December 2015 - The Surznick Common Room

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Surznick Reads: December 2015

Another year come and gone! Can you believe it? We're both ready to dive into 2016, but first we need to share our December reads and recap our reading year with you!

You can catch up on all of our monthly Surznick Reads posts here. If you'll remember all the way back to January, we each shared our reading goals for 2015. Here's how we did:

Sarah's Goal: 24 books (12 my choice + 12 book club selections)
Unfortunately, I didn't reach my goal :( I finished the year with 21 books but hey... 88% ain't bad. My favorite book of the year is either The Fault in our Stars or The Boston Girl. I highly recommend both - you can read my reviews here and here.

Nick's Goal: 15 books
It is no surprise at all that I didn't meet my book goal. I used to NEVER read, then I really started to enjoy it, then I started blogging and that was just about the end of that! There are so many awesome things in this world, it's hard to experience them all! That being said, 9 books is not a failure! I still enjoy reading, and like to squeeze it in when I can! My favorite book of the year was probably Born Standing Up. Steve Martin is a big hero of mine, and this book was an excellent dose of creative inspiration. You can read my review of the book here.

Sarah's Reads!

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
From "In Why Not Me?, Kaling shares her ongoing journey to find contentment and excitement in her adult life, whether it’s falling in love at work, seeking new friendships in lonely places, attempting to be the first person in history to lose weight without any behavior modification whatsoever, or most important, believing that you have a place in Hollywood when you’re constantly reminded that no one looks like you... Mindy turns the anxieties, the glamour, and the celebrations of her second coming-of-age into a laugh-out-loud funny collection of essays that anyone who’s ever been at a turning point in their life or career can relate to. And those who’ve never been at a turning point can skip to the parts where she talks about meeting Bradley Cooper."

I love Mindy Kaling, so naturally I loved this book. I didn't read her first book (but definitely want to.) Mindy is hilarious, witty, and I love her writing style - which is probably why I'm obsessed with her show, The Mindy Project. When you're reading the book, you can hear it in Mindy's voice, so it's almost like she's your best friend telling you these stories first hand. So many aspects of this book are completely relatable - everything from figuring out what to do in life to body image to making friends as an adult. I especially enjoyed the parts of the book where she talks about her relationship with BJ Novak and how The Mindy Project came to be. Mindy's writing is full of quotes that I wanted to remember (i.e. "But my secret is: even though I wish I could be thin, and that I could have the ease of lifestyle that I associate with being thin, I don't wish for it with all of my heart. Because my heart is reserved for way more important things." If you're looking for a funny, quick memoir give Why Not Me? a try. I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for review. All thoughts and girl crushes on Mindy are my own.

My Rating: 5 Stars

In the Woods by Tana French
From "As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.
Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a twelve-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox - his partner and closest friend - find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past."

I heard mixed reviews prior to reading this book, but I personally really enjoyed it. I did find it a bit long and drug out at times, but overall I was super captivated by the story and eager to solve the mystery. I will say that I anticipated the ending early on in the book and typically I can never see the twist. So if you're someone that easily sees through a twist, this book may not be for you. I will also add that this book will not leave you feeling settled or warm and fuzzy. I finished the book on the same day Nick and I binge watched all 10 hours of 'Making a Murderer' and I had similar feelings about each. I think this book is really well written and you care about the characters so deeply that the ending is really less than satisfying. It's not a quick read at 400+ pages, but it's definitely a unique murder mystery that I would recommend.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Nick's Reads!

Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas by Chuck Klosterman
From "Coming off the breakthrough success of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs and Killing Yourself to Live, bestselling pop culture guru Chuck Klosterman assembles his best work previously unavailable in book form - including the ground-breaking 1996 piece about his chicken McNuggets experiment, his uncensored profile of Britney Spears, and a previously unpublished short story - all recontextualized in Chuck’s unique voice with new intros, outros, segues, and masterful footnotes."

Over the past couple of years, I've grown to really love Klosterman's books. For a while there, I was beginning to think he was one of my favorite authors. I still really like him, and I enjoy reading his very funny writing style, but it's starting to wear on me. Being an incredible pop culture genius-guru seems to limit Klosterman's writing scope. With the exception of one of his books ("The Visible Man") everything I've ever read of his revolved around rock n' roll and pop culture. This collection of essays and short stories is fun to read, but it's just that: fun. It's by no means a real page-turner, and it was honestly a struggle for me to read it quickly because of the lack of interest. Each story is interesting, thought provoking, and funny... and that's about it. An enjoyable book from a good author that, whom is starting to feel a bit one-dimensional.

My Rating: 3 stars

Thank you for reading and we hope you have a happy new year!

Sarah & Nick

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Peanut Butter & Jelly Overnight Oats

Anything Sarah and I can do to make our lives easier and our meal preparation quicker, we are willing to try. Overnight oats are a perfect example of streamlining your meal preparation. Perfect for breakfast, these oats are filling, satisfying, sweet, savory, and of course super easy! Peanut butter overnight oats are nothing new, so Sarah and I decided to take it all the way and make it a full blown PB&J!

Here's what you need (recipe adapted from Minimalist Baker):
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 1/2 cup almond milk
- 1 tbsp. agave nectar
- 2 tbsp. peanut butter
- 1 tbsp. jelly or jam of your choice
- 1/2 - 1 tbsp. chia seeds
- Fruit of your choice for topping (optional)

Here's what you do:
- Add the peanut butter, chia seeds, jelly, milk, and agave in your glass, and stir gently to combine. (It's okay to leave chunks of peanut butter and jelly!)
- Add the oats and mix once more until all the oats are saturated and submerged.
- Cover with a lid or plastic wrap.
- Place in refrigerator over night, or at least 6 hours or so.
- Top with fruit of your choice and enjoy!

The peanut butter and jelly combination in this dish translates perfectly to what you'd expect from your childhood favorite sandwich. I love the balance of the bitterness of the chia seeds, the earthiness of the oats, and the sweetness of the jelly. Even though many people eat their overnight oats straight out of the refrigerator in the AM, I like to pop mine in the microwave for 20-30 seconds, just to take the chill off.

Sarah & Nick

Monday, December 28, 2015

Sarah Style: Black & White

Happy Monday! We hope you had a great Christmas holiday with family and friends. We're back today with part two of Sarah Style. After our first photoshoot, I hopped into Nick's car and somehow managed to change outfits without anyone seeing (I hope.)

I slipped on this black and white dress that I've taken to calling my "QR code dress." I've had it about 5-6 years but never wore it until a year ago. Even though it's kind of quirky, it's become one of my favorite statement pieces in my closet. It's a great length, comfortable, and it has pockets!

I hope you like this Sarah Style series! I'm sure there will be more down the road. Sarah is pretty persuasive ;) You can check out her post here and don't forget to take a look at our pretty sequin skirts in our New Years' Eve Sarah Style. Other pretty black and white patterned dresses linked below!

Dress\Rue 21 (old)
Lace Up Flats\Topshop (exact out of stock, similar for $24!)

xo, Sarah

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Cinnamon Heart Ornaments

It's Christmas Eve Eve! We're both so excited to have some time off over the holidays so we can relax with friends and get ourselves ready for 2016!

A few days ago when we were cleaning the apartment for my mom's arrival, we decided to whip up some of these cinnamon heart ornaments. I don't think I ever made these as a child, but I remember seeing a few cinnamon ornaments on our tree each year. They're super easy to make and they make your kitchen smell delicious, so we wanted to share the process with you!

Here's what you need!
- 1/2 cup cinnamon
- 1/3 cup applesauce
- Cookie cutters or Xacto knife
- Baking sheet
- Wax paper or silpat mat
- Skewer or pencil to make hole
- Twine or string

Here's what you do!
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together applesauce and cinnamon, a little bit at a time. Your dough should be REALLY well combined and not too wet. You may need more cinnamon/less applesauce to achieve desired consistency.
- On a sheet of wax paper, roll out dough to 1/4" thick. Use your cookie cutters or Xacto knife to cut out shapes. We don't have a small heart cookie cutter, but using an Xacto knife worked just fine for us!
- Transfer hearts to a wax paper or silpat lined cookie sheet. If the edges are a little rough, smooth them out with your finger. Using a skewer or pencil, make a small hole in each heart.
- Bake cinnamon hearts in the oven for 1.5 hours and allow to cool completely before handling. Then string a piece of twine through them and you're done!

These hearts would be so cute on a tree, tied to a present, or you could make a garland out of them! Even though Christmas is almost here you definitely have time to make a batch before the holiday festivities!

We won't have a new post for you on Friday, so we'll be back on Monday with our regularly scheduled MWF posts. We hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday with friends and family! And thank you, as always, for your support of The Surznick Common Room. We're so grateful for our readers and we're looking forward to sharing awesome new content in 2016!

Sarah & Nick

Monday, December 21, 2015

Dainty Jewelry

I don't wear much jewelry on a regular basis. Just a couple rings, and on occasion, a necklace or earrings. When I do wear jewelry I prefer small, dainty pieces that are subtle but beautiful. I recently added a few small pieces from Chloe + Isabel to my jewelry collection and I absolutely love them.

Chloe + Isabel jewelry is sold mainly through their Merchandisers, but you can buy online as well. They sell beautifully crafted, stylish jewelry at affordable prices. All pieces are designed and sourced directly through their New York City studio, meaning that they can keep their prices low while keeping their quality high.

I personally don't have any sensitivities to metal, but I was happy to discover that Chloe + Isabel jewelry is hypoallergenic, nickel-free, and lead-safe. They also offer a lifetime replacement and 30-day money back guarantee! I've been living with my items for a couple of weeks and can't wait to add more to my collection. And I will definitely be keeping C+I in mind for Christmas shopping next year!

When selecting my C+I pieces, I knew I wanted items that would would be great for both work and a date night or weekend event. While I love all of the items I received, my absolute favorites are the Malachite + Pave Stacking Rings. I've worn them every single day since they arrived in the mail. I tend to wear them on different fingers, but I love how beautiful they look when they're fit together too.

My other most worn piece is the fun and unique Branch Barrette. The barrettes are great for pulling back half of my hair (a go-to style for me) or to hold up my wispies when my hair is in a top knot. The branch barrette is the first hair accessory I've ever seen and thought "I must have that!" so it makes me really happy when I receive compliments on it.

On days when my outfit is pretty neutral, I love to add my other pieces: the Casablanca Mother-of-Pearl Stud Earrings, Pave Curved Bar Bracelet, and Dainty Leather + Rhinestone Bracelet. I love how small and delicate the bracelets are. Since I spend most of the day working on a computer, I prefer bracelets that don't get in my way when typing. These bracelets definitely fit the bill!

If you're looking to add Chloe + Isabel jewelry to your collection, you can shop directly through their website, buy through a merchandiser, or become a merchandiser yourself! Chloe + Isabel merchandisers make 25-40% on all sales. Plus they get to make their own hours and run their business how they choose: online, in pop-up shops, at events, on social media, etc!

Dainty Leather + Rhinestone Bracelet (exact)
Pave Curved Bar Bracelet (exact)
Branch Barrette Duo (exact)
Malachite + Pave Stackable Rings (exact)
Casablanca Mother-of-Pearl Stud Earrings (exact)
all items c/o Chloe + Isabel

Whether you prefer small, dainty jewelry (like me!) or stylish statement pieces, Chloe + Isabel has a variety of jewelry to fit all sorts of styles. Though I wouldn't consider myself someone that wears or knows much about jewelry, I truly love all of these pieces and hope that you'll find your new favorite items too!

xo, Sarah

Chloe + Isabel 468x60 New Year Banner

Friday, December 18, 2015

Favorite 2016 Planners


Even though I consider myself to be extremely organized, one of my goals for 2016 is get key dates, events, blog schedule, etc. organized in the same place via a super cute planner.

I bought a 2015 planner and BARELY used it. I actually feel a little bit guilty about it. I've always been good about remembering birthdays and events, but I keep notes all over the place related to the blog. I'm hoping that it'll be beneficial for me to keep everything in one place, so I bought the marbled A Beautiful Mess 2016 planner that I'm dying to use (only a couple more weeks!)

In 2015 I "used" the Harry Potter planner above. Unfortunately it's not available for 2016, but the Etsy shop I bought it from has a lot of cute 2016 designs! In case you're looking for a great 2016 planner as well, I rounded up a few more of my favorites below.
How do you stay organized? Planner? Post-it notes? Share your secrets with me!

Sarah & Nick

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Sarah Style: New Year's Eve

If I had to describe myself in three words, I would say 'quiet', 'organized', and 'pragmatic'. If I had to describe Sarah in three words, I would say 'spontaneous', 'colorful', and 'outgoing'. Other than our first names, we're pretty much total opposites, but I guess what they say is true because we have become super close over the past year (#wcw!)

Sarah is the person that pulls me completely out of my comfort zone. For instance, on this day she asked me to meet her for a photoshoot in 45 minutes (I had just woken up) which included an outfit change in the car (seriously?) But since meeting on Instagram last year life has been hilarious, fun, and full of themed parties (this girl is the theme party queen.)

Speaking of parties, this year Nick and I are throwing a New Year's Eve party (at Sarah's insistence.) So to get in the NYE spirit, we decided to shoot some fun and sparkly looks that we hope all Sarahs of the world (and everyone else!) will love.

I picked up this skirt at H&M over the weekend and can't wait to wear it for our New Year's Eve celebration. I usually stay away from sequins (this was my gold look for last year), but this year I wanted to try something different. I love the pattern on this skirt with or without sequins! I paired it with my go-to collared top and a glittery necklace. Oh, and of course my lace up flats that almost never leave my feet. I want to be comfortable when hosting a party and these shoes are the best!

Sequin Skirt\H&M (exact - only $15!)
Collared Tank Top\Forever 21 (old, similar)
Lace Up Flats\Topshop (exact out of stock, similar for $24!)
Necklace c\o ZNU (exact)

Head over to Sarah's blog for more photos and some of her hilarious commentary! 'That's What She Said" is going to be one of your new favorite reads :) By the way, H&M is the place to go if you're looking for some shiny threads for New Year's. I've linked some favorites below!

xo, Sarah

Monday, December 14, 2015

'Home Alone' Inspired Doormat

For 25 years, there has been one ultimate, reigning champion holiday movie: Home Alone. Stacked with perfect one-liners, this movie has been a reference point for me and Christmas for my entire life. Here is a brief list of a few of the things that make this movie so perfect: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, John Williams, Chris Columbus, John Hughes, Pizza, Buzz's girlfriend (woof), Pepsi, Fuller not going easy on said Pepsi, "I am upstairs, dummy," and of course, "Keep the change, ya filthy animal." (The list goes on and on...)

A while back, we made this DIY Welcome Mat for Holl & Lane Magazine, and we immediately had about a billion more ideas for a doormat using this same technique. Finally, we settled on this design for the winter season. Let's be clear, this isn't exactly a "quick and easy" project, but this is a really fun project, and you can do it yourself too!

Here's what you need:
- Outdoor furniture paint (can't find black online, we bought ours in store)
- Cardboard for stencil
- Scissors
- Blank printer paper
- Pen/pencil

Here's what you do:
- Decide on your design and plan it out in a Word document. We knew we wanted our mat to say "Keep the change ya filthy animal," so I used Helvetica font at about size 425 to type out "K, E, P, T, H, C, A, N, G, Y, F, I, L, and M." and printed them out.
- Cut out all your letters.
- Using your box cutter, cut your cardboard to fit the size of your doormat.

- Plan out where you want your letters to go on your cardboard and trace them with a pencil.
- After all your letters/designs are traced onto the cardboard, use your Xacto knife to carefully cut them all out.
- Now you're ready to paint! Align your stencil on your mat, and tape it on so it doesn't move and begin filling in your stencil with paint. Be prepared to get messy! The paint we used (linked above) is EXTREMELY thick (4x thicker than regular paint). The first coat I put on the mat I just "dab" the brush on the mat so it starts to cover and harden.
- Allow paint to dry and add a second coat. On my second coat, I am able to do more of a brushing motion so it covers much better.
- Allow to dry completely and put it outside!

I already cannot wait for our next pizza delivery so we can take this bad boy for a spin! (Should only be about six hours or so, I'll be sure to let you know how it goes!)

Sarah & Nick