Sunday, 27 February 2011

Hangover Cure?

Cheddar garlic biscuits anyone?
Last night, we attended the engagement party of my good friend, at a nice little apartment downtown.  Good times were had by all, and inevitably, this morning I was wondering whether it was necessary for me to have had such a good time.  But sometimes I actually aim to conquer this feeling (other times I have been known to not move until about 9pm.  I wish this were a joke, but it has now happened to me twice.  Really ruins your day, let me tell you.) and decided to get up and try a recipe I have been lusting after for a while now, from Gina's Skinny Recipes.

SO WORTH IT.  These biscuits are actually made with "Heart Smart" Bisquick, so I only had to get out one measuring cup, vs several cups and all my measuring spoons.  They could not have been more easy to make.  And having just scoffed two of them - never have I so enjoyed my 6 Weight Watchers points.

On that note - still haven't figured out how WW deals with late-night drunken food.  Does it count towards yesterday?  Today?  Maybe if I actually paid for the damn thing, I might have answers to these all important questions.  Oh well.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Back on the chain gang


I hate diets.

Mostly because they haven't worked for me yet in life (I wouldn't mind the torture so much if I was actually losing weight, thanks!)

But.  Keeping in mind the whole white dress thing, I decided it would be a good year to succeed.  Except it wasn't working at all - working out and eating whatever the hell I wanted?  What could possibly go wrong here? So my sister, who is big on the whole, keeping up with current events thing (ie too much free time for internet while at work), decided to set some serious goals for herself:  lose x pounds by the end of February, or she had to pay for Weight Watchers.

She then preempted herself by downloading an app that tracks your points, just like WW.  And damn her, she has lost 7 pounds! (Congrats by the way.)  In the face of that kind of success...I caved, and now I am tracking my points like a good little Weight Watcher, except for the self-induced sabotage of wine.  If they could just come up with a wine-based diet, I would be totally set.  Sigh.

Weight Watchers?  While I am not a fan, it is sooooo much better than calorie counting.  Light-years better.  And I'll tell you a's even got hubs-elect on board.  But shhh on that front :)

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Thank heavens for small victories


I balanced my accounts last night!

One of my "new year's resolutions", (in that I don't really have new year's resolutions but sometimes I just make resolutions) is to be better about my finances, specifically, about keeping track of them.  I was using a Google Docs spreadsheet (I don't need fancy money software programs!)...which slowly deteriorated into me not calculating the expenses.  At all.  For the period of October through December*.  Hmm.

So this year, bright cheery and chipper, I decided to hell with my spreadsheet, I was buying Quicken.  And let me tell you, to someone who has been manually entering receipts into a spreadsheet, Quicken was like being introduced to cocaine (I presume.)  All of a sudden, my transactions sort themselves manually by date, I magically know the amount on Brandon's credit!  Its like, a whole new financial world out there.

And yesterday, I actually got the accounts to reconcile (I am still entering my transactions by hand.)  I may have shouted with glee loud enough for the whole apartment complex to compliment me on my success.  But there is nothing like that feeling of the numbers all adding up :)

*There was something bizarrely liberating about not checking my holiday spending until it was too late.  And then, it was too late.

**  Did I really say I don't make new year's resolutions?  I clearly do - I have a post entitles "Superlatives and Resolutions"! Perhaps what I meant was, I don't keep new year's resolutions.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Heller&Heller Project of the Month: Custom Wine Table

The finished cabinet, in place
I'd like to share one of my favorite commissions so far:  a custom wine table inspired by our client's awesome antique furniture and Tabriz carpet.

Our client had spent some time working in the Middle East, and had collected some beautiful pieces of furniture, as well as this stunning carpet.  Our job was to be inspired by the pieces he already owned, and create the wine table in the same materials and finishes to give the impression it had always been there.

The piece is constructed of solid mahogany, with mahogany and other hardwood decorative veneer top and side panels.  One of my favorite special moments in the piece is the simple addition of brass knobs at the cross points of the wine rack: little points of emphasis to make the piece special.

At the top, you can clearly see the inspiration from Persian carpet motifs.  This work is done in veneer, as is the beautiful ribbon grain top, set on the diagonal.

 We are really pleased with the finished result (as was our client), and look forward to more commissions of this caliber in the future!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Will you marry us?

Granada Cathedral.  Next to the Alhambra it doesn't get a lot of love, but is it not breathtaking?
Last night we had our first meeting with the minister who is going to marry us (Its funny to me that we use the same verb for the people marrying each other as the person performing the marriage...but I digress.)

I had spoken to him over the phone, explained my unusual situation (I am not baptized) and he gave me the impression of being a super nice guy, but I went into last night feeling very hesitant.  And now, post meeting, I feel a mixture of relief and slight puzzlement.

As we walked up to his house, I thought, "What a nice house," and Brandon thought, " Awesome, they're Duke fans!" (flag on front porch.)  We sat down, chatted for a bit, and then began to go over the service, which is going to be straight out of the Methodist Hymnal.  Well, except for two exceptions: one, removing the reference to marriage as a union between a man and a woman (because I support everyone's right to be married) and two, removing the reference to affirming my baptism (not really applicable here.)  And I find that although I am not religious in the sense that I do not belong to an organized religious group, I support the message of the service, so its working for me:  You should love and support each other, and your home should be a place of welcome for others in the community of your lives, and whether you do that in the name of God or because it is the right thing to do is not necessarily a sticking point for me.

Is it wrong for me to be married by a minister when I am not baptized?  I would argue no, since he is fully aware of this, and has agreed to do so.  In fact, since I am in support of the message, I am pretty sure that somewhere in his minister's handbook he is actually obligated to, well, minister to me (although he could insist I get baptized.  Which he has not.)  So I guess what is vaguely haunting me is not that I am not OK with the situation, and not that he is not OK with the situation, but that someone on the outside might point their finger at me and say, "How could you?!  You don't really believe in any of this stuff!"  I think whether or not I count as a believer is a matter of interpretation, but why do I even care about what anyone else thinks?

This seems very shallow, but what I am more concerned about is this:  suddenly, there is a segment in my service that involves me kneeling in my dress.  Shit.  It is even possible for me to kneel in this dress???  Not an event I had foreseen, let me tell you.  This weekend, when I go to my parent's and try the dress on (for the only and only time allowed in February), I will check, and report back.

I think I feel a lot better getting this all out of my system.  Thank you.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Impulse purchase!

Paper for my invitations?  From PaperMojo...except I bought it all and you cant have any pbbbt :)
It was on clearance.  I couldn't resist.  Now I just need to figure out what to do with it, and all 15,000 sq. in I now own.

Its translucent, and lovely..some kind of band?  Perhaps over our names on the card, as a nice little punch.  We shall see.  I can't give you guy ALL my ideas if I want to start this stationary company...

As an aside, anyone know someone who wants invitations designed?  I am available for dirt cheap, if anyone is interested in helping me get off the ground with this.

Lets welcome the newest member of the profession...

Architect Barbie!

Yesterday Architectural Record ran a post about the newest doll in a line of Barbies called the I Can Be... series.

There are a couple of things I like about this doll.  a) those are some fierce boots and b) undeniably architectural glasses.  However:

1.  She seems to be missing the score of papercuts she would have, and therefore a few dozen bandaids.

2.  That bangle would definitely block her use of the mouse.  Unless she's old school and enters all of her CAD commands in type, shes probably going to lose that guy really fast.

3.  There seems to be some misbegotten notion here that Barbie would be going out into the field and might require a hard hat...  Shes not nearly important enough to ever get to see anything useful in action, like actual construction.

4.  Where are the bags under her eyes?  Why is she not clutching her coffee cup?

I suppose they could have gotten her a lot worse... check out Computer Engineer Barbie.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Hobbies that become more than hobbies: (Formally) Introducing Heller&Heller Furniture

Wood shavings.  When there are wood shavings, life is good.
I have a lot of hobbies.  People who know me personally know this.  People who have tried sharing physical space with me know this better than anyone [as they grit their teeth in memory of my ever-expanding pile of craft stuff.]

Sometimes, a girl just has to make things.  I think that is why I became an architect - this built-in desire to create, whether it is with my own two hands, or whether through the plans I create for others to implement [although also like an architect, I want them implemented MY way.]

I do admit that I inherited this problem from my father, and it is by no means unique.  But in the effort to do something about it, I'd like to introduce our little venture, Heller and Heller Custom Furniture.
Our most recent commission, a wine table inspired by our client's beautiful Persian carpet.

My dad worked for many years for a large corporation.  While this helped give the family the funds to take awesome vacations and send us kids to overpriced universities, it also made him pretty miserable.  While he was working, woodworking was his serious hobby, but now that he has retired, this has turned into a more dedicated pursuit, aimed at becoming a self-supporting business.  Since retiring, he has taken a ton of classes to help in refining his skills and learning new techniques, has attended a few conferences for traditional furniture makers, and is currently president of the Washington Woodworker's Guild.

 Macasser ebony jewelry box interior.  Look at those tiny dovetails!
The second half of this equation is me:  at architecture school, I did some dabbling into furniture, with an emphasis on design.  And the result of this is our custom furniture design company, in which I listen to what a client is after and draw pretty pictures of my interpretation, and my dad turns them into actual solid pieces of furniture. (This description makes me feel just a tiny bit like a police sketch artist - way more to it than that.  Not to insult any police sketch artists.)  I can make furniture too, but the way our lives are organized right now, my role as a designer makes more sense.

We recently joined a group of artisans at, which so far seems to have connected us to quite a few people looking for heirloom quality stuff.  This also allows us to post pieces Dad has already made for immediate sale, without the hassle of Etsy (although we might be starting up something on Etsy too - more info to come on that.)

One of our many interests is in marquetry, which is a technique using veneers to create patterns or images.

Boston Federal Table

My final two furniture pieces at school: an Art Nouveau lady's writing desk and chair.

My second piece, a Chinese-inspired mantle clock (complete with gorgeous mechanical movement.  Thanks Dakota Clock Works!)

So check us out, and if you like what my dad and I are churning out, I invite you to friend us on Facebook (Heller & Heller Furniture) because when I get around to it, we will be adding more photos!  I will be occasionally featuring a piece on the blog as well.  We have some exciting new prospects coming up, so stay tuned!

Monday, 7 February 2011

Take that, Unique Thrift Store!

Remember when I went nuts on the people of Unique Thrift Store because they refused to sell me an urn because the price was "obscured?"*

I went home and bought these, because I can do better than Unique Thrift - its not like their stuff even benefits charity, or good causes!  Goodwill, now there's a proper thrift store...the prices are clearly tagged, and if they aren't, the clerk makes it up for you.  See how useful that is?

Are they not magnificent?
And just for good measure:  favours, anyone?

In a test of our marital compatibility, I made Brandon help me paint these things with glitter.  He did a good job, no?
Now if only they hadn't sold out of Lisa's size in bridesmaid shoes, just moments before she went to buy them, we would be in complete victory mode.  What kind of bad luck is that?!?

* If you write prices on ceramics in dry-erase marker, they are going to become obscured!  In plotting my revenge, I seriously considered wiping half the prices off all their ceramic items, then throwing them all on the floor.  You break it, you buy it clearly only applies when they would actually have been willing to sell the items in the first place.  If you ever hear about me getting arrested, you'll know why.

Rowena Ellison

GG at her 105th birthday celebration
on Friday, January 28th, Brandon's great-grandmother, who was 105 and still living in her own condo, passed away after a week-long illness.  She was an amazing lady, and her large extended family will miss her very much. I was able to meet her only a few times, but Brandon has stories about her spanning his whole childhood as he was lucky enough to spend quite a bit of time with her

Last night, while we were sitting around watching the Super Bowl, Brandon's mom made us all laugh remembering her: When GG was about 90, she joined a ladies' prayer circle at her church. The minister of the church, who spoke at her memorial service, also went to the prayer circle, to lead the ladies in their prayers.  At the meeting, members of the circle spoke in turns asking for prayers for individuals close to them, friends and neighbors suffering from illness, or hardship.  When it came to be GG's turn, she simply said, " And God bless the Redskins."

Rest in peace Rowena, you were truly a lovely woman who has left enormous impact on your family, and will be remembered with great affection and laughter.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

I question your taste level.

Funny how I feel like I'm neglecting the blog - I've been sick!  Its not my job!  But more honestly...not a whole lot has been coming to me these past few days that I really feel is worth airing.

I've been dedicating a reasonable amount of energy to bridal party apparel these days - don't get me wrong, its not because I am desperately concerned, its just one more thing I'd like to be able to tick off as done.  And I imagine for those lucky ladies and gents who are standing with us in the bridal party, they would probably like to get it taken care of so they can stop receiving emails from me.

So I spent a reasonable amount of time and effort, and the past few days, keep experiencing some setbacks.  Nothing is really working out as planned - I bought a bunch of cute fabric roses on Etsy that were supposed to go along with my large peach one, to make bridesmaid sashes...and they are just not at all the right colour.  And I was so disappointed when I opened up the box... no fault of the lovely lady who sold them to me, I just flat out made a mistake and bought the wrong thing, but its going to cost me something like $9 to return them.

We keep going back and forth about bridesmaid shoes.  I oscillate about feeling bad even asking people to wear matching shoes, to just wishing we could find something magical that will make everyone happy...I'm tired, and I know I am frustrating my ladies.

So now, opinions:

Do you like this tie?
From TieObsessed, on Etsy (whose name I got from Rachel - excited!)
I am starting to question my taste level (thanks inner Nina Garcia.)  I like this tie, and yet...I am worried that a normal human being would not like this tie.

what about these earrings, these are lovely, right?

From T's Studio Jewelry, on Etsy.
I can get these made with peach peals, and I am thinking of them for my lovely bridesmaids.

Help?  I am beginning to think that I am not even capable of helping select suits for the groomsmen, and you would think that would be easy...but there is something about menswear that makes me feel helpless from the beginning.

Breathe.  8 months to go.