Friday, July 29, 2016

Movie Reviews: “Ghostbusters (2016)” and “Café Society”

   Ghostbusters (2016)
   Rated PG-13

Four women and their hunky assistant team up to investigate and eradicate poltergeists in New York City. 

I was a bit surprised by how much I enjoyed Ghostbusters (2016), though I should have known better since it features four outstanding comediennes. Modernized, but still paying homage to the original movie, Ghostbusters (2016) is as fun as the original. Additionally, Chris Hemsworth as the sweet, but dim assistant is the cherry on the top of the sundae!

   Café Society
   Rated PG-13

In the 1930’s, Bobby Dorfman moves from the Bronx to Hollywood, falls in love, moves back to New York and becomes an integral part of the high society nightclub scene.

Thoughtful, funny and ironic, Café Society is what I think of as a typical Woody Allen comedy-the characters are quirky, the road to love isn’t easy and the endings are often unexpected. If you’re in the mood for an intelligent comedy, Café Society is the movie to see!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Book Review: “First Comes Love”

   First Comes Love
   Emily Giffin

Fifteen years after the unexpected death of their brother Daniel, Josie and Meredith’s lives are not what they envisioned. Josie parties too much and desperately wants a child, but isn’t in a committed relationship, while Meredith is unhappily married to Daniel’s best friend.  Will the sisters continue to live in discontent or will they repair their lives and find happiness?

Often times, a tragedy drastically changes the life courses of loved ones, as is brilliantly shown in First Comes Love. Giffin’s characters are very human-sometimes mean-spirited and petty, but ultimately I found myself rooting for them. Despite the heavy theme, this novel is funny and touching and is a great summer read!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Home: Five Minutes from Company Ready

Having unexpected guests isn't an issue if your home is tidy
I grew up in a cluttered home. In addition to being raised during the Great Depression, my parents grew up in Hawaii during a time when the longshoremen often went on strike. As a result, they stock up on items and keep things that have little or no value because they might “need” them someday. I’m completely the opposite. If something in my home doesn’t serve a purpose or enhance the environment, it’s gone.

Visible clutter makes me crazy! For example, I had the credit card receipts in a pile on the counter, because I intended to check them against the bill. I was pretty busy for a few days, so there they sat, and looking at a pie of unfinished business annoyed me. Finally, I put them in the desk where they were at least out of site. (I did verify the statement the next day, though)

Perhaps because of my discomfort for untidiness, I try to keep my home what I call “5 minutes from company ready.” What this phrase means is that the house is basically clean, but there may be a few things out-of-place that can easily be remedied in 5 minutes. Examples include: Clean dishes in the dish drainer, the day’s unopened mail on the dining room table, and reminders of things to do (for example, bagged dry cleaning sitting by the front door). 

Another practice that helps keep a home tidy is putting things away immediately. It also saves time and effort. For example, if you place your coat on the back of a kitchen table chair instead of hanging it up and then move it to another chair (since it’s in the way when it’s time to eat) and then eventually hang it in the closet when tidying up, you’ve added two extra steps to the process.

You might wonder why it’s necessary to go through the trouble of being “5 minutes from company ready” since friends and neighbors rarely visit without notice. My reply is that you never know when you may have a visitor, and it’s nice not to have to frantically stuff everything into closets and/or drawers or to be embarrassed by “the mess.”

Friday, July 22, 2016

Style: Happy Dress

Diane Von Furstenberg dress, Ray-Ban sunglasses (similar)
Azzedine Alaia handbag (similar), Manolo Blahnik mules (old)
J crew bracelet

Organizing queen Marie Kondo suggests purchasing and keeping only items we love-things that spark joy. When I saw this dress, I had to buy it. It’s so lighthearted and cheerful that it brings a smile to my face when I see it!

I usually mix up my outfits-for example, adding one feminine element to an edgy outfit. However, I styled this dress with only ultra-feminine accessories and think it works.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Cooking and Entertaining: Bobby Flay’s Peach and Arugula Salad with Crispy Pancetta and Gorgonzola

my version of Bobby Flay's Peach and Arugula Salas with Crispy Pancetta and Gorgonzola

Bobby Flay is an amazing chef-I’ve eaten at three of his restaurants (Mesa Grill, Bar Americain and Bobby’s Burger Palace) and the food is always outstanding! He truly has a gift for putting together the right ingredients in the right quantities. 

Though he’s best known for Southwestern and grill cooking, I’m a big fan of his show, Brunch at Bobby’s. After seeing the episode where he prepared this peach and arugula salad, I gave it a try. It’s light, fresh and beyond tasty.

the ingredients
I used a baguette in place of ciabatta, sliced pancetta since cubed wasn't
available, fig & almond cake instead of fig jam (to lower the sugar content)
and white donut peaches since I like them more than regular peaches

In addition to olive oil, Chex Flay always adds salt and pepper to crostini

cooking the pancetta

preparing the dressing

the crostini with fig/almond cake and Gorgonzola

Click here for the recipe

Monday, July 18, 2016

Four Star Finds: Micellar Water

For more information on this product, click here

Every now and then I read about a product that has the beauty industry raving, so I’ll give it a try. Often, the products don’t live up to the hype, but sometimes I find a gem. Micellar water falls into the latter category.

It contains micelles, which are small particles of cleansing oil that are attracted to other oils and dirt, so micellar water gently removes impurities without drying out one’s skin. It can be used as a cleanser, makeup remover and moisturizer. Best of all, it can be purchased at a drug store for under $10!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Travel: Sherman Library and Botanical Gardens

For more information on the Sherman Library and Botanical Gardens, click here

Though I lived in Orange County, California for many years, I never visited the Sherman Library and Botanical Gardens. But lately I’ve been “into” meandering through gardens so I stopped by on my last trip. What a beautiful place-it’s a little oasis in the sleepy beach town of Corona del Mar

Though the grounds are small (2 acres), they’re magnificent and include a greenhouse, rose garden, herb garden, restaurant and the coolest open stairs I’ve seen with succulents planted between the concrete steps. It’s always amazing to see a confluence of nature, knowledge and a green thumb!

catching some sun

inside the greenhouse

the restaurant's patio

a close up of the succulent steps 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Movie Review: “The Secret Lives of Pets”

  The Secret Lives of Pets
  Rated PG

Do you ever wonder what your pet does after you leave the house…Max the dog thinks he has the perfect life with owner Katie, until she brings home a big, shaggy rescue dog. Their ensuing adventure teaches them the meaning of family and shows what all pets want.

I expected to like The Secret Lives of Pets, but not nearly as much as I did.  Reminiscent of Pixar movies where there’s something for kids and adults, this movie is sweet, funny and a definite must-see!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Book Review: “The Marshmallow Test”

   The Marshmallow Test: Why
   Self-Control is the Engine of 
   Walter Mischel

The Marshmallow Test: Why Self-Control is the Engine of Success highlights the results of Mischel’s fifty years of research and findings. It began when he tested preschoolers and their ability to delay gratification for an even greater reward. For example, they could receive one marshmallow now or two treats if they waited. Mischel found that the preschoolers who waited for their rewards had lower body mass indices, better senses of self worth and pursed their goals more effectively twenty and even forty years later. Most of this book explains why self control and the ability to delay gratification leads to success. It also teaches the readers these traits are not inborn and how to improve them.

I enjoy reading books like The Marshmallow Test: Why Self-Control is the Engine of Success because I like learning about what motivates people and how to make life improvements. This book is a gem is you are interested in either of those topics.  It dispels some widely held ideas and gives me hope people can evolve into their best selves.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Home: A Tray in the Bathroom


One of the home décor trends I’ve recently noticed is the use of trays. Not just for the kitchen and dining room, they’re used for decorative purposes in all rooms. I think they add a finished quality to any area by incorporating color and texture into the space.

Kevin used to keep his shaving accessories and colognes directly on the stone vanity, but this mirrored tray adds a bit of flair to the room. Its classic style works well with the rest of the room’s décor, and it’s just the right size, big enough to make a statement, but small enough not to be overwhelming. This mirrored tray is an ideal addition to his bathroom.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Style: Cold Shoulder Dress

Club Monaco dress (also available in red), Via Spiga sandals,
Dior clutch, Tom Ford sunglasses (old), Tiffany necklace

Some people say a woman shouldn’t wear a trend if it reemerges in her lifetime; I generally agree with this statement, but think it depends on the person’s style and on trend itself. For example, I wore neon clothing in my twenties and wouldn’t purchase neon apparel now, but I do own a very bright pair of workout shoes.

Another trend I’ve decided to readopt is the cold shoulder look. I remember when Donna Karan introduced it in 1993; I immediately loved it. Though it took a while to be produced by mass-market companies, I bought a cold shoulder top as soon as I could and wore it to death. So when the look returned, I decided to try on a dress for nostalgia’s sake. It turned out that this dress is so flattering to my body type that I just had to buy it.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Cooking and Entertaining: Mini Chicken and Waffle Sandwiches

Happy 4th of July!

I was recently watching an episode of The Kitchen, and the crew made mini chicken and waffle sandwiches. I thought they’d be the perfect appetizer, because who doesn’t love chicken and waffles? The best part is that they’re so easy to make that everyone can run to the store, buy four items, prepare them and take them to holiday barbecues held later today!

only four ingredients are needed for this recipe

Prepare the sauce
Add the honey/hot sauce mixture and top with the other waffle

Ready to serve!

Mini Chicken and Waffle Sandwiches
(recipe adapted from The Kitchen)

1 box of frozen prepared mini waffles
chicken nuggets (20 pieces for the box of waffles I bought)
2 Tbsp. hot sauce
2 Tbsp. honey

Heat the frozen waffles and chicken nuggets according to the packages’ instructions.  While the waffles and nuggets are heating, combine the hot sauce and honey in a small bowl.  Take one waffle, top with a chicken nugget, add a small amount of the prepared sauce and top with another waffle.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Four Star Finds: Turron (Spanish Nougat)

One of the Boston gifts I often give California friends is torrone (Italian nougat) freshly made at North End Italian bakeries.  They love it!  While I like it, I tend to prefer hard nougat, which, until recently, I could rarely find.  One lucky day, I bought some at a local gourmet market, loved it and when I went back to buy more, there wasn’t any left.

Since I had taken a photograph of the nougat in its packaging, I decided to look for it on the internet.  While I couldn’t find the same brand of candy, I learned a bit about nougat.  Here goes-while torrone is soft, turron (Spanish nougat) is crunchy, just the way I like it.  The best news is that this website (click here to visit it) sells many different brands of turron.  I definitely plan to order some when my candy stash is a little smaller!