wasn’t good enough. I needed to strive for 9. Duh.

That night I dreamt of making it on the show and glitter filled hamster-balls and fights about being “here to make friends” and gowns the color of Mr. Jay’s deliciously silver locks.

The morning of, I cabbed it over to the hotel and commenced what I will forever remember as the single weirdest 4 hours of my entire life. You guys, I could one day drink a beer with Madonna while riding bareback on a zebra, and it still wouldn’t be as weird. I would totally try to kick Madonna off her zebra though, because Madonna sucks.

First off, let me just say that inviting 200 reality-tv-obsessed girls ages 18-24 with an average BMI of just under 16 to one room filled with their competition is simultaneously the most maniacal and genius thing I’ve ever encountered. The girl seated next to me ate a piece of candy, put the crumpled up wrapped in the hair of the girl in front of her and proceeded to giggle like the evil shrew that she was. This girl worked 3rd shift at a Walmart and seemed to have no further life aspirations (not even to, say, work 2nd shift at Walmart). Clearly, she was meant to wear couture. It was like Mean Girls, if Mean Girls had been set in the ballroom of that hotel, sported a 24 inch waist and suffered from delusions of grandeur.

Arrival time was listed as 8am, but we of the savvy variety (read: anxious) knew to arrive by 7:30. We were herded into a line to check in, where we were given once-overs and yet more paperwork to fill out, with progressively more probing questions into our mental stability and likelihood we would slap a bitch for stealing our granola bars.

Once all 200 girls were checked in and seated, a casting director came out and addressed us. She started with a speech about how lucky we should consider ourselves and how proud we should be that we were here, because this was an exclusive event, omg! After a light round of self-congratulatory applause, the casting director announced that we would “ALL HAVE A CHANCE TO TALK TO TYRA!” There were screams, cheers, shrieks of delight and awe. Someone in the back fainted. “OH MY GOD, TYRA!” more than one hopeful yelled. Doubting the possibility that Ms. Banks herself was sitting in the adjacent ballroom behind a casting table, I remained silent. Which was smart, because then the casting director finished her sentence:

“…to a camera.”

A duh.

But far be it from the casting directors to be mean about it, oh no. Since we were only able to address ourselves to Tyra on camera, they would at least make it feel like she was there. How, you ask? By taping this picture of her to the bottom of the camera, obviously:

After some more precursory warnings about turning your cell phones off so the cameras next door didn’t pick up interference, suggestions to wipe off ay excessive makeup so you don’t look too “overdone”, and one last speech that went something like, “Don’t walk in there and tell us you’re going to be the bitch of the house, because the bitch of the house doesn’t know she’s the bitch, that’s why she’s the bitch,” it was time for the waiting to begin. They were going to bring the girls into the adjoining ballroom in groups of 30, from which they would pick their favorites, the lucky select few who would then go on to the semi-final round.

I was number 39, so I would be in the second group. But it took over an hour and a half for the first group to finish, which we were made aware of by the processional of 9 very squealy girls back to their seats. The other 31 girls were gone. Never to be seen (or see the light of trashy reality tv!) again. If it was going to take, on average, an hour and a half for each group to be run through the ringer behind door number 2, I felt really, really sorry for girls 170-200.

Once we were escorted in, clutching only our many applications and three photographs of ourselves (a headshot, a full body shot, and a shot in a bikini), were were lined up in numerical order. The room had a long table along one side, directly behind a camera, behind which sat several casting directors, facing a large white backdrop lit by two large stand up lights. We had to step in front of the camera, on a little pink-tape T marker on the ground (an homage to Ms. Tyra, no doubt) and say our name, age, where we were from, and then file off the other side. I followed a 5’5″, 160lb diva who donned a pair of black sunglasses with oversized rhinestones around the rims solely for the purpose of taking them off and delivering her lines to camera (which she did, by the way, in a faux British accent, though she hailed form Boston). She referred to herself only as “Duchess.” I’m so not kidding.

Among the other memorable auditions, there was a blond stunner imported from Malmo, Sweden, a girl who got hit by a car and broke her foot 3 days before the audition and still showed up (she possesses DETERMINATION, YOU GUYS), and a girl who wore an approximation of a shirt in the form of a sheer scarf tied into a halter top and jeans so low I was almost able to see the results of her annual gynecological exam from 30 feet away. After she introduced herself, she pointed at her stomach with both her index fingers and said, “I had a kid two months ago.” You know, in case you thought children came from somewhere else. The piece-de-resistance wasn’t that by 19 she had successfully brought life into this world and had mastered the fine art of turning tiny amounts of fabric into full outfits, it was that she was picked to stay for the next round.

Once all 30 of us had done our bit, we were told that in the next portion we would be judged on our runway walks. Once again, we were supposed to take our mark while they played music, strut out toward the camera to another pink-tape T marker, strike our best runway pose, and strut back. For someone that has trouble functioning in ballet flats, this was to be a feat of epic proportions. Luckily, they put on some awesome music:

Because they had to loop it so that 30 girls could complete their walks, I heard this song more than enough times to have it successfully and permanently embedded in my brain for the next 6 months. I defy you to listen to this and not want to grind up against the nearest object, human or otherwise. It is not possible!

This is actually a very appropriate theme song for the entire premise of Top Model, if you think about it.  First off, the shutter noise at the beginning and end reminds you that yes! Models are photographed! There’s even a reference to Gucci in there. Hello! Gucci is a very famous designer. “None of these chicks look better than me” is probably the most commonly used phrase amongst contestants in the confessionals, right after “hate, hate, hate” which is also repeated throughout the song. And she sings “1-2-4-3,” which I know sounds incorrect, but actually represents the way a large majority of the girls auditioning probably count. In case I have not made this abundantly clear, let me remind you that having a brain is considered a detriment to reality tv.

After we were all done, we had to stand around while the casting directors conferred behind their table and looked over our applications and photos while making their judgements. Because they are not at all cruel, they put the song back on so we would have something to listen to while we waited. I imagine those 5 minutes are what someone undergoing sensory torture endures.

Then they called fewer than 10 numbers representing the girls who were still in the running toward becoming super humiliated in the next round of auditions. Alas, mine was not one of them. From what we were told, the next round of the casting including stripping down to your  bikini and being measured (height, body proportions), and probably some more cat-walking, before the ritualistic sacrificing of the uglies. Maybe even a dianetics test, I don’t know! It must have been an awfully long process though, to cull the group down to a workable amount of girls deemed “fit” to appear on the show. Obviously, “fit” meant you frequent nude beaches, hit things when you are angry, and think books are like, waaay too much work.

I released with the other lowly girls into the lobby. G was there, in all his lovely and effervescent glory, and he genuinely pouted when he saw me on my way out. He asked me to email him a few months later for the next cycle’s casting, but after the entire experience that morning, I decided firmly against it.

Look, it’s not that I’m deluded enough to think that the best way to enter the modeling industry is at the hands of Tyra Banks, a woman who, while an acclaimed model, wears more spandex bodysuits than will ever be acceptable and who sometimes makes girls dress up like characters from vintage 80s live-action tv shows. Don’t misinterpret that, I love the woman and would have loved the opportunity to be on that show, if only to be the linchpin of sanity and intelligence in an otherwise crazy house of 15 girls who refer to themselves in the 3rd person. And, well, I do love the industry and who wouldn’t want to be a model? On some level, I knew that trying out would shatter all of my delusions about the show, and that I’d be forced to realize that wanting to be a model and wanting to be on a reality tv show are two mutually exclusive things that only barely overlap on Top Model. What I should have done was try out for the show when it was still sort of new and meant to be taken seriously. Like, 6 years ago.

But if the show wasn’t the complete circus it has turned into today (which it is, though it’s toned itself down the past two seasons because there are legitimate prizes to be won now, like appearing in Vogue Italia. There are still some absolutely stunning and classy girls that appear on the show who have tons of potential and who end up getting signed regardless of if they win or not) then I wouldn’t love it half as much as I do, and therefore I wouldn’t have been drawn to audition in the first place. Does that even make sense? I love it because it is ridiculous, and while I’m way too old and wise to audition for it again, I will still watch old cycles on youtube to relive the glory days.

There. Over 3 thousand words on my obsession with America’s Next Top Model. It’s to the point that I once put together a list of girls who were doppelgangers of girls from other cycles. It was pretty impressive. Maybe I’ll post that next week.

Enjoy your weekend! You’re still in the running toward becoming America’s Next. Top. Model.

Whew. There you have it. And for the record, despite it being an “exclusive, invite-only casting” no one who auditioned in New York made it onto the show. Three of the contestants were from Texas. I don’t understand the world.

Will you watch tonight? For my British contingent, all 7 of the contestants have already appeared on cycles of Britain’s Next Top Model, and most were the runner-up of their season. And yes, before you ask, I do only watch crap tv. 

Oscar

If I had participated in any sort of Oscar pool last night, I surely would have lost. The only awards I got right were Christopher Plummer (! yay!) for Best Supporting Actor, and “Midnight in Paris” for Best Original Screenplay (! double yay!). I wanted Gary Oldman to win Best Actor (obviously) and Rooney Mara to win for Best Actress (double obviously. I vote with my heart). Neither won, but can we just bask in this magnificence for a moment?

Rooney Mara in Givenchy. Be still my heart. Look at her darling hands. When the film won Best Editing, one of the editors called her “Roons.” Do you think she’ll mind if I start calling her that? It’s so adorable. Roons.

And this. It breaks my heart because he’s so good looking even with the snarl, and because she is so good looking even though she is my mortal enemy. I tried Photoshopping my head onto hers but it did not work and just made me feel worse.

Did you watch? Who do you think should have won the major awards? Who was on your best dressed list? I thought Billy Crystal did a very good job hosting; I found myself laughing out loud a few times. What were your overall impressions of the show? Love it? Hate it? Oh, and happy Monday!

Friday Five

Of the many things in this world I do not understand (fractions, math in general, why the word “naked” isn’t pronounced like “raked, baked, faked, caked, etc”, LOST, Republicans) I have to say that Time Zones have moved to the top of the list. I finally got comfortable with England being 5 hours ahead (unless it’s daylight savings time, in which case, your guess is as good as mine) to talk with my family, but no one ever gave me a lesson on how to tell time what it is in India. I have googled “time in Bangalore” like, a million times so far this week. It’s 10 1/2 hours ahead. That’s math I can’t even do! Do you know how I figure it out? I add a half an hour to whatever time it is now and then subtract two hours. Wouldn’t it make sense to just subtract an hour and half, you ask? The string of expletives that just left my mouth is not suitable for dictation on the blog. Leave me alone, I don’t understand numbers.

Bad segue alert: One number I definitely understand is five. As in Friday Five. I know, I know, I can hear you guys groaning at how cheesy that was.

 1. Bowl / 2. Print / 3. Moisturizer / 4. Candle / 5. Bag

 That bowl, that gorgeous, matte black, gold lined bowl is from IKEA. IKEA! I can’t even. I don’t need it. I don’t have anywhere to put it. And my local store doesn’t even have it in stock (but since when has that ever stopped me?). But guess what? Through sheer will power alone, I will have that bowl in my life. Just you watch.

You girls are always saying I have Lisbeth like internet-skills, which is equal parts flattering and crazy, but I’ll take it as a compliment none the less. I stumbled across this print, by artist Alice Zhang, somewhere online. The fact that I don’t remember where or how I got to it sort of furthers your point, doesn’t it? The Lisbeth in the painting is inspired by Rooney Mara’s portrayal of her, rather than Noomi Rapace’s original role, but that’s fine by me. I love Rooney, and I love the vivid colors in this print. Isn’t it striking?

I’ve done a beauty-routine overhaul (exaggeration) in the past week; I’ve changed my toothpaste and added a new moisturizer to my nighttime routine after reading the side of my daily moisturizer and finding “Use only in A.M.” on the side of it. I started using this only a few nights ago, and my skin is dewey soft and glowing in the morning. I’m a Clinique lover, have been since I was 13 and always will be. Their products are all 100% fragrance-free, non-comedogenic, and allergy tested. Sure, it’s expensive, but I’ll gladly pay $45 for nighttime moisturizer to have skin that looks great. I realize I’m now spending $90 on moisturizer. At least I won’t get too wrinkly later in life, right?

My sister-in-law and brother got me a gift certificate to a boutique in Philly that happens to sell, among other things, Diptyque candles. After work today I’m heading over and picking up this limited edition scent, Rosa Mundi, which smells like heaven in a pretty glass jar. This will be my first Diptyque candle. Is there some sort of ceremony for that?

This Kate Spade tote doesn’t need any more explanation other than it reminds me of the opening credits of Gossip Girl. And I’m resisting the urge to buy it. Though an open-top tote is probably a really good idea if you’re looking to get pick-pocketed, but impractical otherwise.

Okay, lovelies. What are you up to this weekend? Anything fun and exciting? Friends of mine are expecting their first baby in a few short weeks, so they’re having an open-house style baby shower, and everyone was asked to bring their favorite children’s book. I couldn’t narrow it down to one, so I’m bringing three. Oops. Have a great weekend!

Put A Bird On It.

So, I’ve never watched Portlandia, the quirky (read: obnoxious) show on IFC that pokes fun at Portland/hipsters, but I don’t need to because I have facebook. There’s no need to watch a single episode when all of your hipster friends will post ad nauseum about each episode and event. If you’ve posted superfluously about Portlandia, odds are I’ve blocked your updates from showing up, just an fyi. I know this sounds self-righteous coming from someone who has watched nothing but Gossip Girl in the past week, and it is. I own it.

But the show did make light of a noticeable design trend in one of their episodes, wherein they visited a store and proceeded to slap bird motifs on every product, saying, “In Portland, you can put a bird on something and just call it art.” Thus, “Put a bird on it” was born. (I don’t know any of this from actually watching the show. This is all just from internet-osmosis.) Here’s the clip.

And then I saw this Jil Sander skirt, and thought, “Huh, maybe they’re on to something.”

1. Skirt / 2. Plate / 3. Watercolor / 4. Bottles / 5. Candle / 6. Heels / 7. Belt

I’d gladly suffer playing right into their joke if this is what “Putting a bird on it” looks like. That watercolor is gorgeous, and don’t pretend you don’t love those Miu Miu heels. Birds are awesome and make everything better, don’t be jealous. Besides, isn’t birdwatching really popular in the Pacific Northwest? Don’t fight it, you guys. Put a bird on it.

PS. One week from today!

Feeling Preppy

All the Gossip Girl I’ve been watching in the last few days has obviously gone to my brain. I’ve been having Blair Waldorf overload. Old Blair Waldorf, when she was still in high school and had a penchant for headbands and knee socks and having sex in the back of limos. It all started with these shoes. Come on, look at them. Best part? They’re under $60 (!!). I’m debating buying them to channel my inner Upper-East-sider. You know, without all of the scheming and gin martinis. Okay. Maybe with the gin martinis.

1. Chanel No. 5 / 2. Book / 3. Headband / 4. Chloé bag / 5. Earrings / 6. Pumps

True story: back when Gossip Girl first started, I took the whole “dressing like Blair Waldorf” a little too seriously. I was in a drop-waist dress with oversized red glossy buttons down the front, and matching red patent ballet flats. My mom studied me and said, “You look very….’Gossip Girl’ today.” Flattered, I said, “Thank you!” Her response? “That wasn’t a compliment.”

Mom burn.

One Year

Boyfriend left for India late last night (with a brief layover in London this morning). He took with him short sleeve shirts, malaria pills, antibiotics, 30% deet bug spray, and my will to live. Kidding. Kind of. I’ve already watched 4 episodes of Gossip Girl and an episode of Project Runway Allstars, for those keeping track. And I’ve broken out my un-fancy sweatpants. You know, the ones you relegate to the back of your closet and only dig out when no one is around to see how terrible you look and judge you for your poor life choices. The only person around is Fitz, and considering he licks his own genitals on a daily basis, I don’t think he’s in a position to judge.

A week ago, I missed a very important milestone that is worth going back to honor. On February 12th, not only was it my darling girl Annie’s birthday, it was also the one year anniversary of this here blog. A full year! This surprises even me, because while I never thought I’d be able to keep this up for a whole year, I also cannot believe how far I’ve come in that time.

A year ago, I was unemployed and directionless, and I created this blog because everyone else in the world had a blog, and I thought I’d join in. Besides, with nothing else filling my time besides praying to the Job Gods for an interview (which I got, a week after starting my blog) or a new job (which I also go, a week after that interview) and not showering if I didn’t have to leave the house (meaning every day), I needed a creative outlet for all the internet scouring I was doing. I’m really good at the internet, if such a skill exists. Need me to find something? I can find it. Want a huge collection of all-white interior photographs complete with sources? I’m your girl.

Initially, I also used this blog as a way to curb my shopping habits; being unemployed meant I was broke, and being broke doesn’t really get along with the need to buy everything and anything my heart desired. I figured if I could write about it, I could exhaust the urge to buy it, and then I wouldn’t have to throw money away on things that were not directly necessary to my survival (as you can see, this hasn’t really worked out in the long term :). Thankfully, I don’t have to worry about not being able to afford dinner if I splurge on a new area rug or set of chairs anymore. But I did. And it sucked. May you never have to feel so shitty. (And if you do, start a blog).

Back when I first started, I think I got 30 views my first month. I didn’t waste time telling everyone on facebook about my new venture, but it took a few months before anyone really started paying attention. It felt like I was writing into outer-space for a long time. But since blogging can’t exist in a vacuum, I found other blogs that I liked, and I started commenting on them. People stumbled on my blog through those comments, or random internet searches. I had two or three fans (hi, Holly!) in the very beginning, and then Annie found me. And through Annie, I’ve found most of you. And I’ll say it for the billionth time: the internet is an incredible place.I found a group of friends through blogging, a group of women so diverse in subject and lifestyle and personality but all unified in one shared hobby: loving my blog blogging. If you would have told when I started that in one year I’d be getting almost a comment a day from someone new in addition to the conversation our little clique has daily…I wouldn’t have believed you. But that’s likely because, as you can tell from my first post, I was probably drunk off Vinho Verde (totally necessary to my survival at that time).

You guys inspire me everyday to post something. And I love blogging. I love everything that goes into it, and I think I’d still do it even if I was writing to no one. But I’m writing to a real audience, and you guys keep me on the line for posting consistently every day. I’ve not only found an audience to subject to my photoshopped lamps-as-eyebrows / lamps-on-hands nonsense, I’ve found my voice. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s true. It’s (only) been a year, and I don’t know why I didn’t start earlier. I can’t imagine not blogging, now.

Or ever seeing a screencap of someone with their hands out and not automatically picturing lamps on them.

Here’s to the next year. Thank you to any of you who stuck around the past year, and who make it with me to the next one. xo

Friday Five

Thank you all so much for you kind words and hopes for recovery for Fitz yesterday. Thankfully things were pretty tame, aside from the fact that I had to take him for like, 8 walks. If he was feeling sick he didn’t show it at all, but preferred to run around and bring me toys in the hopes I would play with him, or sleep pressed up against me, all cuddled into my side. He is very grateful for all the love you guys passed his way. The only person who learned their lesson though was me, and I’m never keeping anything (food or otherwise) anywhere near his reach again. I’m going to have to invest in some sort of hover technology to make this work, as well as a less mischievous puppy-brain.

Anyway, I’m going to hop right into this week’s Friday Five. I had a surprisingly difficult time rounding up this week’s five, and I don’t know if it’s due to the weather or my overall slugishness this week. I could wax poetic and say I’m dying of a broken heart, because Boyfriend is flying to India for 12 days this weekend. Clearly I am so distraught over this I cannot muster my usual rabid internet scouring.

 1. Brussels / 2. French Lessons / 3. Gossip Girl / 4. Strawberry Lip Balm / 5. Smashbox Photo Finish

The more I read about Brussels and Bruges and Belgium in general, the more excited I get about our upcoming trip. This picture is of Brussels’ Grote Markt, one of the oldest squares in the country and surrounded by beautiful, gothic buildings, with flower markets held in the center. I didn’t think it was possible to be more excited about a trip to Europe, but I’m slowly exceeding even my own hyperactive level of joy the more I find out about the country. Bike rentals are encouraged, there are a bunch of old trappist breweries that give tours, and I cannot wait to see the canals in Bruges. Boyfriend and I also dug out our magnetic travel chess set (courtesy of my dad) and are planning on bringing it with us. I said, “I have this travel chess set, we should totally bring it with and–” “Play it in a cafe in Belgium?” And then I swooned really hard.

I received this book, by Peter Mayle, for Christmas from Boyfriend and finally cracked it open earlier this week in preparation for my culinary journey in Paris. Sure, I am beyond excited to go to the Louvre and the Musee D’Orsay again and see all the incredible sights around Paris, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t also dying to eat quality French food for 3 straight days. And by “quality French food” I am obviously referring to macarons. Duh. Mayle has a really endearing voice, and the book weaves the history of French cuisine through modern day, covering truffle festivals in Richerenches and Michelin-starred establishments on the Champs Elysee. The book is right up my alley.

Deviating from my little “Oh I’m going to Europe, I read books about French food” culture bubble, I’d like to comment on the wondrous drama-circus that is Gossip Girl. I watched religiously for the first 3 seasons and then just stopped cold turkey. My mom bought me a Roku player (a little box that streams Netflix or other similar services wirelessly to your tv) so I’ve been able to start catching up on what I’ve missed (two whole seasons!). I’m only 7 episodes in to season 4, so don’t give me any spoilers (ahem, Theresa!). Chuck Bass remains one of my favorite characters of all time. And my girl crush Clemence Poesy guest-starred as his girlfriend for the first part of the season. Good lord I forgot how good this show is. The only upside to Boyfriend being in India is that I get to watch all the trash-tv I want without fear of judgment.

I stopped into Sephora the other day to pick up a new tub of moisturizer and ended up splurging on a few things. Thanks to Lauren’s “What’s in My Bag?” entry, I was reminded of how much I loved Rosebud salve, specifically the strawberry scent. A quick swipe of it on my lips before I go to bed counteracts all the really sexy mouth-breathing I do during the night that inevitably chaps my lips. Plus it smells delicious, and it’s not gummy or sticky in the least. I also have to give a special nod to this skin primer from Smashbox. A small drop applied after your normal skin routine smooths you out and makes your skin look matte and perfect, and this version has a light reflecting quality that makes your skin glow ever-so-slightly. It’s really magical stuff. And it better be for how much it costs. They do sell smaller, travel sized bottles for half the price in the checkout line. That aisle of impulse-buys as you’re standing in line is so dangerous. It’s where I picked up both of these.

Okay, lovelies. What are you up to this weekend? Reading? Crafting? Partying wildly? I’ll be back on Monday! Did I mention I have off on Monday for President’s Day? Ah, the benefits of working with the government. Three day weekend, you look divine.

Kate Spade Home

I’m working from home today, but what that really means is I’ll be hovering over Fitz and making sure he doesn’t drop dead. Why, you ask? Because SOMEONE decided to climb onto the table and help himself to an entire box of Valentine’s Day chocolates, wrappers included. Do you know what you should never do when you get out of the shower and discover this has happened? Google it. Because searching “My dog ate a box of chocolates, what do I do?” will return results like “Sorry dude, your dog is dead.” and “Chocolate is poison your dog is going to die any minute!!” and this will send you into a panic and you’ll be running around freaking out trying to call your vet and ready to grab the dog and hop into a cab to go to the emergency pet hospital, naked. Get dressed first. Take a deep breath. Cry it out. Call your vet. He’ll tell you that there isn’t a big threat given the type of chocolate (milk, filled) your dog ate and that all you can do is monitor him to make sure he doesn’t have profuse vomiting or other stomach reactions. I’m telling you, Fitz is handling this better than I am, and who can blame him? That chocolate was delicious and he probably thinks today is the best day of his life, except for all those rancid farts he keeps letting off without meaning to.

SO. I’m home. And speaking of home, I got an email a few days ago announcing a new collection of Kate Spade home goods. I previously didn’t have a clue they even sold plates or sugar bowls or anything more than purses and jewelry, but oh my god. This stuff is adorable. Albeit a little Charlotte York-ish.

all from here

How cute are the little polka dots on everything? Or that dragonfly? The watercolor floral plate set is my favorite, by far. The colors and softness of the flowers are just beautiful. But at $80 for a 4-piece setting, it’s out of reach, even for wedding china. I love those mugs, but I can’t be convinced to spend $20 on a single mug. Even if it is super cute (which it is!).

Which pieces are your favorites? How are you spending your day? On puppy duty?

Dining Room Changes

And as dizzyingly as it came, Valentine’s Day has passed. Le sigh. Having already gone out to celebrate at our favorite Italian BYO in the city on Saturday night (in a move to avoid the V-day insanity that no doubt plagued all restaurants last night), Boyfriend and I had a yummy home-cooked meal for two last night. Well, for 3. Fitz definitely thought he should get in on the action. And I can’t blame him, because we made fondue out of crazy delicious cheese (one had two X’s in the name, which got yesterday’s song back in my head) which made the whole house smell delicious, and dipped in crusty bread, red peppers, apple, and pear. It was so good. We used the electric fondue pot my brother and sister-in-law got me for Christmas a few years ago, and then watched “Moneyball” with Brad Pitt. Not, you know, with Brad Pitt because that would make for one awkward Valentine’s Day.

Dinner was made more special not only by the dozen long-stem red roses Boyfriend brought home (he clearly is unfazed by flower-cost-inflation), but because we were eating at our NEW (old) dining room table. The table is my dad’s old drafting table, so while it’s new for us, it’s definitely easily over 30 years old.  We officially made the switch over the weekend, so we’ve had breakfast and dinner a few times, but this was the first important meal.

As promised, here are some before and after pictures of the whole shebang:

This is the bar set Boyfriend had previously. It’s really beautiful dark wood, and very well made. It’s perfect for a bachelor, which he was when he bought it. It also happens to fit the space perfectly. We don’t have so much a dining room as a dining space, an area situated between the living room and kitchen. I really didn’t have any major objections to using it, I just kind of wanted to drag my dad’s table out of storage and give it some proper love and attention.

Thankfully, we have an entire, huge room downstairs adjacent to the guest bedroom that is empty that Boyfriend and his dad are planning on turning into a bar area. His dad is super handy and built a custom wine closet and marble-topped bar for his other son, and this table and barstool set will not only match the decor in that future bar space, it will make more sense to use there. That’s a huge undertaking, that room, and I’ll definitely keep you posted once things get underway.

I should also give thanks for the fact that Boyfriend is perhaps the most agreeable human being on the planet and is very hands-off when it comes to decorating/design. When I said, “Hey! We’ve only been dating for 5 months and I don’t live here but let’s paint your bedroom dark gray!” he said, “Cool!” When I said, “Hey! We’ve only been dating for 5 months and I don’t live here and we just painted your bedroom dark gray yesterday, but let’s paint your bathroom blue!” he said, “Cool!” When I obsessed over the pendant light from West Elm he gave me free reign over changing the ceiling fixture out. When I bring home blankets and throw pillows and magazine baskets and old maps of Paris and decorative vases and candles that smell like macarons, he immediately says he likes them and compliments my design aesthetic. If I were maniacal I might test his patience and bring home something truly hideous or borderline ostentatious just to see if he would snap, but to find someone that not only lets you do whatever you want to their house but likes whatever you end up doing is like a gift from the Relationship Gods and I’m not trying to mess with it.

So given that we were switching the dining room table out for something much lower, we’d need new chairs. This sparked a crazy search for reasonably priced dining chairs that were both simple and attractive. I considered buying replica Bertoia wire chairs, but the fear of waffle-butt kept me at bay. I’ve always loved these Emeco Navy chairs, but at over $450 a pop, they just weren’t a realistic option.

Enter Overstock.com. Purveyor of cheap-priced home-goods, provider of my coffee table, patron saint of $2.95 shipping, regardless of what you’re buying. I found these white metal side chairs and decided they were similar enough to the Emeco chairs without being direct knock-offs that I wouldn’t feel bad about buying them. Where the Emeco chairs have 3 back rails, the ones from Overstock have 4.

Obviously there are minor quality differences between these and their inspiring originals. But they were $111 for a set of 2 when I bought them, and I had a coupon from Overstock for 10% off furniture with free shipping. Which means I got 4 chairs for the price of less than half of ONE original. And they came in boxes almost as tall as me, fully assembled, for free. When it comes to shipping furniture, that’s unheard of. Oh, Overstock. I love you so.

So with the chairs purchased it as time to reassemble my dad’s drafting table. That took us some time because obviously it didn’t come with instructions and Boyfriend and I were left to our own devices trying to figure out which knob unscrewed which beam and how the hell we were supposed to lower it from drafting-table height to dining-table height.

The height is controlled by two beams that sit in between the legs that make up the base, and when the table is lowered as low as it will go, those beans are lower than the base of the table. Which means it can’t sit on the floor or balance. Our options were to saw a few inches off the beams to make them lower than the legs so the table was usable, or just not use it. After some tears and some persuasion from Boyfriend that he wasn’t literally hacking my father’s memory to bits with a hand-saw, I relented. He took off about 3-4″ from each beam (in between the two angled legs on the base) and viola! Dining room table.

Please ignore that there are only 3 placemats. IKEA failed me for the first and only time in recorded history.

The chairs are surprisingly comfortable, but I ended up added gray chair pads from IKEA to add some extra padding.

The table was my dad’s main drafting table. He painted at it, sculpted at it, worked at it. There are marks, scratches, dings, paint drops, and even finger print marks on the underside where he must have put his hands while using varnish or sealer of some kind. It is far from the brand-new surface of the bar table we were using, but to me it is perfect.

And I can’t imagine a better place to eat.

Valentine’s Day

Happy Monday! I want to give a belated “Happy Birthday!” shout-out to my lovely friend Annie. The Pia Posse, spearheaded by über-generous Tina, arranged to have a bouquet of wildflowers waiting for her when she got home from vacation yesterday. Happy birthday again, my dear!

How was everyone’s weekend? I had a big dining room switcheroo on Saturday that involved a lot of sweating and even breaking out of a hand-saw. Thankfully, no one was injured. I’ll have lots of pictures of the before-and-after on Wednesday for you!

Since tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, but Tuesdays are generally reserved for music around here, I thought I’d do an early round-up of some cute heart-themed items in honor of the occasion. Because, come on. Who doesn’t want to wear a pair of underwear with Peanuts characters on them?

 1. Tote bag / 2. Card / 3. Sweater / 4. Ring / 5. Mugs / 6. Undies / 7. Nail polish / 8. Scarf

I know that Valentine’s Day is one of those divisive holidays that separates people faster than an argument on politics, but I happen to fall into the “love it” camp. Maybe it’s the limited edition pink & red m&ms, maybe it’s the fat baby cupids, who knows. All I know is that my brain sees little red hearts and becomes dizzy and euphoric. Can you imagine how woozy I would be if my nails were painted in bright red glitter? Couple that with an adorable red heart ring, a heart scarf, a heart tote bag (I have one of these from Alphabet bags with a giant serif “E” on it, and the thing is a champ. Sure, it gets dirty and you have to throw it in the wash, but I’ve had it for over 3 years and it’s still going strong; impressive, for canvas),  and a candy heart sweater that has French on it? You guys. I wouldn’t even be able to stand up. Couple that with a nice cup of tea (rose, obviously, for the holiday) in a mug that is one half of a set which, when put together, makes a cut-out heart, and a thoughtful hand-designed card from Rifle Paper Co., and you’ve got yourself one cheesy Valentine’s Day. Just the way Hallmark intended.

Where do you stand on Valentine’s Day? Love it? Think it’s a marketing ploy created by a greeting card company? Do you secretly love it even though you wish you didn’t? I’d love to know.