Monday, November 30, 2015

Cooking and Entertaining: Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Brussels sprouts-Delicious!

I’m happy to see that Brussels sprouts are back in vogue because they have such an undeserved bad reputation.  I don’t know why people won’t try them, because if cooked properly, they’re delicious.  In fact, they’re my recent obsession, and we’ve been eating them weekly.

I like to make Ina Garten’s Roasted Brussels Sprouts and have a few tips to make them easier to cook and even better.  First, I line a roasting pan with foil to make clean up easier.  Then I dry the Brussels sprouts with a paper towel to absorb any excess moisture.  I like to choose small Brussels sprouts because they cook faster and crisp up a little better.  To save dirtying a bowl, I toss the veggies with olive oil, salt and pepper directly on the sheet pan.  Finally, I tend to cook them a little longer than the recipe calls for because I like them extra crispy.  If you like Brussels sprouts, you’ll love this recipe and if you haven’t tried them, this recipe will make you a fan!

Click here for Ina Garten’s recipe.

only 4  ingredients

drying the cleaned and cut veggies

ready to be baked

Friday, November 27, 2015

Travel: Blue Man Group

Since photography isn't allowed during the performance,
I don't have any show pictures

There are certain activities Kevin and I have avoided since moving to Boston because they were things we did years ago.  Seeing Blue Man Group is one of those activities, but when my mom came to Boston for a visit, we took her to the production.  What a great decision!  Though some of the elements were the same, the show has been updated and was as fun to see this time as it was originally.

A combination of comedy, music and technology with audience participation, Blue Man Group is unlike any other theatrical performance I’ve experienced.  Even though the performers don’t speak, the show stimulates three of our senses-hearing, sight and touch.  If you’re looking for a unique stage production, Blue Man group is the show for you!

For more information on Blue Man Group, click here

Outside the theater

Our group selfie while in our seats

Some audience members were given ponchos to protect them from
splashing water

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Movie Review: “Brooklyn”

   Rated PG-13

In search of a better life, young Eilis Lacey emigrates from a small Irish town to Brooklyn, New York.  She spends her days working in a department store and trying to adapt to 1950’s Brooklyn life.  Just as she’s starting to establish herself, circumstances require her to return to Ireland.  Will she give into her homesickness and stay where she’s comfortable or will Eilis move on and return to Brooklyn?

Perhaps because I moved across the country and am adapting to a completely different life, Brooklyn touched me.  Well-written, superbly acted and visually interesting, Brooklyn has all the right elements that synergistically produce an outstanding film.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Book Review: “Tasting Wine and Cheese”

   Tasting Wine and Cheese
   Adam Centamore

In previous posts, I wrote about taking and loving a wine and cheese pairing class (click here to view) and a wine, cheese and charcuterie class (click here to view) with gourmand Adam Centamore.  Adam has now written a wine and cheese pairing book to share his knowledge with people worldwide instead of just in the Greater Boston Area.

Tasting Wine and Cheese is the perfect guide for learning more about wine, cheese and how to pair them.  Adam educates the readers how what taste is and how to pinpoint your own personal taste, how to best serve wines and cheeses, why different varieties have unique flavors, and some basics on combining wines, cheeses and condiments (complementary versus contrasting). To me the highlight of this book is when Adam goes into detail about each type of wine-where they originate from, what their flavor profiles are like and specifically which cheeses and condiments to serve with them.

I think there’s a perception that serious wine and cheese people are pretentious, yet this book is accessible, down-to-earth and humorous.  In short, I love Tasting Wine and Cheese!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Home: Drawer Dividers



Unless one has customized drawer dividers, the drawer that contains flatware never looks quite right.  We end up buying a utensil holder that is never the same size as the drawer, so the drawer just looks “undone.”  However, paying a carpenter to make customized drawer dividers seems over-the-top.

Luckily, I’ve found a kit that enables one to make customized drawer dividers, providing organized and tidy flatware drawers at a reasonable price.  They were quick and easy to install, requiring only a ruler and an Xacto or utility knife.  The whole process took less than two hours, and I’m thrilled with the results!

Here’s what I did:
·     Measured the drawer to be modified
·      Created a rough layout of what I wanted
·      Calculated how many dividers kits I needed and then purchased them
·      Marked where the adhesive mounts were to be installed
·      Installed the mounts
·      Scored the dividers with the utility knife and then snapped apart the pieces
·      Installed the dividers

It was such a simple process that I wish I know about these kits a long time ago.
For more information on these drawer dividers, click here

My very rough layout

an adhesive mount that has been installed

Scoring the divider

the first divider I installed

Ready for the flatware!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Four Star Finds: The Laundress Wool and Cashmere Shampoo

For more information on this product, click here

I love going to my closet when everything is clean and thinking, “I can wear anything I want!”  That’s why I enjoy this process of doing laundry-everything about it-washing, folding, and ironing.  So instead of sending sweaters to the dry cleaner, I wash them myself.  Placed in sweater bags and washed on the woolens/gentle cycle in cold water, our sweaters are cleaned without harsh chemicals.

When washing our knitwear, I use the Laundress Wool and Cashmere Shampoo.  It’s a gentle cleaner that contains cedar oil, which repels moths and gives our sweaters a nice scent.  An added bonus is that a bottle of the shampoo (which cleans 32 loads of laundry) is about the same price as dry cleaning 2 sweaters.  The Laundress Wool and Cashmere Shampoo is truly a four star find!

As always, I receive no compensation for this endorsement.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Style: Customizing a Necklace



Because I’m petite, I’m used to taking clothes to the tailor to be altered. So when I bought this dogeared necklace (click here for information) and thought it was a bit too long, I decided to shorten it.  I wanted it to fall between my clavicles rather than on my décolletage.  This new length is exactly what I wanted and is much more flattering for my body.

I simply cut off the excess length and made a new loop with very thin wire to connect the chain and clasp.  If you’re not a do-it-youselfer, any jeweler can make this change for a small fee. 

the tools I used

Friday, November 13, 2015

Cooking and Entertaining: Giada’s Beef and Cannellini Bean Minestrone Soup

Giada De Laurentiis at the book signing

On Monday I was lucky enough to attend a book signing by Giada De Laurentiis.  She’s adorable, friendly, high energy, and she genuinely seemed to enjoy interacting with her fans.  Meeting her made me think about why I like her recipes-they’re healthy, use fresh ingredients, are pretty easy to prepare and, most importantly, are delicious!

Her Beef and Cannellini Bean Minestrone Soup is a prime example of a classic Giada recipe-light, Italian, and tasty.   Paired with a salad or cooked vegetable, it’s a perfect weeknight meal for Kevin and me! 

the ingredients

sauté the vegetables

add the ground beef to the sautéed vegetables and brown

Be sure to rinse the canned beans

Simmering away
Ready to eat!

To see Giada's recipe for Beef and Cannelloni Bean Minestrone soup, click here

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Travel: Boston Duck Tour

the Duck vehicle
for more information on Duck Tours, click here

The Boston Duck Tour is a historical land and sea tour of its namesake city taken while riding in World War II replica amphibious DUKW vehicles.  We were treated to a 90 minute tour of the city’s highlights which included, but wasn’t limited to: Fanueil Hall, Kings Chapel Burying Ground, the Theater District, Boston Public Garden/Boston Common, Copley Square/Trinity Church, the State House and John F. Kennedy’s official home.  After driving around the city, we cruised the Charles River for about 20 minutes.

Our extroverted tour guide not only had a fun-loving personality, but was amazingly knowledgeable.  She told us all sorts of facts that aren’t common knowledge or that I hadn’t heard on other tours.  I highly recommend taking a Duck Tour, especially if it’s your first visit to Boston.

my mom and me
the Old Statehouse

the current Statehouse

It was a beautiful day for sailing!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Movie Reviews: “Bridge of Spies,” “Our Brand is Crisis” & "Spectre"

   Bridge of Spies
   Rated PG-13

Insurance attorney James Donovan becomes the most hated man in Brooklyn when he defends an accused Russian spy during the height of the Cold War.  After the trial, Donovan is recruited by the CIA to “unofficially” negotiate a prisoner exchange involving his client and a captured American U-2 pilot.

Based on a true story, Bridge of Spies is a top-notch film-the writing, acting, and cinematography are outstanding.  With just the right amount of suspense and humor, Bridge of Spies will keep you mesmerized.

   Our Brand is Crisis
   Rated R

Political strategist “Calamity” Jane Bodine’s life is in shambles when she is hired to help a low-polling Bolivian presidential candidate.  Pitted against rival strategist Pat Candy, Jane and the team exploit other candidates’ weaknesses in order to win the election.

Dramatic, yet satirical, Our Brand is Crisis gives the viewer a glimpse into the cutthroat world of political campaigns.  With deeply flawed, unlikeable characters who do despicable things, Our Brand is Crisis is a prime example of a new genre of films and books-those without a protagonist the reader or viewer can root for.  If you’re in the mood for an atypical film, Our Brand is Crisis is the film to see.

   Rated PG-13

James Bond is back!  After being disciplined for an unsanctioned mission in Mexico and with the 00 program in danger of being dissolved, Bond works off-the-books and partners with a beautiful doctor to track his most dangerous nemesis.  Will he survive and find love again or will this mission be his last?

Action-filled, easy-to-follow and witty, Spectre is a fun-filled e-ticket ride.  It’s a must see for action film aficionados…

Friday, November 6, 2015

Book Review: "Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic"

   Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic
   Jennifer L. Scott

As a college student, author/vlogger Jennifer L. Scott spent a semester abroad living with a Parisian family and fell in love with the formality of French life.  There, self-described California girl noticed, then emulated her host mother’s (Madame Chic) dignity, style, grace and elegance, all of which she sums up as poise.

Ms. Scott believes poise can be cultivated and in Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic, defines the characteristics of poise and gives examples of women who have it.  She then gives the reader practical suggestions for dressing stylishly, being well groomed, having good posture, and other topics that emphasize presenting one’s best self.  Having poise, however, is not just about outer appearances, and Ms. Scott also stresses the importance of having impeccable manners in all aspects of life-whether it’s being a good neighbor, a welcoming hostess or a pleasant coworker.

While I generally believe I live a poised life, Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic is a great reminder not to let bad habits fall into my life.  While I was reading this book, I had a very unhappy day and threw on a pair of sweatpants and a tee shirt; it was so bad I couldn’t bring even myself to wear any makeup that day.  As I was running my errands, I felt even worse because I didn’t look my best.  Luckily, I realized I would have felt much better had I worn makeup and put extra care into my outfit, so that’s what I now do when I’m having a bad day.

If you’re looking for helpful hints on how to lead a more elegant, cultured life, Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic is the book for you!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Home: Insulating the Outlets

One of the things about living in an old home (around 150 years) is that they’re quirky.  I can feel cold air coming in through one of our outlets that’s on an outside wall.  Though our contractor and an energy efficiency team have looked into it, they haven’t found an obvious cause and say the wall is insulated.

These fire retardant foam outlet or switch sealers are the solution to my problem.  I simply removed the switch plate, placed the foam sealer around the outlet and reinstalled the switch plate.  For added measures, I also installed child-proof plugs.  Though it’s not winter yet, I can already tell the foam sealers have made a difference. 

For more information on this product, click here

I removed the switch plate

I placed the sealer around the plug

I reinstalled the switch plate and installed child-proof plugs

Monday, November 2, 2015

Four Star Finds: Mio Workout Wonder

For more information on this product, click here

Most people who exercise regularly realize occasionally having sore muscles is part of the process-it means you’re becoming stronger.  That said, it’s still not pleasant to ache.  Mia’s Workout Wonder Invigorating Muscle Motivating Gel is a godsend for sore muscles.  Applied before or after a workout, the gel cools the skin, then somehow warms and relieves the muscles below.  It’s one of my new favorite things!

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