Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Merry: Christmas Favorites

Merry Christmas Eve, y'all! I hope everyone is gearing up for a relaxing, fun, delicious holiday. It's pouring rain and nearing 70 degrees here in Virginia, but I'm pretending that it's snowing.

I'm excited to not be spending hours in the car this year (last year we logged close to 30!). Todd and I had our own little celebration in Richmond last night, sharing oysters, champagne, and crab legs at Pearl Raw Bar before exchanging gifts. I'm thinking that might need to be a new Christmas Eve Eve tradition.

Here are a few Christmasy things I'm liking this year:

Friday, December 5, 2014

Friday Favorites: Twentysomething Edition


To ring in the big 3-0, Todd and I are heading up to D.C. for the weekend. The weather's looking rather dismal on Saturday, but I'm still excited to stroll around Georgetown, see the National Christmas Tree, and eat some good food (reservations here and here).  Here are a few other things I'm liking during my last few hours as a 20-something.
  • The renovation of this Brooklyn townhouse is pretty perfect. 
  • I love all the end-of-year best book lists coming out now. Time to load up the ol' Kindle!
  • The New York Times wrote about one of my favorite Richmond neighborhoods, Church Hill.
  • I would love to do this with River. He's already grown so much!
  • We're having a few people over for a holiday open house and I definitely plan to do this.
  • Christmas is making me feel extra crafty. Love this gold DIY garland.
  • This garlic cheddar beer bread was a big hit — and super easy to make.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Etsy Gift Guide 2014

When it comes to thoughtful, unique gifts, Etsy is one of the best resources online, but I'll be honest — sometimes you have to sift through a lot of crap to find the gems. My best advice is to find a few shops you love, and then look at who they follow. Before you know it, you'll have tons of favorite shops, and plenty of gift ideas for everyone on your list. Here are a few of my recent Etsy favorites!

Sparkvites makes affordable customized rubber stamps as well as cute stationery. Imagine how cool this would be stamped on your Christmas cards!

Sweet Peony Press has some really fun little prints starting at just $10. I like the idea of the His and Hers prints hanging in the bathroom.

Blackbird Tees is based in Richmond, and though their tea towels are a tad pricey, they're undoubtedly adorable. 

Remember I wrote about Finkelstein's Center for Charleston magazine awhile back? Michelle has an Etsy shop filled with dozens of animals who need a loving home. These Finks aren't just for kids, either. I'd love to have one for myself.

You've never seen cross stitch like the cross stitch from Bananya Stand. Choose your favorite pop culture reference or ask her to customize something just for you.

Of course, if you love vintage anything — books, blankets, clothing, brass figures — Etsy has it all. I especially love it for glassware.

You can see more of my favorites here and here! What are yours?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Christmas Countdown

I don't know what's wrong with me. I've never felt like this before. It's November 20, and I desperately want to buy a Christmas tree. I usually wait until December, sometimes even after my birthday (Dec. 6), but I might have to break my own rules this year.

Something about this house makes me want to go overboard with twinkly lights and boughs of holly and candles that smell like pine trees. I have a real mantle for the first time in years, a bannister that's just begging for an evergreen garland, and room for a 12-foot tree if I want it. And Christmas music? It's been on heavy rotation since last week.

When do you start decorating for Christmas? I'll try to restrain myself until after Thanksgiving, but after that — no promises.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Thirty-something: 7 Things

I'm turning 30 in a few weeks. I haven't really thought too much about this milestone, but every now and then when I say it out loud or write it down, I start to feel like ... an adult. This means I can no longer make fun of my husband for being "old." I can no longer call myself a twenty-something.

I'm happy with where I am at almost-30, but I have been thinking about who I've always imagined I'd be as a 30-year-old. Who would have thought I'd still be feeling like an awkward teenager every now and then? Here are a few 30-year resolutions I'm keeping in mind as I enter this new decade.
  1. Get comfortable in the kitchen. As much as I love food, I'm really not a great cook. I have a few dishes that I can make without a recipe, but I want to branch out and try new things, and add some more complex recipes to my repertoire. 
  2. Be nicer. I tend to be a little snarky and sarcastic. I think 30-year-old me should be nicer.
  3. Expand the fam. I love our furry babies, but tiny humans are starting to sound fun to me, too.
  4. Refine my wardrobe. Last weekend I threw out nearly a third of my wardrobe — some stuff with tags still on it, some stuff that doesn't fit, some stuff that just doesn't suit me anymore (so many strapless dresses!). I want to open my closet and only see things I love, and if that means having a small wardrobe, that's OK with me.
  5. Refine my home. No more disposable furniture. It's time to fill the house with quality, long-lasting pieces that I actually love — even if that means it'll take a lot longer for it all to come together.
  6. Be more drink-savvy. I love cocktails, but I rarely make them for myself at home. I want to have the fixins and the skills to make a few of my favorites myself. I want to learn more about wine, too.
  7. Get more national bylines. Time to kick the freelance game up a notch.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Friday Favorites: Puppy Love

It's been a fun week here at Casa Curran. We celebrated our four-year wedding anniversary (with dinner here), took in a sweet, sweet puppy that we found in the park (temporarily!), and basically soaked up Richmond's glorious fall foliage (including at Maymont, above). A few other things on my mind this week:
  • I wrote this article about Hardywood's Gingerbread Stout in The Local Palate. This limited-release beer has been known to sell out of stores within hours!
  • Alton Brown was in Richmond this week and he managed to visit an impressive number of local restaurants in one day. Putting all of these places on my to-do list.
  • 15 slow-cooker recipes.
  • I love how the couple behind The Fresh Exchange hosts a dinner party.
  • These cake toppers are cute.
  • Also I wish I had $451 for this mailbox. Darn.
  • One more Maymont photo below! Stupid pretty.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Green Thumb.

I come from a family of gardeners. Growing up, my mom would spend hours at plant nurseries, or digging around in the backyard, or thumbing through landscaping books. Botanical gardens were worthy of a day trip. When we visited my grandma, they could spend all day walking around her beautifully landscaped yard, talking about plants and digging up a car-load to take back home.


I used to think plants were incredibly boring, but as I've gotten older, I've found my thumb turning greener. It started with two or three houseplants. Then my grandma passed along a few cacti to me. Now that I have a yard, I fantasize about herb gardens and raised beds and banks of hydrangeas. I've got a lot to learn, but luckily I have some amazing teachers.


Friday, October 24, 2014

A Wedding Weekend in Charleston

I'm heading down to Charleston this weekend for a dear friend's wedding. I can't wait to spend time with old friends, eat at some of my favorite restaurants, and see what's new in the city. By the way, did you see that Charleston was once again voted the best city in the U.S. by Conde Nast Traveler readers? I've gotta vote for Richmond now, but this video makes a pretty compelling argument.

A Love Letter to Charleston from Charleston Area CVB on Vimeo.

P.S. My Visitor's Guide to Charleston.
P.P.S. I'm doing some writing for Wedding Paper Divas, and got two articles published this week: How to Brand Your Wedding on Amorology and The Weatherproof Bride on Smitten.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Travel Journal: Spain's Costa Brava

It's been awhile, but I realized that I never shared any photos from the last leg of our Eurotrip: Spain's Costa Brava. This little stretch of scenic coastline wasn't even on my radar before I started planning the trip, but I'm so glad I found out about it. It's dotted with medieval villages, stunning little beaches, and hilltop castles. (All photos were taken on my iPhone.)

We began our road trip in Barcelona, where we rented a convertible Mini Cooper — because if you're going to be driving through a region as jaw-droppingly beautiful as this, you better do it right. We checked into an old-school family-run hotel hugging the cliffs in Aiguablava.

See those dogs? They were wandering around the village near our hotel when we arrived. As Todd and I started exploring the nearby coastal trails, they joined us, walking just ahead of us as if they were enthusiastic tour guides. They would run ahead a few yards, then stop and look back to make sure we were following. When we got back to the hotel around sunset, they both disappeared into the twilight. It was pretty surreal.

We spent the next few days lounging by the pool and beach, taking walks along the shore, and exploring nearby villages like Begur and Pals. We had one of the trip's most memorable meals in the courtyard of the Hotel Aiguaclara's restaurant, where we shared a bottle of cava and enjoyed a view of the village's castle. The next day, we returned to the town square around 5 p.m. and watched it come alive as the locals wrapped up their work day.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday Favorites: Southern Food and 'Merican Dreams

Happy Friday, friends! Got any plans for this perfect fall weekend? I'm challenging myself to knock out a big ol' list of projects around the house, including painting the mudroom, making a Roman shade for the kitchen, planting some herbs in the backyard, and, if I'm ambitious, painting some yellow stripes in the laundry room. We'll see how that pans out. Here are some things on my radar from the past week:
  • Esquire said that Virginia is the food region of 2014. After living and eating in Richmond for just a few weeks, I have to agree.
  • On a related note, I love this Saveur article about the amazing eats you can find on Skyline Drive.
  • My neighborhood grocery store has a pretty decent wine section and a really helpful wine expert on staff. This is both awesome and dangerous — I usually walk out with a couple of new bottles. Bookmarking this article for next time.
  • I need this welcome mat. I think I'll try to DIY it.
  • Has anyone tried Spanish fried eggs? They sound amazing. Related: My egg obsession continues in full force.
  • Sean Brock's pimiento cheese recipe. Can't wait to try this.
  • Our new chalkboard wall has inspired me to brush up on my lettering skills
  • Ordered this dress for a friend's wedding. I hope it fits!
  • The new issue of Charleston Style & Design is out now. Be sure to check out the bridal section, 100 percent written and edited by yours truly.
  • This song's on repeat.
Have a lovely weekend, y'all!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Settling in to Richmond.

We moved to Richmond less than a month ago, but already it feels so much like home. It's almost like we had a year's worth of DIY energy built up, and we went a little crazy working on the house the first few weeks. With help from visiting family, we painted walls and doors, built shelves and furniture, and installed new lighting. We have lots of big plans for this house, but for now we're forcing ourselves to just sit back for a bit and enjoy it.

I want to marry this couch.
We changed the door from red to yellow.

The chalkboard wall, which all guests are required to sign.
The beginnings of our sunny reading room.
Todd built this table himself!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Moving Tips from a Reluctant Pro

Todd and I have moved more times than just about anyone I know—from Virginia to South Carolina to Massachusetts and back to Virginia. Since moving into our first place together, a little condo in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., we have moved no less than eight times.

Do we like moving? Not particularly, but I don't think we view it with the same dread as most people. It's a simple matter of putting things in boxes, putting the boxes in a truck, taking the boxes out of a truck, and taking things out of the boxes—it's not rocket science.

That's why we've never hired a moving service. Don't get me wrong—I think about it every single time. But then I think about how I could spend those thousands of dollars on new furniture for my house, or a trip. So we buck up and do it ourselves.

That said, it's not fun. I get stressed out just like everybody else. But over the years I've figured out a few ways to ease the process.

Start early. It's so much easier to start packing a month or two before your move than waiting until the week of. You don't want to go overboard, but start in the rooms you rarely use (basement, guest room), and pack a little bit each day. As you finish, stack the boxes in an out-of-the-way place so you don't trip over them. When moving week arrives, a lot of your stuff will already be packed.

Purge, purge, purge. This is the perfect opportunity to get rid of crap you don't need anymore. Be brutal, and you'll discover that cleaning out your wardrobe/drawers/closets is actually crazy addictive. Again, don't go overboard.

Leave your clothes in the dresser. I used to pack up all of my clothes in boxes. Then I realized that they're already in perfectly sized boxes—they're called dresser drawers. Just move the fully intact drawers into the dresser in the truck.

Start challenging yourself to skip the grocery store a few weeks before your move. No one likes to throw away good food. Instead, try to make as many meals using the food in your cabinets/freezer/refrigerator as you can. And when you run out of options, it's OK to order takeout. Doing dishes only adds to the stress-fest.

Make a cleaning checklist. I usually err on the side of too-clean when we move because I don't want to give the landlords any reason to keep my security deposit. To avoid a last-minute marathon cleaning sesh, I start cleaning long before move-out day, spacing out jobs like wiping down cabinet fronts and cleaning out the refrigerator over the course of a few weeks. By the time we head out, the house is mostly clean, save for a quick sweep.

Get to know your moving truck. If you've never driven a moving truck before, take some time to get to know it. Packing that sucker requires some finesse—if it's imbalanced, you could have a very tough drive. And be hyper-aware of height limitations on bridges and overpasses. We very nearly had a run-in with a historic bridge in Connecticut.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Choosing a City: Why Richmond Won Out

A lot of people were shocked to hear that Todd and I are moving to Richmond. For us, it makes perfect sense. We have a list of criteria that we want in a hometown, and when we started thinking about moving, we carefully evaluated various cities (like Nashville, D.C., and Charlottesville) with those things in mind. Richmond won out for these reasons:

Richmond Mural Project
Culture. We love a city that loves its creatives, and Richmond clearly does. From colorful public art projects and galleries to cool music venues, indie theaters, festivals, and a thriving startup scene, Richmond is an undeniably creative city.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
Green Space. We both love city life, but we also need our green — trees, gardens, parks, and urban escapes. Besides giving us a big backyard just steps away from a park, our new city is built right along the James River, with plenty of trails to explore.

The Roosevelt
Food. Richmond's food scene has really taken off in the last few years. I can't wait to explore its restaurants—and write about them, too.

Cost of Living. Home prices in Richmond are significantly lower than anywhere else we looked. We wanted to buy, and we wanted to get the most bang for our buck. Huge selling point.

Weather. After spending a winter in Boston, I learned that I can tolerate extreme cold and ridiculous amounts of snow. But would I choose it for my forever home? Heck no. I love that Virginia has four distinct seasons, with beautiful falls, long summers, and bearable winters.

Location. Richmond is close to both of our families as well as a quick drive to the mountains, the coast, and Washington, D.C.

Character. This factor is probably the hardest to define, but most important. It's some combination of history, architecture, people... and some other things, too. You won't know it until you visit the city in person. Nashville has its own character, but it didn't speak to us. Richmond did, loud and clear.

Choosing a hometown is a hugely personal decision. But when you break it down, it's actually pretty simple. What are your most important criteria when choosing a city?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Visitor's Guide to Boston in 48 Hours

When I moved away from Charleston after six years, I left behind this guide to the city. Now that I'm leaving Boston, I thought I should do the same. I was here just over a year, but I got pretty good at showing visitors around (especially after working as the editor of a visitor's guide). So here it is: Whiskey Kittens' Official Guide to Boston.

Liberty Hotel

There are so many nice hotels in this city, but I always recommend choosing one with a bit of character and history attached to it. The Liberty Hotel, located at the foot of Beacon Hill, once served as the Charles Street Jail. Today it's a super stylish, luxurious place to rest your head — or grab a drink. If you're more cop than robber, the Loews Boston Hotel is in the city's old police headquarters. The newly renovated limestone building is located right in the bustling Back Bay. For something a little more luxurious, try the Fairmont Copley Plaza overlooking Copley Square, which has been in business since 1912. The hotel has a "canine ambassador," a fancy bar, and it's also where they filmed some scenes from American Hustle. None of these hotels are cheap, so if you're on a budget, just try Priceline or the Hotel Tonight app to find a deal. 

After a year in the city, I didn't even begin to scratch the surface of the restaurants here. With new restaurants opening up constantly, it's nearly impossible to stay on top of it. But I did discover a few favorites. My number one Boston restaurant is Toro, a dark, always-crowded tapas spot in the South End. Try to snag a spot on the sidewalk patio, order a bottle of Spanish wine, and order more tapas than you think you can eat. You won't regret it. Keep the multicultural theme going by heading to Chinatown for some noodles (Gourmet Dumpling House or Peach Farm), and for authentic Italian, follow your nose to the North End, the oldest neighborhood in Boston. 

Neptune Oyster
Of course, you can't visit Boston without getting some seafood. I recommend hitting up an oyster bar like Neptune, B&G Oysters, or Row 34 for some New England oysters and a lobster roll. For dessert, my favorite bakery is by far Flour, and luckily there are locations all over the city.

A word of warning: Cocktails are not cheap in Boston. Just how expensive are they? I accidentally paid $22 for a gin gimlet once, but they average around $15. But if you're a sucker for fancy cocktails, like me, you'll want to splurge a bit. Wink & Nod is a cozy speakeasy-style bar in the South End, and Drink is highly acclaimed for its custom creations. Over in Cambridge, both the food and drink menu at Commonwealth is playful and innovative, and Charlie's Kitchen has some of the cheapest drinks and food I've found in the area — plus they have a beer garden.


Acorn Street, Beacon Hill
Boston is a small city, and very walkable — you can easily see the highlights on foot in just a day or two. The city's must-see sights are anchored around the Back Bay, from the shops of Newbury Street to the meticulously landscaped Public Garden. Visitors love to take a ride on the amphibious Duck Tours that take you past all of the key attractions and into Boston Harbor. If you love art, a trip to the Museum of Fine Arts, the Institute of Contemporary Art, and/or the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum are in order. If you'd rather just mosey, check out Faneuil Hall, the North End, and Beacon Hill (Acorn Street, pictured above, is quite possibly the most photographed street in America). 

Depending on the season, there's likely some sort of sporting event going on, whether a Red Sox game at Fenway Park or a Celtics or Bruins game at TD Garden.

Boston Public Library
A few other places to see if you have time: the Boston Public Library, Trinity Church, the Esplanade, Top of the Hub, and the SoWa Market on Sundays.

Enjoy your visit to Boston!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Dear Boston: A Breakup Letter

Dear Boston,

There’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll just spit it out: We’re breaking up. Our time together has been amazing, but I just don’t see a future for us together.

To be honest, I never really saw this as a long-term thing. I came into it knowing it was a fling before settling down. And you showed me a good time, giving me the thrill of living in a major city, introducing me to new people, and reminding me that there’s so much more life beyond the little world I’d been living in for so many years.

We explored the landscapes of New England together, from Maine to Boston’s harbor islands, and it was so refreshing to get away from the familiarity of the South. I fell in love with the rugged northern coast and the lighthouses and the quaint little towns that seem to be around every corner. You took me to a Red Sox game and sunset concerts by the Charles River. I even fell in love with your accent.

And while it wasn’t the longest relationship ever, you did change me for the better. I used to be nervous in cities, scared to walk around on my own and intimidated by public transportation. I learned to be more independent and confident, and now I feel like I could find my way around anywhere alone. I learned that I can survive a harsh New England winter. And you gave me the push I needed to take my career to the next level (and Todd’s, too!).

I had thought we might make it through another winter together, but things have changed. Several things, in fact, have happened in the last year that have made me reassess where I want to be. And I just don’t want to be 10 hours away from my family in a crappy, overpriced rental.

It’s true—I’ve been cheating on you for months now. Looking at pictures of houses in other cities and fantasizing about what life would be like somewhere else. And while it started out as a diversion, it eventually became a bit of an obsession. And when I discovered that my dream house was on the market back home in Virginia, everything fell into place.

This isn’t just any house, you understand. It’s the kind of house I saw myself buying 10 or 15 years down the road, when I was a real grown-up. It’s big and historic and beautiful, and when I look at it I see Christmas parties and baby nurseries and backyard barbecues. I realize I’m ready to settle down, in other words.

So thank you for the past 14 months, Boston. I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I know we’ll see each other again before too long, and I hope we can still be friends.


P.S. Here's a picture of the new city in my life, in case you're interested.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Friday Favorites: Thoughts of Home

I'm in a bit of a transitional phase, and I've been spending a lot of time thinking about home: what I want it to be, where I want it to be. Exciting changes are coming. {Click on the images for links.}