Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

I'm going to take Friday off to spend some time with my family and will have a new post on Monday,  December 2.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Four Star Finds: Trader Joe's Seasonal Foods

Two years ago, my friend Nora gave me Trader Joe's Candy Cane Green Tea as a gift.  I immediately became hooked, drank all the tea she gave me and went to buy more.  I was so disappointed to find out that it was a seasonal item and that when the supply runs out, it's gone until the next year.  Because I didn't want to suffer the same fate last year, I bought ten boxes and had enough to last through May.  

Grocery shopping isn't one of my favorite things to do, so I usually just try to find what I need and leave.  Now that I know about their seasonal items, I actually spend a bit of time browsing the aisles at Trader Joe's.  These peppermint waffle cookies are another seasonal treat I recently discovered and can't get enough of...


Monday, November 25, 2013

Decor: Moving, Unpacking and Attachment

A crane hoisted our piano and some of the other furniture
through the front windows
The whole process of moving has been an adventure!  When we've moved in the past, we've always moved to bigger homes.  In this move, our square footage went from around 2,500 square feet to almost 2,000 square feet.  I thought I was prepared because we had given away a lot of stuff, including, but not limited to, furniture, small appliances, clothing, and home accessories.  How wrong I was!

It was overwhelming to see all of the furniture and boxes, but we plugged away, opening boxes, unwrapping things from the packing paper, straightening the packing paper (so the moving company can come and take it away), flattening the boxes (same reasoning), and finding a place to store things-We have a lot of storage that can be accessed with a ladder, but have less easily accessible storage, so the process also involved judgment calls about what things rated premium storage space.

After two and a half days of hard work, it seemed like we hadn't made much progress-boxes were everywhere, every surface had stuff on it, and I still couldn't find the espresso maker.  I had a complete meltdown that even included crying about having to give away even more things because we didn't have space for them-things that I still liked…

After a few hugs from Kevin, two sangrias and a good night's sleep, life looked infinitely better the next morning.  Overnight, I developed a zen-like attitude and realized my attachment to things was bringing me unhappiness and that by giving things away, someone else would be able to enjoy them.  And realistically, they're just things; they're not people or even my dog.  

With my newfound attitude, we furiously unpacked, went out to brunch, unpacked more, went to the movies and unpacked even more.  This is the result…

Though there's still more unpacking to do, I'm happy to have one room completely finished.  As you can see, I also found the espresso maker!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Book Review: Sycamore Row

Sycamore Row
John Grisham

Sycamore Row is John Grisham’s follow-up to his 1989 novel, A Time to Kill.  Set three years later in Clanton, Mississippi, attorney Jake Brigance’s life and career are not where he expected them to be. 

Jake’s life is turned upside down when cancer-ridden, local millionaire Seth Hubbard writes a holographic will the day before committing suicide and names Jake as the executor.  The twist is that Seth’s new will disinherits his children and names his African-American maid as the primary beneficiary.  Did Seth make this decision because he was suffering from the effects of chemotherapy and pain management medications, was he only trying to spite his negligent children or did he have a legitimate reason?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Movie Review: About Time

   About Time

     Rated R

What would life be like if we could travel back in time and relive and correct our mistakes, gaffes and social ineptitudes?  Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson) learns he has this ability on his 21st birthday, and he uses it to help himself get a better life.   Specifically, he uses his ability to find and keep a girlfriend, Mary (portrayed by Rachel McAdams).

About Time was written and directed by Richard Curtis, who also wrote and directed another of my favorite movies, Love Actually.  His screenplays generally include eccentric, but lovable family members and friends, and About Time doesn’t disappoint on this count.  I had some reservations about this movie because in the previews, Tim is a gawky, ginger-haired nerd and I wondered what Mary (Rachel McAdams) saw in him; the movie deals well with this issue.  Seeing About Time is an enjoyable way to spend the afternoon or evening.

Also, if you are concerned about the R rating, in my mind, this movie didn’t deserve it.  It was really more of a PG-13 movie.

Monday, November 18, 2013

My Adaptation of Wolfgang Puck’s Chocolate Chip Cookies


The trend in chocolate chip cookies seems to be toward large, dense chocolate chip cookies filled with chocolate and nuts, like these Levain bakery cookies.  Being the cookie monster that I am, I'm also a big fan of these Wolfgang Puck chocolate chip cookies.  These tender, cake-like cookies are somehow quaint because there are no nuts, just a few chocolate chips and they're normal sized.  I've been making them for years and am often asked for the recipe.  Here it is:

You MUST sift the cake flour for the cookies to be tender

Add the egg, vanilla, salt, and baking soda/water mixture

Stir only until the flour is incorporated

Ready for the oven

Cool the cookies on the cookie sheet

My Adaptation of Wolfgang Puck’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

  8 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  6 Tbsp. sugar
  6 Tbsp. brown sugar
  1 tsp. vanilla
  1/2 tsp. salt
  1 egg
  2-2/3 C. cake flour, sifted*
  1/4 tsp. baking soda, dissolved in 2 teaspoons hot water
  1 C. chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Cream the butter until light.  With the mixer running slowly, add the sugar and brown sugar.  Next add the vanilla, salt, egg, and dissolved baking soda.  Add flour and mix until just blended.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Using a 2-1/2 to 3 tablespoon ice cream scoop, scoop out mounds of dough onto air bake cookies sheets, allowing about 2 inches between each cookie.  Bake the cookies 15 to 17 minutes.  They should be golden brown and only very slightly soft.  Let the cookies cool on the sheets, then transfer to a rack.  Store in an airtight container.

* To get the correct texture, you must use SIFTED CAKE FLOUR

Friday, November 15, 2013

Four Star Finds: Pecou Dragées

Pecou Dragées are my new obsession!  For a while, I was into dark chocolate m & m’s, but after eating these bittersweet dragées (essentially a large French m & m), I couldn’t go back to a sweeter chocolate.  They’re so rich and satisfying that eating just a few completely satiates me.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Book Review: "Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy"

   Helen Fielding

Neurotic, obsessive, but endearing Bridget is back!  At 51, she’s coping with loss, single motherhood, technology advances and middle age, all while she’s dating a 29 year old “boy toy”.  Her zany friends, Talitha, Jude, Tom and, yes, even Daniel Cleaver are still her loyal urban family, and Fielding had added a few more characters to the mix.

If you have fond memories of Fielding’s books or of the Bridget Jones movies, then you’ll enjoy reading Bridget Jones: Mad about the Boy.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Reluctant Peplum

Karen Millen peplum sweater, AG jeans, Madewell sunglasses,
Hobo clutch (old), Via Spiga booties (old), Club Monaco necklace (old),
Melinda Alexander ring (other pieces)

For some unknown reason, I was reluctant to buy a peplum top.  When I saw this dress, I wanted to buy it, but realized it wouldn’t fit well into my life (I’m not working in an office anymore AND I already have quite a few “dressy” dresses AND I’ll be living in a very cold environment).  I was so excited when I found the same version in a sweater-the mesh and peplum are so on-trend, and the color is stunning!  It’s paired with my new favorite jeans (AG Stevie ankle jeans) and some old peep toe booties.  Note:  Karen Millen is a British brand, and tends to run very small (go up a size or two when purchasing).

Friday, November 8, 2013

Decor: Counter Stools versus Bar Stools

Our new home doesn't have space for the kitchen table we currently have; it has a center island in the kitchen and a cantilevered piece of stone between the kitchen and dining room.  I realized that we needed to order bar stools-a simple process, or so I thought…

Apparently there are two types of stools-bar stools and counter stools.  Typically, bars are 42" high, and counters are 36" high, so the appropriate seating for each is different, with counter stools being lower than bar stools.  

These are the bar stools and counter stools I ordered for our kitchen.  They met all of our criteria-the style and color work well with the decor, Kevin likes padded seats, and I particularly like that the front bottom rails have a metal covering to protect them from scuffs. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Four Star Finds: It Takes a Village to Make a Hair Bun

Because I wanted my hair to be special and different on the night of our going-away party, I went to a dry bar salon and had my hair styled.  It was my first time, and I loved the experience!  I had been wanting to try a "big bun" and even bought a bun making kit, but hadn't had any success doing it on my own.  It took my stylist (and every now and then another stylist helped) 45 minutes, a curling iron, all these accessories and about half a can of hair spray.  It really does take a village to make a big bun.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Movie Review: Ender's Game

  Ender's Game
  Rated PG-13

I recently read and recommended the book Ender's Game because I wanted to know the story before I saw the movie.  Sometimes, great books don't translate well to the big screen, but this isn't the case with Ender's Game.  The special effects were outstanding, and the movie was well cast-Asa Butterfield was perfect as Ender Wiggin as was Harrison Ford as Colonel Hyrum Graff.  

The book is somewhat complex, and I wondered how the movie would convey the book's nuances and subtleties.  It wasn't an issue, and I thought all important concepts were communicated to the viewer.  Though the movie strays a bit from the book, seeing it was still an enjoyable experience.  

Friday, November 1, 2013

Book Review: I am Malala

  I am Malala

  Malala Yousafzai

After I saw Malala Yousafzai on The Daily Show with John Stewart, I knew I had to read her book.  I am Malala is one of the most moving books I’ve read.  Her memoir describes her life leading up to and directly after the then fifteen year old Pakistani was shot in the head by the Taliban. 

According to the Taliban, she promoted western values, but what she really did was promote girls’ education in a culture that prefers illiteracy.  One may ask why some would choose illiteracy over education, and Malala answers that question.  She also debunks some preconceived ideas (like the one I had that Pakistani women were viewed as equal to men.  After all, they did have a woman prime minister).

After reading her book, I realized that Malala Yousafzai may become the voice of her generation and hope that someday she can return to her homeland without the threat of death.  She is a remarkable young woman, thanks in large part to her father, who loves and values her in a culture when females are second class citizens.

Despite some of the terrible things described in I am Malala, it is full of hope and reading it is an uplifting experience.