Friday, October 30, 2015

Style: Faux Suede Pants

Helmut Lang sweater (old), Kirkland camisole, 7 for all Mankind pants,
Christian Dior sunglasses, J. Crew clutch (old), Jimmy Choo pumps,

Tiffany necklace, House of Harlow earrings

When I first saw these faux suede pants, I was intrigued by them and thought, “I would definitely buy them if they came in black.”  After checking the web and calling the 7 For All Mankind store, I was disappointed that find out they didn’t.  However, it got me thinking outside the box, and I realized I like them just the way they are.  Though it’s not completely apparent in the photos, these pants have an embossed reptile print, which I love.  That, coupled with the fact they’re so soft and comfortable, it’s like wearing a hug…

Paired with a black camisole, an older asymmetric Helmut Lang sweater, black pumps and a calf hair leopard print clutch, I have the perfect “evening out” ensemble.  You may notice I’m wearing new earrings.  Though I rarely change them, I couldn’t resist trying these earrings because of their jackets.  It’s fun to try out new trends!

I love these earrings because of their jackets

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Cooking and Entertaining: Chicken, Apple and Goat Cheese Salad

Ready to be plated

Since Sean moved away to college, our weeknight dinners have gotten pretty simple.  When the weather is cool, we eat a lot of soups and stews and when it warms up, we tend to eat a lot of salads.  Since it’s probably our last warm week here in New England, I made this one from Nordstrom-it’s one of our favorites.  Even better, I’ve made a few substitutions to make it even easier to prepare. 

Specifically, I cut the recipe in half, used rotisserie chicken breast and instead of preparing the spiced almonds, included already prepared spiced pecans.  Though I made the salad dressing, feel free to use your favorite vinaigrette.  This chicken dinner is a winner!

the dressing ingredients

Instead of using the blender, I prepared the vinaigrette
in a Mason jar

the salad ingredients

Ready to be tossed the first time

I like to add the apple chips and toss the salad a second time they don't
become soggy from too much contact with the dressing


Chicken, Apple & Goat Cheese Salad
adapted from Nordstrom's recipe (click here to see the original recipe)

1  Tbsp. shallots, minced
3/4 tsp.  Dijon mustard
1  Tbsp. sugar
3/4 tsp.  minced garlic
2 Tbsp.  white wine vinegar
generous pinch  kosher salt
pinch  ground pepper (I used black pepper)
3 oz.  canola oil

In a jar with a lid, combine all ingredients and shake until combined.  Taste and adjust the seasonings if desired. This makes a generous cup of vinaigrette, which will keep, covered and refrigerated, 3 to 5 days.

Chicken, Apple & Goat Cheese Salad
5 oz.  mixed greens
1/4  sliced tart apple, preferably Granny Smith
1/2 C.  spiced nuts, divided
3 oz.  goat cheese, divided
1/8  red onion, sliced into thin half-rings
3 oz.  dried apple "chips"
6 oz.  cooked chicken, shredded
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
vinaigrette, to taste

In a large bowl, combine vinaigrette and the mixed greens, apple slices, one-half of the spiced nuts, one-half of the goat cheese (added in small dollops), the red onion, and chicken. Gently toss together, adding additional dressing as needed and seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.  Add the apple chips and toss again.

Divide the salad among 2 plates. Garnish each serving with the remaining spiced nuts and goat cheese, sprinkling the nuts over the salad and adding the cheese in small dollops. Serve immediately.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Travel: Apple Picking

a perfect apple!

A few years ago, Kevin and I tried apple picking in Southern California, and it wasn’t the best experience.  But when my mom visited us last month, we decided to give Massachusetts apple picking a try-it was a fabulous experience. 
At the Belkin Family Lookout Farm, fruit picking is a fun experience for people of all ages.  After paying the admission fee and buying an empty bag for storing the fruit, a train shuttled us to the various orchards where we were able to pick (the trees are shorter, so the fruit is within arm’s reach) and eat apples, Asian pears, plums, peaches and nectarines.  And if you don’t fill up your bag with your own fruit, you can always choose the already picked fruit that’s available in the store.
Though we didn’t visit either place, the Lookout Farm also has a children’s area (which has face painting, rides and a snack bar) and a taproom, where home brewed cider can be sampled and purchased.  If you visit, be sure to buy the apple cider donuts-they’re delicious!  I’m already looking forward to our next apple picking trip!
For more information on the Belkin Family Lookout Farm, click here.

the three of us in the orchard

the plums wer so plentiful and delicious

a fall display

Friday, October 23, 2015

Movie Reviews: “The Walk,” “Sicario” & “He Named Me Malala”

   The Walk
   Rated PG

In the 1970s Philippe Petit was a Parisian street performer who strung and walked on a high wire between Notre Dame’s towers.  His ultimate dream was to walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Center, a goal he realized on August 7, 1974.

When I first saw the previews, I wondered how it was possible to make a 2-hour film about a short-lived feat.  The filmmakers, however, did a wonderful job piecing together Petit’s story.  The Walk was mesmerizing, especially the high wire scenes.  As we were leaving the theater, both Kevin and I remarked that we were nervous and our palms were sweaty just from watching this film.  If you’d like to see a story about an amazing thing a person can accomplish, The Walk is the film for you!

   Rated R

Idealistic FBI agent Kate Macer is recruited by an elite government team to help stop the flow of drugs between the U.S. and Mexico.  The team’s secrecy and use of questionable practices concern Kate and may eventually lead to her downfall.

With its heavy and violent subject matter, Sicario is unpredictable, yet gripping.  Morally ambiguous, Sicario’s viewers are left questioning whether those battling the drug lords behave as badly as those they are tasked with stopping. 

   He Named Me Malala
   Rated PG-13

Mostly based on the book, I am Malala, this documentary follows the lives of Malala Yousafzai and her family.  She was a 15 year old Pakistani school girl when she was shot by the Taliban for speaking out on girls’ right to an education.  Among other things, He Named Me Malala covers her miraculous recovery, current advocacy and winning of the Nobel Peace Prize.

I loved Malala’s book, I am Malala.  That said, this film covers a lot of the same subject matter, but there are a few gems in the film.  For example, like most 17-yeals olds, Malala gets giddy when discussing boys.  Instead of only seeing Malala as an inspiration and emerging world changer, He Named Me Malala allowed the viewer to see she’s a regular young woman who passionately believes in her cause and realize we are all capable of greatness.  

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Book Review: The Taming of the Queen

   The Taming of the Queen
   Philippa Gregory

Kateryn (aka Catherine) Parr was newly widowed and in love with Thomas Seymour when she was summoned to court and basically commanded to marry King Henry VIII.  As the Queen of England, Kateryn was responsible for King Henry’s reconciliation with Princesses Mary and Elizabeth, became Regent while the king was on a military campaign in France and published two books.  A beautiful, clever and devout reformer, she used all of her wits to avoid the fates of her predecessors.

Though we all know the outcome of this story, it was fascinating to read about Kateryn’s life, her experiences and society’s norms at that time.  For example, I didn’t know that Catholic mass was conducted in Latin, a language only the highly educated understood; yet the peasants were expected to attend mass and tithe.  I consider a book like The Taming of the Queen the best kind of reading-enjoyable, yet educational.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Home: Door Knobs


Before-close up


After-close up

I generally try to find inexpensive ways to make our home a little nicer, but believe it’s sometimes necessary to bite the bullet and invest in our home.  Such was the case with the hardware on the doors to the balconies.  They were badly tarnished, and though I could have polished them, they were made of brass, which didn’t match the rest of our home’s hardware.

Embarrassingly, I bought this hardware more than a year ago and finally got around to installing it a few weeks ago.  While I could have asked Kevin to do it, I wanted the experience of doing it myself.

To figure out how to remove the old hardware, I watched YouTube videos-they were amazingly informative and helpful.  And I simply followed the instructions to install the new hardware.  Though a bit of drilling and some elbow grease were required, I’m proud of my accomplishment and very happy with the way the doors look!  Why didn’t I take on this task a long time ago?

For more information about the door knob and dead bolt, click here and here, respectively.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Four Star Finds: Stauffer's Chocolate Animal Crackers

For more information on these chocolate animal crackers, click here

A few months ago when we visited my mom in California, I rummaged through her pantry looking for a snack. I normally would have chosen chips, but these chocolate animal crackers were calling my name. Not too sweet and with a nice hint of chocolate, they're so tasty! While most people think of animal crackers as a treat for preschoolers, these Stauffer's chocolate animal crackers are so good that they're for everyone!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Style: Fatigues Redux

Madewell pants, Rebecca Taylor blouse, Calypso St. Barth vest (similar),
Ray-Ban sunglasses (old), Chloe handbag (old), Eileen Fisher boots,
vintage necklaces

I featured these fatigues about a month ago (click here to see that post), and because I’m so fond of them, am showing them again in a completely different way.  By adding a fur vest, a lacy top and suede boots, this outfit looks a little Bohemian, yet still tailored. 

Unfortunately, I had to return the boots, even though I love the way they look because the back zippers slid down when I walked.  To add insult to injury, they were the most comfortable boots I’ve owned.  Perhaps others won't have the same issue.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Cooking and Entertaining: Fruit and Nut Granola Bars

fruit and nut granola bars

My love for cookies is pretty well documented on this blog, but when I’m looking for a treat that offers more nutrients and fiber, I turn to granola bars.  Filled with dried fruit, nuts and oats, these bars aren’t just healthy, they’re amazing!

I started with Ina Garten’s recipe for homemade granola bars and modified it a bit.  The first change was substituting oatmeal for wheat germ since my grocery store didn’t have wheat germ.  The second modification was removing the dates and using dried cherries since I like the tart cherries more than sweet dates.  Finally, I increased the cooking times for the butter/sugar mixture and the overall bar baking time to ensure the bars held together and were crunchy.

My adaptation of Ina Garten’s recipe is below, and if you’re interested in the original recipe, click here.  Enjoy!

the ingredients

the oat, coconut & almond mixture should be light brown

boil the butter/sugar mixture for 5 minutes so the bars hold together

mix everything together

firmly press the mixture into the lined baking dish

the bars are easiest to slice when removed from the baking dish

Fruit and Nut Granola Bars
(adapted from Ina Garten's Homemade Granola Bars)

2-1/2 C.  old-fashioned oatmeal
1 C.  sliced almonds
1 C.  shredded coconut, loosely packed
3 Tbsp.  unsalted butter
2/3 C.  honey
1/4 C.  light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 1/2 tsp.  pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp.  kosher salt
1/2 C.  dried cherries
1/2 C.  chopped dried apricots
1/2 C.  dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Butter an 8 by 12-inch baking dish and line it with parchment paper.

Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300˚F.

Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for 5 minutes, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the dried cherries, apricots, and cranberries and stir well.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Travel: Plimoth Plantation

For more information on Plymouth Plantation, click here

In her lifetime, my mom has visited New England twice, but her most recent visit was at least 15 years ago.  So when she came to Boston a few weeks ago, we tried to find activities that represented the best of New England, but that she hadn’t experienced on previous trips.  Because she had been to Sturbridge Village, we decided to take her to Plimoth Plantation.

Plimoth Plantation is a living history museum that recreates 17th century life.  It’s divided into three sections: the Wampanoag Homesite, a Native American family’s home; the Craft Center, a modern setting where artisans create some of the items the settlers used; and the English village, a depiction of the settlers’ lives approximately 7 years after the Mayflower landed in the New World.  In the villages, actors wear period costumes, speak like the original settlers and perform the settlers’ everyday tasks.

Even though I’m not into history, we enjoyed our visit to Plimoth Plantation immensely!  It’s a fun, yet educational way to spend a few hours.

A Native American home

A Native American woman at the Wampanoag Homesite

Pottery making at the Craft Center

Making candles

An actor making pea soup

Two women drying the maize

The interior of a settler home

Drying herbs and vegetables in a settler's home

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Movie Reviews: "Learning to Drive," "The Intern," "Black Mass" & "The Martian"

   Learning to Drive
   Rated R

After Wendy’s husband leaves her for another woman, the New Yorker realizes she needs to learn to drive.  Driving instructor Darwan is a Sikh who is about to enter an arranged marriage and is everything Wendy isn’t-calm, wise and thoughtful.  The pair form an unlikely friendship and teach each other about life.

Because Learning to Drive wasn’t widely released, it‘s a bit hard to find in theaters.  However, seeking it out is worth the effort.  Sweet, funny and touching, this film is a gem!

  The Intern
   Rated PG-13

Robert DeNiro is Ben Whittaker, a 70-year-old widower who finds retirement boring.  To fill his days, he applies for and receives an internship at a fashion e-commerce company founded and run by Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway).  Initially doubtful that Ben can make a meaningful contribution to the company, Jules soon realizes the value of Ben and his wealth of experiences.

The Intern has a lot going for it-wonderful actors, stunning sets (the characters in Nancy Meyers’s films always have beautiful homes) and a relevant message-that qualifying for AARP card doesn’t make one incompetent, grumpy or unwilling to learn and grow.  If you’re looking for a feel-good movie, The Intern is the one for you.

   Black Mass
   Rated R

In the 1970s, South Boston criminal James “Whitey” Bulger was persuaded by childhood friend turned federal agent, John Connolly, to work together to eliminate a common enemy.  What the FBI didn’t foresee was that after ridding Boston of the Italian mob, this partnership allowed Bulger to become the most powerful gangster in the city.

Black Mass is the true story of Bulger’s dramatic rise to power in the Boston crime scene.  It’s violent, intense and gripping!  Johnny Depp’s portrayal of sociopath Bulger is Oscar-caliber and worth the price of the movie ticket.  Not a movie for those who are squeamish, Black Mass is nonetheless an excellent film!

   The Martian
   Rated PG-13

After a freak accident during an exploratory mission, Astronaut Mark Watney is thought to be dead and is left on Mars.  The Martian is the story of how he survived the hostile environment, managed to grow food, figured out how to send a signal to NASA to let them know he’s alive, and his and NASA’s efforts to return him home.

The Martian is by far the best movie I’ve seen in quite a while!  It’s the perfect blend of drama and small touches of humor to relieve the tension.  The story is mesmerizing, the cast is stellar and the cinematography is stunning.  The Martian is my must-see film on 2015!