Category Archives: five for friday

Five for Friday

fuzz1. My wedding was featured on Rock and Roll Bride earlier this week!

2. I’m still really digging making soap. I upgraded my equipment a bit this week and bought a no-line acrylic slab mold that comes with dividers to make evenly sized bars. Lining the mold has always been just about my least favorite part of the whole process, at least partly because I’m so bad at it, so I’m really happy to have a way around that. I made a batch of bay laurel and vetiver–scented soap last night that’ll be ready to unmold when I get home tonight. I’m pretty excited about this one, I can tell you. My apartment smelled AMAZING while I was working on it. I just want to make soap all the time; my bullet journal is rapidly filling up with ideas for scent combinations and different proportions of oils to use and things to mix in.

3. A few days ago, I got a galley of Kim Werker’s new book, Make It Mighty Ugly, and I’m pretty excited to spend some time with it this weekend.

4. I was down with a nasty, brutish cold for most of this week—I took two days off in a row because I was feeling so lousy, which I can’t remember doing maybe ever before in my working life. The only good thing to come of it is that I’ve remembered how much I love a good bowl of orzo in broth when I’m feeling poorly.

5. I just started watching True Detective. Now I get why the entire internet was obsessed with it a month or so ago. That is what you might call some compelling shit.

Wedding placemat tutorial

One of the craft projects I came up with for the wedding were these kraft paper and washi tape placemats for all of the table settings. I was really happy with how they turned out–fun and graphic and colorful, special without being fussy.

Supplies:

  • Something placemat-sized to trace; I used a 13″ x 19″ milk crate
  • Roll of kraft paper
  • Sharpie or other marker
  • Regular scissors
  • Assorted washi tape. I used about a dozen different tapes in black/white, gray/white, gray/black, and red or multicolored patterns for the most part.
  • Fancy-edge scissors. I can’t find the exact assortment I bought, but this is close. The one I used in yellow in this grouping, but was pink in mine.

1. Start by tracing off a few placemats and cut them out roughly, leaving plenty of room around the outline.

2. Apply the washi tape in whatever patterns you like, making sure the ends go outside the traced outline.

3. Cut just inside the outline with the fancy-edge scissors.

4. Keep going until you have as many as you need, plus a few extras, of course.

Tips:

  • I found it easiest to trace off a dozen at a time, and go through the whole process on that batch before tracing more. If I’d had a standing-height work table (someday!), it might have been easier, but I found wrangling the big roll of kraft paper on the floor to be hard on my back and just plain annoying. The scrapbooking scissors were kind of rough on my hands too. Spacing out tasks out a little made everything much more pleasant.
  • The fancy-edge scissors are not essential here, but they do elevate the project that little bit.
  • I ended up developing ten “patterns” or so with the tapes that I did over and over in different variations: parallel lines evenly spaced, parallel diagonals, intersecting diagonals, plaid, etc. Not having to wait for the muse to strike for each blank mat saved a lot of time and energy. Plus, it made it easy to have a variety of patterns at each table. Did anyone but me notice? Probably not. STILL WORTH IT.

Previously unblogged gift blanket

The morning of my wedding, I got to give my friends Erin and Brian their long-overdue (by about a year and a half) wedding present:

It’s my favorite kind of ripple blanket, crocheted here in more than a dozen shades of Cascade 220 and sized for a queen bed. A few neutral shades alternate with heathery rainbow hues so the same colors are never next to each other but it still feels cohesive and like it makes sense somehow. One of these days, I swear, I’ll make one of these blankets for myself.

Erin was one of my bridesmaids–she’s to my right in this photo that Brian took, which happens to be one of my favorite photos from that day.

One of my favorite parts of the day, which I hadn’t planned at all, was before the event. Rob and I and our families and wedding party had been taking some group photos and portraits outside the venue and when people started arriving, it just felt natural to stay where we were and greet our guests instead of running off and secluding myself inside in order to make some sort of big appearance. I loved being there as all of these people we loved arrived and that I got to kiss everyone hello and welcome them to our wedding and be like, “CAN YOU EVEN BELIEVE HOW GREAT EVERYTHING IS RIGHT NOW?!” It was perfectly in keeping with the kind of event we’d been hoping to have: clearly significant and special, but unfussy and fun, retaining the traditions we wanted to honor, but not bothering with the ones that didn’t have meaning for us. If I had been sequestered in some back room, I would have missed out on all of that.

Four weeks later…

First off, the wedding was fabulously fun and went off without a hitch (except, obviously, in the getting ____ed sense of the word). I’m waiting for the professional photos to come in before I do a full write-up, but this is one of my favorites of the few people have sent me so far.

In the meantime, here’s a recipe for something I’ve made at least once a week this summer. It was inspired by a dish that I get at Joe’s Shanghai in Chinatown, which they call String Beans Szechuan Style (with Pork), but using Thai and Korean ingredients too for a sort of pan-Asian deliciousness. Also, I almost always make it with beef, since ground pork is not all that easy to come by in a neighborhood with large populations of both Muslims and Orthodox Jews, but it’s delicious either way.

The idea is to cook up a small amount of heavily seasoned meat, then to let the meat flavor a panful of green beans. I’m pretty sure Joe’s fries their beans, but a quick, high-heat saute works just as well to retain some crunch. The Korean BBQ sauce is something I first had when I was still writing for Serious Eats, and I interviewed the sisters who make it. They’re lovely, the sauces are delicious, and I like to keep a bottle or two onhand for this kind of dish or for quick stir frys. You can still make this without it; the dish will just be less saucy at the end. It turns out spicy and savory and a bit tangy from the lime and rice vinegar, and it’s completely addicting.

Green Beans with Spicy Beef

1/2 lb. ground beef
zest and juice of one lime
1/4 c. We Rub You Korean BBQ sauce, spicy or regular
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp.-1 tbsp. Siracha or other hot sauce, to taste
1/2 c. water
1 lb. green beans, trimmed and chopped to 1 1/2″ pieces

Brown the ground beef over medium-high heat, breaking the meat into small pieces as it cooks. When it’s browned, drain off the grease if necessary. Add the remaining ingredients except green beans and stir to combine. Turn heat to medium and let the mixture simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid has reduced by about a third. Add the beans and let cook, stirring frequently, for 5-6 minutes or until beans have achieved your preferred level of doneness. Serve over rice.

Four weeks to go

With less than a month to go until the wedding, things seem to be in a strange state where they’re both ramping up and winding down. All of the decisions are pretty much made, it’s just a matter of executing the various projects and crossing them off my various, very detailed lists. The pieces of my wedding dress are carefully laid out in the office waiting to be assembled. I have an elaborate post-it constellation on the hallway wall, there are stacks of washi tape all over the kitchen table, a huge roll of kraft paper sits in the middle of the living room floor, tripping us both up at least once a day. My mother-in-law’s basement is full of boxes of mason jars I rescued from my dad’s attic and the beautiful lanterns she’s making. I have a shopping list in progress that contains the entry “4 lbs. butter (more? — figure out).” When I started all of the fun detail planning, I had been trying to avoid certain tropes of the modern eclectic wedding, but have since given in to it and have started describing the aesthetic as “if Etsy and Pinterest had a baby and then that baby exploded all over everything.” I really love the way everything is coming together. It feels personal and warm and somehow both fancy and unfussy.

I decided to wait until after the wedding to show any pictures of these projects publicly though—I’m not superstitious, except when I am—but what I will share is a wedding-adjacent discovery: my new favorite supremely affordable yet awesome pen. I got my kickass  diamond-patterned one at PaperSource, but don’t see it on their website or anywhere else online. Writing with a nib feels great, but the pen cost less than $4 and I don’t have to deal with ink. It is the greatest of all widely available disposable pens. I know a lot of fountain pen enthusiasts and I see the appeal of going that route, I totally do. I just don’t want to go down that rabbit hole at this point.

In news of other things I recommend wholeheartedly, I loved Where’d You Go, Bernadette? I had gone out of my way to avoid this book for more than a year; I thought a story about a woman who abandoned her family and found fulfillment while her daughter searched for her sounded, frankly, both trite and dreary. I was imagining scenes of her being filled with wonder at getting to drink a whole latte by herself or getting to listen to the music she wanted to listen to in the car, then seeing a baby or something and realizing how much she missed her daughter. I was mystified by the awards and good press it got everywhere and only got around to reading it after a friend whose tastes line up with mine almost exactly said it was one of her favorite books she’d read this year. It turned out to be nothing like what I thought it was (though in my defense, the cover copy and cartoony cover are misleading). Bernadette is an ascerbic, brilliant, hilarious, difficult, loving, heavily medicated architect who moved to Seattle for her husband’s job and hates it. Her 15-year-old daughter is going to be going to boarding school on the East Coast, and Bernadette’s only friend is her virtual assistant, who lives in India. After a series of altercations with neighbors and other parents at her daughter, Bee’s, school, Bernadette takes off and Bee pieces together her recent and past histories by means of letters, emails, transcripts of conversations, and the occasional police report in order to figure out what set her off and where to go to find her. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. My only regret is that I didn’t save it to read on the beach or in a hammock somewhere. It’s pure fun.

Since the last time I posted…

…I got a nice promotion at work and got engaged. We’re getting married in early September, mainly because we’d rather be married than have hand-gilded napkins or whatever it is that takes people so long to pull together, plus both the best man (who works for SNL) and my brother (who owns a restaurant) have very limited weekend availability that doesn’t match up very often. So it was either get married September 7 or wait until sometime next year, which neither of us was particularly interested in doing.

It helped that we found a venue we really liked the first day we looked that was both less expensive than we were expecting and available when we wanted it: a big, sprawling, weird old country inn up the road from Rob’s mom’s house in Connecticut. It has a huge deck over a creek, tons of room for dancing, farm implements and other ephemera all over the place (it had an incarnation as an antique store), and a gloriously creepy mannequin at the bar.

I have to say, I love wedding planning. I wouldn’t want to do it in any circumstance where Rob and I are not making the final call on everything, but it is a blast. We’re basically just throwing a party for people we love to all come and be happy at us at the same time. And what’s not to love about that?