All of the Beignets, Forever and Ever

A couple of weeks ago, malady I managed to escape the soul-crushing spring snow in NYC for a trip down south to New Orleans. I hadn’t been to the Crescent City before, website and I had very few expectations going into the week. The reason for my visit was the annual New Orleans Entrepreneur Week conference, story where I was to speak at a session and hold office hours for aspiring entrepreneurs and MBA students that need technology help.

The whole week was a huge inspiration and I met lots of very interesting people chock full of passion and big ideas. New Orleans really rolled out the red carpet for those of us in town volunteering — my expectations were blown away. The people were so friendly and warm and wonderful. The city itself is gorgeous and unique and so different from anywhere else I’ve been in the US. And the food. Oh, the food. Holy cow. Let’s just say that the trip has made me recommit myself to a very regular gym schedule. I want all of the beignets, forever and ever. (Why doesn’t this exist in New York? Someone needs to get on that.)

This past week I was finally able to get all my film developed and I’m pretty excited to share. While my edits are underway, I thought I’d share some Instagrams. I can’t wait to return again next year!

Commander's PalaceBeignets and Chicory Coffee
Lafayette Square
Jackson SquareLafayette Square - Wednesdays in the Park
Jackson Square
The French QuarterTchoupitoulas
The French Market
Whitney BankGallier Hall
Cafe Du Monde

Around the House

A few months back, page I believe I may have declared war on the omnipresent list of projects in my life. “I have PLANS and I am STICKING TO THEM,” I said. Oh, Jill of five months ago. You are so precious. Look at you and your motivation. So young and naive.

In spite of my rosy-hued optimism back in June, let’s just say that at least I made an attempt. My blogs about the house and our ongoing renovation have been woefully lacking and much fewer and further between than I hoped, but at least I gave it the ol’ college try this summer. Back in May, I conspired with one of my best friends to come up with a list of things I’d like to get done on the house. Jen helped talk me through what I’d ideally like to have done first, so I could feel a big sense of accomplishment and maybe – just maybe – finish a project.

So, to start with something fairly quick for an easy win, we decided I should start by hanging up more of the mirrors and artwork that have basically been collecting dust sitting around the house for the last two years. We started with the big round CB2 mirror in the dining room above, which we had to anchor through plaster into 120 year-old brick. The blue version has since been discontinued, but they still have it in white. It’s awesome. And then, on a recent cleaning spree, a bunch of my lamps ended up moving around the house. I painted this vintage brass lamp green a few years back and I’m pretty sure the flying eagle belongs here. Easy. One project down.

Next up, artwork. Now, this project has had a little less success because I’m so indecisive. I know that furniture will ultimately move around and new art will join the family, so I’m a little hesitant to go drilling loads of big holes into our beautifully refinished plaster. Fortunately, I’ve had a ton of luck with the 3M Command hooks and strips. For whatever reason, the hooks seem to work better for my wooden frames and anything on which I’ve already installed picture hanging wire. For most of my smaller art and anything in a metal frame, the small and medium strips work. The big strips have worked well on my posters — all the way up to 18″x24″! I have kind of a silkscreen obsession, so the no-damage hanging is wonderful. I buy them in bulk on Amazon because they’re way less expensive than most stores I’ve seen them at here in NYC.

In order to tackle this project, for a few of my newer silkscreens I had to pick out frames first. I’ve had lots of friends and fellow photographers ask if I have any recommendations for custom frames, and YES. American Frame. I am in no way affiliated with them except as a supremely happy customer. Over the years I’ve ordered many, many frames from them (yep, lots of silkscreens) and always been happy. You can order completely custom sizes (lots of colors, too) and the prices are reasonable – though you do have to assemble yourself. Once you get the hang of it, it’s a cinch.

That’s a print from Jaime Derringer of Design Milk in the photo to the left, above. She had a sale on some time ago and I just had to. The triangles are simple, but the tilt of the geometric design is AWESOME. I feel like my right leg has grown a couple inches every time I come home. In a good way. And there at the top of my stairs between the bathroom and the guest bedroom, I hung prints I’ve had several years — from Bee Things, RADROBOT, and Scott Parry. Yes, that is a smiling orange and a horse with laserbeams coming out of its eyes, turning on the hall lights. (Maybe someday I’ll take photos with something besides Instagram to do them some justice.)

I still have loads of prints and silkscreens to hang, but at least I got started. One and a half projects down.

Jen and I also decided I should focus on the master bedroom this summer. For nearly two years, Zach and I have been living without hanging storage or real closets. Folding laundry has been a nightmare, because we couldn’t really hang anything up. Suits and dress shirts were hung on hooks; the back of our doors were utterly ridiculous. It’s shameful. Everyone I’ve ever told this to raises their eyebrows in disbelief (and silently judges).

Part of the problem was just in the planning — I was pretty well decided on the PAX system from IKEA because I’ve heard great things. But there are virtually limitless options between the sizes and frame colors and doors and racks and shelves and pants hangers and on and on. Plus it was almost humorous — once I decided where we’d install the wardrobe, I realized the wall was basically a half inch short of allowing for the full six-frame configuration I’d planned. Ha, ha, ha IKEA. You get the last laugh.

28 boxes and 2 weekends of assembly later, we had our giant closet and LOADS of extra storage space. Plus, I hung another big print from Felix Waser on the wall. Another project down!

Now the view from bed is priceless. Sometimes I just lay in there pretending to read a magazine while I really just admire the new closet and dream of all the other ways we can get organized. Kind of like this guy, who just watched and napped while we were hard at work assembling the monstrosity.

And now that I look at this picture, ugh. I guess I should caulk that baseboard.

Another one for the list.

Chicago, My First True Love

Twelve years ago this week, cheap I packed up the car with my most valuable possessions – lots and lots of CDs, sales a brand new computer installed with Windows ME and Napster, cheap my best band hoodies and sheltered small-town Midwestern sensibilities – and drove ten hours north. I was headed off to college in the big city. FREEEEDOMMMMM.

I knew that everything was about to change. What I didn’t know at the time was how deeply in love I was about to fall, and that my first true love was going to be a city. I recently headed back to Chicago to begin work with a new client, and I totally had butterflies for two weeks beforehand. I do a lot of business travel, but there’s always something special about going back to Chi-town — the anticipation, flying in over the lake, seeing downtown stretch out. The Hancock tower rising on the north end. The Sears tower on the south. It feels a million miles away from Brooklyn. And it always feels like I’m coming home to welcome arms.

It was one of those perfect weeks. Warm sunshine and golden light during the day, a cool breeze at night. None of the stifling humidity or pavement-melting heat that you grow to expect in the Chicago summertime. The last few times I’ve been back, it’s been perfect. Eighty degrees in October for the marathon, a warm spell in February, and now this. The year I moved there, it snowed the first weekend of October and didn’t stop until March. Chicago, why you tryin’ to woo me back?

This trip, I stayed downtown on State Street and made some time to take photographs and commune with the city a bit — I don’t know if that makes sense, but I don’t know how else to describe it. I do the same thing in New York. Walking around alone in contemplation, observing the ebb and flow of the urban landscape, wandering aimlessly. Watching the way light plays off the buildings, off the sidewalks, catching commuters’ long shadows in the intersections between concrete caverns. There’s something spiritual about the experience, and for me it’s an incredibly important part of being connected to the places you live and love.

I’ve always thought that Chicago is one of the — if not THE — most beautiful city in the US. The compactness of downtown, the consistency of the architecture thanks to the Chicago School, the river that winds slowly through the city and the beautiful industrial bridges that pass over it. Though I’ve never called downtown Chicago my home, in my first year of school I used to stay over a lot with a close friend who lived at the top of the Marina Towers (the corncob buildings above). I spent many hours sitting on his balcony on the 59th floor (or was it the 61st?) just staring out over the city, even in the freezing cold.

Chicago seemed endless. The city stretched out for what seemed like miles, and I could see forever. The sun cast long shadows to the west in the mornings as only the tallest buildings basked in the thin light. At midday you could look straight down and see the precise urban grid bustling with activity. At sunset, the flat western suburban plains turned golden and the colors of the sky melted into Lake Michigan.

And then at night, the lights came on. Oh, who am I kidding. I’m still in love with you, Chicago.

Two Years

When you buy an old house, buy information pills there’s really no advice in the world that can prepare you. It tests your patience, your will, your wallet, and your relationship. And if you’re planning any amount of DIY, well let me warn you first-hand. There may be loads of glossy magazines and well-curated design blogs with great tips on refinishing floors, choosing the perfect paint color, and planning the renovation of your dreams. But last I checked, there aren’t many helpful tutorials on coping with lowered expectations, disappearing motivation, and letting go of perfectionism. Those are things you have to learn for yourself. And it’s not easy. Seriously. It’s not easy.

But for those of you afflicted with hopeless romanticism and a love of historic architecture, there is good news. Renovating an old house can also be one of the most beautiful experiences, once you get over yourself. Today marks my two-year anniversary of being a homeowner — and I’ve learned so much. Looking back on this past year, I see so many projects that haven’t quite made it out of my head and into my home yet. But through photographs, I do see that we’ve made lots of progress and for that I am thankful. Some weeks, it’s just enough to get the house cleaned and the laundry ready before a marathon of work or travel. Quite frankly, it took a hurricane to slow me down enough to paint a wall in my dining room.

Fortunately, my house is wayyyy more patient than I am.

I’m hoping this summer will change things. This is the summer of lists, and of getting things done. I will pick up a paintbrush and I will finish projects. I’m looking at you, master bedroom and kitchen. You are so going down (and getting pretty). I have PLANS and I am STICKING TO THEM.

This is the summer we will finally have a closet suitable for clothes storage, instead of pathetic hanging hooks everywhere. This is the summer we finally install door hardware on the bathroom door so our guests don’t think we’re lunatics. This is the summer that we cut down our backyard jungle.

Get ready, House. Year Three is coming.