Friday, September 30, 2016

Book Review: "Eligible"

   Curtis Littenfeld

Littenfeld's modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice is a gem! Approaching 40, Elizabeth (Liz) and Jane live in New York City, and Jane is considering becoming a single mother while Liz is dating a married man. After their father has a health crisis, they return to their hometown of Cincinnati where they meet reality star/doctor Chip Bingley and his best friend, Mark Darcy. Everyone who has read the original know how the rest of the story goes...

Though the characters' interests and behaviors are different, Littenfeld kept their natures and temperaments consistent with the original story. Also, he addresses some current societal issues with intelligence and compassion. If you're a Pride and Prejudice fan who is looking for some light reading, I think you'll enjoy this version.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Home: Getting a Strong WiFi Signal at Home

Apple AirPort Extreme dual band router
Click here for more information on this product

This is a guest post written by my husband, Kevin:

As Ramsey has mentioned, we live in an old brownstone. Because of the heavy construction with lots of brick and metal in the walls, coupled with the sheer number of neighbors, getting a decent WiFi signal throughout the house was almost impossible. This was especially true in the front bedroom where I work when I’m at home and where Sean stays when he’s visiting from med school. I tried dual band routers and power line extenders trying to get a decent signal and nothing seemed to do the job.

Finally, I had a chat with one of the network engineers where I work, and he recommended that I try a pair of Apple AirPort Extreme dual band routers (model number ME918LL/A). These routers feature multi-band 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz coverage and support a number of WiFi specs including 802.11a, b, g, n and ac. They can handle data rates up to 1.3Gbps, making them more than fast enough for the typical household internet speeds. On top of that, the routers feature Apple’s usual great design work so they look good as well. They aren’t cheap at about $175 each, but as you’ll see below, they are worth every penny. I ordered mine from and they showed up in a couple days.

Set up was super easy. I took the first one out of the box and plugged it into the back of our Comcast modem using a standard ethernet cable. I logged onto my MacBook Air and started the AirPort utility, which I found by simply doing a search for AirPort. The utility found the WiFi unit, prompted me to name it and basically did the rest of the work to connect me to it. But installing the second unit was where things really got cool. Because we have two floors, I had already been advised to buy a second unit and use it as a signal extender. Now I had done that with the power line extenders in my previous set up and it was a huge pain in the neck. Getting them configured so they extended the existing WiFi instead of putting out a signal with a different name killed an otherwise pleasant Saturday afternoon and frustrated me to boot (and I’m the one my family jokingly calls “tech support”). Not so with that second Apple router. I set it on the bureau upstairs in the center of the house and plugged it in. I fired up the AirPort utility and it found the second router and because it was a second router, it ASSUMED I was trying to extend my existing network and set it up that way for me once I confirmed that’s what I wanted. Unbelievable! About 20 minutes from unboxing to getting 100Mbps down and about 40Mbps up all around the house.

Now we’ve got excellent internet coverage and “tech support” has recovered his reputation with the rest of the family.

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

Monday, September 26, 2016

Style: A Little Sparkle

Alice and Olivia sweater, J. Crew pants (similar),
Nine West pumps (old), Tom Ford sunglasses (old),
Reed Krakoff clutch (old)

Kevin and I recently attended our son’s White Coat Ceremony-it’s a formal ceremony where first year medical students are presented with their first white coat, which they are required to wear when they see patients. It’s a big deal, so I wanted to wear something that was formal, yet stylish.

Though my ruffled Theory dress (click here to see it) would have worked (and was my back-up outfit) I shopped around a lot. I wanted to wear pants and pumps and thought a dove grey or cream flowing silk blouse would be perfect for the occasion. I probably checked 50 shops, yet was unable to find “the one.”

I was about to give up, but then saw this gold lurex sweater with the sparkly collar-I loved it immediately. Though I was a bit concerned it was too festive, I was so fond of it that I bought it anyway, wore it to the ceremony and was even complimented on it. Even better, I can wear this outfit to any holiday parties later this year!

the sparkly collar is removable, so I can wear it with
other sweaters

Friday, September 23, 2016

Cooking and Entertaining: Brisket Carbonnade

Brisket Carbonnade

One of the first cookbooks I bought was the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, and even though my copy is almost 30 years old and has yellowing pages, I’ll never get rid of it. It has fantastic recipes that are easy to prepare, use real ingredients and, needless to say, are delicious.

Recently, Sean asked me to make him some brisket, so I pulled out that cookbook and prepared Brisket Carbonnade-it’s an entrĂ©e we love but had forgotten about. Basically, it’s a sliced onion topped beef brisket that’s slowly baked in beer. It’s so savory and perfect for fall’s cooler weather. I’m glad Sean requested it, and it’s going back into the dinner rotation!

I couldn’t find the recipe on the Better Homes and Gardens website, but luckily found it on another website. Click here to see the recipe.

the ingredients

preparing the cooking sauce

ready for the oven

I let it rest for about 10 minutes before slicing

Defatting the pan drippings. I didn't have 2 cups of
pan drippings, so I added water to make 2 cups

adding the beer slurry to thicken the gravy

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Four Star Finds: Benefit Gimme Brow

For more information on this product, click here

I’m way too into my eyebrows, and my pet peeve is when they’re too thin-I think over plucked brows are harsh and aging. That said, I am constantly trying different brow products to see what I like the best.

For a casual look, I love using Benefit’s Gimme Brow. It’s a mascara-like gel that nicely fills in the bare spots and tames my unruly brows. Though it doesn’t give precise lines for a tailored look, I think it’s perfect for informal days!

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

Monday, September 19, 2016

Travel: Denver Botanic Gardens

For more information on the Denver Botanic Gardens, click here

I’m a little embarrassed to say this, but I finally visited our friends who moved to Denver 9 years ago. Mark and Pati were very gracious hosts and showed me some of their city’s highlights. One of them was the Denver Botanic Garden.  It’s a beautiful, peaceful place to spend an afternoon.

Of course, the grounds are stunning, filled with not only with unique plants, but also with bronze sculptures and an exceptional glass sculpture. It is home to a Zen garden, lily pond, carnivorous plant display and the only corpse plant I’ve seen, which luckily had bloomed before my visit. As a person who is just learning to appreciate nature, I highly recommend visiting the Denver Botanic Gardens.

the corpse plant

Venus fly traps

the lily pond

a bonsai plant

the glass sculpture

Friday, September 16, 2016

Movie Reviews: “The Light Between Oceans,” “Hell or High Water” & “War Dogs"

   The Light Between Oceans
   Rated PG-13

In the early 20th century, a childless lighthouse keeper and his wife who live on a small Australian island find and raise an orphaned baby.

The best word to describe The Light Between Oceans is “beautiful.”  The scenery, actors, and cinematography are just stunning.  The story is a bit implausible, but sweet, and it’s a film I’m glad I saw.

   Hell or High Water
   Rated R

Two brothers from West Texas go on a bank-robbing spree and two Texas Rangers pursue them.

Hell or High Water is the first Oscar contender I’ve seen this year.  It’s a complicated, compelling story with good acting where the line between right and wrong is blurred. Go see this movie!

   War Dogs
   Rated R

During the Iraq War, two young men take advantage of a government initiative that encourages small businesses and become international arms dealers.

Based on a true story, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked War Dogs.  It’s intense, yet has enough humor to break up the tension. If you’re looking for 2 hours of entertainment, War Dogs is the movie for you.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Book Review: “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”

   Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
   J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany & 
   Jack Thorne

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child picks up right where Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows ended-at the Kings Cross Station with the Weasleys (Ron and Hermione) and Potters (Harry and Ginny) sending their children to Hogwarts. Without giving anything away, Albus Potter and his best friend’s have adventures worthy of Harry, Ron and Hermione.

I was a little surprised to find Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a play, rather than a novel. However, it makes sense since it would be hard for another author to emulate J.K. Rowling’s writing style.  This new play is entertaining, pays proper homage to the original novels, stays true to the original characters’ personalities and deftly introduces new characters. If you are a Harry Potter fan, you’ll enjoy Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Home: Warranty Books

what the inside of the book looks like

the warranty books are in the guest room closet

One of the things I’ve done for years is to keep a notebook containing our warranties and owners’ manuals. I simply place them in clear page protectors and put them in a 3-ring binder.  That way, whenever I have a question about an appliance, I simply look in the book. One could argue that owners’ manuals are now all online, but I think it’s faster to use my warranty book than to search electronically, especially when I don’t know an item’s model number.

Before we sold our California home, I went through the warranty book and assembled a binder for the buyers, one that had all of the appliances that stayed with the home (range, over, microwave, etc.) Since we’ve moved, I started keeping two books, one for personal items that will move with us and another for goods that stay with the home.

Though putting together a warranty book seems like a lot of effort, it pays off in the long run because I know where the manuals are and can easily access them.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Style: Summer Clearance Whites

Paige jeans, Rebecca Taylor top, Oliver Peoples sunglasses,
Azzedine Alaia handbag, Chan Luu necklace (old),
Pedro Garcia sandals (different color)

Now that Labor Day has come and gone, the “rules’ say I shouldn’t wear white pants. I can see why because on September 2nd, the weather abruptly changed from stiflingly hot to pleasant with cooler evenings. To me, though, now is the perfect time to wear white pants because it was way too hot to wear them in July and August and due to my tendency to kick water up the back of my legs, way too wet in May and June.

It seems like every year I end up buying a new pair of white jeans-sometimes it’s because the styles have changed, other times because my size had changed. This year I thought I’d be able to use my pair from last year and wore them when I visited California, but then I got a stubborn stain that wouldn’t come out despite vigorous stain removal treatments. Luckily, it happened in July, and white jeans had gone on deep clearance (less than 50% of the original price) so I didn’t hesitate to pick up this pair from Paige (that and because I love the double zippers on them!)

I’m also crazy about this Rebecca Taylor top-to me, it’s the epitome of summer-light and breezy. Right now, it’s also on deep discount at the Rebecca Taylor website. Paired with white denim, a casual necklace, tote, and sandals, I feel like I’m ready for a transition-to-fall day

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Cooking and Entertaining: Pineapple Coconut Cookies

pineapple coconut cookies

Some foods just pair well together, like chocolate and peanut butter, working synergistically to enhance each others’ flavors. Another classic pairing is pineapple and coconut, and being the cookie fan that I am, I couldn’t resist trying this recipe almost immediately after I found it.

These cookies taste like and have the texture of a soft sugar cookie, but have the additional subtle flavors and textures of pineapple and toasted coconut. They didn’t disappoint-in fact, they were even better than I expected and have become one of my favorites!

the ingredients
I deviated from the recipe by using granulated, not extra fine, sugar

drain the pineapple well

I diced the pineapple, since the grocery store  didn't have
crushed pineapple
toasting the coconut

mixing in the pineapple

placing toasted coconut on top of each cookie before baking

ready to eat!

Pineapple Coconut Cookies
Click here for the recipe

Monday, September 5, 2016

Four Star Finds: Godiva Soft Serve Ice Cream

This treat is only available at select Godiva stores

Around six months ago, my dark chocolate-loving friend Gretchen texted me about Godiva chocolate soft serve.  She said that it’s rich, deep, not-to-sweet and delicious. When I was in California, we met at Godiva, and each had a cone. It’s everything she described and even better! If you‘re a fan of dark chocolate and ice cream, Godiva chocolate soft serve is the treat for you!

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

Friday, September 2, 2016

Travel: Enfield Shaker Museum in Enfield, New Hampshire

The Enfield Shaker Museum
for more information, click here

While Kevin and I were driving to Montreal, we saw a road sign for a Shaker Museum.  Since we weren’t in a hurry, we decided to stop and explore.  The Enfield Shaker Museum is fascinating!

The Shakers are a Christian religious sect that came to America in 1774 and whose followers believed in communal living, equality among all people, pacifism, public confession of sin and complete abstinence. They formed communities where they grew their own food, raised livestock and adopted trades that allowed them to make and/or build what they needed or to sell as an income source.

A tour of the Enfield Shaker Museum begins with a brief video that explains who the Shakers are and their belief system. Next, a docent guided us through the living quarters and provided a detailed account of what day-to-day Shaker life was like. We were also able to see Shaker-made tools and furniture. After that, we were on our own to see the gardens and the West Brethen Shop, a workshop which shows how the famous Shaker brooms are made.

Unfortunately, photography in the main museum isn’t allowed, but I was able to take a few pictures on the grounds. If learning about this intriguing group interests you, be sure to visit the Enfield Shaker Museum!

the West Brethen Shop

A Shaker invention-a seed planting machine

the gardens