Friday, February 27, 2015

Cooking and Enertaining: Jalapeño Margaritas


My very hip, in-the-know friend, Cindy, introduced me to jalapeño margaritas on New Year's Eve, and I immediately became hooked! Just a tad spicy, these cocktails have a chili flavor that combines perfectly with tequila.

I looked at a few recipes, liked this one from and adapted it a bit to my taste (Click here to see the original recipe).  Specifically, I don't salt the glass rims, use Grand Marnier in place of Triple Sec and use jalapeño rounds, rather than limes, as a garnish.  Bottoms up!
the ingredients

prepare the jalapeño

juice the limes

ready to be shaken

Jalapeño Margaritas
(adapted from
makes 2 drinks

4 oz.  tequila

2 oz.  Grand Marnier

2  limes, juiced

1 Tbsp.  agave nectar

1 jalapeño pepper

Remove the stem from the jalapeño pepper and cut 2 rounds from the large side of the chili.  Set aside to use as a garnish.  Slice the chili in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and membrane.  Dice the chili into 1/4" pieces.

Pour the tequila, Grand Marnier, lime juice, agave nectar, and jalapeño into a cocktail shaker and add enough ice so the liquid and ice are at the same level. Cover, and shake vigorously until the outside of the shaker has frosted. Strain into the prepared glasses, and garnish with jalapeño rounds.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Style: Forward or Reverse

Derek Lam 10 Crosby Sweater, J. Crew jeans (similar,)
Salvatore Ferragamo Sookie handbag (old), Manolo Blahnik mules (old),
antique necklace in this photo and Majorca pearl necklace in other photos

Add caption

When I tried on this sweater in December, I was immediately intrigued by it.  On one side it appears to be a traditional nautical striped sweater, but on the other side, the fabric is criss-crossed making it completely different and unique.  The other thing I love about this sweater is that it’s reversible-you can the x in the front or back. 

Show both ways here, along with white jeans and fuchsia accessories, this outfit is a reminder that spring will eventually return!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Travel: Snowmobiling

ready to go!

Since we moved to the East Coast, we’ve been trying to explore the area by taking mini trips and by experiencing new activities.  When we went white water rafting in Maine (click here to see the post), we noticed Northern Outdoors (click here to visit their website) offered snowmobiling in the winter.  Because I love roller coasters and going fast, we thought it would be fun to give it a try when Sean came for a visit.

Snowmobiling was a great experience!  We drove to Maine the day after Christmas, arrived around 9:00 a.m., received a quick tutorial, and were riding snowmobiles by 10:00 a.m.  We started off going slowly, especially when crossing small creeks, but soon sped up and had a blast!  We followed the trails, ate lunch at a local restaurant, had a snowball fight, and spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the area.  After a long, exhausting day, we returned to the lodge, ate a hearty dinner accompanied by house-made beer and crashed in a rustic cabin.  

My only suggestion to beginners is to hire a guide since the map provided isn't to scale and since the trails aren't always clearly marked.  Other than that, have fun!

We’ll definitely be back!

the scenery was beautiful

I had no idea you could ride a snowmobile over dirt,
ice and small creeks 

a felled tree that resulted in a detour

Friday, February 20, 2015

Movie Reviews: “Whiplash” and “Still Alice”

   Rated R

Andrew Neyman is an ambitious jazz drummer at a prestigious music conservatory whose obsession is to become a top-notch musician.  Terence Fletcher is his demanding teacher.  Will Fletcher’s tactics elicit Andrew’s best or will they push him to the brink of sanity?

Every year, I try to see the Academy Award Best Picture nominees-almost always, I think they’re truly great films.  Whiplash definitely belongs in that category.  With amazing performances from Miles Teller (as Andrew Neyman) and J.K. Simmons (as Terence Fletcher) and its unpredictable story, Whiplash is a prime example of synergy, where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. 

   Still Alice
   Rated R

Alice Howland is a 50-year old Columbia University linguistics professor who leads a charmed life until she is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.  Losing her prized intelligence deeply affects her and her relationships with loved ones.

Still Alice is a heartbreaking film with an exceptional performance by Julianne Moore.  Though this film played on my worst fear, becoming or having a loved one become mentally incapacitated, it’s a must-see film!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Book Review: “Not That Kind of Girl”

   Not That Kind of Girl
   Lena Dunham

In her collection of essays, Not That Kind of Girl, Lena Dunham is brutally honest about everything-losing her virginity, her obsession with death and dying, being overweight, on-screen nudity and even the condescension she’s faced in Hollywood.  Often described as the voice of her generation, Dunham is wise beyond her years and willing to bare her soul to impart her wisdom to others.

While reading Not That Kind of Girl, I was struck by Dunham’s lack of guile.  While most people portray themselves in the best light, Dunham doesn’t shy away from revealing her embarrassing moments.  She doesn’t do this to humiliate herself, but to show her readers the truth-that while she may be wildly successful, she still filled with self-doubt and makes mistakes.  That is, she’s human.  If you're looking for an entertaining read, you'll enjoy Not That Kind of Girl.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Home: Post-Holiday Hurricane Lamps

Dining Room Hurricane Lamps-Before
Dining Room Hurricane Lamps-After

Hurricane Lamp Close Up-Before
Hurricane Lamp Close Up-After

In a previous post, I wrote about replacing our dining room table candlesticks with hurricane lamps filled with mini Christmas ornaments (click here to see that post).  Since the holidays are long over, I changed the filling in the hurricane lamps to polished river rocks-they’re neutral, seasonless and elegant.  I think they’re a nice addition to the dining room.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Four Star Finds: Bose Soundlink Color Bluetooth Speaker

A few years ago, I stopped giving Kevin a list of things I wanted for Christmas and my birthday and decided to let him choose my gifts.  The result has been great-he always gives me things I like, and often things I didn’t know existed.

Such was the case with this Bose Soundlink Speaker (click here to visit the website)-it has Bluetooth capability, links to my iphone, and has great sound.  Now, instead of having the tv on for the background noise, I can practice French with Rosetta Stone, listen to my music or listen to what Pandora chooses.  I guess Kevin knows me very well after 27 years of marriage! 

As always, I receive no compensation for endorsing this product.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Cooking and Entertaining: Chocolate Strawberry Bark

Chocolate Strawberry Bark

Chocolate covered strawberries are an oft-given Valentine’s Day gift, but if you’d rather wait to buy or make them until strawberries are in peak season, there’s another option available.  Chocolate bark topped with freeze-dried strawberries is a fun, easy-to make alternative to the classic. 

With only two ingredients and 15 minutes, you can produce a tasty gift or treat!

Valrhona chocolate and freeze-dried strawberries

Top the bottom of a baking pan with foil

Place the chopped chocolate in the top of a double boiler or heat-proof
bowl over simmering water

Chop the freeze dried fruit while the chocolate is melting

Spread the melted chocolate on top of the foil-lined baking sheet

Sprinkle with chopped strawberries

Chocolate Strawberry Bark

7-14 oz. chocolate, chopped into 1/2” pieces (I used 7 ounces of Valrhona 70% dark chocolate, but any good chocolate works)
freeze-dried strawberries (I used 12 grams)

Overturn a baking sheet and place a piece of foil on top of the back side.  Set aside.  Place the chocolate in the top of a double boiler or a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  While the chocolate is melting, dice the strawberries (any freeze-dried fruit would work) into 1/4”-1/2” pieces.  Set the strawberries aside.

After the chocolate has melted, spread it evenly onto the foil-covered baking sheet.  Sprinkle with the freeze-dried fruit.  Allow the bark to set or place into the refrigerator to set more quickly.  Break into pieces, place in cellophane bags, and tie the bags with ribbon.

What a pretty gift!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Style: Tomboy Chic

Rag and Bone Jean top, Banana Republic tank, J Brand jeans (similar),
Sam Edelman shoes, Ray Ban sunglasses (old), antique necklace

About two months ago, I started noticing slip-on tennis shoes.  Because of all the walking I do, I thought they would be a stylish, comfortable addition to my wardrobe.  After trying on quite a few pairs, all at different price points, I ended up buying the least expensive ones.  Why says you can’t find style at a low price point?

I paired the tennis shoes with black jeans that I’ve had forever and an open, inverted v-back shirt.  Because I didn’t want to show too much skin, I wore a tank top underneath.  The result is a fun, age-appropriate casual look!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Travel: Balboa Island

the welcome sign on the bridge to Balboa Island

 Popular with both tourists and locals, Balboa Island is a small, charming haven off Newport Beach, California.  Accessible by both bridge and by ferry. many of its cottage-style homes are filled with vacationers during the summer months, including locals who often rent a house for a week or two.  Marine Avenue, the island’s “Main Street” is filled with quaint shops and restaurants.

Whether you visit just to take a stroll around the island’s perimeter or if you’re looking for a “California beach town,” experience, Balboa Island is the place to be!

the view from the bridge-Part I

the view from the bridge-Part II
the ferry entrance

cottage-style homes-many of which have been razed and rebuilt

Marina Avenue

Dad's-A local institution

Though Dad's is famous for their Balboa Bars and frozen bananas,
the locals know Dad's for their hippo cookies

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Movie Reviews: “American Sniper” and "The Wedding Ringer"

   American Sniper
   Rated R

American Sniper is the story of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, America’s deadliest sniper with more than 160 confirmed kills.  With his patriotism never in question, Kyle served four tours in Iraq and then struggled to readjust to civilian life as a husband and father.

I’m the first person to admit American Sniper is a well-done film.  I would have given it a higher rating, but the violence and gore disturbed me.  That said, I liked how director Clint Eastwood actually told Chris Kyle’s story-scenes from his childhood showed how he became the man he was, and I liked the fact that he wasn’t portrayed as perfect or invincible.  Bradley Cooper (Kyle) earned his Academy Award nomination in this film!

   The Wedding Ringer
   Rated R

Kind, but socially awkward Doug (Josh Gad) needs a best man and groomsmen for his wedding to the girl of his dreams, Gretchen.  Enter Jimmy Callahan (Kevin Hart), the charismatic owner/founder of The Best Man, Inc., and what begins as a business transaction becomes a bromance.

Though The Wedding Ringer is crude at times, it’s also funny and surprisingly sweet.  Kevin Hart and Josh Gad have perfect chemistry, and I also liked that the characters were multi-dimensional.  If you looking for a few entertaining hours, The Wedding Ringer is the movie for you!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Book Review: “Her”

   Harriet Lane

Her is the story of an unlikely friendship between two middle-aged Londoners.  Nina is a sophisticated, successful artist while Emma is an overwrought, new mother.  After a seemingly innocent meeting, it soon becomes clear the entire introduction was a set-up and that one of the women has a hidden agenda.

Written in the same vein as Gone Girl, Her is best described as a chick lit thriller.  It had me on the edge of my seat and was completely unpredictable.  Told from both Nina and Emma’s viewpoints, Her shows how the smallest action can have a profound effect on another.