That spare ‘room’ — is it an office or a guest room?

It’s actually both. At least in a teeny NYC apartment it is. Here’s how you make it work:

  1. Find a small desk (2’x4′ is drastically smaller than anything 5′ long. And it helps not overwhelm. I love this CB2 one.
  2. Light colors furniture makes it feel bigger
  3. Not everything needs to be wood! Get some metal in there. Scared? Make it clean white.
  4. Mirrors make everything feel bigger! And clear glass is clean and spacious. (Urban Outfitters has a relatively fair priced living section where you can find one)
  5. A beautiful day bed also serves as a sofa, takes up less space, and no longer has to be a weird trundle. (Though yeah, those are pretty great, too). I’m loving this West Elm bed in walnut.
  6. And a beautiful Turkish fabric pillow? That makes everything better. (ala Etsy)

Guest Room : Office

7 Things (I think) Every Home Needs

I began writing this on the first day of spring. It was snowing. Which means that for the majority of the last — FOUR MONTHS — I’ve stayed inside, hiding from the hideous winter elements. Which is hilarious because that means that 1/3 of the year I’m staying inside a tiny space while living in a huge, ridiculously amazing city. So, I can’t be Carrie and keep my shoes in the oven. I can’t live in an ugly box that I pay too much for, only to be outside and enjoying the world every day. It means I need a space that’s warm, organized, comfortable – home.

So here’s my first list. If I were to move ANYWHERE, especially in a city, these are the items I know I couldn’t live without. Maybe because of how they look, mostly because of their practicality (even if just for my mental health), take a look, and let me know what you think.

1. Speakers! Even if you can hear your cell phone on vibrate in each part of your house, that doesn’t mean you don’t need speakers. Music sounds better with them. Bravo TV arguments will  intensify. And, no, silent discos weren’t invented for single dance parties at home. I have these Harman Kardon ones, and they’ve lasted forever. A bit pricey, but for $170 they look nice, are clean, won’t add clutter, and sound great.


2. LIGHTING. Even if your apartment has ceiling lamps (lucky), you still should find some table and floor lamps, or more overhead lights to create a warm space that can help define areas, corners, and cubbies. I found this great floor lamp at the Brooklyn Flea (the best!)  that I use as a reading light in our living room. The table lamp was also a favorite find from Eastern Market in DC. Helpful hint: Buy a good lightbulb. It WILL pay off. I prefer the softer lighting bulbs like the GE White Hybrid Halogen. They’re energy smart and eco friendly! $12 each but they really do last forever.




3. Plants. Please don’t say you can’t because you just kill them. That’s why succulents and cacti were created. Plants keep your space bright, beautiful, feeling clean… and some even clean your air (yes, fact). Add a couple, take them to your new home, and they’ll make any space look good.  It’s genuinely the easiest, cheapest way to decorate. I love this Target Home find, a cement planter that could easily (stupidly) sell for $50, but was $13. Not everything needs to be a Pinterest DIY, where your supplies cost an obscene amount of money.

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4. Extra Seating! I love having extra chairs around the house to make sure that if we do have a lot of guests around, everyone has somewhere to sit. We have a wood folding one that I stash behind the closet, a couple cute side chairs… Small chairs are super easy store and move apartments with. They can have a pattern, texture, unique wood… It’s a simple way to add decor to a space without feeling too “done”, and they don’t clutter. I love our West Elm John Vogel chair in charcoal.  The second one I bought from a previous tenant at an apartment I used to live in.

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5. A good (electric) tea kettle. This seems random, but after living with an Australian, I’ve learned the power and beauty of a good tea kettle. Beyond making a cup of tea, an electric tea kettle will boil water for your pasta, french press coffee, rice, potatoes… EVERYTHING. It’s so much quicker than a stove top kettle, and I literally use it every day. I love this Capresso clear glass kettle. Buy it from Bed Bath and Beyond with a 20% off coupon, and it’s $50. Yes, you can get a cheap plastic one, but I prefer glass because you’re not ingesting toxins every time you heat the plastic, it’s much nicer to look at, and easier to clean because the kettle is separate from the electric plug. It’s also a good, small size that won’t take up too much space in your teeny kitchen.


6. A magic bullet. If you have a teeny apartment, this is a LIFE SAVER. Beyond making that delicious kale juice we all pretend to love, you can also blend soups, yogurts, even use it as a food processor. It’s SO easy to clean, and is much smaller than a blender. I love our Nutri Bullet especially because I do think it breaks food down better than the other brands. Again, use a 20% coupon ala Bed, Bath & Beyond and buy it. The steel design also makes for a nicer looking appliance.



7. STORAGE. I mean, obviously, right? That is the dream. But you can do storage right, and then you can do storage wrong. For example, do you need your winter coat in your closet, taking up space all year long? No. In fact, it doesn’t need to ever be in your closet. Get a hook, hang it by your door for four months (this also allows it to dry properly). Done.  And when you don’t use it, buy these ridiculously smart (and REUSABLE) Ziploc  vacuum hanging bags, put your stuff in it, and then either store them in the back of  your closet or better yet, under your bed. They keep stuff clean, won’t ruin the filling of your coat, and pro tip: You don’t need a vaccuum to suck out the air. You can literally sit on em, and push out the air (like rolling a sleeping bag), until all the air is out. Fact. (No personal picture because sadly we are still using our coats. :P)

In addition, because we really no longer need DVD players, DVDs, or really any TV equipment beyond a ChromeCast stick, use your “entertainment center” for other things! Serving dishes? A “linen closet”? A mini hardware tool box with your tools, extra lightbulbs and batteries? This is such an easy way to keep organized and clean. (You’ll never know what’s in our “entertainment center”. Another Eastern Market find:


That’s all I’ve got. What are your “not living without” items? Share em in the comments!




how to fix up a new, old find (and remove the rust!)

Earlier this week I was walking to get my laundry, and happened across this retro, tiny, “little red dinette set.” It was made sometime around the late 40’s, early 50’s we’re guessing. On average, they can cost up to several hundred dollars, but this one was being sold for $150. And while a Johnny Rockets theme wasn’t ever what I thought would look good in our apartment — think boho, vintage, Anthro-feel, it really spoke to me. There is something really unique about the orangey-red, aluminum,  and grey seats. Plus, the size was perfect as we don’t have too much space for a dining table. (Also, ugh, I hate snow.)

photoAfter walking back and forth like three times, I knew I would miss out as it were to likely be purchased soon. The antique shop selling it had just got it in earlier that day, so we went for it. There was rust and dirt all over it, but I figured I’d clean it up some how.

::insert complaint about walking it six blocks and up three flights of stairs::

I called my mom for advice on how to clean it. She quickly knew the perfect trick, going back to her motorcycle days (Ha!) And based on my last post, she said I already had everything I needed to clean it up.

What you need:

— Steel Wool! Yup, the same wool I used to stick in the  mouse holes

— Aluminum foil

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See what we needed to clean:

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It’s pretty gross, right? Before you start, make sure you are working on a surface you can easily clean — the wool particles and excess rust will get everywhere.

So first, wipe it all down and clean it as best you can. I prefer a natural cleaning product. Then, you’ll start to scrub down all the rust with the steel wool. You’ll quickly see a difference, the rust scrubs off quite easily. But note: be careful because the metal fibers in the wool will hurt your hands!

The side on the left was scrubbed with the steel wool:

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Next, use the shiny side of the aluminum foil, and scrub once again. The foil will make the metal shine! (Notice which part was cleaned with steel wool and foil?)

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Then, wipe it all down again with a cleaning agent. Use a mild one to ensure the shine keeps it’s pop. You may also want to use a little hand vac to suck up all the rust particles that fell off. Now, do the whole thing! This actually takes quite a bit of time, especially because of all the nooks and crannies. Remember to clean up even the little parts, like the screws and upholstery tacks. Take your time, and the results will amaze you.


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To curve that ‘diner’ feel, I added a teal blue platter (from Ikea!) with a couple succulents, and made it feel like ours. Now, for a dinner party!

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Hand Stitched Pillows

While traveling this past April and May, we made it to Kampala, Uganda. The main attraction was of course the mountain gorillas — absolutely amazing, you must go see them before they sadly become extinct. The second attraction, ok besides the chimps, was the fabric. A lot of the fabric is made in Uganda, and other pieces come from Nigeria. Our friends in Nairobi say that Uganda has the most gorgeous fabric in all of Africa. Can’t say I disagree. $30 later, I’m in heaven!

Recently we purchased the Karlstad, L-shaped sofa from Ikea, in isunda gray. It can be very big and plain, and I’ve been struggling to find pillows that are lounge-y, comfortable, beautiful, man-friendly, and inexpensive to go with it. So I thought making my own with purchased fabric would be the best bet. I purchased a couple various sized cushions from Ikea – like $7-$15 per pillow, that you can stuff in once stitched. If you’re like me and don’t have a sewing machine, these can be exceptionally time consuming… however…they’re SUPER easy to make, and Orange is the New Black Season Two was just released, so my guess is you have some time to kill.

For your encouragement, a finished photo:

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The black and white checkered one is from Ikea (actually went quite nicely with them!). The green and aqua are the fabric purchases I made in Kampala.

What You’ll Need:

  1. Scissors
  2. Measuring tape
  3. Fabric – really depends on the size you want your pillows to be. For the larger green pillow, I cut two pieces of 23X23 inches.
  4. The pillow or stuffing you want to use for the inside — Maybe you have an old pillow that you hate? Recycle it, and add new fabric!
  5. Needles and thread — I bought a basic pack of thread that offered a bunch of colors, and it included a couple needles ($5) I’d recommend a large needle if you can, they’re a bit easier to work with.
  6. Sewing pins ($3)
  7. Iron
  8. Patience, white wine, whatever gets you through it
  9. Scotch Guard (if you want to spray onto your pillows to prevent stains)

So first, cut two sheets of the size of fabric you need. I recommend cutting a bit smaller than the size that you measure when the pillow is fully fluffed. You will want a tight cover, and it’s ok to stuff the pillow in … will make the final fit tight, and create a better shape.

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Once you have both sheets, turn them inside out — That way, your stitches are on the inside, and make for a cleaner finish. You’ll sew one side at a time. To keep your fabric lined up, and to make sure you’re stitching in a straight line, use your sewing pins. Roughly half an inch from the bottom of each side of fabric:

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After lining up your pins, use the length of the fabric to determine how much thread you’ll use. To make sure you don’t run out, and have enough to tie at the end, add about six more inches. Then, double over your thread. Stitching two pieces of thread at one time will ensure it keeps sturdy. Starting at one end, tie through your thread, and begin stitching in and out. Try to keep your stitches as close as possible — this will keep the pillow from ripping.

Do this for three of the sides. Remember, double your thread! (For real, it helps.)

Then, put the fabric the right way out, and you’ll see your stitches look great

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After turning the fabric right-side out, get out your iron, and iron out any wrinkles that may have developed… you’ll want to make sure to do this before stuffing your pillow, to ensure that it’s smooth and wrinkle free when finished. Then, for the side that has not been sewed, fold each piece of fabric about 1/2 an inch in — so that the cut line is hidden from the outside. This will be necessary when stitching the final side, and will make sure the pillow looks finished. (Insert photo, oops, my bad).

Next, stuff in your pillow or stuffing (insert 2nd photo I did not take).

For the final side, you’ll use pins once again to keep the fabric together, and to create a line you may follow. Double your thread, and stitch from side to side once more — this is the one side you’ll definitely see stitched, so take your time, and try to create a straight line. Again, make sure your stitches are small to keep the pillow from ripping.

photo 3-1When finished, shake our your pillow, let the stuffing move around a bit, and ta-da! Here’s the final look. I’m pretty sure these pillows would cost you at least $75 in stores like West Elm or Pottery Barn. Now, they may have been machine stitched and therefore more sturdy, but how fun is that?

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Warmed millet, brussel sprout and carrot salad – with cranberries and walnuts

So this is the other recipe I made today which I found from Vegetarian Times magazine, in their October issue. The salad is super healthy, fiber-ous, filled with great vitamins, protein, and is really tasty. I added and changed a couple things around based on preference and what I had. I actually ended up doubling the recipe, my friend, who served as my sous chef, took home half to eat this week, too. Accompanied with the curried carrot soup, this is going to be a great meal. Filling but light. Looking forward to it. Again, this is vegan!


Millet Salad 

What You’ll Need – (for one batch)

3/4 lb of brussel sprouts

1/2 lb Carrots – I added carrots to the recipe, a nice autumn addition

olive oil

3/4 cup millet

2/3 cup chopped walnuts – you can toast them on top of your oven while the millet cooks

2/3 cup dried cranberries – you can chop or just leave them whole

1/3 cup parsley – chop it up (I added more than the original recipe)

2 Tbs balsamic vinegar – I added a little more, base it off taste

1 Tbs maple syrup – I used agave nectar instead

Juice from 1/2 a large lemon, add a little zest too


Cut the brussel sprouts in 1/4’s. Cut up the carrots. Place both in a baking pan. Add olive oil, salt and pepper and some garlic. Mix it all up. Bake in 475 deg. oven. Depending on how much you are cooking and what kind of oven you have, cook for about 25 minutes. Check on them for a while, stir em around… I like cooking brussel sprouts until they are a little blackened and crunchy. The carrots should be soft. Mmm this alone is a tasty side dish to any meal.

While the veggies are cooking, put the millet in a frying pan, on medium, and let it cook for 6 minutes. Don’t add anything to the millet, let it brown, crackle a little. After it browns, add 2 cups of water – or veggie broth if you prefer. Let it boil, then turn down the heat, let it simmer, and then cover. Stir occasionally. Like quinoa, the millet will be ready when all of the water is absorbed.


In the meantime, chop up the parsley and toast the walnuts. You’re also going to make the dressing. In a dish, add olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, the balsamic vinegar and the agave nectar. Maybe a little pepper. Stir it up, and taste it. I like the combination of the three flavors… lemony, sweet, and vinger. It’s a really nice dressing.

Check on the brussel spouts. Take them out of the oven, and let settle. Check on the millet. Once all of the water is absorbed, the millet will be fluffy. Take it off the stove, put in a bowl, and let it cool down a little.


Now, fold the veggies into the millet. Then add the cranberries, walnuts, and parsley. Fold instead of stir, this will protect the softened vegetables.


Taste it! Maybe you like cranberries – add some more. Maybe you need more protein, add more walnuts. This meal was super inexpensive. Brussel sprouts are in season, cooked carrots are a popular fall dish, and most of the ingredients can be found in the large buckets at stores like Whole Foods – making sure you don’t waste or buy too much of anything. This is especially nice when living in a studio, where space is an issue. I love learning new recipes and making them my own. Like I mentioned in the last post, I think this will pair nicely with the curried carrot soup. I’m going to eat it warm, but it might also be nice cold. With the curried soup and the dressing on the millet, it would be interesting to try adding pan fried tofu to this. maybe cooked it in the lemon and agave nectar. Anyway, hope you try and enjoy it. Also, so nice to have lunch already made to fight your Monday blues. Enjoy!


chickpea curry with cranberry almond quinoa

While I wait impatiently on Election Day, I decided to prepare my favorite Indian dish – a spicy, savory chickpea tomato based curry, and sweet delicious quinoa with cranberries and almonds. Looks pretty tasty, right? It’s not only delicious, but it’s super cheap, and super easy.

Here’s what you’ll need –

For the curry

can of chickpeas

can of chopped tomatoes – I like the fire roasted ones with garlic

a yellow onion


fresh ginger

a little olive oil – to cook the onions, garlic and ginger

turmeric – a tsp

cumin – a tsp

coriander – a tsp

cayenne pepper – to taste (I made this batch a little too spicy)

garam masala – on top, after it’s cooked

veggie broth – two cups, maybe three depending on how long you cook

For the quinoa

two cups veggie broth

one cup quinoa

handful of cranberries – I prefer to unsweetened ones, but they are sometimes difficult to find

1/4 cup slivered almonds

cinnamon stick

couple bay leaves


Give yourself about 30-45 minutes to cook. First start on the curry. Chop up the onion, garlic and grate the ginger. Add all of it to a pan with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Cook it up til the onions soften. About 10 minutes.


Next, and this is the tricky part, open up the cans of tomatoes and chickpeas. Pour em in. Add the veggie broth. Then add the turmeric, coriander, cayenne pepper, and cumin. Stir it up. Ha – I told you, this is a super simple and inexpensive meal. Initially the spices cost a bit, but they last forever.


Cover and stir occasionally. After reaching a boil, turn down the heat, and let it simmer for about 35 minutes. In about 20 mins, start the quinoa. Add the veggie broth, quinoa, cranberries, almonds, cinnamon stick, and bay leaves. Reach a boil, then cover and simmer for about 15 minutes – until the broth is gone, and the quinoa has a white rind around the grain.


A couple notes – I didn’t have cranberries this time, so I substituted currants instead. Turned out ok, but wasn’t as sweet. In fact I added a little Raw Stevia to balance out the cayenne pepper I overdid. I think I’m trippin over the election. In addition, I totally forgot to add the veggie broth to the curry. Fail. It dried up super quick, and the chickpeas weren’t as soft as they should’ve been – it also didn’t take a lot of time for the curry to cook. Kinda gross. So I added a little broth and let it simmer a little more. Much better. I’ve seriously made this dish half a dozen times, and today I screw it up.

Hmmm anything else I forgot? Don’t think so. This dish is served nicely with naan, if you aren’t stressin’ about carbs. It’s also nicely paired with sliced pears in cinnamon and honey… again, a nice cooling taste to add while eating this spice-rich meal. And oh yah – it’s vegan, and pretty healthy in it’s fat-carb-protein ratio! Enjoy!

hurricane cleaning

While I consider myself a Type-A clean freak, I too have clutter. Messy piles. And – shudder – hidden messes. Good thing Hurricane Sandy has come, and forced me to stay inside and clean!

Living in a tiny studio, I’m very fortunate to have two – that’s right – TWO closets. The one I worked on today is the storage/coat closet. I hold coats, my way-too-many-Christmas-decorations, cleaning supplies, cat food and litter, and everything else that is ugly, but needed, when living in a house.

Here are the before and after photos. Let’s be honest, my goal wasn’t to make it pretty. And I spent NO money in this process. But here are a few helpful pointers to use when cleaning out your closet.



First off, dump out all the crap. Seriously, dump it out. And then sweep out the dust. Dust is gross. Spiders and bugs like dust. And spiders and bugs are gross. When you dump it all out, check out what you have.

1. Empty box of sparkling water from Costco – RECYCLE AND GET IT OUT.

2.The empty bag of paper towels – throw it away, and remember to buy more.

3. Tools and jars and bottles and cleaning supplies that are all over the place. Think about how to put them all together.

4. A brand new litter box that your crazy cat, Olive, never used.

4. Boxes and more boxes.


it’s like showing strangers my dirty laundry

Now. Check out what you have. What I realized quick was that I wanted to build another shelf – that was reachable without a stool – to hold my cleaning and laundry supplies. I found the extra shelf I never used when building my Ikea cooking block, and rested it on top of the bar. Consolidated all of my supplies up there. No mess now on the ground.

Please. Here is a recommendation from someone who hates clutter and keeping crap for no reason. There IS a reason to keep the box from a Kitchen Aid. Or the box from your drill. Moving is a b*tch, and if you keep the boxes that hold things other boxes can’t, it will make moving a heck of a lot easier. Said boxes replaced the litter box, and are now on top.

I then cleaned and gave away the litter boxes. Consolidated all of my grocery bags and recycled bags into one, and hung it in the back corner. No one needs that many bags until you need that many bags. So put em all together, and keep the clutter out.

Think about the things you use each week. Maybe your drill. Tools. The broom. Make them available, so that you don’t have to rip everything apart to find them when you need them.

And yes! By organizing all your unwanted but necessary crap, you WILL realize you actually have not one but THREE umbrellas, and therefore need to no longer purchase them EVERY time it rains.

Cheers to that. And cheers to Hurricane Sandy. Well, not really, but you get my point.

happy halloween, y’all!

I love Halloween. Working as an office manager, I get the privilege of decorating our office… and you better believe I’m taking that opportunity. At some point I’ll blog about the space and how I’ve designed it. Until then, check out the start to decorating for our Halloween party next week. All items were purchased at either or Party City – all were on sale. Huge recommendation – before you EVER buy something online, Google coupons for that store. I searched for discounts for Party City and found a $30 off if you spend $100 – Plus free shipping. Discounts are out there, you just need to take a moment and look.

I love a great center piece. I  love bringing basic pieces together to create a nice, final display. Here I bought I basic black netted cloth, a couple paper lanterns, cob webs (most important), gourds,and a paper, sparkly candle piece. It’s a little cheesy – but it’s Halloween, and it’s fun. Add a few sparkly, black leaves… perfection. One tip on cob webs. A little goes a long way. The best cob webs are the spread out ones… fine strands, super creepy.

Normally, I prefer making crafts, getting creative… but let’s be honest, some years there is just no time. Instead, get creative with the cheaper Halloween decorations – no need for the $150 Vampire – and see what you can do.

I’ll soon be building a photo booth stage, layout the makings of a good pumpkin carving station, a couple recipes for amazing cider, and everything else that makes a Halloween party amazing.

succulents make a home go boom

I love succulents. They are green. They are cute. They are tiny. Most importantly, they are hard to kill. Scratch that. I’ve killed a couple. But if you plant them correctly, they can last decades.

There are several places you can buy succulents. Ace Hardware has great ones. You can buy them at the nearby plant store. In DC, there is a plant shop on 14th and R st (ish) that sells lovely succulents in great planters. Or, you can buy them in bulk online, where they ship the rooted plants to you in brown paper bags.

I’ve done all of these options. And pretty much, they all work.

If you are going to plant your own succulents, you’ll need little planters with holes at the bottom. Make sure you have a plate to hold the excess water underneath. Here’s why. Succulents are cacti – but cacti aren’t succulents. While succulents require a tad more water, they’re still desert plants. They don’t need a lot. They live in dry climates, and need to be able to release the water around them. Also, the desert is full of rocks. So it’s important that you also have rocks in your planters. You can also buy nutrient-rich cactus soil. By the way, succulents are cheap! The fancy planters and expensive plant shops are what make them costly. You can buy small plastic planters at Ace Hardware for $4. A bag of soil for $9. If you can’t find rocks – perhaps you live in the city – you can buy them in the decorating section at places like Target.

In terms of watering – you can water just a little bit every two weeks. Or month. It depends on how much sun they get. It depends on the heat. Use your judgement. If you question yourself, know that in this case, less is more.

Check out some of the succulents I’ve planted.. hope it inspires you to add green to your life.

i want fancy towels

I want Anthropologie towels. But I’m on a Target-towel budget. I think most people should. Anthro towels are fabulous. Lush, big, pretty colors. But damn. They are expensive. $48 a towel. $8 for a washcloth. Sometimes more. I would rather buy sweaters and boots and towels and Whole Foods groceries than spend over $100 for a set of towels.

But I love that look. Please check it out to understand the inspiration I’m working with.

Anyway, you can buy nice towels, a couple nicer towels, and a couple basic towels. Mix n match and  you’ll have a lovely set. Plus, until you stop using the face wash that bleaches towels (ahem, no comment), it’s probably not worth spending too much.

See what I’ve purchased. A set of basic white, Taget Home towels, a set of yellow and white floral towels from Target – they were $12 each, and then I bought a washcloth from Anthropologie for, yup the actual price, $8. For everything – four towels, two hand towels, a fancy washcloth, and a few basic white washcloths, I spent under $60. That would be the same price for just two towels at Anthropologie.. I will say I like the outcome.

Tell me what you think!