Design*Sponge is a blog that evolved into a pretty major design magazine online. I was enjoying my October issue of Bon Appetite and came across an interview with the blog’s/magazine’s author, Grace Bonney. The brief interview was enough to convince me to check out the sight and order the newly-released book, Design*Sponge at Home, on the spot. Over the past two weeks I have enjoyed the “Sneak Peek” pictures of the home decor choices made by artists, designers, and Design*Sponge contributers as they strive to make their homes beautiful, comfortable, and inviting all on a budget. I think that last part, the budget aspect of this book and blog is what has caused Grace Bonney’s blog to become what it is today.

I grew up in a “fixer-upper” house and I had the epitome of do-it-yourself parents, so while interior design and home decor may not have been on my radar formally, I spent a lot of time witnessing its effects. When I was in third grade we painted a wall with black chalkboard paint (it was way harder to erase stuff back then!); when I went away for a weekend dance competition I came back to find a huge hole in the wall between the kitchen and dining room (it became a lovely breakfast bar); when my sister and I graduated from sharing a bed to bunk beds, we put in windows that covered two walls of the room; when we put the house on the market, we painted the living room a golden color (it looked horrible before it dried!) and re-upholstered the couch to compliment the new wall color. I won’t say I showed a natural inclination to it…honestly I couldn’t believe my parents would paint the walls a burnt golden color…but now that I’m on my own and trying to decorate my own home (albeit an apartment for now), I appreciate the braveness it took to do bold things like that with our home. Looking back, I love what I learned from those times and what I enjoyed about Design Sponge at Home is that it provided a lot of ideas that seem far more doable than the big projects that my parents undertook. I am grateful for stepping stones while I bide my time in apartments and this book (and blog) are overflowing with great everything. You like do-it-yourself projects? Check out the DIY column on the blog or the entire section of ideas and instructions in the book. You want some awesome ideas on ways other people decorate their homes with flea market and Goodwill finds? Check out the Sneak Peak column.

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Hunter Gatherer

Hunter Gatherer is a restaurant/micro-brewery that I’ve walked past innumerable times, each time causing me to turn back for one lost whiff of the delicious aromas wafting off of the dishes the diners seated outside were enjoying. A spur of the moment dinner with a friend finally caused me to try the place out and it was definitely a good choice. My friend highly recommended the burgers and the beer was great.

My boyfriend thoroughly enjoyed  a burger and was highly impressed by the toppings offered—smoked gouda even!—and had an excellent wheat beer. I, not being a big meat-eater, opted for a roasted chicken ravioli tossed with wilted spinach and sun-dried tomatoes, and covered with olive oil and a balsamic vinegarette. It was excellent, although sweeter than I expected. My friend chose a grilled chicken panini with a pesto mayonnaise and paired it with a Pale Ale. Simply, it was a delightful meal with wonderful ingredients and an even better atmosphere.

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Great House by Nicole Krauss

I anxiously awaited the paperback release of Great House: A Novel by Nicole Krauss and the instant I bought it the instant I found it on store shelves. I absolutely loved The History of Love and was sure that I would feel the same about Krauss’ other works too. For the most part, this was an accurate guess on my part, except that I might not have fallen in love with The History of Love during my first reading of that novel; despite a memory that indicates otherwise, I find it likely that it was probably the second or third time through that I really learned to appreciate the incomplete/withheld, multi-narrator, often childishly naive story telling.

Great House: A Novel plays with similar narrative techniques. Where The History of Love unites children and their widowed mother’s translation work with an elderly Jewish refugee fled to America in the 40′s and with a friend entrusted with the elderly man’s manuscript of a novel which the friend published later under his own name, Great House brings together a lonely, divorcée American writer, an antiques dealer in Jerusalem obsessed with obtaining the original furniture from his father’s room destroyed by the Nazis, and a man desperate to know more about his wife who was a powerfully silent writer. Joining these three very different story lines is an immense desk, towering over every room it resides in and filled with drawers of all sizes, some of which have been locked since it’s original owner entrusted his son with a key to a single drawer. Rather than being continuously bought and sold, this desk is given away, loaned, and stolen; all of which echo the ongoing exploration of the inheritance and haunting of loss passed down from parents to child. The inheritance is made larger than life in this desk and is not limited to a single family or part of the world, but rather disperses across the globe with every writer adding their own confessions of doubt, tears for the lost, and news of destruction.

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I definitely have a sweet tooth, and more than that, I love to share sweets with the people around me. I had a rough week at work, so when I got home for the weekend I decided that a special treat was in order. I already had most of the supplies, so caramels seemed like it fit the bill.







Before attempting this recipe, there are a few things that you need to have on hand. First and foremost, a candy thermometer is a must. A medium saucepan, kitchen scissors, and a good wooden spoon are also essential tools. (Admittedly, other types of stirring utensils will suffice, but I would avoid plastic and/or rubber because it will be in contact with the heat for quite a while.)

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Cooking in the Moment by Andrea Reusing

As far as cookbooks go, Andrea Reusing‘s Cooking in the Moment: A Year of Seasonal Recipes, is the cream of the crop. Rather than containing an overwhelming number of recipes that require lots of advanced technique and special tools, Reusing approaches cooking in much the same way I do—cooking is about enhancing the experience of eating fresh, quality ingredients, not masking the taste of vegetables in a mess of spices and sauces. In a lot of ways, this cookbook can be read as a carefully crafted food journal, with dates, stories, and incredible photographs; however, it contains a lot of good advice and technique tips as well.

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Raspberry Macadamia Nut Cookies

A dear friend of mine happened to be passing through Columbia over the weekend and I wanted to make something tasty for us to munch on while we caught up with each other. I looked through a few cookbooks and family recipes and decided that so-called “jam thumbprint” cookies would be perfect, especially when paired with fresh spiced apple cider. The dough is very mild, but when rolled in ground macadamia nuts and topped with a little bit of raspberry jam, these cookies take on a life of their own. Crumbly, and just sweet enough to be a treat without the guilt of eating large, sugar-laden sweets. Even better, however, is that the cookies require little that isn’t (probably) already in your kitchen.

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The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Let me preface this by saying that historical fiction is, by far, my favorite genre for novels. (The same is not necessarily true for poetry and film though.)

Elizabeth Kostova’s novel, The Historian, is in the upper echelon of the historical fiction genre; the story is woven together with strands of psuedo-historical and anthropological research of folklore.Couple this approach to story telling with an array of eastern European backdrops  and the resulting novel is quite mesmerizing. However, before I delve too far into the accolades of this novel,  I must admit that my expectations for this novel and what it actually is proved very different. I was outraged that just a well-written historical novel could bridge so quickly from a study of eastern European folklore to a fantastical story of vampirism. And yet, despite this jarring merger, the convincing characters and impeccable pacing lulled me back into the grips of this riveting tale.

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Having recently relocated from a middle-of-nowhere college town to a slightly less middle-of-nowhere state capital, Columbia, I have spent a lot of time wandering around and exploring. I have found that free, local newspapers make exploration a little easier—at first, anyway. Very early on I managed to find some awesome Farmer’s Markets (local everything! Including produce, herbs, meats, seafood, and better yet, apple, peach, and blueberry donuts baked on-site!) and believed that I was truly in heaven; then, as I was savoring my blueberry donuts, I decided to find the local coffee shop I had read about in one of the local newspapers.

What I found was mere minutes from the farmer’s market, offered individually brewed cups of coffee, and had a season brunch menu that I just couldn’t resist. The place: Drip. I’m no coffee aficionado, and honestly judge coffee shops more on the quality of their hot chocolate than the coffee, but one sip of their espresso milkshake and I was hooked.

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Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

Kitchen, Banana Yoshimoto’s first novel, encompasses the tumult of familial relationships and the immense ability of a home to comfort its inhabitants. This is a story that I first read in Japanese and only later in English, it is a story that I have turned to in sorrow as well as in jubilation, it is a story predominantly characterized by quietness, and  it is a story of defining oneself against a backdrop of loss and loneliness.

The brevity and lyricism of this novel, in both form and scope, echo the passing of grief. The opening pages introduce the narrator,Mikage, in a state of mind somewhere between waking and sleeping; she is quietly mourning the death of her grandmother and sleeping in the kitchen, next to the refrigerator, to ward of the loneliness creeping into the house. Even when Mikage is befriended and taken in by Yuichi and Eriko, she finds herself seeking comfort in kitchens, “the place [she] likes best in this world.”

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