Friday, February 28, 2014

We're Obsessed with Arthur Chu

At the beginning of 2014, Sean and I sort of spontaneously started DVR-ing Jeopardy and watching it every night. It's truly become one of my favorite rituals, and we couldn't have timed it better, because we started watching just as Arthur Chu began his reign.

Not familiar? Well, here's an article or another one about the most divisive person to grace a quiz show stage since tv games were rigged back in the 50s. Arthur has won more than $200K in EIGHT days through an upended way of playing the game that is simultaneously riveting, maddening and insanely aggressive. I've been watching Jeopardy since before I can remember memories, and I can't recall anyone ever playing the game like this.

Basically, he's all about the money and will do anything to get it. This includes hunting the board for Daily Doubles, making as many of them "true Daily Doubles" as possible, starting his game with the high-scoring questions in his comfortable categories and talking as fast as he can in order to have more time to answer more questions to make more money. The first few episodes, I was frankly offended by his brashness. Now, I'm totally hooked. He is, quite literally, a game-changer and I don't think I can ever un-see his method now that I've seen it!

Besides just generally making money like a boss, he's also been ruling the "getting to know you anecdote" portion. When other folks have talked about their volunteerism or dumb coincidences or stupid travel stories, he's been laying down anecdotes about playing a zombie at the White House Halloween, having his own theme song and performing in an improv troop of Washingtonian muckety-mucks. 

On top of all this, he's just genuinely well-rounded in his trivia knowledge and seems to have very few category weaknesses. We actually spent part of dinner debating what it will take to bring him down! It's crazy to say the least.

This might qualify as one of the weirder posts I've ever written, but I'm just so into it and I have to know if you guys are, too! What do you think? Is he the best or absolute worst thing to ever happen to the game? 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

What I'd Wear to the Oscars

I'm pretty pumped for this weekend's Super Bowl...err...Oscars, which is, as you know, my favorite televised event of the year. As much as I love to critique the fashions, I like to consider the real challenge it must be to find the perfect gown that might take on a life of its own and go down in fashion history. Tall order! So, in my fantasy land, here's what I'd consider wearing on the big night.

If I Were a Nominee's Date

When you're not nominated and not a presenter, but just there to support your significant other, you kind of have to acknowledge it's not your time to shine. You need to be sophisticated and interesting, but not overly attention-seeking or flashy. I think this emerald green Elie Saab would do the trick; elegant, but demure and not overly LOOK AT ME. I'd pair it with an interesting antique piece of jewelry, like this emerald, ruby and diamond Indian bracelet.

Nominated for a Non-Acting Award

I always feel bad for the female nominees who aren't actresses and therefore don't have designer begging to dress them. Female directors, producers, documentarians, etc. shouldn't have to wear off-the-rack dresses! If I were one of them, I'd angle for something like this beautiful gold floral Badgley Mischka...a little sparkle, a demure cut that allows you to wear a bra (most of these ladies aren't going to be strapped into their dresses with double-stick tape by a pro stylist) and something that will look nice, not boring. I'd love to see something like this paired with delicate antique earrings that play off the design motifs of the dress.

A first-time presenter

The first-time presenting spot is usually a plum gig reserved for an up-and-coming ingenue. In the past, it's truly been a breakthrough moment for actresses looking to shed their teenybopper status and play in the big leagues. When I picture who this girl might be, I picture Margot Robbie, who just turned in a great performance in "Wolf of Wall Street." It's a chance to say, "I'm sexy, I'm classy, Girls want to be me, Boys want to sleep with me, Cast me in your next movie." 

That's a mouthful, but I think this delicate, ethereal Elie Saab (i'm a sucker for Elie Saab when it comes to red carpet) would say all that and more. I'd keep the accessories simple, and maybe zhush up the dress a bit with this lovely antique brooch.

America's Sweetheart, after a lot of fashion missteps

So basically this entire category exists for Julia Roberts, who's been looking a little hot messy lately and for no damn good reason. She's a gorgeous woman, beloved by many, with a great body and an ease that only comes from literally starring in "America's Sweethearts." I'd like to see her play a bit with that line between sexy and confident by wearing a slinky Naeem Khan gown and on-trend diamond tassel earrings that would look gorgeous in her beautiful wavy hair. Bring sexy back, Julia!

Favorite to win Best Supporting Actress

I can't imagine more of a stylists' dream than Lupita Nyong'o. She's incredibly elegant, svelte, looks amazing in every color, is willing to be a little edgy and is sweet to boot. I love her in bright colors and I just love the idea of her working a gown with as much Cinderella-at-the-ball volume as this one by Oscar de la Renta. You could go simple with it and wear plain diamond studs, but I also like the idea of going really funky, and these 19th-century French earrings would certainly fit the bill.

A Grand Dame

Every year, there's a grand dame — Meryl Streep or Judi Dench — and they tend to be wearing a real snoozer of an outfit. That's fine and part of me figures they've done this dance more than a few times, why make a big deal? But the other part of me wonders if it has more to do with no designers really wanting to work with them. Helen Mirren somehow always looks awesome, so clearly she's figured out the secret. I think this Marchesa gown would truly fit a woman of any age, but would look particularly fetching on Meryl with a set of simple stud earrings.

Favorite to win Best Actress

When someone as adventurous as Cate Blanchett appears to be the front-runner, it makes me wanna stretch a little bit on what I think would be an awesome dress for the Best Actress winner. Usually, I go for dramatic ball gowns, but this Zuhair Murad gown just seems like something she could knock out of the park. Unexpected, edgy as hell, yet still elegant. Could be interesting!

That said, I am dying to see someone rock this Ulyana Sergeenko gown that reminds me of the drama in one of my favorite paintings of all time, Madame X by John Singer Sargent. It's basically the kind of gown I'd be designing if I designed couture. I'd keep it very classic, very turn-of-the-century French with these Victorian diamond earrings

What about you? Agree? Disagree? You'd wear a pantsuit with beaded fringe? Tell me all about it.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Jams of the Week

I know I usually save my Jams of the Week posts for Fridays, but I have been meaning to share my current obsessions! What are you obsessed with these days? I can't get enough of:

TV Jams: House of Cards and True Detective

We've been sucked into some deliciously dark shows lately. We plowed through the second season of Netflix's "House of Cards" like it was nothin' and didn't look back. Frank Underwood is ridiculous and I can't get enough. HBO's "True Detective" has a different tone, but the performances by Woody Harrelson and especially Matthew McConnaughey are so impressive. The McConnaissance just goes on and on!

Movie Jam: The Lego Movie

I was, to say the least, quite surprised when my husband started begging to see The Lego Movie. He's not someone who's usually clamoring to see the newest animated film. It's one of those sleeper hits that seems to come out of nowhere, barely have any marketing in advance and suddenly it's everywhere! It was truly one of the best movies — animated or otherwise — I've seen in a while, and it's beyond-catchy theme song is an insta-classic.

Literary Jam: Angelica Huston

I'm reading all about Anjelica Huston's incredible childhood in Ireland in her first autobiography, which I received for Christmas. It's great, but I REALLY can't wait for her second book and to see how she talks about her relationship with Jack Nicholson.

App Jam: Duolingo
For years, I've gone through phases of wanting to really buckle down and learn more French. My high school classes were over and done with before the end of my freshman year, due to funky scheduling, so most of the French I learned was gone forever. I can't promise the duolingo app is going to make me fluent, but it's definitely building my vocabulary. It's very similar to the methods used by Rosetta Stone, except it's a free app!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sunday Best v.194

Rest by Winslow Homer, 1885

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Collage Inspiration

Two collages I completed on Sunday.

As you know, I'm newly OBSESSED with collaging. It's really the perfect art activity for cold winter days and nights. Cutting out tiny little details while marathoning "House of Cards" is basically a perfect February Sunday. I've never particularly explored collage, but I have ALWAYS been a paper hoarder. I usually snip out any images that I find arresting before I throw away magazines, and I love tiny pretty things. This is a great outlet for that hoarding tendency!

Here are some mixed media artists whose work has inspired me. I've found myself rediscovering their work, most especially Joseph Cornell, one of my all-time favorites!

Max Ernst pioneered the idea of surrealist collages, mixing and matching pieces and parts to create sometimes humorous, sometimes frightening, sometimes sexual assemblages. It was an exhibit of his work that first inspired Joseph Cornell to combine the paper ephemera he'd been collecting.

Fellow DaDaist and Surrealist Kurt Schwitters, an artist whose love of typography was prominent in his collages.

Joseph Cornell was basically the Emily Dickenson of collages and assemblages, a recluse whose surrealist assemblages were romantic and childlike, full of nostalgia. He started out with simple collages, but soon branched into dioramas...something I'd really like to explore down the line!

Modern collages have been popping up a lot in both their paper and digital forms. I totally want to make a copy-cat version of this one by Martin O'Neill. Love it!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sunday Best v.193

I'm still hard at work collaging! Something about winter just brings out the crafty in me. Spent most of the day cutting and gluing and watching House of Cards...perfect lazy (yet productive!) Sunday.
Here are my favorite links of the week:

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Wine Club: Valentine's Labels

Wine Club met up for its annual sampling of wines of romance last week. The rules are simple: choose a romantic or suggestive label and see if the contents are as alluring as the designs! 

  •  Temptation Zinfandel: This zin is a blend of zinfandel grapes from several regions, and has hints of red fruits, including strawberry. 
  • Lo Tengo Malbec: I brought this spicy malbec, which was a big crowd-pleaser if I do say so myself. It has hints of blueberry and sweet plum.
  • Dearly Beloved Red: This Trader Joe's wine might be inexpensive, but it ain't bad! It's an extremely drinkable red, blended from not one, not two, but five grapes: zinfandel, merlot, petite syrah, syrah and Cab Franc.

 Wink Red: This red table wine has flavors of ripe berries, with a smooth finish. Easy breezy, just like its cover girl.

  •  Be Flirty Pink Moscato: I'm a sucker for girly, sweet, wimpy Kool Aid-y wines, so of course I loved this! It's sweet and sparkly, just like it should be.

  • Chocolate Box Truffle Moscato: Another delicious, sweet, sparkly moscato. I can't get enough, and that label is damn near the cutest I've ever seen.
Have a very sweet and romantic Valentine's Day, whether it's with your significant other, a Galentine's Day or a bottle for yourself and your Netflix!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Midcentury Office Chair Conundrum

As I mentioned last week, I picked up this 60's rosewood desk chair with the intention of getting it reupholstered.

The current fabric is an ugly 80's pattern that does nothing to bring out the warmth of the wood. Being the naive little darling I am, I imagined that would be 3 yards of fabric, max and thus, might not be too expensive. I'll wait for you to stop laughing at my ignorance.

So far I've only gotten one quote, but it confirmed my suspicions: the gorgeous solid rosewood back makes this a trickier job than most, plus it needs a good welt (cording) around all the sides...definitely not a job for amateurs! The quote I received estimated a couple hundred bucks, which is really only worth it if I expect to have it my entire life, or if I think I could someday sell it for more than that. I'm torn, because I totally love its unique shape and that rosewood is gorgeous, but I also seriously doubt I could ever re-sell it for more than the total cost. (You never know, though...perfectly preserved chairs like this go for more than $1,000 on 1stDibs...but I'm no antique dealer!)

So what would you do? I'm kind of inclined to save my pennies up and spring for it down the line, but that makes me afraid I'll never do it and just end up getting rid of it after a couple moves. Thoughts?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Sunday Best v.192

I spent all of Sunday cutting out snippets to make myriad collages. The urge came out of nowhere and was SO FUN, but truly sucked up my whole day. I just cut paper and watched Olympics, and it was blissful. Needless to say, it meant I also forgot to post my Sunday Best!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

I Spy: Midcentury Modern Hunting in Richmond

 I don't think I can pinpoint it to a certain date, but somewhere along the way I fell head over heels in love with midcentury modern furniture, which refers to anything from the 1940s-1970s. It's had a huge resurgence in recent years, so I know a big part of the obsession came from magazines and blogs. But the first time I remember realizing I loved '60s furniture was my sophomore year in college, when I was creating a collage out of Eames chairs trimmed from magazines and I was just in love. My in-laws have a home full of it, and I love all of it!

I know I should be careful not to end up locked into an obsession that frankly, can get a little pricey. Truthfully, I don't ever want to have a home so stuck in one era that it looks like a Smithsonian exhibit. But, I can't resist the pull of tapered legs, warm teak and rosewood, brass and chrome accents and clean lines! So when I stumbled upon Born Again Furnishings, a Richmond-based consignment shop specializing in midcentury furnishings, it beckoned me like a siren and like Odysseus, I just couldn't resist. I hope you realize what a big step it is for me to tell you about my new treasure trove when I haven't even had the chance to clean the place out! Here are some items that caught my attention:

 Ultra-modern and timeless teak-and-chrome lamps. Trust me when I say these would go in ANY living room. They're sleek and could add a little edge to even the most traditional of living rooms.

 This table and chairs were being sold as a set, which is a shame because the table is clearly the winner here. I pictured it in front of a breakfast nook banquette, with a bowl of oranges on top. The legs are so sculptural and cool.

 Lucite will always be popular with those of us who were obsessed with Domino Magazine...I've seen a lot of acrylic and lucite furniture, but a wine rack was new to me! This $100 one would be a great showcase for your collection.

 They had several really great dining tables and buffets, including this little buffet that would work perfectly as a multifunction storage piece. Use it as a bar, use it in an office...heck, fill it with blankets and board games. This workhorse would always be ready to serve.

 I thought this lamp looked like something you'd buy at West Elm right now. Interesting, timeless...even Japanese-looking in its minimalism and imperfect lines (I love the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi).

 A story: My in-laws actually have the lounge version of Ingmar Relling's Siesta chair and it is so beautiful. It has just the right balance of sculptural elegance and smushy, well-worn comfort. It has a striking silhouette...definitely not the kind of chair you stick in a corner. This $440 bad boy looks gorgeous from all sides.

This dresser, despite its discoloration on the bottom drawer, was the best of all eras. It has the warm wood and clean lines of midcentury modern furniture, but the curved bowfront hearkens back to classic styles of the mid-1800s. It truly would work in any room.

I did end up leaving with something...part of me wonders if it was unwise, because I will definitely have to get it reupholstered if I want to keep it. But the heart wants what the heart wants, and in the moment, my heart wanted a 1960s rosewood swivel chair. More on that later!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Taking Myself On a Date to the Art Museum

 Do you ever take yourself on dates? I think it can be so rejuvenating, both for you and for your friends/partner. Sometimes (often, actually) I really want to go somewhere or do something that doesn't remotely interest Sean. He is always a good sport about being dragged to art museums, but this past Saturday, I had no plans and he was at work and I just had the urge to get out of town.

So I took myself on a date to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, where I saw an exhibit on Hollywood Costumes and fell head over heels in love with their exhibit on how they commissioned a piece from Ryan McGinniss. Up until I visited the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art on a whim last month, I don't think I had ever gone to a museum by myself before. I've always loved talking about the art or artifacts with my friends and family, so it's been a surprisingly fun endeavor to go completely alone.  It means I can look as long as I want, move on if I'm not interested and be quiet and contemplative. It seemed a little silly to drive an hour away to see a couple exhibits, but it was nice to have some creativity-boosting me time, and it gave me lots to tell Sean about when I got home. I recommend it!

 The Ryan McGinniss exhibit is a brilliant way of taking the viewer into his "studio" without anyone going to Brooklyn or without him coming to Richmond. Through blown-up photographs, tables with screens and a projection of him working, guests could get a sense of how the project was completed. It was one of the most accessible exhibits I've ever seen in terms of breaking down the process for the viewer.

 The VMFA invited McGinniss, a native Virginian, to draw inspiration from their collections and he derived graphic design-inspired "logos" that were then screenprinted on panels to create a giant piece called, "Art History Is Not Linear."

To show how he created his derivations, the museum is exhibiting some of the inspiration pieces beside examples of his symbols. They even had a free poster-size chart that's like the Rosetta Stone to understanding his piece. Is that not the coolest thing ever?

Once you begin to recognize the concept, you'll see each piece contains hundreds of years of art movements condensed into one artwork. So brilliant!

It was a great little day and I even had a chance to stop into a new-to-me midcentury modern consignment shop...more about that later this week!

How about you? Do you have a favorite place to take yourself on dates? Any recommendations?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Jack Daniels Mac & Cheese

 I have to beg your forgiveness! I made this mac and cheese about three weeks ago — eternity in blog years — and it's been languishing as a draft. In preparation for watching the Golden Globes, Ashleigh and I tackled this recipe for Jack Daniels' Mac & Cheese that's been making the Pinterest rounds. It was delicious...but not without its share of bacon disasters!

After preheating the oven to 400 degrees, I started out by boiling 1/2 cup of whiskey until it reduced to about 2 tablespoons. I set up a little assembly line of bacon, the whiskey and a mixture of brown sugar and a little cayenne pepper. I drenched each slice of bacon in the whiskey, then pressed it into the sugar, then added it to a foil-lined pan.

 We then popped the bacon in to bake....and after a while, we smelled a little smoke. It took us an unreasonably long time to realize HOLY CRAP that's the bacon we smell. We opened the oven and it truly looked like the moment Cher realizes she forgot she was baking something in "Clueless," with smoke pouring out of the oven and charred black sticky bacon. Whoops! Not a big deal though...luckily we had more bacon, so we just started all over.

Meanwhile, we prepared a box of elbow macaroni and in another pan, mixed 3 tablespoons of butter and flour, 2 cups of milk, a tablespoon of whiskey, cheddar, provolone cheese and spices. It got scary there for a sec (I think I need to get some Wondra next time I want to make a smooth thick cheese sauce) because the flour mixture just wasn't getting smooth enough fast enough, but somehow it all worked out.

 We added the cheese mixture to the macaroni...

 Pulled out our glorious candied bacon...

And put it all together. The verdict? I actually though the mac and cheese wasn't quite as good as other versions I've made (I'm partial to my smoked gouda mac), but I'm not sure I can ever have mac without candied bacon again. It's THAT good and adds that much to the dish.