Friday, October 31, 2014

Fashion: Leopard Print #3

Helmut Lang jacket, Banana Republic tank, AG jeans,
Nine West pumps (see below for link), Ray Ban sunglasses (old),
Tiffany necklaceTiffany bracelet, Ferragamo handbag (old)
I was planning to buy these high-end leopard print calf hair pumps when I spotted these similar pumps that were about 1/8th the price.  Because I live in an area with brick sidewalks, which can be very hard on shoes, I decided to be practical and opt for the lower cost shoes.  It’s a decision I don’t regret.  I like the way they look and now don’t have to worry about every step I take.

I paired them with ripped jeans, an asymmetric jacket, a plain black tank and my fuchsia handbag for a pop of color.  It’s an edgy, yet playful look-perfect for a night on the town.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Book Review: tiny beautiful things

   tiny beautiful things
   Cheryl Strayed

tiny beautiful things is a compilation of advice columns written by Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild.  Using the pen name Sugar, most columns were originally published on  With much heavier topics (physical, sexual and emotional abuse; drug and alcohol addiction; etc.) than those in Dear Abby columns, tiny beautiful things is full of contradictions.  The articles are both heartbreaking and uplifting, and Sugar is blunt, yet compassionate.  She is also very open about her own life and all it entails-including, but not limited to childhood sexual abuse, losing her mother at a young age, and drug addiction.

Though tiny beautiful things can be emotionally painful, reading about our resilience, capacity for love and desire for redemption makes me feel better about the human race. You won't regret reading tiny beautiful things!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Décor: Boston Bookcases Part 2

Before-Distance Shot

Before-Close Up

In a prior post (click here to view it), I hinted that I may make another change to the bookshelves.  For those unfamiliar with the bookshelves in our Boston home, I had subtle wallpaper installed on the back walls.  I loved the result, but thought the books’ covers were too distracting.  I considered putting the books away, but due to limited space, needed the storage. 

The solution…

I covered the books with white wrapping paper (available here) and made labels (using a label maker) to identify the books.  The result is perfect-now the accessories, rather than the books, are the stars of the bookcases.

After-Distance Shot

After Close Up
Yes-I was a little compulsive and lined up the labels!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Movie Review: "The Judge"

   The Judge
   Rated R

When successful lawyer Hank (Robert Downey Jr.) returns to his hometown to attend his mother’s funeral, he ends up defending his estranged father (Robert Duvall) on a murder charge.  Will this experience allow him to reconnect with his roots and family?

The story in The Judge unfolds slowly and beautifully-the filmmakers took the time to let it organically unfurl and answer all of the viewer’s questions.  In addition, the acting is outstanding-every member of the all-star cast delivers an excellent performance.  You won’t regret seeing The Judge.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Travel: Bottega Louie

The view when you walk into Bottega Louie

Although I recommended the fast food chain In-N-Out Burger, I haven’t touted restaurants for a few reasons.  First, there are just so many good places to eat that restaurant blogs staffed by professionals are already ubiquitous.  Second, I’m a somewhat picky eater, so I can’t suggest a full range of restaurants.  Lastly, unless I suggest chain restaurants, specific eateries are available only to a small number of people.  Despite my misgivings, I’m going to break tradition and recommend a fantastic restaurant/bakery/gourmet market in downtown Los Angeles.

Bottega Louie is one of my favorite places to eat.  I go there every time I travel to California, even if it’s just to the café to order a pastry.  Though Bottega Louie can be noisy, its energetic atmosphere is fun, and the food is fabulous.  I’ve tried many different dishes on the menu, and they are all outstanding.  A few of my favorites are the trenne pasta, sausage pizza and porchetta sandwich.

If you don’t have time for a full meal, it’s worth the time to make a trip to the café/gourmet market.  With house-made macarons, beignets, salads, sandwiches, and all sorts of pastries and breads, there’s something for everyone.  Frangipane, an almond and blueberry tart, is my personal favorite, though I often end up buying it plus a loaf of épeé bread and a macaron!

The next time you’re near downtown LA, stop by Bottega Louie for a nice meal or special treat!
the pastry case

frangipane to go

some goodies from the market

Monday, October 20, 2014

Cooking and Entertaining: Caramel Oatmeal Squares

Caramel Oatmeal Squares

When I worked in an office, I realized food tasted better at work, especially homemade goodies.  Often, a coworker would graciously bring treats, I would think they were delicious, ask for the recipe, make them myself and realize that the treats weren’t as good as I initially thought.  Not so with this recipe…

I received this recipe from a coworker’s wife, and these bars were delicious from day 1.  I’ve altered the recipe a bit to accommodate my changing taste and available products.  These bars are rich, decadent, and an absolute treat!

the ingredients

making the crust/topping

the crust

ready for the oven


Caramel Oatmeal Bars

1-1/2 C.  oatmeal
1-1/4 C.  brown sugar
1-1/2 tsp.  baking soda
1-1/2 C.  flour
1/4 tsp.  salt
1 C.  butter, chilled and diced
11 oz.  caramel bits
2 C.  semisweet chocolate chips
1 C.  almonds, toasted

Preheat oven to 350ºF.  In a food processor, pulse oatmeal, brown sugar, baking soda, flour, salt and butter about 10-12 times, until mixture resembled coarse meal.  Press 2/3 of this mixture into a greased 9” x 13” pan.  Evenly top with caramel bits, chocolate chips, almonds and the remaining topping.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Four Star Finds: Cape Gooseberries

cape gooseberries with the husk

cape gooseberries without the husk

Now that the weather has cooled off a bit, I’ve been going to my local farmers market twice a week to buy fruits and veggies.  When a vendor gave me a cape gooseberry to sample, he said that I was in for a treat.  He was right-cape gooseberries are so tasty!

Related to tomatillos, cape gooseberries are also known as husked tomatoes.  After removing the outer husk, they can be added to a salad or are great eaten alone!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Leopard Print #2

Equipment blouse, J. Crew slacks (similar), Jimmy Choo shoes,
Madewell sunglasses, antique necklace, Prada handbag

After buying a pair of shoes, I received a generous gift card set to expire pretty quickly.  After spending 2 hours searching for the perfect “free” item, I found this leopard print blouse.  Purchased in July, it’s the piece that ignited my current leopard obsession.  Now that the weather has cooled off a bit, it’s something I can finally wear.

Though shown here with wool slacks, I’ll mainly wear it with dark-wash jeans, a blazer and either red shoes or a red handbag. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Book Review: "Eat, Move, Sleep"

   Eat, Move, Sleep
   Tom Rath

Author Tom Rath has a rare genetic disorder where his body easily develops and grows cancerous tumors. As a result, he's taken an avid interest in health and well-being. Eat, Move, Sleep is the result of his studies-in it, he gives 30 days worth of practical advice, each day with suggestions on how to eat a healthier diet, exercise more and attain better sleep. He also stresses the benefits of these lifestyle changes in a simple, concise manner.

Although I have long had an interest in healthy eating and exercise, until I read Eat, Move, Sleep, I didn't understand the importance of getting a good night's sleep. Quality sleep improves the immune system, memory and job performance, while disruptive sleep contributes to weight gain, depression and heart disease.

In addition to discussing the benefits of healthy eating, consistent exercise and good sleep, Rath points out little things like how small decisions determine one's overall life span and how every meal is an opportunity to do something beneficial or detrimental to one's body. Eat, Move, Sleep is a true 4 star find!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Décor: Boston Bookshelves

Before-far away

Before-up close


Wallpaper job completed

After-far away

After-up close

In one of my early home décor posts (click here for the link), I blogged about getting the family room bookshelves wallpapered.  I was happy with how it turned out and thought the wallpaper added modernity to the room.  As you may know, we sold our home, moved to Boston, and have been chipping away at projects in our new home. 

After finding a good wallpaper hanger, I shopped for wallpaper.  Though I wanted a similar pattern, I was looking for subtle colors since this house already has some bold accessories. had exactly what I wanted (click here for a link to my wallpaper)!  The wallpaper adds interest to the bookshelves and allows the white décor items to stand out.  I’m very pleased with the result, but one more tweak may be coming.  Stay tuned…

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Travel: Topsfield Fair

a sand carving

Kevin and I have gone to the fair 28 years in a row.  Though we don’t go on the rides, we love everything else about the fair.  What can be more fun than eating, looking at farm animals, perusing arts and crafts and people-watching?

In the past, we’ve gone to the Orange County Fair in Costa Mesa, California; this year, we went to the Topsfield Fair in Massachusetts.  Though smaller than the OC Fair, the Topsfield Fair is pretty impressive.  It has a large animal collection including a bee and honey exhibit, interesting shows and demonstrations, numerous food vendors and a fun atmosphere!  

Running through October 13, stop by for a few hours and enjoy being a kid again!

Road Hawg's "BONE" afield Piglet Pile-French fries with pulled pork
and barbecue sauce topped with a pork rib

the best apple crisp I've eaten!

this is where we bought the apple crisp

award winning art

a beautiful hand-made bowl on display 

presenting the sheep to the judges

Monday, October 6, 2014

Movie Reviews: "The Equalizer" and "Gone Girl"

   The Equalizer
   Rated R

Denzel Washington portrays Robert McCall, a likeable home improvement store worker with a mysterious past and an unusual skill set.  After his young friend Teri, a prostitute who is controlled by Russian mobsters, is hurt, McCall comes out of retirement to seek justice on her behalf.

As I’ve said many times, I like good action movies, and The Equalizer is a good one.  It has a solid story, likeable characters and just the right amount of action and humor.  The Equalizer is so good that even if you're not into the action genre, you'll enjoy seeing it.

   Gone Girl
   Rated R

 I was excited, yet apprehensive to see Gone Girl-this issue is that I loved the book and wanted to see it as a movie, but was a little worried the movie wouldn’t measure up.  I was completely wrong!  The filmmakers did this adaptation right-they took the time to explore the book’s details and nuances, used Gillian Flynn (the author) as the screenwriter and cast the characters perfectly, especially Rosamund Pike as Amy.

Nick Dunne arrives home on his fifth anniversary to find evidence of a scuffle and learn his wife, Amy, is missing.  Initially, Nick is treated with sympathy, but quickly becomes the prime suspect.  Saying anything more would spoil the story, but expect to be both surprised and entranced.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Cooking and Entertaining: Kitchen Sink Cookies

Kitchen Sink Cookies!

One of my favorite cookies is a coco-loco from Pain du Monde Café, a family-owned, Orange County-based chain.  Filled with oats, chocolate chips, nuts and coconut, the flavor and texture are amazing!  Since they’re only available in California, I found this recipe for a copycat version.  To me, they’re so similar that these cookies are a taste of home!

the ingredients-even though the recipe calls for semi-sweet chocolate
chips, extra dark chocolate chips can be used

I use a one ounce scoop to make even cookies

Ready to eat!

Kitchen Sink Cookies

1 C.  unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 C.  sugar
1/2 C.  firmly packed light brown sugar
2  eggs
1 tsp.  vanilla extract
2 C.  flour
1 tsp.  baking soda
1/2 tsp.  baking powder
1/2 tsp.  salt
2 C.  old-fashioned rolled oats
2 C.  semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 C.  sweetened flaked coconut
1 C.  pecans, coarsely chopped and toasted

Preheat oven to 350ºF.  In a large bowl, combine butter, sugar, and brown sugar together until smooth and creamy.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well blended.  Stir in vanilla.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Gradually stir into butter mixture until well blended.  Add oats, chocolate chips, coconut and pecans, and stir until well blended.  Drop batter with a 1 ounce ice-cream scoop ungreased cookie sheets.  Press tops down with the bottom of a glass to flatten cookies evenly.  Bake until golden, about 16 to 19 minutes.

BTW-This cookie dough can be scooped into individual portions, frozen for up to 2 months, and then baked as directed.  I often do this for two reasons: 1. So I don’t eat an entire batch of cookies in a few days and 2. I can have hot cookies anytime!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Four Star Finds: Quicos

I love snacking.  I’ve unsuccessfully tried to quit and admire my friends who don’t eat between meals, but it just doesn’t work for me.  Instead, I try to parcel out my snacks at the beginning of the day and stick to what I’ve set out.  This plan worked fairly well until I discovered quicos.  After that, all bets were off…

Quicos are like corn nuts on steroids-they’re bigger, crunchier and have more corn flavor.  They’re my new favorite snack and are positively addictive! 

While I found mine at Whole Foods Market, they’re also available
on-line at (click here for the link).