Friday, March 31, 2017

Cooking and Entertaining: Peach Cobbler

Peach Cobbler with Vanilla Ice Cream

When I was young, my parents cooked dinner almost every night and rarely went out on dates. But on those rare occasions when they did, my brother and I got to eat Swanson fried chicken frozen dinners. It was such a treat! I wasn’t a fan of the mixed vegetables, liked the chicken and mashed potatoes and absolutely loved the apple cobbler.

My fondness for cobbler remains to this day, and this dessert is one of my favorites. Though three steps are involved, this cobbler is worth the effort. Served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, there’s almost nothing better!

the fruit ingredients

Ready for the topping

the "cake" ingredients

Cut the butter into the dry ingredients

Scoop this "cake" onto the peaches
the topping ingredients

Spoon the cinnamon sugar onto the dough

The finished product!

Peach Cobbler

8  fresh peaches–peeled, pitted and sliced into thin wedges (thawed frozen peaches are fine)
1/4 C.  sugar
1/4 C.  brown sugar
1/4 tsp.  cinnamon
1/8 tsp.  nutmeg
1 tsp.  fresh lemon juice
2 tsp.  cornstarch

In a large bowl combine ingredients from above.  Toss to coat evenly and pour into a 9" x 9" baking dish.  Bake at 425 ˚F in preheated oven for 10 minutes.

1 C.  all purpose flour
1/4 C.  white sugar
1/4 C.  brown sugar
1 tsp.  baking powder
1/2 tsp.  salt
6 Tbsp.  unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

1/4 C.  boiling water

Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine flour, white sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Blend in butter with your fingertips, or pastry blender, until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Stir in water until just combined.

3 Tbsp.  white sugar
1 tsp.  ground cinnamon

Remove peaches from oven, and drop spoonfuls of topping over them.  Sprinkle entire cobbler with sugar and cinnamon mixture.  Bake until topping is golden, about 30 minutes.

Serve cobbler warm with a scoop of ice cream

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Four Star Finds: 3-in-1 Apple Tool

For more information on this product, click here

the tool in action!

I love desserts made with apples, especially cakes and crisps. The only downside is prepping the apples because it takes so much time. This 3-in-1 apple tool is a gem-it quickly peels, spiral slices and cores the apples. The great thing about this tool is that it changes my behavior-I’m much more willing to make my beloved apple desserts!

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

Monday, March 27, 2017

Travel: Boston Public Library

The facade of this Charles Follen McKim building
is impressive 

Located at the corner of Boylston and Dartmouth streets in Boston’s Back Bay, the Boston Public Library is one of the largest in the United States. Because it serves both the city and state, any Massachusetts resident may borrow pieces that include books (hard copy and ebooks), DVDs, CDs and audiobooks.  Founded in 1854, and moving to its current location in 1858, this institution currently has more than 23 million items.

Though touring a library doesn’t sound like the most exciting outing, this repository is unique in its architecture and contains some outstanding artwork. A one-hour art and architecture tour given by knowledgeable docents is available daily (click here for the schedule). If you have some spare time and would like to be awed, I recommend this free tour.

One of the two lions flanking the main staircase

The reading room is beautiful

In nicer weather, the courtyard is often host to events

Friday, March 24, 2017

Movie Reviews: “Kong: Skull Island” & “The Sense of an Ending”

   Kong: Skull Island
   Rated PG-13

In 1971, a team of scientists, soldiers and adventurers explore Skull Island, a previously uncharted isle in the South Pacific. They soon encounter the mighty Kong, but he isn’t the island’s most dangerous creature. Will the group survive?

Unlike the original where we had to wait most of the movie before seeing Kong, this movie opens boldly and the action continues. It’s an e-ticket ride!

   The Sense of an Ending
   Rated PG-13

Curmudgeon Tony receives a mysterious legacy that causes him to revisit his past and rethink his life.

Thoughtful and reflective, The Sense of an Ending unfolds slowly, requiring the viewer to slowly piece together the story of Tony’s life, while recognizing what is factual and what are misconceptions. This complicated film points out that our life may be changed by a misunderstanding.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Book Review: “Born a Crime"

   Born a Crime
   Trevor Noah

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Trevor Noah, he’s the comedian who replaced Jon Stewart as host of The Daily Show. Noah’s mother is a native South African, and his father is a white European. Because Noah was born when race-mixing was a lawless act in South Africa, his existence was literally a crime. In Born a Crime, Noah’s shares his experiences growing up in this dysfunctional society.

Heartbreaking, yet funny, Born a Crime is an eye-opener. Until I read this book, I had no idea just how horrific it was to be a black in South Africa during the apartheid era. It’s also incredibly uplifting to experience Noah’s rising through the ranks despite the obstacles in his life. If you’d like to read about thriving and having a positive attitude despite one’s circumstances, Born a Crime is the book for you!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Home: Living Room Refresh

Living room, before

Living room, after
For more information on this rug, click here

Although my interest in our home’s décor ebbs and flows, we try to view it as a work in progress and refresh items when needed. Though I loved the pattern and color, our living room rug was getting old, tired, and stained.

Luckily, I found a beautiful replacement at Pottery Barn that has the same motif as our previous rug. This time, instead of opting for a bright color, I chose a neutral, which somehow suits our current home better. Another difference is that instead of a Dhurrie, this new rug is soft and tufted, a fact that our dog loves since she’s constantly lying on it.

It’s funny how big of a difference one item can make to a home!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Style: My 7 for All Mankind Outfit

7 for All Mankind sweater & jeans, Illesteva sunglasses,
Dior clutch (different color), 9 West shoes (old)

It’s not a rule, but seldom do I wear a top and bottom together from the same manufacturer. It’s probably because I don’t like when an outfit is too ”matchy.” This ensemble, however, is one of those rarities and the definition of synergy. While I love both 7 for All Mankind pieces separately, I think the sum of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

That said, let’s discuss the pieces. At first I was hesitant to purchase a cold shoulder sweater simply because I remember this style from the early 1990s. However, there’s a good reason this trend was reintroduced- it’s a flattering way to show a little skin. The pink jeans are my shopping triumph-I’ve been looking for just-the-right pair for years and was excited to find the ideal cut, color, amount of distressing and size. Finally, pony hair leopard print pumps add a bit of glamour and make it a perfect “night out” oufit.

the back of the sweater has an unexpected cutout

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Cooking and Entertaining: Giada’s Bacon and Onion Dip

Giada's Bacon and Onion Dip

I hate to admit this, but our family loves onion dip. To make it worse, we are especially fond of the kind that comes in a package that one mixes with sour cream. So when I heard about Giada De Laurentiis adding bacon to onion dip, I thought, “What could be better?” and had to try it.

The bacon and onions enhance the other’s flavors and have a synergistic effect to produce deliciousness (I know that’s not a word, but just didn’t know how to describe how good this dip is).

Another great thing about this dip is that it’s a little lighter in calories than traditional dip because it’s made with Greek yogurt rather than sour cream. To make it even lighter, Giada suggests serving it with pita chips and carrot slices. This is the perfect party food!

Click here for the recipe

the ingredients


Combining all the ingredients

Monday, March 13, 2017

Four Star Finds: Clarins Radiance Plus Golden Glow Booster

Click here for more information on this product

Though I have olive skin, this time of year I look pale. I’ve considered using self-tanner, but don’t want to add another step to my nighttime routine. Clarins Radiance Plus Golden Glow Booster is the perfect solution to my problem. Rather than applying this product directly, simply add three drops to serum or moisturizer and apply as usual. After two applications, I had a nice glow without the sun damage. I love this product so much I’m going to use it year-round!

As always, I receive no compensation for this endorsement.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Travel: Otis House in Boston, Massachusetts

The dining room in the Otis House

Designed by architect Charles Bullfinch and built in 1796, the Otis House was the first house commissioned by Harrison and Sally Otis. This Federal style home is located in Boston’s West End near the world-famous Massachusetts General Hospital. As one of the Historic New England properties, this home has been restored beautifully and is open to the public for tours.

We lucked out and were given a private tour since we were the only visitors at the time. First, guests view a short video about the history of the house. Then a docent walks them through the first and second floors, explaining architectural features, sharing stories about the Otis family and answering any questions. It was fascinating to tour this magnificent residence!

Click here for more information on the Otis House.

Look at the detail in the door casing

Sally's bedchamber

Withdrawing room-After dinner, the Otises and their guests
would retire to this room

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Movie Reviews: "Loving" & "A United Kingdom"

   Rated PG-13

In 1958, Virginia interracial couple Richard and Mildred Loving married and were promptly arrested for violating anti-miscegenation laws. Forced to relocate to Washington D.C., the couple appealed and their case was ultimately heard by the Supreme Court.

It’s fitting this couple’s last name was Loving since they displayed enormous dedication to each other in the face of adversity. Based on their true story, Loving is a treasure.

   A United Kingdom
   Rated PG-13

In the late 1940s, Botswani prince Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams, an English woman, fall in love. Despite the protests of their families and the British government, the couple marries and an international crisis ensues.

Like Loving, A United Kingdom is based on the true story of an interracial marriage. Seeing the difficulties Seretse and Ruth encountered and their perseverance despite the obstacles was inspiring.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Book Review: “When to Rob a Bank…And 131 More Warped Suggestions and Well-Intended Rants”

When to Rob a Bank…And 131 More Warped Suggestions and Well-Intended Rants
Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Written by the Freakonomics authors, When to Rob a Bank…And 131 More Warped Suggestions and Well-Intended Rants is a compilation of their blogs posts. For those unfamiliar with Freakonomics, Levitt and Dubner are respectively, an economist and journalist who apply economic theory to nontraditional topics. For example, in the book the authors conclude the best way to reduce New York area airport delays and congestion is to shut down LaGuardia Airport. Though the idea seems counterintuitive, the authors make a good argument for their case. Not just about airport congestion, When to Rob a Bank… contains many more interesting theories and their corroborating evidence.

What I like about When to Rob a Bank… is the authors’ willingness to take-on controversial topics and their unique perspective. In fact, their first topic is that it’s much more economically advantageous to read their blog rather than buy this book. So, if you’re looking for an irreverent read, When to Rob a Bank… is the book (or blog []) for you!

By the way, there is no good time to rob a bank because the yield is too small ($4,120) with a 35% arrest rate.  According to the authors, if one wants to steal from a bank, work at one and embezzle from it!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Home: Downstairs Bathroom

Our bathroom, after
Click on the links for more information on the sink
or mirror

Probably because we’re on our fourth home, we’re advocates of continuously making improvements to and/or updating one’s home. Some changes are quick and inexpensive, while others are time consuming or costly. Luckily, we haven’t undertaken a project in this home that is both that is both while we’ve lived in it.

Our downstairs half bathroom was acceptable, but I wanted to elevate its look. There were two things that were visually unappealing-the almond-colored sink was too small for the wood-top vanity and clashed with the white toilet and the mirror looked cheap (There’s nothing wrong with inexpensive, but items shouldn’t appear low end).

Upgrading these items was a reasonably-priced, relatively easy fix because Kevin did the work (Well, maybe it wasn’t easy for Kevin!). For the sink, he disconnected the drain, removed the old sink, traced the outline for the new one, enlarged the counter top hole, installed the new sink and reconnected the drain. Installing the mirror took about the same amount of work-he removed the old mirror from the wall (luckily in one piece), prepped and painted the area, inserted plastic anchors and screws and then hung the new mirror.

I love our rejuvenated bathroom’s new look and feel that it matches the rest of our home. I’m so happy we undertook this project!

Before-Notice how the sink and toilet clash and the
plain mirror?


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Style: Make it Your Own

Alternative hoodie, Club Monaco tee shirt, Madewell jeans,
Dior sunglasses (different color), Chan Luu necklace (old),
3.1 Phillip Lim handbag (old), Jenni Kayne shoes (different color)

Because I like expressing myself through style, I believe customizing one’s clothing and accessories is a great way to add flair to any ensemble. In this bespoke outfit, I altered both the hoodie and jeans and am excited to have clothing no one else possesses.

A trend I’ve noticed lately is the proliferation of iron-on appliqués on clothing and accessories. Though I’ve looked at many pieces, none of them were right for me. When I saw that the patches were available for sale, I immediately scooped some up and bought a grey hoodie so I could partake in the trend. The appliqués on the top are a homage to the Queen/David Bowie collaboration, Under Pressure and the peace sign is something I bought because I liked it. They were beyond easy to apply-I just ironed them with a hot iron.

The jeans took a bit more time to customize, but the process was fairly easy. Because I wanted them to have an uneven hem, I first measured 1 inch from the hem at the seams and marked them with pins. Then, using a seam ripper, I removed all stitching at and below the marking pins. I then drew a straight line (on the jeans' wrong side between the seams 1 inch from the hem) and cut the jeans' front panel. Though I haven’t done it yet, at some point I’ll reinforce the seams using a sewing machine so the seams don’t open more.

One might ask how this outfit ties together. The visible buttons on the jeans are a great throwback to the 1970’s and early 1980’s when peace signs, David Bowie and Queen were popular. Though this outfit is very casual, there are days when a tee shirt, jeans and hoodie are appropriate and adding nice shoes and jewelry elevates the look.

Though these patches are no longer available, visit accessories
or mix and patch to see more appliqués. Click here and here
to see examples of other patches

the hoodie before

the hoodie after

the jeans before

the jeans after

the uneven hem on me!