November 2014 - The Surznick Common Room

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Surznick Reads: November 2014

Well, tomorrow is December! There are so many good things to look forward to this upcoming month and I am beyond excited.

In my opinion, it is officially too cold to do anything outside unless absolutely necessary. Sometimes our apartment is so cold that I feel this way about leaving the couch too. But on the bright side - this is the best time of year for cozying up with a wonderful book!

Here is my one November book! I'm hoping to spend more time in December catching up on my reading now that I'm getting more settled in to my new job. And if you're planning on doing some cozy winter reading yourself, don't forget to check out our Library of reads this year for recommendations!

Sarah's Read!

Inamorata by Megan Chance
From "American artist Joseph Hannigan and his alluring sister, Sophie, have arrived in enchanting nineteenth-century Venice with a single-minded goal. The twins, who have fled scandal in New York, are determined to break into Venice’s expatriate set and find a wealthy patron to support Joseph’s work. But the enigmatic Hannigans are not the only ones with a secret agenda. Joseph’s talent soon attracts the attention of the magnificent OdilĂ© Leon, a celebrated courtesan and muse who has inspired many artists to greatness. But her inspiration comes with a devastatingly steep price. As Joseph falls under the courtesan’s spell, Sophie joins forces with Nicholas Dane, the one man who knows OdilĂ©’s dark secret, and her sworn enemy. When the seductive muse offers Joseph the path to eternal fame, the twins must decide who to believe—and just how much they are willing to sacrifice for fame."

This book was the November selection for my book club and overall I enjoyed it! It was a super easy read and a breeze to get through. It was also refreshing to read a book and know that once it's done, it's done (especially after reading The Discovery of Witches series). Inamorata is told from four different perspectives, which I always find interesting. In this case, it definitely added to the story and helped to build the personality of each of the characters. Upon reading the book's description, I didn't expect a supernatural element to the story, but that provided an interesting twist that kept me wanting to continue reading. The ending was a little disappointing in that it didn't end how I wished it would, however, I was still pleased with the book as a whole. If you're looking for a quick read for over the holiday season, give this a try!

My Rating: 4 Stars

We hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving holiday! Have a great week!

Sarah & Nick

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

DIY Vinyl Record Bowls

In the past, we've done a lot of projects that we could consider "easy," and we've done a lot that we consider "cheap." These homemade vinyl record bowls easily top both of those lists.

Here's what you need: (or rather, what we used. You have a lot of wiggle room to make this happen)
- Vinyl Records (we used 3 different sizes)
- Oven
- Cookie sheet
- Empty tin can
- Bowls of various sizes (to match with whatever size vinyls you are using.)

Here's what you do:
- Preheat your oven to 225 degrees.
- Clean up your records as best as you can.
- Set your records on top of whatever you will use to shape them into bowls. You'll want something to hold them up high enough to let the edges fall, but skinny enough to hold them only in the middle.
- Place them in the heated oven on a cookie sheet.
- After about 3-5 minutes in the oven, you should see them softening, and the edges start to fall.
- Once you see them drooping, if you feel it is happening unevenly or anyway not to your liking, take them out and (protecting your hands with an oven mitt or towel) shape them into your desired bowl shape. The records only take about 20-30 seconds to stiffen up once out of the oven, so you need to act fast!
- You may need to repeat the process until you achieve your desired bowl shape.

That's it! We could essentially use these bowls for anything! We may house our car keys in them near our front door, they may serve as good storage for loose jewelry items on a dresser. They would even be great for popcorn on the couch! (Full disclosure: we tried to dig around online to see if they are food safe and we came up with some mixed reviews. As a precaution, we lined our popcorn bowl with a paper towel.)

I really like the shapes of these bowls. I love that you don't have 100% control of how it will turn out, and the result is that each bowl turns out unique and interesting. But, do you want to know my favorite part about this project? The cost. Grand total, these bowls cost us $1.50!! (Goodwill is always stocked to the brim with old, random records! $0.50/each!)

So what do you think? Don't forget that the holidays are upon us! These would make a great, simple, (affordable!) gift for a loved one or friend!

Sarah & Nick

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Homemade Book Clutch

I'm not even going to tell you guys how much I love books, you probably get it by now. So when I saw this Nerdy Chic Book Clutch DIY from Caught on a Whim, I knew it was only a matter of time before I was toting around my own and showing it off to everyone I know.

But I'm going to be completely honest. That matter of time ended up being a matter of months (yes, many, many months.) This clutch is definitely one of the coolest projects we've ever done. I mean, hollowing out a book to turn it into a purse?! That's awesome! But it was also one of the most complicated, detailed, and in depth projects we've done too.

It literally took us months to finally get this clutch finished, mostly because we had now idea how we were going to explain and document each and every little detail we did in order to make this. We wrote out an entire tutorial, but it turned into something straight out of a rocket science textbook.

We're going to let the photos do most of the talking, but we'll share some helpful notes where necessary!

Here's what you need!
- Book (we recommend a thrifted book!)
- Fabric
- Pencil
- Ruler
- Scissors
- ModPodge
- Paintbrush
- Xacto Knife or Box Cutter
- Cutting Board
- Wax Paper
- E6000 Super Glue
- Metal Clasp

- Trace your book on your desired fabric and add a 1" clearance around the edge. Cut out your fabric with scissors.

- Attach fabric to the outside of your book with ModPodge and a paintbrush. Attach the front first, then the spine, then the back.
- Open front and back covers of the book, fold down fabric edges, and attach to inside covers with ModPodge.
- Attach a rectangle piece of fabric on the inside front and back covers. This doesn't need to look super clean around the edges, as it will be covered with the book pages.

- Cut out the center of your book pages, about 3/4-1" from the outside edges. We cut about 10 pages at a time, inserting a cutting board in between the pages to cut them.

- Locate the center of your book and insert a piece of wax paper between the pages. Insert a second sheet between the front cover and the first page, as well as a third sheet between the back cover and the last page.
- Use a paintbrush and ModPodge to glue together the outside edges of the pages. Apply three coats, allowing dry time between each coat. Repeat this process with the inside cover of the pages. Note: You do NOT need to glue together each individual page. Gluing together the outside and inside edges will keep the pages together.

- After your ModPodge has fully dried and your pages are glued together, open your book and locate the center of the pages. Use an Xacto knife to cut a small circle the same diameter as your clasp.
- Continue to cut through your layers of pages until your clasp sits flush in the hole. Your clasp should come in two pieces - attach one with E6000 super glue.
- Repeat with second piece on the opposite side of the book.

- Cut a trapezoid piece of fabric that is two layers thick and folded together on the long side. Use an iron to press this crease. Then hold the piece in half and press again with an iron.
- Either use a sewing machine or hand sew across the small side, with 1/4" seam allowance (right sides together.)
- Repeat with a second, identical trapezoid piece. Super glue the diagonal sides to the top/bottom edges of the pages.
- Finally, glue the pages to the front cover. Top with a heavy book and allow glue to dry and set for 24 hours.

This project had many ups and downs, but in the end we feel like we accomplished something pretty awesome!

Sarah & Nick
EDIT 5/25/17: This post was originally published in November 2014. I no longer have this book clutch, as I cleaned out my wardrobe and accessories extensively when we moved out of our apartment last year. In a few of the comments there was mention of us selling clutches or opening an Etsy shop, but unfortunately we are no longer able to make or sell these clutches. I do encourage you to try making one if this is a project you're interested in! As we mentioned, it was tough, but rewarding once I had the final clutch in my hands. Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Turkey Cheeseball

You won't catch Nick and I chowing down on any turkey this Thanksgiving, but a turkey cheeseball? Oh, we're down with that.

Last year I spotted this adorable turkey cheeseball on my Pinterest feed and made it for our holiday get-together at Nick's parent's house. Everyone loved it - it is just so delicious. It's the same cheeseball that I teased you all with in our Halloween Party post, so today I'm finally here to share the recipe with you!

Here's what you need!
- 16 oz. cream cheese (we used dairy-free)
- 2 tbsp. minced onion
- 1/2 tbsp. minced green bell pepper
- 8 oz. crushed pineapple, well drained
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp. onion powder
- 1 cup chopped pecans
For decoration/eating:
- Pretzels
- Crackers
- A turkey face (make it however you want!)

The original recipe for this cheeseball used candy corn, fruit roll up, Whopper candy, etc. to make their turkey face, which is ADORABLE. I love the idea of the cheeseball and decorations both being edible, however Nick and I don't have those things in our kitchen (and they're not all vegan), so we just drew a cute turkey face instead!

Here's what you do!
- Remove cream cheese from the refrigerator 30 minutes or so to allow it to soften slightly.
- In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except for the pecans and stir until well combined. (Use a mixer if you'd rather not stir by hand.)

- If your cheeseball mixture seems too soft to form, you can toss it back in the fridge while you chop your pecans.
- Chop pecans using a slap-chop, knife, etc. Transfer chopped pecans to a large bowl.
- Remove your cheeseball mixture from the refrigerator and use damp hands to form it into a ball.
- Carefully move cheeseball to the bowl of chopped pecans and rotate cheeseball until entire surface is covered.

- Transfer cheeseball to a large plate or serving dish and arrange crackers, pretzels, etc. around the back of the cheeseball to make the turkey's feathers.
- Attach your turkey neck and face to the front of the cheeseball. We used a small tab of cream cheese to attach our paper turkey face to the pretzel sticks.
- You're done! Time to gobble it up!

This is the first (and only) cheeseball recipe I've ever made, and we love it so much. I love even more that it was so easy to veganize! This is an awesome snack to have on Thanksgiving day when you're anxiously awaiting that real turkey to come out of the oven. If you end up making this for your holiday shindig, be sure to let us know!

Sarah & Nick

Monday, November 17, 2014

Green Jeans

Today I started a new job - surprise! I don't talk about work much on the blog, but after a year and a half in the finance world, I was just ready for a change.

So with a new job, came some new additions to my closet. I felt like I was in such a work-wardrobe funk over the past year and it really needed to be remedied. Do you ever try on pants in the store and think they fit you perfectly? And then in the morning you put them on for work and they still fit you perfectly? And then at 5 PM when you get home your pants are just total sag city? Yep, that was me.

I didn't want to start a new job with the same ill-fitting wardrobe, so I started looking for new work appropriate options that I can feel confident in from AM to PM. The dress code in my new position is the same as my previous job - professional/casual. In a nutshell, look nice but no jeans or t-shirts.

No jeans. The one rule that I hate hearing, but I totally get it. Jeans definitely are not the most professional look for the office. But what if I found "jeans" that don't really look like jeans and I could make them look nice for work? Challenge accepted.

I found these pop-color jeans from Old Navy in a dark green color that I thought would be great for fall. The jeans are super soft (71% cotton!) and don't lose their fit throughout the day, which was the main selling point for me.

I paired my new jeans with a black & white patterned blouse, my favorite black blazer, and my go-to fall flats, these black smoking slippers (it's definitely not D'Orsay flat season anymore!)

After wearing these green jeans for about a month, I just bought them in 3 more colors during ON's Veteran's Day sale last week for $22.50 each - definitely a steal!

 Green Jeans\Old Navy,  Patterned Blouse\Old Navy,  Blazer\American Eagle,
Smoking Slippers\Kmart,  Purse\H&M

Hope you all have a great week!

xo, Sarah