At the moment, I’m simultaneously reading both of the books pictured above. Slow Death By Rubber Duck: The Secret Dangers of Everyday Things (by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie), and Lunch In Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes (by Elizabeth Bard). Slow Death by Rubber Duck is for the mornings, because if I read it at night it’ll take about twenty Tylenol PMs to get me snoozin’. Sample quote: “Pollution is now so pervasive that it’s become a marinade in which we all bathe every day. Pollution is actually inside us all. It’s seeped into our bodies. And in many cases, once it’s in, it’s impossible to get out.” See? Total mood-upper. But the book is fascinating – the two authors, who clearly subscribe to the Michael Moore-Fast Food Nation school of journalism, literally expose themselves to a bevy of chemicals to “see what happens”…and as you can imagine, what happens is quite bad indeed.
Lunch in Paris is my sunset reading: it’s a book made for paging through while sitting in a warm pool of sun at a glorious cafe, martini in hand, waiting for my husband to get off of work and come join me (well, that only happened once last week, but that moment allowed me to quote him the first line of the book – “I slept with my French husband halfway through our first date” – in hopes of injecting him with a little inspiration). This book – which recalls Under the Tuscan Sun, Julie & Julia, and even Judith Jones’ The Tenth Muse for its life-inspired recipes, which are scattered throughout like tiny, sweet pops of sugar – is just what I want to be reading while the days grow warmer. Preferably while eating croissants in Paris, but hey…Second Avenue’ll do.
P.S. Elizabeth Bard also has a totally charming blog; check it out.

At the moment, I’m simultaneously reading both of the books pictured above. Slow Death By Rubber Duck: The Secret Dangers of Everyday Things (by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie), and Lunch In Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes (by Elizabeth Bard). Slow Death by Rubber Duck is for the mornings, because if I read it at night it’ll take about twenty Tylenol PMs to get me snoozin’. Sample quote: “Pollution is now so pervasive that it’s become a marinade in which we all bathe every day. Pollution is actually inside us all. It’s seeped into our bodies. And in many cases, once it’s in, it’s impossible to get out.” See? Total mood-upper. But the book is fascinating – the two authors, who clearly subscribe to the Michael Moore-Fast Food Nation school of journalism, literally expose themselves to a bevy of chemicals to “see what happens”…and as you can imagine, what happens is quite bad indeed.

Lunch in Paris is my sunset reading: it’s a book made for paging through while sitting in a warm pool of sun at a glorious cafe, martini in hand, waiting for my husband to get off of work and come join me (well, that only happened once last week, but that moment allowed me to quote him the first line of the book – “I slept with my French husband halfway through our first date” – in hopes of injecting him with a little inspiration). This book – which recalls Under the Tuscan SunJulie & Julia, and even Judith Jones’ The Tenth Muse for its life-inspired recipes, which are scattered throughout like tiny, sweet pops of sugar – is just what I want to be reading while the days grow warmer. Preferably while eating croissants in Paris, but hey…Second Avenue’ll do.

P.S. Elizabeth Bard also has a totally charming blog; check it out.

1. A pre-trip pow-wow with your traveling companions will do wonders to minimize trouble down the line. Have each person list their “Must-Dos,” and do your best to make them happen. You may also want a (very short) list of “Must-Not-Dos”…but be flexible.
2. Speaking of traveling companions, make sure they’re people you like. A lot. If you have tension with a person before embarking on a road trip, chances are it’s not going to get better when you’re lost on a back road in Mississippi with no functional radio stations and have been subsisting on nothing but Little Debbies for six hours.
3. You know what? Bring a cooler. I never do, but I can imagine that on Day 5 a for-real turkey sandwich would sound much better than the aforementioned Little Debbie.
4. Before you leave, have a good mechanic give your car a once-over. At the very least, put air in the tires and change the oil. I don’t do this, but I should. So should you.
5. Make sure you have all your documentation in a safe place. No losing-of-licenses on road trips, please.
6. Bring (lots of ) music with you for those spots where the radio just doesn’t cut it.
7. Whenever possible, choose local, mom-and-pop-style eateries over fast food (exceptions can be made for Waffle Houses and Sonic Drive-Thrus, obviously).
8. Don’t over-plan. Part of (most of, in my opinion) the fun is in the getting there. It’s important to feel free to take that cool-looking side road, and to not worry too much about sticking to a schedule.
9. Also, don’t feel guilty about occasionally wanting to get off the charming, windy back roads and use the highways. Sometimes you just want to get there.
10. Have a AAA membership. This has saved me many, many times.
11. GPS, good. For-real paper map, also good. Take both.
Anything else?

1. A pre-trip pow-wow with your traveling companions will do wonders to minimize trouble down the line. Have each person list their “Must-Dos,” and do your best to make them happen. You may also want a (very short) list of “Must-Not-Dos”…but be flexible.

2. Speaking of traveling companions, make sure they’re people you like. A lot. If you have tension with a person before embarking on a road trip, chances are it’s not going to get better when you’re lost on a back road in Mississippi with no functional radio stations and have been subsisting on nothing but Little Debbies for six hours.

3. You know what? Bring a cooler. I never do, but I can imagine that on Day 5 a for-real turkey sandwich would sound much better than the aforementioned Little Debbie.

4. Before you leave, have a good mechanic give your car a once-over. At the very least, put air in the tires and change the oil. I don’t do this, but I should. So should you.

5. Make sure you have all your documentation in a safe place. No losing-of-licenses on road trips, please.

6. Bring (lots of ) music with you for those spots where the radio just doesn’t cut it.

7. Whenever possible, choose local, mom-and-pop-style eateries over fast food (exceptions can be made for Waffle Houses and Sonic Drive-Thrus, obviously).

8. Don’t over-plan. Part of (most of, in my opinion) the fun is in the getting there. It’s important to feel free to take that cool-looking side road, and to not worry too much about sticking to a schedule.

9. Also, don’t feel guilty about occasionally wanting to get off the charming, windy back roads and use the highways. Sometimes you just want to get there.

10. Have a AAA membership. This has saved me many, many times.

11. GPS, good. For-real paper map, also good. Take both.

Anything else?

This got a little more confusing than it had to (largely because we included Cadbury Eggs in the test), but if you’re trying to determine whether what you’ve got on your hands is a raw egg or a hard-boiled egg, here’s what you do:

Step 1: Spin the egg. A hard-boiled one will spin neatly; a raw one will go all wobbly.

Step 2: Lightly touch the spinning egg with a finger. A hard-boiled one will come to a full stop, while a raw one will continue on its wobbly way.

My article on TheGloss.com, “Wallpaper Your Heart (Or Your Living Room)”:
 
Did you know that it is possible to have an overwhelming emotional response to wallpaper? It is indeed. I was sixteen years old when wallpaper first hit me hard: I walked through the front door of my family’s apartment, having just been unceremoniously dumped by my gorgeous and much-fawned-over French boyfriend, only to discover that in my four-hour absence my parents had covered the kitchen walls in paper adorned with French love poems. I plunked myself directly down on the kitchen floor and cried.
The next time wallpaper made me tear up was a decidedly better experience: my downstairs neighbor, Stephen Haskell, offered to paper a couple of walls in our living room with leftover rolls produced by the designer wallpaper company he runs, Cavern Home. When I saw the results, my heart went all aflutter: my semi-dilapidated, cream-colored, decidedly run-of-the-mill living room had been transformed into a thing of beauty. I now watch episodes of America’s Next Top Model happily ensconced in a piece of art.
I sat down with Stephen to ask him a few questions about the best ways to use wallpaper in small spaces, and where wallpaper trends are headed.
READ MORE.

My article on TheGloss.com, “Wallpaper Your Heart (Or Your Living Room)”:

Did you know that it is possible to have an overwhelming emotional response to wallpaper? It is indeed. I was sixteen years old when wallpaper first hit me hard: I walked through the front door of my family’s apartment, having just been unceremoniously dumped by my gorgeous and much-fawned-over French boyfriend, only to discover that in my four-hour absence my parents had covered the kitchen walls in paper adorned with French love poems. I plunked myself directly down on the kitchen floor and cried.

The next time wallpaper made me tear up was a decidedly better experience: my downstairs neighbor, Stephen Haskell, offered to paper a couple of walls in our living room with leftover rolls produced by the designer wallpaper company he runs, Cavern Home. When I saw the results, my heart went all aflutter: my semi-dilapidated, cream-colored, decidedly run-of-the-mill living room had been transformed into a thing of beauty. I now watch episodes of America’s Next Top Model happily ensconced in a piece of art.

I sat down with Stephen to ask him a few questions about the best ways to use wallpaper in small spaces, and where wallpaper trends are headed.

READ MORE.

Seriously, I can’t stop. This is what I spent my Saturday night doing while Kendrick was off recording.

Want to join the party? I bet you do. Get started here.

Lucy loves the new couch, too. 

Lucy loves the new couch, too. 

So remember how I was trying to give away my old couch? Well, none of you bit, alas, so I put it on CraigsList, and last night around 10PM three of the most stoned young men that I’ve ever seen in my life stopped by the apartment to pick it up “for a party.”
Yeahhhh.
No matter, though, because how freaking awesome does our new couch look?!
I love it.
A couch is a huge commitment; it really defines the look of your living room more than anything else (unless you’re me and have crazy black-and-white wallpaper on two of the walls, which is pretty…defining). When we decided that we wanted a new couch I toyed with lots of different looks (I was actually leaning towards a dark-brown retro-look couch like this one from Crate & Barrel)…but I’m thrilled that we ended up with something a touch more daring.
If you’re searching for a new couch but aren’t quite sure what look you want to go with, here’s an idea: even if you’re wary of used furniture, go on CraigsList and peek around at what’s out there, and take notes on the colors, patterns and styles that stand out to you. You’ll be exposed to a much wider range of looks than you would be in a “normal” furniture store, and may end up picking something amazing and unique that you never thought you’d go for.

So remember how I was trying to give away my old couch? Well, none of you bit, alas, so I put it on CraigsList, and last night around 10PM three of the most stoned young men that I’ve ever seen in my life stopped by the apartment to pick it up “for a party.”

Yeahhhh.

No matter, though, because how freaking awesome does our new couch look?!

I love it.

A couch is a huge commitment; it really defines the look of your living room more than anything else (unless you’re me and have crazy black-and-white wallpaper on two of the walls, which is pretty…defining). When we decided that we wanted a new couch I toyed with lots of different looks (I was actually leaning towards a dark-brown retro-look couch like this one from Crate & Barrel)…but I’m thrilled that we ended up with something a touch more daring.

If you’re searching for a new couch but aren’t quite sure what look you want to go with, here’s an idea: even if you’re wary of used furniture, go on CraigsList and peek around at what’s out there, and take notes on the colors, patterns and styles that stand out to you. You’ll be exposed to a much wider range of looks than you would be in a “normal” furniture store, and may end up picking something amazing and unique that you never thought you’d go for.

The other day, I stopped by my friend Cookie’s new apartment to check it out. She’s still in the process of setting it up, but…sigh. This is exactly why I love NYC apartments. Spare, old, and beautiful.

Are we all ready to abandon the idea that furniture has to match? Look at how stunning these two simple chairs look in that clean, open space. As long as something about the mismatched pieces you choose is similar - in this case, the shade of wood and the elegant, curved shape - you’ll achieve a sense of harmony. I firmly believe that you should adore each and every piece in your house; being able to look around you at the beautiful space that you’ve created is so much more important than making sure that everything “goes.”

I won something! And I never win anything.
At the Robert Verdi “Future of Fashion” event during Fashion Week, I entered ModernDose.com’s contest to win a variety of home decor items…and this neat-looking thing just arrived in the mail! My taste usually skews more vintage-romantic than modern, but this vase somehow manages to be both unique and classic…and looks absolutely stunning on the mantle of the (non-working, alas) fireplace in our bedroom. Can’t you just see it filled with a gorgeous bunch of pink peonies?
Off to the florist!

I won something! And I never win anything.

At the Robert Verdi “Future of Fashion” event during Fashion Week, I entered ModernDose.com’s contest to win a variety of home decor items…and this neat-looking thing just arrived in the mail! My taste usually skews more vintage-romantic than modern, but this vase somehow manages to be both unique and classic…and looks absolutely stunning on the mantle of the (non-working, alas) fireplace in our bedroom. Can’t you just see it filled with a gorgeous bunch of pink peonies?

Off to the florist!

I love nothing more than a nice taxi ride to the airport – it definitely starts your travels out on the right foot, and god knows I could use a little less travel-related drama – but if my flight is at any time other than 5AM, I can’t rationalize springing for the $50 (or so) tab. Fortunately, NYC-area airports have a variety of affordable transportation options. 
My favorite ways to get a move on:
JFK:
-       Option #1: Take the A/E/J/Z to Howard Beach (A) or Sutphin Boulevard (E/J/Z), and then switch to the AirTrain (this takes pretty much forever, but is the cheapest way to get there - just the cost of the subway + $5 for the AirTrain). I do this if I have a bunch of extra time to spare, light luggage, and a good book.
-       Option #2: Take the LIRR from Penn Station to Jamaica (about $13; a little more if, like me, you routinely arrive too late to buy a ticket in the station and must buy it on the railroad), and then switch to the Airtrain. This is what I usually do.
NEWARK:
-       Option #1: Take NJTransit to Newark Airport, and then switch to the Airtrain (the $15 NJTransit ticket includes the price of the Airtrain ticket)
-       Option #2: Take Amtrak from Penn Station directly to the airport (quicker than NJTransit, but more expensive). I don’t do this. 
-  Option #3: Take a bus from Port Authority ($14 one-way). 
LAGUARDIA:
-       Option #1: Take a cab. It’s not that expensive (about $25 to Manhattan), especially if you’re splitting the fare with a friend. This is what I do, and why I like flying out of Laguardia best.
-       Option #2: Take the M60 bus.
There are also lots of great (and low-cost) shuttle services to and from the airports; I like Super Shuttle. 
Any other tips for getting to/from NYC airports?

I love nothing more than a nice taxi ride to the airport – it definitely starts your travels out on the right foot, and god knows I could use a little less travel-related drama – but if my flight is at any time other than 5AM, I can’t rationalize springing for the $50 (or so) tab. Fortunately, NYC-area airports have a variety of affordable transportation options. 

My favorite ways to get a move on:

JFK:

-       Option #1: Take the A/E/J/Z to Howard Beach (A) or Sutphin Boulevard (E/J/Z), and then switch to the AirTrain (this takes pretty much forever, but is the cheapest way to get there - just the cost of the subway + $5 for the AirTrain). I do this if I have a bunch of extra time to spare, light luggage, and a good book.

-       Option #2: Take the LIRR from Penn Station to Jamaica (about $13; a little more if, like me, you routinely arrive too late to buy a ticket in the station and must buy it on the railroad), and then switch to the Airtrain. This is what I usually do.

NEWARK:

-       Option #1: Take NJTransit to Newark Airport, and then switch to the Airtrain (the $15 NJTransit ticket includes the price of the Airtrain ticket)

-       Option #2: Take Amtrak from Penn Station directly to the airport (quicker than NJTransit, but more expensive). I don’t do this. 

-  Option #3: Take a bus from Port Authority ($14 one-way). 

LAGUARDIA:

-       Option #1: Take a cab. It’s not that expensive (about $25 to Manhattan), especially if you’re splitting the fare with a friend. This is what I do, and why I like flying out of Laguardia best.

-       Option #2: Take the M60 bus.

There are also lots of great (and low-cost) shuttle services to and from the airports; I like Super Shuttle

Any other tips for getting to/from NYC airports?

The other night, Melissa brought her new puppy, Zuki, over for a play-date with Lucy and Virgil. Cuteness obviously ensued, but I was extremely nervous at first: my dogs are small and pretty passive, but they’re easily four times Zuki’s size. Also, Virgil’s a puppy and Lucy’s…well…not the smartest kid on the block. Who’s to say they wouldn’t think Zuki was a mouse or rabbit and try to kill her? Last summer, I saw a pet rabbit be killed by two large dogs in the park - it died in my hands after its owner pulled it away from the dogs and I chased it down - and it was an unbelievably traumatizing experience that’s stuck with me ever since.

So. I did some research on the topic of introducing a very small dog to larger ones, and it turns out there’s little danger if you don’t have naturally aggressive dogs; the first thing that they’ll do is try to establish dominance, and once that’s done with the problem is more or less solved (Zuki, of course, quickly emerged as the top dog in this situation).

Some tips for introducing a bitty thing to less bitty things:

1. Don’t keep them on leashes; that takes away their sense that they can flee if things go awry and makes them more aggressive. If you insist on leashes, make sure not to project an air of tension; keep things as relaxed as possible.

2. Make sure that the person who has the most control over the bigger dog is present.

3. Consider introducing them on neutral territory so that neither animal feels protective of their environment.

4. Make sure that the littler dog has a safe place to retreat to should the bigger one become overly enthusiastic.

Sources: ASPCA, MetaFilter, Catster.

A QUESTION FOR YOU:

Morgan and I were talking about her upcoming wedding over dinner, and we’re wondering: what are some interesting guest book options (she doesn’t want a traditional sign-your-name here book)? 

The guest book pictured above is from our engagement party - my maids of honor put together a beautiful album with a picture of us on each page, and guests wrote notes to us around the picture that they felt best encapsulated our relationship. 

UPDATE: Thank you for all the creative responses! You guys are amazing :)

Two of my favorites (so far):

From Margaret:

We got a silver tray with our initials and the date we got married engraved on it. We then had an engraving drill that everyone used to sign the tray. You just put a couple practice pieces out for everyone. The drill’s not loud and it’s not hard for guests to use. It’s a wonderful keepsake that we have out all the time. Couple of our friends have also used the idea!

From EmphasisAdded:

Good morning sunshine!
My husb and I have a mild obsession with our city of Chicago, so we opted for a Chicago Coffee Table book for the guests to sign.
I thought it was interesting how people naturally signed the pages/photos that reminded them of us….for example my dad wrote his message on the page with the lakefront running path (we run together often), a whole slew of Simon’s buddies wrote well wishes on the page with Wrigley Field (several people opted to draw “we sat here” arrows) and some of my more artistic friends gravitated towards the photos of Chicago Theatre.
It ended up being really personal, while still having a personality!

On Sunday afternoon, I received a bit of a frantic email from Morgan requesting that I come over and help her fix the coffee table she’d been refurbishing. The problem was that the brushstrokes were visible - and going in a couple of different directions - but it was totally salvageable: another careful coat of polyurethane followed by some buffing with a dry paintbrush, and the table was gorgeous and rustic-looking. This was quite fortunate, because I’d like to stay in Morgan’s good graces.
Any suggestions for other refurbishing techniques we could have used? 

On Sunday afternoon, I received a bit of a frantic email from Morgan requesting that I come over and help her fix the coffee table she’d been refurbishing. The problem was that the brushstrokes were visible - and going in a couple of different directions - but it was totally salvageable: another careful coat of polyurethane followed by some buffing with a dry paintbrush, and the table was gorgeous and rustic-looking. This was quite fortunate, because I’d like to stay in Morgan’s good graces.

Any suggestions for other refurbishing techniques we could have used? 

DIY Reed Diffuser

Such a gorgeous, elegant DIY gift…and easy! And inexpensive.

To make your own reed diffuser:

1. Choose a glass bottle with a narrow neck.

2. Purchase reeds or bamboo skewers (these can easily be found online…try here or here).

3. Fill the bottle with a diffuser oil in the scent of your choice (you can buy oils here and here).

4. Put sticks into bottle and allow them to absorb oil for one hour. Then flip them over so that the other end is immersed.

5. Be patient; it takes a little time for the reeds to soak up the oil. But that’s it!

If you’re giving these as gifts, package the reeds or skewers separately: tie a few of them together with a pretty ribbon and place in a cellophane bag alongside the sealed bottle of oil.