Love, laughter and chatter fill the air. The story of a successful kitchen renovation.

It’s been a hot minute.

So much to fill you in on, so I will just get right to it. Our kitchen renovation is finally finished. We endured four months sans kitchen, a fire to cook with, a sink to rinse in, a floor to walk on and walls that enclose, provide privacy and distinguish our abode from the outside world. All the grueling work, stress, deadlines, mistakes, painstaking details and  up ticking financial burden came to an abrubt halt once the last stroke of paint dried. Finally, we could exhale.

Le sigh.

Peace, tranquility and calm now flow in our space. The positive energy is palpable. Love, laughter and chatter fill the air where dust and drills once were. The worries of the past are just that and everything about the heart of our home is as we imagined it. It is marvelous :-)

I was not alone in this process and am lucky enough to have a talented and creative interior designer that I am happy to call my sister-in-law. Claudia (of Claudia Gisele Design) consulted with me on so many of those painstaking details and helped me articulately express the vision and idea I had in my mind and helped me execute it to perfection. Sometimes, we may know what we like but not how to go about attaining it. Claudia helped to make those thoughts a reality. From our lighting consultation, to our window dimensions to the glamorous and fun powder room we have – I owe her tremendous gratitude for her work.

The nice thing about working together on this project are the memories we will always share about devising and designing in this space. Claudia and I DIY’d the stenciling in the powder room which we both presumed would be “a fairly easy task”. Seven hours and two wine bottles later we found ourselves on the floor, guffawing, realizing we may not be as skilled at DIY as we’d like to think we are . We made some blunders but those “flaws” tell a story. It’s a story about two sisters coming together, sharing a vision, expressing their creativity and having fun – all in the name of designing an interior that expresses individuality and imagination. I look at that metallic stenciled wall from time to time and laugh to myself over the memories we created while undergoing that project. Also, I will never paint anything again!

Just kidding.

The next phase of our renovation will be the living room. Now that the kitchen is complete the adjacent barren space is beckoning my name. What ails? The living room wants to feel as alive as the kitchen.

Professional photos will follow this post. Stay tuned.

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Spotted in Gowanus: The Bahche, A Mediterranean Garden.

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Husband and I are getting to know our local bars and restaurants even better as a result of our kitchen’s gut renovation (read: added expense). While walking around the neighborhood we stumbled upon a beautiful, open café called The Bahche, on 7th street between 2nd and 3rd avenue in Gowanus.

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The Bahche is a Mediterranean cafe, restaurant and pâtisserie boasting an open courtyard with ample seating space, an indoor restaurant with a second floor and small couches for intimate conversation and lounging. I think I even spotted a small playroom for children with kid friendly TV shows (and soundproof walls?).

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Surrounded by beautiful exposed brick walls, black steel beams, polished cement flooring, hanging pendants and spot lighting, it’s open, spacious and loft-like. There’s a skylight right in the middle allowing the sun to pour it’s rays right into this industrial Gowanus garden, warming the space physically while providing a glow, visually.

20130928_152007Although Bahche has an industrial feel to it, it’s the people who provide the real warmth. The chef brought out our meal personally and when the waitress came back to check in on us, she beamed a heartfelt smile when we told her the food was delicious.

20130928_151956The Bahche is a lovely family-owned restaurant that is a perfect way to spend your afternoon on a sunny day in Gowanus.

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Spotted in Gowanus

Husband and I took a late summer afternoon stroll in the Gowanus on Wednesday evening. We watched as commuters buzzed to and fro. We noticed some new developments underway and houses mid-renovation. Here is a picture of the ‘Home of Eagle Clothes’ sign. It’s currently being torn down, after being there for 20 years.

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Flowers adorn a window sill along 3rd avenue in Gowanus.

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A baby kitten plays with her mother in a bodega in Gowanus.

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She was so cute, only 4 weeks old.

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Quite a few homes under renovation in the area.

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There is something majestic about Gowanus. Behind the industrial grit lies a community of people who care about the well-being of our neighborhood, our neighbors, our parks and our schools. We want the community to thrive and we realize potential where others may not. Time will only tell what becomes of Gowanus, but as I walk through her streets I notice people prudently doting on their homes and their businesses.

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Amsterdam, Netherlands

After 15 days in Greece, we had a 17 hour layover in Amsterdam. Here is the story of our layover, as told through photographs.

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Plaka, Milos, Greece

Plaka, Milos, Greece

Plaka, Milos, Greece

Plaka is a small, but lively, village that sits atop of the island Milos in Greece. It is the best place to watch the sun setting on the island as it sits on a cliff that overlooks the bay below. With it’s narrow streets, blue and white backsplash and soft bouzouki playing in the background, Plaka is the quintessential Greek village.

Plaka, Milos, Greece

Plaka, Milos, Greece

 

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Milos, Greece

Milos Greece

Milos Greece

Milos is the southwestern most island in the Cyclades on the Aegean sea. In Milos you will find no shortage of cerulean blue waters, white stucco houses, baby blue skies, marble floors and cats. The doors on all of the houses are cornflower blue as are the wooden gates surrounding them. Milos is romantic, quaint and picturesque.

The port of Milos, Adamas (where Husband and I are staying) has an active bar scene, nightlife and great restaurants. The seafood here is local and exquisite. So far we explored Adamas (port town), Paliochori (a beautiful beach), Vani (beach), Sykia (beach where we had a communal barbecue), Sarakiniko (beach with a landscape like the moon), Kleftiko (snorkeling and swimming through caves) and tonight we visit Plaka (best view of the sunset on the island).

The saying here is “Milos is for Lovers”. #truth

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Athens & Patras, Greece

​Currently blogging from Athens, Greece at my cousin Leonida’s fabulous apartment which is a stone’s throw away from the Acropolis! :-)

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Acropolis

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Parthenon

Husband and I just visited the city of Patras, where my father and his family are originally from. We walked around the city center and spent some time browsing the stores. Architecturally, Patras has beautiful influences from ancient Greece and Rome with Greek columns, Venetian arch windows, verandas, French doors and charming narrow streets. It is a beautiful European city with style, class and a delightful architectural appeal. We went to Agios Vasilios for swimming. Thea Noula (Aunt Noula) is the mayor of Agios Vasilis and you can’t walk for two whole minutes without having someone stop to say hello and catch up with her.

Agios Vasilios beach is a small gulf nestled between the Ioanian and Aegean sea. It is a beach village enjoyed by locals in the area and some visitors from surrounding Greek cities and townships. It’s never been a tourist location for the 28 some odd years I’ve been visiting. This is as local as it gets. I think I mentioned this on my blog before, but in case I haven’t, Husband and I always look for the “Brooklyn” of where we travel. Everyone who comes to NYC wants to visit Times Square and go to the Empire State Building, and that’s fine. I recommend that you do those things, but nobody lives in those areas. People live in outer boroughs like Brooklyn or Queens. We like to visit those types of places when traveling.

I got to see Christos, owner of the Almiriki restaurant that has been at Agios Vasilis beach for the last 28 years! I used to come here as a kid with my father to enjoy some souvlaki and ice cream by the beach. I have so many fond memories of this beach and it was a pure delight to see that Christos is still here, running the Almirki restaurant all these years later.

We’re back in Athens now after having a fabulous time in Patra, Rio and Agios Vasilis. Next, we hit the Greek islands!

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My Mother’s Carne Asada: A Sunday Family Tradition

Carne Asada simply stands for grilled meat. It’s a typical Nicaraguan dish that is simple, flavorful and hearty. Every Sunday, my mother prepares carne asada with rice, vegetables, tortilla and soup. The family custom is now crystalized.

The simplicity of this recipe amazes me. We begin with lean cuts of beef. All the seasoning you need is pictured here. Salt, pepper, onion, scallions, green peppers and lime. That’s it!

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Mix all ingredients, drizzle extra virgin olive oil over it and marinade overnight.

20130702_160524When you are ready to cook it, have your charcoal grill ready. The charcoal grill really gives the meat a distinct, smoky flavor.

20130804_195106Now, Husband and I grill meat anywhere between medium rare to medium. My mother’s family (like many Latino families) like to cook steak well done. I have tried explaining steak etiquette to them but this is an area where we agree to disagree. The carne asada is still delicious!

20130804_195131Served with rice, a simple tomato salad and a slice of avocado. It is as delectable to eat as it is simple to make. The perfect Sunday dinner with family.

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I tried being a vegetarian once while I was in college. I failed. A life without carne asada is not one I want to live :-)

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Land of My Mother: Managua, Nicaragua

My mother is from Managua, the capital city of Nicaragua, which is the largest country in Central America by landmass and the penultimate smallest in terms of population (second to Panama). It remains the least developed country in Central America and the second poorest in the Western Hemisphere (second to Haiti).

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The people of Nicaragua are beautiful and they are poor. The public education system is lacking, their political system is corrupt and the economy has been devastated by civil war and natural disaster from which it has yet to recoup. Despite all of this, the culture, language, traditions and dishes remain rich and exquisite. I recently visited for the first time since I was 16 years old. I lament that the reason was because of the passing of my grandmother and yet, the family was brought closer together in this time of grief.

I met my grandmothers friends from childhood, neighbors, community members, extended family and got to spend time with my brother and his children. I observed their process of grief and mourning and how it differs from our own. Theirs is a collective, group experience shared with friends and family for nine nights. People stopped by to give their condolences, light candles, say a prayer and partake in snacks, fresh juice and sodas. They believe the spirit of the deceased dwells here before making it’s final departure from this carnal world. This lends itself to uniting family and friends for an extended period of time after the loved one has passed, in which they reminisce about the fond memories and bonds that were forged throughout time.

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Brooklyn’s New Bazaar: BIG NYC in Gowanus

One of the coolest things about living in Brooklyn is finding stores like Build It Green in Gowanus. Their self-described mission is to provide low cost, salvaged surplus to the people. They do this by keeping household items and building materials out of landfills and reselling the recycled goods to savvy consumers at a fraction of the cost. You’ll find refrigerators, mantle pieces, mirrors and even a grand piano. It’s unlike any other home furnishing/building depot in the area. Some of the materials are donated from people just like you and others are salvaged from demolished NYC buildings. Consequently, what other’s purge become your prized possession, if you play it right.

BIG NYC is eccentric and unconventional both in their stock items and means of pursuing them. I love their larger message surrounding recycling, giving something old new life and donating pieces that others can re-use. It’s the circle of life as played out through inanimate objects. They are the merchant in the barter system of Brooklyn, right here in the Gowanus. Perhaps the perfect home for this unusual bazaar.

 

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