Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ultra Casual Look

I get it-sometimes you just have to wear sweats or an equally comfortable outfit.  I see many women wearing exercise clothes when they run errands during the day.  The best way to do it is to wear fitted (but not tight) pieces that show you have a shape, rather than oversized, overly baggy clothes.  Also, add some luxurious fabrics to dress up your look.

C by Bloomingdale's sweater (different color), Banana Republic tank,
Splendid sweat pants (different color), Madewell sunglasses,
Chloe handbag (different color), Nike shoes

Monday, October 28, 2013

Kathy Jones' Chili

Not that it's cooling down, it's time for soup, stew and/or chili.  When I didn't use a recipe, my chili was pretty inconsistent- it was too bland, too salty or too spicy.  My good friend, Kathy Jones, was nice enough to share her dad's recipe with me.  It's one of my favorites this time of year.

the ingredients

Brown the ground beef and onion

Add the garlic and spices

Cook at least 1 hour on the stovetop

Kathy Jones' Chili
 2 lb. ground beef
very large onion or 2 medium onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 C. chili powder
2 tsp. salt
3 beef bouillon cubes
2-1/4 C. water
15 oz. tomato sauce
30 oz. chili beans, undrained

In a large pot, brown ground beef and onion.  Drain oil.  Add chili powder, garlic, salt and bouillon cubes.  Stir and cook until the bouillon cubes have dissolved.  Add the remaining ingredients.  Cover and cook 6-8 hours in crock pot on low or at least 1 hour on stove (for stove, use 2-1/2 cups water).

Friday, October 25, 2013

My Closet

Deciding to sell our home in California was a tough decision.  For years, we said that if Kevin was transferred, we'd rent out our house and eventually move back to it.  We finally realized that the reasons we bought and lived in this home (the schools and family-friendly neighborhood) no longer applied to us, and we were thrilled when a young family purchased our home.  We have absolutely no regrets and are looking forward to our new adventure.  I will miss my closet, though...

Our closet used to be L-shaped with large mirrored doors.  When we remodeled the bathroom, I worked with our contractor and a closet company and came up with this design.  

The view from the door-Unfortunately, we had to have
the beam in the closet since it's load-bearing

Kevin's portion of the closet.  His shoe shelves are 18" deep, rather
than 12" since his shoes are bigger than mine.

My portion (I admit-it's larger than Kevin's portion).  The plastic
boxes contain my shoes; handbags are stored on the top shelves
in bags to protect them from dust; and sweaters and jeans are
folded and put on shelves

My favorite part of the closet-being able to see my
jewelry make it easy to accessorize
Clothes are arranged by type (jackets, dresses, pants,
skirts, tops) and then by sleeve length or leg length

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Four Star Finds: Things for Boston

I've always lived in Southern California (though I did spend a few summers in Hawaii as a child), so I've never lived in cold weather.  Here are a few things I bought and was given in preparation for living in Boston.

My friend, Carole, gave Emmie this water-proof cape.  Though Emmie
looks a bit angry in this picture, she'll appreciate the cape on her walks
Kevin, who travels to Boston quite a bit, thinks this coat
won't be warm enough.  I thought this pink wool coat was
just too pretty to pass up

I plan to go back to yoga classes in Boston and usually wear boot cut
yoga pants.  I thought skinny legged pants would be better for rainy and
snowy days since I can tuck them into my boots

Carole's son attended Harvard University, so she had a pretty good idea
of what's needed to live in cold weather.  She gave me these beautiful
cashmere-lined, leather gloves.  I'm sure they'll keep my hands warm and toasty!
My friend, Gretchen, is a Maryland native living in Southern California.
She gave me these welly socks to keep me warm during "mud season"

Since we're becoming a one-car family, I'll be doing a lot of walking.
These Cole Haan oxfords are so comfortable-its like walking on clouds.

Monday, October 21, 2013

My "Uniform"

Now that the weather has cooled down a bit, I can start wearing my “uniform” again-a jacket; jeans; flats; and a tank, tee or lightweight sweater.  I think my “uniform” looks put together, is comfortable and is adaptable to small weather changes.  When it’s on the warmer side, I wear sandals instead of closed-toed shoes and a tank or lightweight tee.  When it’s rainy or cold, I switch to riding boots and wear a sweater.  This look can also be dressed up by wearing a tailored blazer and dark washed jeans or dressed down by wearing an anorak, casual tee and faded, cuffed jeans.  I love my uniform’s versatility…

Helmut Lang blazer (different color), Rag and Bone tee,
Rag and Bone jeans, Chan Luu necklace, Barneys flats (similar),
Reed Krakoff clutch, Burberry sunglasses (old), Nordstrom camisole

Friday, October 18, 2013

Vanilla Ice Cream

Generally, I’m not the biggest fan of vanilla ice cream.  It’s not that I dislike it, there are just many more interesting flavors (like rocky road or mocha almond fudge) I’d rather choose.  This recipe, however, changes everything…

the ingredients

Scrape the vanilla beans from the vanilla pod

Add the vanilla bean pod to the cream mixture

Follow the ice cream maker's directions for the freezing process

Vanilla Ice Cream 

            1 cup  whole milk
            3/4 cup  granulated sugar
            1 pinch  salt
            2 cups  heavy cream
            1 tablespoon  pure vanilla extract
            1  vanilla bean

Make a slit along the length of the vanilla bean, open and scrape the seeds out with the back of a knife.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, using a hand mixer on low speed or a whisk, combine the milk, sugar and salt (until the sugar is dissolved).  Stir in the heavy cream, vanilla and vanilla bean seeds.  Add the vanilla pod to the mixture.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the vanilla bean pod and add mixture to ice cream maker, being sure to add the seeds that sunk to the bottom of the bowl.  Prepare according to manufacturer’s instructions.  Serve immediately or freeze for 1-2 hours for a firmer consistency.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Movie Reviews: "Gravity", "Don Jon", "Captain Phillips", "Enough Said"

It's been a stellar week for movies-I can't remember the last time so many good movies were in theaters.

Rated PG-13

Though I’m not normally the biggest fan of 3D movies, Gravity is a must-see in 3D.  It didn’t feel like things were flying out at me, I felt like I was in space watching everything happen real-time. 

Sandra Bullock plays Dr. Ryan Stone, a mission specialist, while George Clooney plays Matt Kowalsky, a veteran astronaut.  While on a routine space walk. they are suddenly caught in the middle of a debris storm.  Will Ryan and Matt make it back to earth?

Don Jon
Rated R

Jon Martello (Joseph Gordon-Levitt-who is also the writer and director of this film) is a twenty-something Jersey-ite cruising through life-he also happens to have an addiction to on-line porn.  Jon falls head-over-heels in love with Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), who soon discovers, and disapproves of, his “hobby”.  Will Jon be able to overcome his addiction and truly connect with another person?

Captain Phillips
Rated PG-13

Captain Phillips is based on the real–life 2009 story of the Maersk Alabama cargo ship being overtaken by Somali pirates.  Tom Hanks portrays Rich Phillips, the American captain who cleverly manipulates the pirates, while Barkhad Abdi sympathetically plays Muse, the Somali pirate captain.  Though this movie is a thriller, it also subtly examines the relationships between the haves and the have nots.

Enough Said
Rated PG-13

At a party, single mom and masseuse, Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), meets a new client, Marriane (Catherine Keener) and potential boyfriend, Albert (James Gandolfini).  Though Albert isn’t good-looking, he and Eva connect immediately, as do Marriane and Eva, becoming fast friends.  When Eva realizes Albert is Marriane’s ex-husband, she allows Marriane to criticize Albert, thus  poisoning her and Albert’s relationship.  Will Eva be able to put aside Marriane’s criticisms and continue her relationship with Albert?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Book Reviews: The Girl You Left Behind and Honeymoon in Paris

The Girl You Left Behind
JoJo Moyes

JoJo Moyes has a gift for drawing readers into her work; I previously recommended her novel, Me Before You, and The Girl You Left Behind is as enthralling and well-written as the former.  This novel contains 2 separate, yet intertwined stories, taking place about 100 years apart.  

Sophie lives in her home town and runs the family inn while her artist husband, Eduard, is fighting the Germans during World War I.  While her French village is occupied, a Kommandant becomes enamored with Sophie after seeing Eduard's portrait of her.  Will this infatuation have deadly consequences?

In modern day London, Liv's life has fallen apart after the untimely death of her husband, David.  The only thing that brings her comfort is Sophie's portrait, which may have been illegally obtained by the Germans.  A legal battle ensues over the portrait's rightful ownership.  Does this portrait have the ability to ruin even more lives?

Honeymoon in Paris
JoJo Moyes

The novella, Honeymoon in Paris, is a prequel to The Girl You Left Behind recounting the Parisian honeymoons of Eduard and Sophie and Liv and David.  Published to whet the readers' appetites for The Girl You Left Behind, I suggest reading this novella after the novel, when you have a deeper understanding of the characters.  A very quick and enjoyable read!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Four Star Finds: Mariage Frères Tea

My sophisticated, European artist friend turned me onto Mariage Frères tea.  Founded by four Parisian brothers whose family had a long history in the tea and spice importing businesses, Mariage Frères has been producing high quality teas for almost 160 years.  The company has 4 tea salons in Paris serving tea, indulgent treats and savory dishes. 

But you don’t have to go to France to get this tea; Americans can purchase it in the beautiful cans and also in bulk (not in a fancy can, but at a much lower price) at Market Hall Foods and Porte Rouge.  My favorites are fruity Marco Polo, rich Wedding Imperial and festive Esprit de Noel (available only around the holidays).  These teas are a great way to start your day!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Sweet but Tough

When I saw this dress at Club Monaco, I had to buy it.  It has a great shape, is the perfect length and is pink.  I paired it with these girly accessories—a J. Crew necklace and BCBG beaded clutch, but when I wear something this feminine, I like to juxtapose a tougher style with it.  These booties and motorcycle jacket add a bit of edge while the belt perfectly combines both styles.

Club Monaco dress, Truth and Pride motorcycle jacket (similar)J Crew necklace, BCBG clutch (similar), Tarnish beltStuart Weitman booties,

Monday, October 7, 2013

French Sandwich

French Sandwich

The Hobbit is an Orange, California fine dining establishment that serves seven course prix-fixe only dinners.  It was founded in 1972 and is a “special occasion” restaurant.  The first course consists of an array of appetizers and champagne served in their wine cellar.  Years ago when I fortunate enough to dine there, I loved the French Sandwich appetizer and recreated it at home (or so I thought).  When we went to dinner there years later, I realized that my French Sandwich was different in that mine contained Dijon mustard, while The Hobbit’s did not.  To be honest, I like my version more.

The Ingredients

Spread the Dijon mustard on the puff pastry to 1/2" from the edge

Top with salami

Crimp the edges with a fork and brush with egg wash

French Sandwich

1 pkg. puff pastry
8 oz. Italian salami
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 egg
1 Tbsp. water

Thaw the puff pastry according to the manufacturer's instructions.  Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Unroll one sheet of puff pastry.  Spread a thin layer of mustard on puff pastry, leaving 1/2 inch around the edges without mustard.  Overlap salami on mustard/pastry and then top with other sheet of puff pastry.  Crimp pastries together with a fork.

To prepare egg wash, beat egg and 1 tablespoon of water together.  Brush on top of sandwich and cut five 1-1/2"  vent holes on top sheet of puff pastry.  Bake for 30-35 minutes or until browned.  Slice and serve warm or at room temperature.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Movie Reviews: Prisoners and Rush

Rated R

Leading an all star cast that includes Jake Gyllenhaal, Terence Howard, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Melissa Leo and Paul Dano, Hugh Jackman stars as Keller Dover, an anguished father whose daughter is missing under suspicious circumstances.  Detective Loki quickly arrests Alex Jones (Paul Dano) but is forced to release him for lack of evidence.  When Keller takes things into his own hands, is he seeking justice or merely a vigilante?

Because I'm a mother, this film make me wonder what I would do if I were in the same situation.  To be honest, I don't know what I'm capable of and really don't want to know. Though I found none of the characters particularly likable, the film is well done and worth seeing.

Rated R

Rush is based on the real-life rivalry between Formula 1 drivers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl).  Englishman Hunt is a playboy who lives large and drives recklessly, while Austrian Lauda is a meticulous perfectionist who drives with technical precision.  Will their rivalry have deadly consequences, and if it doesn’t who will be the victor?

It surprised me how much I liked this movie, mainly because I'm not into racing.  I loved it, though, and couldn’t wait to see how the movie ended.  The cinematography of the race sequences is amazing, and, frankly, it's worth the price of admission just to see Chris Hemsworth!