July 2016 - The Surznick Common Room

Friday, July 29, 2016

Surznick Reads: July 2016

Here we are again, the last Friday of the month. Wow. Needless to say, moving has put quite a damper on our reading habits, but I'm happy to report that for the first time in the past few months, Nick has actually finished a book! (admittedly, it was a super easy young adult book... with pictures. But still, a book!) Here's what we read this month. Hope you had a great July, and are getting ready for an even better August!

Sarah's Reads!

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
From Amazon.com: "This is the funniest book you’ll ever read about death. It is a universally acknowledged truth that high school sucks. But on the first day of his senior year, Greg Gaines thinks he’s figured it out. The answer to the basic existential question: How is it possible to exist in a place that sucks so bad? His strategy: remain at the periphery at all times. Keep an insanely low profile. Make mediocre films with the one person who is even sort of his friend, Earl. This plan works for exactly eight hours. Then Greg’s mom forces him to become friends with a girl who has cancer. This brings about the destruction of Greg’s entire life. Fiercely funny, honest, heart-breaking - this is an unforgettable novel from a bright talent, now also a film that critics are calling 'a touchstone for its generation' and 'an instant classic.'"

We saw this movie in theaters when it came out last year, but watched it again recently when my mom was visiting. I love the movie so much that I was really inspired to read the novel it's based on. The book veers a little young adult, but it's super quick and enjoyable. If you're someone that lives in or is interested in Pittsburgh, you might like it even more for all of the local references (the movie is SO Pittsburgh and I LOVE IT.) My biggest complaint of the book is that the characters weren't developed very well. Rachel (the Dying Girl) and her mom are two of the funniest/saddest/most interesting characters in the movie, however, the book focuses more on Greg and Earl. Actually, I really like everything about the movie more than the book - the character development, the humor, the conflict, the resolution. I think it's common to enjoy a book more than a movie because the movie has to cut so much to make time, but in this case I thought the movie was better structured and way more interesting than the novel. So I guess if you were going to partake in one or the other, I say movie all the way.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Nick's Reads!

Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs
From Amazon.com: "A boy with extraordinary powers. An army of deadly monsters. An epic battle for the future of peculiardom. The adventure that began with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and continued in Hollow City comes to a thrilling conclusion with Library of Souls. As the story opens, sixteen-year-old Jacob discovers a powerful new ability, and soon he’s diving through history to rescue his peculiar companions from a heavily guarded fortress. Accompanying Jacob on his journey are Emma Bloom, a girl with fire at her fingertips, and Addison MacHenry, a dog with a nose for sniffing out lost children. They’ll travel from modern-day London to the labyrinthine alleys of Devil’s Acre, the most wretched slum in all of Victorian England. It’s a place where the fate of peculiar children everywhere will be decided once and for all. Like its predecessors, Library of Souls blends thrilling fantasy with never-before-published vintage photography to create a one-of-a-kind reading experience."

When I first started reading this series, I really loved it. Ransom Riggs did something incredible here, creating unique characters, an incredible world bound by well thought out rules, with interesting villains and story lines. Dotting the book with genuine antique photos to help build the story was the major draw for me with this three-part series. All along, it was a pretty cheese ball read. It's evident that it is intended for a younger audience, but by book three, I was really feeling that. What started out as interesting and fun has turned into something a bit boring, easy, and obvious. By the end of book three, I was no longer hooked into the world Riggs had created, and the patterns with which he writes became so obvious that all hope of suspense was sucked out for me. All in all, this series has been fun to read, but book three just didn't stack up for me.

My Rating: 3 Stars

P.S. Don't forget to enter our Nordstrom gift card giveaway!

Sarah & Nick

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Hanging Wooden Planters (+ Giveaway!)

The music room makeover is plugging along nicely! I'm really enjoying making over this room. Because it's a slow process, we have the opportunity to make all of our decisions carefully, thoughtfully, and right the first time.

I'm really liking my new desk (more on that in the total room reveal), but the wall space above it needed something. Sarah and I wanted some small pops of color on the only white wall in the room, and thought some wooden plant hangers would do the trick. These awesome wooden planters from Target are unfinished wood, so they're perfectly customizable. You could paint them, or finish them with some polyurethane, but I really like the raw wood look against some of the darker elements in the room. If you like this look, here's how we did it!

Here's what you need:
- Rope
- Drill & drill bit
- Cup hooks
- Newspaper
- Moss
- Plants (real or faux)

Since our planters are hanging above a desk/computer, we wanted to avoid using real plants we would have to water, and provide adequate drainage for. We decided to use faux plants and found these great looking faux options at our local JoAnn store. Could you tell they were fakes?!

Here's what you do:
- Decide where you want the planters to hang, and screw your cup hooks into your wall. 
- Measure your desired length from the hook to where you want the planter to hang.
- Double your measurement, and add about 10 inches before cutting your rope (this allows room for the knot at the top, the knots on each end, and the slight angle at which the rope will hang.)
- On either side of your planters, drill a hole about 1/4 - 1/2 inch from the top rim through which you will feed the rope.

- Knot one end of the rope and feed it through one side, so the knot is on the inside of the planter.
- Feed the other end of the rope through the other side of the planter, and knot again.
- At the top/center of your rope, make a loop by tying a simple overhand knot.
- If using faux plants, fill the majority of your planter with newspaper as filler.

- Arrange your faux plants as desired, and top off with moss to complete the look.
- Hang your planters from the hooks. If they seem to be hanging crooked, adjust the knot at the top to raise or lower one side of the planter.

Voila! We wanted our hooks to all be level across the top, but the planters to hang at different lengths, so we used 2 different sets of measurements for our rope. I think the staggered look helps to fill up the space above the desk nicely. I'm loving the combinations of pops of green, dark blue on the walls, clean white, and that super sweet brass lamp!

What do you think? We hope you like them as much as we do! We're also super excited to share a fun giveaway too! You've heard ALL about the #NSale, right? Well we teamed up with some fun bloggers to give away a $200 gift card to Nordstrom! Use the Rafflecopter form to enter daily. Giveaway ends 8/15 and is open worldwide. Winner will be notified via email. Thanks to Oh My Gosh Beck for organizing!

Sarah & Nick

Friday, July 22, 2016

Pittsburgh Blogger Posts We Love (III)

Hi there. We hope you're all having a great week! Ours has been busy (and HOT.) We're having family in town again this weekend and looking forward to working on some house projects together (and relaxing a bit too.) Here are five posts we loved from our fellow Pittsburgh blogger friends this week! Be sure to check them out and give them a follow!

1. Yes, Wear That! - Right to Bare Shoulders
I love Kim's style and she's the sweetest girl. I adore this lace off-the-shoulder top she shared this week and was surprised to see it's from Abercrombie & Fitch! Who would have guessed? Side note: as a child I remember hearing Abercrombie & Fitch for the first time in the LFO song "Summer Girls" (obviously, I'm a 90s child.) When I asked my mom what it was, she said "I don't know, sounds like a law firm."

2. Fooduzzi - Thai Peanut Quinoa Rainbow Salad
Alexa is one of my favorite bloggers for healthy dinner ideas. We have these salad ingredients on hand almost all the time, so I need to make this immediately! The Thai peanut sauce looks bomb.

3. Wag Wear Repeat - Discovering Murals for New Colorful Photos
I'm loving Tori's dress in this post, and of course those colorful murals! I think I need to go mural hunting in the Burgh ASAP.

4. The Almond Eater - Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Pancakes
I think the title says it all, am I right? Maybe we'll skip our go-to pancakes this weekend and give these babies a try!

5. Wellesley & King - Jumpsuits for Dressy Occasions
Lauren is KILLIN' IT in this jumpsuit. I love a good romper but have been hesitant to try a jumpsuit. Her post may have convinced me though, she looks fabulous!

Sarah & Nick

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Best of ModCloth Sale - 20 Under $20!

This week the blogosphere is abuzz with the Nordstrom #NSale, but there's another sale piquing my interest - ModCloth is offering an extra 40% off sale items!

There's a ton of great items in this sale, but some of them are going super quickly, so act fast if you want to add these great pieces to your closet at an even greater price! Below I've rounded up my 20 favorite items under $20 (with offer code TOOHOT).

one ($18) / two ($10)
three ($14) / four ($10)

five ($17) / six ($13)
seven ($10) / eight ($9)

nine ($18) / ten ($3)
eleven ($19) / twelve ($11)

thirteen ($14) / fourteen ($12)
fifteen ($12) / sixteen ($18)

seventeen ($13) / eighteen ($15)
nineteen ($12) / twenty ($6)

See anything you like? There are over 1,600 goodies on sale, so get to shoppin'! The extra 40% off sale goes through the 22nd!

xo, Sarah

Friday, July 15, 2016

The White Stripes

In reality I think this is actually a white dress with black stripes. What do you think? Well one thing I know (and you may too) is that I'm not a summer heat person. Fall is my EVERYTHING and getting dressed for 90 degree temperatures is a huge struggle for me.

Pittsburgh has had some brutally hot days lately and I just wanted to wear something that felt as loose and breezy as possible. This lightweight stripey dress from H&M is often what I reach for on days like those. It's super cute and comfortable while also keeping me cool, which is most important.

I usually like to accessorize with a skinny brown belt, my brown woven purse, and my straw hat. On this day I opted for a top knot to keep my hair off my shoulders and kept the accessories at a minimum.

Unfortunately this dress is a couple years old, so I couldn't find the exact one. I did link a few black and white striped dresses below in case you're looking for a something similar to sport this summer. What are your favorite types of outfits for extremely hot days?

H&M Black & White Stripe Dress (similar)
Charlotte Russe Flats (exact sold out, similar)
Forever 21 Sunglasses (similar)
Brown Woven Bag (from a clothing swap)

xo, Sarah

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Wooden Map Hanger

I've always been obsessed with maps. I can't for the life of me recall what sparked it, but for as long as I can remember, I've been interested in scouring maps, snooping around on Google Earth, and studying city layouts from satellite images. I can literally identify major cities based off of their unlabeled subway transit maps (embarrassing, but true.)

When it came time to think about decor for my new music room at the Surznick Ranch, I knew a large map would be an integral part. Sarah showed me a few pictures of these vintage style map hangers, and I immediately knew that's how I wanted to display my new map.

There are kits to make these out there online, or you can have it professionally hung like this. But seriously, why? This is such an easy project. Do It Yourself, amirite?

Here's what you need: (To frame a 50" map)
- Saw (I used a borrowed miter saw, but any kind will do!)
- Four 3/4x1/4" wood strips measuring 51.5" (We bought four 8' strips and cut each down to size)
- Wood glue
- Staple gun and 1/4" staples
- String
- Binder clips or small weights
- Polyurethane and brush

Here's what you do:
- Cut 4 wood strips to size with your saw. Since our wood strips were 3/4" wide, we wanted 3/4" overhang on each end of our map. The map is 50" wide, so we cut 4 strips at 51.5".
- Finish with 2 coats of polyurethane, allowing to dry completely in between.

- Apply wood glue to the insides of each of your wood strips and sandwich the map in between the wood. Be sure to flatten and stretch the map to the best of your ability. You don't want any bumps where the map meets the wood.
- Clean up any glue drips.
- Fasten with binder clips or weights, and allow to dry completely.

- Cut a piece of string your desired length and knot near each end.
- Staple the string to the back of your top wood strip. Be sure to staple above and below the knot so it doesn't slip out.
- Hang, make a funny face, show off muscles, admire!

It's been hard to photograph in the new music room, but I really love the combination of this natural wood look and the dark blue we chose for the walls.

If you're planning on something like this for you house or apartment, I hope this has convinced you to save the cash and just make it yourself. Be sure to let us know if you decide to give it a try!

Sarah & Nick

Friday, July 8, 2016

Fluffy Vegan Pancakes

Whether you try to eat vegan, vegetarian, paleo, raw, no carb, gluten-free, liquid only (?), whatever, NO ONE can resist the pull of a thick, soft, delicious pancake. Pancakes may not fit into your diet plan, but they do fit on a plate... and in your mouth... and in your belly.

Here is our take on a classic, fluffy, pancake using vegan ingredients that is 900% amazing.

Here's what you need (Makes about 6-7 pancakes):
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (or whole wheat)
- 3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- 1 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 flax egg (1 tbsp. flax seed meal + 2.5 tbsp. water)
- 3 tbsp. melted vegan butter (we use Earth Balance)

Here's what you do:
- Prepare your flax egg in a small dish. Let sit to thicken about 3 minutes.
- Put all of your ingredients into a large bowl and mix it with a whisk. No need to get fancy with sifting your ingredients or a "well" in the middle or anything.
- Scoop the batter with a 1/4 cup measuring cup onto a hot, non-stick griddle or pan.
- This batter is really thick, so you won't be seeing the classic bubbles come up through the batter as it cooks. When the edges look dry, flip them over. (Or you could just peek, no points are lost for checking to see if it's brown enough for you.)
- Soak them in Earth Balance and syrup, and enjoy!

As a side note, I'll typically eat 2 or 3 with the classic vegan butter and syrup combo, then go all out with my 4th which I cover with peanut butter and syrup #treatyoself. Sarah usually eats her last pancake cold and with butter only #boring.

Sarah & Nick

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Our Favorite Albums of 2016 (So Far)

The first half of 2016 has been great so far. Of course, our biggest news is that we bought our first house, but it's also been a great six months for new music. We are music crazy in the Surznick house, whether it's spinning a vinyl, turning our iPhone speakers as loud as they'll go, or just listening to Nick whistle - there is always music going on here!

Some of our favorite bands have released new albums in 2016 and we've been been having a blast learning new tunes and even discovering some new bands to add to our playlists. Below are our favorite albums of 2016 so far!

1. Lucius - Good Grief
We discovered Lucius two years ago when we saw them open for The Head and the Heart (two nights in a row!) and we've been in love with them ever since. We drove to Cleveland to see them in March and just saw them again a few weekends ago at the WYEP Summer Music Festival. Their sophomore album, Good Grief, is perfection to my ears. There are songs that make me laugh and others that make me cry. It is a beautiful work of art and if there's one album I demand you listen to this year, it's this. -S

2. Modern Baseball - Holy Ghost
I got in to Modern Baseball after realizing I had missed them on one of Say Anything's tours. I dipped my toes into their older albums and couldn't get out again. For any fans of The Front Bottoms or the like, this band is for you. This album is all things emotional and fun. The same old Modern Baseball, but perfected, refined, and incredibly tight. -N

3. The Avett Brothers - True Sadness
Four years ago The Avett Brothers were my absolute favorite band. We drove to four different states to see them and didn't go more than a few months without finding another concert to attend. When their last LP came out in 2013, I was less than impressed. It came out just a year after The Carpenter and felt so rushed and incomplete, and therefore my fire for them started to fizzle out. Their new album, True Sadness, was just released a couple weeks ago and is already earning them a top spot in my heart again. I hope as I continue to listen to and learn this album it reignites my Avett love completely. -S
4. Pup - The Dream is Over
This album is far and away my most "on repeat" album in my library at the moment. A friend of mine got me into this latest release, and I can't wait to go back further into their discography. "The Dream is Over" is an absolute banger from beginning to end. If you love good fast, raw, emotional, ridiculous punk, this is the album for you. -N

What albums are you loving this year? If we're being honest, our most listened to albums have been in our libraries for years, but it's fun adding new tunes to the mix too. Share your favorites in the comments below!

Sarah & Nick

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Surznick Ranch: Progress Report

I feel like so much has happened since we first introduced you to The Surznick Ranch! Last week we rented a Uhaul, moved all of our furniture, started unpacking, and as of Wednesday we handed in our apartment keys for good.

The past month has been kind of a whirlwind but we're happily settling into our new home, starting new routines, and finding comfort in this space. Not a single room in this house is completely unpacked or "finished" (I mean, most aren't even "started") but here's the low down on what's been happening.

We started the Music Room makeover! You may recall that Nick is a music teacher. In addition to classroom teaching, he also teaches instrument lessons in the evenings. The Music Room is going to be his dedicated studio/office where he will teach lessons, record music, store all of his instruments, etc.

This is the first room we are tackling and we're probably about... 30% done? So far we have torn out the old trim, tore out the closet shelving, patched and sanded all of the walls, painted, removed the ceiling fan and installed a new light fixture, and started framing the window and closet door. Sounds like a lot but there's so much more to do. We'll share complete before and after posts once it's all said and done, but it's coming along beautifully for now!

We've also been making a few decor purchases: lights, rugs, furniture, etc. We sold a LOT of furniture and decor at our yard sale so we're working on replacing what we sold. Of course this is going to take a lot of time and money, but I'm excited about the idea of finding the perfect items slowly instead of just buying new things to fill the gaps.

One of our big purchases is a new sofa from Interior Define. It hasn't arrived yet, but we are SO excited to get it! More on that to come. Below I've linked the sources for the other items pictured above. Be sure to follow along on Instagram and Snapchat for more peeks inside our home (@sawissinger and @nmalburg!) And let us know if you have any questions about the house - things are coming along and we can't wait to share more!

Sources (from top to bottom): 5 Bulb Brass Light, Navy Blue Paint, 9 Bulb Brass Light, Huarache Sandals, Pink Kilim Rug, Copper Plant Stand (DIY), Record Stand (DIY), Record Player

Sarah & Nick