Monday, March 31, 2014

my ultimate new house indulgence

how are you guys this morning!? for us, today's a bit of a pain.  it's like someone took away a day of our weekend.  you know, the weekend we were supposed to move?  we can thank mother nature for that one.  although the boys got in a good 2 carloads on sunday, the rest of the day was a monsoon. or, at least, rainy enough that we didn't want to move the rest of our upholstered or wooden furniture. 

while we could have sucked it up and moved the little things and just gotten really wet, instead we spent the day battling crowds at ikea.  apparently it's the place to be on sundays at 3:00pm (i'm an idiot, i absolutely knew this, but after finding a parking spot at that place there's no turning back) we perused the living spaces picking up ideas, practically forgetting what we went in there for in the first place.  we decided that maybe a mid-century credenza just isn't in the cards for a tv stand, and possibly a more clever, low-lying, space-saving set up would work better (considering the fingertips on my 5'5" body can reach the ceilings on the window side of the living room).  i'm not exactly into the things that scream "I BOUGHT THIS AT IKEA," but damn they have some good ideas for small spaces.

we went there for a bed.  we decided on the mandal bed .  we knew this before stepping foot into the place, but i just wanted to see it in person before i swiped the credit card. inspiration for this bed came from this post on apartment therapy.  the main structural parts are solid wood, it has 4 drawers for storage, and it's soft on the eyes (and our wallets). we had been looking at gothic cabinet and design within reach for different styles and different budgets, but eventually decided that we knew we needed some extra storage, but didn't know how much, and didn't know if we would like the drawers beneath the bed, etc, etc, etc. so the mandal bed it was.  perhaps in the future we will purchase a nicer bed frame, but this one does exactly what we want right now for a quarter of the price of the others we looked at.

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a whole queen-sized bed fits in my little yaris.  no big deal...

we made this purchase after putting in the order for our new sofa.  THAT's the "ultimate new house indulgence" referenced in the post title.  it felt good going for a budget-friendly bed after the not-so-budget-friendly sofa purchase.  hung and i will each have an indulgence or two in our plans for the new place, and this one is certainly my choice! by now i'm not sure how i found out about the comfortable couch company ( cococo home ), but i've had my eyes on this company since before we put the offer in on the house over 9 months ago.  my initial inspiration was designer emily henderson 's blue sofa (see the post with the sofa here ).  i thought chesterfield sofas would be too gaudy for hung's taste, honestly.  but after a few instances where he fell in love with similar sofas in boutiques and stores, i knew he would like them too. 

i perused the website and instantly locked my eyes on the blue velvet shown in the weddington style page on the cococo home website.  i told hung "i want the chesterfield sofa in this blue velvet color", but he instantly fell in love with THAT sofa... so (being the good girlfriend) i agreed to the weddington as long as we got blue velvet.  after getting the keys to the new place and seeing the low ceilings, i realized i needed to change plans and go back to the chesterfield.  the back and arms are lower, and we could always go back to them and ask for the shorter legs and make the sofa even lower. anything we can do to open up our space is key. 

after talking about buying the sofa for so long, we finally did it.  cococo home is a made-in-the-USA company that builds the sofas in north carolina.  while they ship all over the US, their only two showrooms are at the factory in north carolina, and (you guessed it) new jersey, just an hour away from us.  we couldn't be more pleased with the hamilton township store.  we sat on nearly every sofa, laid on them, kicked up our feet, debated over styles, fabrics, seat depths, upholstery pin spacing, you name it. 

we left the store feeling good about our purchase, the service, the homemade gingerbread cookies (we devoured nearly the entire batch)... and we can't wait to get the sofa delivered in a few weeks!!  for a sneak peak, check out the chesterfield sofa i found on their facebook page:
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ours will be a mini version of this. no ottomans, no sectional shape... just a straight, normal-sized couch. did i mention i can't WAIT for it to arrive!?!?

with just an hour or so before our seemingly-weekly sunday supper club at our friend's house, hung started putting the bed together as i started putting things away.  the intention was to be done moving by the end of the day, but between the crowds of kiddos at ikea and the rain, we definitely did not get done.  we actually ended up moving all of the pillows in the morning too, and forgot that fact until we went to bed.  FYI, plush robes make good pillows.  at least we made the major purchases, and had a good meal to boot.

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cheddar waffles with orange tomato sauce
broccoli parmesan soup
brussels sprouts with bacon

not exactly the healthiest, and they didn't exactly go together, but gosh it was good... feeling like i need to add orange to our marinara sauce now!!


p.s. stay tuned via instagram or twitter @beyondthestoop

Friday, March 28, 2014

happy weekend

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while our weekend didn't exactly start off with a bang, we're super excited for an action-packed weekend of celebrating and moving and moving and moving...  did i say we're moving yet? we're MOVING!

we have friends coming to town this weekend, who we couldn't be happier to see! while they are soon to be a family of 3, i'm happy i'm getting to see them several times before their lives take a new turn, including the epic olymp-nick's birthday olympiad in virginia .  they used to live in the area, and are excited to snoop around their old stomping grounds (and get some good food while they're at it! seriously the food in nyc is incredible)

now onto the moving part.  last night was laundry night, and the night to move some things.  on my way home i got a call from a friend saying he had a special delivery.  when i walked into my house, 2 of our good friends were in the house with hung, munching on boxes of treats from dean and deluca (think chocolate grand marnier mousse, macarons, cupcakes, you get the picture).  with 2 extra sets of hands ready to work, hung made sammiches for everyone while the girls went to the laundromat (for hopefully the last time!! high fives to having laundry at the new place!). after laundry, we started packing as much as we could...  as in just starting to pack, nothing in boxes or bags yet. 

the boys did a great job taking stuff to the new place while the girls tried to pack as fast as we could, folding laundry while we were at it. thank GOODNESS for those 2 extra and unexpected sets of hands!  later, another set of hands showed up, and even later, 3 more sets of hands, and 1 more even later.... what did we do to deserve so much help!?  at one point in the night we had SEVEN extra people helping us move, all who voluntarily came offering to help....

unfortunately, between the lack of packing, the need to do laundry, and the lack of having any boxes or any more bags to pack things in, we had to stop around 10:30pm.  i admit, i was pretty stressed and overwhelmed with so many people at our house to help with so little preparation, and i snapped...

why?  i'm still asking myself the same question...   i was embarrassed at how unorganized it was, overwhelmed at how much stuff we had to move, and wondered if i was going to get any sleep because we had to prepare for our out-of-towners coming the next day.  but, those are no acceptable excuses.  the reality is that we put a big stab into the moving process, and without hung's enthusiasm and all of our friends who unexpectedly showed up to help, we probably wouldn't have gotten anything moved at all (laundry night at our house is usually a pretty jam-packed night anyways, let alone trying to move a whole apartment!) 

undeserved, hung took the heat for nothing. he worked his butt off and so did all of the people who came to help (to everyone who came, i can't thank you enough!). here's to looking forward to a more positive, smoother moving day on sunday.  i can't WAIT to be in the new place and start decorating!! that's when the real fun begins ;)

cheers to a happy friday!

p.s. that photo above is a photo our new downstairs neighbor sent to us of our house "a long time ago" that she found at the library (who knows when it was taken) the front looks so different now!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

like a basketball court

pretty, shiny, (mostly) free of scratches...

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it's all i could really ask for when we wanted to DIY refinish hardwood floors for the first time that were THAT bad...

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last night we applied the second coat of polyurethane, and MAN did they look good!  we did a light sanding on the first coat of poly with 320-grit sandpaper, swept, and wiped them down with mineral spirits before applying the second coat of poly. we've been applying the poly with a sponge brush on the edges and a lambswool applicator for the rest.  it works great, except it leaves bubbles.  maybe we didn't get all the dirt out before applying the first coat? either way, after sanding the floors before the second coat, the floors felt AH-mazing!!

last night we left with floors that looked as shiny as a basketball court.  wait, is that what we wanted? we're going with it anyways. in the impulse decision of what finish i wanted to get when i was unexpectedly faced with the decision of satin, semi-gloss, or gloss.. my reaction was "go big or go home".  how that really applies here?  i'm not quite sure, but we both knew that reaction meant "go for the gloss!"

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seriously, what would i do without him???  we missed a spot in one of the bedrooms after we already did the entryway, so hung spidermanned his way to getting it.  #rookiemistakes (and here i am complaining i can't even get to the bathroom when the floors are wet... i gotta step up my game)

the final day of doing anything to the floors is today, and man we couldn't be happier.  who knew it would be such hard work.  after a few days of letting the stuff COMPLETELY dry, we'll be ready to start moving in!!

guess it's time to start packing, right?  if we were moving more than 3 blocks away, i'd be more motivated to put things in boxes.  but because it's just a short distance, i have this vision that i can carry things over without messing with silly boxes..   maybe i'm crazy...  packing is the worst for me.  unpacking is SO much more fun!


Monday, March 24, 2014

hard work is, well, hard work

i just realized that it's been a week since we made our big announcements , and i haven't shared any updates!! if you follow on instagram  or twitter , you may have seen a few sneak peaks, but this space has been pretty silent, or at least i haven't shared any photos (that's the good stuff anyways!)

between last monday and now, we've finished painting the entire apartment and trim bright white.  no "off-white", no "eggshell", no "cream", no "ivory".  literally i wanted the brightest white possible.  i would have been fine with primer if it wasn't flat paint. 

speaking of flat paint, flat paint and white walls aren't friends. it would show practically every fingerprint.  silly me, not doing my homework, i thought the next glossy-ness up from flat was semi-gloss.  so when i sent the boys out to get a 5-gallon bucket of the brightest white they could find, i told them "get semi-gloss bright white". i totally forgot about satin, and now we have sort of shiny walls.  and because hung (and practically everyone we talked to) didn't want the trim to be the same glossy-ness, we had to go to high-gloss for the trim.  kids, it looks awesome, but the catch?   IT PEELS. and it sticks to everything.  including the blue painters tape that's supposed to be your friend.  so now we have to go back and touch up all the spots that peeled off a bit when we took off the blue painters tape.  we even took a box cutter to the trim and we still had problems.  do your homework people! we were suckers for that one. lesson learned.  but... at least it LOOKS awesome when you look at the big picture.... bright white walls are my thing. i've loved it for a while, but this article on apartment therapy solidified my design ideas.

we were also lucky enough to score some skylights in the living room, so painting bright white is only going to emphasize the awesome natural light in the apartment (sorry in advance to those who slumber party at our house, you may be woken up at 5am in the summer time)

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next up on our to-do-before-we-move-in list was refinish the floors.  it sounds simple enough. "sand it down, stain, and poly-coat."  friends, THIS is the hard work.  this is the back-breaking part reason people say "just pay someone to do it".  i realize now that, yes, they will obviously do a better job, because it's their job, but because it's HARD labor.  it's especially hard labor when you have to rent equipment from home depot, who takes ZERO care of their equipment. 

we initially picked up a drum sander and an edger. after 4 hours of taking off the first layer, we realized "maybe this isn't right".  we only had 2 (small) bedrooms to do.  we took off the sand paper loop and realized that although the drum sander had the capability to sand about 12" of flooring, it was only sanding about 2".  that's not all.  the edger is circular sander that spins, with capability of getting right up to the edge of the wall.  however, the "edge" part of the "edger" was so worn down that we had to dip the front end of it just to sand anything.  friends, that thing is NOT light, and you have to be in a awkward, bent-over position to do it anyways.  AND when you do that it puts divots into your floor (the exact reason every youtube video we watched told us NOT to do that)

furious that we spent all day using crappy equipment, we took it all back to home depot to exchange for different equipment or get our money back.  well, there was no way to get our money back, so we picked out the best of what was there and went back to work.  the hardest part of deciding whether or not to take it back to home depot was deciding whether or not we wanted to lug that stuff up and down the 2.5 flights of stairs again.  that stuff is HEAVY.  it's a good thing hung has muscles ;) 

however, the new drum sander worked wonders, but the new edger was the same.  the nice worker at home depot gave us 2 extra hours to our rental, and thought we might be able to get the kitchen and entryway too (we didn't plan on doing it originally, because we plan to gut the kitchen in a year or so, replacing the floors in the kitchen, entry, and living room while we're at it)

saturday night at about 12:00am hung started the stain.  although we may have finished sanding around 10:30pm, we had to prep the floors for staining, making sure there was no dust or dirt or grit on the floors.  we swept with a broom, took the shop-vac to every inch of the floors, and wiped them down with mineral spirits.

exhausted after the long day, hung graciously stained both bedrooms himself.  seriously, he's a trooper.  we're not REALLY on a deadline to get finished, but we sort of are.  we have friends coming to town this weekend (and we're SO SO excited to see them!!!) and we would "like" to be out of the current place by the end of the month so we don't have to pay another month of rent (and so our friend can move in as soon as possible!)

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2:00am we called it quits. we figured with the extra two hours on rent, we had time to do the entryway and kitchen the next morning.  we were right! with the better drum sander, we were able to knock it out in just an hour or so.  hung and i quickly stained those floors after returning the equipment to home depot, and were done working on the house by 1:00pm.  high five!

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(don't worry, that lighter rectangle part in the middle of the wood floor isn't a mistake, it's just the skylight shining down :P)

happy to have some free time for once, we fixed my car, got an oil change, went to the grocery store, SHOWERED, and relaxed before our friend invited us over for dinner.  he's a great cook and he's teaching another friend the basics of cooking.   luckily for us, they always make enough to share, and we often get invited to enjoy the final product (thanks guys! we definitely needed it last night!)

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enchiladas with salad and guac and chips. aka, a recipe for a happy jenn.  mexican food is my FAVORITE.  i don't care if it's most authentic mexican food, taco bell, or (my guilty favorite) chinese-mexican . i love it  ALL .

successful weekend, but man am i exhausted.  at least the hard part is over...
(wait, we still have to move EVERYTHING in our apartment... sigh)

cheers to another week!

p.s. i promise to do a house tour soon.  it won't be the true beginning, but hey, at least you'll get to see the place before we funish it ;)

Friday, March 21, 2014


life has been a whirlwind lately (as you probably know, if not, see here and here ).  Wednesday was just nice though.  i took the day off of work to surprise hung at his office, ate lunch with him and his coworkers, brought banana cake from momofuku millkbar , and arranged for him to leave after lunch....

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(1) everyday after work we've been eating dinner and going straight to the new house to paint. and paint. and paint. and we're still not done painting.  but at least we still get a great dinner before heading over there! hung made rice cakes with pork and spinach on monday. seriously it was like eating the best pork dumplings, but not in dumpling form.  hopefully get the chance to make it again and share the recipe with you guys! seriously it's so easy and so delicious. if you see rice cakes on the menu at a Chinese restaurant, GET THEM!

(2) wednesday morning i slipped out of the house before hung woke up to grab him a bagel sammich from wonder bagels , and on my quick walk home i noticed the most beautiful sky during sunrise.

(3) i had an hour to spare after picking up the cake but before i needed to be at hung's office.  naturally, i went to crate and barrel and had NO problem wasting an hour.  these stools, they are $150 each. and they are the ultimate inspiration for an upcoming DIY.

(4) that's the banana cake . when they said "a 6-inch cake serves 8-12 people" i thought they were crazy.  but then i saw the HEIGHT on that thing.  a sliver is more than enough!

one more tidbit of (good?) news, apparently we inherited the title of "condo association president" when we bought our unit.  hung gladly took that position.... now we just have to wait and see if that was a good decision or not ;)

happy friday!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

happy birthday fiancé ;)

i'll let the video do the talking…

sending a HUGE thank you to those of you who sent in videos! you guys did great!!

happy 30th birthday babes.


p.s. for anyone who sent in a video and did NOT see it included, i'm SO sorry! i double- and triple-checked my emails, texts, and Facebook messages to try to get them all! let me know if i missed and i can edit the video :)

Monday, March 17, 2014

we have some announcing to do

while some people tend to space out their larger life events, this week hung and i landed upon two of them...

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i am extremely happy to say that after 9 months of negotiations and paperwork, we closed on our house last week! it has been quite the frustrating experience, to say the least, and so hard to HIDE it from this space for so long!  we now own our small sliver of a brownstone in downtown jersey city. it's small (under 700 square feet), but it has 2 bedrooms and it's perfect for us.  although our current home has been creeping in on us, we like to live a simple life with less things.  so if we only have 700 square feet to put "things" we will stop accumulating unnecessary "things" (with the exception of kitchen gadgets and appliances, i don't think we will ever have enough room for those, no matter where we live). we now have TWO bedrooms and a dedicated parking spot right in front of the house (both luxuries in our neck of the woods).

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the second exciting announcement is that WE'RE GETTING MARRIED!! after seeing the matinee performance of werther at the metropolitan opera on saturday afternoon, hung got down on one knee and proposed in the middle of lincoln center .  it was such a surprise, and he planned it out perfectly to have his best friend train in from philly to take pictures of the whole thing.  apparently i was the only one who DIDN'T know it was going to happen, and the bugger had the ring since we put an offer in on the house 9 months ago!!

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i couldn't be happier to have so many happy things fall into place :) :) :)

this space is about to get exciting, friends.  we have so many things to share with the new house, the engagement, planning a wedding, i can't hardly hold in the excitement!!

cheers to a very happy monday!
jenn (& hung)

p.s. remember this post about having a date at battello ? that was our "celebratory" dinner for getting the house ;)  saturday was supposed to be our "monthly date".  i can most certainly say, i will never be able to top THAT one ;)

Friday, March 14, 2014

happy friday, life is good

sipping on a glass of wine
at a restaurant on the water
overlooking the manhattan skyline
the buildings of lower manhattan to the east
reflecting the sun as it sets in the west
dining with my one and only on a random thursday evening
with blood orange and sea bass crudo and mussels to share
and homemade bread with truffled honey butter and olive oil
located just walking distance from home....

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last night was a perfect setting to reflect.
we're lucky to live in such a wonderful place.
and i'm lucky enough to spend it with someone so special...

cheers, friends.
it's friday!


p.s.  the restaurant is battello , jersey city 's newest restaurant, a modern italian place on a pier overlooking lower manhattan, nestled amongst the newport yacht club  slips in the newport neighborhood, designed by anthony carrino of local brunelleschi construction and hgtv's cousins undercover .

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


going "home" isn't just driving across town, or even driving across the state.  going "home" for me means driving 11 hours.  for 1 person, it totally makes sense to just fly, but when the airport is 2 hours away and there's 2 of us, it just makes sense to drive.  luckily we have family a little more than halfway that we can stay with overnight before making the last leg of the trip, so it's not SO so bad, though we've done it before in 1 shot.

one of the good things about "going home" to my mom's house is that life seems to pick up where we left off.  of course things change, but our relationships with those at home feel the same.  while hung grew up in a totally different environment, i think he likes coming back with me too.  he still gets to cook (i mean, we're not just gonna STOP him from making delicious meals when he wants), and he gets to teach my mom the electronics of the 21st century (even streaming Pandora through Bluetooth on her Bose SoundLink Mini ).

on our last day home, hung made japanese curry and roasted asparagus with creamy lemon sauce (and afterwards we devoured some flour loves sugar cookies) before watching the Oscars, heading to bed and driving off in the morning.

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it's always such a good time when we go home, i just wish it wasn't SO far away...


Monday, March 10, 2014

wake up!

did you wake up on time this morning? i surely did because i use the alarm on my trusty auto-daylight-savings-changing cell phone to buzz my ear off under my pillow.  i have to admit though, i'm slightly convinced that the quietness in the office this morning is due to the, shall i say, "older" coworkers who still use their non-auto-daylight-savings-changing alarm clocks and forgot to change the clocks... maybe i should give them the benefit of the doubt and say they got "stuck in traffic" or they "woke up but couldn't drag themselves out of bed quite yet" or, really, they're just on vacation.

either way, especially with the time change, we could all use an extra push to wake up in the morning.  what better way than a quality cup of coffee? (i say this as i drink what has GOT to be the worst-tasting coffee on the planet... everyone in the office agrees, i just need to bite the bullet and get a coffee maker for my cube).  i'm not talking about your local starbucks, or your local shop at all, really. and don't EVEN tell me you can't live without your k-cups... fancified instant coffee is just not my thing.  a quality cup of coffee comes from people who are passionate about coffee, people who insist that organic, fair trade beans are the only kind to roast, people who "get" what a good cup of coffee is, and how to make it.

44 north coffee is just that.  they "get" it.  since their debut, i've been a fan of 44 north coffee .  although i typically only drink the good stuff on the weekends, i certainly look forward to those saturday mornings when i'm NOT drinking the awful office coffee (i suppose i don't have room to hate on it, i am fully capable of making coffee at home) their latest newsletter came with a special free shipping over $25 (with code "daylightsavings") to catch a deal before they go on a small break (order by friday march 14th!).  but more importantly, it came with a video, highlighting their story and their passions.  i loved it enough to bring it to you today too!  maybe you, too, can try out their coffee to give you the extra boost you're gonna need in this transition to daylight savings :)

happy monday :)


Wednesday, March 5, 2014


last weekend hung and i did a whirlwind tour around ohio, stopping to see friends and family along the way.  luckily for us, that meant we got to see babies! well, i'm not sure if it made hung as happy as me (who are we kidding, he's just as giddy when he sees a baby, no matter how much he likes to deny it) but even with the tooting and the crying and the soggy-cake-filled sneezes i couldn't get enough.

first stop was to see this lil guy (and his wonderful parents of course).  camden was a crank butt when we finally arrived at midnight, but by morning he was a happy little booger who let me feed him cake samples (then he proceeded to sneeze all over my shirt with a mouth full of chewed up cake, haha) you can't get mad at a face like that though! i suppose it "was" my fault for feeding a 11-month-old baby cake at 8:00am...
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monday we drove to columbus to see this lil one.  well, he's not exactly "little".  because clyde was born at 8 lb 11 oz just two weeks ago, his daddy (who obviously read those baby books) says he already looks like an infant! (i guess instead of a newborn? so much to learn when having a baby) he sure is a cutie, and has two of the best parents, and big brother gunner the pup.

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we're always spoiled with cuties when we travel, but no friends in the area have babies yet.  i think they need to get on that so i can start babysitting!! (or at least start inviting myself over to smother them :P)
p.s. you may have already seen some of these on instagram @beyondthestoop ;)