Arcade Fire | The Ultimate

Arcade Fire is one of my favorite bands, and unlike soooome people, I totally buy into their anthemic, orchestral sound. It was hard for me to pick out a lyric, because so many of theirs are beautiful and evocative, but they kind of lose something when they’re taken out of the context of the song. Lucky you though, you can just listen to the song and you’ll have the best of both worlds!


Book Cover Valentine

Book Cover Valentine | The Ultimate

I’m not at all ashamed to love Valentine’s Day; apart from it being my BIRTHDAY!!! (sorry), I also think it’s been fully established that the day can be used to celebrate any and all kinds of love in your life. And keeping in the spirit of that, I whipped up this valentine for my roommate! At first I couldn’t decide whether or not to share it here, because as you can see it’s for a preeeetty specific audience. But the concept is really adaptable, so just bear with me!

I bought her a book I knew she’d like (and that I’d like to steal); Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. (We first met as leetle freshmen in the aforementioned french class where we read The Little Prince, so of course we bonded over how great he is.) I decided to make a faux cover for it, based on a mishmash between a romance or fantasy book cover and a valentine. For no real reason other than I thought it would be hilarious. Then I wrote a note on the back, explaining how it (very tangentially) related to the gift within. If I’d thought this through beforehand, I might have chosen a book that could be punned on in the fake cover, but ehhh…you live and you learn. Cheers to a lovefest of a Valentine’s Day!

Book Cover Valentine | The Ultimate


Mirror Reflections

Mirrors | The Ultimate

  • Top Row:
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • Bottom Row:
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6

Back to decorating my desk area! Which maybe on my next post I’ll actually show you. I have a really unattractive “before”, but as of yet the “after” lives only in my dreams.

Anyway. The next item on my to-buy list was a (hopefully) big-ass round mirror. (I actually plan on using the desk almost entirely as a vanity–I don’t like to stare at myself while I work or anything, I swear!). I knew I wanted a round one to mirror (ha!) the round shape of my headboard…something you also haven’t seen, but patience, grasshopper. But then I stalled for quite a while because I couldn’t make up my mind between the two different styles I was considering. Did I want something simple and almost masculine, which would complement what I’ve got going on (in my head in the) rest of the room? Or did I want something a little fancy and glamaaa? To break up all the streamlined-ness?

So I’ll tell you right now what I reeeally wanted was #6, the Restoration Hardware salivation-inducer that is double the price of the next most expensive option. Isn’t it the perfect combination of all of the qualities I just discussed?? WAH. Moving on. Then it was between #3 and #4. I lurve me a good Venetian mirror, and that one is gorg. But it wouldn’t have looked right with the lamp I decided to go with. I briefly considered redoing everything, tearing out my hair, or never finishing it at all, but in the end I decided to go with #4.

I just got it today and it’s gloriously large and in charge. The finish is actually quite coppery, which isn’t what I’m going for so I’m going to lightly spray some gold over it, but leave a little copper peeking out for texture and whatnot. The only disappointing thing is that it’s beveled!! Which is not AT ALL noticeable in the product photos, and which in theory I hate so much…but in practice it’s actually not that noticeable IRL either, so I’m going to deal with it. Unless the Restoration Hardware one goes on sale, in which case it will be MINE.



H&M | The Ultimate

I need to interrupt my regular programming to tell y’all that there are some seriously high-quality, gorgeous basics to be bought at H&M, right MEOW! (God bless them by the way for finally doing eCommerce, remember how annoying that was when you actually had to struggle through crowds to snatch up this stuff?)

Anyway. It all started when I espied the leather jacket during one of my regular online H&M perusal sessions (Tuesday nights are pretty crazy around here). I clutched spasmodically at my keyboard, suffused with the near certainty that it was identical to the one my friend had bought last year and subsequently flaunted in my face nearly every time I saw her. As someone who already owns an embarrassing number of leather jackets, I can tell you that this jacket is not amazing just for the price; it’s one of the best classic shapes I’ve ever seen. When she confirmed that they were the same, I bought it without hesitation (closet, say hello to #8…)

(FYI it runs really small! I went two sizes up.)

Secondly, the cashmere scarf called my name. Not much to say about this, apart from the fact that clearly everyone should own one, and clearly this is the best price you’re going to find.

Lastly…so maybe I’m the kind of person who takes glamorous winter vacations. Or maybe I just shop for swimwear in January in an effort to scare myself into looking acceptable in it come summer. Either way, their swimwear right now is so pretty that I actually bought a bunch of different pieces. Initially I was most excited for this one, but it made the girls look…like they were boys :.( It would be gorgeous if you have any cleavage to speak of though! But the white bikini is a dream; it’s just alarmingly comfortable and flattering. I will say that the bottoms, though they’re lined, could be…even more lined. But they were like $10 and incredibly flattering, so I’m keeping them. I may just never get them wet.

So thank you H&M, for making more expensive brands look ridiculously overpriced. Oh, and just in case you’re as cheap as me and you felt the need for even more cheapness, you can get 20% off with a coupon code. Mwah.


Slow Cooker Pumpkin Quinoa Curry

Slow Cooker Pumpkin Quinoa Curry | The Ultimate

My new apartment is right across the street from a Thai food place. So lately whenever I get a Thai craving (which is often), it generally means that 15 minutes later I’m lunging at a bucket of Pad Thai with a side of peanut sauce poured over the top (they have generous servings…for real it would fill a small bucket).

It’s SO GOOD. But also terrifying. So in order to counteract my addiction, I fiddled around with some of my favorite Thai flavors to produce this incredibly rich-tasting, super filling and delicious curry that is much much healthier! (And you can still fill a bucket with it–this recipe makes a lot)

Along with the aforementioned deliciousness and healthiness, this recipe is so easy (slow cooker!) and really adaptable too–use red, yellow, or green curry paste, fish or soy sauce, pumpkin or butternut squash, whatever. It’s going to be delicious, and it’s going to still those deep, dark peanut sauce-fueled urges.

Pumpkin Curry with Quinoa

Adapted from Foodie Crush

2 tablespoons Panang curry paste
1 1/2 cans of light coconut milk
2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons fish or soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons peanut butter
2 cups chicken breast, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cups pumpkin (or squash), chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped into 1/2 inch slices
1 onion, chopped into 1/2 inch slices
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1 cup red (or whatever) quinoa
Juice of 2 limes
Green onions

Mix the first 6 ingredients inside the slow cooker. Add in the rest of the ingredients through the quinoa, cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours. Sift out the pumpkin and mash it to thicken the sauce. When you’re ready to serve, stir in the lime juice and top with sliced green onions (and crushed peanuts if you have any!)


Meet Rockie

Rockie Bag | The Ultimate

Several years ago I had the shopping experience that is the dream of all shopping people, everywhere: I wandered aimlessly into a crappy little thrift shop, and five minutes and $50 later stumbled out with a perfect vintage Chloé bag held in my triumphant claw-like grip. I spent the next three years walloping the exterior of that bag all over dirty college-apartment surfaces, and turninf the interior into my personal recycling bin/candy horde. Basically, I took very bad care it. But she still looks amazing: worn, but in a casually awesome “Oh this old thing, I found it for $50 in a thrift shop in college” kind of way. Supes legit.

Now I realize this story is (seemingly!) unrelated to my friend Rockie (alternatively known as the “Black Wang”). But the point that I’m coming around to is that, before Chloé, I bought pretty nice leather bags. I accepted the fact that I was going to run them into the ground after a few years, and then I’d have to buy more. After her, I was spoiled for life. I didn’t buy another bag for ages. Instead, I embarked on an impossible quest for her indestructible, beautiful, and ludicrously inexpensive equivalent.

I did finally realize that such a score is a once-in-a-lifetime event, and I gave up on the price tag aspect of my search. But this made it even more difficult to take the plunge. I realized that the kind of bag I was looking for would be at least $800, which is like three trips to Vegas and not something I take lightly. Enter Ebay. I finally found a deeply discounted (but new!) Rockie, and made our relationship official.

A quick breakdown of how Rockie made the cut: I love his casual duffel-inspired shape and obviously the studs and perfect nubby leather. But he’s more than just for looks: he has both inner and outer pockets, is surprisingly capacious, and his lining is thick, silky, and durable. Some might prefer the Rocco, but they’re too large (and heavy!) for my needs. His only fault is that the shoulder strap is oddly short for wearing cross-body (unless you’re pretty little–I’m 5’6 for reference).

PS If you’re as into discussing the relative merits of investment handbags as I am, then you should check out The LifeStyled’s very informative post–girl knows her handbags!


Easiest Ever Pet Bed DIY

Pet Bed DIY | The Ultimate

This project is so easy that it hardly counts as a DIY. Actually it definitely doesn’t count, which in a way makes it ultimate DIY? Anyway, let’s discuss dog beds, and my multi-year search for one that wasn’t ugly, expensive, or both (shudder). I never found one that fit (what you’d think were) these basic requirements, so Lucy has always had to lounge on the piles of clothing I very thoughtfully leave out for her.

But no longer! She loves her little bed. I should mention that this DIY is easiest for a little dog or a cat…if you have a bigger dog it would work, you’d just need to find an oversized tray and a larger sheepskin. But if you have a midget like me, then all you need is a rectangular tray (this one is cute too!), an Ikea sheepskin, and a couple old dish towels (Or grab a few of these along with your sheepskin if you have nothing handy).

Pet Bed DIY | The Ultimate


Sports Bra Source

Forever 21 Sports Bras | The Ultimate

I have a feeling that most successful and sophisticated women turn a corner in their lives somewhere around my age. It’s basically a rite of passage: that day when you stomp out of the store laden with those telltale yellow bags full of actual trash, and you vow to never ever shop at Forever 21 again.

So I don’t know whether this says something about my personal level of sophistication, or whether y’all are just a bunch of lazy pieces who can no longer be bothered to sift through neon zebra print bodysuits in search for a tolerable cardigan. But I still shop at Forever 21. I have however vastly streamlined my trips from the days of yore: I might do a few dips into the front displays, or wander idly around the accessories. But after that, I firmly plant myself in the activewear and intimates section, because that my dears is where the money is at.

I mean, have you seen their socks?? I get all my socks at Forevz. And really all their activewear is surprisingly good. But my favorite thing the buy there is the sports bras. They’re pretty, comfy, and usually have some surprisingly nice features. But best of all, they wrangle your goods into that perfect combination of submission and perkiness that we all hope for but so rarely seem to achieve. They give me (me!) cleavage. They’re a scientific marvel. And they’re CHEAP.

So next time you pass your local XXI, maybe turn in. Take a look. Keep an open mind…but not too open. Don’t let the sequins lure you in, and you’ll be just fine.


Ikea Bookshelves With Mercury Glass

Ikea Bookshelf DIY | The Ultimate

After staring at my desk lamp options until I started to go cross-eyed, I made a choice! I bought the PB Teen one, and will hopefully be cradling it in my arms sometime next week. After the mental exhaustion that that decision entailed, I felt incapable of dealing with the trash heap that is still my desk surface. So I’m hoping its arrival will spur some kind of motivation. MEANWHILE let us turn to the other side of the room and discuss the Ikea Vittsjo bookshelves that I just hacked.

Ikea Bookshelf DIY | The Ultimate

Everybody and their mother has painted these shelves gold, so that bit is nothing new…but I went one step further and did a mercury effect on the glass panels. It was so pretty, easy, and satisfying to do that now I want to mercury glass ERRYTHING (and probably will). I basically followed the steps from this DIY genius. Here’s a set of instructions for handy reference, and also so I could have an excuse to take gratuitous photos of dat glasssss:

Silver and Gold Mercury Glass | The Ultimate

PS You might be wondering why I bought two of the little ones instead of one big bookcase; the answer is that I thought I was going to flank my desk with them, but that turned out to be seriously inadvisable. Making poor decisions on how things will fit into a room is somewhat a specialty of mine…


Saffron Scallop Gratin

Saffron Scallop Gratin | The Ultimate

Ina Garten is somewhat of a genius, I think. She’s like a classy Paula Dean–same amount of butter and cream, more lobster. Less racism. I was introduced to her (and her love of kosher salt, good olive oil, and roasting ALL the things) in high school, and I’ve never looked back. Girl makes some amazing comfort food.

One of my family’s favorites that I’ve made a few times for special occasions, is her seafood gratin. It’s this ridiculously decadent thing made with saffron, lobster, shrimp, Chablis…you know, pantry scraps. But it’s sooo good! So I’ve been working for a while on making a version that’s easier, prettier, and MUCH healthier, and I’ve totally succeeded. *Pats self on back*

My version uses scallops because they are my favorite shellfish and also such cute little blobs. Who doesn’t want to see them sitting all cheerily on top of a mini gratin?? There’s also much less butter and cream, but you gotta keep the saffron, or else the sauce gets forlorn. Get it at Trader Joe’s, it’s pretty cheap there.

This is the perfect dish for impressing guests–serve it with a lemony salad, maybe spoon it on some toasty bread. YUMMAY.

Saffron Scallop Gratin

Adapted from the Food Network

1 cup clam juice
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup 2% milk
Generous pinch of saffron threads
2/3 cup white wine, divided
Freshly ground salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons tomato puree
12 scallops
5 tbs butter, divided
1 tablespoon flour
3 cups slivered leeks
2 cups slivered carrots
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tbs parsley, minced
1/2 cup panko

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a saucepan set on medium heat, combine the first four ingredients. Add in 1/3 cup of wine (don’t be scared if the sauce separates…it’ll come back together!) Let it come to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 12 minutes. Melt 2 tbs of the butter in one of the gratin dishes, then mix in the flour along with the salt and pepper. Add to the sauce, and continue to simmer until it’s about as thick as gravy.

Meanwhile, sliver your carrots and leeks ( I highly recommend buying yourself bagged carrots…I nearly cut off my arm doing this myself). Melt 2 tbs of butter in a pan. Cover and cook them for about 5 minutes. Add the other 1/3 cup of wine and continue to stir until they’re tender. Spoon the vegetables into four small gratin dishes, then pour a generous amount of sauce on top. Put aside a portion of sauce for the scallops.

Melt the last tbs of butter in a small bowl. Add the minced parsley and garlic to the bowl along with the panko crumbs. Toss until the butter is distributed.

Pat your scallops dry with a paper towel. Dredge them in the saffron sauce, then roll them in the panko mixture. Place them in the gratin dishes, and bake for 15 minutes. Serves 4.