Friday, August 29, 2014

happy friday!

 photo happy_friday_20140829.jpg wait... it's the weekend already? i feel like this week flew by so fast.  no? you've been waiting for friday since monday?   maybe it's the fact that there's a holiday weekend coming up!?

we're celebrating by seeing many friends we have not seen in WAY too long, making rounds in both new jersey and philly.  we've been to philly so many times, but any suggestions for fun things to do this weekend are certainly welcomed ;) 

also, that frame? it's mine.  or, more accurately, it "will" be mine soon.  my mom has a knack for finding the good stuff.... the good stuff that sells for way-out-of-our-price-range prices in new jersey that sells for pennies in ohio.  the frame came with a mirror, but she took it out with intentions of painting the frame to sell a trendy colorful mirror before i stopped her in her tracks and said that i wanted it exactly the way it was.  i'm a sucker for that gawdy gold stuff.

hung had the idea of "giving me a vanity area" in the bedroom that i was just "meh" about when he first brought it up.  but the more i think about it, the more awesome it sounds.  i mean, we plan to stay in our 2-bedroom apartment through 2 kids, which means 4 people and 1 bathroom, which means eventually the bathroom will be for bathroom duties only.  putting on make-up and blow-drying my hair are not bathroom duties.  plus, he's right, i do enjoy sitting down while putting on my make-up anyways (you can find me sitting on the floor in the living room in front of the mirror most days anyways).

now i just need to find a desk that will fit in that little full-of-natural-light nook in the bedroom.  i'll be perusing craigslist and local reclaimed/vintage/repurposed furniture shops (like L.O.V.E. furniture in east hanover NJ) and i'm sure i'll find "the one".  we found our double drop-leaf, gate-leg dining table at miss pixie's in DC, so we'll be sure to stop in there next time we're in the area too.  brooklyn flea in, well, brooklyn? the frayed knot in hoboken?  now i just need a weekend to actually GO to these places!!

can you tell i'm excited about this project?  we've also got a paneled door headboard project coming up soon.  details on that one soon ;)

cheers!  happy labor day weekend!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

wedding brunch

our wedding brunch was different than your typical wedding brunch.  normally it's full of tired, stayed-at-the-reception-too-late, drank-too-much crowd eating their last meal before parting their separate ways.

ours? it was practically the opposite! our ceremony was at city hall (during normal city hall hours, of course), which meant we were out the doors by 10:30am... and brunch was immediately after! well, after cheyenne took some family photos of course ;)  brunch was held at our favorite weekend breakfast place in jersey city , sam a.m.    we were greeted with the smell of bacon and coffee and the sound of james brown.  our table was ready, with freshly-squeezed orange juice and chilled champagne we took over the night before.  the bar was lined with fresh summer salad, pastries, and a giant plate of smoked salmon.


see more after the jump...

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

eighty mag launch

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eighty mag cover featuring billykirk , a jersey city based, made-in-the-usa leather and canvas design company, and the launch party cake, made by cholita dessert bar , a jersey city dessert bar on wheels.

if you haven't noticed already, there are some pretty awesome things happening in jersey city.  i mean, if you just look down newark avenue you'll see boarded up storefronts galore.  no, not boarded up and abandoned, but rather "secret" construction projects waiting to be revealed, putting the entire neighborhood in a state of anxious anticipation.  just since hung and i moved to downtown jersey city 3 years ago, the neighborhood has changed so much (for the better!)  i mean, buzzfeed has been going crazy over jersey city lately, as well as the new york times , yahoo travel (oh hey chadner !), huffington post , business insider , and more.

but last weekend marked another milestone for the transformation of jersey city.  a new jersey city magazine called EIGHTY made its debut at its launch party at the warehouse café .  according to the eightymag website EIGHTY is:
"....a visual representation of a city that is bustling with creativity. With original interviews, profiles, and rich full-page photographs, EIGHTY is about the future of Jersey City and the stories of its people and innovators who act on their dreams.
Led by Marinell C. Montales and Chadner Navarro, Jersey City residents of over 10 years, EIGHTY magazine will feature the works of some of the most talented writers, photographers, and illustrators native to Jersey City, as well as contributors whose works have appeared on the covers and pages of Time Out New York, New York Times, Vanity Fair, The Village Voice, and Travel and Leisure."
if you just went "wow!" that was exactly my reaction when i finally got to hold the magazine in my hands and flip through it for the first time at the launch party.  the paper, the photos, the design, the writing, the businesses and the creatives that are featured... it all puts you in a state of awe.  the kicker? the magazine is free .  you can find it at several locations in jersey city , as well as a few places in nyc and other parts of new jersey.

get your copy soon, because they aren't going to last long! 

follow @eightymag on instagram and twitter
(and go follow @beyondthestoop on instagram , twitter , and facebook while you're at it too :P)

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photos via @beyondthestoop on instagram

sending a huge congratulations to chadner and marinell on the success of your premier issue!  we're all looking forward to the future of eighty mag , and the light it brings to our amazing city.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

pre-wedding pre-gaming

it's sort of hard for even us to believe this, but prior to the night before our wedding , some of my family had never met hung's family .  we figured that instead of having a super awkward situation where they had to introduce themselves when they walked into city hall, we organized a casual outing at zeppelin hall  beer garden in jersey city the night before.  it was the perfect setting for everyone (including kids til 9:30pm!) to eat what they wanted, when they wanted, grab beers when they wanted, stay as late or leave as early as they wanted… and it really is a great place for our group of 15.

the night before THAT though, we snagged a night with just my mom's side of the family , and hung whipped up a quick ratatouille with seasoned rice and steak.  it was nice to spend some time with them before the craziness started.

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after everyone started arriving thursday afternoon, we started to feel the "rush".  flowers were being delivered to the house, people filled our living room.

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but the night at zeppelin hall was so fun.  we think our families are so different from each other, until we put them together with food and beer, and the conversations and laughter didn't stop until we left.  maybe they aren't so different after all!  see more after the jump.

Monday, August 25, 2014

"clay pot" salmon recipe

with all the excitement around here lately, hung and i have been slacking in the kitchen.  it's not that we haven't been cooking, it's just that we haven't been cooking anything new or, well, presentable.  i mean, ramen noodles with egg and spinach isn't exactly rocket science (but gosh does it taste good!).  a rotisserie chicken sammich? come on, guys, you don't need instructions on that….

but now that things have calmed down a bit, we (hung) have been stepping things up.  the last visitors left on monday, and we took advantage of our day off of work to put some thought into dinner. a trip to the new-to-us asian grocery store on route 440 in jersey city called " asian food " (clever) led us to make a vietnamese dish called "ca kho to," which is essentially clay pot fish or caramelized fish.  salmon steaks are cooked in a caramel-y sauce with all the best flavors: sweet, salty, spicy.  the dish is quick and easy, the hardest part is pulling the ingredients together if you don't normally cook asian food, notedly fish sauce and black bean chili sauce.  both can be found at nearly any asian grocery store or online (see here and here).  though there are so many different ways to achieve the key flavors for clay pot fish, we've been experimenting a lot with the black bean chili sauce, which isn't exactly a traditional ingredient for vietnamese food. however, we find that it's the perfect punch of flavor for SO many asian dishes, and like the depth it adds to clay pot salmon.  this dish is served with white rice and steamed vegetables, no seasoning needed because the best flavor comes from the sauce from the salmon!  we liked this so much that we ate it twice this week.  are you hungry yet? lets go.

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Friday, August 22, 2014

friday photos

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what a whirlwind week after such an exciting wedding weekend .  i certainly can't complain though!

we both took vacation days on monday, fueling up for the week after hosting out-of-towners since the wednesday before. we spent hours in the social security office for 2 hours, (among precisely 50 screaming children), but we discovered yet another pretty darn awesome asian grocery store nearby (the sign just says "asian food", and it's on route 440) just a few minutes drive from our house.  we might go back if for nothing else, just the small custard pies.

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...ok ok maybe for the super fresh salmon steaks too.  that ca kho to (clay pot fish) that hung made on monday hit. the. spot.  keep your fingers crossed that a recipe post comes out of the next batch (guys, it was SO so good)

a few more phone-photos from the wedding weekend and from this week:

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cutting our wedding cake! my nephew wanted that cake SO bad, until we cut into it and he saw that it was chunky and brown (carrot cake).  and hung did NOT want to give me a kiss when everyone started tapping their glasses.  i guess he didn't want to eat my red lipstick?

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we got to see inside the barrow mansion last night for the whoopie awards hosted by the sweetin sisters ! did you SEE that mirror!?!? i'm in love.  and that BOWTIE!? gosh he's a cutie. and that couple up there on the left!? they are seriously the best (and own one of my favorite downtown jersey city stores, e.tittlemouse ).

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i think i might just leave that little balloon up in my cubical forever.  and remember when hung and i went on a date to BYOB painting classes in april?! yeah, so 4 months later we finally picked the paintings up off of the floor and hung them in the building hallway.  SO much better than what was there before! i'm not even going to show you it was so bad.  a VERY faded print of a girl in a garden that now looks like a creepy ghost (it was trashed the second it came down)

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thanks to everyone for the well wishes for our wedding ! this week we got to spend dinner with new friends, dinner in india square with old friends, a night on the town with local creatives at the whoopie awards and TONIGHT...

TONIGHT is the big one! we get to celebrate a new jersey city magazine called EIGHTY at the magazine launch tonight.  we're so happy to be able to support them as they support jersey city grow to what is becoming a very, very great place to live.

happy friday!!


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

the rings

ok ok ok, i know i said i wasn't going to share details of the wedding until i get photos back from cheyenne , but GUYS! i just can't help it!

first of all, hung decided he wanted a really cool ring.  nothing average from the jewelry store would do.  only a unique, never-been-seen-before style would do for him.  so we set our eyes on pinterest .  after many nights spent pinning mixed metal rings, metal and wood rings, hammered metal rings, brushed finish rings... just when i thought i had enough, we found a jeweler in california that would custom-make their plain silver bands with stones in-layed.  any stone we wanted, any finish we wanted, any thickness we wanted.  we were sold! a quick trip to the jeweler at the mall to find hung's ring size, and those things were ordered!  i told hung he could pick any stone he wanted... he picked emeralds.  no reason (i don't think?) other than he just likes the look of green.

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360 Jewels Elite  was so easy to work with.  our rings were supposed to take 6 weeks to make and ship (we had 5 weeks to go), so they sent us "stand in" rings for the ceremony (for a small fee).  luckily for us, though, our rings arrived a week ahead of the wedding! let me tell you, it was hard to keep those things in the box, i just wanted to start wearing it right away. 

in order to get the style we wanted, i just ordered the brushed finish, silver with white-gold-plated pair of bands, specified the thickness (mine is 3mm, hung's is a whopping 10mm), specified the size, and wrote in the notes that we wanted emeralds in-layed flush with the outside finish of the rings.  they messaged me telling me the price of the stones, and the upcharge for hung's extra-thick band, and they sent me another paypal invoice, and we were good to go! 

while the rings we ended up with were pretty simple, they are still unique, and they are definitely "us".  i have decided to wear only my wedding band on my wedding finger, and i've moved the engagement ring to my right hand.  the engagement ring is pretty (it's beautiful, actually), but it's the wedding band that symbolizes our marriage, so that's the only ring for my wedding finger :)

cheyenne took some pretty cool photos of the rings too, so i can't wait to show you how those turn out too!


p.s. what's the best part about these rings? we got them BOTH for under $200! we couldn't find a single one for under that price at the local stores, let alone TWO that are CUSTOM MADE.

Monday, August 18, 2014

we said "i do"

welp, if you're wondering why i've been posting so many sneak peaks into our wedding style, it's because…..

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photo by cheyenne mojica


we didn't talk about it much to anyone other than family and local friends, because we wanted it to be low-key.  we just went to city hall, we had our little less-than-5-minute ceremony, and boom! we were married :)  only our immediate family members were invited, making it a total of 15 of us (plus our awesome photographer cheyenne mojica )! with nearly perfect weather, our normally-sweaty selves were able to snag some great shots with cheyenne , and walk everywhere without breaking a sweat.  as my husband (so weird to say) says, it was because of positive thinking :P

i'm going to spare the details for a future post, once we get some of the good photos back from cheyenne.  i can't wait to share!!

cheers, readers :)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

"his" family

"his" family has treated me like one of their own since day one.
"his" family has values that put family before anything else.
"his" family is a bunch of goofballs (and welcomes my goofball-ness too)
"his" family has such rich history that excites me to learn about and become a part of.
"his" family has a bunch of DAMN good cooks (and a mother who tells me the secret recipes)

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....and i'm excited to say that "his" family will soon become "our" family!!


Monday, August 11, 2014


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what's the fun in signing your name with, well, your name?  when hung and i first started dating, i noticed he drew this "face" on everything he signed for his friends or family (cards, wedding sign-in books, etc.)  everyone knows "the face" and quite honestly, i was a little jealous. so i made one too,  seizing the idea as "our thing" instead of "his thing" (sorry babes).  since then, we've been to a LOT of weddings, sent out a LOT of christmas cards, and used these faces a LOT. 

so, why not use them for our wedding? we're practically doing everything untraditional anyways, wouldn't you like to get an invite and a save-the-date with some personality to it? who says you have to have fancy writing and proper embossing and use you "wedding colors"? this is about as personal as it gets! i'm starting with the design above, and work with it to make the invites, the save the dates, the itineraries, any sort of "paper" that goes along with the wedding will have this logo brand... style? (we're not a business, we're a couple)

anyways, when we decided to go down this path, we both decided our faces needed an upgrade to match our looks.  if you remember OOOOLD blog posts i used to sign with this signature:

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those are the faces we've been using for years, but since hung has that slicked back/man-swoop thing going on, and i chopped my hair to a pixie (remember, i talked about our new hair here ), the faces needed and upgrade.  no better time than when we get married, right?  i liked the look of these wedding invites , and how the drawn faces were cut off on the side, so i might end up putting a border around the edges to show that it was intentional that the faces were cut off on the side, but for now, you get the idea ;)  when i saw those invites though, i thought it was the PERFECT way to incorporate our "faces" into our wedding.

looking forward to designing the rest of it! for now, we've got to start practicing just drawing these new faces, so next time we're signing the wedding book at the next wedding, we're not holding up the line :P

what do you guys think!? did you do something creative for your wedding invites?

now, if only i had adobe illustrator or photoshop to properly design them! (maybe i'll set aside one weekend and bang everything out within the free trial period!?)


Friday, August 8, 2014

custom wedding earrings from nuda designs

considering i purchased my wedding dress for a whopping $98, i figured i could splurge on the details.  when i told hung i wanted to do custom wedding earrings, i could tell his brain was on a tight rope. "um, sure babe, anything you want", but i know in his head he was thinking "omg, how much is THIS going to cost us!?"

it's not as bad as you think! i mean, i am the bargain shopper of our duo, and i'm happy to say that i got my wedding dress, shoes, custom earrings, and custom wedding band each for under $100. 

i'm no stranger to jewelry from nuda designs , as e.tittlemouse always has nuda jewelry for sale.  i was in love with these earrings, but i wanted a bit more sparkle. 

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luckily for me, gale is super easy to work with, and was happy to modify her design for my special vision! i have a ring i wear almost daily that's labradorite.  i randomly picked it out in a jewelry store in chinatown while on a friends trip to san francisco, unaware of the name of the stone. i just liked that it was a fairly neutral color (mostly gray) with iridescent hints of blue (little did i know hung's friends were onto something when the store was "sizing" my finger for the silly ring i wanted , sneaky girls!!!)

gale quickly sourced teardrop-shaped labradorite stones and went to work!  every few days i'd get an update on the progress (we certainly didn't get that service with the custom wedding bands we ordered on etsy, but we'll leave that story for another post...) when the earrings were finished, she dropped them off at e.tittlemouse for me, so i didn't have to wait for them in the mail.  obviously i picked them up RIGHT after work that same day, opened the box IN THE STORE, tried them on IN THE STORE, and skipped all the way home (ok i'm kidding about the last part, but still, i was excited). i tried them on AGAIN when i got home, AGAIN when hung got home, then i instagrammed them.

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while i wanted to choose a local artist to make my earrings, the good thing about jewelry, is that you can buy it from anywhere! check out the nuda designs website for more of her work, purchase it on , or contact her for a custom design.  obviously i'd recommend her to anyone ;)

the closer we get to getting married the more giddy i get (don't all brides feel that way?)

cheers, and happy friday!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

an evening stroll

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photos via @beyondthestoop on instagram

sometimes i have to pinch myself to know that i live in such a place that i can walk 10 minutes from my house and see views like this.  last night i couldn't make it to kickboxing class because of an eye appointment.  i took that as an opportunity to get some fresh air and walk around the neighborhood (literally, i walked the entire waterfront).  while i knew i'd be out for at least an hour, i decided to forget the headphones, and just take it all in from all senses.  i wish i would have taken some videos just so you could hear the water crashing against the piers and the kids running around and playing.  there's nearly nothing that could take the smile off my face last night...

with couples snuggling on the bike path benches
the sound of kids chasing each other with their tiny giggles
the outdoor bootcamp class being held at the end of the pier
the sunset reflecting on the skyscrapers of manhattan's southern end
the endless different languages being spoken around me
the friends i pass and stop by to say hi
the runners and bikers zooming past me
the old couple slowly strolling hand in hand
the family climbing out of their boat in the marina after an evening boat ride
the sailboats scattered in new york harbor at sunset
the dogs diving into the river water to fetch a ball at the dog park
the music coming from the bar with the bistro lights that you can drive your jet ski up to
the party going on at the square at the train station

sometimes, this city life just can't be beat. i love you, jersey city !


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

one day

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one day i'll have a stoop like that.
one day i'll be taking my evening walks with my kiddos in tow.
one day i'll see the world, taking romantic strolls through the streets of paris.
one day i'll convince hung that it's the cat who's man's best friend.
one day life will feel so easy, so i must work hard for that day now.
one day i'll be able to say "oh, just watering the flowers on the roof deck" when someone calls and asks what i'm up to.
one day i'll actually enjoy that beet and goat cheese salad that everyone is raving about.
one day i'll be an expert at something i'm passionate about.
one day a stoop like that will be the scene for all future phan family photos.
...and one day (soon!) my left hand will match my fiancé's ;)


Monday, August 4, 2014

he vs. she: hair

when you've been together with someone for a long time, people start to say that you act the same, or you look the same, or you talk the same.  when we asked some friends at kickboxing if we looked alike or acted alike, they were speechless.  it was like crickets.  maybe that's a good thing hung and i are so different? 

one thing's for sure though, we have a love of hair.  short hair, really, but since boys have short hair anyways, i'm just going to say "hair".  well.. maybe it's more than hair, it's almost the same style, except mine isn't SO short on the sides (yet?)  we even use the same products: american crew fiber and tresemme tres two hairspray

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he: loves the modern combover/swoop back/clean cut look.  basically JT's newest 'do.  but... he's got asian hair insead of white boy hair, and his stylist is an amateur (me). i'm working on perfecting it.  one day he'll have the look down to a T.

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she: loves the faux-hawk but doesn't have the confidence to rock it yet (outside of the house anyways).  at least she's got a good cheerleader (hung) to help her rock it one day (maybe after the wedding i'll get another cut short enough for the faux-hawk?)

so yeah.  hair is a fun thing in our house.  we're both sporting some cuts that we were afraid to try at first, but gained that extra boost of confidence once we pulled the plug.  plus, if it ended up turning out bad, it's just hair, it grows back.  we can't say the same for tattoos, though, so it's a good thing we don't have any.... yet?

image credits: image of JT via the berry , image of ashlye via nothingbutpixies , shot by dametreus ward

Friday, August 1, 2014

happy friday

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when you move out of your old place, don't you ever wonder what the new people did with it? how is it decorated? did they tear down all of my hard work? did they keep the curtains? if you've been following beyond the stoop for a while, you know that hung and i put in a LOT of hard work into our last apartment (peruse the renovation posts here ).  but, we decided to become real adults and purchase a home , even though we still loved living in that apartment.  luckily for us, we get to go back to it often, because our friends moved in! and they decorated it so well! as cute if not cuter than we had it. 

tonight we get to go back again for a bbq.  yeah, that's what i miss about that place too: outdoor space .  like real outdoor space, with a grill, and a patio set, and grass, and GRASS.   really though, i'm just excited that we get to spend our friday night so close to home with great people :)

with actual TICKETS to shakespeare in the park and wedding shoe shopping at THE macy's on 34th street on sunday too, my weekend will be complete! have you ever been to that macy's?? there are MULTIPLE ENTIRE FLOORS dedicated to shoes. it's like a woman's biggest dream.  lets just hope i come home with just ONE pair of wedding shoes ;)  plus, i'll get the 10% discount for having an "out of state" driver's license (hey, sometimes literally pays to live JUST outside of new york city)

cheers to the weekend,
& happy friday!

p.s. photo from my urban sanctuary post , view of manhattan and hoboken from riverview park in jersey city .