Friday, January 31, 2014

Replay 2014 #2

Tory Burch jacket (similar), Twenty8Twelve top (similar)
Pilcro pants (similar), Madewell sunglasses,

Rag and Bone Boots

Since it’s the last day of January, I thought I’d finish the month with another replay outfit.  Though the boots are new (they were my big Christmas gift from Kevin and Sean), all the other pieces are older.  I’m wearing the burgundy corduroy pants shown in December; the sunglasses have appeared on the blog many times; the Tory Burch leather jacket is at least five years and the Twenty8Twelve floral button up blouse is at least three years old. These pieces show that investment pieces can pay off over time.

Investment pieces are items that may cost a bit more than usual, but are classics that can be worn for years, so the cost per wear is relatively low.  These are the pieces I “invest” in:  dark wash jeans; blazers; classic work pieces like pencil skirts, blouses and wool slacks; shoes (because there’s nothing worse that having sore feet), handbags, and anything that I just love.  On the other hand, the pieces I spend less on are: tee shirts, anything trendy (faux leather pants, colored denim, printed pants, etc), white shirts, exercise clothes, and costume jewelry.

Since some of my pieces are no longer available, I've included links to similar pieces.

Emmie is the ultimate accessory!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Book Review: Insurgent

  Veronica Roth

Insurgent is Veronica Roth’s second book in the Divergent trilogy.  Picking up where Divergent ended, Tris (formerly Beatrice) finds herself in the middle of warring factions and political unrest.  During this time, she embraces her divergence to help solve society’s ills and learns that one decision can have ramifications that last a lifetime.

A bit dark, Insurgent explores death, love, grief, guilt and betrayal.  Roth also implies that revolution and death go hand-in-hand and that change for many requires sacrifice by some.  While Insurgent isn’t quite as strong a book as Divergent, it is still a noteworthy novel and I highly recommend reading it. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Rao’s Marinara and Meatballs

Rao’s is an iconic Harlem restaurant that is more than 100 years old.  It's impossible to secure a reservation there-people have standing reservations that are passed down in their wills.  Luckily, the Pellegrino family opened another Rao’s at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, and I’ve been fortunate enough to eat there a few times.  Eating at Rao’s has been among the top dining experiences in my life-the food is amazing-I can see why people won’t give up their reservations!

Way before Rao’s at Caesar’s Palace opened, I bought the Rao’s Cookbook and have been making its recipes for years.  While I've tried many recipes, our family favorite is Rao's iconic meatballs-they're indescribably good!  When Sean came home for Christmas break and requested them, I documented the process to share.

meatball ingredients

The meatballs are fried in olive oil, but that's part of what makes them so good!

marinara ingredients

The recipe makes many more meatballs, but I only put a few in the
marinara sauce and froze the rest so we can enjoy them later
here's an option if you don't want to make the marinara

Click on the links for the recipes:

Friday, January 24, 2014

Book Review: "Divergent"

  Veronica Roth

Divergent is the first book of a trilogy written by Veronica Roth soon to be a movie released in theaters.  In futuristic Chicago, people are divided into one of five groups: The selfless Abgenation, the truthful Candor, the peaceful Amity, the intelligent Erudite and the brave Dauntless.  Each group has its role in society-for example, Dauntless protects the borders while Amity grows food.  At the age of 16, children are tested to see which group suits them best, but they are free to choose any group in which they will stay for the rest of their lives.  Because testing shows protagonist Beatrice doesn't have only one aptitude, she makes an unexpected choice.  Will she survive the consequences of her decision?

In many ways, Divergent reminded me of The Hunger Games-teens taking on warrior roles in a dysfunctional society with a strong-willed female lead character.  Like The Hunger Games, this book is intended for teens; I loved it and had a hard time putting it down.  If you like a story that has a little bit of everything-action, adventure, intrigue and love, then you'll enjoy reading Divergent.  Soon, I'll review Insurgent and Allegiant, the second and third books in the trilogy.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Reposted on Ono Kine Recipes

I'm so excited to share that one of my recipes was reposted by another blog!  My Hawaiian Style Macaroni Potato Salad was included in a collection by Ono Kine Recipes. It can be viewed at:

or on my blog at:

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Four Star Finds: Skin Relief

L'Occitane Almond Shower Oil & Ultra Rich Shower Cream

This winter I’ve had some issues with dry skin.  I’ve tried everything-taking shorter showers, lowering the shower water temperature and even using a humidifier.  All of these measures, along with changing from soap to these moisturizing shower products from L’Occitane have made a huge difference in my skin.  I use the Almond Shower Oil at night-it has a nice scent, is very moisturizing and seems to seal moisture into my skin (and refills are available).  For my morning shower, I use the Ultra Rich Shower Cream-it’s unscented, so it doesn’t clash with my cologne.  I love them both!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Décor: My New Closet

When we decided to buy our current home, we realized we needed more closet space since the master bedroom has only 2 small closets that barely fit Kevin’s clothes.  There wasn’t enough space for my closet in the master or guest rooms, so we decided to add them to a large wall across the living room.  Contractor Brendan Lowney and his team did an outstanding job!  When they were finished, I worked with California Closets to design the interior and even added an area for my jewelry like I had in my old closet.  Two weeks later, the built-ins were installed.  I’m so happy with the results!

A few things I kept in mind while designing the closet...
  • The floor of the closet was changed from hardwood to cedar, to protect natural fiber clothes
  • All sections are the same size (2-1/2 feet) so the shelves are interchangeable between sections
  • To buy the correct number of shelves, I figured out how many pairs fit in a section (5) and measured the shoe heights to see how many sections were needed.
  • Jewelry should be displayed to make it easier to choose which pieces to wear.  There are prongs where necklaces are hung, and some of the large necklaces are laid out on the shelf.  Bracelets are on a holder, and rings are in a flat ring holder.    

Before *photo by Brendan Lowney
*photo by Brendan Lowney
*photo by Brendan Lowney

jewelry area

close up of jewelry area

Friday, January 17, 2014

Replay 2014 #1

Theory blazer, J. Crew sweater and bracelet, Rag and Bone jeans,
Rebecca Minkoff handbag, Madewell sunglasses, Jimmy Choo shoes,
fitbit activity tracker, antique ring

In keeping with my January theme of contraction and going back to living on a budget, I decided to mix up some of my pieces to create new outfits.  Sometimes I get into a rut and put the same pieces together-Challenging myself to come up with new outfits was almost as good as buying new things!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Movie Reviews: "Saving Mr. Banks" and "August: Osage County"

   Saving Mr. Banks

     Rated PG-13

Saving Mr. Banks is based on the true story of Walt Disney (portrayed by Tom Hanks) and his team working with P.L. Travers, author of Mary Poppins, to adapt the novel into a screenplay.  Though desperate for cash, the sharp-tongued, persnickety Mrs. Travers (as she prefers to be called) is reluctant to allow her beloved characters become part of a frivolous movie.  Using patience, understanding and determination, the Disney team is finally able to write lyrics, music and a screenplay loved by all.

I loved Saving Mr. Banks!  Mrs. Travers’s story is told through her dealings with the Disney team and through a series of flashbacks to her childhood.  Emma Thompson is brilliant as Pamela Travers and manages to elicit sympathy from the viewer despite how unlikable Mrs. Travers is.  Charismatic Colin Firth plays Pamela’s flawed father, while Tom Hanks portrays Walt Disney as a loving, thoughtful man.  Saving Mr. Banks was one of my favorite movies of the year!

   August: Osage County

     Rated R

August: Osage County is the story of three daughters returning to their dysfunctional childhood home during a family crisis.  What makes this film interesting is the unfolding of family secrets and resentments; and all these characters have them.  Meryl Streep plays the emotionally-abusive, drug-addicted matriarch while Julia Roberts portrays her strong-willed, eldest daughter.  The big-name supporting cast add intrigue and comic relief.

At times, August: Osage County was painful to watch because I don’t like seeing people being mean and hurtful to one another.  However, its dark humor provided needed comic relief, and Streep and Roberts gave award-winning performances.  From a psychological perspective, it was fascinating (like having to stare at an auto accident) to see dysfunction passed down from generation to generation.  Despite its heavy material, August: Osage County is worth seeing!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Kale Chips

Kale Chips

On Saturday night when Kevin and I met friends for dinner, we took an Uber car because it was raining.  We asked the driver how business was going, and he replied that it’s been slow since New Year’s Day.  All of us laughingly said that a lot of people are out of money this time of year.  I started thinking about it, and I realized that it’s probably not just about money, but that January is a time of contraction.

At this time of year, most people stay home and lead a simpler life.  They are tired of entertaining, go back to being on a budget and have a couple of holiday pounds to lose (me included).  While I can’t help anyone with either of the first two issues, I can give you a healthy recipe full of antioxidants.  And kale chips are delicious!

the ingredients

Thoroughly dry the kale

Place the bite-sized chips onto 2 baking sheets and sprinkle with sea salt

Turn the chips over and move drier edge pieces into center
of baking pans and wetter center pieces to edges

The kale chips are ready when they're dry and crispy

Kale Chips

1 bunch kale
2-3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. sea salt

Preheat oven to 350˚F.  Remove center stems from kale and tear into 2-3 inch pieces.  Wash and dry thoroughly.  Toss with olive oil and spread evenly onto 2 baking pans. Sprinkle with sea salt.  Bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven and turn kale over.  Bake an additional 5-15 minutes until kale is crispy.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Four Star Finds: Polar Fleece Pajamas

Charter Club Polar Fleece Pajamas (on sale)

If you would have asked me what clothes I would never wear before we moved to Boston, sweatshirts, outdoor clothes, mom jeans and polar fleece would have topped the list.  I have to eat my words because I now LOVE polar fleece pajamas.  Though they’re not the pinnacle of fashion, wearing polar fleece pajamas is like wearing a big hug.  They’re so warm and cozy, especially on frigid northeast nights.  I can’t resist and love them so much that I even bought a second pair.   Though you never know what life has in store, I don’t think that I’ll EVER wear sweatshirts, mom jeans or outdoor clothing.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Book Review: Longbourn


     Jo Baker

Every fan of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice knows the Bennet family was one of privilege-they spent their days receiving guests, reading books, taking long walks, writing letters and playing the pianoforte.  But what was life like for their servants?  Longbourn is written in a parallel time frame, but explores the lives of the 5 household servants, Mr. and Mrs. Hill, Sarah, Polly and the new footman, James, whose lives are as filled with secrets and intrigue as their master’s and mistresses’s.

Orphaned housemaid Sarah, the story’s protagonist, spends her days hauling water, scrubbing laundry in a lye solution that causes open sores on her hands, emptying chamber pots and generally taking care of the Bennet family.  Will she find love and better her position or will she be stuck in a life of drudgery?

Longbourn provides a much grittier look at life during the British Regency era than Pride and Prejudice.  Initially, I thought the main characters had horrible lives because they performed hard physical labor from before dawn until after the Bennets went to bed.  This issue, however, is addressed when Mrs. Hill says to Sarah, “You have a home.  You have work.  You are safe and warm and fed.  And you are spoilt…”  After reading this passage, I realized that what creates a good life is relative and that working hard while receiving room, board and a small salary is better than being homeless and starving.  Despite the characters’ hardships, Longbourn is worth reading.

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Red Family

M Missoni sweater (similar), Kirkland camisole, pants (similar),
 Jimmy Choo pumps, Chanel sunglasses (similar), Prada handbag (similar),
antique watch fob worn as a necklace (similar)

Just before Christmas, I found these burgundy corduroy pants.   I thought they were very festive and bought them on an impulse.  Though I hadn’t worn pants this bright in a long time, I thought they were a fun addition to my wardrobe and that a monotone outfit (that wasn't black) would be a nice change!

Though a lot of these pieces are no longer available, a similar outfit can be created with the links I've provided.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Movie Reviews: American Hustle, Grudge Match and Her

   American Hustle

     Rated R

Loosely based on the Abscam debacle of 1980, American Hustle is a pleasure to watch.  Irving Rosenfield (Christian Bale-complete with a beer belly and comb over) and his mistress, Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) are forced to work with FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper).  Initially, they set out to catch small time con artists, but end up dealing with politicians (including Jeremy Renner as New Jersey mayor Carmine Polito) and mobsters (there’s an unbilled cameo by one of Hollywood’s most respected actors).  Jennifer Lawrence gives a spellbinding performance as Irving’s unbalanced wife, Rosalyn.

This movie is entertaining, engrossing and funny.  The scene where Irving fixes his hair is worth the admission by itself, and it was fun to see the characters’ outrageous fashions, especially the men’s hair and outfits.  American Hustle is a must-see!

   Grudge Match

     Rated PG-13

I went into this movie with pretty low expectations, and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.  Sylvester Stallone and Robert DeNiro are retired boxers. Henry “Razor” Sharp and Billy “The Kid” McDonnen (respectively) who shared a fierce rivalry before Razor Sharp abruptly retired thirty years earlier.  After brawling while being recorded for a video game, promoter Dante Slate (Kevin Hart) sets up a rematch between the two.

Not just a boxing movie, Grudge Match also focuses on relationships; mainly between Razor and his ex-girlfriend, Sally (Kim Basinger, who is preternaturally beautiful at the age of 60) and between The Kid and his newly discovered son.  Dante and Lightning Conlon (Alan Arkin) provide so comic relief to break the tension.  Seeing this movie is an entertaining way to spend the evening!


     Rated R

Joqauin Phoenix stars as Theodore, a sensitive professional letter writer who begins a relationship with Samantha, his computer’s artificially intelligent operating system.  Dysthymic after the break up of his marriage, Theodore’s and Samantha’s “relationship” begins as a friendship and morphs into more as Samantha’s playfulness lifts Theodore out of his depression.

This movie poses some thoughtful questions about the role of computers in future society.  Of course most people would fall in love with something specifically tailored to their personality, but will computers provide better relationships than human-to-human interactions?  Is there anything wrong with falling in love with an inanimate object?  Will computers ultimately replace humans?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

Fireworks over Boston Common

I wish you and your loved ones a happy and healthy 2014!