Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Four Star Finds: Glisten Disposer Care

for more information on this product, click here

While I like having a clean home, I don’t really enjoy the act of cleaning and view it as something that needs to be done.  That’s probably why I’m always trying out different cleaning products, to see if I can find an easier way to finish an unpleasant job. 

For years, it never occurred to me to clean the garbage disposer.  When I finally thought about how unsanitary they are, I tried grinding up ice cubes or lemons, but with mediocre results.  I also tried commercial products specifically designed for this purpose until I found these Glisten Disposer Care packets.  They’re easy to use, biodegradable, and a great way to clean and deodorize the garbage disposer.  My search is now over since I’ve found the ultimate cleaning product!

As always, I receive no compensation for this endorsement.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Style: Studded Anorak

Velvet anorak, Gap t-shirt, AG jeans (similar), Madewell sunglasses (old),
3.1 Phillip Lim handbag (old), Tory Burch flats (old), Alex and Ani bracelets

Every now and then when I’m shopping I find an item that “sticks.”  What I mean is a piece I don’t immediately buy, but can’t get out of my mind.  While I initially liked this studded anorak, I couldn’t justify buying it because I have a very similar piece that doesn’t have the studs.  After I found myself looking for it online and “visiting” it every time I went to Bloomingdales, it was time to buy.

I soon realized this anorak couldn’t be paired with other busy pieces, so I kept it low key by wearing it with a waffle weave ruby Henley tee (waffle weave and this color seem to be big trends this season) and faded jeans.  Round sunglasses, snakeskin flats, lots of bangles and a bucket bag keep everything interesting.  To me, this outfit is perfect for the cool autumn days and evenings.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Cooking and Entertaining: Ina Garten’s Country French Omelet

Served with a salad, this omelet is perfect for an easy weeknight dinner

Because Ina Garten raved about Café Varenne, a Parisian café she frequents on every visit, Kevin and I ate there when we visited Paris a few years ago.  We dined there our first night and liked it so much we ate there again our last night.  Ina Garten’s Country French Omelet is her version of their omelet.  It’s hearty, easy to prepare, and très bon!

the ingredients

Rendering the fat from the bacon
Sautéing the potatoes

Adding all the ingredients to the pan

Ready to be sliced and plated

To get the recipe for Ina Garten's Country French Omelet, click here

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Travel: Old Town San Diego

 When we were recently in nearby Carlsbad, we decided to make a detour and spend a few hours in Old Town San Diego.  Perhaps because Kevin and I spent our first anniversary there, I have a soft spot for and a lot of good memories of that area.  Located in North San Diego, the neighborhood contains a historic state park and a charming downtown area filled with restaurants and quaint shops.  If you’re in the area, it’s a wonderful place to visit.

Employees make tortillas by hand at our favorite Mexican restaurant,
Old Town Mexican Cafe 

a picturesque view

a beautiful neighborhood church

a band playing in the state park

we visited the stagecoach museum

souvenirs for sale

Monday, September 21, 2015

Movie Reviews: “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” “Straight Outta Compton” & “A Walk in the Woods”

   The Man from U.N.C.L.E
   Rated PG-13

Set in the 1960’s at the height of the cold war, CIA agent Napoleon Solo and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin are forced to work together against a common enemy.

I’ve never seen the television series on which this movie was based but thoroughly enjoyed The Man from U.N.C.L.E.  Director Guy Ritchie’s signature action style was perfect for this movie, which had just the right amount of humor and suspense.  Finally, the cherry on the top of this movie sundae was the best-looking cast I’ve seen.

   Straight Outta Compton
   Rated R

With a documentary-like feel, Straight Outta Compton details the rise of gangsta rap and NWA.  It also chronicles how NWA members Easy-E and Ice Cube and NWA producer Dr. Dre revolutionized music and exposed police brutality.

Straight Outta Compton was an eye-opener for me.  Though I lived through the time and events portrayed, it was fascinating to see how different others’ experiences were.  I was also surprised to see just how talented and what trailblazers the NWA members were.  Straight Outta Compton is a movie for everyone-I’m not into rap and hip hop and was so glad I saw this film!

   A Walk in the Woods
   Rated R

Instead of retiring, travel writer Bill Bryson takes on the Appalachian Trail, a 2,200 mile trek spanning from Georgia to Maine.  Accompanied by his former friend Katz, the two have some interesting adventures, deep conversations and fun times.

Even though I’m not a nature person, I thoroughly enjoyed the dialog-heavy A Walk in the Woods.  It can be described as a “bro” version Wild-less serious and bawdier, but with equally important messages.  If you’d like to vicariously experience the ultimate walkabout, A Walk in the Woods is the movie for you!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Book Review: "Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength"

   Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest
   Human Strength
   Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney

Because I’m interested in self-improvement and personal growth, Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength is one of the most influential books I’ve read.  The authors first define willpower, then discuss why it’s important to individuals and society, inform the reader on how it becomes depleted, demonstrate the link between self-awareness and willpower and most importantly, educate the reader on how to bolster their own willpower.

Learning more about mental strength and incorporating the practical tips presented in this book has helped me immensely, especially in the areas of healthy eating and adapting to new situations.  Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength has changed my life and is definitely my book of the year!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Home: Succulent Garden



I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I have a black, rather than green thumb when it came to houseplants.  Despite my best efforts, which include reading care instructions, and watering and fertilizing them, my succulents just don’t survive.  Because I like the look of plants in our home and because I’ve thrown in the towel, I finally bought realistic-looking faux plants.

I purposely bought what I thought were too many stems because I like succulent gardens with a lot of plants placed closely together.  Pebbles in the bottom of the large clam seashell served two purposes-they were used as filler and also to hold the plants in place.  Finally, I trimmed and artfully arranged the succulent stems until I was very happy with the results!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Four Star Finds: Bureau’s Sugarhouse Maple Kettle Korn

If you’d like to learn more about Bureau’s Sugarhouse Maple Kettle Korn, click here

Our very hip and generous friends, Thom and Firas, gave us a hostess gift consisting of gourmet foods from Formaggio Kitchen, my favorite Boston specialty food shop.  Everything they gave us was delicious, and this kettle corn was my favorite.

Let me begin by saying that I only use maple syrup in recipes-I never put it on pancakes, waffles or French toast because I often find it too sweet.  This kettle corn, though, is perfect!  It has a rich flavor and is just the right combination of sweet and savory.  I also like that it's made with mushroom popcorn, which is shaped like a sphere and, to me, has a better texture than traditional (butterfly) popcorn.  If you like kettle corn, try Bureau’s Sugarhouse Maple Kettle Korn.  I have to warn you that it will ruin you for other kettle corns!

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

Friday, September 11, 2015

Modern Fatigues

Ella Moss cardigan, J. Crew factory shirt (old), Madewell pants,
Tom Ford sunglasses (another color),  J. crew necklace (old),
Reed Krakoff clutch (old), Stuart Weitzman sandals

Fatigues seem to be big this season and since olive pants become popular every fall, I decided these pants do a good job of combining the two trends.  I paired them with an old striped shirt and a longer cardigan, another item that seems to be popular every fall.  Since it’s still summer and to feminize the outfit, I added high heeled wedge sandals, delicate sunglasses, a clutch and an oversized necklace.  After all, I don’t want the army influence to overwhelm this outfit and make it too masculine!

As a side note, I'm stunned these Stuart Weitzman sandals are available for purchase since I bought mine 3 or 4 years ago.  Great style has longevity!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Cooking and Entertaining: Whipped Cream Pound Cake

Whipped Cream Pound Cake

When I was growing up, we had dessert on Saturday nights, and though my mom was a baker, we often had purchased desserts like ice cream, fresh doughnuts and Sara Lee pound cake.  That said, I’ve always loved pound cake and was blown away by this recipe- it’s so good and easy to prepare.  My mom first made it when I was a teenager, and I’ve been making it for my family for years.

This recipe is unique because whipped cream is used in place of butter; the sugar is mixed into the dry ingredients, rather than the fat; and instead of dusting the pan with butter and flour, it’s dusted with butter and sugar, which produces slightly caramelized edges.  In this case, I used a pan liner instead of sugar dusting the pan.  Both methods produce an excellent cake.  I often serve this cake with strawberries and whipped cream, but it's delicious on its own!  Bon Appétit!

the ingredients

Adding the eggs to the whipped cream

Ready for the oven

Whipped Cream Pound Cake

            1-1/2 C.  flour
            1 C.  sugar
            2 tsp.  baking powder
            1/2 tsp.  salt
            8 oz.  whipping cream (I use heavy whipping cream)
            2   eggs
            1 tsp.  vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

Sift dry ingredients and set aside.  Whip cream until stiff and beat in eggs and vanilla.  Add dry ingredients and stir thoroughly.  Pour batter into buttered and sugar-dusted loaf pan.  Bake at 350ºF for 55 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Travel: Gunstock Mountain Resort

the crew ready to zipline

When our son and his girlfriend came for a visit, we took them to Gunstock Mountain Resort in Gilford, New Hampshire for a day of adventure.  About 90 miles from Boston, Gunstock Mountain Resort is a ski area that offers other attractions in the off-season (Click here for more information on Gunstock Mountain Resort).  We opted for a day of zip lining and tree obstacle courses-what a blast!

We began the day with zip lining-putting on the gear, learning how to operate the equipment and going on a supervised short ride.  After that, we took another relatively short ride and then rode the ski lift to the top of the hill.  The highlight of our zip lining adventure was a 4,000’ ride (the second longest in the United States) that was a little scary, yet exhilarating!  I can’t wait to do it again!

After that, we went on what the resort calls “Aerial Tree Adventures.”  It consists of 5 progressively harder obstacle courses that are completely off the ground.  Activities include, but aren’t limited to, climbing tree ladders, transferring from swing to swing between trees, and walking across tightropes between trees.  While physically demanding, the tree obstacle courses were fun, completely safe and showed me that I was much more capable than I would have predicted.  Again, the Aerial Tree Adventure is an activity I would do again in a heartbeat!

If you’re looking for a physical adventure in New England, spending the day at Gunstock Mountain Resort is the activity for you!

Steph was our experienced zip liner and had nice form

My form wasn't as nice...

Kevin and me ready for one of the rides

The aerial tree adventures

Kevin walking the tightrope

Sean swinging between trees

Friday, September 4, 2015

Movie Reviews: “The Gift” & “American Ultra”

   The Gift
   Rated R

After moving back to Simon’s hometown, married couple Simon and Robyn have a chance encounter with one of Simon’s socially awkward class mates.  Will Gordo successfully insinuate himself into the couple’s lives before each character’s true nature is revealed? 

Writing much about The Gift might give something away, so let’s just say this unpredictable psychological thriller will keep you on the edge of your seat! 

   American Ultra
   Rated R

Anxiety-ridden, stoner Mike is trying to figure out the best way to propose to his loving girlfriend, Phoebe, when their lives are thrown into chaos.  Unbeknownst to him, he’s a highly trained assassin whose skills are activated when a government agency tries to eliminate him.

Though both violent and gory, American Ultra doesn’t take itself too seriously.  It has just the right amount of action and humor and a plot twist that will keep your eyes glued to the screen!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Book Review: "The Royal We"

   The Royal We
   Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

A fictional love story between the future King of England and young American woman (with striking similarities to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge), The Royal We is a sweet love story.  Opening with Bex (Rebecca) entering Oxford University as a transfer student and unfolding many years later with her and Nick’s wedding, The Royal We shows why the British people view royalty as a duty, rather than a privilege.

Perhaps because I’m a bit of an Anglophile, I stayed up way too late too many nights reading this novel.  It’s an easy read with engaging characters that shows just how difficult it is to be the future King and Queen of England.  Between the sycophants, paparazzi and monarchy’s expectations, it’s stunning to me that anyone can fill either of these roles.  If you’re looking for an enjoyable escape, The Royal We will fulfill your expectations!