Monday, March 30, 2015

Cooking and Entertaining: Giada’s Kale and Hummus Salad

kale and hummus salad

I hate to admit this, but I’ve hopped onto the kale bandwagon.  It’s tasty and good for you.  This Giada De Laurentiis kale salad combines both Italian and Mediterranean ingredients and is one of my favorites.  It’s hearty enough to be a meal in itself, easy to prepare, and so yummy!

I’ve changed the recipe a bit by using baby kale in place of Tuscan kale, and by putting the dressing ingredients into a lidded jar and shaking to combine instead of using a whisk and large bowl.  Also, I didn’t use all of the prepared dressing.  Finally, even though I’ve added za’atar like in the original recipe, the salad is great without it.  Happy Eating!

the ingredients

heating the crushed garlic in olive oil

the dressing-before and after being shaken

ready for tossing

good and good for you!

Click here for a link to Giada De Laurentiis's recipe

Friday, March 27, 2015

Travel: Jenni Kayne Store in West Hollywood

the outside of the store

One of the blogs I read on a regular basis is (click here to visit the website).  It’s designer Jenni Kayne’s lifestyle blog that promotes good health, natural products and a minimal California aesthetic.  Since a collaboration between Jenni Kanye and Pottery Barn Kids was just announced, I think you’ll be hearing her name quite a bit in the near future.

When I was in California last month, I went to the Jenni Kayne store in West Hollywood because I wanted to see and touch a pair of shoes I was considering purchasing (click here to see the post about those shoes, which, incidentally, I did end up buying).  When I walked into the store, I realized it was exactly what I had envisioned, given what I know about her aesthetic from her blog.  It’s luxurious, yet casual and has a peaceful, laid-back feeling.

In addition to Jenni’s clothing and accessories, her store also carries home accessories and beauty products.  I was tempted to spend the whole afternoon just browsing and then realized that visiting the Jenni Kayne store in West Hollywood is a destination in itself!

part of the clothing and shoe section

about two years ago, Jenni Kayne brought the D'Orsay flat back into vogue


beauty products

home accessories

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Movie Review: “Cinderella”

   Rated PG

A remake of the animated Disney classic, Cinderella tells orphan Ella’s story.  Starting with her loving childhood, moving onto the abuse she suffered at the hands of her stepmother and stepsisters and ending happily with her marriage to the king, Cinderella is a gem!

A modern remake with a feminist message, I would absolutely take a young girl to see this movie.  The casting is outstanding-Lily James is perfect as brave, kind Ella; as are Cate Blanchett as the cruel stepmother and Helena Bonham Carter as Ella’s fairy godmother.  Entertaining and visually stunning, Cinderella is a movie for everyone!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Book Review: The Rosie Project

  The Rosie Project
  Graeme Simsion

Australian genetics professor Don Tillman likes his orderly life, but throws it into chaos when he decides to look for a wife.  Being the logical person he is, Don accumulates a list of “requirements” his potential wife must have and writes a questionnaire to weed out incompatible partners.  According to Don’s criteria, Rosie Jarman has no “wife potential,” yet Don finds himself increasingly enjoying her company.  Will Don and Rosie find happiness separately or together as a couple?

The Rosie Project was an international best seller, and I can see why.  It’s well-written, has an original plot and is filled with quirky, yet likable characters.  A very quick read, The Rosie Project was hard to put down, and I can’t wait to start reading its sequel, The Rosie Effect!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Home: Updating the Picture Frames

Buffet Picture Frames-Before

Buffet Picture Frames-After

Every now and then, I go through our home and try to see it with fresh eyes-essentially trying to view it as a first time visitor would.  Pretty much every time I do, I realize there are things that need to be refreshed or changed.  The last time I did this, I realized the picture frames on the buffet were looking a little worn. 

Pottery Barn sells these coordinating silver-tone frames, and they were on sale the day I found them.  What a stroke of luck!  They brought new life to the buffet and show that small changes can have a huge impact!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Four Star Finds: Williams Sonoma Easter Malt Ball Eggs

Easter Malt Ball Eggs (available here)

Every year I look forward to buying a package of candy-coated malted milk ball eggs.  Since Kevin isn’t into them and Sean doesn’t live with us full time, I get to eat the whole package by myself.  What a treat!

Until last year, I always bought the ones readily available at grocery and drug stores, but always wanted to try the ones sold at Williams Sonoma.  Seeing they were on sale, I impulsively bought a bag.  OMG-they’re amazing!  This year, I liked them so much I bought two bags!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Style: February 2015 Buys

Jenni Kayne mules (in oiled leather) and Ivanka Trump Kalia sandals

About two months ago I realized I wasn’t putting enough thought into many of my clothing and accessory purchases.  When I was out shopping, if I saw something I liked, I often bought it without a second thought.  My shopping didn’t create problems, but I decided that I needed to put more consideration into purchases.  My solution was to put myself on a budget.

Now when shopping I take pictures of things I like, leave the store and then contemplate whether or not the item is something I love and will feel good wearing.  I also consider how it will work with other pieces I already own and whether or not it fits into my lifestyle.

My February purchases consist of Jenni Kayne black suede mules and Ivanka Trump gladiator sandals (More about these sandals in my next style post).  After seeing these mules on a blog, I wanted to buy them but was hesitant to order them sight-unseen, as online items are rarely the way I pictured them.  When I was in California, I went to the Jenni Kayne store, saw, touched, tried on, loved and then immediately bought these shoes.  What a great purchase!

So far, being on a budget has had a good outcome-I now buy only things I love that fit into my life.

Here are a few things I considered purchasing, but didn't in the end:

While I love this M Missoni dress, it's not very practical
for my life right now

I still like this J Brand sweater, but it probably wouldn't get a lot of
use since the weather is warming up

While I liked this Madewell dress on the hanger, it didn't look
great on me

I'm still thinking about buying these Gucci flats (different color)

After buying the mules, I didn't need these
Jimmy Choo flats (different color)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Cooking and Entertaining: Irish Soda Bread

Irish soda bread with a pat of butter

Even though I’m not Irish, I like to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.  Every year, I usually cook either Irish stew or corned beef, either one accompanied by Irish soda bread.

This soda bread recipe by Ina Garten is one I have made for years; it’s easy to prepare and doesn’t require a lot of ingredients.  Also, it has one of her “signature” ingredients, grated orange zest.  Ina adds orange zest to many of her desserts, and it adds a touch of unexpected freshness.  Served with a pat of Irish butter, this soda bread is an easy way to start a family tradition.

the ingredients

toss the currants with flour so they won't sink to the bottom of the bread

mix until the butter is in pea sized bits

add the beaten egg and orange zest to the buttermilk

slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients

finally, add the currants

ready for the oven

my bread was a bit misshapen, but was still wonderful!

Click here to see Ina Garten’s recipe

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Travel: Snow Tubing

the snow tube run

As I may have mentioned before, since we moved to Boston, we’ve been seeking out new activities and experiences.  Last weekend, we went snow tubing at a local ski resort, Nashoba Valley, which has an area dedicated solely to tubing (click here to visit their website).  What a blast!

Nashoba Valley provides the tubes, and there are 17 runs and a lift that tows riders up the hill.  Once you’re at the apex, you choose a run, get into the tube and push off.  Admittedly, I was a little nervous on the first run, but riding down the hill was exhilarating!  After that, Kevin and I “tandem tubed” (held on to each others’ tubes while going downhill) and even spun ourselves at the beginning of some runs.  Though we were pretty much the only adults who didn’t accompany children or teens, we had so much fun that we’ll definitely be back!

ready to snow tube!
getting towed up the hill

the view from the bottom of the hill

Kevin riding down the hill

Monday, March 9, 2015

Movie Review: “McFarland, USA”

   McFarland, USA
   Rated PG

Bad-tempered Jim White finds himself teaching and coaching in the central California town of McFarland, which is populated mainly by immigrant farm worker families.  Impressed by their stamina and work ethic, White (affectionately know as Blanco), forms a high school cross-country team that overcomes obstacles to compete in the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) finals.  But will this underdog team become state champions?

Based on a true story, McFarland, USA is an uplifting, feel-good movie that gently addresses race and class issues.  It was great to see how an extracurricular activity transformed not only the athletes’ lives, but also the whole town.  Seeing McFarland, USA is an experience most people will enjoy!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Book Review: "Unbroken"

  Lauren Hillenbrand

Unbroken is the story of Louis Zamperini's tortured life and his subsequent revival. (Spoiler alert-if you don't want to know anything about this book, skip to the next paragraph.) Raised in Torrance, California during a time when immigrants were mistrusted, Louis was a disliked juvenile delinquent. He channeled his energies into running and competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. Louis became a navy bombardier during World War II, and after his plane was shot down, survived at sea only to be captured by the Japanese navy. As a prisoner of war, Louis was singled out by a sadistic, psychopathic guard and tortured on a daily basis. Unlike the movie with the same name, the book also details how Louis was able for find redemption, forgive his captors and lead a full, peaceful life.

The best book I've read since Tuesdays with Morrie, Unbroken is a tale of hardship, courage and hope. Though it was difficult to read about what Louis Zamperini endured, both by natural and human elements, reading Unbroken is worth the effort. In addition, Unbroken is well written and meticulously researched. I now have a deep respect for Mr. Zamperini, recognize he is a hero and highly recommend reading his story.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Home: Switch Plates

Switch Plate-Before
Notice how the screws aren't aligned?

Switch Plate-After
This looks much better!
I aligned the screws on the electrical outlet plates, too

Kevin’s grandfather was a carpenter who took pride in his work; Lee was a great grandparent, mentor and teacher to Kevin.  One of the things he taught Kevin was to align the screws on switch plates to make all of them either vertical or horizontal.  Though it’s a small touch, lined-up screws are visually pleasing and show you take pride in the details.  I completed this task in about 20 minutes and (I know this sounds crazy) feel good whenever I look at our switch plates and electrical outlet plates.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Four Star Finds: Sugarfina

the pop up store at South Coast Plaza

I love candy!  Though I like chocolate, I’m especially fond of candies marketed toward 9-year olds-my favorites are gummies, sour candies, Skittles, and Starburst.  When I found a Sugarfina store, I was in candy heaven! 

Beautifully merchandised, Sugarfina stores carry “sophisticated candy.”  Among other products, they sell premium gummies, gourmet chocolates and beautiful gift sets.  Their products are packaged in small, clear plastic boxes with the candies often artfully arranged. 

Though Sugarfina products are sold online (click here for their website), stop by one of their amazing stores (Beverly Hills, and Glendale, California) if you have the opportunity.  If you do, you will again experience being a kid in a candy store!

boxed sets

chocolate dragees in cool packaging

the stores are merchandised beautifully