Unique Interior Design Finds

Can’t a girl dream about the things she would buy for her home if she had infinite resources?  This one does!  I’d like to share with you some of my favorite finds, as of late.

METAL LEAF HANGING LIGHT
from Overstock.com

In a sea of Tiffany lamps arranged in varying degrees of predicable monotony, this simple metal lamp stood out to me.  It adds detail and class without being kitschy.  I’d prefer it if there was a design on it other than leaves (I’ve not a big leaf person), but the idea of the lamp really grabs me.  I love how it strikes me as a unique lamp, even though the concept is so simple and unobtrusive.

ART DECO WALLPAPER
from Bradbury & Bradbury Art Wallpaper

I like this wallpaper because it embodies what are era pictures when we think of the 1920s.  When I showed it to Mr. Wetzel, I knew he’d like it because it goes hand in hand with the designs found in the Bioshock video game.  Bradbury & Bradbury has several different wallpaper choices, but this one is my favorite because it has an intricate design, the colors are rich and classic, but the hue is muted and understated.

LITTLE FIELD OF FLOWERS
from PlushPod
rug by Nanimarquina

If I had a million dollars, I would buy this rug.  Since we’re talking about imaginary money, I might as well say that if I had any amount of imaginary money that would cover the cost of this rug, I would purchase it.  I have been enthralled with this piece of art for years.  I love the idea of burying my toes n a field of Beatles-esque red flowers.  The rug is so playful, so romantic, so enticing.  Nanimarquina, if you want me to review your product (free of charge, of course) I’d be happy to give you free advertising on my blog for a year!

By ekwetzel
2010-03-29

Continue Reading

Eating in Austin

Mr. Wetzel and I found ourselves in the Austin, TX area last weekend, and we enjoyed tasting the local cuisine.  Here is a review of some of the places and tastes that we experienced.

Mr. Wetzel at Chuy's

CHUY’S
www.chuys.com

This eatery is a 50’s diner in style and Mexican in cuisine.  The décor was colorful.  The service was polite, fun and fast, despite a very busy crowd.

The food was delicious.  Our tortilla chips were light, thin and tasted like they had been freshly made.  I especially loved the creamy jalapeno dip that was brought out with them.  The refried beans that came with the meal tasted fresher than any other restaurant refried bean that I have tried.  Mr. Wetzel had the crispy tacos, and I had Chuy’s Special enchiladas, special because they are blue corn tortillas laid flat like pancakes and layered with cheese, chicken and toppings.  We drank water.

  • Superb meal.
  • Personable and attentive service.
  • Lively and colorful atmosphere.
  • Highly recommended!

Tres Banditos from El Chico's

EL CHICO’S
www.elchico.com

Outside of Austin, Mr. Wetzel and I searched google maps for a local restaurant with good ratings, and El Chico’s stood out from the crowd.  Once we arrived, I got the feeling that we had walked into a local restaurant chain.  The service was good and attentive, but seemed forced and rigid.  The atmosphere was festive, but calmer, and the crowd seemed more like a mix of regulars, families, and singles catching a drink after work…the same type of feeling that I get from a crowd at Red Lobster or The Olive Garden.

The food was good, but seemed more processed than the Chuy’s meal we had eaten the day before.  The refried beans and chips were tasty, but not as fresh.  Overall it was a good experience, but not a great one. If you have the option to try a local, unknown restaurant instead and feel a little adventurous, you won’t miss out on anything by skipping El Chico’s, other than a predictable experience.

  • Happy with the meal.
  • Good service; very professional.
  • Quaint and festive atmosphere.
  • Recommended…but not over Chuy’s.

HOME SLICE PIZZA
www.homeslicepizza.com

Granted we were there during SXSW, but this place was packed!  The pizza joint is located in the heart of “Weird Austin,” on South Congress Avenue.  The staff was mostly energetic young girls around college age, and they all seemed a punkier version of Seattle’s independent coffee shop baristas.  The atmosphere was energetic and noisy, but warm and inviting; the décor was vibrant and moody.

Mr. Wetzel and I split toppings on a pizza: he had pepperoni (grilled chicken, his favorite, was not available) and I had mushrooms and black olives.  I ordered a pint of Live Oak Seasonal amber lager, from the tap, and Mr. Wetzel had a grape soda, free of high fructose corn syrup.  Our taste buds rejoiced.  The pizza was thin and tasty, not too greasy, and a little crispy.

  • Just thinking about the meal makes me wish I could go back.
  • Personable and attentive service.
  • Edgy atmosphere.
  • Highly recommended!

By ekwetzel
2010-03-22

Continue Reading

I Made You This Mixed CD

Photo courtesy of Stacy Wagoner

I love mixed CDs. I love making them, and I love-love-love receiving them.  While burning an entire cd has its copyright complications, I believe that mixed cds are one of the best ways to introduce new music and create die-hard fans of new bands.  Mixed CDs are responsible for introducing me to many of my musical loves: David Bowie, Belle and Sebastian, They Might Be Giants, and the Weakerthans.  These bands are the ones I seek out in concert, the bands for which I own multiple cds, and the bands that I include in the mixes I make for others.

A well planned mixed CD has a haunting ability to move you from one deep emotion to another, or tell a deep story about the mental development of the compiler from beginning to end.  I just participated in a massive CD Exchange with a dozen or so of my friends.  The playlist for my contribution is below. I titled this compilation “Struggle Makes Us True” and included the following insert with the CD:

What we fight for.
How we respond to hardship.
Where we turn for help.

These are the things that define our identity. It takes suffering to build character, and it also takes hard times to reveal who’s true, and who’s just a fair weather poser. These songs are about people who are true through and through, who stick it out and see it to the end, and who develop into stronger, brighter, deeper people in spite of their struggles.

^_^ And there are some songs that just go really well with the other songs.

Enjoy!
Erin Wetzel

PLAYLIST:
Breakable by Ingrid Michaelson
End of the Movie by Cake
Parentheses by The Blow
First Day of My Life by Bright Eyes
Queen Bitch by David Bowie
The Freest Man by Tilly and the Wall
Anyone Else But You by The Moldy Peaches
If the Stars Were Mine by Melody Gardot
Naturally by Middle Distance Runner
Holland, 1945 by Neutral Milk Hotel
Homesick by Kings of Convenience
Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometimes by Beck
Ahead of the Curve by Monsters of Folk
Watermark by The Weakerthans
Writer’s Block by Peter Bjorn and John
Objects of my Affection by Peter Bjorn and John
Revolution by Grandaddy
Mr. Blue Sky by Electric Light Orchestra
New Day by Kate Havnevik

[On a personal note, I know I took a long break from blogging. My apologies!  I have been sick with the flu.  But, I am all better now.  Halleluia!]

By ekwetzel
2010-03-16

Continue Reading

Budgeting 103: Be Faithful

Some people can get by without a budget.  I am not one of those people.  This is part of a three-blog arc on how Mr. Wetzel and I have been able to successfully budget for the last year: Know Thyself, Set Your Course and Be Faithful.

Some additional guidelines to help you stick with your budget…

Find Balance. Once or Twice a month, balance your accounts with bank records.  Go through your bank record and credit card statement and mark off the entries in your Budget Binder.  I like to make a note of the date each time I do this task and use a different color highlighter to make the section stand out.  Doing this check will help you make sure you don’t forget payments for auto-withdrawals or lost receipts.

Pay Off the Cards. If you have a revolving balance on a credit card, don’t use your card to pay for things until you have paid off your revolving balance.  This will force you to use the money in your checking account and remove the temptation of accessing the entire available balance on your card.  This habit is key to getting and staying out of debt.  Don’t spend what you don’t have.  You only will end up paying for it more in the long run.

If you find yourself tempted to spend on credit, step back and ask yourself why you want to purchase the thing in question.  Will you be fine without it?  If you need to, call a friend or partner before making the purchase so that they will hold you accountable.

Cut the Cards. As you pay off your cards, simplify your financial life and get rid of extra credit cards.  Mr. Wetzel and I only have 2 credit cards (one in each of our names, so that we’re both gaining a positive credit history), 1 store credit card and a debit card.

Cash counts! Never treat cash like its money already spent.  Cash always counts.  If you buy something with cash, make sure to save the receipt or note the purchase in your Budget Binder as soon as possible.  Save your change, as well.  If you put all your spare change in a jar, you’d be surprised how handy it can be on a rainy day.

Wish Lists & Shopping Lists. The best way to thwart impulse spending is to set goals for the things you want to purchase and then save up for them.  If you have an attractive goal ahead of you, you are less likely to blow your money on something you don’t really care about.  Currently, I have an ice cream maker on my wish list.

Shopping lists are handy on a day-to-day basis because they keep you from small impulse buys at the store.  If you see something at the store that isn’t on your list, consider writing it down for the next shopping trip.

Accountability. Tell someone what your budget goals are and ask them to check on your progress.  If you are budgeting with a partner, your companion doesn’t count!  As a couple, you need another couple or another individual to hold you accountable.  Telling others what your goals are also helps clear the air of needless spending; if you and your friends are both trying to get out of debt, you can think of cheaper ways to spend time together and it will help all of you out in the long run, whereas lack of communication too often serves only Mr. Visa, Madam AmEx and Master Card.

By ekwetzel
2010-02-04

Continue Reading

Budgeting 102: Set Your Course

Some people can get by without a budget.  I am not one of those people.  This is part of a three-blog arc on how Mr. Wetzel and I have been able to successfully budget for the last year: Know Thyself, Set Your Course and Be Faithful.

What spending categories do you have?  How much do you need to budget in each area? Think of these categories separately instead of lumping them together with all of your earnings and spendings.

The Budget Binder & Individual Account Pages. Once you know how much you are bringing in and how much you are spending, you can sit down and face your spending habits.  Find a way to balance your budget by continually re-examining your needs and your wants.  Decide on a goal to spend for each category: groceries, car payment, rent, etc.  Finally, create a Budget Binder to help you keep track of your spending on a day-to –day basis.

The Budget Binder works in the same way that a checkbook does, except the Budget Binder has a page for each spending category.  We call these “individual account pages.”  Before learning this trick, Mr. Wetzel and I would have spending goals for different areas of our life; however, it was impossible to keep track of our actual spending and to hold ourselves accountable to our goals until we used the individual account pages.

Sample Individual Account Pages: download from Google Documents. These are some sample pages that we have found useful.  Adapt the pages to your own needs, adding or subtracting categories as needed: View on Google Documents

How It Works. When you get paid, disperse the funds available for each of your accounts onto each of the individual account pages.  When you spend money, subtract the funds from each of those pages.  Let’s use Amy as an example:

Amy earns $100. First she notes +100 on her “Earnings and Disbursements” page.  She disperses $50 to grocery, $25 to household and $25 to fun, noting +50, +25 and +25 on each page.  She then goes back to the “Earnings and Disbursements” page and notes -100 for a final balance of zero.

As Amy spends money, she subtracts the amount she spends from each of the individual account pages.  She tries to keep aware of how much money is left in each area of her budget.  It is easy for her to quickly check the funds for her budget because each category has an individual balance, instead of being lumped together into a total sum in her checkbook or online account balance.  If she doesn’t spend all the money in a given fund, she sets it aside and lets it accrue. You never know when you’re going to need a little extra dough, after all.

For example, Amy knew that a blockbuster hit was coming out on February 10th and that she’d want to go see it on opening night with her friends. So, she made sure to keep enough in her “Fun” fund so that she could go out to the theatre and catch a bite to eat from concessions.  In order to have enough money available, she skipped a few lattes during the week, but she reminded herself, “I don’t need a latte.  I don’t need to go to the movies, either…but I’d get much more pleasure out of going to the movies than drinking a few lattes.”

Remember: this is a Tool, not Torture! The whole point of budgeting is to be a good steward of your finances.  Create your first budget plan, and if you find that your spending habits continually break the budget, re-examine the budget.  Sometimes you’ll need to crack down on your spending habits, but sometimes you’ll need to change your budget to suit your needs.  Everyone has different desires, habits and goals, so everyone has a different budget as well.  The important thing is to find a budget that works for you, and then stick to it.

By ekwetzel
2010-02-03

Continue Reading

Budgeting 101: Know Thyself

Some people can get by without a budget.  I am not one of those people.  This is part of a three-blog arc on how Mr. Wetzel and I have been able to successfully budget for the last year: Know Thyself, Set Your Course and Be Faithful.

You must be aware of where you start from.  Assess your current spending habits, as well as the attitudes you have about spending.

Keep track of all spending and earnings for 1 month. The easiest way to do this is to save all your receipts and all your pay stubs.  If you buy something that doesn’t have a receipt, or if you tip beyond what’s noted in the receipt, just write it down on a slip of paper, date it, and put it with the rest of your receipts.

Mr. Wetzel and I put all our receipts on a big glass plate by the front door until they are checked into our budget book (see Budgeting 102).  We have also been known to keep them in shoe boxes, tucked in our wallets or purses, or jammed into the pockets of a three ring binder.  Once we are through recording the receipts, we toss the ones for gas receipts and grocery trips, and save the important ones in a box.  We also hold onto all our monthly statements from credit cards or other accounts, as well as our pay stubs.

Don’t be materialistic. You are more than your possessions.  You do not need to be defined by what you have or what you buy.

One reason I like to watch the TV show Survivor is that it’s interesting to see Westerners come to realize the difference between needs and wants.  We need food, for example; but, we do not need a take-out pizza.  A baked potato (or plantain) will do.  Sometimes we use the things we buy or the act of shopping as a distraction to keep us from confronting things about ourselves or our lives.

Mr. Wetzel and I pray over our finances and try to grow in spirit, instead of growing in debt.  We have learned a lot about ourselves as we have given up things that we think we need.  By trusting God more and believing more in ourselves and our relationship, we spend less money yet find ourselves even richer than before.

By ekwetzel
2010-02-01

Continue Reading

Umbra Banana Split Banana Holder

The Umbra Banana Split Banana Holder is designed by Umbra Ltd.

[rating:5/5]

Form follows function follows form with this design!  I first saw this banana holder in the pages of Dwell magazine.  It is easy to use and easy to store.  I love the witty design, with the banana holder being reminiscent of the banana itself.   The design is unique and playful, without being kitschy.  It is made out of wood, which makes it feel more authentically crafted.

When I logged onto Umbra’s site (Nov 2009) to purchase this snazzy find, I was surprised to find an estimated $17.95 shipping on a $16.00 item.  So, I shopped around.  Amazon was selling it for 12.99, and the product qualified for super-saver shipping.  With such a witty design, I prefer to buy direct from the designer, but not at these prices!  Recommendation: shop around!

By ekwetzel
2010-01-28

Continue Reading

Hello Cupcake

Hello Cupcake is a bakery that specializes in gourmet cupcakes.

[rating:5/5]


Red Velvet cupcake with Cream Cheese frosting

1740 Pacific Ave, Tacoma, WA
(253) 383-7772‎
www.hello-cupcake.com

Hello Cupcake is a quaint and delicate shop tucked into the downtown Tacoma strip across from the History Museum and Union Station. The only thing this bakery makes is cupcakes, and they do so expertly. The buttercream frostings and springy cakes are baked fresh daily, and each dessert has its own signature design on it, the most notable of which is the red velvet cupcake with the chocolate design wedged into its frosting.

The excellent sweetness of the desserts are nearly surpassed by the cuteness of the shop itself: the shop girls wear frilly aprons, the cupcakes sit on elegant little platters, and the furniture is quaint enough to make to feel like you are standing in an over-sized dollhouse. We sat in the window booths, kibitzing over our crumbs and watching as the rain weeped over the pavement and Union Station’s tall dark windows. Inside Hello Cupcake, everything was sweet and cheerful, like a dream between a late night and early morning.

Menu:

Vanilla with vanilla
Vanilla with chocolate
Chocolate with chocolate
Choclate with vanilla
Red Velvet
Carrot
Coconut
Mocha
+ Seasonal varieties (contact store for details)

Prices:

Single cupcake, $2.25
Dozen cupcakes, $25

Hours:

Sunday to Monday, 11am to 6pm
Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 6pm

Across from the History Museum, in downtown Tacoma

Quaint and Tasty, what more could one ask for?!

By ekwetzel
2010-01-28

Continue Reading

Homemade Yogurt

Adapted from Michael Reeps’s recipe.  Michael has a lot of helpful pictures, facts and tips about the yogurt making process that I have not included here.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 Half gallon of milk
  • 2-3 Tbs of plain yogurt (as a starter)
  • 1 8-10 Qt stock pot
  • 1 4-5 Qt pot with lid
  • 1 Metal or plastic spoon
  • 1 Dial thermometer with clip
  • 1 Heating pad

Instructions:

  1. Create a Water Jacket. Place larger pot in sink. Place smaller pot inside it. Fill larger pot until water line goes about half way up the side of smaller pot.
  2. Sterilize Equipment. Place your thermometer and spoon in the large pot of water. Place smaller pot upside down over larger pot. Heat water until boiling.
  3. Add Your Milk. Carefully pour your milk into the smaller pot. Clip your thermometer to the rim of the smaller pot.
  4. Heat to 185°F, stirring frequently.
  5. Cool to 110°F. Carefully place pot of milk in cold water bath. Stir occasionally.
  6. Pitch Your Yogurt. Pour your 2-3 Tbs of yogurt into your 110°F milk.
  7. Stir, Cover & Warm. Stir milk well to distribute yogurt you just pitched. Cover with lid. Set heating pad to medium and place on a cutting board. Place pot of pitched milk on top. Cover with a dish towel.
  8. Wait Seven Hours. *Michael recommends waiting 7 hours…I would wait 10 hours as I prefer thicker yogurt.
  9. Remove from heating pad and uncover yogurt. Use a spatula to see that milk has curdled. Stir vigorously to mix curds in with liquid.
  10. Pour into Containers. Chill Overnight.
  11. Be sure to reserve 2-3 Tbs of your yogurt for you next batch!

Related Posts:

Making Yogurt Make Itself

Continue Reading

“Whatever” Wall Clock

The “Whatever” Wall Clock is designed by Our Name is Mud.

[rating:5/5]

There are no “whatever”s in this design.  You can tell just from looking at the picture that this clock is funny.  What you cannot tell is how good it feels when you take it out of the box for the first time and hold it in your hands.  This clock was made with intelligent design and is high in quality.  The wood frame is not shabby, but sheik.  The tile face is heavy (but not too heavy), and the lettering is distinct.

I bought this clock as a surprise gift for Mr. Wetzel who loved it when he saw it in a magazine.  I figured we’d get sick of it quickly and sell it at a garage sale, but every time I see it on the wall, I am very pleased with the purchase.  It is – of course – better as a source of humor than time, but it fulfills its purpose elegantly: to mock the clock and make us smile!  I don’t believe we’ll be getting rid of it for a while.  In the meantime, perhaps we will learn the nuances of the positions of the arms so that we can better ascertain the time on any clock face regardless of the presence or absence of distinct numerology.  Or not.  Whatever.

By ekwetzel
2010-01-28

Continue Reading