Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Travel: Exotics Racing in Las Vegas

The three of us after our thrill rides

While we were in Las Vegas, I had the e-ticket ride of my life!  We went to Exotics Racing, an attraction that allows you to drive an exotic sports car (think Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, etc.) around a 1.2 mile track.

Drivers are given a brief group instruction, and then taken for 1 lap in a BMW X5 to familiarize them with the track.  Before they know it, they’re on the track in the sports car of their choice, along with a professional instructor who provides guidance the entire time.  A typical package includes 5 laps on the track, which has 7 turns and an 1,800 foot straight away, where drivers can reach speeds of more than 100 mph.

Kevin drove an Aston Martin and Sean drove a Lamborghini Gallardo, and both loved the experience.  Being the chicken that I am, I opted for a 2 lap ride-along with a professional drift driver in a Corvette.  We topped more than 110 mph, and it was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life!

For more information on Exotics Racing, click here.

Me getting into the Corvette for my ride along

Getting familiar with the track

Kevin and the car he drove

He loved driving the Aston Martin

Sean getting ready to enter the track

Sean post drive

Monday, December 28, 2015

Book Review: “Sweet Poison: Why Sugar Makes Us Fat”

   Sweet Poison: Why Sugar Makes Us Fat
   David Gillespie

In June 2014, I went on a 10 day No Sugar Challenge and wrote about it in this post.  Though I haven’t gone back to consuming the amount of sugar I did before the challenge, I still like foods made with white flour and sugar and eat more that I probably should for optimal health. 

However, reading Sweet Poison: Why Sugar Makes Us Fat, changed my view of sugar and made it less appealing.  Before reading this book, I knew that consuming too much sugar caused diabetes.  What I learned, though, is that sugar (particularly fructose) also causes increased trigylcerides, elevated LDL cholesterol levels and weight gain.  I also learned why we can continue eating sugar without felling full and why we like the sweet stuff so much.

If you’re looking to make a healthy change in 2016, reading Sweet Poison: Why Sugar Makes Us Fat might be the place to start.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Movie Reviews: “The Danish Girl," “Spotlight” & "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"

Merry Christmas! Because Christmas is one of the biggest film-going days of the year, I decided to move up my movie reviews and will post a book review on December 28.  BTW-This is the first time all movies are rated four stars in the same post.

   The Danish Girl
   Rated R

The Danish Girl is the fictionalized story of Lili Elbe, the first identifiable patient to receive gender reassignment surgery.  Born Einar Wegener in 1882, Elbe attended art school at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts where he met and married fellow artist Gerda Gottlieb.  After living openly as a woman, Elbe eventually agreed to a series of experimental surgeries.

This film is beautifully done, and the cast and crew will be the recipients of many awards this season.  The sets are beautiful, the acting is superb, and the story is compelling.  To me, The Danish Girl is a must-see film!

   Rated R

Based on a true story, Spotlight tells the story of a tenacious group of Boston Globe reporters who spent a year investigating sexual abuse allegations involving Boston priests.  What they discovered was years of abuse and cover ups by church officials, law enforcement and the legal system.

I went into Spotlight expecting to be a bit bored in this dialog-heavy production.  Instead, I found an absolutely riveting film that kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time.  Spotlight, too, will be recipient of many awards this season.

   Star Wars: The Force Awakens
   Rated PG-13

I don't want to give anything about this movie away, so I'll just say, "If you like Star Wars, this is a must-see movie!"

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Home: Birch Fireplace Logs

Master Bedroom Fireplace-Before buying a screen

Master Bedroom Fireplace-After including a screen

Master Bedroom Fireplace-with screen and birch logs

Close up of the master bedroom fireplace

When I wanted some ideas on how to make our home look a little more polished, I asked our friend Thom, a local real estate agent who has impeccable taste, for some advice.  He suggested neatly stacking white birch logs in the fireplaces.  I’ve put firewood in fireplaces, had a gas log fireplace set and seen multiple candles filling fireplaces, but it never occurred to me to that beautiful logs in the fireplace could be a design element.  As always, Thom’s idea was splendid, and the birch logs stand out in the best possible way!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Four Star Finds: Ghirardelli Dark Peppermint Bark Squares

These peppermint bark squares are widely available at retailers that sell Ghirardelli
products, but click here for more information on this treat

I’m pretty fond of seasonal treats and have written a few posts about them (Click here, here and here to view them).  This season, I’m loving Ghirardelli Dark Peppermint Bark Squares.  With a layer of dark chocolate and another of white chocolate that contains crushed peppermint candy, these treats are irresistible!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Style: Holiday Dress

Sandro dress, Claudia Ciutti sandals (old), Hobo clutch (similar),
Tiffany bracelet, Tom Ford sunglasses (old)

I was so excited for this year’s holiday events that I decided I needed a new dress.  It’s just too cold this time of year to go sleeveless, so the only requirement was that the dress had to have at least short sleeves.  This Bordeaux-colored dress was just what I wanted-The color is perfect, the shape flatters my body type and I think it has a festive look.  I like it so much I wore it to Thanksgiving dinner, a work-related dinner and am planning to wear it to a holiday party and to a celebratory dinner.  It has already become my “go-to” dress for this winter.

For Thanksgiving dinner, I accessorized the dress with pointy-toed black pumps and an aubergine clutch, and kept the shoes but switched the clutch to a leopard pony-hair one for the work-related dinner.  In these photos, I paired it with an old red clutch, even older pewter-colored evening sandals and a ruthenium bone cuff (to mimic the color in the sandals).  We’ll see what other combinations can be made for future events!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Cooking and Entertaining: Apricot White Fudge

Apricot White Fudge

Kevin and I recently attended a food tasting at the Boston Center for Adult Education-Needless to say, it was a fabulous evening!  Gourmand Adam Centamore developed and manned one of the tasting stations, and one of his pairings was Comte cheese with White Apricot Fudge.  Though it sounds unusual, the two items had a synergistic effect and elevated each other to taste even better. 

I had never eaten white fudge, and it was delicious!  The dried apricots’ tartness contrasts well with the sweetness of the white chocolate. Adam was kind enough to share the recipe with me, so I’m sharing it with you.  This treat would be a perfect gift for someone with a sweet tooth!

Click here for the recipe

the ingredients

Line and then butter a 9" square pan
Use a candy thermometer to ensure the candy has the right texture

Adding the chopped chocolate

I omitted the nuts in this recipe

Smooth into the prepared pan and allow to set before slicing

Monday, December 14, 2015

Travel: Las Vegas

The water fountain show in front of the Bellagio Hotel

We’re not gamblers at all, but love going to Las Vegas!  The food scene is outstanding because pretty much every celebrity and/or famous chef has a restaurant there.  The shopping is world class with malls attached to many of the major hotels.  In addition, all sorts of fun activities like driving exotic cars, seeing shows and concerts, and fun rides are available.  There are also quite a few resources we don’t use like the hotel pool, getting beauty treatments at one of many spas, or going to any of the hip clubs.  If you’re looking for a few days of fun, Las Vegas is the place!

In the next couple of months, I'll be featuring a few of our trip's highlights.

Standing in front of the Siegfried and Roy statues

The mall attached to Caesar's Palace changes from day to night

Dining at Gordon Ramsay Pub and Grill

Hanging out with one of the female impersonators before
the Divas show

Friday, December 11, 2015

Movie Reviews: “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2” and “Creed”

   The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
   Rated PG-13

Inadvertently, Katniss Everdeen has become the face of the rebellion against the Capitol.  But evil President Snow isn’t her only nemesis.  Will Katniss figure out who her true allies are or will she suffer the same fate as her Hunger Games opponents?

While The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 isn’t as strong as the other Hunger Games movies, it is still worth seeing.  For me, it was nice to see the series’ resolution.  Jennifer Lawrence gives an outstanding performance as Katniss, portraying her pain and anguish brilliantly.  Without her, I believe this series wouldn’t have been nearly as successful.  If you enjoyed the other Hunger Games movies or books, you’ll appreciate seeingThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2.

   Rated PG-13

So I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but I like the Rocky series-not so much Rocky III, IV and V, but my love for Rocky, Rocky II and Rocky Balboa outweighs the negatives of the other movies.  In the good movies, the main character is so lovable, the action is great and story lines stay true to the spirit of the original film.  Creed falls into the latter category of Rocky films. 

Adonis Creed, Apollo’s illegitimate son who was born after Apollo died, quits his desk job, moves to Philadelphia and convinces Rocky to train him.  As Adonis strives to be a better boxer, Rocky has to work through his own struggles.  Will Adonis and Rocky prevail or will Adonis meet the same fate as his father in the ring?

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Book Review: “The Girl in the Spider’s Web”

   The Girl in the Spider’s Web
   David Lagercrantz

Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist are back!  At the start of The Girl in the Spider’s Web, someone has hacked into the National Security Agency and a Swedish computer genius and his autistic son are in danger.  Will journalist Blomkvist, who is desperately in need of a scoop, and uber hacker Salander, who may have a secret agenda, find the connection between these events?

I’m a big fan of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series and was saddened by original author Stieg Larsson’s passing because I thought there wouldn’t be any more Girl books.  However, new series author David Lagercrantz brings back all of our familiar players, even the minor ones, delves more deeply into their lives, and stays true to (what I believe is) Larsson’s original characterizations.  He also does a great job emulating Larsson’s writing style.  If you loved the original series, you’ll love The Girl in the Spider’s Web!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Home: White Noise Machine

This Homedics Sound Machine was purchased at Bed, Bath and Beyond
Click here for details on this product

We’ve all heard the adage about sleeping in one’s guest room to make sure it’s a warm and cozy space, but it was one of those things that I didn’t get around to doing.  That is, until our upstairs neighbor had a water leak that forced us out of our bedroom for a few days.

Overall, I was pretty pleased because the bed was comfortable and the room was dark enough.  However. the guest room faces a main street, so it’s pretty noisy, and I had trouble falling asleep.  What the room needed was a white noise machine.  I immediately bought one, tested it out, and now believe our guests will be comfortable in their “home away from home.”

Friday, December 4, 2015

Four Star Finds: Diamond Bakery Candy Bead Hawaiian Cookies

For more information on Diamond Bakery Candy Bead Hawaiian Cookies, click here

I love cookies, but am very picky about which ones I’ll eat.  They pretty much have to be homemade or from a bakery or cafĂ©.  However, there are a few exceptions-Stauffer’s Chocolate Animal Crackers (written about here) and Diamond Bakery Cookies. 

Diamond Bakery was founded in Hawaii by three friends in 1921 and continues to serve many of their original products.  Perhaps I like their cookies partly because it reminds me of childhood summers spent in Hawaii, but I mainly like them because they’re delicious!  Their cookies are crisp, just a touch sweet and have the perfect texture.  My favorites are the Candy Bead Hawaiian Cookies and Animal Crackers.

Previously only available to those living in Hawaii, thanks to the web and global shipping practices, Diamond Bakery cookie and crackers are now available everywhere.

As always, I receive no compensation for endorsing this product

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Style: Printed Denim

Current Elliot jeans, Emporio Armani jacket (old),
Haute Hippie top (old), Tom For sunglasses (old),
Reed Krakow handbag (old), Kenneth Cole boots (old)

Almost all of my pants are solids, rather than prints, but I was oddly attracted to these jeans.  For some reason, I couldn’t get them out of my head and had to go back and buy them.  Though they won’t be worn as often as a traditional pair, I think they’re a fun addition to my wardrobe. 

Because most bloggers (and people) can’t only wear new items, I paired the jeans with pieces that I’ve had for a while-a red silk blouse (originally seen in this post), a very old black blazer, toeless booties (click here to see them), a Reed Krakow handbag (click here and here), Tom Ford sunglasses (click here, here and here) and a dogeared necklace recently seen in this post.  These printed jeans show that one item can breathe new life into one’s wardrobe!