Monthly Archives: May 2014

Book Report // All-Time Favorites

I am a voracious reader. Reading has always been something I loved to do – in fact, my childhood friends still tease me for thinking that “reading books!” was a completely acceptable slumber party activity (#cringe). There are a couple of books that I end up reading at least once a year – they are my comfort objects, like curling up on the couch with an afghan and The Price is Right when you were home sick as a kid. These are my top 3 all-time favorite books.

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1. Harry Potter
Okay, so technically, this is more than one book, but to me, they are a singular entity. I can’t choose a favorite, and whenever I do read them, I always read all seven, in order (OCD, much?!). I remember waiting and waiting and waiting as a kid for each successive book to come out and when I finally had it in hand, holing away in my room and reading it cover to cover all in a single sitting. I just couldn’t put it down – I HAD to know what was going to happen! Even now, after reading them dozens of times, I struggle to take a break from the story. I can’t get over how amazingly well thought out they are. Love, love, love.

2. Paradise
This is my guilty pleasure book. It’s like the silly rom-com of novels, the one that you can’t help but love despite it’s semi-implausible storyline and somewhat sub-par acting. This is the book I pick up when Casey is out of town, or I can’t shut my brain off, or I’m not feeling well. It’s a great fluffy book, perfect for the beach or long road trips or snow days.

3. Under the Tuscan Sun
I picked up this book after I returned from my first trip to Italy (I spent one summer in Florence during college to study art history). I was feeling homesick for tomatoes that tasted like tomatoes, cobblestone streets, art museums, bold red wine, drafty churches, creamy gelato, leather sandals and the evening passeggiata… and this memoir brought me right back. This is the book that I curl up with when I start feeling “itchy” to get back to Italy (which is surprisingly often). For me, the writing is like a time capsule to that amazing summer and a couple subsequent vacations (you can’t keep me away from that country – I swear it’s magnetic). A bit of a warning though – even though the writing is beautiful and amazingly descriptive and kind of magic, I’m not sure the effect it would have if you’ve never been to Italy. I mean, I’m sure it will make it come alive for you, I just can’t guarantee that you’ll feel the heady, tangible connection that I feel when I read it.

What are your all-time favorite books? Are you as obsessed with Harry Potter as I am? I really hope that they aren’t a weird generational fad – that they are timeless and someday my future kids will read and love them too.

I’m Working On // Un-BEAL-ievable

My friend Alexa contacted me a couple weeks ago looking for some help designing a birthday party favor for her boyfriend’s 30th. Johnny and I go way back – we started at Select a couple months apart, and worked together for years on most of the digital projects that came through the office. He and Lex sort of adopted Casey and I into their awesome group of friends, and we spent lots of time hanging out with them outside of work – playing kickball, hiking, skiing, sailing – you get the idea. So I was psyched to help out! The koozies were Lex’s idea, and she simply requested a fun design that mentioned “Johnny’s 30th Birthday.” 

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I was inspired by these weird internet mashup animals (Johnny always had a few hanging at his desk) and the fact that he used to live in Wyoming, home of the Jackalope. So, a too-cool, sunglass wearing character plus a play on words (Johnny’s last name is “Beal”) and voila! A super fun party favor was born. 

They came out awesome and I hear that Johnny had a fabulous celebration. Happy happy birthday, friend! Wish we could have been there!

*Photo by Johnny’s awesome sister, Sarah. Thanks, Sarah!

Book Report // Recent Favorites

One of the items on my birthday list (26×26) was to read 26 books. I love to read! So finishing at least two books a month seemed like a perfectly achievable goal – one that wouldn’t be too easy or too hard.

book-report-1Well.

I grossly underestimated my reading ability. As of last August, I have read at least 60 books. And that only includes the ones I have kept track of! Some of them I have read more than once… some more than twice. But one of the awesome things about keeping a list has been that I remember the good ones when people ask me for book recommendations. And this year, there have been several standouts. Here are my top 5 (in the order that I read them).

1. The Fault in Our Stars
This book has gotten a lot of press recently (the movie version is coming out in June) and wow, it’s a good one. It’s one of those books that is just so poignant, emotional in the best way. I highly, highly recommend.

2. The Art Forger
Although this story is completely fictional, the plot is woven around the unsolved 1990 theft at the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum in Boston. I am a fan of art, museums, mysteries and Boston, so this was right up my alley.

3. The Goldfinch
I feel like everyone has been talking about this book this year – not only has it been mentioned by several bloggers whose book recommendations are usually spot on, it won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction! So reading it was a no-brainer. And it didn’t disappoint! This was the first book in a loooong time that I couldn’t just plow straight through – it was long and interesting and jumped through time and the characters were so fascinating and the plot totally engrossing. Everyone should read this!

4. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
I bought this book on a whim – half because Amazon recommended it, and half because I liked the cover (yeah, yeah, I know I shouldn’t do that but I totally do) and it sucked me in! I guess I really like stories where there is some sort of mystery or mysterious circumstance, and also, I love books, so why not a book about a mysterious bookstore? A fun, twisty, lighter read.

5. Me Before You
Oh man. This book took me completely by surprise. We were going to the beach, I needed something to read, and I bought it sight unseen (one click purchase, FTW). And I loved it! The story was surprisingly, uniquely bittersweet, and although I couldn’t really relate to the characters circumstances, I totally got them.

Now that I’ve listed all of these out, I feel a little bit boring! Although I’ve read tons of books this year, in all categories – fiction, biography, young adult, fantasy, etc etc – all of these kind of fit into two of them! First, there’s emotional, relationship-y, semi-romance-y types (The Fault in Our Stars, Me Before You) and then there are the nerdy/creative mystery/thrillers (The Art Forger, The Goldfinch, Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore). Maybe I need to branch out – any suggestions?

 

PS The book that I am currently re-reading in the photo up top is The Magicians (it’s like a darker, more adult The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe). The final book in that series comes out this summer, so of course I have to re-read the first two!

Las Justas

A few weeks ago, we hosted our first visitor! Our best friend Brian came down for a little over a week and we spent lots of time exploring and went on several little adventures around the island.

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When he first arrived, our city was gearing up for a huge celebration called “Las Justas,” which is basically Puerto Rican SPRING BREAK WOOHOO! My understanding is that the Justas is actually an athletic competition between all (many?) of the Puerto Rican colleges, and then on the weekend, everyone hits the town to celebrate. We walked a couple blocks into the square to check it out, and it was unreal.

justas-2 $1 beers. DJs/bands on all sides of the plaza, and on many street corners in the couple blocks beyond. Every bar was blasting music. Hundreds of people drinking, dancing, and hanging out. And we were pretty much the OLDEST people there. It was a little disconcerting – I mean, in my head I am not that far from college, but in reality… senior year was four years ago. And since the drinking age here is only 18, that meant that Casey and Brian were almost a decade older than the majority of the people partying. Which wasn’t the best feeling.

justas-3justas-4In spite of that, it was really fun! We wandered around and drank cheap beers and they smoked cigars and made some friends and we decided that we would have been all over this if we had stumbled upon it 5 years ago. It kind of made Casey and I fall in love with our city a little bit more. Puerto Ricans definitely know how to have fun!

The One With 8,905,438,297,000 Pictures of Our Apartment

Lots of people have been asking to see pictures of our new place, and I have totally been brushing them off (sorry everybody!). It’s just that… our place is still kind of… bare. So please, please do me a favor and consider these “before” photos. Everything is very white and the scale of our stuff is kind of off and well, you’ll see what I mean.

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Welcome to Aragon!! Fun fact – our building was built in the 1920’s and used to be a hospital. We love the tall ceilings, shuttered windows, and arched doorways – the Spanish colonial style really hits home the fact that we are not living in the Northeast anymore! Plus we get a great cross breeze through the entire apartment.

Here’s a sketch of the floor plan of our place so that you can kind of see how everything fits together:

aragon-floorplan I don’t think it’s to scale. But roughly, that’s what we’re working with.

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When you walk into the apartment, you are greeted by a ginormous, loooong hallway. I was facetiming with my friend Meg the other day, and when she saw it she said something like, “OMG you could have a party in that hallway!” Yep, it’s huge. And blank. What would you do with this space? I was thinking freestanding bookshelves (like this or this), but we don’t really have anything to put on them. And although it would be a great place for a great big gallery wall, we didn’t bring enough art with us to make that happen (and Casey will kill me if I try to buy enough new stuff to fill it up). Any other ideas?

aragon-kitchen-1 aragon-kitchen-2 aragon-kitchen-3 aragon-kitchen-4 aragon-kitchen-5The kitchen is immediately to the right of the entry, and it’s been working out pretty well! There is plenty of storage, although the majority of it is wayyyy above my head (#shortpplprobs). There is a washer/dryer/utility sink in the closet on the left side, and small pantry next to the fridge on the right.

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Pitstop – let me take a minute to try to explain our crazy windows. I mentioned before that we have no screens or glass, just these built-in wooden shutters. They have two options – open (left) or closed (right), and you basically just flip them up or down and put that little metal pin in the side to hold them in place. Pretty wild, huh? Suuuuper authentic. We are obviously living the Caribbean dream now. We’ll see how they fare during the rainy season…

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Okay, back to the tour. The living/dining room is on the left side of the hallway, through the big arched doorway. It’s huge! On one side of the room is the living room stuff – couch, TV, etc. Our couch is new – it’s the Karlstad from Ikea, and we loooooove it. It’s big and comfy, but still clean-lined. Plus it transforms into a full sized bed (come visit!). It’s in need of some festive throw pillows, but so far, we are obsessed with it. I know – our rug is hilariously small, and that wall between the couch and TV is sooo blank. I’m sure I’ll figure it out eventually! On the opposite side of the room is our dining table and buffet. I think we need something in between the two spaces – not literally in between but maybe some club chairs or a bench to sort of make the living room space more conversation-y? More seating is always a good thing…

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Before we move on down the hall, here’s our little entry nook. At this point, the jackets are entirely for show… although I have a terrible suspicion that I am quickly losing my tolerance for cold weather (case in point, it’s 78 degrees right now and I am wearing longsleeves).

aragon-br-1 aragon-br-2 aragon-br-3 aragon-br-4Back into the (massive) hallway, where we left off, the next room is our bedroom, on the right. The bedroom space itself is teeny tiny – just enough space for our queen sized bed. Those sconces are from Urban Outfitters and are an awesome (and affordable AND renter-friendly!) solution to not having space for nightstands. We plan on mounting some small shelves below them so that we can have a place to charge our phones and set a glass of water down, but we haven’t gotten to it yet. How cute is that little gallery wall above our bed? I am in love with those monster postcards. Past the bed there’s this weird walk-in closet/pass through (that luckily our dresser and nightstand fit into kind of perfectly) which leads to our small master bath (on the left). Even though it’s pretty small, it’s really nice having an extra bathroom all to ourselves.

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Next door to our room is the guest room. It’s currently pretty… sparse. We have a queen sized air mattress (currently deflated and tucked into the closet) which has gotten good reviews so far, but other than this empty dresser, there’s not much happening in here.

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At the end of the hall is the guest bathroom – it’s nothing crazy or special, but we are definitely thankful to have two full baths!

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Finally we have the office. It doesn’t exactly look like an office right now, but picture it without the bikes and with a big table in the center of the room, painted in a really bright color (Casey vetoed hot pink, so now I am thinking a lemony yellow or tomato red… definitely something warm). Then, under those bookshelves, a big comfy chair for reading all the books (multiple times, of course!).  I was hoping there would be room for a hammock, but I don’t think we’ll be able to swing it.

And that’s it! Our new place. When are you coming to visit? We’re dying for everyone we know to come hang out with us and drink rum and get suntanned and go snorkeling and learn to surf and eat mofongo and salsa dance. Seriously, come on down!

I’m Working On // Andiamo!

Awhile ago, my friend Natalie sent me a link to this year’s Print Exchange and simply said, “Let’s do this!”

You can read more about the project here, but basically, the gist is, make 12 prints, mail them to us, and we’ll send you 10 in exchange. It’s kind of like an artsy/designer/grown-up version of those funny pen-pal chain letters my cousin and I used to do when we were kids (anyone else remember those? I can’t quite put my finger on the deliverable – stickers, maybe?!!).

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It had been a long time since I carved a linoleum block – since Studio Art my freshman year of high school, I think. I ordered a kit from Amazon and started brainstorming – the theme was Let This Be a Sign, which was nice and open.

I wanted my print to be travel/adventure based. Our “motto” is Let’s Go Anywhere. Casey and I are always up for an adventure (like moving to Puerto Rico!). Plus, we vacationed in Italy last fall (which just happens to be my most favorite place in the entire world. I can’t explain the pull that that country has on me – it’s magnetic and magical. I’m so grateful Casey got to experience it with me!) and I was full of inspiration and ideas from our trip. My absolute favorite word in Italian is Andiamo.. which means “Let’s go.”

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I thought it would be cool to combine the Italian and the motto (which are basically the same thing), but I was worried that something text-based would be super boring. So instead of using plain paper, I purchased some old European maps on Etsy and used them as the background, which provided tons of visual interest. And made each one just a little bit more unique/special.

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You guys, linoleum printing is SO FUN. I designed my text in illustrator, printed it in reverse, and used a simple lead-transfer technique to get it onto my block. The carving only took an hour or two, and it was so rewarding! The progress was immediately visible and made me feel so accomplished.

The printing was almost as easy. I was glad I had extra pieces to test – some definitely came out better than others. But that was the other awesome thing about this process – it was supposed to be imperfect. I wanted it to feel handmade and to have a bit quirky irregularity. I am so happy with how it turned out! I have a feeling that this technique might be a new obsession.

Some Random Favorites

Well, we’re finally unpacked (!!) and mostly adjusted to life here in sunny PR. I have a ton of mini adventures and a house tour to share… but first, a completely random post about some things I can’t get enough of right now.

When I get into a routine, I become super obsessed with specific things. For example, there was a good 6 month period my senior year of high school where I ate peanut butter and jelly waffles every morning for breakfast (literally 2 eggo waffles sandwiched with PB & J. So odd but awesomely delicious). When Natalie and I went to Europe post college graduation, I was solidly in a gray nail polish phase (which lasted at least a month or two). Casey and I have a couple dinners that show up on our meal plan every. single. week. (For the last, I don’t know, year-ish(?), the top two have been chicken sausage, kale and baked beans and a spicy sausage and bell pepper pizza). Please tell me that I am not the only one who is like this…

Anyways, now that we’ve established somewhat of a routine, here’s six things that I am totally into rightthisminute.

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  1. Wasabi peas. I can’t get enough of these! I literally eat them until my mouth is on fire and cannot physically take one more bite.
  2. Re-reading all of the books on my Kindle. Am I the only one who reads books over and over again? Casey thinks it’s super weird.
  3. Pedaling around town on my watermelon bike (so named because it’s green with a rad pink basket – thanks Select design team!), wearing my finally not-so-bright-and-brand-new Converse sneaks.
  4. Sunscreen. Wearing it obsessively… for obvious reasons.
    (Our favorite is this kind, but it’s really hard to find here…and randomly Amazon won’t deliver it?)
  5. Citronella votives. Our windows don’t have glass or screens, so mosquitos (and other insects) sort of have full run of the house. We burn these things 24/7! Luckily the scent is light and bearable, they last forever (like all day and then some) and seem to work!
  6. And of course, coffee in my favorite favorite favorite mug (It has a Vespa on it. It’s awesome).