Posts by Allison

A Farewell to Summer

It looks like today might be one of the last days it will get up close to 80 degrees. I get excited when I look at the forecast and I see mid-60s creeping in on Sunday. While autumn might be on its way…I still have to extend my summer attire into October. Adam and I will be going on a tropical vacation in October and so while you are all packing away your swimsuits, shorts and sandals,  I’m shopping the summer clearance racks!

Havaianas Sandals contacted me last month and let me try out a pair of their Flash Sweet sandals in light golden. They’re the perfect combination of beach flip flops and stylish summer sandals. Most of the sandals that I own are real leather (or they just can’t get wet) and so I was dreading the idea of buying some ugly pair of beach flip flops to wear around on our vacation. These are the perfect solution.

So for now, I have them tucked away with my swimsuits. I’m sure I’ll be so excited to bust them out in late October for a week at the beach.

Do you have any vacation plans for this winter? I’ve actually never gone on vacation during the cold months here (besides Vegas in February). Any tips on buying summer-like clothing once it turns cold? Any favorite sales?

*This is a sponsored post. All thoughts are my own! Color is most true in the top photo.

CITY GUIDE: Brooklyn Pt. 1

Today’s CITY GUIDE is brought to you by Lindsay Mueller! Enjoy!

After living in various Brooklyn neighborhoods over the past four years, I can confidently say that Carroll Gardens (and its surrounding neighborhoods) is my favorite. That’s not to imply that the rest of the best borough isn’t totally awesome… it’s just too much to cover in one City Guide. Be on the lookout for the next Brooklyn installment which will highlight the rest of Brooklyn on November 28!

Geographically speaking, these neighborhoods — Brooklyn Heights, Boerum Hill, DUMBO, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens, which all share borders with each other — are on the west side of Brooklyn, below Williamsburg and Greenpoint (northernmost hoods), above Prospect Park and just across the water from Lower Manhattan. Tree-lined streets, a relaxed vibe, an amazing restaurant scene (superior to Manhattan’s if you ask me) and lower rents make Brooklyn an attractive place for creatives and families to live. Actresses and musicians like Keri Russell, Michelle Williams, Solange Knowles and Zoe Kazan live in the hood, as did great American writers Truman Capote, Norman Mailer and Walt Whitman. Lots of cool cred!

This will be somewhat of a walking (or biking) tour, which is one of the reasons I love New York so much – no car necessary. I recommend starting in Cobble Hill, especially if you’re in the mood for a life changing breakfast sandwich. Ted & Honey [photo above] on Clinton Street at Verandah Place is low key and delicious. Inside, there’s a great artsy vibe and they serve unique and tasty sandwiches, salads and even wine or beer. The “number one” — egg, cheese, avocado and tomato on a brioche roll — is sublime. It’s also conveniently adjacent to Cobble Hill Park, a beautiful sandwich eating sanctuary.

After breakfast, continue walking with traffic on Clinton Street and turn left onto Atlantic Avenue, where you’ll walk toward the water until you reach Pier 6, part of Brooklyn Bridge Park. The city has allocated almost $250 million to the creation of BBP, and it’s fascinating to watch and enjoy the progress. Pier 6 is brand new and boasts public volleyball courts, delicious food from Bark Hot Dogs and incredible views of lower Manhattan. It’s a great way to escape the crowds because not many people know about it (yet). It’s also fun to meander through the runner and biker’s paths close to the water. Fun fact: BBP has become a common destination for weddings and wedding photos because of the stunning Manhattan skyline views.

Once you finish walking through the BBP Greenway and exit from Pier 1, you’ll end up in DUMBO, short for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. This industrial-looking neighborhood is known for it’s creative atmosphere and is one of the most sought after places to live within Brooklyn. Old warehouses were converted into spacious lofts and most have killer views of Manhattan attracting all kinds of artists and families. DUMBO is also home to New York’s most famous pizza joint, Grimaldi’s. People from all over the globe wait in a line whose queue is often blocks-long for a taste of Brooklyn’s delicious thin crust pizza. Walk toward the water on Old Fulton Street, make a right onto Everit Street and you’ll pass Hillside Park, one of the city’s top rated dog parks. Continue up the daunting hill and you’ll find yourself on one of the best “boardwalks” in Brooklyn, the Promenade. Soak up the views as you walk through to the end and onto Montague Street, a stretch of cute shops and restaurants. As tempting as they are, you’re better off waiting to eat until you reach Cobble Hill/Carroll Gardens. Take a right onto Henry Street for a look see of the prettiest and historic blocks lined with old carriage houses and brownstones. You’ll eventually stumble upon Atlantic Avenue, one of the borough’s busier streets. If you’re craving a pre-dinner pint, stop into Floyd. They have a good selection of beers on draft, but its real selling point is the bocce ball court inside. If you’d rather shop, take a peek inside Holler & Squall, an antique store that feels more like a gentleman’s club than a boutique. Here you’ll find a carefully curated collection of taxidermy, knick knacks, leather furniture and storage vessels.

Truth be told, you may choose to abandon all of these suggestions if you’re lucky enough to stumble upon a spur-of-the-moment entertaining event on your own. For example, I discovered the Go Brooklyn Art initiative last weekend at my favorite ice cream joint, Van Leeuwen. That’s another fantastic aspect of Brooklyn culture: there is a community of small business owners and creative types who support each other. The Go Brooklyn Art initiative is a “community-curated open studio project” that showcases different artists in various locations around Brooklyn. The ultimate goal is to expose Brooklynites to local artists, and believe it or not, there’s an app for it. The art-goers vote for their favorite artists, using the app to check into different studios as they visit. Never a dull moment in Brooklyn!

Whether your day is full spontaneity or carefully chosen activities, you’ll need to eat dinner at some point. I highly recommend Frankies Spuntino: it’s a truly delectable destination for lovers of Italian food. Carroll Gardens is known for its Italian roots and is home to some of the best Italian restaurants in the city. I recommend going during the week and avoiding rush hour on Friday and Saturday unless you don’t mind waiting two and a half hours for a table. We ordered the three cheese plate, gnocchi, ribeye (served cold – different but divine) and the house wine. They cater to gluten-free patrons too! With candles, great indie folk music and a rustic interior, the vibe is just as good as the grub. If you’re not totally pooped after dinner, head to the old school Cobble Hill Cinema for a late night movie – the theater itself is as much of a sight to see as its movies.

Until November, cheers!

 

Roasted Stuffed Peppers with Sweet Balsamic Sauce

When I recently stepped into the local farmers market, my eyes were treated to a feast of color. It’s amazing how many different colors—not to mention shapes, sizes, and flavors—there are of tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, peppers, and even carrots. And now that heirloom produce is getting so much attention, this variety seems to keep expanding. I knew I had to figure out a way to bring all this color together into a recipe, and I settled on mashed-potato-based roasted stuffed peppers, with a sweet Balsamic sauce.

I should mention that the ingredients list can be pretty fluid. If you can’t find the white eggplant or Pingtung Long eggplant, just use regular purple eggplant. I was told the main difference is that these two varieties are a little less bitter than regular eggplant, but I never found cooked eggplant to be all that offensively bitter to begin with. And by all means, if you only have dried thyme or fresh basil then use what you have. As Martha Stewart so helpfully points out, you need about 3 times as much fresh herbs as you need dried since dried herbs tend to be more potent.

I thought the sauce really finished off this recipe: it filled a gap that I believe is often left in the flavor of stuffed peppers. As a colorful side for this meal, I also prepared steamed Swiss chard with light salt. If you’re not familiar with Swiss chard, it’s a leafy vegetable sort of like kale or spinach, but it has brightly colored stems and veins. It has a little bitterness to it, a lot like kale, but it has a good flavor.

Roasting vegetables can really bring out a sweeter flavor, but some people prefer their vegetables to remain a bit fresher. When roasting these stuffed peppers, pull them out before they get very roasted (about 15-20 minutes in) if you want to maintain some more of that crispness that raw peppers have. If you have drastically varying sizes of peppers, you may want to take out the smaller once before the bigger once because they’ll roast quicker. The pepper in my photograph is actually a little under-roasted for my liking because I had some smaller ones that were starting to go past the perfect roast.

When I lived in Belize, our cook would occasionally make roasted stuffed peppers, but her method of roasting was putting each pepper right on the stovetop over a flame. This worked surprisingly well—none of them caught on fire that I’m aware of—but it will only work for those with gas stoves. Other delicious ways of achieving a tasty roasted stuffed pepper would be to grill or to wrap in foil and set on the hot coals after a fire.

I’m excited to see what comes to the farmers market as the season changes. One dependable favorite will be acorn squash! Does anybody have a favorite farmers market item or has anybody seen anything interesting at a farmers market lately?

Roasted Stuffed Peppers with Sweet Balsamic Sauce

Recipe Type: Entree
Author: Jon Schelander-Pugh
Ingredients
  • 4-5 large bell peppers
  • 10-13 small new potatoes, poked with a fork (enough to make about 2 cups of mashed potatoes)
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, whole
  • 1 whole piece of ginger, about the size of a large garlic clove
  • 1 medium-large shallot or 2 small shallots, finely chopped
  • 5 medium-large shiitake mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 medium-small white eggplant, chopped
  • 1-2 medium-small Pingtung Long eggplants, sliced
  • 2 small bell peppers or 1 medium-large bell pepper, chopped.
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1-2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil (for sauteing)
  • fresh-grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Poke each tiny potato a few times with a fork. Place the potatoes with the garlic cloves and ginger in a pot and cover with water. Lightly salt if you like and bring to a boil. Once it begins boiling, set it to about medium-high and boil for 15-20 minutes, or until the potatoes slide off of a knife when inserted and lifted out of the water. Drain and thoroughly mash, being sure to mash the garlic and ginger in.
  2. While the potatoes are boiling, chop your shallots, mushrooms, eggplants, and small bell peppers if you haven’t already. Combine the chopped vegetables in a large skillet with the thyme, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper, and mix. Drizzle olive oil over everything and set over medium heat and saute.
  3. Gently combine the mashed potatoes and sauteed vegetable so as to not mash the vegetables.
  4. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut the tops off of the large bell peppers and cut/scoop out the seeds. Stuff with potato-vegetable mix and place the tops back on. Spray a baking pan with oil and set the stuffed peppers inside, then place in the oven for about 25 minutes or until the outside begins to wrinkle. Then take the tops off and continue roasting for another 5-10 minutes.
  5. While the stuffed peppers are roasting, mix the Balsamic vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, honey, brown sugar, and cinnamon, whisking quickly with a fork to combine. Place in a small saucepan over medium high and stir. Continue stirring as it boils, but don’t boil for long. Take it off of the heat once it appears to thicken a little. If you let it thicken too much, it will harden when cooled. If this happens, reheat briefly before using.
  6. Sprinkle desired amount of Parmesan cheese over roasted pepper and drizzle sauce or cut pepper in half first and then add the cheese and sauce, then serve.

 

 

Heart for Handmade: Creating Your Office Space

Hello sweet readers! My name is Meg and I am the main gal behind the bustling handmade community of 20 Best Twenty. Each month I will be teaming up with the darling Allie of Be Up & Doing to curate brilliant, talented and one of a kind handmade designs from creative minds from all over the globe. Each month will be dedicated to a certain theme and scheme, so since school and work is back in full swing, we knew your desks could be spiced up a bit, just like our own.

Now let’s hop to “Creating Your Office Space!”

How about we start with the goods, meaning the paper goods. There is nothing like a blank notebook or journal to get the creative juices flowing, so I think a fresh moleskine, like the one from Subtle Acts, or this leather bound journal, from Dearest Jackdaw, that you can throw in a bag is an essential to always have around. A simple, sturdy and reliable page marker is something I believe is a “must” as well. And I just love the organic feel to the ones from Miles of Light. Obviously you would need something simple, sleek and sturdy to write with as well, so these natural bark colored pencils from nane Handmade just screamed to me. There is something to be said for “less is more” and I believe that an uncluttered work flow is definitely useful to an entreprenuer and creative spirit.

Now that we have the essentials out of the way – we can get to the good stuff, the design and decor! I love simple design elements paired with bold colors, patterns and textures – this is where you can really let your personality and style shine through in your work environment. So don’t be shy – just always be true to yourself.

First off, I believe an inspiring print can really set the mood for an office space, and I just love this one from Splendid and Sound – all success happens drop by drop! Like I said before, pops of color can really perk a mood and provide positivity throughout a busy work day, so this dazzling bowl from etco would fit the office space perfectly. Since we all hustle and bustle around for our design or freelance jobs, I think that what you tote your precious laptop or iPad in is of utmost importance, so when I found this unique creation from Blackbird and The Owl, I had to snag it. I also love plants, greenery and nature in an office environment, so this concrete pot from Rough Fusion would be the perfect addition to add to a window sill – hopefully you have more of a green thumb than myself! We all know how key lighting is to get your work done, perhaps better yet, to create the perfect atmosphere for early mornings or late nights – so this modern table lamp from Ample Furniture just fits in so well. And finally, as an entreprenuer and constant go-getter (like yourselves), I know how important networking, mingling and connecting with the people you meet everyday is – trust me, I know. That is why when I saw this striking card case from Blackbird and The Owl (just like the laptop case), I knew it would fit in to toss into a bag and hold those all important biz cards!

Whew, can you believe those are all from handmade designers? Sometimes I have to shake myself to remember that great design and brilliant ideas are not just in retail stores, usually the best ones are being created next door.

Note from Allie: Meg will be sharing her heart for handmade every month so take a moment to say hi in the comment section! Oh and be sure to check out my feature over on 20 Best Twenty where I’m giving tips on branding your small business!

My Furry Weekend

We spent the weekend with the Cooks and their adorable pups Violet and Oliver in Indianapolis. Desh (our cockapoo pictured above) is exhausted from playing fetch all weekend but I had to share some of my favorite shots of my furry friends.

Violet (picture above) has the cutest little face and the LONGEST eyelashes. I’ve never met a more observant dog. Oliver (picture below) loves to lick your face.

I hope your Monday is a little brighter (especially with the puppy butt picture). If you want to see more photos from our trip, check out some of my shots on Instagram. How was your weekend? 

One of Those Weeks

I had planned on blogging about something else today but just didn’t have the time or energy to compile it all. It was just one of those weeks. Nothing horrible happened. Actually a lot of great things took place. I had two amazing branding strategy sessions with new clients, I got coffee with some of my favorite people, and I hit some personal health goals!

So what went wrong? It was just a tough week as a freelance designer. I’m working through issues and how to avoid them in the future. I’m figuring out my business budget. We have a lot of upcoming trips and for the first time (since quitting my full-time day job) I’m managing my projects around those. Nothing horrible but overall I felt stressed as soon as I let my mind wander.

This weekend we’re going to Indianapolis to see our friends Megan + Josh. Not only do I love them so much – I admire them too. I’m excited to spend time in their lovely home, talking and visiting their favorite local restaurants.

How do you deal with those kind of weeks? Any fun plans this weekend? 

Everyday Moments, Captured

I have such a not-so-secret love for Instagram. It’s my “happy place” in the social media world. I’ve curated and chosen to follow those that take breathtaking, everyday photos. I tend to use my Instagram feed to share the little moments throughout my day that either make me laugh, smile or surprise me with inspiration. Feel free to follow me @alliepal or view my account here!

I also thought it would be fun to share a few users that I truly love following. These are users that I admire because of the cohesiveness in their collection and their eye for everyday beauty. I hope to do this at least once a month!

@heatherzweig: I have loved following her Instagram account since she stopped blogging regularly.

@jordanbrantley: I met Jordan via Blog Brunch and love the life in her photos. Plus she’s a great designer.

@alissa_mae: Alissa’s feed makes me feel calm and peaceful while simultaneously sparking a desire to travel.

@dabito: I love everything this man touches.

How do you use Instagram? How do you choose to follow other users? Any favorite Instagramers that I should be following?

For those that are local, I’m speaking at an Instagram seminar next month! You should snag a ticket and come out!

Hello Adulthood: Small Business Tools

I’m a little over a month into freelancing full-time (although I’ve owned my own business since early 2010) and I thought I’d share some of my favorite tools so far. While I love sharing advice + tips to my blog readers, you all must know that I often sit at my desk and think, “Oh my gosh I have so much to learn.” So while I am suggesting some small business tools today…I may change my methods next month or next year!

Finances, Taxes and Bookkeeping:

This is probably my least favorite part of owning my own business. I’m thankful that I’m extremely organized (in my own, weird way) but it’s just not fun to pay bills, taxes and saving. When you’re billing a client, you need to keep in mind that you’ll immediately be losing about 30% of that fee upfront due to taxes. This entire concept has changed my process of pricing now that we depend on 100% of my freelance income. Before, I had my full-time day job to cover personal expenses and all of my freelance income was extra! Here are a few tools that I’ve used over the years:

  • CurdBee: I used this the first two years to invoice. It only costs $5 a month and you can customize the template.
  • Freshbooks: Extremely easy to use for invoicing and bookkeeping. I used the $30/mo package and it worked really well.
  • Upsourced Accounting: These guys are phenomenal and I currently use them for invoicing, bookkeeping and they help me file my quarterly taxes. If you’re a small business owner, I would highly recommend them.

Design Tools:

I work exclusively in Adobe Creative Suite 6 and subscribe to their monthly cloud service. For $30/month, I can access the entire suite and access InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Premiere Pro, and After Effects daily. It’s been such a great experience and don’t mind paying the monthly fee (versus the $1,500 fee to upgrade all at once from CS3). Some other tools that I use daily are:

  • Wacom Intuos 4 tablet: This has taken me awhile to get familiar with (compared to drawing by hand and scanning it in) but I love it.
  • Canon T2i: I just upgrade to this camera from the basic Canon DSLR and am excited to increase the quality of my photos here on my blog + create video content with clients.
  • Moleskine notebook (x-large, soft cover): I have one notebook for ideas and another for drawing. Perfect size.
  • Meeting notebook: I use this notebook for when I meet with clients. It keeps everything organized and I can establish action items that need to happen.

Resources:

I am trying to constantly learn and as I learn…I realize how much I still don’t know! I recently joined Lynda.com and spend a few hours a day watching tutorials for CS6 programs. It is phenomenal and know that it’s one of the best investments that I could make. Some other great resources that I’d recommend to designers:

Relationships:

I don’t like to call this networking because really it’s all about relationships. If you treat people like people and meet your deadlines…you will do well. I use Contactually to keep in contact with people that I’ve connected with over the years. I would also suggest looking up Matthew Kimberley’s 5 Things You Need To Do Every Morning To Get More Clients in 60 Days. It changed the way that I approach social media and professional relationships.

Any resources or tips that you would recommend? Like I said…I still have lots to learn!

Spending Freeze Update

I have 20 days left of this spending freeze and I’m happy to announce that besides my minor slip up in Chicago last month, I’ve stuck to it! Needless to say, I have big plans to boost our economy after this month is over. I’m definitely going to need to exercise self-control. After not shopping for a month and a half, I’ve realized what exactly I want to spend my money on. I’ve decided to start investing in timeless, classic pieces that might have a bigger price tag (vs shopping cheaply and impulsively). The key word will be investment. I also am going to restrain from buying a lot of new things for our tropical vacation in October. I tend to go wild and buy lots of “summer-like” items before a vacation when – in reality – I just wear my bathing suit + the same dress when we go out. I do, however, plan on getting a shellac manicure! I need to find a good salon around here…

Thankfully, last week I was able to visit a Plato’s Closet and sell a lot of my trendier, name brand clothing that I never wore last fall. They ended up buying everything for $45 (which is a lot compared to what I normally get) and I walked over to Marshall’s to peruse their selection. Since I’ve decided to stop buying cheap pieces of clothing impulsively, I veered towards the purse section. I knew they had a lot of great name brand purses for cheap and spotted a gorgeous Steve Madden satchel!

Originally $100, I feel like I scored a great deal because it only cost $40 and it’s something that I can see using for years. Perfect for the cooler months ahead! I’m also in the process of planning a swap party for the end of the month so I’ll be sure to share how that goes!

Have you scored any great deals lately? I LOVE deals, free shipping, coupons, etc and so feel free to share any tips too. 

Giving up on Sugar and Grains

For the past four weeks, I’ve been giving up on sugar and grains from my diet and since I share most things here on this blog…I figured I should share this!  I say “giving up on” because I want to give up on being dependent on certain foods (physically and psychologically). Before I get into details, you must know a few things:

  • I am not following the Paleo diet
  • I’m not doing this to lose weight (although I have experienced weight loss)
  • Since Adam is following the 4 Hour Body diet, I tend to eat a lot of the same things he does to make it easier
  • On the weekends, I tend to loosen up a bit on what I eat because – in my opinion – socializing and relationships are just as important

Read More