Friday, January 29, 2016

Book Review: “The Handmaid’s Tale”

   The Handmaid’s Tale
   Margaret Atwood

In what used to be the United States and is now the Republic of Gilead, is a dystopian society that overreacted to declining birth rates by creating a caste system society even more repressive than the Puritans.  Our protagonist, Offred, is a handmaiden, a low caste woman specifically chosen to bear a high society member’s child.  She lives with Fred, his wife and their servants and her whole life revolves around conceiving Fred’s child.  Read The Handmaid’s Tale to find out Offred’s fate.

A while ago, I was making pretty good progress on Amazon’s Top 100 Books List but somehow got out of the habit of reading these books.  I finally got back to it and am glad I read The Handmaid’s Tale.  More like an artsy movie that’s a glimpse into someone’s life rather than a traditional story, this novel is eye-opening and points out the dangers of extremism in any form.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Home: Touching Up the Paint

I don't know how we got this scuff mark, but I'm glad we removed it

Perhaps because we have white walls, every scuff mark seems to stand out like a sore thumb.  To keep our home looking nice, one of the things we do about twice a year is touch up the paint.  I used to clean the marks with a rag and soapy water or with a commercial product but this method removed the paint and left the walls looking uneven.    

A few days before we paint, I go through the house with painter’s tape and mark the spots that need to be touched up.  I do this task early because I always find a few more scuffs that I missed during the initial pass.  Then we just paint over the marks with a small brush and allow the paint to dry.

Though this job isn’t interesting or fun, performing it makes our home look so much better!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Style: James Perse Shirred Dress

James Perse dress, Truth and Pride jacket (old),
J Crew necklace (old), Ray Ban sunglasses (old),
Hobo clutch (old), Via Spiga pumps

I’ve always been a big fan of the brand James Perse; his clothes are soft to the touch, well made and somehow embody the California casual style.  Even though these clothes have very little hanger appeal, somehow they are magically transformed when worn.

This heather gray dress is incredibly versatile; it can be dressed up with heels (as shown here) or worn casually with sneakers or sandals.  The shirring at the hips hides imperfections, the split in the back makes it easy to walk and this dress is machine washable!  What more could a gal ask for?

without the jacket

Friday, January 22, 2016

Cooking and Entertaining: White Bean Dip with Rosemary

White Bean Dip with Rosemary

Last year, Kevin and I took an Italian cooking and wine pairing class taught by Diane Manteca and Adam Centamore.  Everything was delicious, but my favorite recipe from that evening was Diane’s Cannellini Bean Dip.  It’s hearty, tasty and easy to prepate, and I often serve it to guests with crostini, but crudités could easy be substituted as a healthier option.

Diane was kind enough to allow me to share her recipe, and I’ve included a few tweaks I’ve made.

the ingredients

ready to be pulsed

ready to be plated

White Bean Dip with Rosemary
Original recipe courtesy of Diane Manteca

15 oz.  cannellini beans (canned), drained and rinsed
1 clove  garlic, peeled and minced
1 Tbsp.  lemon juice
3 Tbsp.  olive oil
2 Tbsp.  fresh rosemary, finely minced
1 tsp.  kosher salt
1/2 tsp.  pepper

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor or blender.  Pulse the mixture until well blended. Serve with crudite, crackers or crostini.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Four Star Finds: Formula X Delete Nail Polish Remover

For more information on Formula X Delete Nail Polish Remover, click here

In my last Four Star Finds post (click here to view it), I wrote about how much I like Formula X Seashell Collection matte glitter nail polish.  The only problem with ALL glitter nail polishes is that they’re usually difficult to remove.  I used to wrap cotton pads soaked with remover on my nails in order to get rid of all traces of glitter, but I was concerned that applying the remover for that amount of time dried out my nails.

Delete Nail Polish Remover by Formula X solves my problem.  Applied like any standard nail polish remover, it eliminates all traces of nail polish (regular and glitter) quickly and effectively.  Now I can have sparkly nail all the time!

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

Monday, January 18, 2016

Travel: The Science of Pixar Exhibit at the Museum of Science

For more information on this attraction, click here

Currently at the Boston Museum of Science, there’s an exhibit titled “The Science of Pixar” that educates the public on how Pixar films are made.  First the visitors watch a 5 minute video showing how films begins as ideas on storyboards, then go into the production phases of Modeling, Rigging, Surfaces, Sets & Cameras, Lighting, Animation, Simulation and Rendering.  The big treat is the exhibit itself, with life size models and hands-on activities where the guests can acts as animator, lighting designer or modeler.

Geared toward both adults and children, this exhibit demonstrates that learning can be fun and that computers aren’t just for geeks.  If you like the Pixar films, this is the exhibit for you!

waiting for the video

the creative process at work

the Rigging exhibit


Playing with the lighting in Up was fun

Friday, January 15, 2016

Movie Reviews: "Concussion," "Daddy’s Home," "The Hateful Eight" & "The Revenant"

   Rated PG-13

Concussion is the true story of Dr. Bennet Omalu, an African immigrant forensic neuropathologist, who discovered Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative brain disease found in people who have a history of repetitive brain trauma.  The film also chronicles the NFL’s efforts to discredit Dr. Omalu and his findings.

Movies that combine art and education are often difficult to do well.  But when all of the elements come together, like in Concussion, the synergy produces a magnificent film.  Concussion is a must-see film!

   Daddy’s Home
   Rated PG-13

Just after Brad (Will Ferrell) won over his stepchildren’s affections, their father Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) returns and throws the family into chaos.  Seeing Brad and Dusty compete for the kids’ and their mother’s love is an adventure.

I went into Daddy’s Home with pretty low expectations and didn’t think it would make it to the blog.  While it was childish and silly, it was also sweet and touching.  Daddy’s Home showed many different facets of humanity-how we’re sometimes petty and envious but that we all do the best we can.  If you’re looking for a light comedy, this is the movie for you!

   The Hateful Eight
   Rated R

The Hateful Eight lives up to its name with eight completely despicable characters.  Among them are two bounty hunters, a captured fugitive who is en route to the hangman, and a southern renegade who claims to be the new sheriff.  Set shortly after the civil war, the group is stranded at Minnie’s Haberdashery, a stagecoach stop, while waiting for a blizzard to pass.  But what fate awaits this unlikeable group?

A typical Quentin Tarantino film, The Hateful Eight is macabre and violent.  It’s also unpredictable and hilariously funny.  If the sight of blood and the idea of violence don’t bother you, this is a great film!

   The Revenant
   Rated R

A revenant is defined as a person who comes back from the dead.  This movie, however, is not a zombie movie.  The Revenant is based on the true story of Hugh Glass, an explorer/guide who was mauled by a bear and then left for dead by the other members of his party.  His fierce love for his family and his determination to exact revenge helped him survive life threatening injuries, freezing conditions, and hostile Native Americans.  Will Glass survive the wilderness or will he perish as expected?

The Revenant was much more violent than I expected.  That said, if you can live through this film’s brutality (created both by man and nature), this story is amazing.  Witnessing Glass’s journey and seeing his will to live are inspiring.  There are good reasons why this film won the Golden Globe Award for Best Picture, Drama and why Leonardo DiCaprio won the award for Best Actor, Drama.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Book Review: “Furiously Happy”

   Furiously Happy
   Jenny Lawson

Irreverent author Jenny Lawson, diagnosed with clinical depression, a severe anxiety disorder, an impulse control disorder and an avoidant personality disorder, writes about living with her mental illnesses as she chronicles her zany adventures.  One of her stories is about trying to create a rodeo using her pet cats as bucking broncos and a taxidermied raccoon as the rider.  Though the book sounds silly, Lawson thoughtfully addresses mental health issues.  For example she writes that she believes people who experience severe depression also experience extreme joy.  She also gives what I believe to be the best description of what it’s like to live with depression.

Though it took me a few chapters to “get” Lawson’s sense of humor, Furiously Happy ended up being a great read.  It’s simultaneously zany and sensitive, and over-the-top and insightful.  It’s a book about self acceptance and finding joy in the ridiculous and outrageous.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Home: Affresh Washer Cleaner

For more information on the product, click here

Since our washer is front loading, I always air it out for a few hours after using it.  Another part of my “washer maintenance” is using a washer cleaner every month or two.  This process ensures there isn’t any mildew, hard water deposits are removed and all odors are eliminated. 

A different brand of washer cleaner left a strong smell in the laundry area and since bleach is unkind to the environment, Affresh washer cleaner is a great option.  It’s easy to use-I simply place a tablet in the washer drum, turn the cycle to sanitary (or using hot water is the normal cycle works, too) and let the washer do the work.  It’s nice to clean without having to put in much effort!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Style: All Saints Dress

All Saints dress, Michael Kors belt (old), Philip Lim handbag (old),
Spanx tights (similar), Alexander Wang booties, Christian Dior sunglasses

For years, I admired the vintage sewing machine window displays at All Saints stores, but I always thought their clothes weren’t for me.  I changed my mind about a year and a half ago when I realized their clothing is similar to Helmut Lang, but has a more accessible price point. 

This silk dress is a fun addition to my wardrobe-it’s conservative, yet edgy enough to make it interesting.  Worn here with a thick belt, tights and booties, this All Saints dress can also be worn in the spring with a thinner belt, bare legs and lighter colored booties.  It's a great three season addition to my wardrobe!

I've been looking for a new pair of interesting sunglasses,
but haven't found any that I've felt compelled to buy

I bought, but couldn't justify purchasing, these booties since I already have a very nice pair. I just loved them so much I had to buy them!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Cooking and Entertaining: Koo Koo Roo Chicken Salad

Koo Koo Roo's Chicken Salad

Now that the holidays are over, it’s time for me to eat a little cleaner, so I thought I’d post an easy weeknight salad instead of my mom’s chocolate cake.  I love this salad from Koo Koo Roo-it had fallen off my radar, but when I was looking for a light, healthy dinner, it fit the bill.  It uses whole foods, fresh ingredients, takes only 10 minutes to prepare and is delicious! 

I simply shred a rotisserie chicken, add the chopped nuts, celery and grapes, prepare the vinaigrette and then toss everything together.  When we ate more carbohydrates, I served this chicken salad on baguettes, but now I placed it on a bed of arugula, though any green would work.  This dinner was a rare combination of tasty and healthy, and it’s definitely finding its way back into my meal rotation!

the ingredients

the chopped "goodies"
Though the recipe calls for sliced nuts, I used chopped whole nuts

I like to shake salad dressing in a small jar

dressing the salad

Ready to eat!

Click here for the recipe

Monday, January 4, 2016

Four Star Finds: Formula X Sea Glass Collection

I'm wearing Formula X Starfish in this photo

Formula X Sea Glass Collection is one of the most innovative nail products I’ve seen lately.  The polishes are sparkly, but have a matte finish.  I get it-matte glitter nail polish sounds like an oxymoron.  How can glitter nail polish possibly have a matte finish?  I don’t know how it works, but I love the Formula X Sea Glass Collection because it’s laid back, yet celebratory! 

I love the color in the photograph, Starfish, which is pale pink, but I’m equally fond of Whirlpool, which is lavender/gray.  And though this polish doesn’t have quite the same staying power as traditional nail polish, I think it’s lessened longevity is offset by the unique color and finish combination. 

If you’re looking for something new, try the Formula X Sea Glass Collection.  For more information on this product, click here.  As always, I receive no compensation for endorsing this product.

Friday, January 1, 2016