Monday, June 29, 2015

Book Review: “Mindless Eating”

   Mindless Eating
   Brian Wansink

I recently read a list of five books that changed the author’s life, and Mindless Eating was at the top of the list.  Its basic premise is that the quantity we eat is not determined by hunger, but by many environmental factors.  Wansink believes our eating is influenced by the presence of family and friends, labels, lighting, plate size, smells, habits, variety, and many other factors.  Until I read Mindless Eating, I would have disagreed.  After all, I have a master’s degree in psychology, regularly log my food into the Lose It app and am very weight conscious.  I had a change of heart after finishing the book.

What I especially like about Mindless Eating is that Wansink, a consumer behaviorist, supported his assertions with scientific studies.  He also provides tips at the end of each chapter showing how to avoid overeating pitfalls, thereby reducing “mindless” calories.   For example, he suggests snaking only at the table using a small, clean plate or bowl-he asserts eating out of a package, especially a large one, leads to overeating, as does eating while distracted (like while watching television).  If you’re interested in learning why you eat what you do and/or how to change your approach to food, Mindless Eating is a life-changing tool.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Home: Warm Weather Sofa Pillows

Living Room Pillows-Before
(Emmie photobombed me!)

Close Up-Before
Living Room Pillows-After

Close Up-After

In a previous post (click here to view it), I wrote about changing the living room sofa pillows and throw blanket to cold weather fabrics like wool, chenille and cashmere.  At the time, it was too cold for cotton and linen.  Now that warmer weather has returned, it’s time to change the pillows back to airier fabrics. The new pillow covers are from Pottery Barn (click here and here to view the pillow covers) and Williams Sonoma Home (click here to view them), and I think they bring a casual coolness to the room. 

You may notice I didn’t change the cashmere throw, but I haven’t found just the right piece to replace it.  In my younger days, I would have bought a throw that was slightly off, just to have something there.  At this point, I’d rather make do or do without than to waste money on something I don’t love.  I also justified not buying a new throw on the fact that it’s lightly woven, so even though it’s cashmere, it’s not too heavy.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Four Star Finds: Cure Natural Aqua Gel

A few months ago, I saw Christie Brinkley on a talk show, and at the age of 61, she looks amazing!  Though I credit her preternatural beauty on genetics and a healthy lifestyle, she credits her youthful-looking skin on regular exfoliation.  Experts believe the benefits of exfoliation (removal of dead skin cells) are keeping pores clear and speeding up the skin renewal process.  Exfoliation, therefore, helps reduce fine lines, wrinkles and discoloration.  So, when I learn about new products designed to remove the top layer of skin, I’m eager to give them a try.

Cure Natural Aqua Gel is the number one selling Japanese facial exfoliant and is to be used twice weekly.  After cleansing, I dry my face and hands, squirt two pumps onto my fingertips and gently massage the gel onto my face for a minute or two.  During this process, I can feel bits of skin being gently sloughed off; afterwards, my skin is baby soft.  Cure Natural Aqua Gel is a game changer in my skin care routine!

If you are interested in purchasing Cure Aqua Gel, click here.  As always, I do not receive any compensation for my endorsement of this product.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Style: A little Boho

Joie top (old, similar here), Driftwood jeans, 3.1 Phillip Lim handbag,
Madewell sunglasses, vintage necklaces, bracelet (unknown brand),
Ferragamo sandals (different color)

There have been times in my life when I’ve considered culling my clothes to obtain a “capsule wardrobe”-that is, reducing my clothing collection to a few essential pieces that don’t go out of style.  I always realize a reduced wardrobe won’t work for me-my style is too eclectic, and I get bored wearing the same look.

Though my look is generally tailored, yet feminine and edgy, I immediately fell for these jeans when I saw them.  I was a bit hesitant to buy them because I didn’t necessarily think embroidered jeans were a current look.  However, after not being able to get them out of my mind for a month and seeing these Stella McCartney jeans (click here to view them), I decided they would be one of my May purchases. 

Worn with a light, billowy top, delicate jewelry, a bucket bag, round sunglasses and jelly flip flops, this look is fun and casual-perfect for the second day of summer!

the embroidery detail

I love this delicate finger bracelet

Friday, June 19, 2015

Cooking and Entertaining: Paper Bag Asparagus

paper bag asparagus

Asparagus is one of those vegetables I started eating only a few years ago.  I used to think its flavor was too strong, but now I’ve grown to like it.  I generally grill asparagus, but steaming it in a paper bag is a nice change and steaming allows the asparagus to be served on the crisper side.

Bon Appetit!

just a few simple ingredients
ready to go into the bag

spread the oil all over the top of the bag

Paper Bag Asparagus

1  bunch asparagus
1  Tbsp. & 1 tsp olive
1  lemon, sliced
5-6  bay leaves
1/2 tsp.  salt
1/4 tsp.  pepper

Preheat the oven to 425°F.  Wash and dry the asparagus and snap off the woody ends.  Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place half of the lemon slices and bay leaves under the asparagus and top with remaining lemon and bay leaves.  Place the entire bundle in a clean lunch-sized paper bag and fold under the end of the bag.  Drizzle the paper bag with remaining the olive oil.  Bake for 9-10 minutes, or until the asparagus is tender-crisp.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Travel: John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

campaign buttons

a replica of a nuclear arms treaty, along with the pens used to sign it and photo

The First Lady's inaugural gown

a replica of the oval office

The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award

When our California friends Jean and Gale stayed with us for a few days, all of us visited the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.  Though I had toured it four years ago, I didn’t remember how much I enjoyed it and just how interesting it is.  The exhibits are fascinating, especially for those of us who only knew President Kennedy through photographs and/or history books.

The tour begins with a short film presenting President Kennedy’s life prior to receiving the Democratic party’s presidential nomination, and the exhibits begin with his subsequent presidential campaign.  The museum has multimedia exhibits, and my favorite was seeing a video of the Kennedy-Nixon Presidential debate, which I had only read about. 

In addition, the museum contains a section on Jacqueline Kennedy, the First Lady, and a replica of Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s office.  No matter what your political affiliation or personal view toward President Kennedy may be, visiting the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is witnessing an important piece of history.

For more information on the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, click here.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Movie Reviews: “San Andreas,” “Spy” & "Love and Mercy”

   San Andreas
   Rated PG-13

Ray (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), a search and rescue helicopter pilot, along with his estranged wife, search for their daughter after a magnitude 9 earthquake strikes.  Will they find her or will they become victims themselves?

Though it was hard to see my former state leveled by an earthquake, San Andreas was a fun movie to see.  Its special effects are amazing, and Dwayne Johnson is so likeable that it’s impossible to dislike San Andreas.

   Rated R

Meek, mild-mannered Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) is a CIA support analyst.  When all field agents’ identities are compromised, she becomes a deep undercover operative who searches for a weapons dealer.  But will Susan’s lack of experience lead to her demise?

Maybe I was just in the right mood, but I thought Spy was a hilarious, fun movie.  Melissa McCarthy was just the right combination of inept and bad ass to be entertaining, and her supporting cast (Jude Law as debonair agent Bradley Fine, Jason Statham as dim bulb Rick Ford and Rose Byrne as Rayna Boyanov, a woman who says the first thing that comes to her mind) is outstanding.  If you’re looking for entertainment, I highly recommend seeing Spy.

   Love and Mercy
   Rated PG-13

Love and Mercy is based on the true story of Beach Boy Brian Wilson, showcasing his musical genius and subsequent descent into mental illness.  Paul Dano plays the younger Wilson while John Cusak portrays Wilson in middle-age.  Paul Giamatti is Dr. Eugene Landy, Wilson’s unconventional psychiatrist, while Elizabeth Banks is Melinda Ledbetter, Brian’s love interest.  With its stellar cast, fascinating story and mesmerizing music, Love and Mercy is a top-notch film!

Since I was raised in Southern California, I grew up loving the Beach Boys, despite the fact they were a previous generation’s music.  In Love and Mercy, I sang along with every song, and it was spell-binding to see Wilson’s musical thought process and creative genius.  Though it was a bit sad to see how much he suffered, I feel better knowing his story.  Even if you’re not a Beach Boys fan, I think you’ll enjoy Love and Mercy.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Book Review: “Emma: A Modern Retelling”

   Emma: A Modern Retelling
   Alexander McCall Smith

About 10 years ago, I read Jane Austen’s complete works.  After the first novel, Sense and Sensibility, I was hooked and saw every Jane Austen made-for-television movie and motion picture.  I even read novels like The Darcys of Pemberley: The Continuing Story of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, a sequel written by a modern author; Longbourn, a parallel novel to Pride and Prejudice told from the servants’ viewpoints and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which is self explanatory.  When I saw that well-known author Alexander McCall Smith retold Emma in modern times, I had to read it.

It was fun to read an updated version of a story I already knew.  In the novel, college graduate Emma was about to embark on a career in interior design.  Her father was a germaphobe who patented an invention and was therefore independently wealthy.  The familiar characters like George Knightly, Jane Fairfax and Miss Bates are included and vital to the story.

When I read Jane Austen’s Emma, I remembered her unkind remark to Miss Bates.  However, I didn’t realize (or perhaps I forgot) the extent of her condescending behavior and sense of superiority.  Either way, I was glad to read about her redemption, especially in Emma: A Modern Retelling.  If you’re a Jane Austen fan, you’ll enjoy this novel

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Home: Exploring Model Homes

one of the model homes we toured

One of the activities Kevin and I have always enjoyed is looking at model homes.  It gives us creative options for decorating and inspires us to make improvements to our own home.  Touring model homes also presents future trends in home decor.  I say this because about ten years ago, an acquaintance was decorating model homes, and she said the color palette was moving toward terracotta with turquoise accents.  I remember being surprised because at the time, the “in” colors were muted tans, blues and sage green.  Now, when shopping at the popular home stores, I see terracotta and turquoise everywhere.

During my recent California visit, my friend Carole and I visited a few model homes in Irvine.  There are so many changes from the last time I looked at model homes, I’m excited to share them.  First, despite their size (3,500-4,000 square feet) the homes didn’t have formal living rooms.  I guess since formal living rooms are rarely used, the builder made better use of the space by creating great rooms. Next, the homes didn’t have separate dining rooms; instead, they had very large kitchens with islands for casual dining and large attached areas with dining tables.  Another change I noticed was that many rooms had chandeliers, not your grandma’s chandelier, but cool, funky ones.  Vivid colors are back-many of the rooms were brightly painted, had colorful accessories or had dark trim, including crown moulding, baseboards, door sills and window casings.  Finally, the outdoor spaces were finished-they had fully covered, lighted patios equipped with ceiling fans. 

As always, seeing these model homes motivated me to improve and modernize our home.  We’ll see which elements I’m able to incorporate into our life!

notice the extensive use of color in this bedroom?

a modern chandelier

this dresser is the work of a creative genius!

close up-the dresser was covered in fabric and embellished with tacks

the open great room/kitchen/dining area

the outdoor space was beautiful

Monday, June 8, 2015

Four Star Finds: Arraya Confiture de Cerise

While taking a cheese class from gourmet and soon-to-be published author Adam Centamore (click here and here to read about what I learned in his cheese and cheese/charcuterie classes, respectively), he served the most delicious preserves I’ve eaten.  Made in France and containing only cherries and sugar, this Arraya Confiture de Cerise has ruined me for other preserves.  The flavor is clean and pure, and the whole cherries burst in my mouth.  Though a bit pricey, eating these preserves on toasted baguette is one of life’s treats! 

Click here for information on purchasing this item.  As always, I receive no compensation for endorsing this product

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Movie Reviews: "Woman in Gold" and "The Age of Adaline"

Yesterday and the day before, I went to the movies; there are quite a few I haven’t seen since I’ve been traveling quite a bit lately.  Because they are at the tail ends of their runs, I saw Woman in Gold and The Age of Adaline and am including this extra Saturday post.

   Woman in Gold
   Rated PG-13

Maria Altman, an outspoken octagenarian who fled Vienna to escape the Nazis, hires attorney Randol Schoenberg to help her obtain 5 Gustav Klimt paintings she believes belong to her family.  Detailing not only her battle to retrieve her artwork, but also her extraordinary life, Woman in Gold is the movie to see!

Based on a true story, Woman in Gold demonstrates two things: History can be interesting and just why history is important.  Though we know about World War II and its devastating effects on those sent to concentration camps, seeing what happened to “fortunate” people was moving-though their lives weren’t in imminent danger, they, too, suffered life-altering changes.  Helen Mirren is perfect as imperious Maria as is Ryan Reynolds as insecure Randol.  If you want to feel good about humanity, take the time to see Woman in Gold.

   The Age of Adaline
   Rated PG-13

Due a freak accident, Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) forever remains 29.  Not wanting her secret to be discovered, she leads a solitary life, eschewing love and companionship.  When she meets handsome philanthropist Ellis, she’s tempted to risk discovery.  Will Adaline keep the status quo or will she choose to truly live life?

While the story is a bit predictable, I liked The Age of Adaline-to me, it was interesting to see her old-fashioned mannerisms and modest style, all while she was able to adapt to current ideas and technology.  I also loved Adaline’s wardrobe, which can best be described as modern with a 40’s retro twist.  If you’re looking to be entertained for a few hours, The Age of Adaline in the movie for you!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Style: Little White Dress

Theory dress, Chanel sunglasses (old), Tiffany necklace and tote (old),
pearl bracelet (old), Gucci flats (different color)

Perhaps because women believe black is slimming, almost all women own a little black dress, yet fewer have a little white dress.  This is a situation I’d like to remedy.  I believe cut is more important than color is providing a slimming silhouette, so a well-cut white dress can be as or more figure flattering than a black dress. 

When I saw this dress, I immediately fell for it.  The simple cut and v-neck are becoming and the dress’s texture made it irresistible!  I accessorized it with bright studded orange flats (my birthday gift from Kevin and Sean) and with older accessories (sunglasses, necklace, bracelet and tote) for a daytime look.  For the evening, I’d wear it with nude heels and a colorful clutch. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Cooking and Entertaining: Asian Crock Pot Pork Tenderloin

Served atop rice with a few chives as a garnish, this pork tenderloin is delicious!

One of life’s joys is coming home to the aroma of dinner.  Since I’m the cook, it’s not a routine experience, except when I use a slow cooker.  Slow cookers are a godsend-they’re simple to use, easy to clean and enable one to dump a few ingredients into a crock and have an amazing meal 6 hours later.

What I learned from making this pork for more than 20 years is that it’s a very forgiving recipe.  My cooking time has been as many as 10 hours and as few as 6 with the same results.  If you’re looking for an easy meal, this Asian Crock Pot Pork Tenderloin is the one for you!

the ingredients



Asian Crock Pot Pork Tenderloin

         1/4 C.         canola oil
         1/4 C.         Hoisin sauce
         1/4 C.         soy sauce
         1/4 C.         rice wine vinegar
         1/4 C.         dry sherry
         1 tsp.          chili oil
         1 Tbsp.       sesame oil
         4                 green onions, finely chopped
         4 cloves      garlic, finely chopped
         2 Tbsp.       fresh ginger root, minced
         3 lb.            pork tenderloin, cut into 2” pieces

Combine all ingredients in a crock pot.  Cook on low 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Travel: Washington D.C.

The White House

When Kevin suggested I accompany him on a business trip to Washington D.C., I was a bit hesitant.  Since I’m not into history or politics, I didn’t think it would be interesting to me.  I couldn’t have been more wrong; Washington D.C. is a clean, spacious city with incredible food and amazing sights.

After arriving, we walked around the mall to see sights like the White House, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  After that, we walked past the Watergate Hotel to Georgetown and took a Potomac River Cruise to Alexandria.  The next two activities were my favorites: Wandering through the International Spy Museum and going to the White House Gift Shop.  If you spend a nominal amount, a professional photographer will (using your camera) take pictures of you at an Oval Office desk replica and at the “podium.”  He took time to pose us, and we had a blast!  We finished the day with a delicious dinner at Georgia Brown, one of Michelle Obama’s supposed favorite restaurants.

The next day while Kevin worked, I visited the Smithsonian American History Museum, where I saw, among other things, the ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz, Julia Child’s kitchen and some of the First Ladies’ Inaugural gowns.  After lunch, I perused the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, where I only had time to see the rocks, gemstones, and Egyptian exhibit.  We had a glass of wine at the top the W Hotel, which has a stunning view of the city and then had a wonderful Mediterranean dinner Zaytinya.

I shopped in Georgetown and explored other parts of D.C. on our last day.  It fascinated me to walk past places like the International Monetary Fund, FDA and American Bar Association.  Though it was a whirlwind trip, I highly recommend visiting the home of our nation’s capital.  As one of my friends said, “After visiting Washington D.C., I was prouder of our country and was pleased to see how well the city showcased our history and American Life.”

I was surprised by the Washington Monument's vast height

The World War II Memorial

In front of the Watergate Hotel

Goofing around at the International Spy Museum

We felt so presidential!

The ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz

The Hope Diamond-my picture doesn't show just how massive it is!

a beautiful crystal

The Egyptian exhibit

A charming Georgetown street