April 2015 - The Surznick Common Room

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Surznick Reads: April 2015

Last day of April! The year is flying (I know, I know, we say this every month.) Now that it's finally feeling like spring here in Pittsburgh, we've been spending more nights out with friends and less time snuggled up with a book, but we I still managed a couple reads this month, and here they are!

Sarah's Reads!

The Silver Lining's Playbook by Matthew Quick
From Amazon.com: "Meet Pat Peoples. Pat has a theory: his life is a movie produced by God. And his God-given mission is to become physically fit and emotionally literate, whereupon God will ensure him a happy ending—the return of his estranged wife, Nikki. (It might not come as a surprise to learn that Pat has spent several years in a mental health facility.) The problem is, Pat’s now home, and everything feels off. No one will talk to him about Nikki; his beloved Philadelphia Eagles keep losing; he’s being pursued by the deeply odd Tiffany; his new therapist seems to recommend adultery as a form of therapy. Plus, he’s being haunted by Kenny G!...As the award-winning novelist Justin Cronin put it: Tender, soulful, hilarious, and true, The Silver Linings Playbook is a wonderful debut.'"

This book was awesome. I saw the movie a couple years ago and really enjoyed it (didn't everyone?), so when I found the book at Goodwill for a dollar, it was obviously coming home with me. This story is hilarious, painful, heartwarming, and lots of other emotions all rolled in to one. Every character has such a different personality and I love how well they're portrayed in the story. I re-watched the movie the morning after finishing the book and I have to say... the book is better. The movie was nominated for 8 Academy Awards, so that's saying something. There were a lot of differences between the book and the movie (or maybe I was being extra critical, having just finished the book), but either way, I think this is a must-read. I can't wait to read more from Matthew Quick too!

My Rating: 5 Stars

Paper Towns by John Green
From Amazon.com: "When Margo Roth Spiegelman beckons Quentin Jacobsen in the middle of the night—dressed like a ninja and plotting an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows her. Margo’s always planned extravagantly, and, until now, she’s always planned solo. After a lifetime of loving Margo from afar, things are finally looking up for Q... until day breaks and she has vanished. Always an enigma, Margo has now become a mystery. But there are clues. And they’re for Q."

I definitely liked this book, but I didn't love it. I think that The Fault In Our Stars kind of ruined all other John Green books for me. This is a fun/cute story, but nothing mind-blowing or life-altering. It's a very quick and easy read. It's actually my book club selection for May, but I started it early and read it in only a couple days. Some parts were a little slow, but then there were others that were page-turners. The ending was a bit lackluster in my opinion, which is probably why I can't say I loved it. I am, however, very excited to see this movie when it comes out in July. I just have a feeling that I will enjoy the movie more than the book.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Nick's Reads!
... maybe next month.

Have a happy first day of May!

Sarah & Nick

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Out of the Kitchen: Smiling Banana Leaf

Ever since we moved to Pittsburgh, Smiling Banana Leaf has been in our Restaurant Passport, yet for some reason it has taken us almost two years to actually get there. The thing that troubles me the most about that fact is this restaurant is literally less than 1/2 a mile up the street from our apartment in Highland Park. So last weekend we (finally) ventured up the street to arrive at our 6:00 reservation time, and as a result, I think I may have found a new favorite restaurant.

The Atmosphere:

When we ate at Smiling Banana Leaf, we asked to be seated outside so we could enjoy some nice sunshine. Though we didn't eat in the restaurant, it was easy to tell that it is a fairly tight space, but one that felt really casual and relaxed. The restaurant is BYOB with a $0 corking fee, which is just about perfect if you ask me. Outside the door, on the corner of Bryant St. and N Euclid Ave., there is just enough space on the sidewalk for a few skinny tables-for-two. This gave us a great little "bistro" vibe feel that I really enjoyed.

The Food:

Nick - Incredible. I got the Tofu Pad See Ew with no egg (flat rice noodle, broccoli, napa cabbage, carrots), and it was easily the best Thai dish I've ever eaten. Now, I'm certainly no Thai food expert (or really even that experienced) but this was fantastic. All the dishes come with a the spiciness of your liking on a 0-10 scale. I've made the mistake before of requesting a number too high in the past, so I went really low this time around (really low... I ordered a 2) and I have to say, it tasted a whole lot like a "0". That's got to be my only criticism of the food itself. Overall, I absolutely loved it!

If you're in Pittsburgh and looking for an unassuming, quiet dining experience that will knock your socks off, go to Smiling Banana Leaf. And if you're headed there, get ahold of us - we'd love to join you!

Sarah & Nick

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Coffee Table to Bench Makeover

When I first graduated from college, I was lucky enough to be given a bunch of furniture from family and friends, so I didn't have to completely furnish my new apartment with the zero dollars I had post-college. Our coffee table came from my mom's friend, and while it has always served it's purpose (and I was thankful to have it for free), I've never completely loved it.

It came to me as just a stained wood table, which I then painted black. When Nick and I moved to Pittsburgh we decided to strip the black, paint it white, and switch out the drawer handle. Despite the changes we've made, it still isn't the coffee table I envision in our living room, yet I didn't want to part with it either.

Unlike most coffee tables you can buy nowadays, this coffee table is solid wood and very sturdy. I've always had dreams of one day turning it into a bench once we replaced it with a new coffee table... and that time has finally come! In case you missed it last month, we recently made our own hairpin leg coffee table and we're absolutely loving it. The new coffee table is a much better fit for our style and now I can finally make my coffee table bench dreams come true!

Here's what you need!
- Old coffee table, preferably solid wood
- Fabric of your choice
- Batting
- Foam
- Staple gun
- Scissors

I've had my eye on the Nate Berkus fabrics at Joann's for awhile now (they're currently on sale - snag them while you can!) I love them all, but that top one just stole my heart. Once the bench idea came to fruition, my first step was getting that blue patterned goodness before it was gone.

Here's what you do! (It's easiest if you have two people for this)
- Iron your fabric to remove any wrinkles. Trim down foam to fit the size of your coffee table (if necessary.)

- Lay out fabric on a clean floor area, right side down. On top of fabric, lay your batting. On top of batting, lay your foam.
- Place coffee table upside down on top of the foam. Make sure that the table top is centered on your foam.

- Tightly pull on fabric and batting together, and staple to the underside of the table. Do this around the entire perimeter of the table. (I sat on the inside of the table to push down the foam and I pulled the fabric while Nick stapled.) Fold and staple corners.

- Trim off excess fabric and batting. Add additional staples to any gaps.

Boom - you're done! Easy, right? I still get a little nervous when we upholster something. It's hard to tell how it's going to look until it's completely done (and doing corners is kind of the worst), but I'm so happy with how our bench turned out! It also helps that we chose a fabric with a very forgiving pattern that won't show any imperfections.

How do you think it looks?! The original plan was for it to have a home in our bedroom, but I'm kind of loving how it looks in the office... decisions, decisions.

Have you ever upholstered/reupholstered furniture? Think you'll give it a go? (You can see our reupholstered chairs here.) Have a great week!

Sarah & Nick

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

ZNU Dress Giveaway!

Guess what?! If you liked the red dress I'm wearing in our last post, then I have good news for you! ZNU is giving away the same Dual Straps Chiffon Sleeveless Dress to one lucky Surznick Common Room reader (that could be you!)

Entering to win is super easy - just use the Rafflecopter widget below. There's various options for entering so you have a bunch of chances to win! The giveaway is open for one week, so start entering (and make sure you share it with your friends too!) Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Sarah & Nick

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Little Red Dress

Another outfit post so soon?! I know, I'm surprised too. The weather has just been so nice lately that we can't help but spend time outside (so I try to look cute while doing so.)

For the past couple months I've been doing that whole closet clean-out trick where you turn all of your hangers backwards and every time you wear/wash something, you re-hang it forwards. After 6 months anything that hasn't been worn should be sold or donated. I'm almost at the point where I'm ready to part with everything that's still hanging backwards and I'm excited to replenish those items with a few new dresses for summer.

I recently made space for this little red dress sent to me by ZNU, an online clothing shop with adorable dresses out the wazoo (I love this denim shirt dress!) This red dress is going to be perfect for hot summer nights - it's super lightweight and comfortable. It's the kind of dress you can just throw on and be out the door.

I love the look of the dual straps and the chiffon adds a bit of fanciness that would be perfect for a summer date night or party! I paired my dress with this beautiful teal and gold embroidered purse (last seen here), my new heeled sandals, and this cute gold bar necklace that came in my ChicSeams package from Rosewood Boutique! I threw my hair into a quick fishtail braid, which is becoming my go-to hair style until I make an appointment to chop off this mane (it's happening soon, you guys.)

Dual Straps Chiffon Sleeveless Dress\c/o ZNU (exact - also comes in black!),  Heeled Sandals\Charlotte Russe (exact),  Embroidered Purse\Francesca's (exact - cannot find online, similarsimilar),  Gold Bar Necklace\c/o Rosewood Boutique (sign up for ChicSeams here)

I hope you're all enjoying this lovely weather and taking advantage of it as much as I am! (Read: lots of happy hours - cheers!)

xo, Sarah

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Chic Happens

I hope I'm not speaking too soon, but I think that spring is here to stay. Even though it officially arrived a few weeks ago, we've had a lot of cold, rainy, and at times snowy weather over the past couple weeks (wah wah wahhhh.) But this weekend has been absolutely "gorg ba-george" (as Nick would say), so it is time to retire my tights and boots and pull out the skirts and straw hats!

This weekend I couldn't resist throwing on a cute spring outfit to enjoy the beautiful weather here in the Burgh. Today was extra special because I finally got to wear my super adorable and equally cozy "Chic Happens" t-shirt from Rosewood Boutique in Sewickley (a suburb of Pittsburgh). When Rosewood Boutique reached out to me about their ChicSeams t-shirt of the month club I was so excited - what's better than a custom-designed, incredibly soft, one of a kind t-shirt delivered to your door each month?

I think we can all agree that one of the best parts about ordering clothes online is the excitement of getting to open up the box when it arrives at your door. Take that excitement and multiply it by 10, because that's how excited I was when I saw how adorably packaged my ChicSeams t-shirt came from boutique owner Kathryn Richardson. Kathryn even sent a pretty, gold bar necklace and a personal thank you note!

The ChicSeams t-shirt club offers a different, custom designed t-shirt every month with cute sayings, stylish graphics, and seasonal designs (like a chic 4th of July shirt!) Signing up is super easy and when you do, you'll receive that pretty gold bar necklace pictured above! In addition, ChicSeams subscribers will receive their shirts for $20 less than the in-store price. That's a pretty good deal if you ask me! In order to receive this Chic Happens shirt, make sure you sign up by April 30th!

I paired my Chic Happens t-shirt with a lightweight, dark green skirt (with pockets!) that's been in my closet for a few years now. My favorite shoes are hands down my Minnetonka moccasins. They're almost on their last leg (they're 7 years old now!), but I don't think I will ever part with them.

The hat, the shades, and the green bag have all been on the blog before, but I just like them all so much that you get to see them again! Wearing this hat makes me long for outdoor concerts, sitting in the grass with a beer in hand... ahhh!

"Chic Happens" Shirt\c/o Rosewood Boutique (exact),  Skirt\Forever 21 (exact old, similar in different colors),  Moccasins\Minnetonka (exact),  Sunglasses\Forever 21 (exact old, similar),  Straw Hat\H&M (exact),  Green Purse\Forever 21 (exact old, similar in different colors)

To learn more about Rosewood Boutique, visit their online shop and like them on Facebook! If you're in the Pittsburgh area, stop by their store in Sewickley!

If you sign up for the ChicSeams t-shirt of the month club, make sure you share your looks on social media with the hashtag #rockthetee!

Have a happy Sunday!

xo, Sarah

Thursday, April 9, 2015

5 Ways to Display Your Instagram Photos

Have you heard me mention before how much I love Instagram? No? Okay, well I loooove Instagram. Not only do I enjoy scrolling through my feed to see the pretty photos other accounts share, but I love getting to share little glimpses of my life with my followers and connecting with new people! (I mean, Sarah and I met via Instagram and now we're friends IRL, so IG is a legit friend matchmaker. And I love acronyms.)

Anyway, Instagram is basically a digital yearbook of my day-to-day life, so you better believe I'm a firm believer in finding ways to incorporate these photos into my home, rather than just keeping them trapped in my iPhone. Here are 5 ways that you too can display your Instagram photos in your home, office, parent's house, wherever!

DIY Instagram Magnets
If these magnets look familiar to you, that's because we made 'em! We shared this DIY post last year and our Instagram magnets are still going strong on our refrigerator. Since we made this original set, we've also made a few sets for friends and family (with their photos of course - not everyone wants photos of Nick and I on their fridge) and my mom also made some to give to her friends for Christmas! This is a super easy weekend project and the results will make your heart happy. I still love looking at our magnets every time I go to the fridge - all of these memories make me really happy and simultaneously excited for more adventures, coffee dates, and afternoon beers with the people I love.

Record Frame Photo Wall
You know what record frames and Instagram photos have in common? They're both square! 12x12" record frames are perfect for displaying your favorite IG photos without having to do any cropping! I love how Elsie from A Beautiful Mess displayed her bright and colorful photos in record frames in her home. I would love to do this in our home with photos from different places we've visited. It would also be suuuuuuper cute for anniversary photos - add a new photo each year! The possibilities are endless (my wheels are spinning!)

Instagram Coasters
You know we love our coasters (see here and here), and these Instagram coasters from the Free People blog are no exception! With only a few materials you can turn plain old tiles into gorgeous keepsake coasters. Free People used pretty tiles from a salvage store and added the photos to the unfinished side so that they're reversible. You could also pick up 15 cent tiles from a hardware store and add felt pads or cork to the bottom to prevent scratching. Stored in a cute tray on your coffee table, these would also be a great conversation piece for guests!

For someone who Instagrams as much as I do, it can be super hard to narrow down which photos to frame, turn into magnets, etc. That's where Chatbooks comes in. Creating a book of all your favorite IG photos is pretty much as simple as downloading the Chatbooks app and entering your credit card number. Starting at only $6 per book, you can transform your tiny, digital photos into beautiful, full page photo books (adult yearbooks for the win!) I recently made a 2014 Chatbook with my 240 favorite photos from the past year. Each page has one photo on it, along with my caption, the date, and the location. It's so fun to look back on all these memories and see all of my photos actually printed! I already have a 2013 book ready to order and you can bet I'll be making a 2015 book (or two) at the end of the year.

p.s. If you use code NVKRW94R you can get your first book for free :)

Tiny Gallery Wall
If you want to display a bunch of photos but don't want to completely cover your wall in 12x12" record frames, this is the perfect compromise! I love this tiny gallery wall from I Spy DIY. The combination of the natural wood and the bright paint is perfect! If the thought of all these nails in your wall gives you an anxiety attack (#renterproblems), you could always skip the frames and use sticky tack to adhere the photos to your wall instead. Either way you're going to end up with a gorgeous IG display that all your friends will envy.

I hope this post inspired you to get those Instagram photos out of your phone and into your life! Which of these ideas do you like the best? How do you display your Instagram photos? We'd love to know - share with us in the comments! And in case you didn't know... I really want you to follow me on IG so we can be photo friends (maybe even IRL friends someday if you're lucky!) You can find me @sawissinger. Don't forget to follow Nick too @nmalburg!

Have a happy Thursday - it's almost the weekend!

Sarah & Nick

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Spinach, Tofu, and Brown Rice Bowl

As our never ending quest for new and unique plant based recipes continue, we were fortunate to find this great cook book entitled Clean Slate. This book has a ton of fantastic healthy meals, many of which accommodate a plant based, vegetarian, or gluten free diet. I think this recipe caught our eye especially because of the tofu (YUM) and also because of how pretty it looks presented in a bowl. Here's a look at how it's made, and how awesome it tastes!

Here's what you need:
- 6 2/3 cups water
- 1/3 cup short-grain brown rice
- 14 ounces firm tofu
- 2 tsp. tamari
- 1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. grated peeled fresh ginger
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup baby spinach
- 2 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp. sesame seeds
- Salt and pepper to taste

Here's what you do:
- Bring 2/3 cup water, the rice, and a pinch of salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until grains are tender and water has been absorbed (about 30-40 minutes, but be sure to watch it so the rice doesn't dry out or become tough).
- Remove from heat, let sit 10 minutes and fluff with a fork.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Drain, press, and slice tofu into thin strips about 1/4 inch thick. Place tofu in a bowl.
- In a separate, small bowl, whisk together tamari and oil, and season with salt and pepper.
- Drizzle dressing over tofu and marinate 20 minutes, tossing occasionally. Arrange tofu in a single layer on an oiled baking sheet.
- Bake 10 minutes, flip tofu, and bake 30-40 minutes more, until evenly browned.
- Meanwhile, fluff rice again with a fork and add ginger, garlic, and remaining 6 cups of water.
- Bring rice, spices, and water to a boil. Cook about 25 minutes until water thickens, stirring occasionally.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- To serve, top rice in a bowl with tofu, spinach, scallions, and sesame seeds.

I really love the flavors of this dish, and the tofu is good enough to just eat right off the plate! (And that's exactly what we did with the leftovers... it was amazing.) All these components combined make a super delicious meal. It's not our typical Surznick menu item, but the variety and great flavors are much appreciated!

Sarah & Nick