Weekend Picks

Whether you stay in or go out tonight, have a safe and happy time. Here are my picks for making the best of the weekend.


To read: Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

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To watch: St. Vincent with Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts


 

To listen to: Hunky Dory by David Bowie (“Life on Mars” is my favorite)

 

Happy Halloween! Make sure to follow me on Instagram to keep up with our family’s holiday shenanigans @mraitano

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(Book image via)

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Franco’s Sugo

While Nick and I were in Italy we stayed in an apartment in Rome outside of the city. Originally, we thought we had the place to ourselves. Once we got there we learned that we had a roommate; a 40-something year old Roman named Franco.

Franco spoke 4 words of English. We spoke 4 words of Italian. They were the same 4 words…which meant that when Franco decided he and Nick were going to be best friends, Google translate joined their merry little parade.

Despite our clear language barrier we ended up spending almost every night sharing a bottle of wine, a freshly cooked meal, and stories from home with Franco. In the process, he taught us a lot about Italian culture and even went so far as to teach us his Summer Sauce recipe known as Sugo in Italian.

Here is the recipe, true to Franco’s dictation.

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1 carrot (carota) chopped

1 celery (sedano) chopped

1 onion (cipolla) chopped (small)

+ Beef (carne) optional

White wine (vino blanco)

Crushed tomato (pomodora) fresh if possible

Basil

Salt (sale) just a pinch

Basil+Pecorino cheese (Cacio)+Pepper (Pepe)+Pasta water

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Heat veggies in oil on high heat until fragrant

add white wine/water

add tomatoes and salt

lower heat

add basil

cover and let simmer

add pasta water


ONLY eat with BIG pasta

NO garlic


Make sauce, when pasta starts, turn sauce off, take pasta off 2 minutes before ready and turn sauce back on. Add pasta to sauce, stir, and serve.

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Drink with white wine and enjoy with some buttered toast, Louis Prima, and good company.

Side notes from Franco: this is a summer sauce, winter sauces use bigger tomatoes, a little cream, some sugar, meat, red wine, and lots of garlic. Drink with red wine and follow with espresso.

Side notes from Megan: when Franco first made this for us, he used a small can of crushed tomatoes and supplemented with some fresh grape tomatoes. Since then I’ve made this with only canned crushed tomatoes, with canned plum tomatoes I crushed myself in a food processor, and with fresh tomatoes stewed and crushed in a food processor (as seen here). There’s no one way to do it. Every sauce is unique to the day and to the chef. It’s the Italian way.

Dog Walking

It’s not easy to talk about feminism calmly. I can feel my heart beating a little faster as various flashbacks flicker through my head of both the progresses that have been made and those all too frequent reminders that make it so difficult to believe that change is possible.

The internet has had a lot to say on the subject: Emma Watson’s UN He for She speech, the woman who was cat-called 100 times in a 10 hour day, and Taylor Swift’s very public growth into identifying as a feminist for starters. And then there are all of the comments on these things, all of the opinions that cover every range of response from support to ridicule and even threats. It’s a lot to take in as a big picture but it becomes even more difficult when you begin finding it in your own life.

This post was sparked by an encounter I had today walking my dog. Six, SIX, separate individuals driving SIX separate cars at SIX different times within a 15 minute walk found it not only necessary, but acceptable, to honk at me while they drove past. Being a woman who likes to walk outside, I’m used to this sort of behavior and I don’t jump when it happens anymore. Can you imagine having been harassed so many times that you no longer have an instinctual response to be startled when someone blares their horn at you? This isn’t okay.

I know that this is tame, an inconvenience at most when you look at the more overt harassment millions of individuals face daily but that does not make it alright.

The New York Times posted an article last week about a man responsible for following up on all of the mean things people say on Facebook. He has found that in 98% of cases, these comments were not meant to be insulting. They were an escalation stemming from a misunderstanding. With that guide in mind, that often things are simply a misunderstanding, please let me explain to you how I see harassment in the case of someone honking their horn at me.

It’s not a compliment. Let me say it again, it’s NOT a compliment to me that your way of trying to get my attention is honking at me. I’m not an animal. You don’t get to call me over with some arbitrary sound because you feel like it. You don’t deserve my attention just because you think you do. Plus it scares my dog. Stop it.

It is that big of a deal. to me. And in my world, that is the main opinion that matters. If something you are doing makes me uncomfortable I am going to speak up about it. You don’t get to decide what makes me tick. It may not upset you, you may see it as a positive,  but don’t you dare tell me what I am supposed to think or how I am supposed to feel.

Lastly, just because you don’t mean to be offensive doesn’t mean you aren’t being offensive. Think it through, be kind to other human beings. Why do you think that it’s okay to honk? What are you trying to tell me?Just because I am out living my life in the same world you happen to live in does not mean that you get to make up the rules. We all get to make our own rules, don’t be offended that I’m not willing to play by yours.

I want to hear what you have to say. I want to know why you think this is or isn’t okay. Human rights are important. For everyone. And I would like mine to be respected.

 

Costumes in your closet: Part 2

In case you didn’t get enough selfies yesterday, let’s round out today with a few more in the form of easy costumes I found in my closet.

 

A Frenchman/woman

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The black pants and striped shirt are too cliche. Change things up with striped anything and lots of accents. Any classy looking hat will do, even if it’s not a beret! Just add an oversized bag and trench and some surly looks-you’ll be good to go.

 

The Classics: Holly Golightly 

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You can never go wrong with the classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s look. All you need is a little black dress, some pearls, and an up-do. My jewelry is buried in storage so I just went without. Same goes for gloves so I substituted with black stockings. Accent with winged eyeliner and a rolled up sheet up piece of paper for a cigarette.

 

The Classics: Marilyn Monroe

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Again, can you ever go wrong with Marilyn Monroe? It’s easy to do, red lipstick, dark mascara, a drawn on mole and you’re done. When curling your hair for this look, make sure to turn the curler towards the front to get her signature curl. Finish with a white dress and a pout and you’re ready to go.

 

Barcode 

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This one is a reference to a friend trying to compliment the dress and finally just telling me that I looked like a barcode and then walking away. I will never let him live it down and Halloween seems like as good a time as any to celebrate that.

 

Whatever you choose to do, good luck with your costume. I hope you’re inspired to reuse what you already have. Share your best #closetcostume on Instagram so I can see someone’s face other than my own!

Last minute Halloween costumes already in your closet: Part 1

Halloween costumes can become a tricky affair if you don’t want to dress as a “Slutty Insert-Children’s-TV-Show-Character-Name-Here.” Things can also get a bit difficult if you don’t want to spend a small fortune. Everything in this shoot (if you can call it that) came directly out of my closet. A few things got lost in the move (all of my jewelry and winter goodies, hats and gloves) so feel free to add as appropriate.

If you don’t have any of these items, that’s fine too. Let your closet guide you. I opened my closet, grabbed 7 items and went with my first idea for each item accenting them exclusively with items I found in my room. If you need some help, post a picture of an item you want to turn into a costume and I’ll help you make it into one.

Hippie/Member of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

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This costume was pretty simple, a flowing dress with a funky print and no shoes. Minimal makeup and messy braids complete a free love look good enough for a commune.

Daphne Blake, of Scooby Doo fame

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If you own anything purple or green then you are good to go with a Daphne costume. An orange wig would be a really nice touch but in lieu of that some volume and a headband make do nicely. A purple dress or jacket topped with a green scarf make up the bulk of the outfit. Finish off the look with a pair of booties and some Scooby Snacks.

On Safari

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This outfit is pretty straight forward. Green and khaki with animal print accents and a straw hat. The makeup on this one doesn’t really matter but simple is better. Also binoculars. Preferably made of metal rather than hands.

Tune in for part 2 tomorrow with four more costume ideas and even more selfies.

A Touch of Midcentury Modern

I’ve always been interested in design and decorating (like most of the internet) but I’ve never had a formal tutorial in what the different styles of design are and how they relate. This is meant to serve as an introduction, a chance to initiate a dialogue about design. My “history” comes from Wikipedia, my style summary from dwelling in the depths of Google Images for hours. I’m starting with Mid-century modern because I had an art teacher in college who loved it and I spent hours googling it to try to be able to impress her.

Design: “purpose, planning, or intention that exists or is thought to exist behind an action, fact, or material object.”

Midcentury modern emerged in the United States in 1933. It is often associated with the architect Frank Lloyd Wright. His “organic architecture” blended with the International and Bauhaus styles of the time to create the American interpretation, mid-century modern. The goal was to bring modernism into everyday life in post-war America which is how it came to be found in the suburbs. I’m unclear why this was the goal; perhaps to convince people the world was ready for a new direction? The style remained predominant in the US until 1965. In 1983, Cara Greenberg, an architectural and design writer, made the phrasing “mid-century modern” popular with her book, Mid-Century Modern: Furniture of the 1950’s. 

Style attributes:

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-Open floor plans let the sunshine in

-Post and beam support allows for more open space since no support walls needed   

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-Natural materials lots of wood alongside marble and copper 

-Clean, simple lines only the things that are necessary are featured

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-Focus on form and function there is a purpose to every line

-Sculptural lighting generally metal with some sort of radiant design

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-Geometric patterns on pillows, walls, furniture, carpets, and art

-Earthy colors mixed with bright colors tangerine, avocado, and mustard according to HGTV

Summary: American design style. 1933-1965. Reemerging in popularity. Inspired by Scandinavian design. Frank Lloyd Wright. Clean, simple lines; natural materials; geometric patterns; open spaces; brings the outdoors in.

images via (1, 2, 3, 4)

Tips for using AirBNB abroad

Traveling abroad is expensive. Traveling anywhere is expensive but when you have to convert your money at a loss before you’ve even begun the adventure, costs can really add up quickly.

Hostels can be hit or miss and I am yet to find a website that does a good job of laying them out for comparison and booking. Hotels are exorbitantly priced and take away a lot of the opportunity to truly experience a destination. AirBNB is a perfect combination for all of these things. You can set the neighborhood, the price, and the amount of space you’re looking so you aren’t left shooting in the dark.

For the record, I am not sponsored by them at all (unless you are reading this AirBNB people and want to work together!). I am just a very satisfied customer. That being said, here are my tips for using AirBNB.

1. Go with your gut.

With the exception of one encounter with a strange man who wanted us to meet him in a train station to pay cash for a room (just say no), we met kind and interesting people looking to make a bit of money and share their city. AirBNB allows you to talk to the host before you choose their place so take that opportunity to make sure you are comfortable with them.

2. Be honest.

If you want privacy but can’t afford having a place to yourself, be honest with your host when you introduce yourself. Tell them you don’t want to interact and ask if it will be a problem. Your experience will be much more enjoyable for you and for them if you know what you want and can be upfront about it. Plus, you’ll get better reviews if you stay with a host you get along with which will be beneficial when you go to book more places.

3. Set a budget and stick to it.

We traveled for 2 months on a $6000 for 2 people. That’s including the budget for international flights and transport within Europe. Hotels and nice hostels were entirely out of our budget but we felt like we were able to do everything we wanted to do because we used AirBNB. Many of the hosts don’t upcharge for a second person sharing one room. If they do it’s rarely ever double the original price.

Plus, you can set the price that you’re willing to pay before your search results turn up so you can make sure that you’re only looking at places in your budget.

4. Follow AirBNB’s rules.

Back to our encounter with the train station guy who wanted us to pay in cash. His intentions may have been good for us financially in the immediate future (he charged us less since we wouldn’t be paying AirBNB fees) but if something had gone wrong we wouldn’t have had any recourse. AirBNB offers refunds if you are unsatisfied and has systems in place for peer review that you wouldn’t be able to use if you skirted their services.

5. Leave reviews.

If you had a particularly great experience, this is your chance to brag about your host. You’ll help other people find great hosts and you’ll help your host make more money.

6. Consider the neighborhood and purpose of your trip.

Do you want to walk around and explore? Are you there on business? Do you want to stay in a heavily populated area? It’s difficult to know exactly what you’re getting into when every neighborhood guide says something different. We knew that we wanted to be walking distance everywhere we went so we asked our host how close we were to grocery stores, main attractions, and how safe the area was to walk around.

7. Make a list of questions to ask the host before you commit (or use mine).

Building off of that, have a list of questions that you ask each of the hosts that you are considering. Know which of the things you are willing to compromise on and what would be worth it. Do you want to be close to the airport? Is that worth being 30 minutes outside of the city center? What if it’s half of the cost? Are you willing to stay with someone who doesn’t speak your language? Do you need access to a kitchen? Know your requirements.

We found that when we stayed in a city for longer than 5 days, we liked to move around to try a different part of the city. We were able to mix and match the quality of the place with the convenience of the location and the price to have multiple experiences in each of the cities.

I’ll post a list of questions we used soon.

8. Don’t leave it to the last minute.

While we were lucky enough to always find a place even at the last minute, we lost a lot of options when we waited to book. Message multiple hosts 2-4 weeks ahead of time and even if someone you wanted to stay with books someone else, remain calm. Thank them for their time and ask them to keep you in mind should that space open later.

We canceled a host in Barcelona 24 hours before we were set to stay with her because her messages made us uncomfortable (go with your gut!). Even though there was nothing visibly available in the area we wanted to stay in, one of the hosts we had originally considered but had booked someone else had a cancelation that night and invited us to come stay. It pays to be nice.

9. Be a gracious guest.

At every house that we stayed in, we left a small gift and a card upon our exit. This isn’t required by AirBNB but I was raised by a mother with some Southern tendencies she refuses to give up on so thank you cards are a must. The card doesn’t have to be long but try to make it personal. Many cities have florists on almost every street, a small bouquet or a bag of fruit arranged with some care makes a great gift.

10. Trust that it’s going to be okay.

We got into Paris at 11:30 at night. We took a taxi and a 45 minute metro ride into Pigalle (the red light district) to get to our apartment. Coming to the surface from the metro we saw 3 drug deals happen between the train doors closing and the stairs to street level. A man with a pocket knife bared stumbled around next to us. Two women were verbally harassed after turning down a cat caller. And when we finally made it to the front door, the door wouldn’t budge. The code wouldn’t work, no one inside could hear our calls and we were standing on the streets of Pigalle with all of our possessions on our backs slamming on a door like our lives depended on it. About 6 seconds before I broke down in tears a stranger came out of the building, saw the panic on my face and showed us how to properly enter the code and get inside.

We have dozens of stories like this from our trip where everything is going wrong until it’s not. Just like how you always find something in the last place you look, things will work out if you just keep trying. This one isn’t specific to AirBNB, it’s more of a travel (or life) guideline, but it’s especially applicable here when you are trusting your life into someone else’s hands. Traveling isn’t easy but it can be very enjoyable when you find your balance between having a plan and just letting go.