Studio Apartment Challenge Continued: Creating My Gallery Wall

As you may have seen from my last post, there isn't a lot of room in my studio to add decorative pieces, so I decided to bring color and visual interest to my walls. I had several prints and pieces from prior homes, so I decided to pull them together and with the help of my designer, created a gallery wall. 

Before hanging everything up on the wall, we laid all of the art across the floor to visually map out the design. I'm not terribly fond of the sconces on the wall, so I knew by laying out the art between them, they wouldn't stick out so much. I've used grid shaped gallery walls in the past, so I knew this time around I wanted something a little more random. I love the way it turned out! Several of the pieces were purchased during trips, at flea markets and on craigslist, but for the ones I bought here are my sources:

Gumball Machines | Flamingo | Blue Floral & Oranges | Large Bicycle / Tree Prints | Suitcase Watercolor 

Here are a few gallery walls I installed in my prior homes as well. (Sorry in advance for the terrible photo quality, but I hope you get the sense of the design.) Enjoy!

My Two Penny Studio Apartment Challenges

On top of moving to a new city last year, I also had to downgrade from a 1000 square foot home to a 250 square foot studio. (Ugh.) After my mild "oh my god what have I done I can't possibly do this" panic attack subsided, I took a hard look at the space I was working with. On the plus side, the studio gets amazing natural light, and is well kept. Here's the before:

Basically one big, rectangular room, no? I decided early on that if I was going to live in a studio I would make my bed the focal point of the space. No hiding it around dreamy, wispy curtains, or behind a bookcase / shelving. I figured I could add interest to the space with artwork, patterns and color. And that's exactly what I did. Here is the color scheme I picked, and I'm really pleased with the way it all came out. The colors might look a little weird on your computers, but for reference I used mint green, navy blue, a coral/salmon, and gray.

I kept the large pieces of furniture to a minimum - I have a bed, dresser, chair-and-a-half, a bistro table for 2 and a couple chairs. Working with an up-and-coming designer in NYC, we embarked on mixing all of the colors shown above throughout my furniture. By the way, if you live in NYC and are looking for an interior decorator, email me and I would be more than happy to pass her name along. I had a great experience! 

Here are a few "after" shots, and you can click on the photos for their full size. I hope you enjoy them! (And, if you have suggestions on how I can improve the space, let me know, I'm always looking for ideas!)

(Photos courtesy of N. Holroyde)

Stay tuned for more updates on my design challenges. Next time... the gallery wall of art! *Large crowd of people gasp, throw their hands against their foreheads and faint*

Two Penny Parties 2.0

If you're reading this with any level of interest, I'm tremendously grateful. And sorry. Sorry that I've been such an absentee blogger. Sorry that my two penny party ideas have, on the surface, seemingly disappeared. If I am being completely honest, I've been in a creative rut this past year. Partly because I downsized from a house to a teeny tiny studio where I can't entertain or test recipes, and partly because I've spent time learning about and making new friends in the city I now call home which has proven to be a wonderful distraction.

Since my immediate ability to entertain has been curtailed by my lack of space (seriously, 250 square feet is basically a nice closet), I've decided to inject other elements of my life into this blog. Crafting, discovering new and interesting things about New York, weekend road trips, and even some (basic!) home decor are some of my passions, which I'm excited to share with you.

I'm also open to collaborations, so if you have an idea or interest in guest posting, contact me. I hope you enjoy the turn the blog is taking, I think it's going to be a lot of fun. Onward and upward!

Quick and Easy Holiday Cupcakes

The holiday season is officially underway and that will inevitably mean some last minute baking will fall on your lap. If you need an adorable cupcake to bring to your next holiday party, simply bake and ice a batch of your favorite cupcakes and top them with something simple. I used marshmallow Peeps in the shape of a snowman, but you can easily use:

For some extra flair, serve your cupcakes on a silver or gold platter dusted lightly with powdered sugar. No platter? No problem. Visit your local pizza place and purchase a small or medium pizza box from them. (They might charge you a very small amount). To keep your cupcakes from sliding around in the box, dot a small bit of frosting on the bottom of each cupcake before you nestle them in - they should stay put. I usually cover the top of the pizza box with gift wrap, but that's completely optional.

Don't forget to check out my Cupcakes 101 post to learn how to make boxed cupcakes taste homemade. Happy baking!

Mixed Nut Brownies

There is next to nothing a warm, chocolatey brownie and glass of ice cold milk can't fix. Add a scoop of ice cream and you might get one step closer to world peace!

Here is a quick way to elevate boring boxed mix for a delicious dessert when you're in a hurry. It is chock full of nuts, so be careful if you are serving them to folks with allergies.

Ingredients

  • 1 box brownie mix
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup chopped mixed nuts, preferably unsalted (I use Planters brand but use whatever you prefer)
  • 1 tsp instant espresso (or one Starbucks VIA Coffee packet)

Prepare brownie mix using instructions on the box, substituting butter for the required amount of oil. Add vanilla, instant espresso and kosher salt and mix just to combine. 

Layer half of the brownie batter in a greased pan. Sprinkle 3/4 of the mixed nut mixture around the pan. Cover with remaining batter. Sprinkle remaining nuts on top, allowing them to sink in to the batter slightly. 

Bake using instructions on the box. Check the brownies 5 minutes prior to their finish time to test for doneness. Brownies will be fully cooked with a toothpick inserted in the center of the pan comes out clean.

Summer Tote Packing Tips

Things I always leave near the front door: keys, junk mail for recycling, an umbrella and my summer tote. I never know when a fun picnic or outdoor party could erupt so I keep a packed tote with the essentials ready so I can grab and go any time. Here's what mine is filled with.


1 - Outdoor Linens
Whether it's a large flat bedsheet or a soft beach blanket, you definitely need one of these. Here, here and here are some options.

2 - Face Wipes
My favorite brand is You Smell Soap Lemon and Aloe, but they are quite difficult to find these days. Burt's Bees is a great runner up. It's gentle on your skin and will leave you nice and refreshed after a long day outside.

3 - Snacks
Skip the cookies and chips, they are just empty calories and won't sustain you through a day outside in the sun. Opt for some fresh fruit (oranges, bananas, berries) or protein bars. I like Kind bars, but there are a million and one brands out there to satisfy your cravings. Also, pack 2 large plastic Ziplock bags - one to collect wrappers and the other to store your phones in. No one likes a litterbug or a sand filled smartphone.

4 - Sunscreen
This really should be the first thing you pack! Don't be a hero, skin cancer is real and it's horrible. I like The Honest Co. sunscreen, but you know there are tons of brands to choose from. Before you buy check out ewg.org, which does a comprehensive review of every sunscreen out there. You might be surprised at the rating of your favorite brand!

5 - Lip Balm
Like everything else in this post, there are tons of choices for lip balm. I love the little eos spheres because they are inexpensive, fun and most importantly, don't get soft and melty in the heat. 

6 - An e-reader (or book)
I don't go anywhere without my kindle but really, any kind of book will do. Pick them up at used bookstores, libraries or the grocery store. It's good for your brain to read things that aren't plastered on a smartphone screen! A few suggestions: Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham (yes, that Lauren Graham), Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman, Palisades Park by Alan Brennert and Heat: An Amateur Cook in a Professional Kitchen by Bill Buford.

7 - Sunglasses
Self explanatory, really. A.J. Morgan has an awesome selection of affordable eyewear, check them out.

8 - Football (or any activity to get you moving)
Footballs are fun since you can get a large group of people in on the game, but so are beach balls, frisbees and badminton sets. Just get out there and move. You'll feel better!

9 - Portable Speakers
These are my favorite new thing! Whether they plug into your headphone jack or use bluetooth, they are guaranteed to add some pizzazz to your outing. Here are some under $20.

10 - H20 Bottle
You could buy disposable plastic water bottles but that's really lame for the environment. Invest in a water bottle you can use over and over. I bought a s'well bottle last year and love it. It holds its promise to keep cold liquids cold for 24 hours, so you can sip frosty water all day long. If $35 is a splurge here's another excellent option.

11 - Flip Flops
Old Navy sells these every year for less than $5 a pair, so stock up. Here are some cute ones!

Totes
You can throw all of these things in a recyclable grocery bag or backpack, but if you want a fun tote to well, tote around, the internet has you covered. Here are one, two and three options to choose from.

One last tip before you head out to play - if you're hitting the beach, festival or park with a large group stop at your local party store or grocery store and buy an inflated mylar balloon with a very long string. Tie it tight to your tote's handle and voila - instant landmark! This is extremely helpful when it is crowded since you can easily say, "Look for us near the giant pink octopus balloon."

Do you have any tips I missed? Share them below! Happy tote-ing!

I Think My Spirit Animal is Brunch

There is nothing quite like a leisurely Sunday brunch, is there? It really is the perfect meal. You get to wear comfy clothes, sip lattes (or mimosas amirite?), and eat delicious foods that are otherwise odd at other mealtimes. I mean, has a co-worker ever brought in a tupperware of eggs benedict leftovers for a weekday lunch? I didn’t think so.

The only downfall to hosting brunch at your home is the panic attack you might get when trying to prepare an Old-Country-Buffet-sized, must-make-everyone-happy meal. I’m here to make you take a deep breath and get ready to simplify. Brunch at home does not need to be complicated!


Eggs
You have some options here, none of which involve making customized omelettes for every guest. You can make luxuriously creamy scrambled eggs for the whole crowd or simply boil 1-2 dozen eggs, peel and cut them in half, drizzle them with a small amount of olive oil and sprinkle some sea salt, coarse black pepper and a pinch of paprika on top. It’s perfect really, since folks who don’t eat yolks can simply scrape them out.

Bacon
Bacon lovers, rejoice. There's an easier way to make bacon for a crowd that doesn't result in grease splatters on your kitchen ceiling. Line a baking sheet with heavy duty aluminum foil, and lay bacon flat, overlapping the pieces ever so slightly. Place in a cold oven and turn it to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for 12 minutes, remove from oven and sprinkle with brown sugar. Place bacon back into the oven for another 3-5 minutes or until crisp. Keep an eye on it it at the end, it goes from great to "black smoke pouring out of your oven" rather quickly. Drain bacon on paper towels and serve.

Salad
Salad with brunch? I know, weird. Well, the good news is it goes perfectly with the boiled eggs above. Simply toss a mixture of baby spinach and field greens with balsamic vinaigrette, and top with parmesan cheese. Couldn’t be simpler, right?

Rolls
I’m a complete sucker for buttermilk biscuits. I buy them from a local bakery, but the ones in the twist and pop can will do beautifully. Bake up 2 batches of them, and serve with herb butter and honey. How do you make herb butter, you ask? Take 2 sticks of butter and leave them on the counter overnight to soften. The next morning, chop up any combination of your favorite fresh herbs and mix with the butter (you will need about 2 tablespoons in total). Place the herb mixture in a small bowl for serving and top with a light sprinkle of sea salt and coarse black pepper. Chill covered, for 2-3 hours.

Drinks
Orange juice, spa water, coffee and tea will do just fine, and if you would like to add a boozy element to your brunch, a bottle of cava or prosecco are great bases for mimosas.

Dessert
1 pint of strawberries sliced + vanilla greek yogurt + drizzle of honey = light and healthy dessert to send everyone home happy after your beautiful brunch.


PS: Here's your grocery list for the brunch above

  • 1-2 dozen eggs
  • 1 bag baby spinach
  • 1 bag mixed salad greens
  • 1-2 bunches of herbs (thyme and rosemary are my favorites)
  • 1 lb sliced, uncooked bacon
  • 2 cans buttermilk biscuits
  • 1 pint strawberries
  • parmesan cheese
  • 1 large container of vanilla greek yogurt
  • 1 lb butter
  • orange juice
  • 1 cucumber (if you are serving spa water)
  • Coffee
  • Tea