Monday, March 31, 2014

Décor: Sleeper Sofa

Emmie photobombed this picture!

Less than a year ago, we bought a new sofa for the family room, and I wrote about it in this blog.  I liked its look and thought it worked well in that room’s space.  After we moved to Boston, we needed a sleeper sofa to accommodate more than 2 guests.  Though I was a bit hesitant to replace something purchased so recently, we bought this sectional sleeper sofa and coffee table.

It’s a decision I don’t regret-in fact, I’m very happy we replaced the sofa.  Now we can sleep more than two guests, and the new sofa provides more seating and fills this space better than the old one.  In addition, the old sofa went to a good home rather than a landfill.  It was a win-win situation!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Ripped Jeans Alternative

Diane Von Furstenberg sweater, AG jeans, Tory Burch flats (different color),
Ray Ban sunglasses, antique necklace, Tiffany handbag

While I like the faded, ripped jeans trend and realize it’s a very current look, I also realize I’m past that trend’s expiration date.  These washed-out jeans are a great alternative and something I can pull off.  Paired with a cotton fisherman’s sweater (referred to in this post) and sparkly bow shoes, it’s my age-appropriate take on this trend.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Four Star Finds: Ghirardelli Chocolate Intense Dark Cherry Tango™

The Birchbox samples (previously mentioned in this post) I received last week included a Ghirardelli Intense Dark Cherry Tango™ chocolate square.  I thought I’d give it a try, but wasn’t expecting anything good, much less great.  Boy, was I wrong!  These squares of dark chocolate with cherry and almond bits are to die for!  I was so excited that I immediately got online and ordered a few packages-after all, who wants to spend time searching for them in various stores? 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Movie Reviews: "Divergent" and "The Grand Budapest Hotel"

Rated PG-13

In futuristic Chicago, Tris, a 16 year old young woman, must choose the faction in which she will spend the rest of her life.  She must also hide the fact that she's divergent, which means she doesn't belong in only one faction, but has multiple aptitudes.  Why are other groups hunting divergents and will they be completely successful?

previous post contained a book review for Veronica Roth's Divergent, which I Ioved and gave 4 stars.  Divergent, the movie, isn't quite as strong as the book, but is still a solid movie and worth seeing.

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Rated R

Funny and touching, yet odd, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a cinematic experience.  The film chronicles the adventures of Gustav H., the concierge of the namesake luxury hotel and his trusted protege, hotel lobby boy Zero.  Set between the first and second world wars, the movie involves a suspicious death, art theft, and heirs battling for control of an estate. 

I loved The Grand Budapest Hotel and would love to get into the mind of Wes Anderson, the film's writer and director.  Like his last movie, Moonrise Kingdom, both films have all-star casts, caricature-like characters and a child-like naiveté.  They also gently show the less savory sides of human nature.  This film is a must-see!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Book Review: "Pandora's Lunchbox"

Pandora's Lunchbox
Melanie Warner

If you read Pandora's Lunchbox, you will never again view processed food in the same way.  Former New York Times writer Melanie Warner provides an in-depth study of processed food-its history, its ingredients, the reasons for its popularity, and even its future.  While we know whole foods are better for us than processed food, most of us continue to eat, at least some, processed food-some for the convenience, some for the taste and some for both.  

Unlike many authors who write about healthy eating, Warner is not a food zealot who suggests giving up all processed food; she merely provides information about what is contained in these foods and suggests a more limited approach to them (Most Americans' diets consists of 70% processed foods and 30% whole foods.  Warner suggests switching to 30% processed foods and 70% whole foods).  If food and nutrition interest you, Pandora's Lunchbox is a great read.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

LBD (Little Black Dress)

Theory dress, Maje jacket, Chanel sunglasses,Tiffany necklace and bracelet
Reed Krakoff clutch, Jason Wu sandals

When I looked through my closet, I was surprised to see that I had only two summery LBDs, and technically, one of them isn’t little since it’s a maxi dress (seen in this post).  When I found this Theory dress (on sale no less), I thought it was a great addition to my wardrobe since it can be worn year round, can be dressed up or down and is cut well for my body.  Here, I’m wearing it with a Maje cropped tweed jacket (from last year) and heels.  In the summer, I plan to wear it with sandals.  After looking for a very long time, I think I’ve finally found the my ultimate LBD!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Banana Bread on Steroids

One night while surfing the web, I read an article in which a home baker who won a homemade banana bread contest described her entry.  It was her mother’s recipe, but she topped it with nuts, coconut and Demerara sugar.  Since I’m pretty fond of my mom’s banana bread recipe, I decided to use her recipe, but added the contest winner’s toppings.  Of course, I had to add my own spin to the mix, so I toasted the coconut and nuts, which made them even more flavorful.  The result was AMAZING-I was tempted to cut off and eat the entire top of the loaf-it was that good!

the ingredients

Toast the nuts until lightly browned

The coconut is almost toasted, but needs a little more color.

Because I use a stand mixer, I don't take the time to mash the bananas.

Ready for the oven.

Ready to eat!

Banana Bread on Steroids
   1 C.  sugar
   1/2 C.  butter
   2  eggs
   3  bananas, mashed
   2 C.  flour
   1 tsp.  baking soda
   1 pinch  salt
   1 Tbsp.  Demerara sugar
   1/2 C.  pecans
   1/2 C.  coconut

In a dry pan over medium heat, toast the pecans until crisp, about 5 minutes, stirring to evenly brown the pecans.  Remove from the pan and set aside.  In the same pan, toast the coconut in the same manner, but it may take a little longer.  Set aside.  

Cream the sugar and butter.  Add eggs and bananas.  Add flour, baking soda and salt and mix until just combined.  Place in greased loaf pan and evenly sprinkle with nuts, coconut and sugar.  Bake at 350ºF for 1 hour.  Test the bread after 50 minutes by inserting a toothpick into the center of the loaf-if it comes out clean, the bread is ready.  If not, bake a while longer and test again.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Décor: Houseguest Toiletries Kit

I’m so excited-our first houseguests are coming in a few weeks!  Aside from buying new bath towels and planning our activities and meals, one of the things I like to put together before guests arrive is a toiletries kit.  Since I often forget a thing or two when traveling, I like to provide our guests a kit of toiletries commonly forgotten.  This kit contains: a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, cotton, cotton swabs, a razor, shaving cream, feminine hygiene products, body lotion, hand lotion, mouthwash, deodorant (men’s and women’s), hand sanitizer, eye makeup remover, saline, lip balm and ibuprofen.  The Girl Scouts would be proud of me for being prepared!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Four Star Finds: Hagerty Silversmiths' gloves

Now that Kevin is back working in an office, he’s starting to dress up again.  When he tried to wear his silver cuff links, they were tarnished because they hadn’t been worn them in such a long time.  These Hagerty Silversmiths’ gloves (terrycloth gloves coated with silver polish) cleaned them right up.  I like them so much that I even cleaned a silver frame I’ve been meaning to polish for months.  What a treasure (or at least a treasure polisher)!

the before cufflink is on the left, while the after is on the right

Monday, March 10, 2014

Tailoring-Before and After

Before-Notice that the shoulders of this J. Crew blazer fit, but the sleeves
are too long and the torso is too big in both of these photos?

Much better!

Like most people, immediately after I buy a new item, I want to wear it as soon as possible.  I’ve learned to curb those urges and first take things to the tailor to be altered and fitted to my body.  Tailoring is the difference between being well dressed and looking just a little off.

A few helpful hints regarding fit and tailoring:
  • Buy pieces to fit the largest part of you body-it’s easier to have pieces taken in than let out.  In this case, I bought the right size for my shoulders, but the sleeves were too long and the torso too big. 
  • Wear the shoes you plan to wear with the pieces being altered.
  • Always have the tailor pin the hem for each pant leg separately, rather than hemming each leg the same length.  Many people have different lengths for each leg.
  • The same goes for hemming dresses and skirts-Pin up the entire hem and check to make sure the front and back lengths are the same (It's very important to wear the correct shoes when getting skirts and dresses hemmed because heel height greatly affects the hemline.)
  • Many women wear pants (especially jeans) that gap at the back waistline.  This problem can be easily remedied by a tailor for generally less than $15
  • Take advantage of free tailoring offered at many stores (Nordstrom, Club Monaco, Lululemon to name a few)

Friday, March 7, 2014

Book Review: "Lessons from Madame Chic"

Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris
Jennifer L. Scott

While she was a college student, author and blogger Jennifer L. Scott studied abroad in Paris and lived with an aristocratic French family.  Treated like a family member during those six months, Ms. Scott observed the family's and culture's customs.  Lessons from Madame Chic is a collection of 20 "stylish secrets" she learned during that time.

The idea from this book that sticks in most people's minds is the 10 item wardrobe concept.  Ms. Scott proposes having around 10 high quality pieces (not counting finishing pieces like jackets, basics like tee shirts and special occasion clothes) that mix and match, wearing those pieces for a season and then swapping the pieces with others one owns as the weather dictates.  While I like this concept, I mainly took away two different lessons from this book.

The first idea that struck home with me was: Look Presentable Always.  A few days after finishing Lessons from Madame Chic, there was a day when I hadn't made much progress getting my jobs done.  At noon I still hadn't taken a shower and thought about running my errands in exercise clothes, sans make-up, but luckily remembered Ms. Scott's words about always looking presentable.  So I went upstairs, took a shower, got dressed and applied make-up.  After all, you never know who you might see on any given day.  

That day presented another opportunity to apply her lessons to my daily life.  When I got dressed, I put on my old cotton fisherman's sweater, even though I bought a beautiful replacement sweater a few days earlier.  When I looked in the mirror, I saw myself in a tired, just-okay-looking piece.  Suddenly, I remembered another lesson.  Always use your best, whether it's eating off your china, using your favorite perfume or wearing your new sweater.  Don't save things "for good".  I felt so much better after I changed into my new sweater and put the old one into the donation bag!

If you're looking for some ideas to add a touch of old world elegance into you daily life, Lessons from Madame Chic is the right book for you!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Movie Review: "Nebraska"

Rated R

One of the things I like to do every year is see all the Academy Award® Best Picture Nominees before the telecast.  This year I hit my goal by seeing Nebraska just a day or two before the show.  It was one of my favorite movies of the year.

Academy Award Best Actor® nominee Bruce Dern played Woody, a man who is the definition of “grumpy, old codger.”  To his wife and adult sons’ dismay, Woody decides to go from Billings, Montana to Omaha, Nebraska because he wants to collect his sweepstakes winnings, even if it means he has to walk there. 

Nebraska is a tale about love, greed, and forgiveness that will make you laugh and cry.

Monday, March 3, 2014

What a Difference a Rug Makes!

Kevin's favorite furniture purchase EVER is this Streeter Recliner from Crate and Barrel.  He's always wanted a recliner, but I hesitated due to their past lack of style.  He likes to recline in it and read the paper in the morning or have a cocktail at night.  After our offer on our current home was accepted, I ordered another because I knew this nook needed two chairs (as opposed to one).  While I liked the look, it felt like something was missing.  

I started looking locally for a rug, but found that most have very traditional patterns or are rectangular-shaped.  Though I'm hesitant to order items sight-unseen from catalogs or the internet (they're never the color or texture I expect), when I saw this Portofino Rug, I immediately ordered it.  I'm so happy I did-the rug visually (and literally) adds warmth and interest to the space.