Friday, February 28, 2014

Yvonne Anderson’s Stir Fry

Yvonne's Stir Fry served over brown rice

My friend, Yvonne Anderson, aside from being a wonderful friend and person, is a great cook!  She doesn’t use a lot of ingredients or spend all day cooking, but everything she makes is delicious.  One night I went to her house, and she was making this stir fry for her daughter and her daughter’s friend.  It smelled so good that I had to ask for the recipe.  I’ve been making it for my family for about 5 years, and we love this healthy, yet tasty meal!

the ingredients

marinate the cubed chicken for about 2 hours

chop the onion and peppers into 1-inch squares

sauté the chicken by itself first


Yvonne Anderson’s Stir Fry

  1 lb.  chicken, steak or pork, sliced into bite-sized pieces
  1  onion, sliced
  1  red bell pepper, sliced
  1  bell pepper, sliced 
  1 Tbsp.  rice vinegar
  1 pinch  ground ginger
  3/4 C.  soy sauce (I use low sodium)
  1 tsp.   honey
  1 Tbsp.  canola oil

Combine vinegar, ginger, soy sauce and honey.  Add meat and marinate for 2 hours.  Add oil to wok; sauté meat first and remove when cooked.  Saute onion and pepper until cooked through.  Add meat back to wok, stir and serve.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Chambray Shirtdress for Cold Weather

Banana Republic dress, Ray Ban sunglasses, J. Crew necklace,
Chloe handbag, Lauren Ralph Lauren Belt (old), Spanx tights,
Rag and Bone Boots, green amber ring

Even though we’re in the middle of winter, stores are displaying spring clothes.  From past experience, I’ve learned to buy early, rather than waiting until the actual season has begun.  This chambray shirtdress is pretty versatile, because I can wear it as shown here in the winter (with boots, tights, a closed collar and long sleeves).  When the weather warms up, I’ll wear it with sandals or espadrilles, an open collar and rolled up sleeves.

I love this oversized J. Crew necklace!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Movie Reviews: Philomena, Dallas Buyers Club & The Wolf of Wall Street

Over the weekend, AMC theaters had their annual best picture showcase. On Saturday beginning at noon, Academy Award® Best Picture nominees Philomena, Dallas Buyers Club, The Wolf of Wall Street and 12 Years a Slave were shown.  The Sunday movies were Nebraska, Captain Phillips, Her, American Hustle and Gravity.  Kevin and I attended the Saturday event since we hadn’t seen three of the four movies.

Rated PG-13

Philomena is a delight!  Based on a true story, arrogant former BBC journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) aides pious Philomena Lee (Academy Award® Best Actress nominee Judi Dench) search for her son who was adopted almost 50 years earlier.

I was so pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Philomena.  Judi Dench’s acting is top notch, as she elegantly portrays a seemingly simple, yet worldly Irish woman whose actions are driven by guilt.  Laced with just the right amount of humor, two people from vastly different worlds are able to work toward a common goal and leave with a much better understanding of human nature.  This uplifting story was a great way to kick off our movie day!

Dallas Buyers Club
Rated R

Dallas Buyers Club is loosely based on the life of Ron Woodruff (Matthew McConaughey), a hard-living, straight man who contracts HIV in the mid-1980s.  Given 30 days to live, he turns to alternative and non-FDA approved medicines, soon bringing them into Texas and selling them to those who are HIV-positive.

Like in 12 Years a Slave, the cruelty and discrimination displayed in Dallas Buyers Club are painful to witness.  That said, both are excellent films worth seeing. Academy Award® Best Actor nominee Matthew McConaughey and Academy Award® Best Supporting Actor nominee Jared Leto, who underwent major physical transformations in order to more accurately portray their characters, both give award-winning performances.  Though the subject matter is not uplifting, this is an important film to see.

The Wolf of Wall Street
Rated R

Academy Award® Best Actor nominee Leonardo DiCaprio portrays Jordan Belfort, a charismatic, young stockbroker who founds his own firm, Stratton Oakmont, and defrauds investors of millions of dollars, all while living a life of debauchery.

Like the two prior films, The Wolf of Wall Street is loosely based on a true story.  Though this film is filled with sex and illegal drug use, it’s an interesting glimpse into the super rich Belfort’s life.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Four Star Finds: Rowntrees Pastilles

While I like chocolate, I love candy, especially candies that are most often eaten by 10 year olds.  I’m very fond of sour gummy worms, sour patch kids and Swedish fish.  Years ago when we went to London, I discovered Rowntrees Pastilles, an adult version of gummy candies.  They’re fruit-flavored, coated with coarse sugar and chewier than traditional gummies.  They’re just so good!

When I first learned of them, I could only buy them at English specialty stores.  Luckily, more mainstream stores are starting to carry them.  In addition, while researching this post, I learned that Amazon carries them-this could be a dangerous discovery!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Book Review: The Body Book: The Law of Hunger, the Science of Strength, and Other Ways to Love Your Amazing Body

   The Body Book: The Law of Hunger,
   the Science of Strength, and Other
   Ways to Love Your Amazing Body
   Cameron Diaz with Sandra Bark

When I first heard about Cameron Diaz’s book (The Body Book: The Law of Hunger, the Science of Strength, and Other Ways to Love Your Amazing Body) about women’s bodies, I thought “That book is probably not for me.  She’s not a doctor or nutritionist; she’s an actress.”  After I saw her on a couple of talk shows and saw that she is very knowledgeable health and fitness, I thought I’d give her book a try-I’m so glad I did. 

The book is broken into three sections: Nutrition, Fitness and Mind.  In each, she discusses exactly how our bodies function and gives the reader no-nonsense advice.  She’s an omnivore who believes in eating whole foods and moving our bodies as much as possible.  Sure, she believes in working out at the gym, but she also suggests moving in our daily lives-walking instead of driving, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, shoveling snow, etc. 

After learning about what Diaz believes is good for our bodies, she discusses how to make these behaviors a part of our lives. In the Mind section, she discusses how behaviors become habits and, more importantly, how to change them.  Discipline is also a big theme in this section.  One of the best quotes I’ve heard is from this book.  She writes, “Discipline is the force that give you purpose, focus, strength, and determination so that you can accomplish whatever your heart desires…discipline isn’t about denying yourself; it’s about giving to yourself.  It isn’t about losing; it’s about gaining.”

If  learning more about your body is something that interests you, you'll enjoy reading The Body Book...

Monday, February 17, 2014

Four Star Finds: Things I REALLY Need for Living in Boston

Before I moved to Boston, I wrote a post on things I bought and was given for living in the city-I definitely use the items mentioned in my blog, but found that I needed to buy a few more things to live comfortably.  Here what I bought to live through one of the worst winters people here can remember.

GOOD House Slippers-I started off with an inexpensive synthetic pair, but wore them so much that they matted down and fell off my feet.  These Ugg slippers are also much warmer.

WATERPROOF Boots-Between the rain and melting snow, the ground here is often wet.  Until I bought waterproof boots, my feet were damp and cold. Now they’re warm and cozy.  The Aquatalias are my dressy pair and the Sorels are my casual pair.

DOWN Puffer Coat-Very quickly, I realized my wool coats aren’t warm enough when the weather is in the 20’s.  This down puffer coat blocks the wind and keeps me warm on cold days.

INEXPENSIVE warm coat-After buying a down puffer coat, I realized that I didn’t want to leave it on communal coat hooks (at restaurants, the yoga studio, etc.).  I ended up buying this $30 coat (sale price) from Old Navy’s Boys department.  It’s not the most stylish coat, but it keeps me warm, and I don’t have to worry about it being taken.

Not Pictured-Thermal Underwear.  When the temperature drops into the teens and below, it’s just too cold to go out without them. 

Hand and Toe Warmers-Before I left California, my friend Gretchen gave me some toe warmers.  I had never seen or used them, but what a great invention!  Again, when the weather is in the teens, they’re MUST-HAVE items.

Finally, I’m still searching for the right pair of mittens…

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day Sugar Saucers

Sugar Saucers with Pink Sprinkles

Since we moved, I ended up storing our holiday decorations because this house doesn't look good when it's too "busy".  Since I can't surround myself with holiday reminders, I generally make food to celebrate the holidays.  For example, I'll probably make Irish Stew and Irish Soda Bread for St. Patrick's Day.

In honor of Valentines Day, I made these pink Sugar Saucers, one of the best sugar cookies I've eaten.  Unlike most cookies, these cookies are better at room temperature than they are warm.  

the ingredients

When the dough was blended, I refrigerated it overnight

Use an ice cream scoop so the cookies are the same size

Shape the dough balls into patties and then cover one side with sprinkles


The recipe can be found at this website.

Like the website author, I too used a 2 ounce scoop and ended up baking them about 14 minutes.  The recipe doesn't suggest forming the cookies into patties but I found the cookies have better edges when I've made patties.  When I ran out of sprinkles, I coated the remaining patties with vanilla sugar.  Yum!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Design Element: Texture

One of the first classes I took at FIDM was Color and Design Theory.  In it, I learned the five elements of design: Color, Line, Shape, Space/Form and Texture.  I’m always attracted to texture in clothing since I tend to choose classic shapes and colors.  Not surprisingly, when I saw this sweater I was immediately attracted to its texture and had to buy it-after all, it’s hard to find pieces with a texture this unique.  I paired it with older pieces-links to similar separates are shown.

Opening Ceremony sweater, Theory skirt (similar), Prada heels (similar),
Chanel sunglasses (similar), Isabel Marant necklace, vintage ring,
Furla Carmen handbag

Monday, February 10, 2014

Décor: Spice Bottles


One of the challenges in our new home has been finding appropriate storage locations.  Though we have a lot of storage space, we don’t have a lot of drawer space in the kitchen, so I wasn’t able to lay them down in a drawer.  I ended up putting them in a plastic box in the pantry, but because they weren’t labeled on the tops, I had to pull out each spice to figure out if it was the one I needed.

To solve this problem, I ordered square glass bottles, decanted the spices into them, and labeled the top of each bottle.  Being able to see what each bottle contains saves so much time and looks so nice that I’m glad I undertook this project.

Decant the spices into the bottles.  I used parchment
paper to form a funnel.

I used Avery Full Sheet Clear Sheets to create the labels

After cutting out each label, I put them on the bottles

Friday, February 7, 2014

Book Review: Allegiant

  Veronica Roth

Allegiant, the final book in Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy, is brilliant!  At the end of Insurgent, a life-changing video is released.  As a result, Tris and her friends find themselves in a completely new environment.  They soon learn that while there may be many differences between the societies, power and prejudice exist everywhere.  Will they be able to improve both societies or will they pay the ultimate price?

A lot of questions about the characters’ natures are answered in this book. For example, the reader will understand Peter’s and Caleb’s actions.  Allegiant also deeply delves into the themes of forgiveness and humans’ need for superiority.  To me, the theme song for Allegiant should be The Who’s Won’t Get Fooled Again, because we find another society as dystopian as the first.  I loved reading Allegiant-it was my favorite book in the trilogy.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Four Star Finds: Clinique Moisture Surge Overnight Mask

Normally, when reading about moisturizing products, I skim through the article and quickly forget about the product.  Lately, though, I’ve been avidly reading about, purchasing and trying new moisturizing products since the cold air seems to dry out my skin. 

When I read about Clinique’s Moisture Surge Overnight Mask, I thought I’d give it a try-It is truly amazing!  What a difference it makes to my skin!  Twice weekly at bedtime, I apply a generous coat on top of my moisturizer and awaken with soft, smooth skin.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Movie Reviews: Lone Survivor, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and 12 Years a Slave

   Lone Survivor
   Rated R

Lone Survivor is based on the real life story of a four-man Navy SEAL team sent on an ill-fated mission in Afghanistan.  After losing ground communications and as a result of a moral dilemma, the team becomes surrounded by a large Taliban force and is unable to get U.S. military assistance.

The best word to describe Lone Survivor is moving.  Seeing the team’s bravery, courage and dedication to one another in an impossible situation filled me with admiration.  Though the film is realistically gritty, it is a must-see.

   Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
   Rated PG-13

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a clever thriller.  Jack (Chris Pine) is a Wall St. analyst with a smart, beautiful fiancée (Keira Knightly), but he is secretly working for the CIA.   When Jack uncovers discrepancies that can crash the U.S. economy and since he’s the only person who can solve the problem, he goes from being an analyst to an operative.

I think Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a great way to restart a movie franchise.  I liked how the story started with Jack as an economics PhD candidate and then highlighted events that formed his character.  The action in this movie is good, without being overdone; the story isn’t predictable and the right amount of humor was injected into the dialog.  Seeing Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a good way to spend an afternoon or evening.

   12 Years a Slave
   Rated R


Based on the real-life story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the Pre-Civil War era, 12 Years a Slave is one of the best films I’ve seen.  Northup, with his keen instinct for survival, uses every bit of inner strength to overcome his circumstances. 

Though the words I would use to describe 12 Years a Slave are heartbreaking and painful, this film is an important reminder of the indignities and mistreatment suffered by slaves.  It also showcases one man’s bravery and dignity.  12 Years a Slave deserves the Academy Award for Best Picture!