I’ve been smoking without ever quitting for the last 20 years, plus 5 years before that (but I hadn’t learned to inhale so it doesn’t count).  Over the years my habit has gotten heavier and lighter: in high school, it was whenever I could sneak one, in college, it was at least a pack a day and lately it’s been 3-5 per day except when drinking when it could be doubled.  I’ve never quit before because I don’t like to make vain promises to myself or anyone else.

A few events precipitated this decision, going back at least a year or two.  The first was a dinner in New Brunswick, NJ with the two women who, back when we were 12, introduced me to smoking (in the woods behind the A&P), taught me tricks on how to hide the smell, and how to shoplift packs from under the counter at the Mini-Chek.  One of them also turned against me at some point during middle school and I became the target of her intense bullying for a little while.  It’s always weird to see those people grown up, going on wine trips to Argentina, getting engaged, and generally being lovely and kind.

During the dinner, I asked them if they still smoked and they kind of laughed and said “Not for years!”  It made me feel like a bit of a chump, to be honest.  Here were these women, all mature and living healthy lifestyles, and me still clinging to the stupid habit they’d taught me all those years ago.

I think I’ve smoked all these years to prove to the world that I’m not a goody-goody, and to make damn sure that I’m not becoming my mother, who never smoked a single cigarette in her life.  It might be premature to say that I don’t feel the need to prove myself in this way anymore, but it’s something like that.

The next event that made me think about quitting was a dream where I was all rolled up inside a cigarette being lit, inhaled and smoked by some giant being.  It was so vividly disgusting and frightening that I woke up in a panic thinking I’d never smoke again.  But I did.

Then the day before Election Day this year, I suddenly knew it was time.  Everything just seemed to be coming together towards the decision.  I was riding my bike and kayaking a lot, cooking brown rice and CSA veggies, dating a non-smoker, etc. etc.  I’d always thought that I’d have a natural stopping point when I got pregnant: since that hadn’t happened I think I just kept smoking.

So I decided that if Obama won, I’d quit.  After work on Election Day, I was shopping in some consignment shops on 7th Ave. in Brooklyn.  I told the owner of the first shop that I was going to quit if Obama won, and that after that I’d treat myself to a nice new (or new-to-me) handbag and get rid of my old smoke-smelling one.  She was super-encouraging, told me she’d smoked for 25 years and quitting was the best decision she’d ever made, then offered me some Nicorette that an employee had left there.

In the next shop I went into, a customer (who shoplifted a winter coat from the shop later on) was in a discussion with the owner about what else but quitting smoking!  She said something that I now have pasted on my monitor at work: “Every act of self-control leads to self-respect.”

So I was expecting (praying) that Obama would win, but maybe after an extended period of chad-counting and litigation.  It came as a major shock that it was announced that same evening and I started to panic a bit.  I still had 17 precious cigarettes left in my pack and I thought I’d have time to finish them off!

The next day on my way to work, I passed a fabrication shop on the next block.  I’d done some work with them in the past and a guy who works there once gave me his last cigarette when I really needed it.  So as I walked past, his buddy was out there smoking and I told her my story and donated the pack to the shop.  I felt like she really got the whole poetic justice of the situation.  It felt good.

Now I’m off the gum and after a week of feeling like everything was completely upside-down, that I was turning into an uptight bitch and overreacting to everything, I’ve achieved some equilibrium.  I did buy an electronic cigarette just in case for the trip up to my family’s for Thanksgiving.  There are so many triggers when you go back into those old patterns with family, ways they can wind you up like no one else can, so many times (such, as I’m experiencing right now, while writing!) that having a smoke is so habitual and comforting.

This will be the first year for a very long time that I won’t go outside after Thanksgiving dinner for a smoke.  I love everything about that moment: the cold upstate air, the peaceful farm landscape, the fall smell of dried-out grasses and woodsmoke, the solitude, the snuggles with cats and dogs locked outside until after dinner when they are allowed back in to lick the plates.  I think this is what I will miss most about smoking: the fact that it has allowed me to get away from the crowd and just be by myself for a moment, just observing my surroundings, taking a break from doing and get back in touch with some of the magic all around me.

Maybe I’ll go out there and have a few puffs on my electronic cigarette.  They don’t have to know that I’ve quit just yet. :)

Happy Thanksgiving.

This recipe came together as a result of the inventory control I’m practicing (trying to practice!) in my new kitchen.  Lack of cabinets and a smaller fridge make it tricky–they were pretty much full to bursting just with the collections of grains, spices, and condiments that I moved in with.  So when I felt like pesto, I wasn’t going to buy basil, not with the slightly wilted container of arugula in my fridge, and I wasn’t going to buy pine nuts when I had a good handful of walnuts left over from a Peruvian chicken dish (that was really good).  I ended up adding some parsley, too, and the other usual suspects: garlic, olive oil, and Parmesan.  Normally you might mix some Romano in too, but if your arugula (I get the wild/baby type) is as sharp as mine, you’ll want to skip it and stick with Parm to mellow it out a bit.  Just whizz it all together in the food processor, keep tasting, adding, seasoning.  You don’t have to do like me and inadvertently make a giant batch because you keep adding a little more of this and that and then have to add more of this.  But if you do, it will get eaten.

Especially if, like me, you’re out of pasta the next day and force yourself to use what you have to save space, and if what you have is a package of soba, Japanese buckwheat noodles.  I was a bit skeptical, but it turned out much better than with the pasta.  The flavors of the pesto and the soba mix in a really interesting way that’s more complex, and with a bit of chicken (from a leftover roasted chicken with two lemons that I’ve been eating from all week) and an optional crumble of Bulgarian sheep’s milk feta (from my visit to Halime at the Turkish market in the old neighborhood), it makes a very nutritious and satisfying go-to lunch.

A note on serving temperature.  Soba noodles should be rinsed after cooking, and they are often served cold.  Personally, I like this dish at about room temperature, and the pesto incorporates better if they’re warm, so I’ll rinse the noodles with warm water, return to the pot, mix in the other ingredients and let the cold pesto and chicken from the fridge cool down the noodles to lukewarm.

Now, you can substitute whatever you have in the house, experiment!  But if you replace the arugula with basil, the walnuts with pine nuts, and the soba with pasta, I’m afraid I can’t help you.

In other food news, I’ve joined a local CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) and I’ll be picking up my boxes of freshly picked, sustainably grown vegetables starting in June (and fruit, starting in July).  I really look forward to having a defined palette of seasonal ingredients to work from.  It’s like having constraints in graphic design (or any other creative job)–it can be very helpful to the process.

I get twitchy if I can’t cook. It’s a centering activity for me. But the first few nights I was in my new apartment, I couldn’t even see the stove and after that, it just didn’t seem to be a good idea to make more work for myself. It’s given me an opportunity to explore some of the takeout around here (highlights: the taco stand at the elementary school at 60th & 4th and the delicious frozen Indian dinners and breads from Patel Grocery on 53rd; low points: Pio Pio Riko being out of chicken and chewy, pale-looking beef and overly peppery wontons from the local Chinese).

So today, I was up near 25th St. returning my cable box when I remembered there was supposed to be a great retail/wholesale produce market around there on 3rd. I found it, after almost getting run over by a truck, and I have to say it really put a smile on my face. I was so starved for real food that I wanted to fill up a cart with everything in sight, all of those gleaming colorful deliverers of vitamins. I could have, too, at those prices. I ended up getting 3 mangoes, 4 lemons, 6 limes, a cucumber, 3 tomatoes, a package of arugula, crimini mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, 2 apples, and a bunch of parsley, all for $17.

And what would I make with all this? Well, I had a very hard end to a loaf of olive bread I’d gotten in the old neighborhood. I’d never made it before, but out of the options for using up stale bread, panzanella seemed to be the most congruous with olives.

So I looked up a few quick recipes online, threw something together, and just ate the entire thing in one sitting even though it was supposed to sit and get moister. I don’t know if it’s because it’s the first real food I’ve made since I’ve been here, but it was DAMN GOOD.  Here’s what I did:

One hard old end of a sourdough olive bread loaf.  One tomato and one-half a giant cucumber, chopped.  Mixed them together, sprinkled s&p, let the juices come out a bit.  Added a generous drizzle of olive oil, a drop of good balsamic vinegar, a splash of cheap red wine vinegar, a lot of chopped parsley and a minute amount (a quarter of a clove) of very finely minced garlic.  Had a bite, left it for 10 minutes, had another bite, then downed the whole thing.  I thought capers would have been nice and sorely regretted throwing out the jar with two tablespoons left when I moved, but (a) my new, smaller but nicer fridge is already completely full just with the condiments I brought from the old place, and (b) it was perfection without them.

No picture of the dish, because I’ve realized not only do I not want to spend the time to make my food look good, I don’t want my food to look good.  So here’s a picture of an empty bowl next to a pile of extension cords:

I thought I’d do a mushroom pasta for the main course.  Will I be hungry?  Who knows.  I’ve been absolutely ravenous the past week from all the physical exertion involved in moving and setting up the new place.  I’ve also been eating at 7 PM, going to sleep at 10, and waking up early.  I know it’s time to eat when I hear the ice cream truck outside, and time to sleep when the baby in the next building stops crying.

Hi guys! If you’re wondering why my decor blogging screeched to a halt, it’s not because of my infamous inability to stay interested in a project until it’s completed.  It’s because I had to make a life change, and a friend’s seriously affordable, seriously cute fixer-upper of an apartment became available and helped me achieve that.

The new place, unlike the boxy big-rooms-all-in-a-row 1 bedroom apartment I’m in now, is a warren of small rooms, walls that curve unexpectedly, and delightful angles.  Its many windows just cry out to be lined with little green plants in pots, a look that for some reason I associate with the best of the 1970s.  I must have seen a charming window full of greenery when I was very young and it made a deep aesthetic impression.  I also think about Ruth Gordon’s train car home in Harold and Maude.

Image is from Apartment Therapy.  I think having the shelf suspended over the window is key to achieving that charming look that’s imprinted on my childhood brain, as are the little colored glass bottles.  Growing up in Readington, NJ, there was a spot in a bit of wilderness on our land that former residents had used as a dumping ground in the 19th and early 20th century.  We used to dig there and find all kinds of little apothecary bottles that we’d clean up and my mom would display on the window over the sink.

There’s a lovely window beside the farmhouse sink in the new place that would be perfect for this kind of treatment.  Now, how to do that and still be able to lift out the window to clean the outside (maybe some brackets on the window frame and a detachable shelf?), and how to keep plants alive which I’ve never been able to master (those As Seen on TV plant watering globes?)… but this place cries out for live plants.  The natural light is only slightly better than where I am now, since it’s also a ground floor apartment, but with at least one window on each of three sides plus one at an angle, the chances of getting a ray of sunshine in for at least 15 minutes a day are increased.

When I last saw my friend who’s handing the place over to me, I asked her if there was anything in the apartment that she’d be secretly upset if I changed.  I know it could be a bit tricky if you visit someplace where you used to live, that you put a lot of thought and hard work into, and still feel that sense of propriety.  Wonderful woman that she is, she assured me that the place is now 100% mine and I should do whatever I want, but that she’d probably have to wait a while until she visited.  I understand that, and out of respect for her, I’m not going to post pictures yet.  But I will be taking them along the way as I get the place ready and move in a week from today, and I’ll save them up.

By the way, I think I’m going to stop putting breaks or “folds” in my blog posts where you have to click for more.  I’ve noticed that personally, I really prefer being able to read through everything on one page, though it can get annoying to scroll through long posts with lots of pics.  What do you guys think?

I think the key to sticking with a wholesome eating routine is to keep the food you cook at home fun and slightly luxurious, but with lots of whole grains and vegetables.  That, and to be poor and have lots of time to cook, i.e., unemployed.

Here’s some dishes that have kept me going–staying in a tight budget while being relatively healthy, varied, and fun.  I haven’t chosen the cheapest option and sacrificed nutrition–I don’t always go for the white potatoes and white rice because they are the cheapest, or the factory-farmed chicken.  To be honest, sometimes I do.  Some dishes are best with white rice and others brown.  Taste is always foremost!  If it doesn’t taste good, doesn’t give you a feeling of being a little decadent, you’ll pig out on nachos at the pub the first chance you get.

1. Homemade pita & tortilla chips
I never buy store-bought chips anymore–I’ve usually got a bag of corn tortillas and a bag of whole-wheat pitas in the freezer.  Even more thriftily, I save the tortillas (folded in half, wrapped in foil) from Mexican takeout.  I break them in pieces while still frozen, toss generously with olive oil & salt, and bake at 350º for about 10-15 min until slightly browned and crispy.  They have a different texture than store-bought chips but I have learned to prefer them, and they have a rich taste from the olive oil.  Using another oil like vegetable, corn, or peanut will make them crispier but I prefer the taste from the olive oil–it’s roastier.
For pita chips, it’s much the same process except I dry them in the oven first, so they are twice-baked.  I haven’t thought of doing that with tortillas, but I must try that.

Think about it, a bag of tortilla chips is about $3 while a fraction of a bag of tortillas, at least in an area with a Latino population, will run you about 25¢.  Free if you get them with takeout and don’t use them.  The same with pita chips–a bag of those is at least $4 and half a bag of pitas is just 75¢.  Plus, they’re wholesome, homemade, certainly better for you than anything deep-fried.  And you can use leftover homemade tortilla chips for…

2. Tortilla soup
I make this about every other time as part of the roast chicken aftermath.  After the carcass has been ravaged for sandwiches, I pick all the hidden bits of meat off (like le sot l’y laisse), reserve, then make a stock from the bones.  I also make sure people throw back the bones of the legs and wings instead of tossing them out because you want the wings for extra gelatin in your stock.  For a Mexican broth you want to add some mint and thyme, but I usually make an unflavored, unseasoned stock and simmer 1 qt of it with herbs later to make this soup.  There are many recipes for tortilla soup, but the basic idea is to saute some garlic and tomato in olive oil on high heat, then puree and add back to the soup and squeeze a lot of lime juice in at the end.  I’ve built on this recipe with inspiration from Rick Bayless–I now add one or two soaked pasilla peppers into the puree, and add shreds of either chard, kale, or spinach.  I also throw in a handful of rice, then at the end, add the bits of cooked chicken and crumbled tortilla chips.  Some leftover black beans, too, if they are handy, and a bit of hot sauce if it lacks punch.  Cheese is traditional but I skip it.  And if I don’t have tortilla chips already made, I skip those too, so is it still tortilla soup…?  If you haven’t roasted a chicken, you can always poach one and strip ALL the meat, which you will then be able to save for many different meals and you’ll have a great stock as well.  I just poached one for tonight’s aji de gallina.  I get my chickens at a halal market for about $3.  I choose to believe since they are halal, they are better for me than a factory-farmed chicken.

3. To serve with your homemade chips, some homemade guacamole!  I can get avocados here depending on the season for $1 or less a piece.  2 avocados makes a nutritious special treat for 2 or 3 people.  Yes, they are full of fat, but it is good fat, and they contain a natural antidepressant!  So if you lost your health insurance, eat guacamole when you are blue.  In the summer I make them with fresh tomato and red onion, lime juice, hot sauce and cilantro.  In the winter, when I don’t buy tomatoes, I try to have some tomatillo salsa (salsa verde) on hand and I use that plus red or green onion, lime juice and cilantro.

4. For another dip that is wonderful with either of the homemade chips, but which I eat more often with carrot sticks, I developed a homemade spinach dip.  I wanted to capture the flavor of a classic potluck spinach dip, the kind you’d serve in a bread bowl, but made from fresh ingredients.  I sautee onion, garlic and celery, then puree that with a combination of dairy products–mostly drained lowfat yogurt (I get a really tasty, tangy Indian brand at the halal market) plus a bit of either labeneh (a cross between thick sour cream and yogurt), sour cream, and/or mayonnaise, for richness.  To that I add some leftover cooked greens, either spinach, chard, or kale.  If you don’t have leftovers, just add the greens to the sauteed aromatics and cook until wilted.  I always keep a bunch of dark leafy greens in the house.  Swiss chard is my favorite but all winter it is kale, kale, kale!  It’s not hard to eat in season when you have no money.  Zip it all in the food processor with salt, pepper, and coriander powder or another spice of your choice, and there you have it.  Trust me, it is so much better than those potluck dips, and you know everything that’s gone into it–not like a packet of dried soup mix full of additives and preservatives.

5. Lentils and split peas. Yes, the classic staples of the poor!  But I won’t hold for any tasteless mush.  Adding flavor is key.  And it doesn’t always have to be in the form of a smoked pork product, though sometimes it does.  One soup (from Marcella Hazan) I make all the time is the epitome of thrift.  One half a bag of green split peas, 2 potatoes, 1 cup of beef stock or a bouillon cube, 4 cups of water.  The key, and all the flavor, comes in at the end when you saute 2 Tb of chopped onion in a mixture of butter and oil, then puree that in with the soup.  I also love her lentil soup, with lots of garlic, tomato, bit of bacon, pasta and crushed red pepper.  I make another lentil soup–with many variations–to which I generally add smoked paprika in lieu of a smoked pork product.  I don’t have anything against smoked pork, by the way, in fact I very often use bacon as part of a soup base, but cooking for two I don’t make whole hams so I don’t have leftover ham hocks.  You can buy them of course (though that doesn’t seem very thrifty), and I’ve also heard good things about using smoked turkey wings in soups.  I just picked up a package of them but haven’t used any yet.  My Algerian friend also makes an amazing lentil soup with a bit of lamb on the bone.  I’ve been trying to get her to teach me how to make it so stay tuned…

Then there are the multitudinous combinations of lentils, dark leafy greens, and rice/pasta.  They can easily stray into the “I’m eating this just to stay alive” camp, which is where we don’t want to be!  A judicious use of spice and/or meat will fix that.  My favorite lately uses a bit of Italian sausage and seasons the greens with a pinch of anise seed, served with pasta.  The anise works so well with the lentils and greens–delicious!

6. Turkish-ish greens w/ rice.  Thanks to Halime, who runs the halal shop across the street from my apartment and taught me how to make this one day.  I make it often for lunch and I’ve altered the recipe a bit by adding garlic and cinnamon (which is more of a North African touch).  You sautee some onion & garlic, add a tiny bit of ground meat and cook for 10 min, then add fresh or canned tomatoes or tomato paste, cook it down, add lots of greens and a small handful of dry rice, water to cover, simmer until rice is done.  I sometimes make this with leftover rice; brown rice is good and makes this a very nutritious meal but you do want it to be at least par-boiled when you start.  If I’m using dry rice, I’ll usually hold out on adding the greens until it’s half-cooked.  It’s a personal thing; the Turkish way has you cook the greens until they are soft and brownish, which is not always as bad as it sounds and can be quite yummy.  Their version is also mostly greens with a tiny bit of rice while I like to do more half-and-half.  Add a dollop of yogurt or labeneh to serve.  Mmmmmm.

7. Root vegetables.  For a favorite side dish of mine, I take half sweet and half white potatoes, chopped, tossed w/ olive oil, s+p, smoked paprika and cumin (sometimes a bit of cayenne too).  Roast at 400º for about 40 minutes.  Optionally you can squeeze lemon juice over, sprinkle w/ chopped parsley or cilantro, or serve w/ an aji or chipotle dipping sauce.  This is my go-to side dish with burgers, be they lamb, beef, or turkey.  The sweet potatoes are extremely nutritious and anti-inflammatory–it might be my imagination but I get a feeling of well-being every time I nom one.

I’m also a huge fan of celery root, which I use in purees (with roast chicken) and soups (with parsnips, potatoes and dark leafy greens) all winter.  Turnips and rutabagas, likewise, can be turned into a rustic mash with carrots, sweet potatoes and roasted garlic, or into a soup with bacon and dried mushroom.  All of them have a lot more to offer nutritionally and taste-wise than white potatoes.

8. Hummus.  1 can of chickpeas = 89¢.  1 cup of premade or good deli hummus = $4-5.  Yeah.  The only thing that will cost you is the tahini.  I can get it for less than $4 here but I live in a Middle Eastern neighborhood.  I remember paying $11 in the suburbs.  In that case, you might want to try experimenting with almond or cashew butter, if you can get them cheaper, but even for $11 you will save money in the end because you’ll get lots of batches out of one tub.  I make my hummus the traditional Lebanese way, with a generous amount of tahini and lemon juice, few Tb of water, salt and ½ clove garlic.  (Though to be really traditional I’d have to soak and cook my chickpeas, which would save me even more money, but I never think ahead.)  The only addition I sometimes make is a squirt of Sriracha.  Drizzle a good olive oil over and top with a dusting of either sumac, smoked paprika, chopped parsley, or Aleppo pepper.  Serve w/ pita chips or just plain whole wheat pita.

There are a lot more ideas out there of course, like fish cakes (which I love to serve with the tortilla soup), grated veggie latkes, which I’d like to do more of, casseroles, gratins… what are your favorite nutritious, cheap, fun, slightly decadent dishes or tips?

Personally, I hope that after I transition off unemployment (which I’m in the process of now), I’ll be able to keep some of the good habits I’ve learned.  Not only with cooking, but in general, relearning the joy and inspiration in the simple and the cheap.

OK, so I’ll get back to the heavy stuff sooner or later.  Until then, here’s something delicious.  I’ll give props to my UK friend Plum for suggesting I make fish cakes with some of the skate I got at the Union Square Greenmarket 2 weeks ago.  I don’t think I’d ever had a fish cake that wasn’t of the Thai variety (I’d like to try my hand at making something like that too) and I was suddenly obsessed with the idea, thinking of fish cakes morning, noon and before sleeping until I finally made them.

My friend had suggested using leftover “mash” (potatoes) and leftover cooked skate–a quick review of British recipes online called for that and not much else, maybe some parsley and a coating of breadcrumbs.  One had the egg and breadcrumbs mixed into the cake itself.  I decided not to go that way though it would be easier and require less cleanup.  I had a vision of a crisp, golden brown exterior yielding to a soft fishy center.  And of course I couldn’t leave it alone without spicing it up a little.  I was on a New Orleans kick, so green onion and a few shakes of Tabasco went in, then while mixing it all up I had a stroke of brilliance and added a dash of smoked paprika.  That unidentifiable hint of smoke flavor in the finished dish really made it–surprisingly for a lowly fish cake, it was one of the most delicious food items ever to come out of my kitchen.  I bet you could try Sriracha to stand in for both the Tabasco and smoked paprika, or even a bit of adobo from chipotles, but just a dash–you don’t want to be able to pick out the flavor.

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I hope everyone has had a lovely holiday, for those who celebrate one, and a bright start to the new year.  For me it’s been up and down as I’ve come to expect lately.  I had a terrible blow before the holidays when the dream of the crafts co-op for Arab-American women in Brooklyn that I’d dedicated 10 months of my life to advocating and building dissipated with a change in management at the social service agency I’d been working with.  I’m devastated over the collapse of my vision and frustrated at all the hard work lost, but telling myself to be resilient and find another way.  That’s led to thoughts of going back to school–to learn Arabic, get my MBA (bleh!), my MSW or a Master’s in Middle Eastern studies or somesuch which would be the most interesting but maybe the least practical.

This is a delicate subject but I can also foresee that I am stepping into a path where ethnic and religious origin may always be an issue–with my peers, that is, not my clients!  I’m a white woman without the kind of ingrained understanding of Arab culture that comes from being born and raised on the inside.  A do-gooder.

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Curtains: My old green curtains paired with sheers made out of the sari from Jackson Heights.

Throw pillows made with African/Dutch waxprint fabrics, $3.50-$6/yard from P&S Fabrics and another store nearby on Broadway south of Canal Street.

Table: Pink cloth is a $1.99 Ikea clearance rug.  Turquoise placemat, $2.99 Daffy’s clearance.  Vase (which is either the same or very close to a Crate & Barrel one I coveted for years and regretted not buying), $4.99 at Salvation Army.  Flowers, $5 from Union Square Greenmarket.  Brass tray with engraving of clipper ship, $2.99 at Salvation Army.

You can spot the duck head on top of the bookcase.  Not sure where its permanent place will be but it will tell me in due time.  Also to do: replace upside-down lampshade!

The light in the apartment is still so gloomy but does take on a nice pink hue from the curtains.  There was an article in the NYT recently about apartment envy which is epidemic among New Yorkers.  “For such an intellectually advanced and culturally diverse population, we sure are easily impressed with dishwashers.”  My list is longer than most.  In order of desire.

  1. Natural light.  The kind that makes you happy just walking into a room where a slanted beam of light is glowing ever-so-optimistically and makes having a cup of tea into a rapturous event.
  2. A balcony, roof deck, back garden, terrace, deck, porch, courtyard, or even a fire escape!
  3. A dishwasher.
  4. A beautiful view.  Currently, living in Bay Ridge, I’m dreaming about a view of the Narrows, the body of water between us and Staten Island, and being able to watch the barges, massive container ships, ferries, sailboats and glorious sunsets from my own pad.
  5. A sewing room.
  6. A working fireplace. HahaHahaHahaHa.

I’ve been obsessed with the idea of curtains made from saris for a few weeks now.  And in keeping with the loose theme I’ve decided to apply to this room–the ethnic diversity of New York City–I went to Jackson Heights in Queens today in search of the perfect 7 yards of fabric.

It was interesting to visit during Ramadan–there were lots of sidewalk vendors all selling religious merchandise–Arabic inscribed plaques, headscarves and blankets (but no fawanees).  Luckily I was given a fanous (that’s the singular for fawanees) by a nice man in a shop in Bay Ridge last week after getting a clear dental report!  (He didn’t know.  But it was better than a lollipop.)

After a long, alternately wonderful, frustrating, sweaty and overwhelming day trolling sari shops along 74th St. and 37th Ave. (with a lunch stop at Al-Naimat), I finally found exactly what I was looking for in a downstairs shop called New East West Sarre Sarani (and they were very sweet and helpful to a white girl with a strange request).  Bright fuchsia, gold embroidered, sheer poly chiffon, with plenty of fabric for two windows, $40!  Here’s a pic of it in the room–I just have it draped over the rod right now.  I’ll have to figure out how to make the two curtains, as one thing I learned about saris today is that the border design is only on one short side.  Makes sense as the other would normally be hidden when worn.

I love it!  It brings such a nice glow into the room.

Click for before-and-after chair pics!

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“Follow House magazine’s guide to how to get horny spring color blobs boxes into your home.”

“Niels is not just fussy, he is super fussy. But he is legally excused. He lives for his sharp sense of decor”

Those are some of my favorite Google Translate blurbs from BOLIG, an interior design magazine from Denmark and the source for my main new inspiration photo (first found @ Jubella):

I decided I love the stark white walls and furniture with crazy accent colors.  Plus it means I don’t have to repaint (at least that room) when I move out.

I found some other great ideas at TAJ Wood & Scherer (Germany) and the wonderful RICE company out of Denmark.  They design wonderful super-colorful home items that are made under fair trade conditions in developing countries.  I wish we had a shop of theirs here–I think it would do well in NY!

The rice-bag and matchbox inspired patterned throw pillows on the top right are from Koko, a NY (Queens) based company run by a Colombian woman married to an Indian man–she operates a similar fair-trade business model too, as I found out when I FINALLY located the woven plastic rugs I’ve been searching for desperately, by Koko and available at Domus (run by a delightful woman named Luisa) in NY.  You can see a few in the pictures above–my favorites are the brightly colored ones in traditional floral/scrollwork designs.  I’d seen them all over the place in the Scandinavian blogs, and I did see some by Mad Mats (which have the added plus of being recycled) but they didn’t quite have the colors and designs I wanted.  It took a New York Times article on the trend to find the name Koko and the store Domus.  Hello all design blogs out there: please tell us the manufacturers of the items you feature!  And makers, work on your Google presence!

Continue for new couch pics and a poll!  Onward!

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