monday links

Happy Monday! It's rainy and cold here today, but I've got Spring on the mind thanks to this genius project from Jenny Komenda- DIY concrete planters. Big, outdoor planters can be so expensive and ugly, but they don't have to be if you can make them yourself! I'm thinking about trying to make some of these for our outdoor driveway, er, patio. 

Have you ever tried contouring your makeup? There seems to be a ton of dramatic before-and-afters going around the web these days. As someone who is lucky to get out the door with a little eyeshadow and mascara most mornings, I can't imagine wearing that much makeup - unless maybe I had to assume a new identity and needed to look completely different? Check out this round-up of dramatic transformations, and a how-to from The Beauty Department for a less extreme technique. 

Should you go out tonight? Let Morrissey help you decide with this awesome flow chart (spoiler alert: don't go looking for an optimistic answer).

Did you watch the season finale of The Walking Dead last night? Are you thoroughly terrified of the zombie apocalypse? Refinery29 has put together a Zombie Survivial Guide to help you get prepared. I don't think I'm going to bother stocking up on supplies though- I know I'll be too scared to survive if the zombies ever really come!

[Concrete planters photo from Little Green Notebook, Makeup photo from Loulou's Star Fashions, Morrissey photo via American Songwriter, The Walking Dead photo via Collider]


affordable stacking rings

I've been slowly amassing a collection of simple stacking rings over the last year or so, and I can't get enough of them. I used to be more into wearing silver, but unfortunately, my love for gold seems to have developed just as the price of gold went through the roof a few years ago. Catbird (the undisputed queens of stacking rings) makes some of my favorite rings, but I can only buy so many solid gold pieces before I start dipping into my grocery budget. I recently turned to Etsy for some more wallet-friendly options, and I've been pleasantly surprised with the quality. If you're looking to build some stacks on the cheap, here are two of my favorite shops:

Modern Chromatic has a great selection of thin, hammered bands. Her gold rings are made from gold-filled wire (14k gold bonded to a base of brass), which is obviously not as fancy as solid gold, but is more durable than gold-plating or solid brass. Before I ordered this set, I was skeptical of what the quality would be like since they were so inexpensive (3 rings for $23!), but so far, so good! I haven't taken them off for the last 2 months and they still look as shiny and new as they day I got them. Plus, their shipping was lightning-fast and they arrived in a cute little package with a free polishing cloth!

Stefanie Sheehan is another Etsy seller with affordable options. She makes rings in a variety of interesting, modern shapes. She offers most of her jewelry in either solid gold or gold-filled, depending on how much of a baller you are. I received this three spike beauty for my birthday last September, and I couldn't be happier with it.

Both of these sellers offer rings in a wide variety of sizes, so you can stack from your thumb all the way to the tip of your pinkie! For more of my ring picks, check out my Pinterest page.

[Top image from Odette NY via Triple Max Tons, Middle photo from Modern Chromatic, Bottom from Stefanie Sheehan]


monday links

Hope you enjoyed our series on tea this week! I thought I'd share a link to one of my favorite teas I've been drinking lately - Turmeric Spice from Samovar. It's a spicy, gingery herbal blend that's great for warming you up on a cold night- especially if you're feeling sick. The 5oz box may seem expensive, but it will last you a long time, a little really goes long way.

I'm thinking I probably need to invest in a set of these Enamelware dishes for camping and picnics this summer. I mean, what else am I supposed to do- eat off paper plates like some sort of barbarian?? I'll take the pretty mint green color please.

P.S. check out the full Barn Light Electric site if you're in the market for some really cute retro lighting

Do you love beets or hate them? If you're not a fan, have you tried them lately? This article in the NY Times makes a good case for reconsidering foods you didn't like when you were younger. In the last few years, I've been surprised to find myself enjoying lots of things I previously hated: beets, brussels sprouts, horseradish, and coffee. I'm still against red bell peppers though. Is there anything you've grown to like?

Not into March Madness Basketball? Perhaps Apartment Therapy's Pet Madness is more your speed. You can vote every day for the rest of the month in this ultimate battle of cuteness. The bracket will end up pitting cat vs. dog, and from the look of all the cute entries, competition is going to be pretty fierce.

[Tea photo from Samovar, Enamelware photo from Barn Light Electric, beet photo from the Atlantic, Pet Madness bracket from Apartment Therapy]


french press tea

For those looking for a good way to brew loose leaf tea, may I suggest my new favorite method: the french press. There are, of course, a seemingly endless variety of gadgets, gizmos, and novelty strainers  for brewing tea out there. For the last couple years, I've used an adorable little teapot from Beehouse (which I still like), but the french press has won me over. 

The genius of the french press lies in it's simplicity. It's easy to use and, more importantly, easy to clean. No digging out tea leaves from tiny crevices of mesh strainers- just a rinse, a little soap, and you're good to go. So simple.

I love watching tea steep through the clear glass of a french press. The tea leaves can really unfurl to their full capacity when not cramped in a bag or strainer. Having a clear view of your tea brewing also teaches you more about it- What is your preferred shade of tea? How dark can you brew a Darjeeling before it gets bitter? How does the color change with each subsequent steeping?

Just look at those tea leaves dancing around! It's really quite beautiful to watch. The french press I bought is this model. You can certainly find cheaper french presses around, but I decided to get a cute one so I'd be more motivated to leave it out and use it all the time (yes, I am motivated by cuteness). I think Grosche makes the most attractive french presses, and the quality seems very good. I bought the smaller size (11.8 oz), which is just enough for one big mug, or two smaller cups of tea. 

For most types of tea, you can steep the same leaves multiple times, so brewing only a small amount at a time makes sense. Brew one pot, pour it into your mug, and then re-fill the press. By the time you're finished drinking your first cup, the second press will be ready for you. This gives you the most mileage out of your tea, so you can use less (and save some cash). 

A word of warning for those of you that make your coffee in a french press- you need a separate one to use for tea. You can never fully clean the oils from coffee out of the press, so you'll end up with tea that tastes like crappy old coffee if you try to use one press for both. 


guest post: buying tea

My good friend Michael joins us again today as a guest blogger, this time to share his tips on shopping for loose leaf tea:

Grocery stores that have a large bulk foods section, such as Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco or Berkeley Bowl, sell a nice variety of loose teas at great prices. Some Whole Foods locations have bulk tea too. Buying bulk lets you see and smell the leaves. For a few dollars you can buy only a small amount to try. If you end up disliking it you’ll feel better knowing you only bought a small amount.

Another way to try out new kinds of tea is through buying samples online. Many online tea retailers sell sample packs. Everything from these two sources is excellent quality. Don’t dwell too much on the details, just pick something that sounds interesting:

If you're hesitant to make the jump to loose leaf, there are some good tea bags available. Mighty Leaf and Numi fill their bags with real tea leaves of good quality. This is the easiest way to enhance your experience to give you an honest flavor while still maintaining maximum convenience.

Watch out for brands using fancy "silky" tea bags that are actually made of plastic. There are new findings that the plastic may leach into your tea as it brews (see this article for more information).

You can make your own tea bags as well. Many shops with a bulk section will sell packets of blank tea bags, such as these. You can fill these to make your own tea bags for on-the-go.

Thank you Michael! I can't wait to try some new tea!

[All photos by Michael Pieracci]


guest post: loose leaf tea

I love tea and drink it everyday, but I've always been reluctant to buy and brew loose leaf tea regularly. Tea bags just seem so much easier and less expensive. My friend Michael Pieracci, whose love of tea puts mine to shame, has finally convinced me to make the switch to loose leaf. Michael is something of a tea expert- he travelled to India last year to work on a tea estate and is now hosting tea tastings while living in Berlin. He's here with a guest post today, to illustrate the basics of loose leaf tea and to show you how easy it can be to enjoy.

Read on for his tips:


monday links

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Celebrating the holiday with a little green tea? Or green beer? Stay tuned this week, I'll be talking tea with a special guest blogger! 

Until then, here's a few links for your Monday:

My friends at Oakland Bakes just posted an awesome video showing the steps of making a cake. I helped a bit with the styling, and I'm so thrilled with how fun the video turned out! Watch it here

Do you know how strong the caffeine is in your morning coffee or tea? According to this article from NPR, a tablespoon of straight caffeine can kill you! Read the full article here

If you're looking to justify your daydreaming or people-watching habits, check out this article from the Huffington Post about characteristics of highly creative people. 

Have you tried Songza online music streaming? I'm officially in love- it's like a friend with great taste has made a playlist of just what you want to hear. The site asks you what kind of music you feel like listening to, and then offers you a choice of categories. Right now, I'm listening to "coffee shop indie". They just changed it so now you have to listen to one ad before the music starts, but that's not a bad deal for free music! 

[top tea photo by Michael Pieracci, video photo from Oakland Bakes, coffee photo from NPR, color disc photo by Andy Ryan via the Huffington Post, radio photo via Apartment Therapy]


dry brushing

Have you ever tried dry brushing your skin? I first tried it about a month ago, in an attempt to improve my dry, itchy winter skin. The internet is full of claims about the wonders of dry brushing. Most people agree that its a good way to exfoliate, giving you softer, smother skin. Dry brushing also increases circulation, helps the lymphatic system, and can decrease bloating (similar to the benefits of massage). Hippie science loves dry brushing- you can find claims that it helps the body detox, lose weight, improve digestion and eliminate cellulite. Of course none of these claims have been proven, but the brushes are inexpensive, so I figured I'd give it a try.

I did not find dry brushing to be a miracle cure for all my problems (at least not yet), but I do like it. My skin does feel softer and the skin on my legs doesn't feel as dry and itchy as it did. I appreciate that it's a re-usable way to exfoliate, and at about 10 bucks for a brush, its cheaper and less wasteful than buying bottles of body scrubs. Dry brushing before you shower in the morning is also a great way to wake up! The tingling sensation it causes is very invigorating and does make me inclined to believe some of the claims about improving your circulation.

If you want to give dry brushing a try, read on for a few tips:


monday links

I'm so excited for the new Oh Joy for Target line! The collection of party supplies will be in stores and online this Sunday, March 16th. From the look of her Pinterest page, the collection is full of bright colors with gold accents- I'm definitely going to be stocking up!

Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel came out Friday- have you seen it yet? The NY Times review features some great behind-the-scenes photos of the miniature models they built of the hotel.

I didn't get to see any Manatees when I was in Florida, but I did get to meet lots of sea turtles at The Turtle Hospital. If you're ever near Key Largo, I recommend a stop to see little Zippy (pictured above) and support the great work they do rescuing and rehabilitating injured sea turtles. You can see a video of one of their permanent residents, Bubble Butt, on my Instagram (he was struck by a boat and now his back end floats- poor guy!).

Interesting article about our addictions to our electronic devices and the anxiety of unplugging. A few years ago (before I had a smart phone), I remember getting annoyed when my friends were constantly checking their phones, but now it seems to have become the norm to be on your phone 24-7. Looks like I missed the National Day of Unplugging last Friday, but I think I may need to start unplugging more. Would you give up your phone for a day?

[Oh Joy for Target photo by Thuss+Farrell via Oh Joy, Grand Budapest Hotel photo via the NY Times, Phone died image from someecards]


colorful key west

I'm back from Florida! Key West was amazing! I fell in love with all the gorgeous, brightly-colored houses and the lush tropical foliage everywhere. I was totally feeling the tropical pastel color palette- everything was painted sea foam green! We rented bikes from our hotel, (The Eden House- I highly recommend!) which was a great way to get around, except Jon kept almost losing me because I was stopping every 50 feet to take photos. What I wouldn't give for a wrap-around porch! 

Read on for more photos of my favorite colorful houses and their clever details:


monday links

Hello from Florida! I'm pretty busy soaking up the rays and eating oranges with dolphins, but thought I'd still post a few links for your Monday morning. Don't forget to follow me on Instagram if you want to stalk me, er, check out my photos of the weird and wonderful state of Florida.

Posting this might get me kicked out of Florida, but it only seems appropriate to link to this Atlantic article  about how orange juice shouldn't be thought of as a healthy drink. Warning: Though I'm always glad to learn more about the foods I eat and drink, I kind of wish I could forget I read this article. I don't want to have to stop drinking orange juice!!

Still have Olympic fever? Have you seen these frame by frame photos from the NY Times? Mind-blowing! I'm still not sure what some of the skiers are doing during their jumps though...

Have you been eating a lot of tea, cauliflower, and freekeh so far this year? Do you know what the hell freekeh is? You may be eating it soon. It's one of the food trends for 2014, according to these (quite similar) articles from NPR and Refinery29.

[Orange crate photo via Postcard Roundup, Oranges photo from The Atlantic via A Cup of Jo, Olympics photo from the New York Times, Tea photo via NPR]