Monday, February 29, 2016

Home: Cutting Board Care

When I looked at my cutting board, I noticed it was looking a little worn and dried out.  Rather than buying a new one, I decided to disinfect and condition the one I have.  It was a simple process that took very little time.

First, I cut a lemon in half, then sprinkled the board with kosher salt, and rubbed the cut lemon and salt over the entire surface.  I repeated this process on the other side and washed the board with hot water and dishwashing detergent.

After the board dried, I rubbed Boos Block Board Cream (I’ve read that mineral oil can also be used) onto both sides and allowed it to dry overnight.  The next day, I removed the excess cream using a paper towel.  Now it looks almost as good as new!

First I bean with half a lemon and kosher salt

Disinfecting the board

For more information on Boos Block Board Cream,
click here

The board cream instructions suggest applying it with hands 

Wiping off the excess cream

the final results-almost like new!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Style: Multi-Purpose Dress

James Perse dress, Chan Luu necklace, Converse shoes,
 Ray Ban sunglasses (old), Loeffler Randall handbag (different color

 A lot of women categorize their clothes thinking they serve one purpose-work clothes, play clothes, evening clothes, etc.  I try to style my pieces with different accessories so I can get as much use out of them as possible.  In a previous post (click here to view it), I wore this dress as I would for an evening out-that is with heels and a clutch.  It’s so versatile, though, that it can also be worn on casual days for just kicking around.

Here, I’m wearing my shirred dress with Converse tennis shoes, aviator sunglasses, an oversized necklace and a small satchel.  Ironically, after I wore this outfit, I noticed the sales girls at the James Perse store wearing similar dresses with similar shoes.  The look must be one I subconsciously absorbed-it’s nice to know that my brain is working even when I’m not aware of it!

I saw this necklace and ordered it online.  Often when I
do this, I'm not happy with my purchase.  This necklace
was everything and more than I expected!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Cooking and Entertaining: Beef Stew

Beef Stew

When the weather is cold, I find myself craving hearty meals and make soup, stew or chili at least once a week.  These meals are great because I can eat the leftovers for lunch on cold New England days.  We used to eat this stew “Hawaiian style” (over sticky, white rice) but since we now view simple carbohydrates as a treat, we eat it with a salad.  Even without the white rice, I still like this stew as much as I did 20 years ago when I started making it.

the ingredients

My mom taught me to place the flour, seasonings and meat in a plastic
bag and shake it to evenly coat the meat

Placing the veggies and stew seasoning in the crockpot

Browning the stew meat

Deglazing the pan with the wine

After adding the V-8 and water, bring the stew to a boil and then transfer
to a crockpot

Beef Stew

1 lb.  stew meat
1 C.  flour
1 tsp.  salt
2 Tbsp.  canola oil
1/2 tsp.  pepper
1 pkg.  McCormick stew seasoning
1  onion, diced
2  carrots, diced
2  potatoes, diced
12 oz.  spicy V-8 juice (or tomato juice with 10 dashes Tabasco)
1 C.  red wine
2 C.  water

Combine flour, salt and pepper, and coat stew meat with seasoned flour.  Heat a large pot, add oil and brown stew meat.  Add red wine and scrape up browned bits.  Add remaining ingredients and cook over low heat for about 4 hours.  Or transfer to a crockpot and cook on low for 6 hours.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Four Star Finds: Caudalie Beauty Elixir

For more information on this product, click here

In a very early blog, I wrote about philosophy Hope Springs Eternal, a face spray applied to clean or made-up skin.  I often used it in the warmer months to cool off and refresh my skin.  Unfortunately, it was discontinued not too long after my post was published.  I tried other products, but didn’t find one worth sharing until now.

Caudalie’s Beauty Elixir is a fantastic product.  It sets make-up, refreshes skin and tightens the appearance of pores.  To make it even better, it has an invigorating scent that always perks me up.  I’ve read it’s a great product to take when traveling and will be bringing it on my next trip!

As always, I receive no compensation for endorsing this product

Friday, February 19, 2016

Travel: Laguna Beach, California

the view from a restaurant where I had lunch

Laguna Beach is a quintessential California beach town with a twist.  Like most beach communities, it has a laid back feeling, but is also artsy and filled with galleries, outstanding restaurants, adorable shops and beautiful views. 

While it has the typical candy, seashell and surf shops, it also has some well-curated home décor and clothing shops.  In addition, Laguna Beach is quite the dining destination and has some of my favorite California restaurants.  The former artists’ colony is also home to Pageant of the Masters, a summer-only event that exhibits “living pictures” where classic and contemporary works of art are recreated using real people.  Another summer-only event is Art-A-Fair, a marketplace filled with art created by artists worldwide.

Visit Laguna Beach if you ever have an opportunity!

my friend, Carole, on one of the main shopping streets

a quaint shop

a local artist's work-in-progress

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Movie Review: “Room”

   Rated R

5-year old Jack and “Ma” are held captive in “Room”, a secured storage shed that has always been Jack’s home.  After their daring escape, Jack experiences both wonderment and anxiety in the “real” world beyond the four walls of their former home while Ma struggles with her new-found freedom.

When I read the book, I thought reading Room was like watching a train wreck, horrifying, yet fascinating.  Room, the film, is actually much more uplifting. Witnessing Jack’s awe and bewilderment at the “real” world and seeing the love and devotion in Jack and Ma’s relationship is touching.  With superb performances by Brie Larson (Ma) and Jacob Tremblay (Jack), Room is deserving of the accolades it has received.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Book Review: “Forever, Interrupted”

   Forever, Interrupted
   Taylor Jenkins Reid

Elsie and Ben’s romance is best described as a supernova, because supernovas shine brighter than other stars, but have a very short life.  They met on New Year’s Eve, eloped five months later and are nine days into their marriage when Ben died suddenly and unexpectedly.  Elsie’s first encounter with her mother-in-law, who doesn’t know Elsie exists, is at the hospital and doesn’t go well.  Can they can forge a relationship and heal together?

Though the premise of Forever, Interrupted seems tragic and heartbreaking, it’s actually a sweet and ultimately uplifting story.  I like that the characters are portrayed as humans, warts and all, who experience a wide range of emotions and behave both selfishly and compassionately.  If you’re looking for novel that’s out-of-the-ordinary, Forever, Interrupted is the book for you!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Home: Clean My Space Website/YouTube Channel

Even though I don’t love cleaning and view it as something that HAS to be done, this year I started deep cleaning one item every weekday.  Some of the tasks I’ve undertaken are:

Cleaning the freezer
Dusting the ceiling fans
Vacuuming the sofa cushions and underneath them
Taking apart and disinfecting the Soda Stream water carbonator
Disinfecting the blender

My thought process is that each job take around 10-30 minutes, and if I do one job each week day, then I won’t have to spend days deep cleaning our home because everything will already be spotless!

When I don’t know the best way to clean a particular item (like a laptop computer), I consult the website (or the same YouTube Channel at  This website/channel is run by Melissa Maker and contains a plethora of short videos with cleaning tips and techniques using common household products.  Melissa is knowledgeable, extremely enthusiastic, and somehow makes cleaning seem fun. is one of my favorite websites, and I visit it weekly for new tips and ideas.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Buying Multiples

James Perse shirt, AG jeans (similar), Chloe shoes, vintage necklace,
Tom Ford sunglasses (old), 3.1 Phillip Lim handbag (old)

In general, I’m not into buying “multiples,” that is, the same piece in different colors.  Every now and then, though, I find pieces that just work for me.  In those cases, I buy in multiples, and they become my “go-to” items. 

The jeans I’m wearing are my favorites.  They’re made by AG, and this particular cut is exclusive to Anthropologie.  They fit well, have just the right amount of stretch and I especially like that I can wear the ankle cut without being tailored.   I own four pairs of them-the dark wash shown, a lighter wash, a gray pair and a taupe pair.  The button-up shirt shown is another go-to piece-it flatters my body, is comfortable and always looks nice.  I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit I’ve owned seven of them in various fabrics, sleeve lengths and colors (though not all at the same time).  Finally, the ballet slippers featured are another item I’ve repurchased.  Because we live in the city and I walk a lot, good shoes are a necessity.  These flats are like wearing a hug-they’re so soft, yet they don’t look like comfortable shoes.  Though purchasing multiples can seem excessive, if something works, why not?

Monday, February 8, 2016

Cooking and Entertaining: Flammekueche (Alsatian Bacon and Onion Tart)

a perfect weeknight dinner

A few weeks ago, Kevin and I took an Alsatian cooking class where we learned how to make some delicious, hearty dishes.  Alsace is a region in France that borders Germany and Switzerland, and its cuisine has elements from all three countries.  Flammekuece is similar to pissaladiere, but is more robust and somehow suited better for colder weather. 

This recipe is easy to prepare, and if you don’t feel like making the crust, pizza dough can be substituted.  Flammekueche is rich and decadent, and perfect with a light salad and a glass of dry, white wine.

the ingredients
note: I only made half a recipe in these pictures

pouring the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients

kneading the dough

ready for toppings

combining the "white" ingredients

caramelizing the onions

ready to be served

(Alsatian Bacon and Onion Tart)
Recipe courtesy of Diane Manteca

1-3/4 C.  flour
1 tsp.  baking powder
3 Tbsp.   olive oil
2  egg yolks
1 tsp.  salt
1/2 C.  water

1/2 C.  crème fraiche
1 C.  fromage blanc (or cream cheese)
1/8 tsp.  nutmeg
1/2 tsp.  salt
1/4 tsp.  pepper
2 Tbsp.  olive oil
1  large onion, sliced
8 strips  bacon, cooked and chopped

Preheat the oven to 400°F, or if using a pizza stone, heat oven to 500°F.

Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.   Make a well in the center.  Whisk oil, egg yolks and water in another bowl and pour into the well.  Using a fork, stir until a loose dough forms.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute.  Divide dough into 3 pieces.  Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll into a 10-inch oval and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Repeat with other dough balls.

In a large pan, sauté the onion until caramelized and soft.  In a bowl, combine the crème fraiche, fromage blanc, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Spread 1/3 of the mixture onto each of the crusts.  Evenly sprinkle with caramelized onions and bacon.  Bake on a baking sheet or pizza stone until lightly browned and crisp, about 8-10 minutes.  Serve warm.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Four Star Finds: Vega One All in One Nutritional Shake

For more information on this product, click here

Quite a while ago, I posted my veggie smoothie recipe that I drink most days (Click here to see that post).  I started adding protein powder to it when I found myself hungry before lunchtime.  When I mentioned this predicament to my friend, Nora, she suggested trying the Vega One All in One Nutritional Shake powder. 

In addition to having 20 grams of protein in a serving, it also contains 50% of many recommended daily vitamins and minerals.  Even better, it’s made from whole foods and contains no dairy, gluten, soy or animal products. 

I’ve tried the French Vanilla flavor, which has a vanilla, yet slightly fruity flavor, and it’s delicious!  I’m excited to try the chocolate flavor, but probably without my usual spinach.  For me, this product is a tasty way to improve my nutrition!

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

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Travel: Cirque du Soleil Love

the set before the show-photography during the show wasn't permitted, but
to see the official photo gallery, click here

My last Las Vegas travel post from is for Cirque du Soleil’s Love, a dance and acrobatics performance to Beatles’ music that is a rough biography of the group.  Aspects of the group’s lives are documented, beginning with their childhoods in Liverpool, to the formation and superstardom of the group, to their psychedelic and spiritual periods and their eventual breakup,

Though I heard great things about this show, I had seen a few Cirque du Soleil shows and was expecting pretty much the same thing.  Love, however, was completely different than what I expected.  In addition to the usual high quality of Cirque du Soleil shows, the incorporation of dance, the familiar music and the use of child performers made Love breathtaking!  Every seat in the Mirage hotel theater had an outstanding view and the surround sound was sublime.  If you are going to Las Vegas, I highly recommend seeing Cirque du Soleil’s Love.

just outside the show
my ticket

Monday, February 1, 2016

Movie Reviews: “The Big Short” & “Joy”

   The Big Short
   Rated R

The Big Short documents the real life events that caused the financial collapse of 2007.  Four contrarians foresaw the housing bubble and mortgage collapse and did what had never been done before; they shorted collateralized debt obligation (CDO) bonds.  Financial institutions gladly accepted the shorts, never realizing it would lead to the demise of some of their companies.

While it sounds like a dry topic, The Big Short is a fascinating story about greed and arrogance.  With its quirky characters and off-beat humor, this informative film is a gem!

   Rated PG-13

Joy is the story of Joy Mangano (portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence), inventor of the Miracle Mop and Huggable Hangers.  After cutting her hands on glass by wringing out a conventional mop, the single mom invented a self-wringing mop.  The difficulties she encounters in manufacturing and selling her product are chronicled in this film.

While the topic of Joy may seem a bit dull, this film in anything but boring.  Written and directed by David O. Russell, whose other films include Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, this third partnership with Jennifer Lawrence resulted in her outstanding performance as a creative, compassionate and determined woman.