Monthly Archives: April 2012

Love the Place You Live: Northern Liberties, Philadelphia

The above image is from The Piazza at Schmidt’s homepage.

Have you heard about the Love the Place You Live blog series over at Gabrielle Blair’s fabulously creative and informative blog, Design Mom? The goal is to explore the place you call home, and tell the world. We had a full and fun weekend, and most of it was spent in Northern Liberties. It’s no secret that we love living in Philadelphia. It’s not perfect, but tell me of a place that is?! Before we headed to Northern Liberties, we first met up with extended family at the aquarium across the river in Camden. If you want to really appreciate where you live, hop on over to Camden, NJ for your own real-life Zoe Strauss exhibit. Don’t get me wrong, Camden used to be and could be a gem (and Zoe actually lives and takes most of her photos in South Philadelphia). Right now, Camden is just a little rough around the edges. Our walk from Camden’s City Hall PATCO station to the Adventure Aquarium included a lovely tree-covered sidewalk, but it was surrounded by parking lots (and a prison next door to a YMCA, hmm)! The aquarium was OK, but I’m not usually wowed by animals in enclosures, so don’t take my word for it. The view of Philadelphia from the aquarium was well worth the trip, it helped to have a perfectly sunny day.

The toddler rushed through the dark aquarium exhibits, with a mixture of fear and wanting to find a neon green Tyvek bracelet some other girls were wearing. I knew we weren’t getting the special admission bracelets, so I allowed her to buy one thing at the gift shop. She chose a baby penguin stuffed animal despite my efforts to persuade her towards something smaller and cheaper. She also got her very first face painting EVER, penguins of course!

Next, we all headed over to Liberties Walk and the Piazza at Schmidt’s for some outside dining at Camino El Real and gelato/ice coffee at Nana Petrillo’s Gelateria. We didn’t take many photos because I forgot the camera, and David is the only one of us with a smart phone (so far).

So, the Piazza is a pretty nice place. It boasts numerous restaurants, retail shops, a fountain, and a huge brick wall with a stage for live performances and an extremely large television for viewing of Philadelphia sporting events. It’s a quick trip on public transportation, which we didn’t realize until this weekend. We’ll probably be back many more times before the summer is over.

Sunday was cold and very rainy, but we headed back to Northern Liberties for a play date at North Bowl for tater tots, oldies music, and bowling! It’s retro, and pretty darn nifty.

I couldn’t get over the tiny bowling shoes.

The toddlers lost interest after about 6 frames and got over-stimulated by all the noise. Estelle scored pretty well. Me? Not so much. I should get bumpers next time.

The food is amazing and not healthy, at all. They have standard tater tots, plus a whole menu of fancy tots. After our tots and edamame, we also ordered broccoli mac n’ cheese sprinkled with crunchy goldfish and two orders of corn dogs. We were so full, we didn’t need to eat dinner last night!

Before we said goodbye to North Bowl, I sent the kids into the photobooth with my fingers crossed that they were tall enough to be captured by the camera. What luck?!

That about sums up our weekend. We did not accomplish any house projects, but so what! We had fun. How was your weekend? Did you do anything exciting?



Philadelphia Rowhouse Manual


The Philadelphia Rowhouse Manual is a wealth of information. There are old rowhouse images and floor plans towards the beginning. Our house falls under the category of late 19th-century, small, workingman’s house.

In slightly related news, the 1940 census results have been digitized and made public as of this month. If you have an older U.S. address, you can search for your house or that of your ancestors. In looking at our block in the 1940s, we had a family of 4 in our house, but there were two separate sets of neighbors with 5 sons each! Woah! If they can raise 5 boys in a house this size, we are not insane for thinking we can make it work with 1 or 2 kids. I could look at census results all day, so it’s a good thing I sometimes get to do it for work.

The above image is found in the Philadelphia Rowhouse manual, but it is also from Apartment Therapy’s post about the manual.


Real World: Philadelphia

Word on the street is that they are casting for Real World: Philadelphia (again). I’m not sure how or why I know this when I didn’t even think that show was still on the air. No, this isn’t a post about how I have hopes of being on a Real World season…those dreams died by the time I graduated college.

This is A HOUSE TOUR post! A very real house tour! By real, I mean barely tidied, not clean, and my photos are not edited…as you can probably tell by the yellow-ness. I had about 20 minutes to take these photos, and only just now noticed the hat on the globe and (hopefully clean) socks on the kitchen counter. Nice. Anyways, nearly every room of our house is in progress. Maybe not the living and dining areas so much, but the table gets moved to accommodate 6 or more dinner guests sometimes. I only wish the kitchen was in progress, but that is just in progress in our heads for now. We have oodles of framed things not on the walls upstairs due to the wall building project we started in the fall. Also, it’s really hard to take photos inside a small house.  Perhaps I should try a video next time around. I will be back with a better house tour when things are a little more finished. Next year, maybe? I wish I was kidding.

The gallery order is entry/living room/dining room, kitchen, upstairs hallway, bathroom, Estelle’s toddler room, the nursery, and the master bedroom (click images to enlarge gallery).

Some things to note:

Estelle’s purple wall is impossible to capture on camera.

The nursery is one hot mess. We left the crib, but there are no siblings for Estelle in the works just yet. Taking apart a crib is just not a priority, and I don’t want to get used to that space being available. I guess we should stop using it as toy storage, huh?

We have only one closet in our entire house…it’s that glorified bookshelf with a door in the master bedroom. It’s not deep enough to fit a hanger, so we added shelves. Good thing we have a basement, which was purposefully excluded from this tour. It’s especially scary right now.

Do you have any easy interior photo tips? Please tell. Do you have questions about things you saw on my very uninformative tour? Please ask. If you think I need to really keep things real by including  a basement photo, just let me know. I’m not ashamed of my basement status, just short on time and daylight to fully capture the glory.


When life hands you expired frosting…

…toss it, and make your own! We are recovering from a birthday weekend around these parts. Little Miss Estelle turned 3 on Saturday, and we had one stellar day full of presents, cake, ice cream, train rides, carousel, and farm animals. We decided to keep things simple, and skip the birthday party in our too-small-for-a-party house this year. I bought some Whole Foods cupcakes, and we sent $40 to daycare for pizza. Estelle was way excited to celebrate with her friends at school.

Come on! We couldn’t keep things THAT simple. We also attended a small family gathering to celebrate the spring birthdays, it just happened to fall on Estelle’s birthday due to scheduling conflicts. I offered to bake the cake since my mom had left a Betty Crocker cake mix and frosting at our house when they visited two weekends ago. I baked the cake one night, using a bundt pan, because I don’t have two round cake pans (just one, of course). The next night, I promised Estelle she could help me decorate the cake. I open the Betty Crocker confetti frosting, and didn’t really like the grayish pink color it had to it. I still licked the frosting and gave some to the toddler. Then I checked the expiration date: July 2010. Ummm! I couldn’t possibly use it if it looked weird AND was so old. Quick, must think of something. I tried my handy dandy Joy of Cooking book, but those recipes were too complex. Next I Googled “easy bundt cake glaze”, and came up with this bad boy. It had me at four ingredients, including my favorite, almond extract. I barely had one cup of confectioner’s sugar, so however much I made had to be enough. Luckily, I had some sprinkles to make things look less sad. Don’t be fooled, it wasn’t all rainbow sprinkles and butterflies on our kitchen. I was so flustered, I kept telling Estelle not to touch ANYTHING! If she hates baking in the future, I will know it was because of me.

The cake results:

The curtain of balloons was a big hit, but didn’t last long!

Cake glaze recipe via

  1. Melt 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) of butter in a saucepan or microwave.
  2. Sift 2 cups of powdered sugar into a medium size bowl.
  3. Add the melted butter to the powdered sugar.
  4. Add 2 tablespoons of milk.
  5. If desired, add 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract or 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla for flavor.
  6. Beat until smooth and creamy, adding a little more milk if necessary.
  7. Drizzle over a cooled cake.

Over and out!


First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage…

With so many friends and family tying the knot this year and next, weddings are never far from my mind. I was contemplating writing a post about what to register for a wedding, but those are mostly personal choices.  What I can offer is a list of wedding gifts we loved to receive, in addition to some low-cost thoughtful wedding gift ideas for the happy couples in your lives.

Below is the short list of wedding gifts we have found most useful over our past 5 years of wedded bliss. It is hardly a complete list, but these are clearly the ones that stick out in my mind without having to dig around the house.

  • Le Cruset Dutch Oven – we leave it on the stove, it’s that cute and useful (we have the 2 qt. size)
  • Breville ikon Toaster – I think we bought this with wedding gift cards, it’s still going strong
  • Hand Blender – I don’t have a favorite, but these get my vote for soups/baby food/etc.
  • One-handed salt and pepper grinders – on the small side, but that’s a plus in our house
  • The Joy of Cooking – what would I do without it?!
  • Dishes – nice stuff you aren’t afraid to use everyday, we love our Pillivuyt (and may need some replacements soon)

I am always debating the necessity of the Kitchen Aid stand mixer. Yes, they are so cute, but also so big! Ours just barely fits in our small kitchen, and it must live in a cabinet most of the time. I was seriously doubting it’s usefulness until I went to make sugar cookies and icing a couple months ago. It won me over, and certainly made my job easier. What are your thoughts about Kitchen Aid stand mixers? Do you love them, or do you have a faithful alternative? I might use mine more if I had one of these sweet pop-up cabinet shelves in the kitchen. A girl can dream!

Now on to gift suggestions. First, I will make some disclaimers. I love registries, they give me a great sense of what people like, but I don’t normally buy directly from them. I love giving gifts that are fun to receive, and surprises are usually fun (sometimes scary). Also, we usually buy gifts that travel or ship easily since our Philly weddings are few and far between. Finally, although we would love to spend endless gobs of money on our friends and family, it’s just not feasible. You’ll find that all of my gifts ideas are under $100, and they can be upgraded if your wallet permits.

Weeble Wobble Salt & Pepper Shakers (dinner entertainment at it’s tiniest) – pairs nicely with a Salt & Pepper cookbook – $65 total

20×200 gift certificate– to buy new art – Standing at the Edge of the Water by Helena Wurzel $60 – art selection made by the toddler for the “fun toes”

Cloth napkins and napkin rings – the combinations are endless, vintage linen damask napkins are especially nice – these napkin rings are sold by one of my favorite stores of all time, P.O.S.H. Chicago

Monogrammed Antique Grain Sack – definitely not for everyone – they could be made into bolster pillows, table runners, used as laundry bags, etc. $55

Mr. & Mrs. Frankenstein Travel Mugs – by Lenny Mud – would be nice gifted with fancy coffee, tea, and/or hot chocolate $35

Tiffany & Co. Champagne glasses – they come wrapped in the signature blue box for major wow factor $20 each

My last idea is a gift certificate to a honeymoon restaurant or a restaurant in the couple’s home town. We especially loved receiving these, and even saved one to use for our first anniversary. Price and locations vary greatly. It is nice to try to find a restaurant group with many restaurant options in one area. For Philly that would be Jose Garces and Stephen Starr. For our Charleston, SC honeymoon, we were given a gift certificate for Maverick Southern Kitchens.

That’s a wrap. Gift pun intended. I’m afraid that if I divulge any more ideas, I won’t be surprising anyone else in the near future!

First comes love, then comes marriage…then comes a baby in the baby carriage. I’m hoping to attempt a baby registry and gift guide in the coming days.


Bedroom Light Fixture

My parents are in town, which means we have 4 extra hands to help us with the toddler and the house! This morning the guys took down our loud and unreliable ceiling fan light in our “master” bedroom, and replaced it with a new fixture from Schoolhouse Electric Co. The verdict? We like it! It just needs a bigger, cooler light bulb. The glass bubble shade makes the normal-sized light bulb look puny. We might opt for a long Edison bulb, but we will wait to see how everything looks at night before we make any purchases. See below for some before and after images, and check out our mad egg-dying skills  from this morning.




Same view after:

After (close-up):



I was hoping to blog a little more than once a week, oh well! I have a whole list of future blog posts, but life has been a bit crazy since Thursday 3/28. When we over-packed our bags and headed to my sister’s 3/31 wedding weekend in Annapolis, MD. Both the toddler and I were in the wedding party, and David was the flower girl wrangler. Given our roles, we don’t have many photos yet. It was a blast, the bride and groom were so laid back, which is the key to a great wedding! You can see a quick video of E and the younger girls walking down the aisle here. My cousin, who is venturing into the world of photography, took some nice photos that you can find here.

I’m hoping to provide some of the fun wedding details we used (I helped in the planning process a bit). I also want to do a post about low-cost, high-impact wedding gifts. Not only that, but my sister and my now brother-in-law announced at their reception that they will be welcoming a little baby towards the end of September. I’m so excited about my future gig as Tia! You can bet your money I have some baby registry tips for you (and them). My parents are headed up to Philly tonight, and we’re highly optimistic that we can install our new bedroom light fixture this weekend. It arrived on Monday, and this mess is what happened after we examined the contents of our box:

Sorry, that image is so small! Now, I know why David prefers horizontally formatted images. I’m actually hoping to use the long strips of paper to make something like this basket, but that might just be a pipe dream. My sewing machine sees the light of day maybe twice a year.

Image from Design Sponge

Ok, folks…I need to get my butt in gear and to work on time. Here’s hoping I’m back with a new post soon.