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The Better Weekend Farm Visit

November 13, 2015

This past Sunday, I took a trip to a gorgeous farm that was an hour train ride outside the city. It reminded me that fresh air doesn’t have to mean smog and that there are animals that are totally worth interacting with (unlike the rats that scurry down the New York streets). 
I went with my two hilarious friends Lala and Amelia because they are the only ones who shared the same excitement for seeing animals and eating the most delicious snacks from the Blue Hill Cafe at Stone Barns. If you haven’t heard of this place, then you need to watch the AMAZING Netflix docuseries Chef’s Table (episode two). The whole place is run by Dan Barber the leader of the farm-to-table food revolution.
The three of us had a fantastic time running around, taking pictures, and feeding animals (like this baby pig who is giving some serious side-eye). Lala and Amelia are defiantly my biggest foodie friends, and they for sure are the only ones who were willing to wake up at 7 in the morning and catch the train that would drop us off nearby the farm. 






The Better Naan Bread At Home

November 03, 2015

Naan naan naan naan hey hey hey goodbye! That’s how the lyrics go, right? I can assure you that minutes after serving these to friends (or eating them all by yourself) they will be gone. This was my first time making it, and I have quickly discovered that nothing is better than scorching hot naan straight from the pan (not even the frozen ones from Trader Joe’s). 

The Better Junior Year Dorm Room

September 13, 2015

Finally, my dorm is complete and I’m so excited to share it with you guys! Generally, the first remark people make is, “Oh, your room is so…small…but you’ve made really good use of the space.” I’ll admit, my room is tiny, especially considering that I am an upperclassman (ew, I’m old!) and had many other options. I lived in this building last year and loved it so much the idea of moving was unbearable. So yes, it is small, but the size is never an excuse for sacrificing style, and I’m always up for a challenge (as long as it isn’t calculus). While I do still have a few pieces from my old room this year was about going above and beyond…almost to the point of complete ridiculousness for a dorm. The peacock, silk curtains really made a dramatic statement, especially with my chandelier floor lamp in front of it.
I had many e-mails asking for dorm tips, and I think one of the best ways to make your room unique is to shop in various places. As cute as a bedroom set up might look in Ikea or Bed Bath & Beyond, it’s usually a bit tacky or overwhelming when everything has been purchased and set up in your own space. I shopped at Bed Bath & Beyond, Home Goods, Target, Neiman Marcus, Ikea, Amazon, Etsy, Macy’s, Pottery Barn, and Overstock.com. The easiest way to elevate your style is to avoid the matchy-matchy look.

The Better Salmon Veggie Bowl With Rice

September 12, 2015

I’ve always struggled with eating enough vegetables. It’s gotten to the point where my mom calls me to check in, and she’ll ask if I’m getting enough sleep and eating my veggies, and my response is always something like, “Does the lettuce on my sandwich count?”
Earlier this week I went to Community, a restaurant by the Columbia campus, and enjoyed their rice bowl. It’s your choice of tofu, salmon, or chicken on a bed of thinly sliced vegetables with brown rice on the bottom. It was so good I knew I had to recreate it at home.
First I brined the salmon for 30 minutes so it would be super flavorful, then cooked it over medium heat. 

The Better Pasta in a White Wine Cheese Sauce

August 23, 2015

Remember that time I made fresh pasta? Well, I also had to learn to make a sauce to go with it. As impressive as from scratch pasta is, no one cares if you serve it to them with nothing on it. Using what I already had in my fridge, I was able to come up with this super yummy sauce. I do have to admit that I made it in a rush so my measurements weren’t exact, but don’t let that stop you from making it because it’s pretty hard to ruin.

The Better Way To Wash Your Bras

August 17, 2015

So you can say there has been a lot of bra talk around my office lately. How to put them on and how often you should wash them have been the main points of focus. When I found out I was supposed to be washing them every couple wears I laughed at the impracticality of that. The washing machines in my apartment building don’t have many settings that make it easy to care for delicate clothes, so hand washing is the only way to go for me. And that takes so. damn. long. But I found a solution that doesn’t require me to buy any special laundry bags or devices.
All you need is a large pillowcase and a hair tie! Put your bras in the pillowcasemaking sure there is plenty of room so they will get cleaned properly in the washing machine. Then tie the tippy top of the pillowcase with a hair tie. Place it in a mostly empty washing machine on the most delicate setting and you’re good to go. And you can air dry them or keep them in the pillowcase and put them in the dryer. See? Easy!

The Better Brussels Sprouts

August 13, 2015

On numerous occasions, I have been caught saying things like “I’ll eat it as long as it’s not green and leafy,” or “I would eat vegetables, but they just taste like dirt.” No joke. However, a few days ago I stumbled across this Food52 recipe for brussels sprouts. The picture convinced me that if I made it, I would not be left with the deep regret that usually floods over me after taking a bite of kale. And boy oh boy was I right. 
Technically, I can’t behave like this is some big shocker. Cardboard would probably be a pretty decent side dish if tossed with oil, ham, cheese, and croutons… but that isn’t the point. The point is I ate something ~healthy~ and didn’t want to scrape my tongue off afterward.

Recipe 
Adapted from Food52
ingredients 
  • pound brussels sprouts
  • slices rustic country bread
  • ounces pancetta, chopped
  • tablespoons olive oil
  • large shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 fat clove garlic, smashed
  • sprigs thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan 

directions
  1. Heat the oven to 425° F. Trim and quarter the brussels sprouts (halve them if they’re small). Tear the bread into rough crumbs about 1/3 inch in diameter; you’ll need about 1/2 cup.
  2. In an ovenproof pan that will work for serving, fry the pancetta over low heat until crisp. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the pan, and over medium-low heat soften the shallot, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and whole thyme sprigs and cook for another minute. Turn the heat up to medium and add the croutons, stirring to coat them in the oil. Cook for a couple of minutes, until the croutons start to brown.
  3. Push everything to the sides of the pan and turn up the heat to medium-high. Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the center of the pan, along with the sprouts. Cook for a minute or so, until they sizzle and start to brown. Stir everything together, adding salt and pepper to taste, then transfer the pan to the oven. Cook, stirring once or twice, until the sprouts are just tender, about 15 minutes, and everything is crisp and burnished.
  4. Remove the thyme sprigs, shower the sprouts with the Parmesan (if using) and serve.

The Better Photography Gear

July 25, 2015

There’s a lot of info in this post so I want to say the really important things up front: you can spend a lot of money equipment and still have shitty pictures. I say this because
1) I would hate for anyone to think they can’t have beautiful images because they can’t afford the slew of things I listed below
2) and because my biggest pet peeve is when people attribute a good photo solely to what I’m shooting with.  People do this all the time: “Monique’s photos are so beautiful. She has a really good camera.” And each time it’s like they are breaking off a little of my soul and stomping all over it.  
Lastly, it’s also important to remember that I have been acquiring all this stuff since I was 16 (I’m now 21) by buying second hand and waiting for good deals. And while my camera body was purchased for as a gift for my 21st birthday, everything else I had to save up for.
1. Canon 6D – Canon’s smallest full frame body. I had the 5D MIII for a hot second but decided I didn’t need all the features. With the money, I got back from downgrading I was able to buy a new lens.
2. GoPro Hero4 Silver – I just got this and haven’t used it too much, but I’m so excited to take it with me when I go to Thailand in January. I’m constantly daydreaming about all the underwater footage I’ll get.




3. Sony point and shoot – I always want to have a good camera on me, but it’s just so impractical to haul a DSLR around all day every day.
4. 35mm lens – I took a risk buying it on eBay for a price that was too good to be true. I don’t use it often but when I do I’m in LOOOOVE with the wide angle images it produces.
5. 85mm lens – I only ever use this when I’m shooting food. It takes some really sexy close-ups.
6. 24-70mm lens – My newest lens which I use when I’m out and about and need as much versatility as I can get.
7. 50mm lens – My first lens that will always have a special place in my heart. I really attribute my rapid progression in photography to my 50; it’s so versatile and gave me a lot of room to play around. Also, the fact that it’s a prime lens (it doesn’t zoom) meant that it made me think a lot more about the way I composed my shots. He’s an oldy but a goody.
8. Memory card holder – So I can (try to) keep my cards in one place.
9. Memory cards – I have a million of these all over the place. I always find them in the most random places –pockets, sofa, drawers, handbags, etc.
10. External hard drive – After I take photos I always immediately store them on my external hard drive. I’m terrible about not misplacing memory cards, so this is the only way I don’t lose my photos altogether.
14. Reflectors – I mainly use the white one to help get light into dark areas of food photography, and the translucent one to help diffuse light from my windows.
15. Mono lights – I’m in loooove with my lights. My photography style is bright and slightly overexposed with natural light. This is impossible to achieve when the sun has set before I’ve even reached for my camera. Because of this investment, I’m able to get shots like this and this at 11PM.


 16. Camera crossbody – When I’m out and about in town and don’t want a big CANON bag announcing to the world that I’m carrying equipment worth stealing.
17. Crumpler – For the times when my camera bags just won’t go with my outfit, I can turn any handbag into a camera bag.
18. Camera backpack – This is used mainly when I’m traveling and have to carry more than my camera, cell phone, and credit card. I’m not one to carry more than one bag at a time, so this gives my camera plenty of protection while allowing me room for other things.
19. Camera sling – Rapid R seems to be the only company that recognizes that women are photographers. They know how tragic looking most camera slings are when worn across the chest. This strap is curved at the shoulder so it’s as flattering as a camera sling can be…basically it doesn’t cut across your boob in the most awkward fashion.
20. Bose headphones – When I edit my photos late at night I listen to music or podcasts with these headphones so I don’t disturb my sister.
21. Posterboards – These things are lifesavers for hiding an ugly background or a kitchen that needs to be cleaned. I have them in white, black, and pink.
22. Wacom tablet – For adding handwritten text to images. 
23. UV filters – I’ve invested so much money in my lenses that spending a little more to help keep them protected is worth it. Always having them on my lenses means I have to be too concerned with making sure that my lens cap is on.
24. Camera remote – For when I’m cooking and don’t want my dirty hands all over my camera.  
25. Photoshop CS6 – What I use to edit my photos
 *This is not a sponsored post.

The Better Ikea Nightstand Revamp

July 19, 2015


The last 4 months that I’ve been living in this apartment, I’ve been nightstand free. The space that allows for a side table is so narrow that most of the options I liked wouldn’t fit without making it impossible for me to get to my closet. But after too many times of falling asleep with my electronics, books, and face wipes next to me, I knew I had to find a solution. I was browsing Ikea the other day when I came across the Nordli Nightstand and knew I had to get it. I went to Ikea that day, and within a few hours, I had it assembled.


The Better Medicine Cabinets

July 06, 2015

I’m a total snoop. I know it’s bad quality, and most of the time I try and suppress it. However, the NY Mag totally appealed to me when they posted this article about peeking into medicine cabinets of various New Yorkers. I think it’s a pretty good look into the daily lives of people–and it’s also a good way to assess how high maintenance someone is.
This is what the inside of my cabinet looks like. I pinky promise that this is what it always looks like. You can just ask my roommate sister (roomister? sistermate?)

The Better Homemade Pasta

July 03, 2015

My favorite thing about homemade pasta is that it sounds a lot more grandiose and complex than it really is. Have a lady or gentleman caller you need to impress? Perhaps an in-law that you need to win over? From-scratch pasta is the easiest way to score extra brownie points.
Make a well with the flour and place scrambled eggs in the center, then carefully stir with your fingers to combine the flour and eggs.

7 Better Things From This Week

July 02, 2015


1. L’Appartment Living – This French blog focuses on food, home decor, and basically all things lifestyle. The pictures are stunning, and the content is inspiring. It’s written in French though, but I just use it as an opportunity to practice my reading comprehension.


2. Existational instagram account – This is one of my new favorite Instagram accounts. I’m obsessed with her adventurous travel photography that always makes me want to pack a suitcase and go somewhere. Her eye is amazing, and you can see more of her photos on her flickr account (which I stalk obsessively).

3.  The Talk of Shame podcast – This is one of the few podcasts I listen to that can actually elicit a physical response from me while I listen. Streeter invites a comedic guest on the show and they share one of their embarrassing stories, and at the end, a listener submitted story is read. I’m always dying of laughter or cringing in sympathetic embarrassment on my subway commute.

4. Late evening sunlight in my bedroom – My bedroom gets amazing light around 7pm. It’s so beautiful that most evenings I’ll just sit in bed listen to music and appreciate my view.

The Better Homemade Peach Ice Cream

June 24, 2015

I’ve been living in New York for almost three years now, and I only just realized that there is a Costco not too far from where I live. For some reason, I was under the impression that the only Costco in New York was on 116th and 1st, tucked away in the one corner of the city that is nearly impossible for me to access. When I found out that free samples and obscenely large cheese bricks were only a 30-minute train ride away, it felt like a message sent from the heavens.
I bought a box of these peaches which are so unbelievably delicious, and let them ripen for a couple of days before turning them into even sweeter, more delicious ice cream. Though a bit time consuming, the process is super easy and calls for missed episodes of your favorite show to help pass the time.


The Better Thai Tea With Boba

June 18, 2015

I have been meaning to make my own Thai iced tea with boba for the longest time. In fact, I bought the ingredients about 6 months ago. I just never got around to it until this week when the temperatures in New York skyrocketed, and I was in desperate need of something cool and refreshing.
After making it for the first time this past weekend, I can officially say that I waited far too long. I can also make a serious promise to myself that I will not spend any more money buying bubble tea when I can make it at home with little effort.

Better Tips for Organizing Your Closet

June 15, 2015

Taking the time to clean and reorganize my closet is a project that is long overdue. When my bed is made and my closet doors are closed, I can easily fool people into thinking that I totally have my shit together. However, when those accordion doors are pulled back, the hot mess truth comes pouring out.
So in the spirit of honesty and self-improvement, I’m sharing my dirty laundry (haha get it?) on the internet for all to see. The real first step of this project is to put on some good music (or maybe pour yourself a tall glass of wine) before taking everything out of your closet.
And when I say everything I mean it (except for my suitcases because they just have more suitcases stuffed inside).