Wednesday, April 30, 2014

recipe: fingerling hash browns

i said before i wasn't really one to post recipes. i take it back.

since i've started blogging (and hanging out on blogs, and on instagram, and looking at more of the world through a camera lens in general), i've begun to notice beautiful design in unexpected, seemingly mundane places. most commonly, in my kitchen. (not surprising since i feel like i spend all of my time there).

today it happened with potatoes. i can't leave aldi lately without buying a bag of these little goodies: diminutive, candy-colored, delicious mini fingerling potatoes. i've made them all kinds of ways, but this afternoon i was slicing them up to make the yummiest of hash browns. and i was struck by how freakin' beautiful they are.

i think what i'm admitting to you is, this recipe post is an excuse to share pictures of potatoes. but trust me, design never tasted so good.


fingerling potatoes
olive oil
kosher salt


1. wash potatoes.

2. add olive oil to skillet & turn heat to high.

3. begin to thinly slice potatoes, adding them to the skillet as you slice them. (this will allow you to have variety; some will be just tender, some soft inside with crispy crusts, and some that are basically potato chips).

4. stir occasionally as you add potatoes, and reduce heat gradually to medium.

5. when you are done slicing, cook a few minutes more, stirring near-constantly. total time, depending on the amount of potatoes you use, will be 10-15 minutes.

6. remove from heat when potatoes are cooked to your liking & transfer to serving bowl.

7. sprinkle with kosher salt to taste. (spoon salt into one hand and pinch it with the thumb and two first fingers of your other hand to sprinkle it).

8. stir potatoes & serve immediately.

(you could also top these with some crumbled feta or gorgonzola cheese and some sliced chives, like my favorite breakfast place in all the world does with their hash browns).

direct quote from ryan: "these are awesome. yeah, i could eat these all day." high praise from my beloved tape worm.

let me know how they turn out for you!

Monday, April 28, 2014

money saving retail secrets

i may have mentioned once or twice that i am a visual merchandiser by trade. before becoming a momma, i worked for a high-end home furnishings retailer in every capacity from part-time christmas sales help to merchandising manager at a flagship store. (where i learned how to fold a killer towel).

along the way, i figured out how the retail system can work on your behalf to get you the very best deals. it's all about timing, and not being afraid to ask.

here are some trade secrets of retailers that can lead to big discounts on the pieces you've got your eye on:

1. floor samples

every season, stores get new furniture to show on their sales floor. at the end of that season, many of those pieces are sold off at big discounts to clear the floor for what's next. you can often see 30-60% off a piece during this time. the furniture can sometimes have a ding or two, but typically it is in great shape as it was only shown for a couple months. these go fast, so here's how to be the one who scores the deal:

~ if there's a piece you like, ask a sales associate before it's being cleared off the floor to call you when it does become a floor sample. when the time comes, they love having an immediate buyer.

~ it's a timing game. when the piece first goes on sale, it will not be at its deepest discount. you can wait, and if it doesn't sell, they'll reduce the price after a couple weeks. just know it could easily be snatched up by someone else and you'll lose out altogether. if you have your heart set on it, don't wait. whatever the floor sample price, it's cheaper than it used to be!

2. shop in january and july

retail "seasons" start way before the weather is ready to cooperate. they usually set spring by february and fall by august, meaning the months before are time to clear out and get ready. the deepest discounts on everything are in january and july. shop early for the best selection, and shop late for the best deals. expect discounts of 40-75% during this time on merchandise from the previous season. but don't wait too long. i'd say by the third week of january, almost everything is gone.

3. get to know regular sales events

many retailers have annual or semi-annual sales every year. asking a store associate or doing a quick google search will let you know when to shop. for example, restoration hardware has a twice-a-year bath event, and the container store holds an annual elfa sale. usually these sales will have discounts of around 20%.

4. friends and family sales

these used to be private coupon events where store associates could "share" their employee discounts with their own family and friends. but retailers have caught on to the huge boon to sales these generate, and have started spreading the love. some stores will openly advertise to everyone within shouting distance that they're having an "f&f" sale and hand out coupons at the door. others are still more secretive, but nonetheless very willing to share if asked. hit up a sales associate to put you on the coupon mailing list and she will be happy to oblige. these sales are usually 15-30% off and many happen just before the holidays.

5. rewards card programs

i'm not a huge fan of credit cards, but if you promise to pay it off every month, it can be a good way to earn discounts on your purchases. for instance, pottery barn regularly sends their cardholders a coupon worth $25 off a $50 purchase throughout the year. many stores, such as target, also offer 5-10% cash back. read the fine print and especially look into this option if you are considering a large purchase.

6. price changes & price adjustments

it may be helpful for you to know when your favorite store does price changes. this is usually a weekly occurrence. at my store, for instance, mark-downs took effect every wednesday morning. which means if you are shopping tuesday night, it's worth asking if the item you're about to buy will be cheaper in 12 hours. they have the list ahead of time.

if you didn't ask and didn't know and bought something just before it got marked down, you can still get the discount. just go back and ask for a price adjustment. almost every store i know will refund you the difference if an item goes on sale within 7 (or so) days of your purchasing it. therefore, it's a good idea to peek back within the next week after buying just in case.

7. make friends

i've alluded to this before, but the sales associate on the floor is your best friend when it comes to finding out about sales. she wants to help you get good deals, because it's the right thing to do for a customer, and because it usually means you'll buy more and come back again later.

but there is another reason. companies regularly incent their employees to sell more of a particular item when it's on promotion.

for instance, during december, my store would choose one category of items to place on sale and "push" during each week. let's say the first week was faux wreaths. they'd be on sale for 20% off and the store that sold the most wreaths that week would earn a bonus of some kind. they're called sales contests and they happen throughout the year. this means that if an employee knows wreaths are going on sale and going to be part of the contest, she'd love to to call you and let you know about the sale. it helps you and it helps her.

now, of course, any employee at my store would be happy to call you when an item went on sale regardless of if it helped us or not, but i say all that for those of you who are too shy to ask. don't be shy. ask! the sales associate will take your name and number and call you when the item you want goes on sale. i had a sales associate do that for me at j. crew and it was like the best thing ever! (and if they aren't willing to help you in that manner, shop somewhere else).

hopefullly this was helpful, and hopefully there are no black vans careening up my driveway at this moment to nab me for retail treason.

{images via restoration hardware, sugar paper, restoration hardwarestyle notes, j.crew, pinterest, and magazyn}

Thursday, April 24, 2014

sweet vintage barn wedding: ellen + michael

if this blog had existed back when i attended the amazing wedding of photographer ellen mcinerney and breakdancer michael swalley, i would have had pictures posted of it the very next day.

as it stands, the moment i was brave enough to tell anyone about this new venture of mine, i was asking ellen for the disc. you'll see why. not only are they possibly the sweetest couple in the world, every detail of their day was darling...right down to the pink shoe laces.

date: november 25, 2011
location: oswego, illinois

as soon as the custom designed invitation arrived in the mail, this event had the couple's signature style all over it. the pallette, a romantic and vintage-y soft pink, grey and cream, was set against modern graphics like a boom box and cassette tape (a nod to those who know michael as 'bboy bishop'). 

i thought long and hard about how to introduce you to a friend as indelible as ellen (now) swalley. this picture is a start. pre-wedding, we get a peek at the bride's tattoo as she gets her hair done. it is james 2:26, "faith without deeds is dead," in amharic (the ethiopian language). to know ellen is to know she lives that verse. she got the tattoo after doing missions at an african orphanage. (for more of her story, go here). i could go on and write a novel about why this girl is so precious, but like i said, this is a start.

{her bouquet combined ivory and pink roses, rununculous, berries and lamb's ear.}

{the bride wore a custom hair clip at the reception that coordinated with her handmade boutonnieres.}

{charcoal grey bridesmaid dresses were from j.crew.}

{bridal portraits were in the venue's tea room, a restaurant that exudes charm and country patina on the emerson creek property, where you can still join a monthly supper club.}

  {ellen chose a fitted a-line beaded lace dress by casablanca via bridal mansion.}

{the girls.}

{the guys.}

the couple met while they were both studying at dallas theological seminary in dallas, texas. before the ceremony, they joined hands and paused for a moment of prayer together (with no peeking around the corner):   

{the groom, waiting for it all to begin.}

{church pews were decorated with poms of baby's breath.}

{quiet moments after their vows.}

the wedding took place on thanksgiving weekend, and the barn was already decorated for the holidays. white christmas lights, garlands and twinkling stars illuminated the big country sky.

{i love this clever shot by their photographer, ashley concolino, as if she was spying on the couple through the window.}

as their invitations promised, 'the party was in the barn.' the reception decor was almost entirely made by hand by the bride and a handful of people who are, miraculously, still her friends after the endeavor. 

 {hand-stamped treat bags at the candy buffet.}

{monogrammed cupcakes provided by the venue.}

{a tower of sweets.}

{a vintage suitcase collected cards.}

psalm 118:1 was a fitting summary for the couple, who are truly thankful people. thankful for each other, thankful for family and friends, thankful for the love of the Father who is the giver of all good gifts.

{guests printed "leaves" with their thumbs on this tree painting in lieu of a traditional guest book. i love the monogram heart on the tree trunk.}

{twine and clothespins made for a simple display of their engagement photos on the barn wall.}

{firepits outside were ready for roasting s'mores. inside, the fare was pure & classic chicago: portillos and gene & judes hotdogs and giordanos pizza.}

{yeah, it's that good.}

{table centerpieces included twine- or lace-wrapped jars and tissue paper poms.}

{the petite cake.}

{sweet tea at the bar was served up in handled mason jars. guests got to tag their jars and take them home as favors.}

everyone expected to see michael breakdance at the reception. i'm not sure anyone expected ellen to. she surprised (and impressed!) all of us during their adorable first dance. check out the video here. and if you don't smile the whole time, you might be broken.

weddings and parties are the moments we pause to celebrate what is most dear to us. they have a special place in my heart, as do ellen and michael, and i'm so grateful to them for allowing their wedding to be the first (of hopefully many) i share with you.


venue, appetizers & cupcakes: emerson creek pottery & tea room
bridal dress: style #1918 by casablanca, via bridal mansion of lisle 
bridesmaids dresses: j. crew (similar)
groom's vest & pants, groomsmen's vests: express 
groom/ groomsmen's ties: handmade by friend of the bride
shoes: chucks, what else?
invitations: (custom) by nathan michael
boutonnieres & reception decor: handmade by bride
bride's reception hairpiece: (custom) by soul speak
reception food: portillos, gene & judes, giordanos

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