November 2015 - The Surznick Common Room

Monday, November 30, 2015

Surznick Reads: November 2015

Happy Monday and end of November! Can you believe it? We hope that everyone had a great holiday weekend and that you were able to relax and spend time with friends and family. Maybe you even had time to catch up on some reading! Here's what we read this month:

Sarah's Reads!

The Martian by Andy Weir
From "Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive - and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old 'human error' are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills - and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit - he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?"

This was my monthly book club selection and I loved it! Despite the heavy press related to the release of the movie, I had zero spoilers going into this book. At the end of each chapter or diary entry, I was so anxious to find out what was going to happen next that I just kept reading and reading. The beginning of the story was a little slow for me, but once I was about 50-100 pages in I was hooked. There's a lot of (really accurate) science and data in this book, but it's not at all overwhelming for the average reader. In fact, I loved all of the little scientific details because they made the story seem that much more real. I have yet to see the movie (I'm waiting until Nick reads the book so we can see it together), but I'm really excited to see how it aligns with the book. I've already heard from friends in my book club that there are a few significant differences, but for the most part it's a pretty good adaptation. If you're looking for a super interesting, easy read for the upcoming holiday season, add this one to your list!

My Rating: 5 Stars

Sarah & Nick

Friday, November 27, 2015

Black Friday

Though this post is called "Black Friday", it's not of the "midnight sales and trampling people for a Furby" variety. I love the way an all black outfit looks, but it's something I've never really tried to do myself. I wanted to put together a fun black look that would be great for a night out with Nick or dinner and drinks.

I love wearing my high-waist black shorts, also seen here, with a pair of tights and booties. I wore a similar combination on New Year's Eve a couple of years ago. It's a fun alternative to a dress or skirt! This pair is from ModCloth a few years ago and they've turned out to be a valuable item in my wardrobe!

On top I picked out a super cozy black patterned t-shirt and one of my favorite new blazers from Old Navy. These jersey blazers are SOOOO comfy. I bought them in all three colors and they're perfect for work or play.

Blazer\Old Navy (exact)
Patterned T-Shirt\Old Navy (exact)
High-Waisted Shorts\ModCloth (similar)
Tights\Target (similar)
Booties\Charlotte Russe (similar)
Sunglasses\Fossil via TJ Maxx (similar)

Shop more of my favorite black pieces below:

xo, Sarah

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Halsey House Bed & Breakfast

When I think of the Finger Lakes, I think of nature, hiking, wine, relaxation, and definitely indulgence. This past weekend, Sarah and I had the pleasure of visiting the Finger Lakes (more on that to come!) to see if our perceptions of the region were true. Nothing says indulgence and relaxation like an incredible bed and breakfast, and we stayed at the perfect one: The Halsey House.

I'm completely foreign to the B&B world, so when we pulled in to the drive after sundown to find two of the nicest men in the world approach us and say, "You must be Nick and Sarah!" I was certainly impressed.

Walking into the house, guided by David and David (the two owners) we learned that this beautiful property was built in 1829 by Nicholl Halsey. I don't know much about design, architecture, history, or pretty much anything, but I can say that this place is absolutely beautiful.

Later, we learned that much of the ornate furnishings throughout the house were family memorabilia or keepsakes from the Davids' families. Now, I don't want to get too public with the owners' personal lives, but let's just say a close family friendship with JIMMY STEWART comes in to play, here... (especially cool for us IUP grads!)

Our Room:

The B&B only has 5 guest rooms and we were assigned the "The Chamber." Small, but with tons of personality, this room was comfortable and inviting, had a huge updated bathroom, and an incredibly comfortable bed. What I really loved about this place is that despite the personal touch and friendliness of the owners and other guests, I felt completely comfortable to come and go as I pleased. It was a perfect balance of hospitality and independence, privacy and shared experience.

Speaking of shared experiences, I knew this place was special when we sat down to breakfast in the morning. All other guests were up and about, saying hello, drinking coffee (Halsey House special blend) and discussing their weekend endeavors.

And then the food arrived. Wow. The website mentions a "gourmet breakfast" but I was not ready for this! Now maybe this is just me being a bad blogger, but you're just going to have to go to The Halsey House and experience David's breakfast for yourself. It was my intention to take photographs of the food and report to you what each part of the breakfast was like, but I was completely thrown off track by the deliciousness. Ever-changing, and alternating between sweet and savory menus, the breakfast is almost exclusively sourced from local business and farms. David and David mentioned several times their interest in "promoting and investing in the Finger Lakes," and they are doing just that - spectacularly.

Needless to say, Sarah and I are completely sold on this B&B, and by extension, the Finger Lakes. We already can't wait to go back sometime in the future to spend more time exploring the region, while enjoying The Halsey House, its guests, and the wonderful proprietors David and David.

You can check out more about The Halsey House on their website, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!

Disclosure: The Halsey House provided us a complimentary room. All opinions are our own. We LOVED our stay and can't wait to return!

Sarah & Nick

Monday, November 23, 2015

Colorful Coats

Nick and I just got back from a weekend in the Finger Lakes and we experienced our first snow fall of the season! I also pulled out one of my winter coats for the first time this month (unusually late for us) and it felt super cozy to be bundled up in a warm coat, sipping hot coffee, and enjoying fall before the actual cold weather hits.

A few years ago I purchased a bright orange peacoat from ModCloth and it is one of my most worn and most complimented items in my closet. A colorful coat just makes a cold, snowy winter a little less dreary, don't you think? This coat has already been featured on the blog a couple times (here and here), but unfortunately it's no longer available online. Luckily, there's a rainbow full of colorful coats around the web to help you brighten up your winter - I've linked my favorites below!

xo, Sarah

Friday, November 20, 2015

Out of the Kitchen: Randita's Organic Vegan Cafe

I think I've said this about sixteen billion times on this blog, but I love Pittsburgh. I love it for an endless number of reasons, including the outstanding number of vegan dining options in the city and the surrounding suburbs. About 2 miles up the street from our apartment, just over the Highland Park Bridge in Aspinwall is the beautiful Randita's Organic Vegan Cafe.

The Atmosphere:

Warm, beautiful, clean, cozy, relaxing. Of all of the places we've done the Out of the Kitchen series for, this is the most at ease I've felt in any of the restaurants. The place is beautifully painted and decorated, and I really felt comfortable taking photos and relaxing in their dining area.

Our hostess/server was so friendly and eager to talk with us about the restaurant. On the weekends they have a completely different menu that changes week to week and live music to entertain diners. We can't wait to come back!

The Food:

Randita's had my heart the moment I looked at the menu. Every item is vegan and my mouth started to water at mentions of nachos, burgers, reubens, meatball subs, BBQ wraps, tacos, and so on! It's so nice to go to a vegan restaurant that is packed full of hearty, delicious dishes, not just raw/innovative vegetable dishes. Sarah and I started the night off right by splitting the nachos. Cheese, sour cream, salsa, taco 'meat,' and fresh cilantro - they were fantastic. Never did I question the dairy-free cheese, which is a big win for any dish.

Nick: I ordered the reuben sandwich. A reuben has always been a go-to restaurant staple for me, and I haven't had one in over a year and a half. Needless to say, I was very excited to try it and I was not disappointed. It was perfect. The dressing, the kraut, the seitan corned 'beef,' and the bread were all on point. This was a truly satisfying sandwich.

Sarah: I ordered the meatball sub. If you remember from our eggplant meatball sub post, I rarely pass up a meatball sub when it's an option (this is both before and after I stopped eating meat.) The lentil and brown rice meatballs were incredibly delicious. The marinara sauce was super tart (maybe a little too tart for my taste), but was well balanced out by the dairy-free mozzarella and fresh bun.

We ended the night by splitting a piece of chocolate peanut butter pie that was thick, rich, delicious, and not too sweet.

Overall, Randita's is a must! Everything about our experience was an A+. The atmosphere, the food, and even the price! By the way, the restaurant is BYOB and there's NO corking fee.

If you're vegan, vegetarian, meat-eater, it doesn't matter - take the time to check out this very special place! They have locations in Aspinwall, Saxonburg, and a food truck. We were both so impressed with Randita's and will definitely go back soon.

Sarah & Nick

P.S. Randita's Aspinwall location is right up the street from Kristi Boutique, a beautifully designed and curated shop that I visited a few nights ago for a Style Social blogger event. If you live in the area, you should stop by on Small Business Saturday to promote two great local businesses!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Abstract Painted Shower Curtain

When I graduated college and moved into my own apartment, I purchased a city skyline shower curtain that was in our bathroom until this past weekend. While we still like it okay, we were both ready for a change!

Our number one goal was something bright. Our bathroom is VERY small and has no windows (hence the not so great lighting in these photos.) It's a dark little room that needed some white and color to lighten it up a bit. I decided I wanted to try painting a plain white shower curtain using this technique A Beautiful Mess shared on these painted pillows. We're both super happy with how it turned out - keep reading to see how we did it!

Here's what you need!
- Plain white fabric shower curtain
- Acrylic paint in various colors
- Old card (like a gift card)
- Drop cloth
- Water/rag

Here's what you do!
- First, pick your colors! We went with blues/greens that match our light green bathroom walls. I also added bright orange for a pop.
- In a large open space, spread out your drop cloth (we, ironically, always use a shower curtain liner). On top of your drop cloth, lay out your fabric shower curtain. If it has wrinkles, iron them out on your ironing board first. The paint will spread easier on a smooth surface.
- Squeeze a small amount of paint on your shower curtain and use your card to spread the paint in your desired pattern. Repeat with various colors, washing the card clean with water and a rag between colors.
- Continue until you love how it looks! We had no rhyme or reason for our pattern - we made it up as we went! Our pattern stops about half way up to leave some crisp white at the top.
- Allow the shower curtain to dry completely (we let ours dry overnight). Then hang it up!

Easy, right? We love our new shower curtain! It brings such a happiness to our otherwise boring bathroom. Since we're renters, there's not a lot we can change up in our bathroom to make it more our style, but the shower curtain is certainly a great start!

Please note, we do use a shower curtain liner on the inside that prevents this new curtain from getting wet. We also try to be extra careful when showering to make sure that our new painted curtain stays dry. We don't want wet paint running and ruining our pretty new curtain! So if you try this at home, just remember to be careful. Now to find a new floor mat to match...
Sarah & Nick

Monday, November 16, 2015

Cranberry and Pecan Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Being vegetarian around Thanksgiving time means an extra focus on side dishes. When searching the internet for roasted brussels sprouts recipes, the combination of cranberries and pecans seem to be everywhere! Here is our version of this classic and delicious recipe.

Here's what you need:
- 2 cups halved brussels sprouts
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup chopped pecans
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (or more if you like the heat!)
- Salt and pepper to taste

Here's what you do:
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- If brussels sprouts are frozen, thaw and cut in half.
- Mix brussels sprouts in a bowl with olive oil, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.

- Spread sprouts on a foil lined baking sheet and place in oven.
- Bake at 15-20 minute intervals, mixing/turning the sprouts every 10 minutes or so.
- Bake until desired roast is achieved. We like to see our leaves browning, with a bit of crispness around the edges. This usually takes about 50 minutes of roasting and turning.
- While sprouts are roasting, chop your pecans into small pieces. Lightly toast in a small pan on the stove over low heat.
- Once sprouts are out the oven, place in a serving dish and toss with the cranberries and toasted pecans.
- Enjoy!

These have become one of my favorite Thanksgiving side dishes over the past couple of years. I really love the tart cranberries and the spice from the red pepper flakes. The combination of the two send this dish over the edge!

Sarah & Nick

Friday, November 13, 2015

Target Giveaway!

Happy Friday the 13th! We teamed up with some awesome bloggers for a Target giveaway! Use the widget below to enter. We also rounded up some of our favorite Target finds in case you need a little shopping inspiration. Good luck!

Giveaway Details!
Prize: $200 Target Gift Card
Organized by Oh My Gosh Beck!
Rules: Use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter daily. Contest ends 12/4 and is open worldwide. Winner will be notified by email.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sarah & Nick

DIY Guess Who Game Templates

You may remember a loooong time ago we shared this DIY Guess Who Game. In the original version, we replaced the cartoon people with pictures we printed out of our family. We chose to do it with family because we just figured it would be a lot of fun to play at family gatherings and describe people you know personally. Now we're back at the DIY Guess Who Game, but this time we're bringing some of our favorite fictional characters into the action!

This is a lot of fun to play when you are a big fan of a particular TV show or movie. You can really get creative with your questions. "Does your person have his mother's eyes?", "Did you person ever live in the back of a professor's head?" (Obviously, it's Harry and Voldemort, respectively.)

To make your own, you need to find the right photo, download it, crop it, size it, arrange it, blah, blah, blah. But since we're so nice, Sarah and I have gone through all the trouble of finding the photos, sizing them correctly, and arranging them on these printable templates for you! All you need to do is print them out, cut them up, and insert them into your game!

Click below to download the templates we created - and have fun!
Harry Potter
Parks & Recreation
The Office
Gilmore Girls

A few tips:
1. I suggest that you use card stock when printing the photos, as you don't want your opponent to see through you card. (After all, it is a game of secrecy...)
2. Some of them may be a bit big for your game's dimensions, so you'll just need to trim them down slightly to get them to fit just right.
3. If you're having trouble finding an original Guess Who board game, try your local thrift store. There are always tons of old games tucked away somewhere, and it's where we found ours.

We hope you have fun playing with our Guess Who templates or making your own! This game would be great this holiday season! What other characters would you want to see templates for?

Sarah & Nick

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Olive Green

One color that screams "fall!" to me is olive green. When I saw this sleeveless shift dress from Old Navy I knew I needed to add it to my closet. This dress would actually be perfect for spring and summer as well - it's sleeveless, comfortable, and breezy.

For the cooler weather, I paired it with a black and white printed sweater, my go-to black booties, and my gray felt hat. I purchased this sweater about a year ago, but it's still available from Oasap and BuyTrends. It's super warm and perfect for winter in Pittsburgh.

My only complaint about this dress is that it wrinkles super easily. I wore this outfit to work, so after 8+ hours of sitting at a desk, it doesn't look as crisp as it did in the morning. Regardless, I love it and I'll continue to wear it all winter long, maybe paired with some tights and riding boots!

Olive Green Dress\Old Navy (exact sold out, similar)
Printed Sweater\Oasap (exact)
Black Booties\Rue 21 (similar)
Black Clutch\Old Navy (similar)
Skinny Black Belt\Forever 21 (similar)
Gray Felt Hat\Old Navy (exact sold out, similar)

 photo IMG_3305_zpsy3qrolg3.gif

Shop similar styles below!
xo, Sarah