a simpler sound.

Atlanta Street Art: on The Beltline.

A small street art sign marking The Beltline. I'm beginning to see these pop up all over the city.

A couple weeks back I was finally able to snag a seat on the elusive bus tour of The Beltline.  If you're not from Atlanta, The Beltline is a major undertaking by the city with the goal of connecting the many neighborhoods of Atlanta with light rail transit while also bringing green space to neighborhoods in need of it. The entire Beltline will be over 22 miles long, becoming one of the largest urban redevelopment projects in the United States!

 The tour I went on was almost three hours long, and took me to neighborhoods I never even knew existed. I tend to stick to my little bubble of Atlanta [probably within a 4 mile radius of my house], and finally after four years, I'm beginning to branch out! Here are just a few quick photos I took of some street art I found along the tour. I was able to learn a bit about some of the art, and the stories of those who created it.  It's amazing how much culture and history this city has, and how I've barely scratched the surface.

A great little walkthrough park that's flanked by a beautiful wall of art that reminds me of a Suzani textile.
This wall was painted by a Christian community center in Pittsburgh [not PA] and spans almost an entire city block.
I didn't get any information on this, but it was my absolute favorite piece.  I took a bunch of photos, but unfortunately the bus was moving so quickly, most of them were blurry and not worth posting.  I'd love to come back to it and find out the story behind it.
This wall mural was done by the community [both kids and adults] of this neighborhood [the name of which is alluding me]. It tells the history of this area, spanning from the time of Native Americans all the way to present day.

Fabric Hunting on a budget: $9.99 or less.

I recently purchased my first sewing machine [we had one as a kid, but sewing machines have really come a long way!] and my first upholstery stapler [my now preferred weapon of choice].  I'm on the hunt for fabrics to start some new projects.  My favorite stomping grounds are Forsyth Fabrics and Lewis & Sheron Fabrics, both of which are located in the Westside of Atlanta, a neighborhood jam packed with everything a designer needs.  

Since I'm pretty green when it comes to sewing, I wanted to pick up some fabrics on the affordable side [so if I botch them up, I'm not throwing hundreds of dollars into the scrap pile].  This time I headed to Lewis & Sheron, and told myself I would only purchase fabrics under $10.  The projects I was shopping for were: a chair seat, bulletin board, and curtains. It's amazing how fabrics and colors can really inspire an entire room, even when on a budget! 

All four of these fabrics are $9.99/yard and coordinate so well together. Although I love using color, I'm starting to lean towards using more neutrals, and layering in interesting patterns is a great way to add interest to a neutral palette.  
I LOVE all things chevron [although too much can make me a little dizzy] and I decided to pick up a yard of the bright pink pattern, since I thought it would coordinate well with my new multi colored chevron headboard [pictures to come soon!]
I don't normally love floral fabrics, but when they're large and graphic like this, you can't go wrong.  The grape purple really resonated with me [my early childhood bedroom was COVERED in purple] so I picked up a yard and decided to go with this as my bulletin board fabric.
The Greek key is a classic pattern, while also bringing a modern flair with its geometric lines.  It was a little busy for the projects I was working on, but I could definitely see using the dark grey or linen color in some upcoming projects.

This fabric with its tiny leaf design has a really delicate quality that I like.  I could see using this as an alternative to the traditional ticking stripe.  I almost considered this for curtains, but I was worried since the fabric was a bit stiff, and might not drape well alongside my windows.  

Pimento Cheese makes everything better: brunch at Empire State South.

A good friend visited this weekend for Music Midtown and her birthday, and it made me think of the last time she was here when we had quite possibly the best brunch ever.  The bulk of my meal consisted of a jar of pimento cheese, some good crusty bread from Holeman and Finch, and the best mocha I've ever had [and continue to have every so often].  Empire State South is one of my favorite spots in Atlanta.  It's got a great style, ambiance, and the food: OH the food.  I've never had a bad thing here, and I'd love to eat my way through their entire menu.  

A new place to walk my dog...the Beltline!

It's here! Well, for the most part: there is the slight issue of a lack of lighting, making night-walks ill advised, along with a couple incomplete areas [it's just walking in a little dirt, no harm there]. But I can finally walk from my block all the way to Piedmont Park! [or in the opposite direction to Old Fourth Ward Park!]  This is huge for me and my neighborhood.  The path is really wide and is perfect for biking, running or walking happy dogs [like mine- see below!]. The walk from my house to the future Ponce City Market location is ONLY around 10 minutes [and that's more like a leisurely stroll], and on that walk I get an incredible view of the Atlanta skyline, along with art installations done by local artists [check out the great street art Kona found below]. Eventually there will be lots of green space lining this thoroughfare, which will make it all the more enjoyable.  

It was weirdly strange walking across the bridge over Ponce, because this is a street I use literally everyday, so having this new perspective on things was fascinating [even though, really, it's just a walking bridge]. The sun was beginning to set over the skyline to my right as I walked with Kona, and despite being a little hot [it's post-Labor Day, if I can't wear white, I shouldn't have to be subjected to the oppressing heat of summer!] the walk was perfect.  I could easily see myself here everyday, taking advantage of one of the many perks of living right in the heart of the city.  

What was funny was there aren't a ton of people who are using the path yet, [this may have to do with the numerous signs saying "CONSTRUCTION ZONE KEEP OUT"] but those who are have the same giddy look about them.  I stopped and chatted with a guy on his bike, along with a group of runners, and we were all so thrilled about the new, fully functional path.  I think my fellow Beltliners are slightly friendlier than your average Atlantan [though compared to up North, people here are generally very pleasant].

Now that the weather will start cooling down [I welcome 80 degree weather with open arms!], I highly encourage you to take a walk [or run, or bike ride] along the Beltline and see what all the buzz is about.

A historic building on the way to The Beltline.
Kona has a great eye for art.
The sun beginning to set over Atlanta.
A new perspective of Paris on Ponce.
Standing on the Ponce bridge, overlooking the future Ponce City Market.
The view towards my house.
Heading back home!

Saturday Antique Finds.

Mason Jars, $12-22 each

This Labor Day weekend was a both busy and relaxing one.  I went to a friend's bachelorette party and wedding, started prepping for painting several rooms at my house [I'm probably painting as you read this], did some restaurant reviewing and antiquing, and even took a day trip down to Serenbe farm. This post, I'll just show you a few antique finds from Highland Row Antiques, all of which are affordable and would make great additions to any home or apartment.

I've always had a soft spot for mason jars.  These are extra special, since there's a variety of colors.  They make a simple home for tea lights, and can bring warmth and light to a porch or dinner table.  

Metal Garden Chair Seating for 4, $225

These metal garden chairs are actually really comfortable, and can easily be sprayed in any color to give them a new life.  

Hanging Light Fixture, $30

I had a little bit of deja vu when I saw this hanging light [did I maybe post about this before?]. It's a metal fixture, so it has an industrial look, but this is softened by the warm white paint color.  I would love to use this in a kitchen over an eating area, but it could also be used in a bedroom or office for some overhead accent lighting.

Art Deco Vanity, $185

I really need to find a good excuse to buy this vanity.  It's a great little piece, and has so much character.  What's even better is it's fully functional, with all the drawers working perfectly [that isn't always the case with old furniture like this].

Ponce City Market: A Tour.

Last week, I went on a tour of City Hall East, a building that used to be a major hub for Sears for many years, and is now the future site of Ponce City Market. I was lucky enough to snag a few tickets that were made available on their website [tours are free, but tickets are hard to come by].  Seeing as this major undertaking is just three blocks from my house, I needed to see things for myself.  It's a project that will dramatically affect my neighborhood, so it's really exciting for me to learn as much as I can about it. This behemoth of a building has stood there, quietly looming for years, so it will be really captivating to see such a massive transformation and witness some life breathed into this Atlanta landmark. 

I'm not going to lie, I was pretty pumped to wear a hard hat and walk around, though the head gear seemed fairly unessential once we got inside. There's also the fact that they had me sign a waiver, basically stating that if I fell down an elevator shaft or was flung off the side of the building, they weren't liable for anything, making the hardhat more of a novelty.  

I took over 200 photos during my two hour tour, so I think I'll do a series of posts introducing this place to you.  I find the history behind the building as well as it's future completely fascinating, and I think you will too.  So for now, here's a brief photo story of the very start of my tour.  I can't wait to share the rest of it with you!

There's more than one way to cool off.

The weather this summer has been a little wonky.  Today, the high is 88 degrees here in Atlanta.  It's humid, but not all that unbearable [I write this as I sit by the Brookwood Hills Community Pool...not too shabby].  

But back in my hometown, it's a balmy 99 degrees today! The entire northeast is experiencing a serious heatwave.  Even Boston has a high of 99 today.  Not sure what's going on, but I'll take advantage of this cooler [for Atlanta] weather while I can. 

For my friends up north, I feel your pain.  When you don't have access to a pool and it's just too unbearably hot, look at this [below], and you're sure to cool off a few degrees. 

A photo I took at the top of Jungfraujoch in Switzerland, June 2011

Or have a popsicle. They're just the best. 
Homemade orange popsicle with fresh raspberries. Yum.

Tour de Coffee.

Currently, my work schedule is such that I've got a good chunk of the morning free each day.  This has been working in my favor, since I've been getting a lot done well before I have to head out to work.  The thought of feeling accomplished before noon is something I could get used to.

I have a friend staying with me right now, so we've been spending some mornings at the nearby coffee shops.  It made me think of how fortunate I am to have so many within such a small radius.  Of course there is the fair share of Starbucks nearby [a new one popped up just last month], but I'm more partial to the local places.  Typically, their coffee is great quality, and the general vibe of them is really conducive to getting myself to write.

I decided it'd be fun to write about all the coffee shops I've been frequenting.  So, in honor of the upcoming 2012 Tour de France, I'm going to partake in my own Tour de Coffee. There will be no bikes involved [though I suppose if I owned a bike, I could ride from coffee shop to coffee shop hmm...] and I'm not competing with anyone for any real honor or glory [which means no cheating scandals to be had].

Above, you can see a map of every coffee shop within approximately 1.5 miles from my house.  A couple of these are a little off. For example, 'G' is a Krispy Kreme, and even though those delightful confections pair perfectly with the brown elixir, I don't count it as a coffee shop [although they do serve it- but it had to be one of the worst cups I've ever attempted to swallow].

Right now, I'm writing this from one of my favorite places, Inman Perk.  I'm drinking a small iced black coffee [$2.70] and despite being so simple, it's one of the better cups of [iced] coffee I've had. The place is almost always packed, but it's actually fairly quiet, since nearly every other patron has their laptop in tow and are busy plugging away at whatever it is people work on in coffee shops.  It's really unpretentious [although most coffee shops in Atlanta have a bit of coffee snobbery to them, which I don't really mind].  There's no password needed for their wifi, which is one less hoop to jump through in my coffee/working experience.

So onward to the next stop on the Tour de Coffee...

Atlanta Eats: Belly [and a brief rant about the availability of ketchup].

Atlanta is full of fun neighborhoods with lots of funky little shops and restaurants. I love living right in the heart of the city, because within a few blocks, I can get everything I need: groceries, a bank, coffee shops, cafes, restaurants and more.  Some of my favorite spots are a little farther, but nothing a 20-30 minute walk can't fix.

As it gets hotter [and stickier, bleh] in Atlanta, my walking radius shrinks a bit and I start to frequent the same close by spots more and more. One such place is Belly General Store, a Virginia Highland staple that sits in a space filled with history.  Once a beloved soda shop for over 70 years, the space now provides in-house made olive oil bagels, cupcakes, sandwiches and more. 

Above, you can see my lunch: a roast beef sandwich with tomatoes, lettuce and a horseradish aioli.  All their sandwiches come with a deviled egg, which is always a treat for whoever I'm with, since I'm not a deviled egg enthusiast.  I also grabbed an old school bottle of [diet] coke and a bag of Route 11 potato chips.  The meal came to around $12, which is on the pricier side for a quick bite to eat.  Another slight irritation was the fact that when I asked for ketchup, the person at the register chuckled at me, saying "we don't do ketchup here." That put me off a bit, since I can very well see why a fine dining establishment might not carry ketchup packets, but a 'general store' refusing to provide any condiments [I tried, they won't give you mustard either] seemed odd.

I'm one of the few [weird] people who enjoys dipping their kettle cooked potato chips in a little ketchup.  It's like eating french fries, but in a lighter, crispier form. Add a pinch of sriracha or hot sauce to the mix and you've entered a whole new realm of awesome.   So I get why ketchup might be a non-essential for most in this application, but Belly also sells breakfast sandwiches made with eggs, and I know not everyone likes ketchup on their eggs, but if a poll were to be performed [and I'm this close to initiating one] I'd say a hefty portion of the public would at least like the option of ketchup!  I mean the classic egg and cheese on a bagel isn't worth batting my eyelashes at if there isn't any of the sweet, salty red stuff at my disposal.  [Hmph. Okay, rant done.]

I will say the bread my sandwich was made with was phenomenal, and my tomato was flavorful and not bland and watery as one can sometimes get with their lunch meat. And slap horseradish on anything and I will happily eat it, so that was a welcome touch to my sandwich.

Rants aside, I really do like hanging out at this place. I love the old time feel of Belly. The original brick walls, along with the hefty farm tables and benches breathe a bit of history into the space. There's a great eclectic quality that stems from the way the place is decorated.  
It's no surprise the space was actually used for a movie a couple years back.  The cheesy, contrived rom-com Life As We Know It, starring Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel, was filmed throughout Atlanta, with some critical scenes taking place right in my neighborhood and inside Belly.  I know all this because I had a major role in the film [as a superb extra- I think my best shot is somewhere between minutes 16 and 21] and spent a lot of time hanging around set [this much is true- my stardom, less so].  

So although I find their food a bit overpriced, and their lack of ketchup appalling, [oh and they really need to turn on the fans or AC, since it was awfully hot in there this week, but I digress...] I come back because it's so convenient and comfortable and I can compromise on everything else because it's a little piece of my neighborhood, and a little piece of Atlanta history [and b-movie history while we're at it].

bands to keep your eye on: milo greene [a concert and EP review].

I saw Milo Greene back in November when they opened for The Civil Wars at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, GA. From top to bottom, that was one of the absolute best [yes, it deserves the double superlative!] concerts I've ever been to.  Although much of that status had to do with The Civil Wars putting on an impeccably moving performance, I left that show discovering a new band that would soon become another favorite of mine.  

I honestly don't know much about Milo Greene, other than that they're based out of Los Angeles, since I recall them mentioning that at the concert. Apart from really enjoying their soothing sound, I was so impressed by the vocal abilities of every member of the band, as well as their individual instrumental prowess.  With every song, the entire band would perform a sort of 'ring-around-the-rosie' dance, almost seeming as if they could grab any instrument on the stage and perform in perfect pitch together. This created such an organic performance, with each song taking on a varied style and tone. They played quite a few songs, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Unfortunately, at this point I don't believe they were officially signed to a label, and were still producing an EP themselves specifically for The Civil Wars tour.  I was able to snag a copy and chat with who I believe was the bassist [but with the tossing around of instruments, it was hard to tell!].

The EP has only three songs, two of which have been very recently released as singles on iTunes.

1. 1957: This song was just released as a single the other week. This is their most upbeat song on the EP and has a great melodic quality to it. I love the tapping of the drumsticks [at least I think that's what the sound is, I could be wrong...] throughout the song. Love these lyrics:

'the scent you wear moves in lines 
from your apartment into mine 
you act like you don't know me 
my god you tempt my anxious mind'

2. Silent Way: This song is my favorite on the EP for so many reasons.  For one thing, for a girl who doesn't love country music, I'm a sucker for the plucking of a banjo. It melds so perfectly with the piano. The slow, melodic pace has a repetition that I really like.  It's mimicked in the lyrics,

'when, when, when we're older
can I still come over?'

The song, whether it actually carries this meaning or not, reminds me of being a kid and how easy it was. I'd just go to a friend's house and we'd make up random, ridiculous games that almost always involved an obstacle course [Legends of the Hidden Temple was my FAVORITE show during this phase].  That might be a slight tangent, but essentially, I just loved how easy it was to have friends and have fun with life.  The lyrics make me think of little Jo, asking her best friend that when they're older can it still be the same, simple friendship they always had.  When you get older, things change and get so complicated. I wish it were as simple as this song, but it's not.

3. Don't You Give Up On Me: I posted a great quality live performance of this song at the top.  The song was actually featured on Grey's Anatomy recently. It has the most commercial quality of the three, and I can see it being used again in anther show or movie. I don't mean that as a negative in any way.  I've found so many great artists on TV shows [my secret dream job has been to be the person who chooses music for movies and TV- I'd LOVE that entirely too much]. It's just such a sweet song:

'I'll go, I'll go, I'll go wherever you go
I would never leave without letting you know'

This EP is my go-to driving CD, because I can listen to it over and over without ever getting tired of it. I sing to it all the time and since I rarely allow people to hear me legitimately try and sing, the car is a perfect venue for my performances. It's also got that great quality that makes driving seem leisurely and enjoyable, and calms my ever percolating road rage [I'm really a very calm, relaxed person- but my inner New York resurfaces every so often...!].

The Milo Greene full-length album has a release date set for July 17th, and they'll be heading to Atlanta shortly after on the 21st.  They're playing at the Drunken Unicorn, which is stumbling distance from my house, and I CAN'T wait to see them.  I'd love to invite them over to my house after the show to hang out and drink on my porch. They just seem like the kind of people I'd be friends with anyhow.

Concert review: M83 at The Masquerade.

A couple Mondays ago, M83 [fronted by French musician Anthony Gonzalez] came to Atlanta [within about a half mile from my house] to the Masquerade.  Occasionally, when there's a big demand for an artist [remember the time Snoop Dogg was in my neighborhood? Yeah.], The Masq will move concerts to an outdoor stage behind the main building.  
Despite showing up late, [due to some parking issues] we were able to catch most of the set, and more importantly, the amazing encore [their performance of Couleurs was one of my more surreal concert moments].  I really wasn't sure what to expect, since M83 has such an electronic based sound, with minimal singing.  But I was really surprised to see how many instruments were on stage [in addition to the more synth-based variety].  Their latest album, Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, takes a departure from their previous work and focuses on trying to use instruments not normally found in alternative electronic music.  I especially loved the guy on the saxophone during one of their bigger hits 'Midnight City' [insert my stalker photo of him here].

I was completely entranced by this guy [see below] and his one man light show, just off to the side of the stage.  It's amazing what a DSLR camera can capture.

The show was a hybrid of an outdoor festival and a rave [hello 90s?] and the combination of dancing, lights and music was perfect. The only things missing were two of my favorite songs: 'Too Late' and 'Raconte-Moi Une Histoire' [I'm dying to make a music video for this!] but this gives me a great excuse to see M83 live again.

Friday out: Fontaine's Seafood Happy Hour.

I'm always looking for restaurant or bar specials around the city.  It gives me a good excuse to go out and try new places, since I can be pretty set on staying home and inviting friends over for a meal or drinks.  Last Friday, we headed to Fontaines, a local restaurant/bar just a few blocks from my house in the Virginia Highland neighborhood of Atlanta. 
On Thursdays and Fridays from 4 to 7, they have a special of half priced oysters, peel and eat shrimp, and crab legs.  Being that seafood is typically pricey, this seemed like a great deal.

I started my meal of with the Orange Blossom Special [$8], which consists of: Hangar One Mandarin Blossom Vodka, Fruitlab Hibiscus liqueur, simple syrup, and lemon juice.  Apparently this drink was invented while the bartenders were listening to Johnny Cash.  Not sure the connection between Johnny Cash and this drink, but it was tasty nonetheless. There was a slight floral taste, but it was definitely an orange based drink, which I really liked.  

Our oysters came first, and we were all pretty disappointed after having a few.  Most of the oysters had bits of shell mixed in, which doesn't provide the best mouthfeel when slurping down an oyster. The taste was fine, but that grittiness left something to be desired.  

Our shrimp, on the other hand were perfectly cooked and easy to peel. You might think otherwise from looking at this photo of my friend, Katy, but they really were good! 

The best part of our meal was absolutely the crab legs, which were perfect with just a bit of clarified butter and lemon juice.  My crab leg cracking abilities have vastly improved over the years, which made them extra enjoyable.  I think I inherited this ability both from my crab obsessed mom and from growing up around seafood in New York.

For three people, our entire meal and drinks with tip was under $50, which was a pretty great deal.  Oyster shucking issues aside, I don't know that I could get seafood of that quality for that price anywhere in Atlanta [but if you do know of some places, please share!].

Saturday finds: sifting through highland row antiques.

Typewriter in teal: $55
Painting of birds: $225

I have an addiction and it's one that can't be helped. I'm obsessed with sifting through antique and thrift stores.  I can't help it- there's just something about having a sea of furniture and objects from the past at my disposal that gets me giddy.  
Last weekend was the first Saturday of the month, making it the day Highland Row Antiques, one of my favorite local antique stores, hosts their monthly market.  Many vendors come and showcase furniture, their specialty typically being of the Danish mid-century modern style.  All the mint condition pieces are snapped up within the first hour, so if you're really on the market for something- get there early to first dibs!  I'm rarely ever shopping for any big pieces of furniture [though if I had some kind of storage unit, I'd buy up all my favorites and figure out how to use them later- like a hoarder would] so we usually get there sometime mid-morning.  What I've really been searching for are bookcases, but I'm so picky when it comes to larger pieces, I've yet to see anything worth even photographing.  

I did stumble upon some great pieces, all of which would make a nice vignette together.  There's a definite recurring theme of teal, black and white, with a touch of yellow.  The total for all these things rounded out to just shy of $800, the chairs and art being the bigger ticket pieces. But I think they'd all make for a fun lounge space. Figure in a side table plus some paint [say, in a light grey], and I'd have an entirely new room ready for around $1000. [I could totally do one of those HGTV-style shows]

Like this look? Take me shopping with you, and we can get any space pieced together in no time.

Tomorrow I'm heading to the monthly Scott's Antiques Market, which I've actually never been to.  It's supposedly one of the best places to get anything and everything in Atlanta, so I'm looking forward to some good finds. Happy hunting!

Small ceramic bowl with glazed teal interior: $18
White ceramic vase: $25
Glass candy dish: $12
Pair of paint-by-numbers: $68
Vintage lighted sign: $95
Pair of houndstooth lounge chairs: $300

Good Atlanta Eats: Fritti

This past Saturday, I had a morning hanging out with my Mom. Part of our afternoon activities [more of which will be detailed in another post] included a late lunch at Fritti, an Italian eatery serving authentic Neopolitan style pizza- so good it's certified. We sat on the outdoor patio that was sheltered by big, red umbrellas [hence the redish hue to the photos I took]. We split our meal, as we almost always do [I love being able to taste a little bit of everything on the table]. 

We started with the Insalatona, an Italian take on the Cobb salad- made with mixed greens, four cheeses, egg, cotto ham, salame, marinated artichokes and sliced red onions.  This was the perfect salad to share and every ingredient was fresh and unfettered with.  

After a rather long wait [as I suppose all good things are accustomed to doing], we split the Speck e Rucola pizza, topped with San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella, smoked prosciutto and arugula. Simple ingredients, all of which are standards in my Italian inspired kitchen.  What truly makes their pizza is the dough.  This wasn't a crispy pizza dough, and that crispy crust is certainly missed [I've ordered from here before, and I must say, it's even better reheated in a 500+ degree oven at home, placed on a baking sheet or pizza stone that's been heated in the oven] but the doughy texture makes for a great mouth feel.

Definitely give Fritti a try, if you haven't already.