November 2016 - The Surznick Common Room

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Surznick Reads: November 2016

Here we are again! Another month, another blur of existence, and another two books for the Surznick library. Despite being super busy, completing start to finish one of our biggest projects to date (more to come soon!), and traveling out of town for Thanksgiving, we somehow managed to squeeze in a couple of books.

Sarah's Reads!

How to Be Good by Nick Hornby
From "A brutally truthful, compassionate novel about the heart, mind, and soul of a woman who, confronted by her husband’s sudden and extreme spiritual conversion, is forced to learn 'how to be good' - whatever that means, and for better or worse… Katie Carr is a good person... sort of. For years her husband’s been selfish, sarcastic, and underemployed. But now David’s changed. He’s become a good person, too - really good. He’s found a spiritual leader. He has become kind, soft-spoken, and earnest. Katie isn’t sure if this is deeply felt conversion, a brain tumor - or David’s most brilliantly vicious manipulation yet. Because she’s finding it more and more difficult to live with David - and with herself."

In general I'd say this book was average (hence the three stars.) Not my favorite Hornby book (A Long Way Down) but also not my least favorite (Fever Pitch.) The story itself is a little quirky and interesting, but doesn't really seem to go anywhere. The resolution (or lack thereof) just falls a little short for me. I can't even say if I liked any of the characters - none of them stood out to me as favorites and I think each could have been developed a little more. All in all, not terrible but I'd pass on reading it again.

My Rating: 3 Stars

Nick's Reads!

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
From "Like many young Americans, Jonathan Safran Foer spent much of his teenage and college years oscillating between enthusiastic carnivore and occasional vegetarian. As he became a husband, and then a father, the moral dimensions of eating became increasingly important to him. Faced with the prospect of being unable to explain why we eat some animals and not others, Foer set out to explore the origins of many eating traditions and the fictions involved with creating them. Traveling to the darkest corners of our dining habits, Foer raises the unspoken question behind every fish we eat, every chicken we fry, and every burger we grill. Part memoir and part investigative report, Eating Animals is a book that, in the words of the Los Angeles Times, places Jonathan Safran Foer 'at the table with our greatest philosophers.'"

To say this book is life-changing is an understatement. I don't want to over sell it, which is something I often do, but I truly wish everyone in the world would read this book. It is so much more than an argument for vegetarianism (though, be prepared to question EVERYTHING if you aren't one already.) With every turn of the page, I was further emboldened, inspired, and excited to change my eating habits, not to mention glad to already be a vegetarian! Though documentaries were what first pushed me to consider vegetarianism a few years ago, this book is far and away the most powerful tool I've encountered in educating myself on my food choices. As an exploration into tradition, history, farming practices, globalization, global and local economics, social implications, climate impact, and so much more, this book is worth its weight in gold.

My Rating: 5 Stars

Sarah & Nick

Monday, November 28, 2016

Geometric Patterned Planters

Back in July when I ordered these awesome wooden planters from Target, I also picked up some geometric ceramic planters and trays. To be honest, I didn't really know what I was going to do with them (more plants? kitchen utensil storage? pen holder?) but at $5 and $4 apiece, they went into my cart with no reservations.

Does anyone else buy supplies for non-existent projects and then never use them? Guilty. I'm trying to stop because the last thing we need is clutter, but sometimes you just see something you can't pass up. Since these planters have been collecting dust for a few months, I finally decided this weekend that we were going to put them to use.

One of my favorite things about our house is that we have way more natural light than we did in our former cave apartment. Of course, you know what this means... more plants! What better to put in a cool planter, right? If you want to make your own...

Here's what you need!
- Ceramic Geometric Planter
- Ceramic Hexagon Tray (not pictured, but we put the planters on them)
- Black paint pen or Sharpie marker
- Clear spray paint or sealer (optional)

Here's what you do!
- Decide on a design and draw away! (For the planter with the concentric pentagons, I used a black paint pen. For the other planter with the connecting lines, I used a black Sharpie. Both worked great!)
- Spray your planters with a coat of clear spray paint, if you so choose. The Sharpie should hold up well to water, but the paint pen may not. We did not spray ours, so we'll be careful when watering the plants.
- Finally, fill them up with some cute succulents or cacti and display them!

Just a super quick weekend project that turned out pretty beautifully. We whipped these up in a couple hours, start to finish. The Home Depot has a surprisingly large number of succulents and other small plants for late fall, but I'm not complaining!

We're excited to get these on display in our basement - hopefully our curious kitties can keep their paws off. If you decide to decorate your own planters, be sure to send us photos or tag us on Instagram! Have a great week!

Sarah & Nick

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pastry Puffs

When Sarah and I first set out to make this recipe, we had "homemade vegan pop tarts" in mind. Well, anyone with eyes and a mouth can tell that these are no pop tarts. Maybe there is a perfect way to re-create the pop tart taste, texture and look, but these aren't it. However, through the process of exploring this recipe I discovered one thing: who cares? So these don't look or feel like pop tarts, who cares? They're flat out delicious, easy to make, and customizable.

print recipe

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pastry Puffs
A delicious, flaky, sweet dessert stuffed with vegan chocolate and peanut butter goodness.
  • 2 puff pastry sheets (1 box)
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup vegan chocolate chips
  • Almond milk
  • Flour
1. Thaw your puff pastry sheets (about 40 minutes at room temperature.) Preheat oven to 400°.2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out puff pastry sheet. Cut into three strips (where the seams are) and then cut each strip in half. You will have 6 small rectangles.3. Top one sheet with about 2 tbsp. peanut butter and 2 tbsp. chocolate chips. Cover with another sheet and use a fork to dress the edges together.4. Continue with remaining puff pastry. You will make 6 pastries total. Brush each with an almond milk wash.5. Bake for 20 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.6. While pastries are baking, melt remaining 1/4 cup chocolate chips and 1 tbsp. almond milk in a microwave-safe bowl. Stir every 20 seconds until fully melted. Drizzle over pastries once they are finished baking.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6 Pastries

These are best fresh out of the oven, but they're pretty decadent so you'll likely have leftovers. I'm pretty sure Sarah put her personal tastes aside when she suggested that we make these peanut butter and chocolate flavor (a Nick must) but you could easily fill these with anything! Fruit pie fillings, savory fillings like cream cheese and chives, spinach and artichoke, spinach and feta, pizza fillings (wwwhhaaaa????...) the possibilities are endless.

I hope you all enjoy this idea, and are able to make something delicious with it! Enjoy your weekend, and hopefully a few extra days off of work!

Sarah & Nick

P.S. We're taking Friday off for the holidays this week (Thanksgiving and the return of Gilmore Girls.) See you back here on Monday!

Monday, November 21, 2016

How to Throw a Gilmore Girls Revival Party

I've been part of the Gilmore family since the very beginning. I watched 'Gilmore Girls' on the WB (later the CW) with my mom growing up, then every day after school in syndication on ABC Family. My mom bought me a new season on DVD every Christmas and a few years ago I shared my GG love with Nick as we watched the series together. Then of course, we started listening to the Gilmore Guys podcast and re-watching the series on Netflix. I'm a Gilly through and through.

So of course, I happy-cried my little eyes out when I learned Netflix was bringing it back with four new 90-minute episodes. FINALLY, Amy Sherman-Palladino will get to finish the series, as she rightly should. We are a mere four days away from 'Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life' and I can't contain my excitement any longer!

While my mom was visiting this past weekend, we decided to have a mini 'Gilmore Girls' revival party to share with you today! Unfortunately, I won't be with my mom come Friday to watch together, so I'm glad we got to have this little experience over the weekend, even though we were just re-watching old episodes. Regardless, hopefully you can use some of these ideas to throw your own 'Gilmore Girls' revival party this weekend! We will be!

The Drinks
No 'Gilmore Girls' party would be complete without COFFEE (and lots of it.) But of course, those girls love a cocktail too. If you're feeling more Yale Rory than Chilton Rory, try one of these 'Gilmore Girls'-themed drinks!

Coffee Old Fashioned - Coffee in a cocktail - the Gilmore dream.

The Rory (Episode 607) - This four-ingredient signature cocktail from Rory's 21st birthday is perfectly sweet, just like it's namesake.

Upside-down Tequila Slammer with a Twist (Episode 709) - Our friend Alexa crafted this cocktail on her blog last week and it looks so good!

Ms. Patty's Founders Day Punch (Episode 518) - We don't know much about Ms. Patty's punch except that it's Strong with a capital S. This interpretation of the punch sounds perfect.

Bonus points if you can convince your boyfriend to dress up as Luke and serve you. (Thanks, Nick.)

The Food
When I think Gilmore food, I think pizza, Pop Tarts, mac and cheese, ice cream, nachos.... Yes, ALL the health food. Lorelai and Rory may not cook, but you'll be Sookie (or more likely Luke) in the kitchen with these recipes that are fit for a Gilmore!

Mac & Not Cheese - Okay, there's actually no cheese in this, but it's GOOD.

Bourbon Root Beer Float - Bourbon, ice cream, root beer... what more does one need?

Mini Heart Shaped Pizzas - Gilmores love cute little novelty foods. These mini pizzas fit the bill.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pastry Puffs - Pictured above; recipe coming soon. You're gonna love it.

Cheesy Chorizo Dip - The best dip around. Ask our friends.

Chocolate Oreo Popcorn - The Black White & Read movie theater serves popcorn, but it could use some chocolate and Oreos for sure.

Loaded Nachos - Lorelai knows when Luke is giving her baked chips and low-fat cheese, but I think even she would love this vegan version.

The Games
Of course, the main event of the revival party is the show itself, but it's always good to have a little extra fun thrown in there.

Gilmore Guess Who? - Find an old Guess Who? game and download our template!

"A Year in the Life" Prediction Ballot - Will Rory end up with Jess? (Wishful thinking.) Will Lorelai and Luke settle down? (Seems likely!) Make your predictions and compare with your friends!

So are you ready? Only four more days, guys! Nick and I are beyond excited. We are going to binge-watch all six hours in one sitting. No shame. Thanks to my mom for helping us with this post! You're the Lorelai to my Rory.

Sarah & Nick

Friday, November 18, 2016

Holiday To-Do List

Fall is my absolute favorite time of the year, but I already feel like I've blinked and it's over. Did my birthday or Fall Day or Halloween even happen? And now, Thanksgiving is a mere six days away. There's no denying that the world around me is getting into the holiday spirit, and I suppose I am a bit too.

This year has been full of big changes for Nick and I, the biggest of course being that we purchased our first house and adopted two adorable kittens. We are so, so excited for this first holiday season in our home, but we want to make sure that we savor every moment of it before it's gone.

In an effort to be present this holiday, make memories, and go into 2017 feeling like December was an extra special month, we made a holiday to-do list (similar to our past summer to-do lists) with all of the things we want to make sure we do in the next several weeks. Here it is!

1. Bake cookies
This was always a huge event in my house growing up, and since living on our own, we've sort of dropped the tradition. I love to cook and bake, but properly baking holiday cookies always felt like too daunting of a task. This year, I've got my eyes set on some delicious cookie recipes, and having treats around for weeks and weeks. - N

2. Watch Sarah's childhood "Christmas tape"
When I was about 4 or 5, my mom recorded my favorite Christmas tv shows/movies and I love to re-watch this every year (yes, we still have a VCR for this purpose.) It includes A Garfield Christmas, Inspector Gadget Christmas, and more, but my favorite part are the commercials, which I still remember like it was yesterday. -S

3. Get a real Christmas tree
Since getting my first apartment and living on my own, I've had a faux tree that Nick and I have used year after year. Our first holiday in our house seems like the best time to get a real tree. I'm beyond excited. -S

4. Volunteer
Given the social climate, we want to make sure that we're taking care of not only each other, but also our communities near and far during this holiday season, and always. We're not exactly sure how/what we want to to devote some time to, so if you have any suggestions specific to the holiday season, please be sure to share them with us! -N

5. Hang lights and decorations outside
Considering the fact that we've only ever lived in apartments together, we've never had the opportunity to truly make our outside space festive for the holidays. I'm excited to spend some time making not only the inside of our home feel special, but dress up the outside as well. -N

6. Make homemade cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning
Cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning (from a tube) is kind of an unofficial tradition for me. I never realized how much I expected waking up to them on Christmas morning until a few years ago when we didn't have any. This year I want to make homemade, dairy-free rolls to eat around the tree. -S

7. Send out holiday cards
This is perhaps the most "adult" thing on this list. Sarah and I were fortuante enough last year to work with Staples to send out some holiday cards, and I really enjoyed it. We're hoping we can take matters into our own hands this year and keep it going! - N

8. Update our holiday playlist
A few years ago we made a "Pop Punk Christmas" playlist and yes, it's awesome (I mean... it includes a Jessica Simpson/Ozzy Osborne mashup of Winter Wonderland.) But a few of the songs have gotten boring to us over the years and we want to update it a little bit this year. This will be included. -S

9.  Craft our own holiday cocktail
When it comes to endulging in libations, I'm not usually a cocktail drinker. Though beer is my typical drink of choice, there's just something about the holidays that demands a cocktail. I want to pursue and perfect an original cocktail Sarah and I can call our own for those cold winter nights. - N

10. Take ACTUAL time off
Like, no work and no blogging time off. When we're not working our 9-5s, it feels like we are working on our blog every other waking hour of the day. While it's fun and rewarding and we love it - we're going to take an actual break to spend time with each other, sans MacBooks. - S

Sarah & Nick

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Vegan Thanksgiving Pizza

As much as Sarah and I love fall and Halloween, I'm admittedly getting very excited for winter and some of our favorite holidays. This will be the first winter in our new home, and I'm really craving parties with friends and family, delicious food, fun music, and a warm place to gather away from the cold weather.

First up: Thanksgiving. Since becoming vegetarian, Thanksgiving has been a bit of a tricky holiday to navigate, but lately I think we've gotten a pretty good handle on things. This year, we tried out a new original recipe, and it was a hit: Vegan Thanksgiving Pizza. Loaded with everything amazing that comes with Thanksgiving (aside from the turkey), this pizza is hearty, savory, sweet, filling, and oh so amazing!

print recipe

Vegan Thanksgiving Pizza
This vegan-friendly pizza combines the best parts of Thanksgiving dinner - roasted veggies, gravy, cranberry sauce, and of course, the rolls. Make it for Friendsgiving or even your family Thanksgiving meal!
  • 1 can crescent rolls (We used Trader Joe's)
  • Approx. 10 fresh Brussels Sprouts, quartered
  • 1 medium-sized sweet potato, cubed
  • 3/4 cup pecans, roughly chopped
  • 1/2-3/4 cup vegan gravy (We used Tofurkey brand)
  • 3-4 tbsp. fresh cranberry sauce (more or less to your liking)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Garlic powder
1. Preheat your oven to 425°.2. Clean and peel your sweet potato. Cut into 1/2" cubes. 3. Clean Brussels sprouts and cut into quarters.4. Combine sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts in a large bowl. Toss in olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder to your liking.5. Spread veggies onto a baking sheet in a single layer and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Set aside and lower oven heat to 350°.6. While veggies are roasting, lightly toast your pecans in a small pan on the stove top. (Place dry pecans right in the pan, no oil required.) Stir regularly to ensure they don't burn! Set aside.7. On a large pizza sheet, lightly coated with olive oil, roll out your crescent rolls and press the seams together into a crust. Bake for 13-14 minutes.8. While crust is baking, heat up your gravy and cranberry sauce in the microwave or on the stove. Thin out your cranberry sauce with a little water, if necessary (we used about 4 tbsp.)9. Remove crust from oven and assemble your pizza. First add a layer of gravy, then top with roasted sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and toasted pecans.10. Return pizza to the oven for about 10 minutes. Then remove and drizzle on cranberry sauce. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 1 Pizza

Full disclosure: as you'll notice in the pictures, we didn't bake our pizza crust before topping the pizza. Even after doubling the recommended cooking time for the crescent rolls, our pizza dough was still soft in the middle. Seeing as everything is already cooked once it goes on the pizza, we recommend cooking the crust first, topping it, and baking it all together for a bit afterwards!

I have a very strong feeling that this Thanksgiving pizza is going to be a staple in the Surznick household after this holiday season. If I can find a way to bring together a nice, classy holiday meal with my all-time favorite food, I'm all over it! I hope you get a chance to try this out and share it with your loved ones!

Sarah & Nick

Monday, November 14, 2016

Cat Nip Pierogies

When people think of iconic Pittsburgh foods, their first thought is usually a Primanti Brothers sandwich, but second is almost always pierogies. Pittsburgh is home to an annual pierogi festival and even the Pirates have a pierogi race during their games!

If you're unfamiliar, a pierogi is a Polish dumpling, most often stuffed with mashed potatoes and served with onions. They're perfect and delicious, and we figured our Pittsburgh born and bred kittens needed some pierogies of their own - stuffed with cat nip!

Want to make your kitties some too? Here's what you need!
- 9x12" sheet of light-colored felt
- Scissors
- Hot glue gun
- Cat nip

Here's what you do!
- Cut approximately a 4.5x6" piece of felt (I was able to cut 4 perfectly from my sheet.)
- Fold each sheet in half width-wise and hot glue the sides in a half-circle shape (like a pierogi.) Leave a small hole in the top.
- Stuff the pierogi with cat nip and then seal closed with more hot glue.
- Use scissors to cut a scalloped edge, giving them a pierogi look.
- Give them to your kitties for play time!

Hope your kitties like them as much as ours do! How stinkin' cute are Poppy and Weasley?

Sarah & Nick