Friday, March 5, 2021

Cozy Nashville Apartment Tour

When I graduated from college in Minnesota, I moved from a single dorm room to my childhood bedroom in my parents' house in Michigan. Two months later, I moved into a big, sad apartment to work two jobs (neither of which I enjoyed) while I tried to figure out how to put my degree to use. The goal became the Air Force, and long story short (maybe I'll share one day), I didn't end up joining. Instead I moved yet again to Michigan's Upper Peninsula, to a tiny apartment in the middle of the woods. (I had fun with this apartment - my bathroom was bright yellow, my bedroom had an eggplant accent wall, and my kitchen/living room had blue accent walls). After an unfortunate series of events involving the church, a trip to Berlin, and the Navy (again, stories for another day), I moved back downstate and into an apartment that smelled weird and had ugly orange-yellow carpet. I finally found a job that was a perfect fit, and the following year, I moved in with a roommate to be closer to work. We lived together until the start of the pandemic. As the situation in the US grew worse, building differences led to me moving out on my own, to an apartment in a concrete jungle (I was one of 14 units in a building, that was one of 50 buildings in the complex). It was lonely and awful, and working from home during the disaster that was 2020 meant that my main social activity was going to the gym. So three months later, I took a trip to Nashville to clear my head and the rest is history.

By the way, if you were counting, that's seven moves. SEVEN. Since December 2015.

When my position went fully remote and I knew the move to Nashville was my new reality, I decided I needed to find a place I could see myself for a few years. I toured several different apartments on my second trip down over the summer, and landed in a beautiful building on the city's West Side. It's a short Uber downtown, a 4-mile run to the pedestrian bridge, has a great gym, and is in close proximity to several neat cafes, breweries, and shopping centers. The location is great. And despite the faulty fire alarms and a few burst pipes (other apartment complexes had it worse), I can't complain. Until I save up for a condo or house, this is home.

That said, I've had a lot of fun putting this apartment together. I had to do some creative rearranging with my sectional couch (the Nashville apartment is much smaller than my previous one), and sold off my dining room table and chairs along with that vibrant green armchair before moving here. But aside from a few wall decorations I have yet to purchase, I think it's pretty much finished. It's home. I'm home.

Directly through the front door is the kitchen: dark cupboards, a beautiful countertop, tiled backsplash, and black appliances. I decided to make use of the space above the cupboards to display my Starbucks You Are Here Collection mugs, and even created a cute coffee nook featuring my Nespresso machine. I spend a lot of time in this kitchen, whether sitting at the counter working, cooking, or pouring some vino with friends. It was a huge selling point of the apartment as previous kitchens have been outdated, galley-style, or just plain dingy.

Through the kitchen is the living room, which serves as a dining room, hangout space, and office. This room gets an incredible amount of natural light, which I absolutely love (these photos were all taken at sunrise). I tried to keep with the theme of industrial accents/neutral tones, only bringing in color with plants, books, and a few prints from IKEA. Nearly all of my furniture is from Wayfair (couch, bar stools, desk, TV table, bookshelf), with the only exception being my desk chair (which believe it or not was a Walmart find). Couch pillows and a throw blanket from Kohl's, an ottoman tray found at TJ Maxx, and my little black mandolin all pull this space together atop a cozy Scandy rug from Target.

A close-up look at "the office":

Outside, I have a small balcony that overlooks one of the two courtyards at my complex. It's beautiful at night when they turn on the fairy lights, which hang from one side to the other. There are fireplaces and barbeques, ping pong tables, couches, and even corn hole for the residents here.

Back inside, the bedroom is just to the left of the living room. It's a smaller space, so I brought in both my circle mirror and the rectangle mirror to make the room look bigger. The neutral tones come in via a black accent pillow, a mango wood side table, and a few typewriter prints from IKEA, as well as the extra couch section tucked in the corner for a spot to read. My favorite part of the bedroom is the mid-century modern entertainment center (again, Wayfair), on which I have my chunky little Magnavox and all of my jewelry. The necklace stand is actually a Hearth and Home (Target) towel rack, and the beautiful wooden jewelry box was a gift. It was hand-carved by one of my former French tutoring students' fathers, and she gave it to me after my college graduation. The bedroom is cozy and cohesive, though I might eventually add something above the bed or get a headboard. TBD.
Through the bedroom is the bathroom, which is also accessible through the kitchen. The glass shower is a first for me, and while I do miss having a bathtub (and those Lush bath bombs!), it feels so much more modern and bright than a bathroom with a standard curtain shower. I recently added the pink accents, which is the first time I've ever given into truly girly decorating, and I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. 

And continuing through the bathroom, we have the closet. Yes, its a little messy. Yes, I rainbow-sort the small amount of colored clothing I have:

A final spot that I'm very thankful for in this apartment is the laundry closet. In previous apartments, I've had communal laundry, basement (a.k.a. dungeon) laundry, and laundry in a completely separate building. In fact the only times I've had laundry in-unit was the summer I spent three months in Portland and again when I shared an apartment with my roommate. The laundry closet is located just off of the kitchen, so despite being a bit loud when it runs, it honestly feels like a luxury (yes, laundry feels like a luxury).
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Nashville is an amazing city. To live here is a dream, and I've had a lot of fun making this apartment my home. It's a great feeling, to be "settling in" to a new city after moving once, sometimes twice, every year. I spend a lot of time here with working remotely, so I wanted to make it somewhere I love to be. And I do! 

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

A Foodie Post - Vegetarian Dumplings

Over the course of 2020, everyone took up new hobbies from puzzle-building to baking. Lockdown will do that to you. While I personally never jumped on the banana bread bandwagon, I understand the motivation to bake, build, or just be productive in some way when nothing else can be done. Well here in Nashville, we are on day three of Winter Storm Uri, which has successfully closed coffee shops, restaurants, bars, and even grocery stores. The last time I left my apartment was Sunday, and here we are on Tuesday night. And so last night, I decided to do some baking (ok, technically cooking) of my own.

Influenced by the Chinese Lunar New Year last Friday, I took a trip to the local International market and decided to try my hand at making dumplings (I had watched a documentary on Youtube that morning and thought it could be fun). So I bought all of the ingredients based off what I saw in that documentary and other YouTube how-to's, and adjusted the recipe to work with what I could find. I'll be honest, it takes awhile (it took me nearly two hours, but what else is a girl to do when life literally freezes to a halt?). Versatile, delicious, heavenly; if you've got the time, it is so, so worth it.

Without any further rambling ado (because who wants to scroll through a novel when all you really want is the recipe), here's my recipe for vegetarian dumplings:

You will need:

  • 1 package dumpling wrappers (thawed - you can find these in the freezer section, see the ones I found below.)
  • 3 eggs
  • 4c spinach
  • 1c shredded cabbage
  • 1 red pepper
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic
  • 1c mushrooms
  • 1 tsp mirin
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp Japanese Furikake seasoning (Trader Joe's)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Other options to add, depending on your preferences:
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/4c chopped onion
  • 1/4c chopped carrots 
  • 2c ground chicken or beef, cooked
  • Soy sauce, sushi ginger, wasabi (to serve with it)
These are the wrappers I found, in the freezer section of the International Market
1. Add the olive oil to a skillet and heat until thoroughly coated, then add your eggs. Scramble until fluffy. Set aside.

2. While the eggs cool, rinse the spinach, red pepper, and mushrooms and chop (and any other optional vegetables). Peel and chop the garlic.

3. Move the eggs to a large bowl (or the meat, if you're not making a vegetarian version) and add the mirin, sesame oil, soy sauce, and Japanese seasoning, along with a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir thoroughly.

4. Add the chopped vegetables, shredded cabbage, and garlic to the egg mixture and mix. Use a fork (or your hands) to ensure there are no major clumps of egg or meat.
5. Cover a large workspace with flour, then remove the dumpling wrappers from their packaging. Carefully peel the wrappers apart (this can be tedious, as they rip easily) and place on the surface.

6. Spoon a 2-3 tbsp portion of the egg/veggie/meat mixture onto the center of each wrapper. 

7. Spread a small amount of warm water along the edge of half the wrapper (I used my finger). This is critical to ensure the wrappers will stick shut. Only do this one at a time as you make each dumpling.

8. Fold the dough hotdog-style over the filling, and slowly gather the edges, pinching them together to create the signature folded look of the dumplings. As you finish, place them on a large plate or cookie sheet (something that will fit in your freezer).
9. Once all of the dumplings have been formed (God bless you, that is the most time-consuming part), put the plate/cookie sheet/tray into the freezer. Leave for 10 minutes.

10. While you wait, get the water boiling on your steamer. I used a metal steamer but a bamboo steaming basket would likely work better. 

11. Once the water is boiling, turn the heat down slightly and fill the basket with your dumplings. Cover and let steam for 15 minutes (20-25 minutes if you used meat instead of egg).
12. Remove from heat and let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving. If you used a metal steamer, the dough will likely stick to the bottom a bit (it sinks through the holes) so the longer they cool, the easier they are to remove. 

13. Serve with soy sauce, sushi ginger, and wasabi (optional). Enjoy!
And that's it! I had a bit of the filling leftover so I ate it as a side dish (since I used the entire package of wrappers). Additionally, you can freeze leftover dumplings and either steam or pan-fry them as needed. I'd love to hear if you try out the recipe, so please leave a comment down below if you do. Or, if you have a different recipe you'd like to see here, I'm always up for a challenge. Until next time, bon apetit!

Monday, February 1, 2021

Three Months In

It's been three months since I moved to Nashville, and I can honestly I have never been happier. Moving here was a pretty quick decision, but I'm glad to say it was one of those "when you know, you know" situations and not a, "wow I really jumped the gun on that" one. I've settled into my quaint little apartment, have started to make some close friends, and feel that this is somewhere that I'll be able to call home for many years to come.

That said, I've stayed off the blog - purposely - for many reasons until now. The past few months, as you know, have brought nothing but turmoil for the United States and - by extension - the entire world. Politics have governed our daily conversations. Arguments over masks and injections and the motivation of our leaders have taken the place of once friendly and intellectual discussions. The weeks leading up to the election and all of those since were frustrating in so many ways, and the pandemic, the riots, the explosion right here in Nashville on Christmas, and the censorship have brought our society to a level of - discomfort? uncertainty? frustration? - that it has never been seen before. Being someone who used to very frequently publish online, its not something that you can easily ignore as you continue to post about daily life and discoveries. It is, unavoidably, the bull in the China shop. 

I have no interest in writing about politics. So that's enough of that. I've said what I will, and all is said and done. I don't like arguing and losing relationships with friends and family members over something we have nearly no control over. It is time to move on.

So back to this normal, non-political post. At the risk of rambling, I thought today I would just do a quick catch-up post and talk about some goals for the coming year. Short and sweet, and a kick off to the many posts to come that I have in mind.

2021 Goals

1. Level up in Portuguese

Fun fact: I love learning languages. It started with French in 2007 (we had to pick a language to study for two years in high school), then German in 2010, and Spanish in 2012. I'm glad to report that I've gotten to use all three in work and travel, though I will say that French will always hold the top spot in my heart. So when I heard my company was starting to look at Brazil as a potentially growing market, I decided to jump on Portuguese (the national language). I started last year and as a very close language to Spanish, I've found it's coming very quickly and easily. Additionally, one of the next international trips I want to take is to do a coffee plantation tour in Colombia and Brazil, so it would be a useful language to know!

2. Cut down on alcohol

(Cue every reader in Nashville chuckling under their breath.) I get it - it's a very boozy city. If you go out on a weekend, you're likely getting cocktails or seltzers or beer at a brewery, and I'm notorious for having wine at home throughout the week. To be totally transparent, I've gained about 5-7 lbs since I moved here just a few months ago. Which may not sound like much, but I'm 5'5" with a small frame, and I can feel it. So we're going to attempt to cut down and see what happens. 

3. Save $$$

2020 was a very expensive year. I moved - twice! - giving Uhaul a grand total of roughly $1000 between the two, and had to buy out of my lease in Michigan before moving down to Tennessee. Then in Tennessee, the start-up costs of a new apartment, new driver's license, new car title and added up quickly. Throw in the (two) trips to Nashville during the summer to decide if I was moving here or not, a new tire, a flight back to Michigan to go get my car after driving the Uhaul here in the first place, and you get the small void that has taken the place of my savings. I'm excited to see what I can do in 2021 to start trending in the right direction.

4. Read more

Last year, I told myself that I was going to read one book per month, having just gotten a new library card at the local library. Then the pandemic hit, and as I had maybe two of the twelve books on my list, that goal quickly fell to the wayside. I'm not setting any specific goal, just willing myself to spend more time reading than staring at a tv screen in the evenings. First up, 1984 by George Orwell. (Just over halfway through as I'm posting this and I'd highly recommend it. Maybe a book review to come?)

5. Follow a schedule

I'm terrible at following any kind of schedule. The only routinely set hours I have are at work, but even there I sometimes log on in the evenings or on weekends depending on the workload. My sleep schedule is totally non-existent (I average about five hours/night. NOT enough). Blogging will not happen - I know this already - if I don't schedule it into my week, and even going to the gym just happens when it fits in. The plan is to get myself in the habit of scheduling one week at a time (since every week is different) and stick to it. That will allow me to do more, write/blog more, and feel more accomplished (and well-rested) by the end of the week.


I'll try to remember to do a sort of mid-year check-in on these, but that's all for now! Even writing this post on goals for 2021, I'm excited for the year to unroll and [hopefully] put last year to shame. I hope you've all had a great year so far, and we'll chat again soon!

Cozy Nashville Apartment Tour

When I graduated from college in Minnesota, I moved from a single dorm room to my childhood bedroom in my parents' house in Michigan. Tw...