October 2016 - The Surznick Common Room

Monday, October 31, 2016

Surznick Reads: October 2016


Hello and Happy Halloween! We hope you had a great weekend celebrating (we did!) In case you didn't notice, today's Monday AND there's a new post from us! That's right - starting today we are back to three posts a week here on the Common Room (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.) This was our schedule before we bought our house and switched to a modified schedule for a few months. Hope you're ready to have us back on Monday mornings!

We're starting to enter the busiest season of the year between Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, but we're hoping to squeeze in some books too. Here's what we read this month!


Sarah's Reads!


The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings
From Amazon.com: "Matthew King was once considered one of the most fortunate men in Hawaii. His missionary ancestors were financially and culturally progressive–one even married a Hawaiian princess, making Matt a royal descendant and one of the state’s largest landowners. Now his luck has changed. His two daughters are out of control: Ten-year-old Scottie is a smart-ass with a desperate need for attention, and seventeen-year-old Alex, a former model, is a recovering drug addict. Matt’s charismatic, thrill-seeking, high-maintenance wife, Joanie, lies in a coma after a boat-racing accident and will soon be taken off life support. The Kings can hardly picture life without her, but as they come to terms with this tragedy, their sadness is mixed with a sense of freedom that shames them–and spurs them into surprising actions. Before honoring Joanie’s living will, Matt must gather her friends and family to say their final goodbyes, a difficult situation made worse by the sudden discovery that there is one person who hasn’t been told..."

I picked up this book at a thrift store years ago after seeing (and loving) the movie starting George Clooney and Shailene Woodley. I totally forgot we had it until I was searching for a book that was thin (read: quick) and highly recommended on Goodreads - this was my pick. I flew through The Descendants SO quickly. Faster than I have read a book in a long time. I absolutely loved it. This story is real and raw, but hilarious and heartwarming at the same time. Each character has such a distinct personality, but you can see a little bit of yourself in everyone too. I even find myself thinking about it a lot since finishing it a few weeks ago. Overall, I highly recommend and want to read more from Hemmings soon.

My Rating: 5 Stars


Nick's Reads!


The Girls by Emma Cline
From Amazon.com: "Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged - a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence."

I'm really into the Manson-type summer of '69 style vibe when it comes to storytelling. And let's be real, this book is about the Manson murders though it uses different names. I enjoyed reading this book. I got super into it and read through it quickly, though at the end, I was left feeling a little cheated. About two-thirds of the way through the book, I thought to myself, "I hope this entire book isn't just a simmering, slow account of this girl's summer and then nothing even happens." Well, spoiler alert, that's exactly what it was. For as interesting as the book was, and as good as the storytelling was, nothing happened. I closed the book after the final page and literally had no thoughts in my brain. I'm giving the book 3 stars since it was enjoyable to read, but that's it's only merit for me. 

My Rating: 3 Stars

Sarah & Nick

Friday, October 28, 2016

Halloween Cat Lights


If you've been thinking "Hmm... my Halloween decor needs more cats" then we've got you covered! More cats is ALWAYS our motto, and when we stumbled upon these cat and ghost lights Cakies shared a few years ago, we knew we needed to make 'em too!


We're co-hosting a Halloween party tomorrow night with our best pals/neighbors, Sarah and Joel, and being that we're all new kitten parents, we thought cats-only lights would be perfect! Want to make some too?


Here's what you need!
- String of white lights
- Black poster board
- Pencil
- Scissors
- Xacto knife
- Cardboard (for template)

Here's what you do!
- Draw a cat template on your cardboard and cut it out with an Xacto knife.
- Trace your template onto your poster board and fit as many cats as you can. (We fit 50 cats, which was perfect for our 100 lights!)
- Cut out your cats with scissors and then use your Xacto knife to cut small X's where the eyes go.
- Pop your cat faces over the lights - make sure to push them back far enough so the paper is touching the plastic, not the light.


Easy and cute - the best kind of decorations (even Weasley approves!) Seeing as it's almost Halloween, you probably can't get the supplies online, but you should be able to find everything at JoAnn Fabric or Michael's! Hope you guys have a great Halloween weekend!


Sarah & Nick

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Halloween Costumes: Agatha & Zero from The Grand Budapest Hotel


Nick and I have been wearing couples Halloween costumes for the last few years (remember Margot & Richie or Parmesan Cheese & Spaghetti?) They seem to become harder for us to decide on year after year, but dressing up in coordinating costumes is way more fun than flying solo. This year I was struggling to decide who we would dress up as, but after we went to a "Brew and View" showing of The Grand Budapest Hotel at a local theater last month, it all became clear: Agatha & Zero!

Of course this isn't our first time being Wes Anderson characters (Margot & Richie Tenenbaum being the firsts), but his characters are so unique and iconic that they make great costumes. For those unfamiliar with The Grand Budapest Hotel, Agatha is a professional pastry chef at Mendl's Bakery and Zero Moustafa is a lobby boy (and the eventual owner) of the Grand Budapest. They become friends, fall in love, and Agatha assists Zero in helping M. Gustave, the hotel's concierge, after is he arrested for murder.


Agatha's most striking feature is the large birth mark on her face in the shape of Mexico. She's most often seen in a dress and apron, baking treats in the Mendl's kitchen or hand-delivering boxes of desserts. For my Agatha costume, I wore a cream colored sweater from my closet, this dress I purchased from Amazon, and an apron I made from a length of blue fabric purchased at Jo-Ann. I made Agatha's Society of the Crossed Keys necklace from white clay, turquoise ribbon, and black paint. We printed out a few copies of the Mendl's logo and Nick built a dessert box from scrap cardboard. For the finishing touches I braided back my hair on each side and Nick used a dark reddish brown lip liner to add Agatha's birth mark to my cheek.


Zero Moustafa is the Grand Budapest's dedicated lobby boy, as indicated by his hat. Zero's work uniform is a head-to-toe purple suit with pops of red accents. He draws on a thin mustache each morning to begin his day at work. For Nick's Zero costume, he wore a purple button-down shirt we found from a local thrift store. We hemmed the bottom and cut off the collar to make it look more like a jacket. We purchased these purple track pants from Amazon and colored the white stripes with a red marker. Nick wore red socks and dress shoes from his closet. For Zero's infamous "Lobby Boy" hat, Nick used cardboard to create the basic hat shape. He covered it in purple vinyl, and finally we added the letters with a gold Sharpie paint pen.


Once we had all of the pieces, these were pretty quick costumes to put together! We're so excited to dive back into Wes Anderson's world and share our Agatha and Zero looks for Halloween this weekend.


How do you think we did? Are you dressing up for Halloween? Share with us in the comments below!

Sarah & Nick

Friday, October 21, 2016

Before & After: Nick's Music Room


On June 3rd, when Sarah and I closed on the house, we sat for hours on the empty living room floor sipping champagne and daydreaming of changes we wanted to make in our new home. Everything from big picture items like knocking down walls and rewiring entire rooms, to smaller tasks like painting the front door and removing mini blinds. The future ahead of us was both daunting and exciting.

We knew that in order to keep ourselves sane, and our lives functioning at least semi-normally we would have to control ourselves to working on one room at a time. That has been a hard guideline to follow, but for the most part, we made it work.

And FINALLY, after months of work, countless side projects, delays, and distractions, we are so proud to show off our first ever before and after post of The Surznick Ranch Reno - the Music Room!

Since the music room is essential to part of my income, I immediately knew I wanted to finish this room first. It's been functioning as a lesson space for a couple months now, but has only recently been completely finalized.

Let's check out what all we were able to accomplish!


A lot of work went into transforming this small 3rd bedroom into the lesson studio it is today. Here are the tiny details of what it took to complete this room's overhaul.

The Floor Trim:


Every time I see the before picture of this trim I am blown away by it's hideousness. Unfortunately, the ENTIRE house has this exact same trim, so my crusade against it is far from over. The new trim and quarter round is painted with semi-gloss ultra pure white (untinted) Behr paint and the contrast it makes with the dark blue on the walls is exactly as dreamy as I hoped it would be.

Door/Window/Closet Trim:


The doorway to the music room was already trimmed, but with the same skinny, brown ugly trim that exists in the rest of the house. We took that off and replaced it with a slightly bulkier white trim to better match our floor trim. The closet and window had no trim around them at all, so they had to be framed out on the inside dimensions before adding new trimming around it. It was a ton of work that doesn't serve any purpose other than to look nice, but it was completely worth it. The window looks bigger, and the closet seems less like a random cave in the wall without a door. Also, having the inside of the closet doorway finished opens up the possibility of completing it with a door jamb and door in the future.

The Walls:


The walls in this room were easily the biggest part of this renovation. Where the drywall met the studs, there were terribly deep valleys. All of the walls had really noticeable ugly patches, various textures, holes, etc. Honestly, the photos simply don't do them justice. They were so nasty. We filled the uneven valleys with joint compound, patched holes, and entirely sanded down the textures on ALL the walls. It was disgusting, time consuming, painful, arduous, loud, and terrible in every way imaginable. But we knew it had to be done since this dark wall paint was going to just highlight every uneven and multi-textured surface. Once the walls were smooth, the primer coat looked like a million bucks, and the two coats of color on top of that just made my heart soar.

The Light:


As with every other room in the house, right in the middle of this tiny room was an old, gold and wood ceiling fan. Obviously, it had to go, and obviously it had to be replaced with a sleek, bright brass fixture.

The Shelves:


The music room is pretty small, and other than the closet and some very small desk drawers, there isn't much storage. These simple shelves from IKEA were super quick and easy to install. The only customizing we did to them was to paint the brackets. They started out as just slightly off-white. I didn't like the thought of the super white trim with off-white brackets, so I painted them with the same paint used on the trim.

The Furnishings:


We refinished these orange directional chairs specifically to be used in this room, and they were featured in a previous post, which you can read here. I love the contrast of the complementary dark blue and the orange.


This desk was the perfect combination of pretty, simple, functional, and small. It nicely fits the wall, and provides me with a place to finish up some work while not taking up too much of the room's precious floor space.


Of course, seeing as this is my lesson studio, I needed a piano! The space above the piano is finished with these beautiful Harry Potter prints that we had hanging in the office in our apartment. Finally, they're not hidden in a back room anymore and their beauty gets the attention it deserves.


Maps are a mild obsession of mine, so the huge space on the empty side of this room was the perfect spot for this large map. We built the wooden hanger for it - you can read about it here.

The Plant Hangers:


The area above my new desk was the only wall we decided to keep white. Since this wall is opposite the only window in the room, we wanted to reflect that light into the rest of the space. The only problem was that it was no fun sitting at my desk staring at a blank white wall, so we decided to spice it up a bit with these DIY plant hangers that we featured on the blog a while back. I think they fill the space nicely, and the pops of green really enhance the room.

Whew! And we're done! Both with the music room and this post! I know this has been one of our longest posts, but I'm so proud of this room, and I wanted to brag about every little detail. That's cool, right? If you like reading the nitty gritty details of a room makeover/renovation, then you're in luck because we still have two more bedrooms, a bathroom, a basement, a kitchen, a laundry room, and a living room to do (some day... hopefully before I'm dead.)


Check below for links to all the things we used and purchased for this room! If we missed something or you have questions about anything, be sure to leave us a comment below!

Paint - Behr Starless Night and Behr untinted white (Home Depot)
Wall Map with Wooden Hanger (DIY)
Curtains & Rod (IKEA)
Harry Potter Prints (Etsy)
Gold Task Lamp (Target)
Globe (TJMaxx) - similar
Orange Chairs (DIY)
Copper Plant Stand (DIY)
Shelves & Brackets (IKEA)
Desk (Target)
Rug (Rugs USA)
5 Spoke Ceiling Light (Amazon)
Hanging Plants (DIY)

Sarah & Nick

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Fall Day (+ A Giveaway!)

Surznick Common Room - Fall Day ft. JORD Wood Watches

This past Saturday Nick and I celebrated our annual Fall Day (our 6th one!) In case you need a refresher, this is the day we visit our favorite farm to pick pumpkins, then spend the day sipping warm apple cider and watching scary movies together. I know it probably sounds pretty #basic and unoriginal these days, but we started this little tradition when we were dating semi-long distance, and it's been something we've kept up every year, no matter how trendy loving Fall gets. We love it too, and this year was no different! (You can see past Fall Day snaps here and here.)

Surznick Common Room - Fall Day ft. JORD Wood Watches
Surznick Common Room - Fall Day ft. JORD Wood Watches

I've pretty much got my outfit for Fall Day down pat: skeleton sweater, jeans, boots, and a field jacket (depending on the weather.) My skeleton sweater is one of my favorite pieces in my closet and I've practically worn it to death (pun intended.) It's already suffered a torn shoulder and has probably shrunken a little too much in the wash, but I won't part with it - especially this time of year.

Surznick Common Room - Fall Day ft. JORD Wood Watches
Surznick Common Room - Fall Day ft. JORD Wood Watches

This year I added a new accessory to the mix - my new wooden watch from JORD. Nick got me a watch last year for Christmas and I've worn it just about every day since. But like most jewelry and accessories, it's fun to mix it up and wear different pieces. This JORD watch is such a unique addition to my wardrobe - it's made from wood, so it's super light and easy to wear. When I think of fall, I think of being outdoors, warm campfires, colorful trees, and crunchy leaves - this gold and zebrawood piece reminds me of all of those things and fits perfectly into my fall style.

Surznick Common Room - Fall Day ft. JORD Wood Watches
Surznick Common Room - Fall Day ft. JORD Wood Watches

If you're unfamiliar with JORD, they make both men's and women's timepieces in eight different styles of wood. They're passionate about making more than just a watch - they want to tell a story: "The value of a watch is not in being able to tell how much time has passed, but in being aware of the need to make that time count. Moments are bigger than minutes and your watch should tell more than time." Keep reading below for a chance to win your own!

Surznick Common Room - Fall Day ft. JORD Wood Watches
Surznick Common Room - Fall Day ft. JORD Wood Watches

This Fall Day was unseasonably warm, so I stripped off my coat to find our perfect pumpkin (it's green!) We took the short hayride back to the entrance of the farm and finished our trip with a stop in the wine shop to pick up a bottle of our favorite Cocoa Vino. It's about a 30-minute drive to/from the farm, so we jammed to our Halloween playlist in the car and finally arrived home to hunker down for a day of movies and snuggling with our ever-growing kitties.

Surznick Common Room - Fall Day ft. JORD Wood Watches
Surznick Common Room - Fall Day ft. JORD Wood Watches

Wait - you didn't think I forgot about the contest did you? JORD wants to give one Common Room reader a $75 gift card to their shop! And guess what? You'll get $20 off a watch purchase just for entering! Click here to enter! The contest ends 11/13 and the winner will be contacted via email.

Surznick Common Room - Fall Day ft. JORD Wood Watches
Surznick Common Room - Fall Day ft. JORD Wood Watches

American Eagle Jeans (similar)
Old Navy Booties (similar)
Old Navy Field Jacket (similar)

xo, Sarah

This post was sponsored by JORD Wood Watches. I was provided with this watch for review - I love it and all opinions are my own!