Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tuesday turtle.

Happy Tuesday! My coworker Bryan found this on the interwebz and I had to share:


Doesn't he just brighten up your day? Plus now I want a burger. And maybe a pet turtle that I can bring to work to keep me company while I'm on boring client calls. Sorry, author, I missed that last point. My turtle was MUNCHING ON MY CAPS LOCK.

Monday, January 30, 2012

I miss the holidays.

Don't you? Let's take a little trip down memory lane, since once January's over I really need to stop pretending like it's still the holiday season. Plus, I love my mom's style, and you'll get a glimpse of it here. When we moved out of our big family house and into a smaller, more practical abode, my mom referred to the new place as her little dollhouse. I think she successfully achieved the look with rich colors and textures, and the house really does glam up for Christmas quite nicely.

 So can't we all just join my dad in watching the game:

and then go do a puzzle in the dining room until it's time to eat again?

Sigh. Look, the crystal's all out and waiting for us to fill it with eggnog!

You can play us a ditty while we revel:

And later we'll consume 2,000 calories at one sitting while the amber chandelier judges us:

Sound like a plan?

Friday, January 27, 2012

A random stream of consciousness book review. Just because.

The book isn't stream of consciousness; my review is :) Book to be discussed:

In case you don't know this about me, I am a complete book nerd. I read multiple books at a time, and while I try to seek out new works, I've always been much more into the classics and pretty much anything from the 1930's and 40's. I find it really rare that something published in the last 15-20 years keeps me satisfied as much as an older work does, so when I discovered Mark Helprin's works I was very pleasantly shocked and thrilled. I first read (and promptly re-read) 'Winter's Tale', which floored me I fell so in love with it. I hate to even try to review it; suffice it to say it's a vast and intertwining love story about New York City, and that I recommend it more than highly.

So then I sought out 'A Soldier of the Great War'. I won't go totally English major on you, but I just finished this book, and I have to say that Helprin is now firmly cemented as my favorite modern day author. I see his 'Winter's Tale' as astoundingly well-written and surreal and moving, but if you aren't into something quite so intense, you should definitely read 'Soldier'. It's not as staggeringly beautiful as 'Winter's Tale'; it's much more accessible and easy to read and has a fairly simple and fun-to-follow plot that keeps you really engaged. While I'm big on the overwrought (well, what some people would call overwrought but I call wonderful) language and descriptors of 'Winter's Tale', it's clear why 'Soldier' was more widely embraced. It still reads like a canonical tome but is also a basic survival/love/how humans approach the concept of living tale. Plus, as you can tell from 'Winter's' if you've read it, Helpin's a hell of a knowledgable guy about pretty much everything, and the detailed scenes in 'Soldier' of war in the trenches, Italian politics, rock climbing, etc. paired with his poetic (or, rather, 'prosetic') musings on mortality and family are told so easily and naturally that Helprin's genius as an author is stupidly unequivocal. Add to that that he adds in moments of hilarity, most notably when the protagonist is trying to explain orgasms to a young, uneducated factory worker, and the book really does keep you continuously engaged and on your toes. If you read it, let me know; there's one scene that I won't ruin for you that made me gasp aloud it was so gorgeous and heartwrenching. I haven't had that happen since I read Djuna Barnes's 'Nightwood' in 2007, and it's one of the best feelings in the world.

On that delicious note, have a glorious weekend!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

What would you do for love (of home-cooked dinner)?

Would you make a meatloaf at 9 p.m. just so you didn't have to cook the next day? I would! And I did, just last night.


whilst cooking

In today's episode of Natalie plays Susie Homemaker we'll explore the aforementioned meatloaf! I was very spoiled as a child; both my mom and my nanny made AMAZING meatloaf. At one point meatloaf actually became a point of contention in our household; Mom says that once I told her that Terry's meatloaf was better than hers (oh no she didn't). I'm not sure if my lovely mother ever got over the pain, and for that I sincerely apologize, but to this day I still love meatloaf (and my topping idea is based off of Mom's. See, Mama? I do love you!). I almost wish I didn't love meatloaf so much, I mean...just the name sounds gross to me. Meat. Loaf. Really? Why would anyone want to eat something that goes by that name, except for the fact that it is a magical wonder of protein and spices? Oh well, a rose by any other name, I suppose. In fact, I've just now decided to change the name. From now on it's Moatleaf. Much cooler. And kind of...Lord of the Rings-y, don't you think? What's for elevensies? Aha, Moatleaf!

SO. For a while I experimented with various...different...ingredients: ground turkey, sun-dried tomatoes, oatmeal instead of bread crumbs, etc., but in the end I found that the best moatleaf was just good ole basic moatleaf. So I took this recipe, called, aptly enough "Old-fashioned Meatloaf", tweaked it to my liking, and voila! Moatleaf perfection (in my book). Thus:


1 TBSP. olive oil
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 white onion, finely chopped
salt and pepper
2 pounds extra lean ground beef (96/4)
2 TBSP. Worcestershire sauce
1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1/3 cup ketchup
1 TBSP. Creole seasoning (like Tony Chachere's)
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Sauté bell pepper and onion in olive oil over medium heat, about 5 minutes. Salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, combine bell pepper and onion mixture, beef, Worcestershire sauce, breadcrumbs, ketchup, garlic powder, and eggs. You may need more breadcrumbs, just kind of add until the mixture will mold together enough so that you can form it into loaf (about 10" x 2"). Place on a lightly greased aluminum foil-covered baking pan (try not to use something totally flat like a cookie sheet, as some juices may roll off). 

Bake at 350°* for 45 minutes. While it's baking, stir together 1/2 cup ketchup, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, and 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (tweak to your liking. I like it pretty sweet). When the 45 minutes is up, pour the sauce evenly over the moatleaf, and bake for 10 minutes more or until no longer pink in the center.

Wendy thought this was chocolate sauce. This is NOT chocolate sauce. That is both gross and not dairy-free friendly. Wendy, on the other hand, is both not gross AND dairy-free friendly!


I like to serve mine with green beans and sliced mushrooms sautéed in garlic, olive oil, salt, and lemon pepper.

Total cals- 2100. I can eat about 1/6 of that, but if you have a tall, soccer-playing significant other with magical metabolism they may eat 1/4 of it. Just a friendly head's up!

And I couldn't leave without gifting you this. Not super safe for work, unless your boss loves threesomes with gorgeous women (which, let's face it, he/she probably does).

I can pretty much guarantee you'll have that in your head all day. You can thank me later!

*I learned how to do a degrees sign! Shift + option + 8. Ah, the things that make me happy.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


I've been meaning to write a follow-up post to last Wednesday's about Vera Wang, but I haven't had a spare second! So when life doesn't give you spare seconds, make them, right?

Just because I'm not engaged doesn't mean I can't drool over some epically gorgeous wedding gowns, and Wang's 2012 bridal collection is seriously drool-worthy. She decided to go for nudes and blacks instead of whites, which I personally love. The white gown wasn't known as a wedding must until 1840, when Queen Victoria popularized the style; before that there wasn't really a set color. While red is still a prominent color in China, Vietnam, and India, white implies not only virginity (which, let's face it, doesn't really apply much anymore) but also higher economic standing: a white gown is easily soiled and thus probably only worn for the one occasion.

Also, from my personal standpoint, the construction of the dress and the way you carry it are all you need to turn any dress into a "wedding gown", so I am a huge fan of the nude and black look Wang went with.

While not ivory, the nude gowns are definitely "bridal":

Tulle-y and romantic:

Modern Cinderella:

Bride 2.0:

But, as you may have guessed, the black ones are the ones that really make me blush:

Black + nude = a sexy artistic cupcake of a ball gown:

I call this column the Diane Kruger:

And you knew I'd save my favorite for last. I think I may be officially obsessed with this gown:

Sorry for the low-res. All pictures from Vera Wang.

I'd divorce my husband and remarry him just to wear this gown twice.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the new, non-white gowns! Beautiful but not for you? Whackadoodle but perfect for you? A heartfelt "meh"?

Friday, January 20, 2012

A tale of caution...

Dear friends,

Don't get sick. Being sick is lame. I've been a veritable snot factory for the past few days, which I blame on a few things: 1) allergies, 2) being on an airplane with a bunch of people, at least one of whom must've had a cold, and 3) work. You know the old adage, 'When you're stressed out you get sick.' That's just a fact. I think Sagan originally coined the phrase, although it could've been Feynman.

I think what we all need is a glass of vanilla almond milk, a manicure, and movie night. But first: some good ol' Flight of the Concords:

This cracks me up so much every. time. I hope you snort laugh a little along with me so I feel like less of a dork.

Happy Friday!!!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wednesday with Vera Wang

You thought I'd never post again, and then I do AND I put 'wang' in the title. See? I do care.

One of the few magazine I subscribe to is Harper's Bazaar, and even though their idea of affordable slingbacks are still, like, $500, I just can't stay away. In their February issue they feature Vera Wang's new house in Los Angeles, and it's exactly what you'd expect her surroundings to be like: high-end minimalist, all black and white and chrome. It's a gorgeous space, so I thought I'd share!

Her dining room would make me a little afraid to spill anything, which I would probably do while staring at the fabulous sputnik-esque chandelier:

I suppose if I were too intimidated to eat I'd end up at an ideal weight to pull off one of her sheath wedding gowns, so it wouldn't be a total loss.

The living room has just the essentials, but the fireplace and wooden wall add a bit of necessary coziness and take the chilly edge off:

Put on Hitchcock's 'Vertigo' and hope no one is looking in your rear window, and you've got the classiest movie night ever.

There is, mais oui, a screening room:

Gown and designer only occasionally included.

and, (duh), a gorgeous pool:

Apparently the view is what sold Wang on the house, which I can certainly not argue with! But more importantly, Vera Wang is in her SIXTIES, you guys. If I look that good when I'm 62 I'm never wearing pants (note: please make me wear pants when I'm 60. I'm counting on you all).

And, lastly, her closet:

all images via Harper's

For someone with mild OCD and a penchant for sticking with a mostly black and grey wardrobe, this is a dream come true. No wonder I love it! Plus, look at how full that closet is, and is this is her second home. I can't even imagine her closet at her permanent residence in New York!

So although Wang says, "Glam is not my middle name", I have to argue that her sleek home is pretty damn glamorous despite the stark minimalism. Plus you wouldn't clash with anything even if you were all neon'd out in satin:

At Neiman's

I, for one, always hate when I clash with the couch.

Friday, January 13, 2012

And I'm off!

To Virginia for the weekend to do post-Christmas-Christmas with Joseph's family. Yay!

Please to enjoy:


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Radical Nautical

We need to talk about something really important, chirplettes. It's not the IMF, it's not the circus of politics, and it's certainly not the cedar allergies that have taken down 3/4 of Austin. It's Kate Spade's new collection.

Most notably, this ridiculously cute and witty clutch:

Kate Spade, of course

To be worn, ideally, with this necklace:

also Kate
Sailor chic! I support this.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


That's not a misspelling, it's a funky furniture company I stumbled upon after reading this article in Architectural Digest. I featured the apartment's terrace a while back, but the real star of the show for me is the playroom.

Design by owner/ad bajillionaire Donny Deutsch and interior designers Tony Ingrao and Randy Kemper

The Murakami cloud gets me every time; I'd love it above a toilet in a black lacquered restroom. Plus the kitsch of the cupcake tables was too much to resist! When I saw they were designed by a company called Jellio I was instantly intrigued and headed over to their website to peruse. Here are my favorites from their current line that's for sale online. They made me smile.

Here's an up close of a couple of the cupcake tables; my top 2 were the hot pink:

and the yellow:

Although the Ice Cream Cookie pouf also made me giggle:

Also available in bench flavor!

Teehee. I like him.

And in true best-for-last tradition, the Candelier.

SO COLORFUL. And the close-up reveals what you might've guessed: this little guy is made up of thousands of acrylic gummy bears:

Comes in mini, too, in case you're afraid to take the full leap:


Dear Jellio, thank you for existing. You remind us that designer-y decor doesn't have to be so DESIGNER-Y all the time, and for that I thank you. 

And just for good measure, and because it's so great, let's take another gander at that stupidly fabulous playroom:

Sigh/squee. I would read Roald Dahl SO HARD in that room.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Catching up...

Is what I am desperately trying to do on all fronts. Last night Joseph and I got some good cleaning in at home, interspersed of course with some wild bouts of Plants vs. Zombies.

Do you know what I was playing P v. Z on?

My new iPad!! Joseph had been asking me for MONTHS if he should get himself an iPad, and jealous ole me was kind of "meh" on the whole idea. I finally told him that yes, if my job paid me in non-Monopoly money I would definitely have one by now, and- voila!- turns out he had needed to hear ME say I wanted one all along. Yay birthdays!


Anyhow, I love it. Not least of all because you can do things like this on it:

I realize I can probably do these things on my MacBook, but it's just not the same.

I have all sorts of great decor post ideas but my scrambled brain is all...well, scrambled, so I'm very behind on more than just LCaL. I'm hoping to sit down tonight and flesh out some drafts for you beautiful people, but in the meantime I hope these gorgeous photos of Joseph and me keep me in your blog-reading hearts!

Joy and silly double-chin-inducing-photography-technology to all! 

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Spaghetti? Really, Natalie? This what your blogging has come to?

When it's the middle of an insane workweek, yes. Spaghetti. But I assure you that my spaghetti is delicious, simple, and pretty darn healthy! You'll be glad to have the recipe, I promise. Unless you hate spaghetti. Then you'll be like GOD NATALIE I HATE SPAGHETTI WHY DO YOU TORMENT ME SO??

Anywhoodles, here is your end goal.

If you aren't a weirdo and you DO like spaghetti, then do this!


1 squash, sliced and chopped
1 zucchini, sliced and chopped
1 sweet onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
about 10 mushrooms (just the normal ones that come in those blue styrofoam cartons), sliced
olive oil
1 lb. extra lean ground beef
1 lb. jar of spaghetti sauce; I like the chunky garden kinds from Prego or Ragu
salt, pepper, italian seasonings, green Tabasco
whatever kind of noodles you desire. I use gluten-free or whole wheat
fresh Parmesan

Heat a large pan over medium-high heat and cook the meat. Remove meat from pan and set aside. You won't have much meat fat if you use the extra lean, so don't drain it, just add a smidge of olive oil to the pan and then throw in the squash, zucchini, onion, and mushrooms. Cook about 5-8 minutes or until the squash/zukes are tender. Toss in garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the meat back into the pan with the veggies, add the spaghetti sauce, and turn heat to low. Add salt, pepper, italian seasonings, and green Tabasco to taste (I think I use about 1 tbsp. Tabasco, but I'm not positive. It adds a REALLY good flavor, though). Stir occasionally until heated through, a couple of minutes. Serve over noodles and garnish with fresh Parm (you lucky ducks that aren't dairy-free).

The pan of sauce is about 1300 calories, and is equally good if you vary up the veggies; I've used broccoli florets and spinach in it, too.


*update: my friend Zonk suggests adding a smidge of red wine to your sauce (if you aren't avoiding it for your migraines). Ahem, self. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

About a dress.

I have to say that my NYE was absolutely phenomenal; Joseph and I had a house party and a really great mix of friends came by and celebrated trading out 2011 for 2012 with us. We had the artsy Burning Man folks combined with the engineering crew mixed in with the young professionals, and of course the people that are all of the above. Besides getting giggly with your favorite people, I think we can all agree that one of the big perks to going out on New Year's is getting to dress up all snazzy-like. I was excited to show off a dress that is a few years old but (in my mind) timeless enough to wear pretty much forever. You can see if you agree.

Me with my best friend Sarah:

She's in a lovely ModCloth number.

And me with my other best friend (who also happens to be my boyfriend):

Awkward picture. I blame Sarah. Joseph's in Banana.

The dress is from one of Chloe Dao's 2006 collections. We fashion-loving Rice nerds were super excited when the Houston native (whose boutique, Lot 8, is right by campus) won Project Runway's 2nd season, and I was determined to have something made by her. My mom actually ended up buying this dress for herself but never wore it, so it was gifted to (slash stolen by) me! Mwahahaha. Just needed a little hem to further sexify it and a J.Crew necklace worn as a bracelet for an extra pop.

Now Heidi Klum and I can hang out and be twinsies!


I think she'd be cool with it if she still has the dress, don't you? I can be her half-Mexican mini me!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2012, Chirpy McChirpersons! Forgive my hiatus, please, because I love you and just want us to be friends. That's why I made you some good luck black eyed peas!


Oh, sure you can have the recipe. Do like so:


1 chopped sweet onion
3 garlic cloves
olive oil
1 pound dried black eyed peas, rinsed
4 slices bacon
a few big handfuls of collard greens
2 cans chicken broth
salt, pepper, chili powder

Heat a large pot over medium heat and cook bacon. Drain a bit of the grease out but leave some for taste. Add 2 cans of chicken broth, 1 can of water, and the peas to the pot with the bacon. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered but with the lid a tiny bit open. Once the pot is simmering, sauté the onion and garlic in a separate pan in a bit of olive oil until just tender and then add to the peas. Add some salt, pepper, and chili powder. Simmer the peas for a total of an hour and a half, then throw in the collards. Cook another hour (or more, depending on how squishy you like the peas. I like them pretty squishy so needed to cook about 3 hours total). Every now and then stir them; the bacon will kind of fall apart so that it gets evenly distributed.

Before eating, very proud of my concoction:

Me after eating:


Just kidding; that's the Gryffindor guardian. The peas only have about 1400 cals in the whole pot.