Category Archives: Cool Things

aka Geeky Things, Pretty Things, or I Things I Want to Make or Buy

I Hate Greeting Cards

This is nothing new, some of you may be all too familiar with my card giving antics. Blank stationery and invitations are fine, I have a whole collection of that! It’s going into a drug store and picking out cards that I drives me nuts. If I’m crunched for time, or don’t want people to think I’m cheap for making my own card, I will try to look for greeting cards in Whole Foods, Trader Joes, or even while I’m traveling abroad (that’s rare). At work, we print our own birthday cards, and pass them around for everyone to sign. It might be my favorite task at work, and it’s definitely not in my job description! At home, I will usually get Estelle to make some sort of crayon or paint creation on card stock and fold that bad boy in half…poof, just like that, a free greeting card!

I was a little more inspired this past week thanks to some freebie cards I picked up in the Craft Lab located within the gallery of Craft Spoken Here, up through August in the Perelman Building of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

I needed to make a card for my dad’s belated Father’s Day gift. I had an “A Ha!” moment when I figured out that all of his names that we call him have three letters. I folded an 8.5″ x 11″ piece of card stock in half, and wrote out Joe, Dad, and Avô (means grandfather in Portuguese) on top of each other. I drew dots along the letters, used a sewing needle to poke holes on the dots, and erased my pencil lines.

Next, I used some sort of backstitch to sew the letters. I had been wanting to get back into hand embroidery, so I had a couple colors of cotton embroidery floss sitting around and needles with big enough eyes. I wouldn’t even call myself an amateur embroiderer, so I cannot give you stitch instructions. If you are you slightly familiar with a needle and thread, I’m quite sure you can figure it out.

The results, front and back:

After I was done, I covered up the back with card stock using double-stick tape. Not too shabby?! Although, I really should have been folding laundry instead of doing this. Oh well, I think this fed my creative spirit more so than laundry. Dad, hope you liked it!

Stephanie

Bonlook Memorial Day Sale!

If you are looking for inexpensive, retro eyeglasses and sunglasses, check out the Bonlook Memorial Day Sale, buy one get one 50% off. Expect to pay $99 – $130 for one pair, with convenient returns and carbon neutral shipping. I have the Jungle Chic frames in grey, and I am keeping my eyes out for a cool tortoiseshell pair sometime soon. Happy shopping!

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Hope you all are having a fun weekend!

Stephanie

Grads and Dads Gift Guide

I was a little slow in getting this posted, but blogging takes too dang long. We had a lovely graduation weekend in the mountains of Virginia. As always, the weekend was too short and the drive too long. Speaking of driving, David suggested I cover some aspects of our life without a car. Gladly! Stay tuned for the first of many Car-free and Carefree posts in the next day or so.

Ok, let’s cut to the chase. Graduates first because college graduations are happening as I type this, and high school graduations will be here before we know it! I always struggle with graduation gifts, especially high school. Generally these people like need money.

Do you know where they are moving? Try a gift card to the local grocery store.

I have one high school graduation gift that I still use to this day. It’s an address book. The binder type with extra pages has worked well for me, and don’t forget to use pencil. People move, marry, divorce, have kids, and die all the time. Maybe even include some classic wood pencils to get that message across.

Reminders of where they spent the past few years will be nice to keep the memories alive. Unless they hated their school…in which case, just give them money.

studiokmo’s Blacksburg print (and money) was our gift of choice for the Virginia Tech graduate last weekend. Karen also has hand-cut paper maps that are spectacular (if your budget allows). No time to get it framed? She can do that too, one stop shopping. Karen is a college friend (go Hokies!), and we love hearing about all of her success with studiokmo. She hardly needs this little shout out, but I know she appreciates it.

Vintage license plates abound on Etsy and other sites. This would be an especially nice reminder of fun times if the graduate is moving out of state. Also, they can be easy to hang from pre-existing nails in apartments and dorm rooms.

I guess a 20×200 gift card applies to just about anyone, especially for the college grads moving on from the emptied booze bottle décor of college apartments nationwide. Let’s put some real art on those bland apartment walls! I like the colors in National Treasures by Amze Emmons.

Are the grads headed off to college? What about a Target or Homegoods gift card to stock up on dorm room essentials? I remember that long list of stuff you need to have for dorm life. Scary!

Speaking of, I vividly remember using my electric kettle in the dorm room. That would be useful combined with some nice Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s noodle packs. The Rival Hot Pot kettle below is from Target.

Are your grads moving to a new climate? What about gear for the new weather, be it snow, rain, or sun? Warm socks, sturdy umbrellas, nice rain jackets, rain boots, or a gift card for a new bathing suit?

Money towards a new suit or business attire would be nice too. A Banana Republic gift card can be used at both Banana Republic and Gap. This is a nice segue into gifts for Father’s Day, since dads need updated work wardrobes too.

Ok, on to Father’s Day gifts. If I were a man, I would really like this Big Poppa sweatshirt by Chris Piascik for Society6. It’s not for everyone, and certainly not for the dads in my life, but just let it be known that I would want this for Father’s Day if I were a dad.

Dads are the original hipsters. Need I say more?

OK, it’s a few weeks later, and I’m back with more ideas. I just had to let them marinate for awhile. There is nothing like a deadline to get my creative juices flowing. This is a disclaimer for David, you may or may not be getting any of the below gifts. You may or may not even read this. It is much more likely that Estelle will spill the beans on all of your gifts anyways. She’s known for ruining surprises, in the most adorable ways.

I like the Tervis Tumbler for purely selfish reasons, I need a good iced coffee and sweet tea container for everyday use and for the beach. That is why IF I go with this, I will get two…or maybe even three. Warning, the Tervis Tumbler website is addictive. There are so many choices! If you don’t like mustaches, they have bacon cups and sports teams cups and the list goes on. Prices vary depending upon the cup size and accessories.

Ties, honestly? Am I really going to go with ties? Yes! Because maybe your guy has switched to slim cut suits, pants, and shirts. Maybe those big fat old ties he has are too big and fat with his new slim cut style. Maybe it’s time for a cool guy slim tie upgrade! Urban Outfitters has some nice ones that are affordable, and I’m sure there are other retailers with unique options (vintage stores). I really like this Madras Plaid tie.

David has requested a hammock and time for naps this year. A hammock…in our back patio? And what is this time thing he speaks of? We will see what Estelle and I can come up with this weekend and next! My dad is the hardest to shop for, so I’m still pretty stumped. Aside from time spent with family, the man doesn’t want for much (that we can afford).

Stephanie

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?

Stephanie

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.

Stephanie

Clowning Around with Lladró

I was walking by the shop at work on Monday, when I spotted this guy in the window:

The shop was closed, so I couldn’t go in to investigate further. All I knew is that it would be expensive! After a few Google attempts, I finally found my guy. Meet the Clown Head Lamp designed by Marco Antonio Noguerón for Lladró Porcelain. Not necessarily for everyone’s budget or tastes, but it certainly is eye-catching.

I am glad I didn’t let the $1800 price tag of the clown lamp turn me off of looking around on Lladró’s website a little more. In addition to lots of granny porcelain sculptures, they really have some gems. See below for some of my favorites.

Metropolis Skyscraper $600 – you can build an entire city!

Bridal Crown Magic Forest $695 – I can imagine an entire wedding based around this!

Magic Forrest Stud Earrings $95 (cough, birthday gift idea, cough)

Magic Forest Ring $155

Bacchus Bottle Stopper Horse $100 – Aw, reminds me of Mr. Granby Bullseye

Bear Paw Cufflinks $75

I hope you enjoyed that little bit of window shopping! Tell me your favorite if you have time to check out Lladró’s website.

Stephanie

Birdhouse Rowhome

My posts might be minimal while I work out the kinks in the new blog, enjoy a low-key weekend in town, and prep for my sister’s wedding just a week away!

The desire to share this amazingly cool and overpriced bird house with you hastened my efforts to jump-start this blog. You can find it on sale at Anthropologie for a low, low price of $250. From here on out, italics equal sarcasm. We won’t be buying this as it is probably the size of our backyard…but it is definitely cool. I envy the birds that call this place home.

Stephanie